January 2, 2019

How to get your Outbound Sales right the first time

Achieve outbound sales success from the start by emphasizing continuous training, strategic recruitment, and balancing inbound with outbound strategies. These steps cultivate a skilled sales team ready to meet B2B challenges head-on.

Camera and book

When I was a very young girl, barely thirteen in fact, I read a line from ‘Gone with the Wind’ that was to stay with me for a long time after.

Rhett says to Scarlett, “I told you once before that there were two times for making big money, one in the up-building of a country and the other in its destruction. Slow money on the up-building, fast money in the crack-up. Remember my words. Perhaps they may be of use to you some day”.

I have seen this happening over and over in the course of my career as a sales person, particularly within the realm of B2B Sales and software product launches. These insightful words (maybe slightly modified to suit different scenarios) apply to any major upheaval - the market entry of a new technology, a major downturn or any event that makes everything up to that point obsolete including changes in market demand and customer needs analysis. These are all situations in which someone is running a successful business, leveraging sales techniques and product knowledge to navigate through. Yes, even during a recession or war, understanding the market trends and achieving product market fit play pivotal roles.

If this is accepted as fact, then, a business can be set up and can also thrive successfully in any kind of economy, provided a few things are done correctly and diligently.

One of those things, and I would even go so far as to call it the second most important thing after ensuring the timing and relevance of the product/service in the prevailing market, is the sales team. A sales team that functions optimally is a force to be reckoned with, often providing information about existing markets, existing customers and their behavior, spotting potential for market growth and identifying new trends and patterns as they arise and evolve.

There are three important things an entrepreneur or business leader needs to do in order to build a successful sales team:

  1. Sales Training and Sales Management: It's essential to invest in continuous sales training that enhances sales competencies and product knowledge. Effective sales management strategies are key in fostering a high-performing team.
  2. Sales Recruitment and Sales Hiring: Bringing on board the right Inside Sales Representative and team members through strategic sales recruitment practices is critical. Identifying individuals with innate sales performance potential and aligning them with the target market and customer satisfaction goals ensures a proactive approach.
  3. Balancing Inbound vs Outbound Sales: Mastering the balance between inbound vs outbound sales ensures that the sales team is not only effective in lead generation but also in sales prospecting and appointment setting. This balance aids in sales performance improvement and helps maintain a steady growth rate.
Recruitment & Training | Inbound vs Outbound balance | Sales Management

Often, in start-ups as well as mid-sized organisations, especially in software companies catering to B2B Sales, I have seen that an inside sales representative (a ubiquitous hire in most B2B scenarios) is a fresher with very little inclination for sales, and even lesser reason for interviewing for a sales job. Companies, mainly small businesses, are frequently penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to their sales hiring. The idea that a generic X/Y/Z graduate with, at the most one year of sales experience, can be hired in the early stage and trained to sell a software product or service offers well is old-fashioned (dating back to the scripted tele-marketing days) and flawed, especially considering that most entrepreneurs are not sales people themselves.

The other aspect of making the right sales hire is to identify that exceptional team member who can walk the talk during customer interaction. Look for competitiveness, optimism, passion, self-motivation and integrity during the interview, and ask specific questions about their experience that will answer these questions for you. It is extremely important, for customer satisfaction and customer loyalty purposes to do this right, because these people are essentially the face and the voice of your company.

Inside sales has evolved greatly, from pushy tele-marketing in the 1950s and 60s to a transformational business tool that uses data and sales analytics to understand customer needs analysis and address them accurately. So, today’s Inside sales rep should be trained, not just with a script for outbound sales calling and an email template, but also extensively on the product knowledge of products and services and in the art of sales prospecting and asking relevant questions. Insight selling is extremely important to an inside sales rep.

That said, many sales reps are never trained beyond a basic script and have limited product knowledge, the assumption being that detailed discussions will happen with someone more senior on another call. This approach is a two-fold mistake. Greater knowledge about the product/solution and an ability to understand and assess need at the first touch-point actually provides more relevant and qualified lead generation (about 20% more) and allows for a more meaningful discussion with the target customers or target audience. Sales Training on greater product knowledge has also been identified by customers as one of the key deciding factors in their buying process.

In addition, answers to questions at the customer needs analysis at the first touch-point will throw light on several things;

What are the current market trends?

How good is the product knowledge to market fit?

How much do customers feel a certain pain?

Is your product/service relevant, on its market entry, or do customers feel that there are better solutions available in the existing markets?

Your sales strategy, which should encompass appointment setting and sales management, can effectively double-up as a branding tool and a valuable source of market information if executed properly when achieving product market fit.

The second aspect of building a good sales team – The right balance of Inbound Vs Outbound efforts (the Inbound vs Outbound Balance), and focusing on Hunting and Farming instead of gravitating towards Farming – THIS, I think is the fatal flaw in the sales strategy of most start-ups and mid-sized businesses.

Here is part 2 in this series: How to Set Up Your Outbound Sales Team for Success!

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