What is Outbound Sales?

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Mastering outbound sales can be the difference maker in accelerating your organization’s growth past the competition. Outbound sales succeeds when you and your team have the right process, tools, and content. A strategic approach to outbound gives your sales team the best chance of securing more meetings and winning more new business.

Below we take a closer look at what outbound sales is and how to build a successful sales process.

Part 1. Defining Outbound Sales

Outbound sales is the proactive process of sellers initiating engagement with targeted prospective customers through cold calling, cold email, social media, or direct mail to generate deals.

Outbound sales allows companies to introduce a business to an idea, solution, or option that the prospect may not find on their own. It’s a chance to reshape how potential customers think about a critical need, challenge, or opportunity within their business. Outbound sales, when done well, provides value to a targeted audience. It delivers personalized and helpful information that converts prospects into leads and leads into buyers.

Outbound selling is proactive, whereas inbound sales wait for prospects to contact the company and ask about their product or service. Since a lead for an outbound sales rep likely has little to no knowledge of the company and its products or services, top organizations provide their sellers with extensive training and scripts to maximize productivity.

With the development of new technologies, executives are bombarded with automatically generated messages from sales and marketing people. The sheer volume means that many prospects believe that all the pitches they receive are nothing more than spam. They often delete without reviewing.

That creates an extra hurdle for outbound sales teams. But it’s one that can be overcome when the outbound sales strategy includes prospect research and value-adding messaging.

Where Leads Come From

Businesses collect leads from multiple sources. The most common are:

  • List Purchases. There are numerous sources where you can buy a list of names, usually based on criteria such as the business sector, job title, and geography. Depending on the source, data integrity ranges.
  • Contact Research. Salespeople develop a target list of prospects and gather contact information from list providers or through online tools. Lists are based on research, business intelligence, and matching to ideal customer traits. It’s often more effective than list purchases but requires an investment of time and money.
  • Inbound Leads. Lead may reach out to the company directly through email, phone, a website contact form, advertising, or a referral. The flow of inbound leads is unpredictable and untargeted, but those leads that match the ideal client profile are hot and should be contacted quickly.

Who Is Outbound Sales Good For?

Outbound sales is for companies looking to accelerate growth in a strategic direction. It’s an approach used by companies large and small across the world. Outbound sales are used across industry verticals and are a necessary component of any comprehensive, sophisticated sales strategy.

Even if a company has a well-established inbound marketing program with quality content that drives a steady flow of new traffic, outbound sales offers the opportunity to scale up.

Here are some indicators that could point towards starting an outbound sales program:

  • Need a steady supply of new and qualified leads
  • Need to grow in a more strategic direction such as within a geography, business sector, or by company size
  • The sales team is complaining about the quality of inbound sales leads they’re following up with

These indicators help inform whether an organization should consider an outbound sales program.

B2B vs. B2C

Outbound sales programs will differ depending on the types of customers an organization serves.

Business-to-Business Outbound Sales

B2B outbound sales is often a more complex process. It will take multiple touches to reach a prospect successfully, and follow-up calls and emails are an essential part of this process. The sales cycle is usually longer and typically requires buy-in from multiple stakeholders.

Business-to-Consumer Outbound Sales

B2C businesses that rely heavily on inside and outbound sales include insurance companies, stockbrokers, and real estate companies. This work is usually higher volume and focused on lower-ticket items, such as timeshares and insurance policies. B2C outbound sales typical require reps to make more prospecting calls and close more deals than their B2B counterparts.

Types of Outbound Sales Reps

There are two common approaches to how outbound sales teams are structured.

  • Sales Development Reps. These reps are the front line of an outbound sales strategy. They’re responsible for managing a list of leads, deploying your strategy via emails, phone calls, social media, and direct mail to make a connection with prospects. Once the connection is made, the sales development rep will bring in an account executive or subject matter expert to move the relationship forward. By deploying the sales development reps to qualify prospects, account executives can focus on closing deals and maximizing revenue.
  • Lead Response Reps. These sales professionals often bridge the gap between inbound and outbound sales. They are usually making outbound approaches to leads who have demonstrated inbound interest by contacting a company directly, attending an online webinar or conference, downloading a video or white paper, or completing an online form. Like with sales development reps, lead response reps are responsible for creating sales opportunities for salespeople or account executives.

Both approaches are effective when reps have the right tools and understand their roles.

Tools Needed for Effective Outbound Sales

In order to support outbound sales efforts, reps need the right tools to gain a competitive edge.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform. A CRM solution tracks all aspects of the company’s relationship and engagement with prospects. The CRM houses contact information for multiple employees at each account with notes on customer interactions. Marketing and sales outreach can be tracked, such as what emails were opened or answered.

Sales Engagement Platform. A sales engagement platform is a tool that manages outreach with customized workflows that synchronize with your CRM and email system. When optimized, it’s a more efficient and effective way to reach senior decision-makers. It allows for extensive personalization, activity logging, real-time alerts and valuable data collection.

Auto Dialers. Outbound sales reps need to meet quotas regarding the number of contacts they make each day and week. Auto-dialing phone systems punch in phone numbers saving the rep time. Predictive dialers will call multiple numbers at once and connect live responses to an available rep. Advanced auto-dialing programs also deliver data about the prospect being called, either from social media sites or CRM connections. Often, CRM systems have solutions that allow for dialing directly from the platform.

Local Presence Dialers. These dialers use a local area code instead of a toll-free or long-distance number. Local numbers tend to have a higher connection rate than out-of-town digits.

List Providers. Reliable sales lead database providers that have vetted and accurate contact information are invaluable. Top-tier providers use sophisticated databases and intelligence services to deliver much more than contact information, such as company financial data, agency relationships, and recent news articles, to help better identify ideal clients.

Voicemail Automation. Given that reps are going to leave a lot of voicemail messages, automation can simplify and accelerate the process. Instead of leaving a separate voicemail for each prospect, reps can leave a pre-recorded message with one click.

These tools add efficiency and information to the sales process to help teams reach more prospects faster and more effectively. More mature outbound sales programs will deploy most or all of the above tools, whereas less mature programs often use only a few if any.

Part 2: PROPEL Your Outbound Sales Process

For your outbound sales program to be successful, you need to implement a repeatable and scalable process. That takes planning and strategy.

Here’s a look at PROPEL, a 6 step framework that I developed for successful outbound sales program:

  1. Powerful Sales Platform
  2. Right Audience
  3. On-Target Messaging
  4. Proactive Outreach
  5. Engaging Meetings
  6. Lasting Success

1. A Powerful Sales Platform

The Sales Platform is a buyer-centric, unifying sales proposition designed to create interest and awareness among your prospects. It’s a differentiator that cuts through the noise and intrigues your prospect with a compelling answer to a business challenge.

Your Sales Platform leverages an insight that your company is uniquely positioned to satisfy for a client. It’s backed up with proven results and client success stories.

The Sales Platform needs to be supported by complementary sales assets, such as case studies and thought leadership, which are delivered through a multitouch, multichannel, and multimedia cadence.

2. The Right Audience

It’s important to know who you’re selling to and why. It starts with developing an Ideal Client Profile. By examining your past and current clients, you can gather quantitative and qualitative data about acquisition costs, revenue generated, referrals made, market position, and staff interactions.

Next, find the commonalities among those clients – number of employees, job titles, industries, years in business, services you provided, market position, risk tolerance, and significant events. That information informs the Ideal Client Profile your sales and marketing teams use. It should include three sections:

  • Basic business information
  • Culture and organization
  • Buying patterns, objections, and concerns

The Ideal Client Profile helps you shape buyer personas for each decision-maker in your ideal client’s company, including job title, age, responsibilities, experience, pain points, and questions.

Once you know your ideal clients, you need to find them. Building your client list is important. Use the following steps, and repeat them, to develop a prospecting process that’s scalable, efficient and repeatable:

  1. Use a reputable database provider to give you accurate lists of prospect contact information
  2. Focus on a key attribute such as an industry vertical or geography, which helps sales reps and account executives be more efficient, using similar outbound messaging across the segment.
  3. Find best-fit companies that met key criteria such as revenue, media spend, and location.
  4. Identify best-fit contacts at each company, based on job function and rank.

3. On-Target Messaging

Messaging matters. Each component of your messaging strategy needs to be planned. Consider the following when developing your scripts and training your sales reps:

  • Cold Calling. The purpose of a cold calling is to move from an interruption to a scheduled meeting. Ask questions that elicit predictable answers that allow you to respond with information about your company, what it does, your credibility, and value proposition.
  • Cold Emails. Send prospects cold emails that are personalized appropriate to how close they fit your Ideal Client Profile, grab their attention, state your value proposition and benefits to the prospect, use simple language, and have a clear call to action.
  • Voicemail. Great sales voicemails are 30 seconds or less and tell the prospect why you called, what value you bring, and include a call to action (typically a callback or response to a follow-up email).

4. Proactive Outreach

Use a sales cadence to schedule when reps reach out, what content they offer, and what channel they use. Your sales cadence needs to define key parameters, including:

  • The target audience, with more personalization for top prospects
  • Cadence duration, whether it’s a short, two-week burst or a more extended period with more and different touches
  • Number of touchpoints. How many total attempts will you make?
  • Intervals. Decide whether to send something on a predictable schedule, front-load outreach or start slow and add more over time
  • Channels. Calls, email, social media, and direct mail should all be considered based on the prospect
  • Scripting. Concise scripts, free from jargon, make all the difference.

Finally, to get the right audience, you need to know what prospects you’re targeting. The same approach will not work for each tier of prospects. Outbound sales must live at the intersection of quality and quantity.

Here are three prospect tiers to use for account-based sales:

  1. Highly Personalized. Your most ideal prospects offer the greatest opportunity and require patience, detailed research, and careful planning.
  2. Personalized. Most of your prospects will fall here, and sales reps should do enough research to personalize 20% of the message.
  3. Customized. This catchall approach is used to reach out to the remainder of your prospects, why do not merit as much planning and personalization.

5. Engaging Meetings

The first objective of the outbound sales process is to set meetings with qualified prospects. But the process doesn’t end there. The intro call aims to engage the prospect and advance the sale forward. To optimize success, top outbound sales organizations have plans for before, during, and after the appointment. Here are those stages.

Pre-Meeting Planning

Lack of preparation dooms many sales calls. Be sure your team is R.E.A.D.Y. by taking the following actions to sales call planning:

  • Review the research to know all the pertinent information about your prospect
  • Establish your value proposition, including the challenge your company can address, how your solution is different and the proof of past results
  • Affirm the meeting outcomes to be clear on what you’re looking for, such as a demo, follow-up meeting, proposal or referral to another person in the company
  • Determine your questions and try to limit them to four in total. Questions should focus on an issue to tackle, consequences of not addressing it, the importance of the issue and expected results
  • Your Speaking Roles. Consider assigning a chairperson who’s responsible for the meeting’s success and starts and closes the call

The Meeting

A successful sales call has four distinctive, clear stages.

  • The Open sets the scene and states the value proposition.
  • Exploration is the most critical and is where you unearth the prospect’s challenges
  • Demonstration is the place to show off what your business has to offer
  • Advance is where you establish what the next steps are with the prospect

 The Debrief

Want your company to be more successful on future calls? Debrief the wins and losses. It comes down to knowing what was S.A.I.D.

  • Schedule a 15-30 minute sales call debrief, ideally right after the call
  • Assess what happened with candid evaluation from all participants
  • Interpret the opportunities raised and options going forward
  • Document the interaction for all involved and include in your CRM

6. Lasting Success

Continued success in outbound sales means having the infrastructure, metrics, and training that keep your company well informed at each stage of the sales process.

The PROPEL Framework is a repeatable process that with proper implementation and continuous optimization will scale and lead your outbound sales program to lasting success.

To become scalable, you must know the numbers so you can establish baselines for your company. You will want to review metrics such as open, click, and positive reply rate for emails and live connect rate for the phone. As the program develops, you should track the number of meetings set per campaign, per channel, and the number of touches made per appointment.

With this information, major or minor adjustments can be made to subject lines, content, value proposition, day/time send times, call times, number of touchpoints, etc. Successful sellers double down on areas overperforming and pull back on areas underperforming.


In Part 1, we looked at why outbound sales is an essential part of your sales strategy, the types of outbound reps, proactive ways to acquire and reach high-value leads, and the situations that call for either a B2B or B2C outbound approach.

Part 2 looked at the P.R.O.P.E.L. outbound sales approach. To recap, it includes:

  1. Powerful Sales Platform
  2. Right Audience
  3. On-Target Messaging
  4. Proactive Outreach
  5. Engaging Meetings
  6. Lasting Success

P.R.O.P.E.L. is a disciplined approach to creating your compelling proposition, researching your prospects, and strategic preparation and execution at each phase of engagement.

A deep understanding of outbound sales is necessary to build a strong foundation. Your program will take time to develop and will optimize with time. Implementing the right outbound sales process, tools, and content will propel your plan forward and position your company for long-term success.

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