By Steli Efti, co-founder and CEO of Close

Truth be told, there’s recently been an obsession with inbound marketing, and sure, for good reason. Inbound marketing works. It involves attracting customers and leads through content creation, rather than having sales reps fight for their attention.

This type of marketing is about winning the customer’s trust, so when they’re ready to buy, your brand comes to mind. It’s about getting people to your brand instead of intruding with outbound tactics. It helps you attract visitors, convert leads and close customers. And for that reason, many businesses have used it successfully, including my own.

But there is also another tactic that is rarely discussed -- good ol’ outbound sales.

The popularity of inbound marketing has grown and evolved significantly, thanks in large part to the adoption of the internet and the introduction of new marketing channels that can deliver content directly to customers and prospects.

But outbound salespeople have gotten a bad rep over the years. Often, they can appear too pushy, causing outbound sales to become a dirty word in people’s books.

So, you must be wondering what outbound sales is and why it should matter to you.

What It Is

Outbound sales is the process of sales professionals conducting outreach to prospects and giving sales pitches. Picking up the phone and doing a cold call is an example, but outbound sales techniques also include email and other forms of communication. The critical aspect is that reps are contacting leads rather than leads reaching out.

While it depends on the individual on the receiving end of the outreach, outbound sales teams can succeed if they're able to engage the person long enough to make a sale. Since you control the outreach and selling, it's up to you when to start the sales process and get the ball rolling. 

A 2014 experiment from Shane Snow of Contently and Jon Youshaei of Every Vowel, reported by Fast Company, involved sending out 1,000 emails to senior executives at successful companies. With these emails, Snow and Youshaei tested out various subject lines, email lengths and messaging. 

As a result, 707 emails were delivered, with a 45.5 percent open rate. That’s pretty good given the type of people they were targeting. What were the takeaways? Personalization, researching your contacts and developing a targeted list are among the most important parts of having cold email success.

Yes, I know that outbound sales might seem old school and has been overshadowed by inbound marketing in recent years. It might be the least sexy customer acquisition channel out there. But it's still relevant to the world of business. Cold calling and cold emailing prospecting can work when done right.

How to Make It Happen

Getting on a call and chatting with someone is a great way to get to know someone and understand their needs. Outbound sales can give you that opportunity. You have nothing to be afraid of, as you will be going into these interactions with value to offer. 

  1. In the first stage of your sales conversation, be selfless in assessing whether a prospect would benefit from your solution. From there, be selfish to assess whether your company would benefit from having them as a customer.
  2. Ask questions to better understand their needs: Why did you decide it was worth responding to me? What about our offering makes you believe there could be value in it for you? What's one of the biggest challenges you have in your business right now, especially when it comes to [area of their business that's relevant to your solution]?
  3. Even more important, when they give their answers, ask follow-up questions until you understand exactly what they need: If [what they mentioned to you] is important to you, what have you done in the past to achieve that? What are you currently considering?
  4. Finally, when you do make your pitch, focus on the top-priority items. Most sales reps sell themselves out of a deal by talking way too much about all the possible ways their product or service could provide value to the prospect. Instead, clearly identify the top three things your offering could help them achieve, and make a strong case.

Wrapping Up 

Outbound sales has a bad rap because some sales reps sell products or services that don't provide value. Instead, sales reps must ensure the value they are offering is aligned with what the prospect wants. If they can do this via email, cold calling or SMS, they'll close more deals.

There you have it -- a rundown on why outbound sales shouldn’t be a dirty word. Outbound calling doesn’t have to be scary. When done right, it can be a stable revenue source for your sales team.

Steli Efti is the co-founder and CEO of Close, an inside sales CRM for startups and SMBs.