apollo outbound sales graph

May 10, 2022

How to Improve your B2B Outbound Sales Process

Written by Karli Stone

Outbound sales can engage a target audience in a uniquely powerful way and is an irreplaceable channel for generating revenue.

Sales leaders just need to utilize the right B2B outbound sales strategies.

In this Apollo blog, we’ll give you an introduction to outbound sales, highlight the different stages of the outbound sales process, and provide you with ways you can immediately improve your B2B outbound strategy to crush your quotas.

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A brief introduction to B2B outbound sales

Before we get into the more complicated stuff, let’s take a step back.

Let’s talk about what outbound is and why it’s so valuable for your organization.

What are outbound sales?

Outbound sales refers to the process of a seller initiating engagement with a prospective buyer through sales activities such as cold calling, email prospecting, social selling, and networking.

In outbound sales the reps are contacting leads — the leads aren’t coming to them (like they would in inbound sales).

Outbound sales vs inbound sales

Let’s be clear: neither sales approach is inherently better. Both techniques are powerful tools for growing a company and building revenue.

The sales strategy you use and when depends on your current campaigns, the type of business you run, the product you sell, who you are targeting, how aware customers are about the solutions you offer, etc.

However, outbound sales offers some specific benefits that inbound sales doesn’t :

  • It’s highly targeted outreach
  • It’s easy to implement
  • You can close information gaps about the clients’ needs
  • You can directly validate new ideas and test territory
  • You have control over the pace of marketing and selling

The best businesses conduct a combination of inbound and outbound sales efforts.

But it’s important to remember that outbound sales can engage a target audience in a uniquely powerful way and is an irreplaceable channel for generating revenue.

How to measure outbound sales success

Precise targeting, high-quality outreach, and timely prospecting are all important sources of generating new customers that are an ideal fit for your product. The only question is: how do you understand exactly what is the ‘right’ way to prospect for your B2B company?

This is where key performance indicators (KPIs) come in.

KPIs are crucial for outbound performance. They are the key targets you should track to make the most impact on your strategic outcomes.

Examples of outbound KPIs include:

  • Number of sales-qualified leads (SQLs)
  • % of leads that convert
  • # of emails/phone calls sent
  • Email bounce rate
  • # of opportunities created
  • Average follow-up attempts
  • # of demo requests
  • Cost per conversion

When you understand and model the KPIs that are right for your business, you can produce predictable, repeatable results even as your lead generation activities scale in scope and budget.

And – lucky for you – in the following sections, we’ll let you know the best KPIs to track in each stage of the outbound sales process.

So stick with us!

Convert more prospects with these improvements to your B2B outbound sales process

The strongest outbound sales processes follow a proven framework so they can be repeated and scaled.

Below, we’ll highlight each stage of the outbound process and give you best practices you can use to reach more willing prospects and take customer conversions to the moon!

1. Identifying ideal customers

The first step in any sales or marketing strategy (whether inbound or outbound) is defining the audience you’re trying to reach. You need to determine exactly who you want to be selling to.

This means identifying the specific goals, needs, and pain points of your ideal customer profile (ICP).

To hash out your ICP, you can start by asking yourself 5 important questions:

  • Which of your current customers make the most out of your product(s) or service(s)?
  • What traits do your best customers have in common?
  • What recurring objections do you receive from past customers or lost opportunities?
  • Which customers are easiest to upsell to and why?
  • What do the customers of your closest competitors have in common?
How to Improve: Sync your CRM to a smart database

To answer these questions and get the best idea of the prospects you want outbound reps to target, sync your CRM to a sales intelligence database.

If your current customer data is outdated and unreliable, you can’t trust it to give you a clear picture of your ICP. By syncing your CRM to a large and reliable database, your data will be regularly refreshed and you can easily view and segment your contacts into ICP profiles that you might have different outbound sales processes for.

Apollo in particular has dozens of data insights on over 220M contacts, which can help provide more profile context on their existing records in your CRM for better segmentation!

KPI(s) to track for improvement: number of sales qualified leads (SQLs)

2. Lead generation (aka B2B prospecting)

Lead generation is the next step and it’s all about filling up that sales pipeline. ​​You generate leads by coming up with a list of people you want to contact and finding their contact information.

This can look like paying for a lead database, creating an in-house lead generation team, or even outsourcing outbound lead generation to another company.

At the end of the process, you’ll have a list of people for your sales team to contact based on your ICP.

How to Improve: Utilize social platforms/tools

An outbound sales rep should be where buyers are – and that’s social platforms.

Social selling is a powerful tool, even more effective than traditional channels. LinkedIn, for instance, is one of the most effective lead nurturing tools available.

Prospect faster and find more accurate contact data with Apollo’s LinkedIn Chrome Extension. It is a useful Apollo tool that will help you generate leads on LinkedIn (and wherever else you prospect) and get accurate contact information for your outbound lead lists in just a few clicks. Directly within the extension, you’ll find all the actionable insights you need from the 200+ data attributes that we collect on our records.

Try it for yourself for free.

KPI(s) to track for improvement: total # of leads captured, % of leads that become converted customers

3. Cold outreach

Now is the time to make your first touchpoint with a prospective client.

This could be a cold call, a cold email, a LinkedIn direct message, or anything that puts you in front of a sales-qualified lead.

Cold outreach often gets a bad rap. After all, it’s not easy to engage with someone you don’t have a relationship with yet.

But it can work well with the right strategies.

Some of these strategies include:

You may already be leveraging some or all of these cold outreach strategies. Here is what we recommend to take your outbound sales cadence to the next level:

How to Improve: Integrate video prospecting

Video prospecting is the newest outbound sales trend!

It’s a type of sales outreach that involves a sales rep recording and sending short, personalized videos to their prospects, and it’s perfect for cold outreach.

According to HubSpot data, sales representatives who use video for sales prospecting, relationship-building, and outbound sales emails see 5x higher open rates and 8x higher open-to-reply rates.

Videos not only support you in humanizing your brand and grabbing prospects’ attention, but they also support a salesperson’s efforts toward building trust with potential buyers.

KPIs to track for improvement: # of emails/phone calls sent, # of emails/phone calls responded, email bounce rate, % of emails/phone calls that result in meetings

4. Meeting Set

Once you’ve set a meeting as a result of your amazing cold outreach methods, you’re on to the next stage!

The initial meeting is a sales rep’s opportunity to get a prospect excited about the product and about the potential of closing a deal.

It can help to think back to the first time you came in contact with the prospect. Ask yourself what you said and did that got the client to the point of agreeing to a meeting. This can help you shape your pitch around the things that are relevant to them as individuals.

How to Improve: Do thorough pre-meeting research

The best thing you can do at this point in the outbound sales process is to do your homework.

Try to uncover:

  • A prospect’s professional history
  • Their overall company strategy
  • The technologies they use
  • Key challenges/pain points
  • Current business objectives and initiatives
  • Their interests

So, how do you find this information?

You could scrape the internet for relevant insights, Google the names of your prospects, sift through company pages, or dig through social media profiles, but these are often tedious and time-consuming tasks.

For a more streamlined pre-meeting workflow, you can integrate Apollo directly into your Gmail and Google Calendar with our Chrome Extension. You’ll see just how easy it is to see data insights like technologies used, funding received, open roles, and other insights all within Google Calendar.

Apollo’s done all the research for you!

You can also get to know your prospects, log meeting notes, create follow-up tasks, and send follow-up emails, using state-of-the-art Apollo workflows.

KPIs to track for improvement: opportunities created

5. Follow-up

60% of customers say “No” 4x before they say “Yes”, but only 52% of salespeople make a follow-up attempt.

How unfortunate is that?!

Don’t be the 48%. Make sure you schedule follow-ups in your outbound sales process.

Follow-ups are the time to offer trials, offer alternate meeting proposals, include relevant links, or even attempt a close.

How to Improve: Build a smart sequence

The best way to make sure a follow-up doesn’t slip through the cracks? Build out a smart sales sequence.

In Apollo, Sequences are multi-channel outreach campaigns with any number of sequential contact points and tasks that you can customize to personally engage (or re-engage) your target audience at scale.

For example, you can set up a sequence in which after a prospect has opened a manual email, an automatic follow-up email will be sent out two days later.

Other automated follow-up actions in Sequences include phone calls, action items, LinkedIn post interactions, LinkedIn connection requests, and more!

Putting prospects through the right follow-up channel is a great way to personalize interactions at speed and scale and ultimately, boost those customer conversion rates.

KPIs to track for improvement: average follow-up attempts, # of demo requests

6. Closed won/lost and optimizing outbound performance

Closing is the culmination of your outbound sales campaign.

Every prospect has different pain points and different objections, and good closers know how to use an arsenal of strategies to address them. (For specific sales closing techniques, visit our blog post on how to close a sales deal!).

Whether or not the sales rep gets the win or the prospect has decided to move on, it’s important to reflect on outbound performance.

Ask yourself: What worked? What didn’t? And what about your outbound sales efforts can be optimized or improved upon?

How to Improve: Let the data be your guide

When it comes to reviewing and optimizing your outbound sales process, you should aim to be as data-driven as possible.

Look at your data and analytics to track outbound performance (as well as keep tabs on all those KPIs) and make informed decisions about your future outbound strategies. If you are using Apollo as your all-in-one platform with a synced CRM and built out sequences, you can see all of your data on the Apollo Analytics dashboard.

KPIs to track for improvement: average conversion time, cost per conversion, win rate

Outsell complacent competitors with the best outbound B2B sales process

Successful salespeople view B2B outbound sales as an opportunity to build relationships, boost conversion rates, and drive revenue.

With an upleved outbound system to attract quality leads, boost response rates and close more sales, you can!

Before you go, make sure to follow Apollo.io on LinkedIn and Twitter to never miss out on B2B sales insights and resources.

Karli Stone headshot Karli Stone