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Sales talk: building and scaling an outbound sales team

December 1, 2021

Meet Anders Holmberg, Chief Sales Officer at GetAccept.

Anders heads up a truly impressive sales function, with 50+ reps working in five different offices across Europe.

In his LinkedIn profile, Anders describes himself as “a builder, rather than a maintainer” - who better to ask about building an outbound sales team from the ground up?

Scroll 👇 to read our Q&A with Anders.

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Building an outbound sales team: where should you start?

For Anders, your company culture is the first thing you have to get right.

“It starts with the founder and the company’s culture. It’s hard to create an outbound team if there’s no sales culture in the company from the get-go.”

“What you have to do is create an atmosphere where you’re working with a proactive mindset, rather than a reactive mindset. If the company’s strategy up to that point is to sit and wait for inbounds, then changing that mindset requires more work than many sales leaders realise.”

“You have to lay the foundations and set your team up for success before you even start hiring.”

What’s the best way of selling outbound to a founder/CEO?

Anders had some very clear advice to give.

“I would say to that CEO or founder, if you’re not doing outbound, you’re leaving money on the table. Every company that isn’t doing outbound could grow even more if they started doing it.”

“Look at a company like HubSpot. They’re the founders of inbound lead generation but they still do outbound. Having a really successful outbound sales team actually generates more inbound opportunities and vice-versa.”

“So it isn’t an either/or thing. Most B2B companies have a good blend of inbound and outbound. The two complement each other very well.”

When’s the best time for a business to start doing outbound?

Anders quoted from his experience working in B2B/SaaS startups.

“If you think about it, if you found a company, what you do in the early days is outbound! You reach out to potential clients, partners and employees. You have to be hands-on in doing this because, at that point, you don’t have brand awareness or any demand.”

“So outbound sales is a really good option if you don’t have a marketing team. Later, as you mature as a company, it’s likely that you’ll find a mix of how to create revenue. That will be a mix of inbound and outbound.”

How should you go about hiring an outbound sales team?

When it comes to SDR hiring, Anders is focused on some very specific things.

“I focus on personal traits or skills and how that person can grow in the company. The SDR role is challenging but I have tremendous respect for the people who do it. The skills they pick up are useful in any role they might move onto in their career.”

“I’m not so focused on CV and experience. We’ve found at GetAccept that the correlation between a successful hire and the number of years of experience isn’t that strong.”

What traits does Anders look out for?

  • Willingness/openness to learn - the majority of SDRs will be junior hires just starting in their careers. They must be keen to learn new skills.
  • Stamina and grit - the SDR role is notoriously difficult, with rejection a daily fact of life. The best are determined and persistent in meeting targets.
  • Organisation and productivity - the most effective SDRs set themselves long-term goals and break those goals down into daily habits.
  • Interest and passion - in your industry and/or your product!

How should you structure your outbound sales team?

Anders expanded on his focus on SDR personality traits.

“When we build a team at GetAccept, we build them around personalities. We start off by looking at the existing team and asking ourselves - what are we missing? What type of person does the team need?”

“The answer will be different each time. Sometimes we’ll want someone with experience because the team will be made up of juniors. Sometimes we’ll be looking for a calmer person because the team is very energetic and full of extroverts.”

“So we look to balance our teams out that way. As a CSO, I’m really focused on building the best possible team rather than hiring the best possible individuals.”

How should your outbound team evolve over time?

Anders shared a practical example from the GetAccept sales floor.

“We’ve changed as we’ve grown. Originally, our sales team was assembled into ‘squads’ - these were cross-functional teams with SDRs, AEs and CSMs sitting in them. They were based around geographies/territories.”

“The squad model had a couple of key benefits. They were very good for executing go-to-market strategies. Because sales and CS were together in one team, the handover and customer experience was very smooth.”

“But with the SDR role, we found that so much of it is in the details, the technical details like list building, cold calling, email writing and automating LinkedIn workflows. It’s hard for junior SDRs to learn those skills in a squad and if they’re surrounded by non-SDRs.”

“So we made the decision to restructure. Now we have all our SDRs in one team.”

How should you train your outbound sales team?

Anders talked us through GetAccept’s 2-week onboarding process.

“The first week is a cross-functional onboarding for all new joiners. So you’ll have sales, marketing, product, CS all learning together.”

“The second week is purely an onboarding for the sales role. We deliver sessions for each stage of the sales cycle, including live roleplays, customer case studies and demo training.”

“We also hold monthly internal ‘boost sessions’. These are designed to share knowledge among the team. They’re not solely sales-focused, they can be about anything. So we’ll do sessions comparing competitors or running through new product features,”

“One of my favourite quotes is ‘you learn by doing, but you become a master when you teach’ - so the boost sessions aren’t always run by our internal experts, they’re run by anyone who puts their hand up. That’s a really powerful way of upskilling your team.”

“There are other things SDRs can do to increase their knowledge. In that role, it’s really good to educate yourself, you shouldn’t always be relying on what your company tells you.”

Anders shared his tips for SDR self-education:

  • Follow and engage with LinkedIn thought leaders.
  • Sign up for sales/SDR webinars.
  • Subscribe to podcasts or newsletters.

What’s the most important outbound sales metric?

For Anders, there was only one winner.

“The most leading indicator of success is the number of calls. That doesn’t mean we only do calls - I know that for every call made, there are dozens of prospecting activities behind it. But calling is the toughest task in B2B sales and in general, the more you do, the better you get.”

“At GetAccept, we frequently see a direct correlation between the number of calls and booked outbound deals. It’s not 100% but it’s very close!”

How do you align SDRs/AEs around your customers?

Anders told us about a new role in GetAccept’s sales team.

“We call it the Sales Ops Coordinator. Their role is to make sure that our salespeople are working on the right prospects. Before we created this role, our salespeople were responsible for their own list building.”

“What we found was that this took too much time away from our salespeople. They were spending too much time on building lists and not enough time on their core activities. We really wanted them to focus on having customer-facing conversations.”

What’s best practice for aligning sales with marketing?

Anders was very enthusiastic about this topic.

“Sales and marketing must be super-aligned! As I said before, inbound and outbound are closely linked.”

“How this works at GetAccept is that we regularly schedule some time for marketing to sit down with sales. Together we define our Top 100 customers - the kind of clients we don’t have right now but are really good fits. Then our sales team outreaches to them while at the same time marketing targets them with online ads and physical gifting. That’s proven to be a very successful aligned ABM strategy for us.”

How do you maintain company culture as the team scales and grows?

Anders was keen to promote the concept of culture in B2B sales.

“Culture is a living, breathing organism. It’s never done and it will evolve! Especially as your company moves into new markets and new people join and leave.”

“One thing to note is that you can’t automatically think that new joiners will get the culture straight away. It’s something you have to teach them about.”

“At GetAccept, sales works closely with our People and Culture team. This is so that the sales culture and the overall company culture align. You want to avoid having silos where every department has a different culture. There may be slight variations but the overall vision and values should be the same.”

What things should you avoid when building and scaling an outbound team?

Anders left us with his final thoughts.

“If you’re targeting a totally new market or industry, doing outbound without having a marketing team backing you up is something you should definitely avoid!”

“You can’t crack new sectors or territories with outbound alone. It’s too difficult. But if you work in tandem with marketing, then outbound will work. Marketing creates awareness among the customers in that space and then outbound brings them.”

“So again, it all comes down to inbound vs. outbound, and in my opinion, the best way of growing a company is by deploying a mix of the two.”

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