The Spears Method or Outbound Sales or Cold Calling 2.0

by Karan Sharma

In the B2B world a great way to grow your customer base is to implement a cold outreach strategy, however, sales people can sometimes have trouble to understand why and how to do it, so in this article I’m going to share with you the reasons to do cold outreach and I’ll take you through the process to become successful at it.

Before we jump into it, here’s a list of the different topics we’ll be analyzing:

Reasons to invest in b2b outbound sales

The process of b2b outbound sales

Sales development

  • define a customer profile
  • find companies based on criteria
  • identify stakeholders involved in the sales cycle
  • build list of decision makers
  • reach out to prospects
  • follow up with replies and handle objections
  • set up calls / free trials / demos
  • hand over (if necessary)

Account management (quick overview)

Automating the outbound process

Tasks that can’t be automated

Tasks that can be (semi) automated


Reasons to invest in B2B outbound sales

As the years have passed I’ve noticed that the market is going more and more to the marketing side because buyers have a lot more decision power in their hands due to the information available. This is a viable strategy but unfortunately some companies take it as a sign of a dying breed of sales people and outbound sales, which as a matter of fact is still alive and prosperous.

Here are a few reasons why having an outbound sales strategy can help you:

  • active control over the numbers
  • expensive products need sales people

Below I’ll be examining each of these reasons:

Active control over the numbers

The biggest reason to invest in outbound sales is the dominion you have over the volume of sales you make and their scalability, by managing the input and optimizing each stage of the sales funnel.

The first tweak-able variable is the amount of people you contact. If you’re currently reaching out to 50 decision makers per day and you bump that up to 100 with all else staying equal, you can predict a doubling in the amount of opportunities you get, for example from 3 to 6 demos scheduled.

The second customizable aspect is the consequent steps: the open rate, which can be raised by A/B testing different subject lines and personalizing them; the positive reply rate, expandable through the use of more personalization, a stronger and clearer CTA and/or an increased concentration on the right problem/solution dynamic; and finally the call scheduling, by implementing a smoother transition between stages with an intuitive software like Calendly.

Expensive products need sales people

The second reason to have an outbound sales strategy is because companies that are buying expensive products still need to talk to human beings (sales people) to guide them in the decision making process, because big purchases require different decision makers and a considerable amount of planning.


The process of B2B outbound sales

Now that you’ve understood the reason to do outbound sales, it’s time to put into action a plan that will attract the attention of key decision makers and their companies, so for this reason I’ll now lay out the 14 steps to take a prospect from cold lead to an active customer.

Before we dive in, it is necessary to mention that the sales funnel is divided into two main sections, which may or may not be the responsibility of two different people: the sales development and the account management.

Sales Development

The purpose of this funnel is to clearly identify prospects, contact them and schedule a demo or a call while handing them over, if necessary, to the account management. Here is the whole process step by step:

1. define a customer profile

2. find companies based on criteria

3. identify stakeholders involved in the sales cycle

4. build list of decision makers

5. reach out to prospects

6. follow up with replies and handle objections

7. set up calls < free trials < demos

8. hand over (if necessary)

And now we’ll go over each one independently so that you can adapt them to your business:

1. define a customer profile

The first step on the ladder is the base structure of your business, the process of determining the type of prospects that you’ll reach out too, which can be more than one type and/or change over time.

It is necessary to clearly define the type of companies you’d like to partner with so that you can manually or automatically through a software compose a list of prospects to connect with and reach out to them. Some factors to consider when creating your customer profile are:

  • type of company (b2b or b2c) – you can target companies that want to target other business or that go directly to consumer
  • number of employees – dictates the size of the companies on your list, from SMBs to Enterprise level
  • target market – refers to the industry your prospects are in
  • country – the place where the prospects are based can affect your decision due to, for example, different time zones

2. find companies based on criteria

Now that you’ve defined a customer profile, there are three main ways to find companies that fit that criteria:

The first is the manual free, in which you go on LinkedIn, use the search function to find companies one by one, and inspect their website and profile page to understand if they could be a prospect. It requires a lot of time and patience and it can be used in the first stages of applying cold outreach to your business, but it is not a scalable alternative in the long run.

The second option is to still do it manually but through a paid database of prospects on LinkedIn called Sales Navigator. It will cost you a monthly subscription but you’ll be able to find and scrape prospects much more efficiently due to the powerful search capabilities of the tool.

The third choice is to partner up with a high quality data vendor who does all the work for you and allows you to pick and reject prospects from a given list. Out of the three this is the most expensive option but in the long term it’s the most scalable while keeping its quality.

In order to find a reliable data provider it is important to understand what exactly are you looking for so that they empowers your outreach and don’t cause issues like high bounce rates. Therefore, here are a few examples of what you’d want to look for in vendors:

  • offer continuously updated information on prospects
  • aggregate data in a GDPR adherent way
  • provide a high number of variables per contact to enable customizability


3. identify stakeholders involved in the sales cycle

With the list of companies done, it is necessary to identify who in the company has the power to make the decision of buying your product. In most cases the candidates will be chosen based on two main factors:

  • seniority – more years in the company usually means bigger decision power
  • position – high ranking positions in the company like CEO, CTO, COO, etc

Another contributing factor is the type of product that you have, for example, if you have an enterprise solution for marketing optimization it is probably smart to include the Head of Marketing in the list of stakeholders because they might be the best judges of the quality and usefulness of your product.



4. build list of decision makers

After you’ve identified the titles that you want to target, it’s time to build an actual list of those decision makers from the companies that you previously selected, which can be done in three ways:

1. free manual option, by using the given LinkedIn search bar to search those companies and find the names and contacts of the decision makers based on title

2. paid manual option, by using Sales Navigator to search specifically for employees in the companies with matching titles that you defined

3. paid partner option, by purchasing data services from a third party that does the research and enriches the contacts of the positions so you can use it to reach out to them

5. reach out to prospects

Once you have the list of prospects ready to target, the cheapest and most straight-forward option is to send a personalized email one by one to each prospect through your personal email provider, and await their response.

However, there are much more advantageous options out there, like software that specialize in sales outreach automation and give you all the necessary tools to set up and scale your efforts. Even though you’ll most likely have to pay for these solutions, see it as an investment for the future that will be covered by the new revenue that you’ll be making due to the automation efficiency.

The software of your choice should allow you to be able to create dynamic email and subject line templates that change based on the recipient for each market segment that you define. The three key factors that truly make a software stand out are, the amount of customization possible in the templates, the ability to A/B test every single aspect of your campaign, and the existence of a detailed report on the results of your outreach.

As basic guidelines, whether you have a software or not, we highly recommend to not exceed sending emails to more than 125 prospects per day for each mailbox and to send emails in random intervals to avoid getting blacklisted by email providers.

6. follow up with replies and handle objections

Next up we have objection handling and qualifying prospects as opportunities, by answering to the positive replies. This process can be partially automated through prepared email responses that we’ll talk about in the following section of the article.

In your campaigns, there are responses that will repeatedly appear over time, so here are the most common 8 replies and how to react to them:

1. indicated interest – send email to schedule a call
2. request additional information – send email with more detailed information
3. communicate lack of priority – send email implying that you understand and that you’ll reach out a few months later
4. inform the prospect is not the right person
* but will connect you with the right person (gives email address or cc’s you in the forwarding email) – wait for response of right person or send an introductory email
* but will forward the email to the right person (without cc’ing you) – wait for reach out from other person and start contacting other decision makers in the company
* and will not be willing to connect you with the right person – start contacting other decision makers
5. being satisfied with existing solution – thank them for their time and ask to reach out to you if they have any problems
* own system / in house capacity
* freelance / consultant / agency / outsourcing
* competitor
6. not needing the solution in the first place – thank them for their feedback and assess targeting
7. desire to be not mailed / contacted again – don’t send them any more emails
8. indicate that the prospect didn’t receive your first email (only relevant for replies on second email in your sequence) – send brief summary of first email and send some more information

For each of these possibilities, it is important to adjust your approach depending on the industry your targeting, the country, the authority in the company, so that you maximize your interaction without offending anyone or losing opportunities.

7. set up calls / free trials / demos

After you’ve sent out your first campaign and established a conversation with decision makers, it is time for the middle stage objective, to book a call, free trial or better even, a demo, which will allow you to start calculating conversion rates on the whole outreach process to determine the amount of prospects, positive replies and demos you need to get one sale.

Converting a lead into a call is often perceived as a high friction point because it can be a decent time commitment from the buyer side, so, to maximize the chances of converting as many leads as possible I’d advocate using a software like Calendly to automatically sync your calendars in regards to the time of the meeting.

8. hand over (if necessary)

Finally we reach the end of the first section of the sales process, in which the objective is to hand over the account to another person so that they can demonstrate the product to the prospect all the way to closing the deal. This transition of sales person is not mandatory and usually only occurs in companies with larger sales teams that specialize in different stages of the funnel.

In order to successfully execute this procedure two aspects must be set in place, first the CRM must have all the information and details of the prospect, and the person responsible for sales development must also provide a detailed explanation of everything learned so far from the interaction with the contact, like their needs, objections and goals.

Account Management

For this section I’ll focus on the process of showcasing your product and convincing the lead to become a customer. I won’t create a detailed action plan for every point because each company has their own way of accomplishing the sale depending on a multitude of factors that are special to them and only them. Here are the main next steps that will take you to the finish line:

1.Demoing the product
2.Finding out the client’s needs
3. Consulting the client
4. Negotiating the prices
5. Creating the offer
6. Closing the deal

So on average, a deal from outbound lead sources requires the successful execution of at least 13 sequential steps (not counting step 7), which goes far to show that B2B outbound sales is a time intensive process.

This whole process of sales development and account management can’t all be automated, but a big portion of it can be semi or fully automated to alleviate the time of your sales people so they can focus on human related tasks. Therefore, the next section of the article will explain how to legitimately automate the procedure so that you can scale it up.


Tasks which cannot be automated

In B2B sales, all account management tasks should not be automated. The goal should be to create time for account executives to focus themselves solely on demoing, understanding, consulting the clients so that they can move on to negotiating prices, creating offers and closing deals.

The account management process for opportunities created through outbound lead generation is the same as the opportunities created through inbound lead generation. The only difference is when the qualification takes place. In inbound lead generation settings, account managers also qualify the prospect in a phone call or an inquisitive email. In outbound lead generation settings, the qualification process happens during the sales development.


Tasks which can be (semi) automated

Defining the customer profile requires knowledge of your product, your market and your long term strategies, for these reasons it is difficult and inadvisable to automate customer profile creation. Fortunately, you don’t have to define new customer profiles every month.

Prospecting and list building are repetitive tasks which may change between different customer profiles but will remain repetitive within customer profiles, so both of these steps should be automated or outsourced whenever possible.

Reaching out to prospects can be fully automated after the creation of message. Through automation technology numerous email campaigns can be sent and with each email being personalized with dynamic placeholders using the information gathered during the prospecting and list building stages.

Objection handling and qualifying prospects as opportunities cannot be fully automated since it requires contextual knowledge of the prospect’s reply. However, after understanding the context, it can be made super efficient through the use of templates. By creating, evaluating and optimizing templates for most of the possible replies, up to 90% of the time can be saved. In addition to saving time (and by extension: money) creating and consistently using templates helps the objection handling optimization process.


Summary

In this article I deep dived into the world of b2b sales automation, taking you from justifying the use of the b2b outbound sales method and through how to do it step by step. Here are the main takeaways from this post:

    • reasons to invest in b2b outbound sales – control over numbers and the whole sales process, and the necessity of prospects still needing to talk to human salespeople when purchasing high ticket items
    • the process of b2b outbound sales
      • sales development
        • define a customer profile
        • find companies based on criteria
        • identify stakeholders involved in the sales cycle
        • build list of decision makers
        • reach out to prospects
        • follow up with replies and handle objections
        • set up calls / free trials / demos
        • hand over (if necessary)
      • account management
      • automating the outbound process
        • tasks that can’t be automated – the account management tasks (demoing, negotiating, closing the deal, etc) should not be automated
        • tasks that can be (semi) automated – prospecting, list building, reaching out to prospects and objection handling can all be partially automated to relieve time and assign it to human related tasks

Growing a B2B company can be a tough challenge, but with the help of the right tools and the knowledge of a process like cold outreach it can give you immense power over competitors and help you define clear goals and landmarks to control and attain the numbers.



other interesting insights

Outbound is a good strategy for growing B2B businesses because it allows them to compete with the more established companies without needing huge amounts of cash. In this post I am discussing the different use cases in which cold outreach can be used to gain new customers, find investors, get favourable pr and more.

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