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Practical Guide to Building an Outbound Sales Machine (+ Channels, Frameworks & Tools)

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Practical Guide to Building an Outbound Sales Machine (+ Channels, Frameworks & Tools)

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September 30, 2020

Relying on word-of-mouth and inbound leads makes you feel good – but it’s risky. Without an outbound sales strategy, your pipeline can dry up overnight if people stop reaching out to you (especially when a new solution becomes the new cool kid in town). Plus, you can’t just turn up the dial and get more referrals.

That’s why outbound sales is so important.

Some people hate the thought of it.

You might be one of them. But, the myth that you need to act like a pushy used-car sales rep to succeed with outbound doesn’t hold up anymore.

Now, outbound sales is an amazing way to offer value to people who are actively looking to solve a problem that you can help with. You don’t have to be a natural salesperson or extroverted to make it work.

All you need is a deep understanding of your ideal customer’s pain points, motivations, and goals (which you should already have), and the right tools.

Then, you can start reaching out to your target audience on autopilot without compromising on personalization.

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to build an outbound sales machine that works for your business.

Note: if you’re selling a $5 product, this probably isn’t for you. But on the other hand, if you run an agency or product/service with a high LTV (Life Time Value), you’ll discover actionable steps to start scaling up your outbound efforts.

Ready? Let’s jump in.

Key Benefits of Outbound Sales

Even if you have a healthy pipeline thanks to people arriving from channels like SEO and referrals, you should still be considering outbound.

Why?

Well, a couple of reasons.

Full Control Over Your Targeting

One of the major benefits of outbound is that you have complete control over who you engage with.

Only want to talk to B2B marketing agencies in Boston? You can.

Want to email SaaS company CEOs immediately after they’ve closed a Series A? Easy.

With outbound sales, you can get more granular than you can with inbound channels. 

No matter how good your ad targeting is, you’ll rarely know exactly who sees your ads, and you’ll need to rely on a little luck to get great-fit leads through the door.

With a cold email you can get in touch with anyone you want to, no gatekeepers involved.

See Results Instantly (Well, Almost)

Outbound channels can bring your sales cycle length down.

Rather than waiting for leads to see your ads, land on your site, and book a demo before knowing if someone’s a fit, you can flip the narrative.

Once you identify a qualified prospect, you can send an email immediately. If they’re a good fit, you’ll get a response on the same day, or within a couple of days.

There are no other channels that give you such a simple and effective way to get in touch with prospects.

Is Outbound Sales a Fit For Your Company?

Not every company should focus on outbound strategies. Here are some prerequisites that you should consider:

1. Product/Market Fit

If you don’t have product-market fit, you’re likely too early stage to be focusing on outbound as a sales strategy. You won’t be able to build qualified and targeted prospect lists because you don’t know who your ideal customer is.

2. Laser-Focused on Your Ideal Customer Profile

Your outreach strategies will mean you need to pitch people, and without knowing their specific pain points in detail, your message will feel diluted and won’t resonate with them.

You need to know exactly what problems your customers have so you can write copy that agitates a pain point and gets people genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

3. A Product/Service That Makes Sense for Outbound

Most importantly, you need to have a product/service that makes sense for outbound.

There aren’t hard rules around what makes something a fit for outbound, but usually, it makes sense if:

  • Your customer LTV is high (~$1,000 minimum)
  • Leads usually want to have a chat before becoming a customer

If people can use your product/service for $5-10/month, it won’t make sense to spend time identifying, qualifying, and writing personalized emails. Your time would be better leveraged on marketing strategies that get your brand in front of more people for the same cost.

But, if you run a company like an agency, your time and efforts will be paid back quickly.

 Spending an hour or two, creating customized emails, and having a 30-60 minute call with leads will be worth it if they do become a customer.

Check out our live episode for “5 reasons why your company should not do outbound”

Building Your Prospect List

The first step in creating your outbound sales machine is to find prospects to reach out to.

 Then, you’ll need to find their contact details and reach out to them with a personalized message. After that, it’s time to show why they can trust you to get results and close them as a customer.

Let’s dig into these a little more.

1. Identifying and Qualifying Prospects

Your prospect list is the secret sauce to any good cold outreach campaign. Your messaging could be perfect, but if you email the wrong people, you won’t get results.

To identify prospects, you can use tools like:

Look for prospects based on your ideal customer profile – don’t just add people to your outbound campaigns because you found their email address easily, or they work for a popular company. They won’t be a good fit. 

You can use tools like Sales Navigator to get notifications when people start new jobs and this can be useful to help build your list, too. 

For example, if a company gets a new CMO, it’s likely that the CMO will want to make an impact and will be considering upgrading their MarTech stack or bringing on a new agency in their first few months.

If you sell marketing services, reach out and touch base with them. If your service sounds interesting, you’ll set yourself up for future business with them.

This part of the process is extremely important. If you build a list of leads that aren’t qualified, you’ll waste your time and your prospects’ time.

2. Finding and Validating Contact Data

Once you have your list of prospects, you need to find their contact details.

There are a variety of ways to find someone’s email and phone number. 

You can use standalone email finding tools, pay for access to company contact databases like  ZoomInfo, or find them manually using company websites or LinkedIn.

Next, you’ll need to validate their emails. 

Due to people changing jobs, most email lists decay at 25% per year, so there’s a high chance your prospect list includes out-of-date emails that will end up bouncing, hurting your email deliverability.

You can validate email addresses inside QuickMail. Simply upload your prospect list, choose the emails you need to validate, and start the validation process.

Validating your emails feels boring – after all, at this point, you’re ready to hit Send.

But, it’s vital to long term cold outreach success.

If you’re sending emails to non-existent email addresses, your email sender reputation will lower, and you’ll struggle to land in your prospects’ inbox in the long run if your prospects’ email addresses aren’t valid.

Booking Meetings on Autopilot

Depending on your company, you’ll go about this in various ways.

If you usually meet with prospects in person, you’ll need to ask them when and where to meet them. You can make suggestions, but the best bet will be at their office. It’s convenient for them, and you’re more likely to get them to agree to a meeting there than asking them to come to your office.

A few great tools to book meetings with prospects virtually are Calendly and Appointlet.

They let you generate a unique link that your prospects can use to book a time on your calendar. 

You can integrate them with your conference call software of choice, and your prospects can book and join meetings with zero back-and-forth.

Your workflow will look something like:

  1. Send your opening cold email
  2. If your prospect wants to learn more, send them your booking link
  3. They book a meeting at a time that works for them

It’s a great way to keep things simple and spend less time on back-and-forth emails trying to schedule a meeting at a time that works for everyone.

Outbound Sales Channels to Focus On

Sending Personalized Cold Emails at Scale

The best outbound channel to start with is email.

Why?

Well:

  • Everyone has an email address
  • You can personalize and refine your messages as much as you want
  • You can use software like QuickMail to automatically follow-up and track success

Everyone checks their emails. From the intern to VP of Sales to the CEO, if there’s someone you want to get in touch with at a company, email is a direct way to get their attention – if your email stands out.

To save typing out emails one-by-one (although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do when you’re starting out with cold email), use merge tags for fields like:

  • {{prospect.first_name}}
  • {{company.name}}
  • {{prospect.custom.intro_sentence}}

You can then upload your prospect list, create a template that uses your merge tags to insert personalization, and start sending your emails.

Cold email is scalable. Once you have a template or two that works, you can use that as a base for every email. Just make sure to add unique personalization to each one.

Your process will boil down to:

  1. Source leads
  2. Find a personal and unique angle that you can reach out to them with
  3. Schedule your email with QuickMail
  4. Automate follow-ups and catch replies

Adding Cold Calls To The Mix

Another tool in your arsenal for outbound prospecting is cold calling.

You can source phone numbers using LinkedIn, B2B database tools, or even by calling a company’s public number and asking to be directed to your prospect.

Cold calls are highly targeted and extremely personal.

That said, decision-makers can be less receptive to them compared to an email, especially if you don’t provide value upfront, and research suggests they only have a ~1% success rate if you don’t have a proven process for them.

To make things easier, prepare a basic script that covers key points you want to mention and shows you’ve done your research. 

When someone picks up, make the reason for your call clear.

If they give you the go-ahead to continue, don’t waste their time. Keep your message concise, and let them know the next steps (e.g., ask permission to send them a follow-up email with more details).

You can use cold calls as an added touchpoint in your outbound campaigns in conjunction with cold emails.

To do this with QuickMail, simply add a Call step in your campaign. You’ll then get a reminder to call your prospect at a defined point in your outreach sequence.

You can create a list of actions for the call (such as talking points and follow-up steps for your team to take) and get reminded on the best day to make it.

If you haven’t had a reply to your first couple of emails, make a call. It’s an effective way to give yourself a better chance of reaching your prospect.

Engaging at Scale with LinkedIn

Whatever people say about LinkedIn, it’s still a great place to connect with decision-makers.

You can get notified when people switch jobs, publish company news, or publish new job vacancies – all signs that a company is growing and could be in the market to use your services.

I won’t talk too much about the benefits of posting on LinkedIn as a social platform, as we’re focusing on outbound methods in this post, but you can listen to our podcast episode where we discuss LinkedIn content here.

When connecting with people, treat your first interaction similar to a cold email. Don’t make the message about you, and don’t try to sell to them immediately – make it about them. See if there’s anything you can help them with, and offer value.

Once you’re connected with people in your market, share interesting content, and join conversations relevant to their industry.

You’ll need to put in time and energy, but LinkedIn is worth it.

Once you build a good reputation in your market, you can see great engagement and the social selling aspect is a perfect way to warm up prospects before reaching out to them over email or on the phone.

Can You Automate Your Outbound Sales Work?

We all want to leverage our time and automate repetitive tasks.

With outbound sales, it’s impossible to automate completely if you want it to be done well.

After all, you can’t automate genuine personalization. It’ll always require time and real effort.

That said, there are still ways to automate repetitive parts of the process. Let’s see how.

Automating Repetitive Tasks

Zapier is one of the best tools for anyone doing cold outreach. You might already be using it, and if so, you’ll be glad to hear it’s going to come in useful in your sales work too. If you haven’t, the premise of Zapier is simple – it connects apps together so you can automate tasks.

Here are some examples of how you can use it as part of your sales process:

  • Update a contact in Salesforce when a prospect replies to a cold email
  • Add Facebook Lead Ads prospects to QuickMail so you can follow-up with them

 

 

See the full list of QuickMail and Zapier integrations here.

 

It’s perfect for eliminating repetitive tasks such as updating data in your CRM so you can spend more time on the high-impact parts of your process such as:

  • Researching ways to personalize your outreach
  • Improving processes to save more time

You can then use QuickMail to send emails at a schedule that works for you.

Let’s say you run an agency targeting realtors. 

If you know your customers check their emails when they arrive at the office around 8.30am but don’t check their emails in the afternoon as they’re meeting with clients, you can set up an automation to add prospects to a Campaign at 8am every weekday.

To do this, create a Bucket that automatically adds prospects to a campaign at a certain time. 

Once it’s configured, your prospects will be added to the campaign at the time you’ve decided, and you won’t have to lift a finger.

 

You don’t have to log in to QuickMail every morning to hit Send as your process will be running on autopilot. All you’ll have to do is continue the conversation once your prospect replies.

Cut Prospecting Time

Prospecting can be hugely time-consuming. 

Exporting lists from tools like BuiltWith will leave you with huge spreadsheets of data that you still have to trawl through manually to extract leads.

One of the simplest ways to save time at this stage is to work with a VA. 

Create SOPs on how to identify good-fit clients, and let your VA run through the sheets, eliminating prospects that don’t fit your ICP.

It’s not fully automated, but once your VA has done it a few times, it’ll be a smooth process.

I wouldn’t recommend cutting corners in your prospect research process as it’s going to be the foundation for your campaigns. If you reach out to prospects who are a perfect fit for your service you’ll have an easier time selling to them. On the other hand, you could send a perfectly written cold email, but if the prospect isn’t a fit for your business, you won’t get anywhere.

Speed Up Personalization and Research

One of the harder parts to automate is your prospecting and research.

As I mentioned above, tools like BuiltWith and Hunter will help you find emails, but you’ll still need to personalize them.

Luckily, there are some awesome sales automation tools available, like Crystal. It provides data on people’s personality traits to help you pointers on how to talk to your prospects, making it perfect for when you’re writing your cold emails.

It’ll give you pointers on how to engage with someone, such as:

  • Use data to back up your points
  • Don’t waste time with small-talk
  • Provide clear next steps

It’ll save you time when writing cold emails without compromising quality — if anything, your email copy will improve.

How to Consistently Improve Your Outbound Sales Results

A/B Test Everything

You’re going to have wins and losses in your outbound work.

Experiment often and run A/B tests with different email subject lines, value propositions, and call-to-actions.

You can find out what gets your prospects interested, and what doesn’t. Iterating on campaigns that are already working is a great way to improve your results without needing to reinvent the wheel every time you launch a new cold email campaign or pick up the phone to call someone.

Follow Best Practices (But Not Completely)

There’s a ton of useful resources out there to help you with your sales process.

Learn from people who have already seen wins with cold outreach and used it to grow their business.

A few places to start:

You don’t need to follow everything you learn from others. Take notes, and make decisions that make sense for your unique business and customer.

If you just use the same templates that everybody else is using you won’t stand out in a crowded inbox and prospects won’t bother to reply as it’ll be clear that you haven’t invested your own time into emailing them.

Don’t Focus on Scale Too Early

A common mistake people make with outbound sales is that they try to scale it up too quickly.

Of course, we all want to have a healthy pipeline. But, if you try to do too much at once, you’ll end up compromising on quality (without even realizing it).

Your personalization will be low-effort, and your prospects will detect it.

Treat your outreach as if you’re talking to a single person in every email. After all, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

You’ll see better results by sending fewer emails that are of higher quality than sending hundreds at once but have a poorly personalized and generic copy.

Getting Started

Building a sales process that works isn’t complicated. But it does take work.

You need to be ready to put in the hours researching your prospects and tailoring every message to be unique. It’s not as instantly scalable as a channel like paid ads, but you have complete control over who you get in touch with.

Assuming your outreach strategies work, you’ll quickly have a pipeline of warm, qualified leads, all looking forward to learning more about your offering.

Ready to start sending cold outreach at scale? Start your free trial of QuickMail today.

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