Follow my outbound sales blueprint to identify the companies that are most likely to be interested in your offer and to contact these prospects and acquire them as new clients.
What drives the growth of your business?
Simply put, it’s the transaction between your customer and you, the seller.
Outbound sales, or making the initial contact with potential customers, is the best way to lay the foundation for such transactions.
In this guide, I’ll take you through my seven-step blueprint for identifying the companies that are most likely to be interested in your offer and for contacting these prospects and acquiring them as new customers.
I call it the Customer Acquisition Process (CAP).
Outbound Sales in 7 Easy Steps
While I go through these different steps, keep in mind that direct contact with your potential customers gives you the best source for direct feedback.
Further clarity on these points will improve the effectiveness of your partnership sales and lead generation activities.
That’s why outbound sales is so vital to scaling your startup.
I’ve captured the essence of a successful outbound sales process in these seven steps.
1. Define your ideal customer
At this stage, focus on companies you want to do business with, not on individuals who work at or represent these companies. That will come later.
Also, zero in on clients who are the end users or buyers of your product or service and not on partners who may give you access to these prospects.
You’ve already defined your target customer in your value proposition.
Now go into the next level of detail.
Narrow your focus by adding elements like their industry vertical, size (defined by revenues, employee size, etc.), and geographic location.
Your goal is to pinpoint the precise type of company with whom you’re looking to do business.
If you can’t do that just yet, define a maximum of three potential types of ideal customers.
Follow up on the rest of the process for each of these profiles.
Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to identify a single ideal customer.
They’re the ones who are prepared to buy your product or service at a high price repeatedly — because you solve such a critical problem for them.
2. Decide your target companies
Take your ideal customer profile(s) and match them with specific companies that fit your criteria.
How can you identify these companies?
Use Google or LinkedIn to search for relevant names, attend conferences and trade shows targeting specific industries and tap into your network of personal or professional contacts.
Your goal should be to create a Top 50 prospect list of companies that fit your ideal customer profile.
At this stage, you don’t need to decide which of these companies will most likely buy what you’re selling. That will come later.
As you put together your list, make sure you capture the various articles, websites, and interviews you come across in your search.
Include links to this information in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool so you can refer back to them when you reach a later stage of the CAP.
A basic CRM system helps you put all the contact information into one place and track your engagement in the outbound sales process.
I recommend you use one to maximize your effectiveness.
Find the one that best fits your needs and budget.
Some popular CRM platforms you should consider: Hubspot CRM, Pipedrive, Active Campaign, Zoho, and Insightly.
3. Identify decision-makers & influencers
Now, start identifying the people inside your target companies who you should talk to about your product or service.
There are two types of people you must identify: decision-makers and influencers.
Decision-makers have the budget and the authority to say ‘yes’ to whatever it is you’re selling.
They are sometimes the company’s CEO or Managing Director; in larger companies, they are the division or department head.
An influencer is a person in a position to influence the decision-maker in making their decision.
They are often the subject matter expert inside a company and have a trusting relationship with the decision-maker.
Both types of people are equally important to closing a deal.
The smaller the company, the more important the decision-maker; in these cases, it’s often a single individual who makes the final decision.
By contrast, the larger the company, the more important the influencer’s role becomes, as decisions in these instances are made collaboratively.
How can you reach these people?
You can use the same sources you used for finding company names, like online searches, conferences and trade shows, and your personal or professional network.
Finally, identify target people by their titles, and match their names with the companies on your Top 50 Target List.
For example, your likely decision-maker may be called the Head of IT, the Operations Director, or the Vice President of Marketing.
4. Determine your ‘way in’
Once you’ve done your research, you get to move on to the ‘art of sales,’ which many consider to be the exciting part.
You must determine how you will gain access to the people on your target list who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.
Your goal is to find some connection to the target person that will move you inside their comfort zone so they are willing to listen to your message with an open mind.
Finding a ‘way in’ is far more effective than relying on cold calls or emails, which in my experience as a business coach and mentor, generates too much work with little success.
Cold calling is a pure numbers game driven by a sheer volume of work that very few startups at this stage can afford.
I’m much more convinced that if you put effort into creating even the slightest connection with your target customer, you are more likely to develop a warm lead — and your chances of success skyrocket.
Here are three of the best ‘Ways in’:
- Look for a direct contact, which could be someone you’ve already met or spoken to but perhaps in a different context.
- Explore referrals, which may be a common connection who can introduce you to your target person via email.
- Check if you have a reference, who is someone you can refer to in your contact email and is a trusted person for whoever it is you want to reach.
If you don’t have easy access to any of the above, look for ‘hooks’ or similarities you have with your target prospect.
Some typical hooks include a shared birthplace, nationality, university, company, conference, article, or even hobby.
Having one of these elements in common with your target person can open up the conversation and improve your chances of success.
5. Create a Top 10 ‘hit list’
Your goal now is to create a ‘Hit list’ of the Top 10 contacts based on the work you’ve done so far.
Why is this important?
You can’t possibly reach out to everyone at once and keep track of all discussions.
Instead, set priorities as to who you will contact first.
Some parameters you should consider include:
1. A fit with your value proposition: though there should be few companies on your Top 50 Prospect List that don’t match this criterion, there may be ones that are a better fit than others.
2. Lead warmth: how strong (warm) is your ‘way in’? Consider putting prospects where you have direct contact, a referral, or a reference at the top of your list.
3. Company size: create a healthy mix of companies in terms of their size.
Exclusively contacting large corporations will give you big potential but will also extend your sales cycle due to their slow decision-making process.
On the other hand, targeting smaller companies’ customers will get you to a decision quickly but may mean that each deal delivers a small return.
4. Industry: you may consider focusing your Top 10 list of companies in one particular industry (e.g.telecom, finance, tech, retail) to test your effectiveness in these areas, or you might want to have a mix of industries represented so that you get a broader view of where there could be the greatest traction.
5. Geography: keep in mind that your home market may offer the lowest hanging fruit, but you may want to add companies from key international markets, as well.
Balance all of these factors to arrive at a list of the ten people you will reach out to initiate a conversation directly.
Your Top 10 ‘Hit List’ will continually evolve as certain companies fall out due to the lack of follow-up while new companies come into the picture as your network expands.
Always make sure you have at least ten companies in focus at any given time.
6. Initiate contact
Once you’ve created your Top 10 ‘Hit List,’ follow these steps to initiate contact with the people on your list.
The purpose of this first contact is to set up a 30-minute call/video chat so you can learn more about their problems and present your solution in more detail.
It is not to close a sale!
1/Write your direct contacts first using my messaging framework as your guide.
2/Contact people who can provide an introduction via email:
- Draft the email so they can forward it directly to the person
- The ideal is if they ‘cc’ you on their email, and you follow up directly
3/Write to the people for whom you have a reference:
- Subject: Bob suggested we connect/get in touch / I thought you might be interested…
4/Finally, write to the people for whom you have a ‘Hook’:
- Include the hook in the subject or the first line of the email
- For example: “I see we both went to Cornell University…only ten years apart. I loved my time there. Wasn’t it great?”
Your first email will get one of four possible responses:
1/Organize a call
2/Forward internally for review or to someone who will be in touch
3/No, thanks! – not what you hoped for, but at least you won’t waste your time
4/Silence – ghosting, which I found has become the default response in many cases
Send a maximum of three emails to any one prospect.
If you haven’t heard back after email #3, simply move on and revisit later.
They’re either not interested, or it’s not the right time.
7. Manage process to a definitive outcome
Sales is a process that is best illustrated via a sales funnel.
It’s a visual representation of how you move your least aware prospects through decision-making stages until they decide to buy what you’re selling.
Here’s the four-stage funnel that I prefer to use, though you will find sales funnels with as many as nine steps, which work just as well.
I like to keep things simple.
Your outbound sales process should reflect the steps you take to move potential customers through your sales funnel.
Ultimately, your goal should be to get every prospect from ‘Awareness’ to “Decision’ so that you get a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision from each company you target.
‘CAP’ Practice Makes Perfect
As you follow my Customer Acquisition Process, you’ll identify which steps go smoothly and which ones require a bit more work and better focus to get right.
Whatever you do, make sure you stick with it!
Eventually, you’ll be able to identify the prospects who are most likely to be interested in your offer, you’ll contact these prospects with a lot less effort and in less time, and you’ll be closing new deals on a regular basis.
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