Outbounding in an Inbound World: Tips for Driving Sales Success



When I first came on board at Marketo, I was amazed by the power of marketing automation and the data it provided to marketers and salespersons alike. Starting a conversation with a new prospect was easy when I already knew what they were interested in—it was like Facebook stalking for marketing and sales professionals. Sign me up!

A few months into my SDR (Sales Development Representative) role, with the marketing automation engine running in the background, I began to understand what I was selling and changed my messaging to create value instead of only building upon what was already provided by marketing automation. Thinking of it with “if/then” logic, I would draw lines between interests and needs, mapping Marketo’s services to customer pain points.

For example: If a person is showing interest in creating content and they are a marketing manager, then they might be interested in aggregating data to determine what content is the most successful. This changes the conversation from “I noticed you downloaded XYZ whitepaper” to “I noticed your interest in content creation, and so I am curious about your engagement strategy. How are you leveraging data to help your team create marketing assets that will most greatly affect the bottom line?” See the difference?

With a marketing automation platform working in the background, it’s easy for a salesperson to become a fanatic. But what happens when the inbound engine (aka: inbound marketing leads qualified by SDRs) isn’t getting you to your quota? Or what if certain prospects haven’t converted into known leads? You don’t want to miss out on such great opportunities—especially if there is a true business need or pain point your prospect is experiencing that your product could solve.

To meet this delta between what the inbound engine produces for your pipeline and blowing your numbers out of the water month over month, you, the sales rep, needs to explore the world of outbound prospecting. Let’s take a look at just what this entails:

The Outbound Prospecting Landscape

Cold emailing/calling can be a daunting task; however, outbounding is extremely similar to inbounding. The only difference is knowing where a prospect’s interest lies and inferring. For outbounding success, it is imperative that you:

  1. Do your research: It is necessary to understand who you are reaching out to and why that individual would care to engage in a conversation with you. We’ve all heard of the Why You, Why You Now (WYWYN) email—now it’s time to put it to use.
  2. Reach out to key decision makers and stakeholders: After you’ve done your research and crafted a thoughtful email, make sure it reaches decision-makers (C-Suite, VPs, Directors, etc). You don’t necessarily have to talk to those people, but if you catch their interest, it will trickle down. Look for employees to begin pinging your site and let the inbound engine get to work.
  3. Follow up: This may sound pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how effective this can be in getting a conversation with either a decision maker or an influencer. For a well-crafted email, I send two follow-ups on the same thread to ensure they received my note. Reuse the work you have already done (research and personalized emails) as talking points when you call to follow up.

Now, let’s expand on the primary area of successful outbound prospecting: research.

Research — The Key to Successful Outbound Prospecting

The concept of researching harkens back to the good ol’ college and high school days of writing a well thought-out essay. Whether the essay was expository, persuasive, analytical, or argumentative, the most important aspect was to understand your topic. And what’s the best way to truly grasp your topic? Research it! The same could be said today when you, as a working professional, are trying to make connections with potential customers. You need to come off as knowledgeable about them (as much as you are about your product or service).

So how can you increase your credibility in this respect?:

  1. Understand the space the company is in and any competitors that are already customers
  2. Know the role of the person you’re reaching out to and how your product affects them
  3. Leverage 3rd party data for validation—graphics, images, and stats go a long way

Remember to always ask yourself “why should they care?” If you can’t answer this, then the answer is “they don’t.”

Here are my favorite “go-to” resources for research:

  1. Company’s and individual’s LinkedIn pages: These are a quick, one-stop shop to find who you should be reaching out to and what matters most to them (check the recent posts from the company and the individual prospect’s bio).
  2. Twitter page: This is the millennium’s version of “a little birdy told me.” It’s great for connecting with a prospect on a personal level on a topic that’s relevant to them.
  3. CrunchBase: Find succinct details on a company and its funding rounds. One of my favorite triggers for a newly-funded organization is to discuss the value its sister portfolio companies find when using our product.
  4. Company website: One quick glance tells you what your prospect is proud of. Be aware of what they are promoting!
  5. TechCrunch: Third-party articles highlight why your prospect is awesome. Be aware of how they are being promoted!

Work Smart and Use Your Tools

Now, as a fan of the “work smarter, not harder” mentality, I recommend using the tools you have available to you to track, prove, and recreate your successes. On this note, try:

  • Using your marketing automation tools to track the success of your outbound prospecting: Are prospects opening your emails? Which emails performed best? Are individuals from your target company beginning to interact with your site?
  • Saving your favorite emails and using them as templates: If your email to the CEO gets a response, use it again and personalize wherever you need to while keeping the value points from the original email.

Remember: any response is a good response. An email that grabbed enough attention to elicit a reply is useful—even if it’s a “no.” If you get a “no,” ask them what is keeping your product from being top of mind today and when would be a better time to connect. You can use their response to help craft your next touch-point.

Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

Take the time to “be better” and go the extra mile in your outbound activities. We’ve all seen or heard of prospects who buy the product from the sales person they had the best relationship with. Know who your customer is and listen to them (both in what information they make available about themselves and in what they say). Make sure the person they want to buy from is you.

I hope that these tips have been helpful. What advice can you share to make your outbound marketing and sales more effective? Please share your ideas in the comments section below!