December 1, 2022

Outbound Prospecting Guide for Sales Professionals

Written by The Apollo Team

Imagine you’re trying to guide people into a showroom with a display of your products.

You can do it from the inside—standing at the door with a flashy sign and conversing with the interested people who pass. Or you can do it from the outside—venturing onto the street, approaching individuals to tell them about your offering and why they should enter.

This is a very literal example of inbound and outbound prospecting.

Let’s look at these concepts more closely—what they mean, when to use them, and how they differ. To close, we’ll give you strategies for hitting your outbound prospecting out of the park.

What is outbound prospecting?

Outbound prospecting (or outbound sales) is the technique where companies push their message or social selling, email marketing, and so on.

In outbound prospecting, the sales reps contact leads, rather than wait for the leads to come to them (i.e. inbound prospecting). A common misunderstanding is to equate outbound sales with cold calling, but while cold calling may be an attempt to capture leads with random calls, outbound sales is a data-driven and strategic process.

Outbound prospecting allows salespeople to:

  • Conduct hyper-targeted outreach
  • Obtain quick feedback and results
  • Have personal contact with prospects
  • Take control over the pace of the selling process

The stages of outbound prospecting

The outbound sales process can be summed up into five key stages.

1. Identifying potential customers. To ensure you find, engage, and convert the right businesses for your product, identify the defining characteristics of your ideal customer.To identify your ideal customer profile, start by asking yourself five essential questions:

  • Which of your current customers make the most out of your product(s) or service(s)?
  • What traits do your best customers have in common?
  • What recurring objections do you receive from past customers or lost opportunities?
  • Which customers are easiest to upsell to and why?
  • What do the customers of your closest competitors have in common?

2. Generating leads. Now that you know who to reach, you need phone numbers and email addresses. Sales teams gather contact information by purchasing third-party data, using a sales intelligence platform, and/or employing an in-house lead generation team.

3. Contacting and qualifying leads. The outbound sales team now reaches out to the list of contacts by email or phone and finds out whether they’re really a fit for their product or service. Here are a few methods salespeople can use to qualify leads:

  • Assess whether a lead’s budget, authority, needs, and timeline are a fit with the BANT technique
  • Get valuable insights into a customer’s interest and likelihood of purchasing with intent data
  • Score leads based on their engagement with your website, content, ads, etc. The higher the score, the more qualified the buyer.

This is also the stage where sales reps use top-of-funnel strategies with leads and focus on creating connections, asking questions, learning their pain points, and making prospects aware of solutions.

4. Showing off your solution. Here, the sales team (often a sales development rep or an account executive) schedules a qualified meeting or demo to show the prospect the value of their product.Salespeople use their unique selling proposition (USP) to answer a lead’s most important question at this stage:“What makes you different from the competition?”Here are a few tips for navigating this part of the buyer’s journey:

  • Stay focused on what your customers value. Use what you learned about their pain points and specific needs in your discussions.
  • Be clear about your product’s unique benefits. Paint a picture of a customer’s improved reality after purchase.
  • Provide social proof. Sending a case study, highlighting positive reviews, or sharing a positive customer story is an effective way to move buyers to the bottom of the funnel.

5. Closing the deal. At this point, prospects are already familiar with your product and its value and sellers can begin to move into product-heavy conversations and negotiations using closing techniques. If all goes well, the contract is signed with the customer.

Inbound vs. outbound prospecting

Now that you know all the outbound prospecting details, here is how inbound prospecting differs.

Like the name suggests, inbound prospecting is a lead-generation strategy where prospects come to you. It’s when a company makes a dedicated effort to “pull” interested prospects in to qualify them and see if they’re a fit for their product.

Where do these leads come from?

Well, lead generation for inbound prospecting relies heavily on inbound marketing tactics and channels. Inbound leads are drawn in through marketing and email campaigns, social media, blog content, SEO, and other lead source channels.

Unlike outbound prospecting which focuses on “hunting” for buyers, inbound prospecting starts with the sales lead initiating contact and/or expressing interest in your brand. It focuses on the customer’s needs and requires that salespeople adapt to the buyer’s journey, acting as trusted advisors.

Inbound sales can be very cost-effective since you are targeting and engaging only with people who have shown interest in your company. But, unlike outbound sales, it takes more upfront work, doesn’t allow for hyper-specific targeting, and takes more time to generate leads.

Strategies for outbound prospecting

Boost your outbound sales efforts with these best practices:

Start with the right data

The success of your outbound efforts is directly related to the quality of data in your sales stack. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23x more likely to acquire customers and 6x more likely to retain those customers.

First, ensure that your CRM is up-to-date. CRM enrichment tools can sync with your current database to enrich existing records and automatically cleanse new and existing records as your customer database grows.

Beyond the data you currently have, you should invest in an end-to-end sales platform that offers all the outbound bells and whistles.

The best platforms for outbound prospecting offer:

  • An expansive database with advanced filters for honing in on your buyer personas
  • Engagement tools that allow you to contact your pool of newly sourced leads in the same place you prospect from
  • Automated features like job change alerts and buying intent data that give you purchasing signals without lifting a finger
  • Seamless integrations that optimize your workflow across all of your tools

Start your search for the right platform with G2’s Top 20 Sales Intelligence Platforms list.

Send highly-targeted email campaigns

After you identify your prospects, you can start doing outbound outreach and by being specific in your approach, you’ll have higher overall engagement.

While there is a time and place for email blasting, highly targeted and personalized outreach will lead to more relevant content, better response rates, and exposure to contacts who will be excited to receive your messaging and offers.

Un-targeted email campaigns, on the other hand, lead to lower engagement and response rates, email unsubscribe requests, or worst of all, your messages being marked as SPAM. Over time, this has a detrimental impact on your domain score and deliverability.

Remember, the better you know who you’re targeting in terms of buyer persona—their characteristics, interests, motivations, and pain points as well as how they perceive you—the better success you will have.

Here are five questions you should think through when writing targeted messaging to a potential customer:

  1. Why are you sending this email? Meaning – where in your sales/marketing/customer funnel does this email fall? That will help set the tone of your email.
  2. Who are you talking to? Think about the individual reading the email, and write it to them.
  3. What’s one message you want them to take away from your email? Be clear with the main message (i.e. introducing yourself, learning their needs, giving them inspiration)
  4. What’s your call to action? What do you want them to do after they read the email?
  5. Have you come up with a matching subject line? This is the first step to targeting—get them to open the email!

Check out this blog for more tips on building cold email campaigns.

Be prospect-obsessed

When outbound prospecting, it’s important that you leave your ego at the door and make the buyer the hero of the story.

Rather than talking about all the awesome things your product can do, how it solved X client’s problems, what an amazing and generous offer you have (blah, blah, blah…), reflect the problem they’re having back to them.

Paint an improved reality for the buyer with phrases like:

  • “If there was a way to significantly save on XYZ, would you be interested in a solution like that?”
  • “I understand pricing is very important to you since you’re working with a tight budget. But let me just ask you this question: if you found a solution to [the problem you’ve discussed] in [amount of time], how much time would that save you?”

These are the sales conversations that speed outbound leads through the pipeline to a closed deal.

Make outbound prospecting work for you

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to outbound sales. Your strategy will differ depending on your industry, product, selling methodologies, and the unique needs of your prospects.

But with reliable data, highly-targeted prospecting, and value-based messaging, your outbound system will lead to successful engagements and winning deals.

The Apollo Team