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The current state of outbound (in 2022)

The sales landscape is one that’s always in flux.

After all, you’re working with people.

And we all know that people can be fickle. Changing minds and opinions. Busy lives, stress and responsibilities. Moods and energy levels.

And they don’t like the idea of being sold to. 🖐

Tactics that work one day may not work the next.

If the people you’re selling to are always fluctuating, then so too will the methods you use to sell to them.

That’s not to mention the ever-developing landscape of technology at our fingertips.

This blog post is simply a snapshot in time, some observations on the current state of outbound as it is right now through the lens of 2 experts, Ryan Reisert and Gregory Woodward.

Scroll 👇 to find out more.

 

Bored, tired, not listening

Newsflash: there’s a tremendous amount of fatigue in the market.

Buyers are tired of the rigamarole of lead qualification, calls from junior SDRs, a general “spray and pray” approach with a lack of care or personalisation.

On the other end of the scale, reps are tired of being rejected, only wanting to speak to the prospects that are ready to buy. 🛍

This leads to a lot of friction, making it even harder to breakthrough.

Ryan told us:

“I call a lot of CEOs or C-suite roles and many of them are very quick to tell me they’re not interested. A junior SDR might take that as a knockback and think:”

‘I’m never contacting them again.’

“But even this week, I made a call to someone who had already been contacted by members of my team twice before - not interested, not interested.”

“So I had to approach it in a different way, and I was able to get through to him for long enough to intrigue him.”

“But even before that, he replied:”

‘I don’t think I’m going to be interested, but tell me more’ and ‘yeah we probably still won’t be interested but go on.’

“In the end he asked me to send him some more information.” ✅

This one action took 2 hangups and 3 different approaches before the prospect would even listen. Most would have given up early and missed this opportunity.

This is happening more and more. Why?

Because prospects can recognise a B2B sales pitch from a mile off. When they hear it, they switch off, saying they’re not interested before they even know what you’re selling.

That’s before you even consider the technological blockers in your way, such as ad blockers, email filters and caller IDs.

And while it’s important to know when a sale is a no-go, it’s also getting increasingly important to be able to recognise when you’re being brushed off due to fatigue, versus genuine uninterest.

It’s also important to interject here that if salespeople moved away from a one size fits all, spray and pray approach into something more highly targeted and personal, this market fatigue would likely lift over time.

Ryan added:

“I get asked a lot about what the best email to get high open rates is, but the problem is it takes a prospect a second to decide they’re not interested and delete your email.” 🧑‍💻

“You can’t get through. If they see one word they don’t like, they don’t want to engage with you. Then you can’t get to the next layer of the conversation where you’re able to present the right information.”

You need to do things differently if you want to even catch their attention for a second. The challenge is to get the message right.

If it doesn’t look different, forget about it

How often do you go through your inbox - whether it's your work email, or personal - and just skim past emails, picking out the ones that you consider to be important, leaving all the rest ignored?

Every day? Yeah, us too.

We only have so much time in a day, so we’re never going to sit and waste it by going through each and every email we receive in detail.

That’s just unrealistic and never going to happen.

It’s the same for your prospects. They’re not going to waste time opening every email they receive (especially when it's hundreds of what looks like the same email!).

This also means if your prospect isn’t consciously considering the email to be of interest, they won’t remember anything about it. 🧠

So how do you get around this? How can you get your emails past the spam filters and in front of your prospects? And then, how can you grab your prospects’ attention quickly and keep them engaged?

Gregory offered some insights:

“One of the techniques we use is to incorporate psychology at the beginning, middle and end of an email.”

“But then we go back through, and any language that is too ‘buttoned up’, without becoming grammatically incorrect, we purposely make it look a little busted.”

What? Why would you want your email to look less well-written than before?

Well, Gregory says it’s a way of getting your reader to actually pay attention.

The words don’t flow the way your brain usually thinks, therefore it has to be more present. You have to read the words more carefully and, as a consequence, you’re more likely to remember the message.

This is a technique he has tried and tested, and the data doesn't lie! Gregory notices better results from emails that use this technique. 📈

Ryan has also noticed something similar in cold calling - he uses what he calls ‘pattern interrupts’ in his outbound scripts to do the exact same thing, but over the phone.

The main takeaway here is that there’s no point doing something that everyone else is doing if you want results, because it just becomes noise.

People don’t notice, don’t remember and ultimately don’t engage with stuff they’ve seen and heard a million times over. You’re not going to get big results from that.

Get the messaging right

Gregory has noticed that this is something a lot of companies are getting wrong in their email marketing strategy.

“They’re pinching language straight from marketing, putting it into an email sequence, and letting their sender score drop into oblivion as this isn’t the messaging that people want to read.”

This means email deliverability suffers - and that’s already in trouble with the rise of filtering software.

“Over the last few years, email filters and other methods of blocking cold emails have grown and become more sophisticated, meaning less cold emails reach their desired recipient in the first place.”

When working with clients to resolve these issues, Gregory has a process.

He starts with a cold list of around 130-150 contacts. In this experimentation phase, it’s important to keep this list cold, as any warm leads may skew your results. 🧪

Side note: keep in mind that if your aim is to improve your sender score, adding in some warm leads or those with a propensity to open your emails can help to bring up your OR, which can be useful.

However, once you have a warm email lead, you should be trying to provide them with a custom interaction rather than an email sequence.

When you’re trying to work out what messaging gets people to open, and what doesn’t, you need to see the cold hard stats.

Gregory tells us the metric he lives by:

“In terms of a benchmark for cold emails to cold lists, the metric is universal. 30%+ open rate, anything more than that is progress.”

“If you’re not getting that, then you’re going to be hurting your sender score as you scale.”

The reason Gregory goes about his experimentation starting with email is because this is where he can get the cleanest read on what messaging works and what doesn’t.

He writes persona-specific copy for each of the prospect buckets, and then based on the metrics like:

  • Opens
  • Replies to opens
  • Replies to sends
  • Outcomes to sends

He will iterate on the email copy.

The validated email copy can then be adapted for messaging to be used on cold calls and in other prospecting, such as shortened for LinkedIn messages.

Ryan Reisert is your guide to sales leadership success - sign up for his fortnightly newsletter, delivered to you by Cognism! Click 👇

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Path to least resistance: phone or email?

How you approach your prospect will depend on where you personally get success. Follow where the metrics take you.

However, it will also depend on what industry you’re in, and how your prospects get contacted the most.

After all, to stand out from the crowd, you need to be doing something different to everyone else.

For example, if you’re in an industry that primarily uses email, then there’s more competition, more fatigue and likely a faster brush-off.

Whereas if not many people use cold calling, you might find less resistance. And vice versa.

Ryan says:

“Personally, I find that while calls initially feel like there is more resistance, once you get past that first layer of communication there is more success.”

“I think it would be hard for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing on the phone to get through those first few objections but if you know what you’re doing, there is more space for opportunity.”

Gregory goes on to point something out:

“Go back to 2008-2010, the only way to go about sales was over the phone, because email didn’t work as well.

“Now, barely anyone is cold calling, everyone is emailing, so the opportunity to get traction over the phone is higher.” 📞

Why are people avoiding the phone?

Logically, it feels easier to email. You can contact multiple people at once, rather than spending your time individually calling people who often reject you. It makes sense.

However, in Gregory’s experience, large percentages of the overall revenue come from the phones. So neglecting cold calling could be costing you big time.

Once you’re nailing your messaging, which you’ve validated through email, you can use this knowledge to empower your cold calling.

Getting the right mindset

The last thing Gregory and Ryan wanted to discuss was how influential the mind can be in your results.

What they mean by that is confidence and motivation aligned with your goals.

In the current outbound climate, a lot of people are scared to get on the phone and make their first call.

But guess what?

No one enjoys cold calling - even the experienced, confident old-timers find it intimidating sometimes.

Gregory tells us:

“You just need to rip the bandaid off. After the first call, and then the second, and the third, it gets easier. Once you’re in the cockpit, you can do it all day long.”

“People worry that they won’t know what to say if someone asks an awkward question, so then they’re doing side research during the call to find answers, meaning they’re less present on the calls.”

“All you need to do in that situation is say:”

I don’t have that information in front of me right now, let me speak to some of the team internally and I can send you some follow up information in an email.”

“Knowing you have this under your belt can help you relax into your phone calls. It’s just a two-way conversation.”

As with most things in life, practice makes perfect - well, close enough. It’s just about getting started and learning the process.

Provide training sessions where SDRs can build their confidence and align their process with their goals and objectives. Doing this can make all the difference.

People can achieve amazing things when they set their minds to it.

Picture this:

You’re on a call. Your prospect sounds hesitant; it feels like they’re closed off and looking for an opportunity to brush you off.

Feeling nervous and unsure, you decide to rush off the phone - I mean, they’re not wanting to speak to you anyway, right?

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But what if you went onto that call filled with confidence?

 

Sure, you might still get brushed off. But you wouldn’t have given up before you got the final answer, right?

So those who just take a little more convincing are more likely to get over the line. And ultimately, your numbers are going to look a little juicer at the end of the month.

So there you have it, a snapshot of the current state of outbound. What do Ryan and Gregory hope you take away from this?

  1. Understand your market fatigue
  2. You have to do things differently from everyone else if you want results
  3. Test and validate your messaging
  4. Don’t neglect cold calling
  5. Give yourself the best chance of success by going into outbound activities with the right mindset

Don’t miss Ryan and Gregory’s full conversation - press ▶️ to listen to their Revenue Champions episode.

 

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