January 2, 2019

How to set up your Outbound Sales team for success

Outbound sales people - You know the ones that send you emails or call up to ask if you need something? They are literally considered to be the devil incarnate these days in the business world, quite often on the same plane as serial killers and puppy stranglers.

There is a common perception that outbound sales is intrusive, annoying, product-centric…. you can add any number of negative adjectives at this point. And yet, why does this perception persist? Is a sales guy who calls you to ask if you might have a few minutes to talk really that much more annoying than those ads that always miraculously pop up where your cursor is and just won’t go away?

Personally, I think neither outbound sales nor inbound sales is good or bad - they are both channels that can be used well or abused by sales people. The best choice for your organization  then depends on your budget, timeline for success and profit margins, but a combination of inbound and outbound methods is most often the best bet.

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen several organizations make is treating their outbound and inbound sales teams the same way. An inbound lead is something that comes in through your website, or because someone signed up for a webinar or demo. Here, people are sending you queries because they have a requirement already, and the only question is whether your product/service is a good fit for what they are looking at. So the inbound sales guy focuses on understanding this requirement exactly and goes from there.

The outbound sales process, however is completely different. Let me give you an example of how it goes. A nice sales guy calls up and asks if he can speak with you for a few minutes about, for example, a visitor management software. You are a little suspicious, but you agree. Then he says that he is aware your company probably has a way of handling this,  but he just might have something that could be more cost effective in the long run, as well as handling the stored data better. Would you be interested in speaking to his manager about this? No pressure at all, but in the least, you might walk away with an idea of the options available. You say, OK, I can meet your manager on an agreed date and time. Pleasant goodbyes follow. Everything is very casual.

Now, the day of the meeting arrives, and the manager walks in, all poise and confidence. He asks you a lot of questions - "What requirements do you have in this space? What is the timeline within which you want to close this? Are you the decision maker or do you think other people need to be involved in this process?" At this point, with a bemused look on your face, you say, “Mister, I don't know what the heck you're talking about, but I’d really like you to leave now” - Nice sales guy is going to have a bad day tomorrow.

Although this might sound funny in theory, I have seen it happen all too often, and it will almost definitely set your outbound team up for failure.

So, let us get something important out of the way- the odds of your outbound sales person actually hitting upon someone that has a requirement exactly at the time your company calls are about 10,000 to one. Not good odds, as you can see. However, given that the point of outbound sales is different, this is alright.

The reason for performing outbound sales is to meet/speak with your potential clients, create in them the awareness of a pain, and leverage yourself as a solver of their problem. You want to subconsciously influence the budget allocation by having spoken to them in advance about how much it might cost if they purchase your product. You will call them occasionally to  make sure the problem is in the forefront of their memory, and to create an urgency to solve it.

Now let us look at the results you can expect. In the first year of initiating an outbound sales campaign, where your sales people do not receive any inbound leads at all, expect to get a 2 to 2.5 time ROI, assuming you are not going to attend any events or conferences. If you are attending events, plan for and expect about a 4 time return. These are conservative figures, and I have seen returns that range from 2 times to 6 times, depending on the product to market fit, awareness of pain, competitors and their offerings etc.

All of this is for those people newly initiating outbound campaigns. If you already have strictly outbound sales people, you have historical data to determine what your ROI is going to be.

Both outbound and inbound sales processes, when set up and performed effectively, are going to keep delivering better results progressively. This means that the second year is going to be better than the first, and so on.

The very last point to make is this - Is it worth it? A lot has been said about the cost of outbound sales being very high relative to inbound sales. Numbers speak and all that. But the interesting thing about numbers is they can be made to tell any tale. Inbound sales isn’t as inexpensive as it seems to be. There are costs associated with it that are usually not considered when making grand statements like it is 70% cheaper and 50% more effective (just random numbers I threw in, don’t hold me to them).

I think there are some reasons to choose outbound sales and some reasons to not. The biggest reasons to choose it are:


Meaning, instead of writing painstakingly interesting blogs or newsletters and waiting for customers to come in (which can actually take as long as a year), you can take control of the point of contact, the message, and actively make things happen. In this case, you could be getting leads as early as the third week onward. Is it more expensive than doing inbound marketing on your own time? Of course it is. But not by much, when you consider the potential for results.

So, there you have it! You can now decide what you want to do, and make it work for you. If you do choose to use outbound selling as a channel, do not hesitate to contact me if you need more information or advise. Until next week, happy selling!