The Basics of Outbound Sales 2023

Sales are truly every company's lifeblood. This blog aims to explain what outbound sales is, how to become more effective and why outbound sales is important.

The Basics of Outbound Sales

This is a guide on using Outbound Sales (Business Development) to build brand awareness, drive lead generation and gather customer insights to accelerate your B2B growth.

The bread and butter of any successful Go-To-Market strategy (GTM) is creating a segmentation, targeting, and positioning (STP) strategy – who is the target audience, what message will you convey and through which channels will you reach them?

Accelerating revenue growth that translates to long-term profitability requires brandbuilding and sales activation. Businesses must build brand awareness, convert that awareness to leads and collect customer insights to acquire the right customers. Outbound Sales, or Business Development, are one of the most successful methods to drive predictable revenue as it is a direct and highly personalised channel to get in touch with prospects. This guide breaks down lead generation into three components:

  1. Lead Researching
  2. Lead Nurturing 
  3. Lead Conversion

To introduce key terminology and activities that make it easy for your growth or sales team to kickstart lead generation.

Lead Researching

Based on your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), developed in the Segmentation part of your STP strategy, the lead researching process is about finding accounts and leads that match your ICP. If your segment is Chief Sales Officers (leads) from companies in the Consumer Goods and Retail sector with +100m EUR in revenue (accounts), your lead researching process will establish how many prospects you have and how you can get in touch with them (contact details).

Several methods for lead research exist and here are some of the most effective:

  1. LinkedIn (Sales Navigator): LinkedIn offer the world’s largest B2B database and LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a very effective way of identifying companies and contacts to reach out to. LinkedIn also enables your team to monitor buying signals to prioritise and personalise outreach.
  2. Company databases: There are several vendors of company and contact data and buying access to these databases might be worth the while depending on the scale of your outreach. One such vendor is Vainu. The same vendors can be used to monitor buying signals, so your team can segment the market intelligently and personalise outreach.
  3. Website monitoring: Tracking website visitors through IP-tracking technology will allow your team to understand which companies are visiting your website and what services or blogs they look at. Connect your website tracking system, like Leadfeeder, with your CRM-system, like HubSpot, and use your lead knowledge to personalise outreach.
  4. Communities and platforms: Look for hubs like communities and platforms where your ICP might be and collect contact information from there. This could be grouped on social media, eBay, G2, Clutch, Crunchbase or others. A great tool for finding such communities is The Hive Index.  
  5. Job posts: Are great for identifying buying signals and contact information. Often what positions a company is looking to fill out is a testament to their strategy and at the bottom of job posts, you might find the email or phone number of a chief executive.

Lead Nurturing

The lead nurturing process consists of figuring out when leads are interested in your offering. Essentially, this is a lead scoring process where you identify the buying stage of the lead (Awareness, Consideration or Decision) and aim to get the lead to a Decision stage, where you can close. Leads are distinguished by Intent Qualified Leads (IQL), Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) – companies will attach different descriptions to each definition, but here are our preferred:

  • Intent Qualified Lead (IQL) – When you have had a touchpoint or interaction with a lead, providing you with insight as to whether they are interested in your offering or not. The difference between a touchpoint and an interaction is that the latter has a response, whereas a touchpoint could also be an advertisement click. Interactions have a higher intent value.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) – When a prospect permits you to send them marketing material, like an email or a newsletter.

  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) – When a prospect is qualified and accepts a demo or sales meeting, indicating that they are a match for your offering and the sales team should take over.

Lead nurturing can involve all Acquisition and Activation channels (See Pirate Metrics), involving both the sales and marketing team, but we will focus on how Outbound Sales can be used. A highly effective way of generating leads is through personalised, multichannel sales sequences (incorporating marketing activities like advertisements simultaneously with sales outreach is also highly recommended to maximise response rates). Personalised means using direct channels, like the phone, email, or LinkedIn messaging, while having a specific reason for reaching out (no bulk marketing). Multichannel is about sequentially combining different channels – i.e., first 2 phone calls, then an email, then a LinkedIn message followed up with a phone call. Using a sequential multichannel approach can double your response rates and get you to the magic number of 8 touchpoints faster (rule of thumb for how many touchpoints are needed to close). While the phone has higher conversion rates than email and LinkedIn, LinkedIn messages are more likely to be shown. Devise a strategy that is aligned with your ICP and your daily workflow for the best results.

As you get responses, ensure that you rank each lead based on buying stage and schedule the next follow-up – successful outbound sales are all about consistently building pipelines with prospects and you won’t succeed overnight.

Lead Conversion

As you reach out to your target audience, it is important to maximise the value of each interaction – go for the Sales Qualified Lead if there is an interest and if not, see if you can’t turn the prospect into an MQL or schedule a follow-up. The next time you reach out, the prospect will know you and your brand, you will know more about his/her situation and these factors combined will improve your chances of success considerably. 

Remember to save any insights that might be valuable for your next conversation or your sales, product, marketing, or management team – you are the connector between the market demand you’re offering, and the insights gathered from conversations with prospects are invaluable to optimise your growth strategy. Analysing conversion rates segmented on different ICP verticals, quantifying reasons for interest and no interest, and paying attention to market trends will help your team set up an improved hypothesis for outreach, improve marketing campaigns or even alter your strategy altogether.  

7 Strategies for Best Outbound Sales Practices

The best results in sales happen when:

  1. Mix brand building and sales activation
    Brand building and sales activation activities are balanced to drive long-term profitability and short-term revenue generation. A high brand value increases conversion rates and brands that are top-of-mind win sales 90% of the time.
  2. Simultaneously, not sequentially
    Sales and marketing activities should be executed simultaneously, maximising touchpoints across hybrid channels as the buying journey is hybrid. Response rates will more than double.
  3. Make your messaging personalised and consistent
    Messaging should be consistent and personalised to the ICP across all content distribution formats and platforms – personalised landing pages, sales material, and creatives.
  4. Maximise your channels  
    The number of outreach channels should be maximised, sequenced, and designed to create at least 8 touchpoints per account and build predictable pipelines of customers.
  5. Be a detective 
    Conversational insights from sales are the most valuable intent data and should be used for lead-scoring activities, marketing campaigns and optimising branding and product-market fit.

  6. Personalise, personalise, personalise
    Sales content should be personalised to every identified ICP, so that unique selling points, value propositions and use cases are customised to the needs of the ICP.
  7. Activate, track, and respond
    All customer-facing platforms should be optimised for activating actions, and tracking engagement and the time-to-response should be as fast as possible.


The Discovery process is about 'lead generation, reaching out to leads on your listand establishing if they have a need that you can solve. In the Discovery phase, outbound sales reps should combine at least calls, emails and LinkedIn messages to get in contact with the prospect (lead). The more channels you use, the higher response rates you have.

The goal of the Discovery phase is to get in contact with a prospect and understand if they have a need you can solve, so you can generate either an Intent Qualified Lead, Marketing Qualified Lead, Sales Qualified Lead or simply label them as 'Not interested' so as to not waste your time contacting the same, uninterested leads.

We will look at how to be effective in outbound sales. Effectiveness is a key ingredient to successful outbound sales and results in more interactions, more fun and ultimately a higher level of satisfaction. 

The Success Equation

Successful customer acquisition should be attributed to a variety of factors such as:

  • Quality of product, brand, and company relative to peers
  • Execution and alignment of product-led, marketing-led, and sales-led growth initiatives
  • Market fit

The list is long. However, when you work with outbound sales your objective is to generate leads and gather insights that fuel company growth and improve your company's chances of having successful execution. 

To help understand how you can be successful in outbound sales, consider the following equation:

The Success Equation

Success in Outbound Sales = Segment Quality x Outreach Quality x Product-market fit 


Outreach Quality = Quantity of Interactions x Quality of Interactions x Frequency

The Segment Quality depends on how good you have been at defining your ICP andhow you have used your ICP to segment the market. The more accurate your ICP & Segmentation are, the better conversions and results you will experience.

The Product-market fit depends on how good your offering is at solving the painpoints of your ICP (the quality of your offering and its match to the painpoint of prospects) and the timing in the market. The closer the product-market fit you have, the easier it will be to close deals.

Now for the Outreach quality. This is the most important component of the equation when you work in outbound sales as this is what you can influence the most. Outreach quality depends on how many interactions you create, how good you are at selling and your consistency in doing outreach. 

To create a lot of interactions you need to have a high activity (maximise outreach) across as many channels as possible. Sales scale linearly, so the more you put in, the more you will get out of it:

'Consistency is key'. This saying has been on the lips of salespeople for decades because it speaks an important truth: It's not enough to have a lot of activity if you don't spread out the activity over different days, weeks, and months, and adapt your activity to the prospects that you are trying toreach. Consistency is about being active every day and reaching out to prospects when it suits their time schedule.

Principles of Effective Sales

Principle 1: Sales is about building and nurturing relationships.

Do not expect your first call to be a success - you often need several touchpoints before they trust and believe you. This could be several conversations by phone, email, and LinkedIn over the course of 6 months. That is why you should always befriend everyone - receptionists and personal assistants can be as powerful and ally as they can be a foe.

Principle 2: Maximise the value of each interaction.

Remember that sales are not binary, outcomes can vary, and you should always strive to make every interaction about the next interaction. What does this mean? If you can't generate an SQL (sales meeting), go for an MQL (email). If you can't get an MQL, go for an IQL (receive as much information as possible). 

If you don't get through or the prospect doesn't have time, ask what time would suit their calendar, so you know when to reach out. Ask the receptionist. Ask the PA. Ask everyone! 

Principle 3: Always go for the most direct channel.

The most direct channel is a direct telephone number to a decision maker. Ask the gatekeepers for direct phone numbers and emails, confirm the number you have with the gatekeeper or ask the prospect what number or email you can reach them on.

Principle 4: Be active and available

Decision-makers are busy and catching them outside of internal meetings can be challenging. See a few tips that can help you maximise response rates below:

Call between 8-10 in the morning and 15-17 in the evening. 17-18 can also work if you're going for top management.
If you are calling reception, don't hang around for 1 minute waiting for the switchboard to pick up. Prioritise other leads.
Again, when you get through, always ask what the best time to reach them is - and make sure to follow up then!

Principle 5: Start with emails and LinkedIn if you have consent.

Emails require consent but LinkedIn messages don't. You can send 4x as many LinkedIn messages and emails (if you have templates) than you can do calls and time will work to your advantage. At the beginning of a month/campaign, you could start by sending 150 LinkedIn messages (proposing a time for a call or a meeting) to get the ball rolling.

Principle 6: How fast can you sprint?

We burn mental calories when we switch tasks, not when we execute them. Try to choose one industry and do a sprint for 4 hours ("Today I will be targeting Production companies with Case X and Value Proposition Y"), you will be more efficient from having less preparation time - and your pitching will be better!

Sprints are amazing for efficiency. Try to design your days, weeks, and months in sprints - pool activities and focus areas together, do a sprint, recover, and get back at it!

Principle 7: Prioritise

Always prioritise leads with the highest lead scores, leads with the highest numbers, or leads where you already know who the decision-maker is. Start your day with your good leads so you're warmed up and ready to attack the day!

Principle 8: Mix channels

Use as many channels as possible and pool your activities in workflows. Example "Call for 1.5 hours, emails for 0.5 hours, LinkedIn for 0.5 hours and repeat". This is more pleasant, fun and breeds better results. Also, if you’re not getting through after the 5th time you call, try to send an email instead and wait a bit. There’s plenty of fish in the sea. 

If it’s a very large company - emails might be better. 

It's a small company - calls are the best!


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