How Salesforce and Udemy used outbound lead generation to create growth

byKaran Sharma

Leads are the raw material that the account executives need for crafting beautiful sales. I don’t know if anybody ever said that before but it’s something that rings true to me. In my experience, the difference between reaching the quota and feeling frustrated is directly linked to the amount and quality of opportunities with which a salesperson is provided.

Two companies, Salesforce and Udemy, knew that when they implemented outbound lead generation methods to scale their growth. In Salesforce’s case, the outbound lead generation was directly related to increasing their sales. In Udemy’s case, it was to find early adopters and course teachers who would become the platform’s direct suppliers.

In this blog post, I want to show you how outbound lead generation and sales development can be used to boost key growth metrics in ways that are not as easily possible through other methods. I will do that by focusing on the above-mentioned case studies that are extremely relevant not only for sales but also for expanding your supply-side stakeholders.


Salesforce – B2B customer acquisition

Since acquiring customers through the method of hiring more salespeople was lacking the speed and scalability required for hyper growth, Salesforce turned to outbound lead generation with the main goal of consistently closing large numbers of big deals in a relatively short amount of time and with limited resources.

In order to achieve that, Salesforce turned to Aaron Ross who, together with his team, created a low cost, scalable and expandable sales process dubbed Cold Calling 2.0. What they did was to create a flow of downward referrals from C-level management to the end user. They first emailed C-level executives within companies, kindly asking them to connect them with the right person (one who could find value in the product) in their organisation for a first conversation. The team of Aaron Ross was responsible for creating these opportunities with the decision makers. They handed over the opportunities to Salesforce’s account executives who then closed the deals.

In short, the whole outbound lead generation process relied on sending well-written mass emails and follow-ups to high-level executives, get the right referrals and then convert the latter from sales leads into clients.

Key takeaway:
when it comes to sales, out-of-the-box approaches are the winning ones. For a startup or a company that’s just taking off, resources are always limited so hiring more salespeople to close deals in a short time-frame will soon prove unsustainable. Sales staff need to be trained about the product and the process which requires time and, of course, salaries. The approach that Aaron Ross deployed significantly cut down the amount of time required to train a sales staff by allowing them to deal with more opportunities in a shorter amount of time. In order to get an inimitable advantage in sales, what you need is a bold and creative approach and a tool that would empower your existing sales team to deliver faster, higher qualified leads. If that means reaching out to hundreds of C-level executives out there just to get directed to the right people, so be it!

Before moving on to the next case study, I would like to say that although the downward referral tactic proved to be invaluable for Salesforce and hundreds of companies afterwards, it now suffers from being overused. In sales, it pays to do something others are not yet doing.


Udemy – B2B supplier acquisition

In Udemy’s case, outbound lead generation was used not for sales purposes but as a way to acquire more suppliers, thus increasing their supplies base.

Udemy’s product is providing online courses. As you can imagine, in the beginning, when the product was new and nobody had heard of it, there were very few courses on the platform. Consequently, it would have been impossible to acquire users and generate sales. What they had to do was to find a way to get valuable content and courses online and do so in a scalable, cost-effective and consistent way. Therefore, instead of focusing on selling their product to the end users, Udemy targeted professors and lecturers in universities to come on the platform and create courses.

Udemy outsourced the lead generation process by deploying data miners in the Philippines via Odesk and managing the outreach closely after every iteration. The data miners searched for specific terms related to whatever that could become a course on Udemy. Once relevant websites were discovered, the emails of the respective authors were collected in a database. Then, the outsourcing team emailed each of these contacts manually using the copy provided by the founders of Udemy in the form of several types of email messages. The entire process was repeated to keep on iterating and keep improving copy so that it converts better. These were then used to contact more leads and obtain a response from them.

Briefly put, what Udemy did was use outbound lead generation to increase their supply chain which ultimately also led to an increase in sales. With hundreds of emails sent daily, Udemy’s outbound lead generation process yielded fast results.

Key takeaway:
outbound lead generation does not only apply directly to sales. It applies to everything that can help you scale your business. In this context, leads can be customers, suppliers, new employees, etc. The only problem here is that if you rely solely on humans to bring all these leads, you will need to increase your recruiting, sales and supplier acquisition teams, which will definitely involve higher costs. On the other hand, a reliable and innovative outbound lead generation tool can be used by all company departments without the need to scale existing teams.


What We’ve Learned from Them and How We’ve Improved It

The Salesforce and Udemy case studies prove two important points:

1. Outbound lead generation works and can be deployed by companies even in their early stages.

2. Outbound lead generation and outbound business development can be deployed in B2B customer acquisition as well B2B supplier acquisition.

Although repetitive tasks can be outsourced either to a low paying human or to a highly innovative SaaS tool, there are strong advantages to outsourcing to a SaaS company that deploys a very robust software solution that you can rely on. One of them is that, when outsourcing to humans, there will always be fluctuations in the quality whereas with the software, you can have a consistent quality based on a process that’s incrementally and continuously improved.

Another advantage of deploying the outbound lead generation method through software over an in-house team is the speed at which it can be deployed. Within 1-2 weeks you can already start establishing contact with the right people in the right companies within your targeted industries. That’s the strength of the system, it’s scalable, repeatable, optimizable and trackable, enabling, effective outbound lead generation whether it’s in the B2B customer acquisition segment or in the B2B supplier acquisition one.

Over to you – what have been your key learning experiences when it comes lead generation, scaling sales or growing supplier side networks?

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments and questions in the dedicated section below.



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