One of the worst trends in the content marketing industry is declaring the “end” of something. How many times have you read an article with the title “Organic reach is dead” or “The end of cold emails”?
Chasing for clicks and positioning, we sometimes get too carried away and add a little more dramatization to an issue that’s really not that big of a deal.
That’s certainly been the case with outbound sales. As inbound sales are getting more, it seems that outbound sales are the next thing in line to be declared “dead” every month or so.
However, experienced salespeople who know a thing or two about sales know that this is simply not true. Outbound prospecting is still an invaluable technique when you want to get quick results, diversify your portfolio, or simply build long-lasting relationships with important clients. The only thing is – you need to develop good strategies and spend some time perfecting your outreach efforts for outbound sales to really work.
So, why do people believe outbound prospecting is on the decline? Read on to find out the answer and learn some strategies to improve your outbound prospecting in 2021.
What are outbound sales?
Outbound sales prospecting is the traditional approach to sales that we’ve all been familiar with for decades. People working in telemarketing, door-to-door salespeople, and traveling salespeople are all examples of outbound prospecting. “Outbound” simply means “directed to the customer”, so every time you’re reaching out to your customers, you’re doing outbound sales.
Outbound sales are usually presented in contrast with inbound sales. While outbound sales are sometimes painted as pushy and aggressive, inbound sales are considered subtler and possibly even more effective. Conversion rates for outbound sales techniques are typically lower, so many people prefer a less pushy approach.
But, inbound sales, too, have a significant downside – it takes much longer for you to see any kinds of results. For an inbound approach to work, you have to regularly create content, cast a wide net, and wait for your relevancy to increase enough that your customers will start coming to you.
Is outbound prospecting dead?
So, now we know that outbound prospecting is simply the process of reaching out to prospects and promoting your brand or service.
The reason why it sometimes gets a bad rap is that it’s always assumed that your prospects are either unfamiliar or uninterested in your brand. So, outbound sales are considered spammy and ineffective, because you’re reaching out to someone out of the blue.
And, sure, when you don’t research your target audience and send generic emails – you will be spammy. If you do this, you deserve all the bad rap you might get.
When we talk about outbound sales, we’re not talking about this old-school, paint-by-numbers approach. We’re talking about carefully created strategies where you don’t just reach out to your entire address book. You go through a precise process of generating and qualifying leads, you make lists and audience segments, and then you reach out to them using personalized messages and tailored offers.
Sounds much more complicated than just picking up the phone and cold calling, right?
Strategy #1: Get creative with lead hunting
The first way to get smarter with outbound prospecting is to find high-quality leads.
Again, as we mentioned above – it’s about reaching the right people with the message, not reaching out to as many people as you can. Stop wasting your time on people who don’t want to hear about your offer and focus on those leads that are more likely to convert. Not only will you get better results, but you’ll seem more legit and you won’t damage your brand reputation.
You can find great leads on LinkedIn in a few short steps.
For example, with a couple of clicks, you can search for connections of your existing clients. All you need to do is type something into the search bar (say, “social media manager”) and select “people”. Then, you can click on “all filters” and you get an option called “add connections of”. This is great if you have satisfied clients from specific industries whose connections you may want to target.
Just click on “add a connection” and start typing the name of the person whose connections you’d like to add. You can also add multiple connections here, allowing you to get hundreds of potential leads – most of them from the same industry, and most of them likely to be more interested in your offer than the average person.
The next thing you can do is scrape the contacts from LinkedIn and Facebook groups. These are usually communities highly dedicated to specific fields, so you can join a group from your industry and scrape contacts from it using an automation tool like TexAu.
For example, when you search for “social selling” on LinkedIn, here’s what kinds of results you can get:
That’s almost 400 groups with almost 15k members in the top three. Needless to say, all of these groups are filled with potential leads if what you’re trying to sell has anything to do with social selling.
You can apply the same approach to Facebook groups.
You can also use LinkedIn’s advanced search to find people from specific industries, with specific educational backgrounds, or who work for specific employers. Whatever you do, one thing should matter more than anything else: find those leads who are tightly connected to the industry you’re trying to target and focus on them.
When you’ve made a solid list of leads, you can start contacting them with LinkedIn prospecting tools.
Strategy #2: Focus on email marketing
Email is one of the best channels to engage all those quality leads you collected. In fact, 31% of marketers believe that it’s the best channel to nurture leads.
So, get to work and start working on your email marketing strategy. Here are some tips to make your emails work for you.
- Use email finding tools. If you want to build a good email list, an email hunting tool will save you a lot of time. Let’s say you scraped the contacts from a Facebook group but only a handful of these profiles have their email displayed. An email finder will help you get their email, using their name and domain.
- Craft good subject lines. There is a big chance that your prospects will ignore a lot of your emails if you don’t do something to stand out. One of the best ways to stand out is to use smart subject lines that can improve your open rates. Check out these best practices for email subjects by MailChimp, based on their analysis.
- Send emails based on events. Most email automation tools allow you to set up events, or specific actions that your website visitors take on your website. When they perform those actions, an email is automatically sent to them. So, for example, you can set everything up so that each user that puts products in the cart and quits gets an email reminding them to complete the purchase.
- Make your emails mobile-friendly. In the past few years, more users have started reading their emails on their phones. Keep this in mind and try to optimize your emails for smartphones. Your subject lines should be short, your copy concise, and your CTAs prominent.
Strategy #3: Personalize all your outreach
Whether you reach out to your prospects through email, LinkedIn, or using a sales prospecting tool, personalization should be your top priority.
The last thing you want to do is send the same email to all your prospects and gloss over how you got their contact, what connects you, and why your offer is perfect for them. Mention all of these things in your email and be honest.
Also, don’t forget to mention their name – there’s nothing more annoying in email marketing than receiving an email that starts with “Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss”. It makes your prospects feel like numbers in your revenue column.
A good way to take this approach one step further is image personalization.
With it, you can add a new dimension to your outreach campaigns and surprise your prospects. Instead of ignoring your message, they’ll be more likely to get intrigued and check out what your offer is about.
So, what is image personalization?
It’s the process of using your prospects’ data like name, job title, website, etc. to send them a message that features a personalized image. Here’s how we used it in our LinkedIn outreach campaign (check out the replies, too):
You can also use it to personalize images in your emails, and even your website content.
With Hyperise, you don’t need any coding or design knowledge to create these messages. Everything is drag-and-drop so you can easily craft personalized messages by using our streamlined interface.
When you apply image personalization to your outreach strategy, you can end up with a message that looks like this:
In this message, everything is personalized. Both the image and the opening line mention prospects’ names, we address the thing that we have in common, and we talk about their interests.
As you can see, this is far from the old-school outbound prospecting. The leads are high-quality and the messages are highly personalized. With this approach, you’ll be much closer to getting the open and reply rates you want.
Register for a free trial of Hyperise and test out these strategies yourself!
Strategy #4: Use data and metrics to inform your decisions
To make sure everything is going the right way, you need to track your success using analytics. That way, you can adjust your strategy where needed and make the most out of your outreach efforts.
For example, you might have one group of leads that consistently performs better than other groups. Upon inspecting your analytics, you might learn that what you thought was your primary audience isn’t actually that interested in your offer. You also might learn that the messages that looked the prettiest don’t perform as well as you thought they would have. That could help you craft better messages going forward.
Observe, learn, and adjust – that should be your motto.
Here are some analytics you should always keep an eye on:
- Conversion rate. The Holy Grail of online marketing, this number shows you which percentage of your leads went through the entire funnel and ended up purchasing your product or service. You get it by dividing the number of sales by your total number of leads and then multiplying this number by 100.
- Open rate and response rate. These show you how many people opened or responded to your emails/connection requests. While a low conversion rate can be an indicator of all sorts of things (like problems with your product or website), a low open/response rate is almost always due to one of two things: the low lead quality or bad message.
- Bounce rate. If you have a website and want your prospects to visit it, it’s good to watch your bounce rate. It shows you the percentage of visitors who entered the site and instantly left, without viewing another page. It’s a good indicator of whether or not your website is properly optimized.
You can focus on many other metrics but these should definitely be in your top five. When you choose your sales prospecting tool, make sure it has elaborate analytics set up to help you make informed decisions.
Outbound prospecting: the final word
Let’s make a big announcement: outbound prospecting is NOT dead.
It’s only being improved and rethought to follow the amazing technical progress we’ve been making in the past decade. When you focus on user data and do your best to deliver the right messages to the right people, you’re doing everyone a favor.
You’re also restoring the reputation to outbound sales and helping us move the whole industry forward.
And, if you want to go to the very top of the industry, you might want to consider image personalization. It’s the latest personalization trend that will do wonders for your outbound sales strategy.
Register for a free trial of Hyperise and start personalizing on a new level!