FOXBOUND RESOURCES

The Strategic Guide to Outbound B2B Prospecting in 2019

Hero_Graphic_-_Strategic_Guide_to_outbound_B2b_prospecting

Introduction

Despite business environments constantly changing over the course of time, strategic outbound B2B prospecting consistently proves to have a direct correlation with driving and increasing significant revenue.

In fact, organizations that successfully implement an intelligent outbound B2B prospecting strategy are much more likely to exceed their goals instead of falling short.

No matter how much data is readily available to validate this statement, sales leaders still face scrutiny from stakeholders that an outbound B2B prospecting strategy simply doesn’t work for their organization.

Most organizations learn the hard way that failure is a direct result of improper execution rather than from shortcomings of outbound itself. While this is an unfortunate reality, our goal is to reverse this narrative. 

Here’s what we’ll cover.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

When Performed Intelligently, Outbound Sales Prospecting Works

 

Why You Should Care About Outbound B2B Prospecting

 

Where Does Outbound B2B Prospecting Take Place in the Sales Process

 

Who Should Own Outbound Prospecting

 

  • Step 1 – Establish a Winning Mindset
  • Step 2 – Fine Tune Your Value Proposition and Expand Your Knowledge
  • Step 3 – How to Segment, Research, and Prioritize Accounts and Persona’s
  • Step 4 – Build a Key Contact List
  • Step 5 – Perform a Practical Amount of Research on Accounts and Prospects
  • Step 6 – Engage
  • Step 7 – Make Data-Guided Decisions
  • Step 8 – Internal Meeting Handoff

When Executed Intelligently, Outbound B2B Prospecting Works

Despite an overwhelming increase in available sales enablement providers, sales is fighting an uphill battle.

  • According to Sirius Decisions, it’s 117% more difficult to reach a prospect today vs. 10 years ago. Further, 67% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally before willingly talking to sales. This means that buyers are harder to reach and are more self-sufficient. 
  • The Sales Benchmark Index also reports that 845 of B2B makers open their buying process with a referral. Considering that 91% of customers would give referrals and only 11% of reps ask for them, this leaves the lion’s share to the top 11%.

We’ll continue to explore the facts and examine research throughout the guide. These are simply a few of the many data points sales reps should consider.

Before we move on, it’s important to note that the outbound B2B prospecting strategies discussed in this article are for prospects; not leads.

Let’s take a look at how we define each below:

Leads refers to potential customers who have consumed your content (website, eBook, blog, etc.), requested more information (call, demo request, etc.), or have been driven to your organization by some sort of marketing effort.

Prospects are potential customers that fit within your target buyer criteria but have not interacted with your organization directly or indirectly through marketing.

For readability, we also have interchangeable terms for referring to salespeople:

  • Sales Representatives
  • Account Executives (AE’s)
  • Sales Development Representatives (SDR’s)
  • Business Development Representatives (BDR’s)
  • Reps
  • Sales Executives

Why You Should Care About Outbound B2B Prospecting

There are four main reasons that drive B2B companies to implement outbound sales strategies.

  1. Outbound B2B prospecting provides access to untapped revenue.
  2. It is predictable and scalable
  3. Effectiveness can be optimized with a balance of automation and personalization
  4. Prospecting efforts can convert high-quality prospects into leads over time.

Before we examine each and continue to emphasize the importance of outbound, let’s be very clear here: Inbound and outbound sales should not be considered as adversarial or opposing strategies.

All too often sales and marketing communities find themselves in polarizing discussions and debates over the merits of each.

  • Inbound is essential for driving brand awareness, creating buyer journeys, and equipping leads with information to evaluate offerings and make purchase decisions. Without inbound, we would not have high-performing websites, content, or familiarity on our side.

Think of inbound as “casting a net.”

  • Outbound is the outreach effort spent by sales reps to create opportunities through a combination of emails, phone calls, social selling, in-person visits, etc. Without targeted outbound, we would have no control over prioritization and engagement with high-value accounts that can significantly drive growth.

Think of outbound as “hunting with spears.”

To be successful, high-performing organizations acknowledge inbound and outbound processes must work in tandem to drive maximum organizational productivity.

Let’s stop the heated discussions on comment pages and forums and accept that the truth is in the middle. The good news is that everyone is on the same side of the table and organizations will receive the maximum benefit when both teams work together intelligently.

Consider this:

  • Inbound activity can not only help prioritize where outbound efforts are allocated, but also provide resources and tools for reps to sell with more authority.

  • Outbound effort can drive inbound activity with accounts that would have otherwise never entered an inbound marketing funnel.

As iron sharpens iron, the inbound process sharpens outbound; and vice versa.

To be clear, we believe that converting qualified Inbound leads into sales opportunities should be a top priority. It’s not a trade secret that qualified inbound opportunities are shorter in sales cycle length and higher in win rate.

Inbound follow up and qualification should be executed flawlessly and conversions should be closely examined by reps, sales leaders, and marketing. With research suggesting a 21x increase in conversions when sales responds to an inquiry within 5 minutes, sales must be accountable for quick reaction time.

However, let’s be realistic…

Inbound sales is largely a waiting game. Reps who are tasked with balancing “farming” and “hunting” will often find themselves defaulting towards the farming end of the spectrum. This is because nobody’s default setting is to outbound and face rejection when there are inbound leads to squeeze for a response. 

This is why reps who are properly coached and supported by their organizations to focus on outbound are much more likely to succeed in exceeding their quota instead of falling short. Focus breeds effort, execution, and creativity. In turn, these reps can be empowered to perform one of sales’ hardest jobs – outbound prospecting. 

Now, to the 4 core reasons:

1. Outbound B2B Prospecting Provides Access to Untapped Revenue.

When considering your Total Addressable Market (TAM), it’s simply unrealistic to believe every potential company will engage with your brand from marketing efforts alone. Not everyone is going to enter your marketing funnel and purchase your offering without support. This is one of the reasons why sales professionals have jobs in the first place.

Outbound B2B prospecting gives sales teams the opportunity to strategically select Accounts and Contacts in order to:

  • Engage with the highest valued prospects first
  • Enter a buying cycle before a purchase decision has been made
  • Start and accelerate the buying journey
 With a selective approach, teams can operate in a more calculated manner instead of taking a “boil the ocean” approach. 

2. Outbound B2B Prospecting is Predictable and Scalable

Once an organization has intelligently scoped, defined, and implemented an outbound process, analyzing outbound data can help determine how productive the outbound effort truly is. By continually reviewing the results, sales teams can optimize their outbound strategy to create a scalable process that can be repeated with the addition of more sales resources. 

On this note, let’s dispel another common myth and shine a light on its ramifications. 

We’ve all heard the phrase, “sales is a numbers game. While there is a degree of truth to this statement, the reality is that if the outbound process isn’t properly executed, the results won’t be favorable.

Sending 1,000 poorly constructed, unsegmented, sloppy emails that happen to convert 1 or 2 prospects and calling it a “successful effort” is shortsighted and simply false. 

In the big picture, this can be an incredibly damaging practice. Reps can find themselves damaging their personal and company brands instead of driving revenue.

Sales Executives who are also repeatedly sending emails to invalid addresses “to hit metrics” will also find their email domain blacklisted which will negatively affect other reps on their team, as well as the entire organization. This rampant “outbound B2B prospecting practice” ultimately dulls the edge on all inbound and outbound effectiveness and closes doors to ideal accounts.

3. Optimizing the Balance of Automation & Personalization

The fundamental value of automation in itself isn’t up for debate.  It extends the power of human means in virtually all departments of a business. Marketing departments use tools like Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot and Mailchimp to automate complex campaigns and workflows. Operations teams use process automation tools like Tricentis and UiPath to eliminate redundant data entry. Engineering uses tools like Tosca and Selenium to improve software quality with automation. In each market, AI and automation is becoming more sophisticated and approaches the Technological Singularity (self aware AI), with each passing day. 

While the fear “automating jobs away” is a valid one across many markets, it’s an overblown issue in the sales arena. Of course, we’re seeing a rise in self-service purchasing & tools like chatbots that can automate transactional deals. However, there will always be a seat at the table for strategic sales reps. 

This is especially true for those who adopt and intelligently leverage automation for outbound B2B prospecting rather than defaulting to bad habits like the “boil the ocean” approach 

In the world of sales, automation can be used to extend a rep’s capacity to deliver personalized emails which carry a much higher likelihood of positive conversion. Like anything, it’s about balance. If you find yourself crafting the perfect emails but only can deliver 2 per hour, you’re still in a bad situation.

In our case, sales reps must balance the dichotomy of volume and quality.

  • One end of the spectrum: sending personalized emails 1 by 1 without the help of automation to reduce or eliminate redundancy. 
  • The other end: damaging “spray and pray” approaches in which automation delivers a high volume of ineffective emails.

The equilibrium point? Using automation and tools to accelerate list-building, sales research, and outreach across various channels where a balance of volume and conversion rate is achieved. 

outbound b2b prospecting

We’ll talk more about how to achieve this over the next few sections.

4. Prospecting can Convert High-Quality Prospects into Leads over Time.

As mentioned earlier, the rivalry between inbound and outbound is a false narrative. 

Here’s the truth. 

Whether a prospect engages with you or not, you are actively building familiarity with your brand which in turn can drive future engagement through marketing capacities – if performed intelligently.

When considered from this perspective, it’s much easier to think of inbound and outbound as close partners instead of adversaries. 

In other terms, outbound can be the difference between an account never entering your marketing funnel or an account coming in hot a few months later and closing quickly when the time is right.

So, think of outbound as a rising tide that lifts the boats of both sales and marketing. See? We’re all friends here. 

As quick tip to sales executives – this is why long term commitment to maintaining the outbound effort on an account is so important – unless you want to pass a layup deal to another rep when you’ve done the upfront work.

There are no participation trophies or commissions handed out to sales reps that simply “warm up” an account.

If the goal here is to access or expand new revenue streams, create a repeatable model, balance volume vs. quantity, convert ideal Contacts now & generate better Leads over time – here’s our shameless plug 🔌🦊 

FoxBound clients use our data + sales automation stack for outbound B2B prospecting to achieve up to 8x productivity when no automation tools were used previously.

When turning to us as an alternative to heavy legacy providers with equally heavy price tags, it’s still common to see 2-3x increases in efficiency depending on the challenges the client was facing beforehand (with a 2-5x lighter price tag)

Where Does Outbound B2B Prospecting Take Place in the Sales Process?

As a quick recap, this is when an independent contributor from the sales department (SDR, AE, etc.) identifies companies and contacts to target, performs research, and engages the contact through a combination of email, phone, social media, or in-person visits.

From there, the sales rep follows up accordingly to determine qualification and set an initial meeting or move them to the next step, whatever that may be.

Prospecting and the act of generating pipeline can be thought of as the prologue to the sales cycle or as the first step of it. Either way, prospecting in itself is not a one step process – it’s an entire cycle of its own.

Let’s first acknowledge qualification criteria will vary from company to company. However, the process of qualification is generally the same across all companies. The goal is to evaluate a prospect based on target buyer criteria to determine if there is a mutual fit for both companies to work together. 

Qualification is the foundation for a successful sales strategy. If sales teams are reaching out to companies or prospects that don’t fall within their target buyer criteria, they are essentially wasting time and company money investing in activities that won’t produce revenue. 

It’s worth enforcing.. 

Poorly conducted qualification is a core reason sales teams and reps fail. Unqualified deals clog the sales engine, stalling pipelines and wasting the potential of otherwise high-performance salespeople.

Here is a snippet of the first stage of our Sales Process: 

While these activities may seem simple in nature, failure to perform even one of these critical steps generally will lead to undesired prospecting results.

Outbound B2B Prospecting

Now, to our next (and very loaded) question

Who Should Own Outbound B2B Prospecting?

A common question and point of contention over outbound prospecting is the matter who should own it. After all, the finger has to point somewhere if outbound fails. Here’s our options, take your best guess:

A) SDR
B) AE / EAE
C) MANAGERS
D) FOUNDERS / EXECS

The right answer should be clear but unfortunately it’s not accepted by many organizations. 

The answer?

Everyone! It’s a team sport. Here’s the part everyone should play. 

Founders & Executives

Let’s start here because executives have the power to sponsor the right environment and culture for outbound. This means the authorization of the right office setup and implementation of the right prospecting tools, incentives, KPI’s, and cultural tone. There’s a lot of finger-pointing at sales reps for “quiet sales floors,” it really starts with execs for not driving accountability.

Step into the office of an organization with a dedicated executive or VP of sales, and you’ll see a culture of self-improvement, fearlessness, and tenacity balanced with support and a focus on growth. Step into one that sweeps it under the rug, you’ll hear a lot of clicking and silence and see reps reps who are too timid to really outbound prospect.

As a starting point, leaders can sponsor spiffs, make introductions, and focus on team morale. It’s also paramount that leaders select metrics more focused on quality over pure quantity. Quantity metrics can be measured can be managed, but can also be manipulated. 

A rep can send 1,000 emails a day and make 100 calls but will see the Law of Diminishing returns kick in quickly. Instead, measure conversions, meetings set, and call connects.

Remember, anyone can game the system on quantity-based metrics.

But for engagement metrics such as these, there’s really no getting around it without quality work.

If you’re a leader with a team of sales reps spreading their focus across dozens or hundreds of accounts, try a target account approach. It’s funny what happens when reps spend their time and effort on handpicked accounts that are similar to your most successful customer base.  

Sales Development

SDR’s core existence on Earth is to generate pipeline, so this is an obvious one. Again, let’s be clear that their focus should be on quality prospecting. No SDR should be getting awards for how many insincere, sloppy emails they’re blasting out on a weekly basis. It’s incumbent on leadership to make sure this is the metric that’s being measured.

Account Executives

Even AE’s with marketing’s full support for their segments and SDR’s at their disposal should still take ownership for their pipelines and spend some portion of their time working on prospecting activities. This is a fact of life that’s widely accepted by top performers, but commonly deflected by “busy” sales reps who should be delegating time consuming non-sales activities to operations and support teams. It’s the salespeople who fall into the category of spending 65% + of their time on administrative work that typically fail on outbound.

Management

Frontline and mid-level leaders in the most unique position to drive changes. This is because they can advocate for reps and be their voice to executives.

If executive leadership isn’t sponsoring the right behaviour, managers and directors should instead take matters into their own hands. Instead of falling victim to CRM dashboard-monitoring, try jumping in the trenches with your reps. Push on leadership to give you the support you need to in turn support your team. 

It’s also vitally important for managers to play the role of mentor and a frontline coach. No matter how talented your team is, never take the fundamentals for granted. Professional athletes still practice the basics in a non-gametime environment. Your reps should, too. 

As a few suggestions for getting the team into “outbound B2B prospecting shape”

  • Build situational awareness with role play
  • Measure product knowledge with tests
  • Foster knowledge share amongst your reps when high-value opportunities are sourced and/or closed

Now that we have the foundational knowledge established, let’s dive into the steps required to create an intelligent outbound B2B prospecting strategy.

Eight Steps for Creating your Prospecting Strategy

Step 1: Establishing a Winning Sales Prospecting Mindset

According to HubSpot, over 40% of Sales Representatives say that outbound B2B prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process.

While the above may seem discouraging on the surface, it’s also important to understand that according to a separate 2019 HubSpot report, 71% of buyers actually want to engage with sales when they are looking for ways to improve their business. 

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “how this makes sense?”

Allow us to explain! 

We can start by acknowledging no rep likes spending intense time, effort, and energy to achieve negative results. Furthermore, prospects don’t like connecting with sellers who don’t provide value on the first interaction (i.e. reps who “spray and pray”).

There’s no question that prospecting can and will be a mentally exhausting exercise.

This is why it’s tempting for reps to resort to undisciplined “batch and blast” techniques instead of finding the right balance. It’s the easy way out, and will put you on the wrong side of the Conversion Curve. 

To reiterate, outbound B2B prospecting is a numbers game – to an extent. However, quality execution will ensure that the time and effort put in will yield higher conversions from cold prospect to first meeting. The extra quality effort also leads to more qualified prospects which in turn creates more pipeline. 

Salespeople can all agree that when we successfully book qualified meetings and contribute additional revenue to our organization – it positively affect our willingness to prospect. In a positive cycle, success dispels our natural fear of rejection or failure and instead keeps our brains focused on achieving the right results with fearless and impactful outbound B2B prospecting activity. 

So to boil this down, you really have 2 options: 

 
  1. Use low-quality prospecting techniques and receive low conversions, lower quality first meetings, and low attainment.. 

OR

2. Dedicate yourself to learning about your product, value, and space. Execute prospecting tasks with quality. Run successful first meetings. Create significant pipeline coverage. Close more deals and improve your quality of life. 

The choice is yours.

Step 2: Fine Tune Your Value Proposition and Expand Your Knowledge

Over 40% of prospects aren’t finding value in the first sales meeting. The principles for running effective discovery meetings are better addressed in an article of its own, but this is an important stat to consider because it strongly correlates with the messaging that is used on the initial contact with a prospect.

It’s the unfortunate sales tendency for reps to talk about themselves or pitch features and functionality rather than spend effort to understand a business and explain how their offering drives positive outcomes. 

Understanding the positive business value your product or service provides is crucial in drafting the messaging you are going to use in your outbound campaigns. Real outbound B2B prospecting professionals don’t speak in features. They’re experts who listen first and then can articulate the value they provide to similar clients while operating with a focus on building business relationships based on trust and experience. 

It’s also important to note that the value you may provide one type of persona, company, or industry may not translate to the next. There’s little exception for sending the same kind of message to each layer of an organization. 

End-users don’t care nearly as much about business strategy, they usually focus on features. Likewise, CEO’s don’t care about features, they want to know how you can optimize their business and drive their strategic initiatives forward.

As a sales rep, you should have some idea of the value drivers your product or service provides. 

While these vary by organization, they typically fall within 4 categories:

  • Cost Reduction / Optimization
  • Increase Efficiency / Productivity / Speed
  • Mitigate Risk
  • Increase Competitive Advantage

These are simply the four main trunks and are not all inclusive. Depending on your product or service, these can be branched in a variety of ways.

Step 3: How to Segment, Research, and Prioritize Accounts and Personas

Effective segmentation is the mother of qualification. They go hand-in-hand because proper account selection leads to higher qualification rates. It will have a domino effect on the rest of the pipeline generation process – whether it’s a positive or negative one is up to you. 

After your organizational value drivers are determined, the next step is to understand what type of company can receive positive business value from your product or service. Namely, your Target Market.

If you sell a product that only large manufacturers can use, then it wouldn’t make sense to try and pitch to a real estate organization.  

FoxBound

On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say you sell a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) like salesforce.com. Then, it would be logical to conclude that companies across various industries that have a need to manage customer relationships could potentially consider salesforce.com as a vendor of choice.

In this situation, the CRM market would be exponentially greater than a market for a niche product or service.

In regards to B2B outbound prospecting, FoxBound clients typically consider the following general segmentation criteria when selecting their targets:

  •       Industry
  •       Geography
  •       Annual Revenue
  •       Annual Growth Rate
  •       Company founded date (Age)
  •       Number of Employees
  •       Technologies Used Internally
  •       Total Funding Amount
  •       Last Funding Date
  •       Target Market (B2B / B2C)
  •       Seniority Level
  •       Function
  •       Keywords

If this profile hasn’t been fully defined, a great place to start is to take a look at your best current customers and work backwards from there. 

While Google is generally the first place sales reps go find this information, we’ve found that using services like Crunchbase and LinkedIn allow you practically segment organizations at scale.

LinkedIn (We recommend Sales Navigator) 

Crunchbase (We recommend the Pro Version) 

Crunchbase Shot - FoxBound Guide
Prioritization

Now that you’ve narrowed down your Key Companies, the next logical step of the process is to prioritize which companies to engage with first.

Note: This is a critical step which shouldn’t be overlooked. From experience, it’s well worth the extra time upfront so you don’t put significant outbound prospecting effort to engage with low value targets. While this is an exercise that requires time, the good news is that this becomes easier with repetition.

Company Prioritization Reports (CPR)

Once you’ve determined your target market, the focus then shifts to how to prioritize each of those organizations within it.

This means creating criteria which allows you to determine which accounts have the highest organizational value compared to the time, money, and energy invested. 

Please keep in mind that will likely not make sense for every single sales rep. Use this exercise to focus on top target accounts (up to 50) rather than all accounts in your market. Otherwise, the Law of Diminishing Returns comes into play because too much time is spent planning and not executing. 

In order to effectively segment your top targets, the first step is to create a spreadsheet and put all of your targets on the left hand side. 

Next you will need to determine the best categories that should be used to gauge the priority of an account.

Once you’ve completed the exercise your spreadsheet should look similar to this: 

Prioritization Report - FoxBound
**Full Credit for layout of the Company Prioritization Report goes to MongoDB
 

The companies with the highest score are generally a good starting point for your prospecting efforts. It’s important to note that just because a company has a lower score, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a good company to go after. We are simply prioritizing organizations based on the data we have available to us at that particular moment.

Another sidenote: while we are focusing on net new target accounts, many organizations also focus on upsell / cross sell opportunities. In that case, it may be important to prioritize those accounts above accounts that haven’t been penetrated considering that it’s easier to get into an account through a warm intro or proof point rather than a cold one.

After your companies are prioritized, it’s now time to identify which Contacts (Prospects) at your target companies make sense to reach out to. Similar to how you identified your target market, we need to identify which contacts within an organization can receive positive business value from your product or service.

If you sell accounting software, then it goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t target the Vice President of Marketing. Rather, it would be logical to first start with titles such as Director or Vice President of Finance. Depending on the size of your target company the CFO or CEO could be a great target as well.

It’s imperative to remember that just because you’ve identified your key contacts, it doesn’t mean they will all respond to the same type of messaging. 

The responsibilities and priorities of each type of contact can and likely will be dramatically different. In the same way marketing teams creates personas, so should sales teams. Data suggests that response rates multiply exponentially when the right type of messaging is used.

Harvard Business Review reports that as the number of decision makers increase in a deal, the chance of closing the deal will go from 81% at one buyer, down to 34% at 6 decision makers. If you want to make that 34% number go up, speak their languages to build trust and business relationships.

Gain the Ability to Define & Articulate Value

To help craft your messaging for each type persona properly, we suggest that you consider creating a value grid. This is one of the most effective ways to uncover what type of value or benefit each different persona may be open to discussing. More on the topic here.

Try using a spreadsheet application such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. On the top row, pick out the key personas that make sense for your offering.

We suggest taking a look at every stakeholder that could potentially be part of the deal. This includes independent contributors (non managerial contacts), all the way up to the C-Suite.

Here is an example of the setup we’ve adopted at FoxBound. 

Note: Depending on how large your target market is, you may have different value sheets for different verticals or departments. 

Now that you’ve identified your target contacts, fill out the rows with the following:

  • Core duties
  • Priorities
  • Views
  • Role in Sales Cycle
Prioritization of Persona
 
    • Job Title: Spend more time towards the top of the chain and get sponsored down. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting blocked by lower level stakeholders or not getting sponsorship from executives.
    • Keywords: Be on the lookout for keywords that can uncover competitors you can replace or partners you can work with
    • Tenure: Engage long-term veterans operating on the status quo differently than new leaders looking to shake things up.
Buyer Persona - FoxBound

Step 4) Build a Key Contact List

When it comes to B2B Contact Data, it’s important to note that Data Degradation is currently at an all time high with rates ranging between 24-36% per year. 

Consider this example:

Let’s assume that you have 500,000 accurate contacts in your CRM. Within one quarter, up to 45,000 of those records will be useless. Within one year, up to 180,000 will no longer be accurate.

How many prospects are you actively reaching out to each year as an organization? If you’re like most, your internal data is becoming obsolete faster than your team can intelligently use it.

There’s no room to sugarcoat this topic. The battle against Data Degradation is one that wages with each passing second.

When building out a list of prospects, it’s important to always make sure the source that you’re getting your data validates records in real time. 

Not validating data before delivering campaigns is a surefire way to get high bounce rates. High bounce rates not only place your email domain at risk to be flagged as spam but also leads to lost productivity. 

This is especially true if research and message personalization has been done for that specific prospect only to receive a message from the Postmaster or Mailer Daemon.

While the marketing department typically relies on data that lives within the CRM, it’s important for sales reps to ensure that their data is accurate and verified when they intend on using it to prospect.

How B2B Contact Data is Typically Found

Here’s the common routes:

  • Google Search
  • Purchase data repositories (Discover.org, Hoovers, InsideView)
  • Buy an industry list (typically a spreadsheet)
  • Company directory / website
  • LinkedIn Search
  • Social Media
  • 10k / Annual Report
  • CRM / Internal Database

Things to consider: 

  • Is the prospect still at the same company?
  • Does the prospect still hold the same position?
  • Does the prospect still have the same email?
  • Is this list complete? Are there others that I could be reaching out to that I’m unaware of?
outbound b2b prospecting
Capturing the Data:

If the contact data wasn’t purchased through a list or isn’t readily available, you have to find a way to capture what you found while searching:

  • Manually inputting the data into your CRM
  • Manually copying and pasting the data into a spreadsheet
  • Writing your results on a sticky note
Prioritization

If the contact data wasn’t purchased through a list or isn’t readily available, you have to find a way to capture what you found while searching:

  • Manually inputting the data into your CRM
  • Manually copying and pasting the data into a spreadsheet
  • Writing your results on a sticky note
Verifying the Data

Even if you are able to identify your prospect, verify that they are at the same company and hold the same position, you still need an email address to reach out to them.

Failure to verify your B2B Contact Data can lead to domain blacklisting and loss of productivity. Click here for a quick guide on how to understand if your emails are at risk.

It’s unlikely that a search for your prospects email address will populate within the results. Typically, when sales reps are able to find company email addresses, they show up in the form of:

  • info@domain.com
  • help@domain.com
  • support@domain.com

To overcome this obstacle, it’s important to try and identify the email format for the email domain you’re reaching out to.

Email addresses come in a variety of formats but companies tend to keep those formats universal across their employees.

Here’s a list of the most common email formats:

  • firstname@domain.com
  • lastname@domain.com
  • firstnamelastname@domain.com
  • firstname.lastname@domain.com
  • firstnameinitiallastname@domain.com
  • firstnamelastnameinitial@domain.com
  • firstnameinitial.lastname@domain.com
  • firstname.lastnameinitial@domain.com

There are exceptions to the rule. For example:

Early stage founders or employees may have started off with a different email format than the current email format. We see this especially in growth stage organizations where the founders format may be firstname@domain.com and the newer employees may have firstname.lastname@domain.com.
There are two people with the same name: In this situation, they have no choice but to break up the formats.

The challenge is that it’s almost impossible to determine the second format without brute force verification. Some employees (especially executives) may request an alternate email format due to spam.

Some formats include middle initial. That information may be very hard to find as most people don’t usually display their middle names on business social media profiles such as LinkedIn.

Some companies within industries such as Finance and Healthcare have a random email formats that take a portion of first names or last names and combine them with a random numbering sequence making it almost impossible to guess the email.

It is also important to note that an organization’s website (www.domain.com) may be different from the email server (format@domain2.com). This means that even if you have the proper email format, the email will not deliver without the proper email domain.

Bulk Verification

If you have a large list of data you can validate that through bulk verification options. Just keep in mind that even if the email address is valid, that doesn’t mean that the contact is still at the company or has the same title.

Real-Time Verification

Although it can be argued, most data experts believe that LinkedIn contains the largest most up to date B2B contact directory in the world. Currently, the data heavyweight clocks in at a staggering 500m+ profiles since its inception in 2002.

The reason the database stays up to date is because the data is driven by the individual users themselves. Since no other data source has hundreds of millions of contributors, they now have social human elements on their side. Think of the many industries where not having a LinkedIn profile is considered a negative.

As employees move from job to job (or prepare to do so at increasing rates), most tend to keep their LinkedIn up to date. On top of that, they can update their career education while also having other people recommend them or endorse their skillset.

With that in mind, we repeatedly endorse LinkedIn (specifically Sales Navigator) in the fact that reps should use this resource to segment their prospect search and proceed with reasonable assurance that the data they see is up to date.

🔌🦊 (FoxBound plug below)

At FoxBound, we provide a solution for unleashing LinkedIn to accelerate list-building called DataScout. As a lightweight Chrome extension, you can easily pull prospects into segmented Lists within our SaaS Platform. All prospect contact data is verified in real-time so you can rest assured that the emails you are spending time personalizing will deliver. After you’ve decided which prospects you would like to reach out to, you can push them to your CRM, or immediately engage them in 4 clicks with our Sales Email Automation Tool, Pursuit. 

Test show that doing this can increase productivity up to 8x over manual methods, especially when considering the time-consuming task of CRM data entry which DataScout automates.

DataScout

To learn more about how companies are bringing value to their sales process, visit our Case Studies section here.

Step 5) Perform a Practical Amount of Research on Accounts and Prospects

Research is an often-overlooked step because of the effort and time it takes. High Performing Sales Organizations believe in a balanced approach to outreach in order to maximize productivity.

First, let’s be clear on why it’s so important. Research facilitates personalization and authenticity. In turn, those yield meeting preparation, engagement, and trust. 

And In the words of award winning author Stephen Covey, “Business moves at the speed of trust.”

But just like the balance of time and effort with quantity as it relates to automation, research can get a bad reputation.We’ve discussed challenges with data quality and productivity thus far and now shift attention to another thorn in the side of today’s sales executives – research and the crippling effects of analysis paralysis.

We’ve discussed challenges with data quality and productivity thus far and now shift attention to another thorn in the side of today’s sales executives – research and the crippling effects of analysis paralysis.

It’s easy to find yourself overinvesting time in research. That leads to plans left unexecuted and inevitable failure of sales campaigns.

It takes 3 elements to ensure research doesn’t consume all of your time and cost you opportunities. Balance. Preparation. Practicality.

So while we’ve already covered this process, it’s worth reviewing to make sure you don’t fall into the research time trap. Here’s our recommended sources for spending your time (without falling into a rabbit hole).

outbound prospecting
  • Google alerts (don’t do these daily unless you have a select few top target accounts)
  • News articles
  • Social Media
  • LinkedIn
  • Company Website
  • Glassdoor
  • Job Boards
  • Websites
  • Annual Report (10-K)
  • Google search
  • Industry reports

Step 6) Engage

Here’s where we’re going to put it all together! To recap, here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Step 1 – Establishing a Winning Sales Prospecting Mindset

Step 2 – Fine Tune Your Value Proposition and Expand Your Knowledge

Step 3 – How to Segment, Research, and Prioritize Accounts and Persona’s

Step 4 – Build a Key Contact List

Step 5 – Perform a Practical Amount of Research on Accounts and Prospects

Now, let’s cover Step 6 – Engage

There’s no shortcuts here, just actionable knowledge. While you’re free to skim, we recommend reviewing each section. If nothing else, consider it a refresher on the fundamentals. And again – professional athletes don’t compromise on fundamentals and nor should you. 

When a sales rep executes the fundamentals, doesn’t skip steps, and intelligently reaches out to prospects, it’s a beautiful thing. 

Their conversions from outreach to meetings set is higher. As we’ve established, the prepared sales executive is a step ahead in starting the relationship off strong. 

The reality is that most sales reps don’t put in the segmentation effort to ensure that they are reaching out to the appropriate people in the first place.

On top of that, we’ve established spamming or sending irrelevant messaging to your potential prospect will:

  • Get you blocked
  • Added to spam lists
  • Hurt your personal and company brand

With all that said, let’s face a brutal truth about prospecting head on:

All the preparation and focus in the world isn’t going to stop prospects from rejecting you or brushing you off. 

This is why the right mindset is so important. Because when you hear that two letter “no,” you should also think of another two-letter word,, “ok.”

Jeb Blount masterfully covers prospect’s objections in his aptly named book, “Objections.” It’s a short, but very powerful read. If you would prefer an audio book, Objections is also available through Audible as well. 

Furthermore, it’s also “ok” if a prospect doesn’t respond right away. Only 7-15% of prospects are within a buying window at a given time. The primary purpose of a well-structured outbound approach is to engage those that are open to a conversation and accelerate those on the verge of entering the buying window. A secondary benefit occurs in the form of a marketing lead later on when the buying window reopens.

What we’re really saying is – don’t take it personal. Sales is a contact sport. And prospecting is a collision sport. You’re going to get bumps and bruises. If you can accept this in the same way that a boxer can get punched in the face in keep moving, your mentality will improve dramatically.  

Outbound Sales Platform - FoxBound

To quote a proverb, “If you fall down seven times, stand up eight.” 

And it’s not all bumps and bruises, it has plenty of reward in store. When prospects are engaging, it’s likely because: 

  • There is an interest in the subject
  • They want to get ahead of or are currently facing the potential challenges that are outlined in your messaging
  • They actively have a priority that revolves around the subject matter
  • They are open to engagement (timing)

Follow up accordingly!

Before we discuss email messaging, let’s consider some of the data points below:

Let's Review a Few Stats Before Discussing Sales Email Messaging
  1. Data suggests that it takes between 8-12 emails/touchpoints to get a response.

     

  2. If you’re trying to penetrate enterprise accounts, it may make sense to have a bottom up and a top down approach to see what ways you can get in.

     

  3. The 2 biggest complaints about sales people are that they don’t listen and that they don’t understand the prospects business (don’t shoot in the dark)

     

  4. Email Red flags: Review our Quick Guide to Bounce Codes and Email Deliverability to learn more about avoiding pitfalls in data quality

     

  5. We highly advise using proof points within your messaging as a way of showing that you understand particular business challenges and have experience solving those. This will increase your response rates exponentially if that challenge is top of mind for the prospect.

     

  6. Be creative, add value, double check your work

     

  7. Emails come in a variety of shapes and sizes but there is a wealth of data to suggest that “short, to-the-point emails,” work best. 

Note: We are not saying that different emails don’t work. Email response rates vary based on prospect need, priority, challenges they are currently facing, budget, interest, awareness, etc.)

To effectively craft these types of campaigns and learn how to adapt your outbound prospecting strategy to cater to various personas, check out our Tactical Guide to Account-Based Selling 

As a quick example, you’ll see that when using a sales automation tool like Pursuit, you can create account based campaigns for multiple personas and easily manage execution. 

Email Tempaltes
Subject Lines

Subject lines are the first thing a prospect sees before they decide whether to open or delete your email. 

In reality, even if a sales rep decides to put in the effort to segment, prioritize, and personalize the email message, the subject line is generally just an afterthought. 

At a foundational level, in order to receive a positive reply, every single step of the process needs to be considered.

Since this is one of the most overlooked areas from sales reps, we’ve created an in-depth guide specifically for subject lines. 43 Sales Email Subject Lines to Drive Engagement

Email Messaging

As mentioned above, there is no silver bullet when it comes to email messaging.

Even though prospects will respond to emails for different reasons, it’s important to note that intelligently building out an email prospecting strategy can drive predictable meetings at scale. If you’ve worked through the prospect prioritization section above, you should have a ranked list of prospects. 

With hundreds millions of emails being sent daily across the globe (with the average exec receiving over 200 emails daily), it’s no secret that a majority get deleted or never get a response. 

For inspiration on creating email messaging that’s personalization-ready, we created an Email Template Generator. This breaks emails down into:

  • Subject Lines
  • Openers
  • Bodies
  • Closers

This makes it much easier to construct your own unique templates instead of deploying the same ones every other rep is sending out.

Don’t be afraid to experiment as a sales professional. In the same way that product teams have to experiment with building a platform or marketers with launching campaigns, we as salespeople need to accept that selling to a particular organization is a moving target. 

For phone and social selling, these are both channels you should incorporate into your approach. Each have their own points of contention, so let’s address them.

In the same way that outbound / inbound falsely find themselves in opposing camps, so does outreach methods such as social selling vs sending emails and cold calling. 

Brutal Truths about Single-Channel Approaches
  • If you’re only emailing prospects but have no social presence and never call, you’ll struggle to stand out. 

  • If you do nothing but social selling and don’t email or call, you’ll fall behind those who do.

  • If you do nothing but cold call without warming up accounts with social selling and emails, you’re likely to get bulldozed off the phone. 

When tying this all together into a multichannel approach, the collective conversion rate of your campaigns will increase.  Think of the three efforts as a tripod that hold up the prospecting process. Each leg of a tripod will fail on its own, but together it works. 

For the phone, just remember, it can’t hurt you. There are no recorded injuries from a salesperson getting told no on the phone. 

Is it pleasant? No, it’s not. 

Most people fear public speaking, spiders, snakes, and clowns less than cold calling. But don’t let the false narratives about reliance on inbound give you an excuse for not calling. 

If you’re going to pick up the phone, do so with confidence. Define your goal of connecting and setting a meeting, a referral, or to gather intelligence. If you’re making pointless dials to hit an arbitrary call volume goal, you’ll play timid, waste time on switchboards, get stuck on gatekeepers, and ultimately not drive additional revenue. Above all, you’d be letting yourself down.

Instead, use your understanding of the prospects business, their persona, your own expertise, and human curiosity.

Deliver Messaging with a Confident, Relaxed Tone


Talk at a normal pace and be succinct. Remember your targeted persona and get to the point of your call by starting with your reason and intention for calling.  This makes you sound less like an anxious salesperson and more like a valuable potential partner. In turn, the doors for an actual business conversation are more likely to open. 

Should you find yourself short on time to make follow-up calls for every email in your outbound B2B prospecting efforts, consider intelligently following the data. Call the prospects who are opening your emails, clicking on your links, or who have existing familiarity with your brand. This can help grease the wheels on the first 10 seconds of a call to get past the, “WHO are you again??”

And remind yourself – the phone can help you set the meetings standing between you, quota attainment, commission checks, President’s Clubs, and your other personal or professional goals.

Don’t overanalyze, don’t worry about the perfect timing or agonize over the research. Just do it!

Social Selling vs. Social Branding

Now, let’s talk a bit further about social selling and review its differences with branding. 

As a sales rep, you don’t need to be a “thought leader” to successfully build a social brand. However, you should seriously consider building out your profile with a professional headshot, banner image (hopefully from your marketing team), and you should post content and insight at least twice a month. Over time, your targeted audience will become more familiar with your brand and the business value you bring to your clients.

Outbound Sales Platform - FoxBound

We should also use LinkedIn as a channel to directly engage prospects with authenticity and start conversations via InMail and personalized Connect Requests. These are more of sales activities that make the classification of social selling logical.

For all intents and purposes, social branding and selling as described above are two totally different things. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with spending time on establishing a personal brand for yourself, creating and releasing content your prospects will consume and interact with, and participating in industry-specific groups. 

Just keep in mind that these activities are more for creating your own personal inbound engine, not for outbound. After all, this is a strategic guide for outbound b2b sales prospecting. 

Using LinkedIn to Warm Up Cold Outreach

Use LinkedIn to connect with your prospects in the early stages of your outreach efforts. You can also leverage InMail on LinkedIn to send additional messages or just utilize messaging capabilities of other platforms. Think of social selling as a virtual handshake and introduction. It’s a happy middle ground between in-person visits and emails. 

Orchestrating a multichannel approach takes structure. If you’re looking for a way to outline an outbound strategy, here is an account planner that FoxBound clients have found helpful.

Step 7) Make Data-Guided Decisions

Notice how we didn’t say data-driven? That’s because you, a salesperson with your own set of instincts and opinions, should lean on your own intuition and experiences to improve.

Total dependence on data to make decision may have you driving into a figurative lake like Michael Scott on The Office.

You Drive, Let Data be your GPS

When it comes time to measure the results of your sales efforts, take a look at the following datapoints: 

  • Delivery (how many emails were received vs. bounced emails)
  • Open rates (most important besides replies)
  • Click rates (for marketing or sales specific content) 
  • Reply rates (what we’re all after, but don’t forget to measure actual meetings set. Replies mean nothing if they are all negative)
  • Conversion rates (do this by calculating meetings set / messages sent)
outbound b2b prospecting

What are Healthy Metrics & Results?

Generally speaking, for every 100 emails sent: 

  • 85-90% should deliver
  • 25-40% should open
  • 3-6% should reply
  • At least 1% should convert to a meeting. In practice, you should be more at a 2-4% rate if they’re high quality touchpoints. 

If you’re struggling to improve the quality of your messages, nobody’s going to get mad if you visit the drawing board and review the following:

  • Your business value / product market fit
  • Segmentation and personas
  • Account qualification
  • Data quality and tools you’re 
  • Subject lines
  • Email length
  • Tone
  • CTA (is it asking for a meeting? Check out our cold email principles)
  • # of touchpoints (did you give up after only a few attempts or a single, reflexive no?)

Assuming you’re using a sales automation solution like FoxBound’s Pursuit, then you’ll have all the required datapoints. As an idea for knowledge sharing, try taking time once a month with your sales team to review what’s working and what’s not working for outreach efforts. 

Step 8 Internal Meeting Handoff

As our guide for outbound B2B prospecting draws to a close, our final chapter focuses on the transition from engagement to the initial meeting.

This is of course is where the sales development lifecycle ends and the sales cycle begins. An exhaustive review of the sales cycle is for another guide, but here are a few points to consider on making the handoff / transition.

  • As a Sales Development Representative: send a meaningful calendar invite. Make sure the description contains the relevant contact information and that all relevant parties are involved. 

Also, don’t forget to add an agenda that includes a basic reminder of why the prospect agreed to a meeting in the first place. This is in your best interest because you probably (hopefully) don’t get paid on setting a bunch of no-show meetings.

Be sure to give your Account Executive the information he or she needs to conduct an initial meeting. This includes why they took a meeting, qualifying information, and basic notes on the contact and company. Help your AE know who they’re working with. 

Please remember, while the prospect you just engaged isn’t going to be someone you continue working with, they may be just beginning a long road with your company and brand. First impressions do count, and that’s on you. Make it a good one!

  • As an Account Executive: If an SDR set a meeting for you, do your part and perform additional research yourself. Hold your SDR team accountable for setting qualified meetings since you’re not getting paid a base salary, commission, and benefits for just talking to anyone with a pulse. 

If you self-sourced a meeting, congratulations. Treat it like gold, and take advantage of it. Don’t put all this effort in just to let a qualified opportunity slip through your fingers simply because you didn’t study up and prepare for the meeting.

Let's Bring This Home

Our sincere hope is that as you’ll walk away from reading this, you’ll be armed with practical knowledge and actionable sales strategy. No matter what tools, methodologies, targets, or processes you have, you now have everything you need to sell intelligently in the real world.

Should you have questions or comments, feel free to email our team at marketing@foxbound.io. If this eBook brought you value and you enjoy keeping up with B2B sales strategy, sign up for our blog below.

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