Introduction to outbound sales
The principles behind successfully approaching buyers directly for a conversation
Generally speaking there are two ways to generate sales conversations: 1) Inbound, which is when a buyer reaches out to you; and 2) Outbound, when you reach out to a buyer directly. Both are powerful drivers to help you grow sales, but offer different sets of pros and cons. This article will focus on Outbound.
Outbound sales are incredibly powerful because the results are largely within the control of the seller. It’s also scalable—unlike Inbound, where you are waiting for buyers to reach out to you—Outbound enables you to invest more time, money, and energy, at your own initiative, to generate more sales.
Most people don’t really understand how to do Outbound sales correctly though. Which is why most lawyers and people selling to legal believe it doesn’t work. In this article I will describe the following six key principles behind effective Outbound sales:
Your target audience must be homogenous
The pitch must be compelling to the buyer
Leverage social proof where you can
Keep your value prop short and sweet
Don’t give it all away in the pitch
You gotta make the ask
I will also include related stories and anecdotes from my experience in sales. If you read through the whole thing please fill out the poll below and/or reply back with your comments. Thank you!
1. Your target audience must be homogenous
I’ve written before about the importance of knowing your ideal customer profile. For Outbound sales, I’d take it even further. You have to isolate a segment of your buyers narrowly, most likely by job title. This enables you to figure out your sales pitch to see what works most effectively. If your target audience is a mixed group, your Outbound campaign will have mixed results. It’ll also be highly likely that you draw the wrong conclusions from your failures.
Instead what you should do is create micro-segments and create unique sales pitches for each of these groups. They must contain highly specific “value propositions” for your target buyers. Which brings me to my next principle.
2. The pitch must be compelling to the buyer
A value proposition is a clear and concise statement of the specific value that you bring to your target customer, and it should be tailored to their needs. It's important to avoid mistakes recycling value props from other contexts or focusing too heavily on qualifications and credentials. A good value proposition should focus on known problems or categories and clearly communicate the benefit you offer to the customer.
When I was in legal tech sales for early stage startups, we would often be instructed to use “pitch decks” that were essentially presentations for VC investors. The decks included a lot of information about market trends, the value of a single platform, or other future looking projections. Unfortunately, the lawyers we were pitching did not care for this information. They just wanted to know how the tech would help them in their day-to-day.
If your offering is in an established category, use well accepted terms instead of creating your own. For example, I experimented with all sorts of clever ways to describe “finding needles in a haystack” when I sold e-discovery software, but ultimately it was better to just say “we’re e-discovery tech that does X.” If your offering is not in an established category, use extremely simple language. For example, when selling AI for contracts before it became mainstream, I would say “we extract insights from old contracts so you don’t have to” instead of using terms like “natural language processing” or “machine learning.”
When developing your value prop, come up with multiple ones and test them out on people you know. Make sure to avoid testing them out on friends and family, unless they’re similar to your target audience. And remember—while feedback from a “warm” audience helps build confidence, it’s less accurate than feedback from someone in your target audience who’s busy and mean.