The Guide to Outbound Sales in 2021
Outbound sales refers to the approach in which sales reps — not prospects — are responsible for making the initial contact between a prospect and a business.
In other words, the outbound sales process begins when a salesperson reaches out to a lead who has an unknown interest in the company, with the hopes of nurturing that relationship through the sales funnel to close.
Outbound sales is often treated as synonymous with cold calling and spray-and-pray outreach tactics, and therefore sometimes gets a bad reputation as being gimmicky, time-consuming, and frustrating for salespeople.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. A well-defined, data-backed outbound sales strategy can be a tremendous asset to your bottom line.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about outbound sales: what it is, how to implement it, and some tools and best practices for the job.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is Outbound Sales?
- How Outbound Sales Differs From Inbound Sales
- Who to Hire for Your Outbound Sales Strategy
- Outbound Sales for B2B vs. Outbound Sales for B2C
- Tools to Improve Your Outbound Sales Process
- Best Practices for Outbound Sales
- How Yesware Enables an Outbound Sales Strategy
What Is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales refers to the process and activities that sales reps undertake when they initiate contact with a lead whose interest in the company is unknown.
The entire premise of outbound sales is that it’s dependent upon sales reps being the ones to initiate contact and gauge and/or generate interest. In contrast, other approaches to sales (like inbound, which we’ll discuss in the next section) typically begin with the lead being the one to initiate contact.
We mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating — outbound selling gets a particularly bad reputation in the sales world. Almost nobody likes to do it. In fact, most sales professionals stay as far away from outbound sales as possible.
But this is one instance where the data is misleading.
Outbound selling can actually be a really effective component of a successful sales program.
In fact, most sales representatives who practice outbound lead generation report that this sales technique is a critical component of their successful sales program.
The reason most salespeople harbor such negative thoughts about cold calls (and even the less-intimidating cold email) is because they simply don’t know or don’t understand the strategy behind it.
Research shows that it takes at least five attempts to make contact with most prospects. Despite this, a huge number of sales reps give up after the first attempt.
For the majority of sales reps, the name of the game in outbound sales is not giving up. It relies on having:
- Accurate contact information
- The ability to effectively reach and persuade decision-makers in your target audience
- Tenacity, authenticity, and thick skin when it comes to making cold sales calls and cold email outreach
Outbound sales teams can count on success and productivity if the right approach and tools are available to them.
How Outbound Sales Differs From Inbound Sales
The major difference between inbound and outbound sales stems from who makes the initial contact at the beginning of a sales relationship.
In outbound sales, someone from inside the business — usually a standard sales rep, but sometimes a lead response expert or a sales development rep — reaches out and starts a conversation with a lead.
When the conversation begins, the sales rep typically has little to no information about how interested the lead may be. It’s up to them to prospect and qualify the leads to whom they reach out.
Inbound sales, on the other hand, occur when the lead initiates the conversation. The lead makes the first contact by reaching out to talk or learn more about the product, service, or company.
Again, the most successful companies typically find ways to incorporate both strategies into their sales process.
Inbound and outbound sales both have advantages and disadvantages.
On one hand, an inbound sales approach is generally cheaper. Additionally, many sales reps find that this approach allows for more authenticity in creating relationships with potential customers, because some of the interest and desire exists before the sales conversation even begins.
On the other hand, the qualification process is usually more efficient with outbound sales. This is because sales reps have the opportunity to conduct thorough research before reaching out to prospects. It’s also far easier to measure ROI in outbound sales than it is in inbound sales.
The best strategy (or combination of strategies) for your sales team will ultimately depend on the needs and preferences of your target market, but keep in mind that there is room for both methodologies in a successful sales program.
Who to Hire for Your Outbound Sales Strategy
One of the best ways to leverage an outbound sales strategy is to hire and train the right people for the job.
It can be tempting to simply segment your sales team, hand each of them a call list, and tell them to start dialing.
But a random and thoughtless approach to outbound sales is part of what makes it so notorious, and will eventually lead to burnt-out sales reps and dead-end cold calls.
Instead, consider hiring and/or training from within for the following specialized outbound sales roles:
Sales Development Representative (SDR)/Business Development Representative (BDR)
These two development reps handle all things prospecting in outbound sales. Some companies treat SDRs and BDRs interchangeably, which is why we’ve lumped them together here, but they actually have slightly different roles.
Both SDRs and BDRs perform prospect research, initiate contact, and can begin the process of nurturing sales relationships with potential customers. SDRs, though, are typically responsible for contacting inbound leads, while BDRs are responsible for cold outreach to outbound leads.
SDRs and BDRs work through the prospecting and qualifying process, and then pass qualified leads onto the next stage.
Account Development Representative (ADR)/Account Executive (AE)
For most companies, “account development rep” (sometimes also called “account executive”) is a fancy title for a salesperson.
The ADR receives well-qualified leads from the SDR/BDR, and takes over the sales process by nurturing the relationship through the remainder of the funnel until, ideally, the sale is complete.
The account executive handles things like sales demos, overcoming objections, and contract negotiations.
Lead Response Representative
The lead response representative is kind of on the fringe of outbound sales, but worth mentioning nonetheless. The lead response rep is responsible for following up with inbound prospects who have demonstrated a passive interest in a company with noncommittal actions like filling out a form, reading a blog post, or attending a webinar.
These lead response representatives are not quite “outbound” reps, because their prospects have typically demonstrated at least mild interest in the company and would technically be considered inbound leads.
However, the lead response rep is typically responsible for those leads who have demonstrated a more passive, less aggressive interest at a particular moment of time. These leads may not be ready for a full-blow sales pitch the way other inbound leads may be; it’s up to a lead response rep to get them closer to that stage.
The breakdown and specialization of outbound sales roles can help define the process and make it more efficient and intentional.
Outbound Sales for B2B vs. Outbound Sales for B2C
The outbound sales approach will look different for every company. This will depend on product offerings, target market, and business goals.
As a result, the outbound sales cycle for B2B sales is usually longer and more drawn out.
Because so much of the job relies on managing communication and follow-up, it’s critically important that outbound B2B sales reps are consistent in logging their actions into their CRM. The process relies on efficient communication; effective use of outbound tools is a must.
Outbound sales for B2C companies can be a bit more challenging because of the more transactional nature of B2C sales. Sales reps in these positions usually sell lower-ticket items. These reps will typically need to reach out to a much higher number of prospects than B2B sales reps.
Prospecting in these cases is much more about strategy and volume than it is about finding the best fit and building a relationship.
Tools to Improve Your Outbound Sales Process
With so much of the success of outbound sales reliant on efficiency of communication, it’s important that your sales team has the right tools at their disposal to make the process easier.
There are many types of tools you can use to improve your outbound sales process.
Here are a few of our favorite time-savers.
All outbound sales reps know that one of the most important metrics they’re measured against (other than overall conversion rate) is their call quota. It’s imperative that outbound sales reps get their phone calls completed in a timely manner.
Intelligent dialers, like Aircall, can compile your list of contacts, automatically dial their phone numbers, and integrate their contact info into your CRM. This kind of technology goes a long way in making your outbound sales calls easier and more manageable.
Click-to-dial within your CRM is a game-changer. This kind of functionality will allow you to pull up a contact’s complete information and dial from directly within their profile. This gives sales reps the ability to have the important demographic information right at their fingertips as they’re making the call.
LeadDesk is one example of a tool with this functionality. It can also click-to-dial from within spreadsheets or websites.
Email automation can save a significant amount of time in outbound sales. Sending emails, following up, booking meetings; there’s a lot of manual tasks that go into a strong outreach strategy.
Email automation tools like Yesware help make outreach easier and more effective. Yesware includes outreach tools like email templates and prospecting campaigns, as well as tools to dissect what’s working like email analytics and email tracking.
Local Presence Dialers
A local presence dialer, like Dialpad, automatically matches your outgoing area code to the area code of your prospect.
Area code may seem like an afterthought, but research shows that people are 4x more likely to answer a call from an area code that matches their own.
It’s inevitable that outbound sales reps will encounter screened calls and voicemail boxes. And, in a role where time is of the essence, leaving voicemails for every unavailable prospect can get time-consuming in a hurry.
Voicemail automation platforms like Shape allow you to pre-record and select from a variety of outgoing voicemail messages that are personalized enough to make a connection, but automated enough to save time.
Reverse IP Lookup
Softwares that enable reps to identify website visitors via reverse IP searches can be a huge asset for outbound sales teams.
Lead Forensics is a great example of this kind of tool. It can identify your website visitors based on their IP address, which will give you a leg up in your first outreach attempt. Knowing that the lead has already visited your website can go a long way in warming up the relationship from the start.
There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the funnel, only to have your prospect back out at the last minute.
Time-savers and convenience softwares can help streamline the entire process for the buyer, so they have no excuse to balk when it comes time to sign. E-signature platforms like DocuSign can ensure efficiency every step of the way.
Best Practices for Outbound Sales
The outbound sales teams who sign the newest customers are the ones who take a strategic approach to the process. As we’ve outlined in this article, outbound selling is much more than spamming contacts on LinkedIn with a stock sales pitch.
Here are a few of our best tips for making outbound sales a lucrative and invaluable component of your sales approach.
Align With Your Goals
You should design your outbound approach according to your overall business goals.
If you haven’t yet, take time with your team (and, ideally, the executives at your company) to create goals using the SMART goal framework.
Once these well-defined goals are in place, it will be that much easier to identify and prospect your ideal customers through an outbound approach.
See the Bigger Picture
You may also want to consider creating a sales process map for your team, or any other kind of overarching document that details the roles, processes, tools, and decision points your team will encounter throughout the sales process. Here’s an example:
Remember, outbound selling is just one piece of a larger sales strategy; seeing how it fits into the bigger picture will enable your outbound reps to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
It’s no secret that the vast majority of people hate being sold to. Prospects can smell a sales pitch from a mile away, and they won’t appreciate you beating around the bush to find a way in.
Be clear and concise in your messaging. Avoid being overly pushy. Remember, a lot of outbound work is most successful in the follow-up; you don’t need to get into all of the details on the first call.
Dig Into Pain Points
One of the most important parts of a successful outbound approach is completing as much research as possible before the first call.
Find the Right Time
In a field where so much of your success relies on someone else’s actions (i.e., whether or not they answer the phone), every little bit of leverage helps.
Try calling between 9:00am – 12:00pm for best results. And remember — calculate your call times according to the prospect’s time zone, not your own.
How Yesware Enables an Outbound Sales Strategy
Yesware, the all-in-one toolkit for sales professionals, can be a valuable tool in your outbound sales strategy.
Yesware gives you the tools to take action and the data to make decisions. And with integration taking less than one minute, you can start winning more business with these tools today.
Yesware’s Email Templates allow you to create personalized, automated outreach for all of your prospecting needs.
These templates offer all the ease of automated outreach, but all the personalization of customized contact — the best of both worlds.
Successful cold outreach relies as much on content as it does on timing.
Use Yesware’s Attachment Tracking feature to identify your best content, and learn exactly how your prospects are engaging with it.
These tools allow you to see which content is viewed and when, so you can design smarter and higher-converting campaigns.
Your cold outreach efforts are pointless if you can’t successfully get a meeting booked in your calendar to drive the conversation forward.
Yesware’s Meeting Scheduler features allow you to book meetings without the back-and-forth. The tool seamlessly integrates with your Outlook or Gmail calendar so that when you send your calendar link, recipients can choose available time slots that work for everyone.
With the right tools and processes in place, outbound sales can be an invaluable approach to add to your toolbox.
Get expert sales tips straight to your inbox to win more deals
Yesware is an all-in-one toolkit for sales professionals and sales teams. Try our Outlook or Gmail add-on for free!
Hit your number every monthGet Yesware for free
Works on Outlook or Gmail (+ many more integrations)
Sales, deal management, and communication tips for your inbox