There are many different flavors of generating outbound pipeline. Each strategy requires a different level of effort and preparation, and each has differing levels of success depending on the company maturity and market they sell to.
In this post we’re breaking down the 6 most common outbound tactics and when to prioritize them:
6. Email marketing masked as outbound sales
Based on my gmail and Linkedin inbox, far too many companies follow this strategy. It’s a volume-based strategy that is the least efficient, burns through targets, and turns off prospects. I assume it must work (at least a little, in the short term) or people wouldn’t be doing it, but at what cost.
I know it’s still happening because I get dozens of cold emails a day from vendors trying to sell me something that 5 min of research would show I am not a good fit. This is for people that (at least upon initial glance) have really large TAMs and figure they will catch a small amount of people in active buying cycles.
This requires very vague targeting on a B2B database and a to: 1) capture emails, 2) blast mass emails. The rest can be done by one of dozens of email tools.
Due to how ineffective this strategy is coupled with both stricter spam filters, rising focus on domain reputation, and poor results, I suspect this to be a thing of the past very soon.
5. ICP and persona focused cold outbound
Another inefficient channel is ICP and persona based cold outbound. Unfortunately, a high number of sales teams (especially early on) employ this strategy. This usually requires looking up targets based on your (often too wide) ICP. Companies use tools like Zoominfo, Apollo, and Sales Navigator to find the contacts and then target a handful of personas (based on titles/roles) to drop into cadences.
While many sales teams try to be as targeted as possible here by adding things like technographic information (uses AWS), firmographic info (growing more than 30% YoY), and triggers (just raised $30m in venture equity), this channel is still less effective than ever before. Even teams who are deploying multi-channel (emails, social, calling), this channel is the least effective as it’s been in the last 5 years and both response rates and SDR quotas are dropping as a result.
4. Strict, account only prospecting
For more mature organizations (typically with larger deal sizes), most sellers only work a small number of accounts (10-50 total) that are ideal fits. For this strategy to work, they likely have a mix of existing customer and deals big enough that landing 1-3 deals a year can make their quota. Intent data is typically a good fit for this strategy to layer on top of only ideal fit accounts.
The job of the rep in this model is to essentially spend their time trying to move accounts from “education phase” and “aware but not yet ready” to “actively in a buying cycle” and then try to win at the highest clip possible. For people working at companies like Workday, Anaplan, or large enterprise SaaS, many of the first few strategies discussed will (and should) seem foreign.
3. Warm connection: contact-first approach to cold outbound
One level deeper is thinking about your best targets from a different lens. Rather than asking – which accounts are good fits; many companies realize they can say – where is there warmth within specific contacts that happen to work at ICP accounts?
From there, you can look through mutual connections (personal, executive, and other employees within your company), university/alumni overlap, and other shared experiences that help increase the chances of getting a response. Checkout our Executive and College Connection pipeline plays to try this approach.
These likely boost response rates, but don’t help address for who might be in a buying cycle, who is familiar, or who is showing intent. Therefore, these folks typically require a lot education and lower win rates.
2. Targeting warm accounts that are showing Intent
Intent means a lot of different things to different people. With the rise of the MQL and focus on content/inbound marketing, many companies still think about intent as actions (or series of actions) an individual takes within a certain time that dictates it is worth a seller’s time to target. This could look something like: Has downloaded content from your site + viewed pricing page (or something similar).
While a step in the right direction, many companies don’t have enough of these to feed the sales team at the rate founder and investors want high growth companies to grow. That’s where new-age intent providers come in.
Companies like 6Sense argue they only “outbound” a target when the account falls within their target account list AND is showing intent (based on searches across the web, behavior on a company website, and more). While this is great in practice, it also can’t typically fill a team of AE and SDR calendar with enough people to reach out to and companies have had a wide range of outcomes with newer intent providers.
1. Buying Signals: Familiarity
As the market caps of public and provide SaaS companies continue to grow bigger than many people have expected, it means there are more users of software products than even before. What that means, is that a lot of money has been pumped into educating customers, marketing toward them, and throwing sellers at them.
Not only is usage of these product at an all time high, but so is general awareness. For instance, even the best companies win 1/3 deals – meaning 2x the number of people that have bought or used your product have evaluated, flirted with, and entertained buying it.
This is where the opportunity lies.
Familiarity should be a part of every outbound sales and marketing strategy.
Flavors of familiarity can take a few different forms:
1. People who have bought and championed your solution
2. People who have onboarded and implemented your solution
3. People who have approved the budget and made ROI justifications for your solution internally
4. End users of your product (free or paid tiers)
5. Unconverted free trials
6. Users who go to customer marketing events and work with Customer Success
7. People who have evaluated your product but haven’t yet bought (clost-lost deals)
Roughly 20% (depending on the industry) of these people change jobs every year, becoming new potential opportunities for your sales team. These are not only the most efficient to get new meetings, but they also convert to opportunities and close at a higher clip in less time than any other outbound channel.
As Wall Street and growth investors continue to value efficiency and earnings over growth at all costs, every company should rethink how important the sphere of familiarly is to their GTM motion and plan accordingly that other, colder channels will continue to get harder.