Outbound prospecting is one of the toughest tasks in sales.
The whole experience can often feel awkward and too far out of your comfort zone, and the results can be underwhelming.
Until recently, outbound prospecting was dominated by a “paint by numbers” approach – scrape as many relevant contacts as you can, and pitch them by phone, email, or social channels, hoping that someone will answer your prayer. That approach was not only inefficient but terrifying for many sales agents.
In the past few years, this strategy has undergone an important transformation. Smart brands and their salespeople are leveraging data and automation tools to make more informed decisions and improve their prospecting results.
This new strategy relies on two crucial things: understanding your target audience and reaching out to them with personalized messages.
Here is how you can use those approaches and integrate them into an effective outbound sales strategy.
What is outbound sales prospecting?
When most people think about classic sales, they think about outbound prospecting. The typical image of a door-to-door salesman or a sales agent working in a cubicle-style call center is meant to represent outbound sales.
In the outbound sales process, the salesperson reaches out to customers and pitches them their product or service. Cold calling and cold emailing are classic examples of this type of sales.
Cold calling is one of the key reasons why outbound prospecting gets a bad rap. In movies and pop culture, cold calling is portrayed as this volume-based process that requires agents to make their daily quota of calls, blindly follow sales scripts, and power through rejections.
This process has never really worked. Some stats show that outbound prospecting through cold calls results in extremely low conversion rates: only 2%. Around a quarter of all cold calls end up turning into a conversation, others are an instant refusal.
That’s why some people in the industry are calling for smarter outbound prospecting or a complete shift to inbound prospecting only.
Inbound vs outbound prospecting
Unlike outbound prospecting, inbound prospecting is all about getting the customer to come to you. So, instead of investing resources to reach out to potential customers, you generate interest in your product or service and wait for your clients to make contact.
Inbound prospecting is generally a long-term strategy. It uses techniques like SEO and content creation to create a strong brand presence and provide value to customers.
Since it’s more value-driven, the inbound approach has gotten more popular in the past few years. As we’ve completed the shift to the “Age of the customer”, brands are looking for soft-sell strategies that emphasize their users’ benefits instead of trying to sell products.
However, a good outbound sales strategy shouldn’t be underestimated. If done properly, it can provide instant results and help you create meaningful partnerships with new users.
Let’s see how you can do just that.
1. Collect quality leads
To underline this key point again: outbound prospecting in 2020 isn’t about blindly sending emails/LinkedIn connection requests to all contacts on your list. It’s about getting relevant leads that are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
Here are some ways to do that.
Advanced LinkedIn search
You can start with a pretty easy, free way to find quality leads: LinkedIn. In LinkedIn’s advanced search, you can use countless filters to refine your search and get to the exact people you need.
You can search by location, current/former employer, industry, college, and several other filters. You can also use the “add connections of” filter that allows you to add connections of a known person from your industry to your search results.
Whatever industry you’re targeting, you can be sure that there are groups on Facebook and LinkedIn with professionals that discuss the latest industry news, tools, and job openings. For example, a very specific LinkedIn group search “Social media Chicago” gave us more than 40 LinkedIn groups with a total of over 8.000 people:
You can scrape these groups with a tool like Phantombuster and get the names of all the members. From there, you can easily find all of these people on LinkedIn. And, if you need their emails, you can use an email hunter to get emails from their names and last names.
A more traditional way to get leads is by using lead magnets – pieces of content that you give away for free on your website or social media. The only thing you should ask for in return is your visitors’ email addresses.
For this approach to work, the content you provide has to be valuable and specifically targeted to your audience. Here is a great example:
Source: Point Visible
If you do all of these things, you’ll end up with a group of people that are actively engaged in your industry. They work in it, talk in groups about it, and they may even be familiar with your brand.
We can all agree that this group of people is more likely to be interested in your cold call/cold email than any group of random people.
2. Qualify your leads
While you collect leads, you can keep qualifying, or assessing them.
If you notice that this takes too much time, feel free to skip this step – it’s not crucial, and your strategy will work fine without it. But, if you want to take your outbound prospecting to a new level, then qualifying leads is the way to go.
Qualifying leads simply means determining their value and differentiating between leads that are more or less worth pursuing. You can tell that by analysing each lead from different angles.
For example, whether or not someone is a decision-maker in a company can greatly increase their value as a lead. Say you’re selling a social media automation tool. A social media coordinator at a marketing agency will be more valuable as a lead than a social media junior at that same agency since they have the authority to purchase your tool and implement it on a team level. So, it’s a good idea to go through your leads and create a separate group called “Decision-makers” and give them priority during your outreach efforts.
Leads who have interacted with your brand before will also be more valuable than those who haven’t. When going through your leads, be sure to check if a lead is your LinkedIn connection or if they have liked your social media pages.
3. Personalize your message
When it’s time to start contacting these leads, make sure you address them through personalized messages. Sending generic, premade messages is not only very 2010. but it’s also a great way to waste good leads and have awful clickthrough rates.
Studies consistently show that personalization affects email open rates and that people prefer it when their content is personalized. For example, HubSpot found that personalized CTAs achieved 202% more conversions than regular ones.
Here’s how you can personalize your message.
- Start with the first line
Your email subject or the first line of your LinkedIn connection request should already include something that draws your prospect’s attention. Whether it’s their name or a direct message that addresses their particular need/problem, you should lead off with something personal.
- Use context
You can (and should) comment on where you got their contact. Lines like “I noticed you in the Social Media Marketing group on LinkedIn – you made some pretty good points!” will bridge the gap between you and the prospect and show that you have something in common. Much different from the old-school cold calls that start with the caller trying to sell the product out of the blue, right?
- Use personalized video
If you want to step up your personalization game, you can create videos for each prospect. This is perfect for when someone downloads your lead magnet – you can engage them with a personal message to try and convert them into a paying customer. After all, people seem to prefer video content and want to see more of it!
At Bonjoro, we enable you to create these videos with minimum effort. They’re fun, easy to make, and most importantly – they get results! Check out one of our favorite use cases and find out how you can get up to 80% better view rates.
4. Use social proof
One way to inspire trust and get better results is to use social proof – testimonials and referrals from your existing clients.
Think about it: why should anyone trust a stranger that found their contact online and sent them an email suggesting collaboration? To make someone trust you enough to invest money in your service, you need to bridge this divide and reassure them by providing proof of previous success.
An easy way to do this is to ask your existing clients for a LinkedIn recommendation. They take little time to complete and satisfied clients will likely have no problem with doing it for you.
Source: Top Dog Social Media
You can also include your clients’ names in your outbound message, especially if they’re from the same industry as your prospect. It’s even better if you can link those names to case studies on your blog that show exactly what you did for those clients and what kind of results you achieved!
5. Offer insights, don’t sell products
If it wasn’t clear from this article so far, we firmly believe that the era of hard-selling is dead. After decades of being on the receiving end of sales calls, customers can tell that you’re trying to sell them something from a mile away.
That doesn’t mean that you should hide your intentions and act like you’re not selling anything. Simply approach the sales pitch from a different angle: it’s not about your product/service, it’s about the problem that your customer has and how your product/service solves it.
This was once called “solution selling” – a sales approach that diagnoses the customer’s issue and offers a solution. There is a case to be made that this is being replaced by “insight selling”. For this approach, you need to demonstrate a deep understanding of your prospect’s market by giving them a new insight. You then offer a clear solution to their problem, make it easier to show ROI, and justify the purchase from a business standpoint.
6. Set your KPIs and track them
Finally, no outbound strategy is complete without KPIs – they enable you to track your success and see which approach is working, which leads are performing better, etc. KPIs are much easier to track if you have a sales prospecting tool but you can do everything manually.
Here are some KPIs that you should consider.
- Sales cycle length. This shows you how much time it takes for a lead to make a purchase. The shorter the cycle, the better.
- Open rate. The percentage of people who opened your email/LinkedIn connection message, or any other message you’re using to get in touch.
- Clickthrough rate (CTR). The percentage of people who clicked on your link/button to check out your website or download your offer.
- Bounce rate. The percentage of people who visit your website and leave instantly, rather than continuing to browse or make a purchase.
To see how you compare to the rest of the market and what kind of numbers you can expect, you can check out these insights. Here, you can see the average open rates, CTRs, and bounce rates for different industries. Notice how numbers vary from industry to industry and how good open rates don’t always mean good clickthrough rates!
That just goes to show that an enticing subject and a cool picture isn’t enough – you need to get to the right audience. If you don’t, you’ll have a great email that will get opened, but you’ll also have huge bounce rates when your prospects realize that your offer isn’t for them.
Outbound prospecting is much more informed today than it was years ago. By finding the right leads and connecting with them on a more personal level, cold emails and messages can hardly even be called “cold”.
So, focus on your lead lists, try out different messages, and keep tracking everything so you know what works.
If you want to give your emails some flair, feel free to reach out to us at Bonjoro. You can start your free trial now and see just how easy it is to create awesome videos that can give you powerful results!