How to scale your outbound sales
Focus on your sweet spot, not the margins
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In the previous issue of The Revenue Architect, we looked at what to do before expanding your sales team. This week we look more specifically at the strategy and preparation for adding/scaling an outbound sales motion in a business that has an existing inbound sales motion.
Before we get into the best practices, let’s talk about what not to do.
Do not extrapolate your inbound results into your outbound goals.
Do not assume your inbound processes will work for outbound.
Inbound and outbound are fundamentally different because inbound and outbound prospects are at different stages of their buying journey with you—outbound prospects are earlier in that journey, inbounds are later.
This means you have to put more effort into engaging with and demonstrating credibility to outbound prospects in order to get them interested in buying your product. This in turn leads to longer sales cycles and lower win rates, which increase your cost of customer acquisition and make it harder for you to justify your outbound investments.
Scaling outbound essentially comes to 3 principles:
Focus on the sweet spot of your target market, not the margins.
Refine your ICP, insights and messaging. Make it customer-centric.
Standardize your process and measurement. Nail the basics.
Let’s look at each one in turn:
1. Focus on the sweet spot of your target market, not the margins.
Your outbound efforts are more likely to succeed if they are focused on a market segment where you already have consistent inbound success—your sweet spot, because buyers in your sweet spot are more likely to:
Be aware of having the problem that you solve.
Have heard of you from their industry colleagues and your marketing efforts.
Engage with insights derived from your existing customer base.
However, many (way too many, especially venture-backed) companies make the mistake of using outbound to expand outside their sweet spot into the margins of their business. They hire AE’s to focus on “emerging” segments based on a couple of opportunistic deals, or hire SDR’s to focus on second and third tier prospects while having AE’s focus on tier ones, and use their inbound metrics to set expectations for productivity and goals. When said goals are inevitably missed, the management team chalks it up to a lack of sales activity (“we just need to make more calls!”) or lack of sales talent (“the reps couldn’t close”), rather than admitting to a lack of strategy.
Side note: If you do want to expand into a new market segment, you need to approach it like a new business—starting from scratch with a segment-specific GTM strategy and tempered expectations. It’s more about finding product-market fit than about scaling.
You can narrow in on the sweet spot in your target market by looking for a segment in your business where 80% of the inbound reps are regularly hitting their quotas. For clarity, if you only sell to one segment, this means 80% of your entire team needs to be hitting quota before you can even think about scaling.
2. Standardize your ICP, unique insights and messaging.
As you narrow in on your sweet spot, you need to codify it in the form of an ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). Why? Because with outbound you are going to be using expensive humans (aka salespeople) to connect with prospects one by one and you want that investment to pay off. The key elements in your ICP are:
Company profile: This is easily identified by looking at inbound win rates by company criteria such as industry, number of employees, date founded etc. Wherever inbound win rates are highest is where you want to focus your outbound, as you can expect your outbound win rates to be lower.
Buyer Personas: These are best identified by reviewing wins and losses with reps and documenting the people they talked to, their pain points, the impact they were looking for, the critical events they used to drive a decision and anyone else who was involved in the decision making process. Documenting the full set of personas is important because you will likely have to engage all of them to close an outbound sale, whereas an inbound sale can often be closed by talking to a single contact who has already made up their mind to buy your product.
Discovery Questions: These are best crowdsourced from your reps, either directly or by listening to sales call recordings and then organized by persona and pain point into a reference doc to enable the rep to prepare for a call. With inbound you often get the conversation going with a simple, “what prompted you to reach out?” whereas with outbound you are the one doing the reaching out.
The #1 key to engaging a prospect via outbound is through a unique insight derived from your existing customer base. If your outbound ICP is closely aligned with your sweet spot as described above, the impact your existing customers currently get from using your product will be highly relevant to your outbound prospects, and you will stand out from all the other vendors who are relying on sales tricks and gimmicks to get prospects to respond to their emails.
Figuring out the unique insight for your business comes down to putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes and answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”. The best insights are communicable with a metric that prompts the buyer to think about how they compare. The key to operationalizing insights is to make it easy for your reps to access the data and incorporate it into their sales messaging.
If you have a successful inbound motion, your messaging is probably centered around features and benefits, as your prospects are already aware of their problems and actively seeking solutions. This doesn’t work as effectively in an outbound motion as your prospects are earlier in the buying journey and first need to be sold on the impact of solving the problem before considering how to solve it with features. The simplest way to make this transition is to replace your features and benefits bullets with the unique insights described above as it instantly makes your messaging more customer-centric. It’s also the easiest way to keep your messaging simple and consistent and ensure all the personas you are talking to are hearing the same thing. For a deeper dive check out my previous post on how to make your sales messaging more effective.
3. Standardize your process and measurement.
If you have a successful inbound motion, your processes for lead routing and qualification will likely be in good shape relative to your sales process, and your outbound prospecting process will be non-existent. Here’s how to fix that:
Create your outbound prospecting process: Outbound prospecting is completely different to inbound prospecting. Outbound is about executing a targeted and co-ordinated outreach to engage a buying team at a target customer that matches your ICP. Inbound is about screening and qualifying marketing-generated leads. Not only are they different processes, they should also be different teams and report into different VP’s (Inbound into Marketing, where they can be aligned with campaigns; Outbound into Sales, where they can be aligned with AE’s). For a deeper dive on prospecting process, check out my post on how to build a high converting prospecting process.
Standardize your sales process: The key difference between closing an outbound lead vs an inbound lead is the amount of time you need to spend in Discovery. If your inbound reps are doing “disco/demos”, you need to separate this into two stages to ensure that your outbound reps are connecting with all buyer personas early in the sales process to discover all pain points and desired impact before moving into prescribing the solution that will deliver the impact. If your reps just fire up a demo without understanding pain and impact, your prospects won’t know how to evaluate it. Similarly, if your inbound reps are relying on a single contact to sell the deal to the rest of the buying team you need to make sure that your outbound reps are not sharing proposals until they have spoken to everyone in the decision making process.
Measurement: If you’ve followed the advice up to this point, measurement is pretty much about focusing on and nailing the basics; account and contact coverage, outreach effectiveness, qualified opportunity generation and stage-to-stage conversion. My past posts on how to measure your prospecting efforts and how to get your salespeople performing like your superstars (i.e. performing consistently) dig more into these topics and how to use the data to make your salespeople more successful.
Good luck with your outbound sales and as always drop me a line if you have any questions!