Outbound plays that actually make revenue predictable
Predictable revenue isn't buried treasure. You're not going to find it and change your fortunes.
It's an end goal that you can achieve by constantly improving your sales process.
We've listed our favourite outbound plays to make revenue more predictable in 2023.
Outbound: A new frontier
You know that video:
The one where researchers shove a mummy into an MRI machine to recreate his voice,
and the only sound you hear is a scream of anguish, like he just stepped on a rake?
Well, outbound is making a bigger comeback than his vocal chords in 2023.
But we’re not talking about thirsty outbound tactics like spray and pray or the double tap. We’re not talking about ancient enablement tools like lead lists or quantitative lead generation software. And we’re certainly not talking about converting MQLs into SQLs.
No. We’re talking about a new frontier.
One where hyper targeting reigns. One where the SDR is front and centre of your sales organisation. One where prospects aren’t annoyed as soon as they hear a salesperson’s voice.
On this page, Ryan Reisert, Cognism's Brand Ambassador and author of the acclaimed book, Outbound Sales, No Fluff, explores all the key outbound strategies that work right now.
And with 14+ years of SaaS and startup sales experience, serving as a Head of Sales at Sellpoints, Booshaka, Uversity, and more, you know it’s the good stuff.
Scroll 👇 or use the sticky menu to flick through.
4 ANNOYING COLD CALLING TACTICS: CONTENTS
Spamming your TAM | Not frickin' listening | Snarky objection handling | Lack of business acumen
PART ONE: 4 annoying cold calling tactics that'll delete your pipeline
What do bootcut jeans and cold calling have in common?
Well, they’ve both been public enemy number one since the noughties. The thing with the latter is:
Its infamy is less to do with the practice itself and more to do with annoying tactics that have become synonymous with it.
Here are 4 things you should avoid at all costs to keep prospects on side 👇
1 - Spamming your TAM
One of the most annoying cold calling tactics is the double or triple tap.
This is when reps consecutively call a prospect in the same time interval just to get them to pick up, or even hang up on purpose before calling them again to make the call seem extra urgent.
For anyone who still believes in doing this, there’s one thing you need to hear:
Of course it can increase your chances of connecting. But it absolutely decreases the probability of your reps having meaningful two-way conversations.
Because prospects are far more resistant when they’re baited into a call under false pretences, rather than being informed of your reps’ true intentions.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, if you want your reps to be properly enabled, you could invest in B2B lead generation software.
Particularly a platform that can provide phone-verified leads so your reps have a better idea of which prospects are likely to pick up the phone.
Alongside this, you should also reframe the intention of cold calling itself.
Instead of just trying to elicit a response, reps should leverage the funnel above the funnel (see Chapter 2) to warm up prospects and build trust to the point where they’re ready to take meaningful actions.
When we talk about the double/triple tap, we’re not saying it’s bad practice to call a prospect multiple times a day.
If there’s no answer on your first call or you’re stopped by a gatekeeper, you should call back at a different time.
Just not right after!
2 - Not frickin' listening
Picture the scene.
Your rep, Amber, has never interacted with her prospect before and she’s about to call them. She punches in the numbers and the dial tone rings. Then the receiver clicks and a voice answers.
But out of nowhere, Amber launches into a monumental pitch slap:
“Hey, I’m from Cognism and we’re a B2B sales intelligence platform that provides compliant contact data for global decision-makers with unparalleled accuracy and coverage, helping customers like you get $410K ROI in 12 months…”
Needless to say, after that 90-second monologue, the prospect on the other end is like:
“Woah. Who the heck even are you, dude?”
All because Amber didn’t take the time to frickin’ listen and was too concerned with getting her own message across, the chances of converting this prospect into an MB are slim to none.
What she should’ve been coached to do instead at this first touchpoint is to carry out some basic checks. For starters:
- Is the prospect who they say they are?
- Are they the right person to speak to?
- Is now a good time?
After getting past these checkpoints, Amber can start to become situationally aware. For example:
- Is the prospect on the road?
- Are they responsible for childcare that day?
- Is there a bunch of noise in the background?
Once she’s acknowledged this information, she can use it to compound into her follow up. Which will convert at a rate of about 2-3 times higher as opposed to a super cold call.
3 - Snarky objection handling
Ah, the palm off.
“I’m just going into a meeting,” “Now’s a bad time,” “Josh is out at lunch right now.”
Sure, it’s annoying as hell. And it could be the case that prospects are saying it just to get you off the phone.
But it could also be the case that they are actually going into a meeting. Now is a bad time. Or they are at lunch right now.
And that’s what makes snarky objection handling so annoying for prospects.
So instead of responding with something like: “why did you answer the phone then?” when they receive a palm off, reps should try mirroring their prospects’ responses. For example:
“You’re going into a meeting? I have a knack for that.”
Then pause and let the prospect talk. This way reps don’t even have to handle the objection and they can follow up by asking whether there’s a better time to talk.
As a result, the first point of contact isn’t muddied by commission breath. And by being respectful, reps can follow up with confidence.
A note on phraseology
There’s some debate about the effectiveness of certain words and phrases salespeople use in cold calls.
Thing is, there’s nothing wrong with any tactics your reps leverage as long as they’re respectful and they engage in active listening while using them.
So let’s say they open with: “Have I caught you at a bad time?”
If the prospect answers “no” and your rep is ok with that, agreeing to call back at another time, there’s no issue.
But if your rep is aggressive when they get a negative response, that’s only going to create problems down the road.
4 - Lack of business acumen
You’re looking at the specials menu in a restaurant.
The pan-fried sea bass with salsa verde, served on a bed of crushed new potatoes is tickling your fancy.
The waiter comes to take your order, giving you a rundown of all the specials as well as his recommendations.
But you just have one question before you make your decision.
You don’t order fish unless it’s been caught and cooked on the same day, so you ask the waiter if that’s the case.
But without the script he’d memorised, he’s reduced to a stuttering wreck. He skirts around the topic, makes a few guesses, before finally leaving the table to check with the chef.
All of the sudden, the sea bass doesn’t seem that appetising after all.
The same is the case in cold calling.
Reps need contextual knowledge and business acumen to have conviction in what they’re saying.
This means they’re able to go off-piste and discuss the specific pain points and questions each prospect has.
Without being experts in the industry they’re serving, reps will get found out fast, annoying any prospects with genuine intent to buy.
Help them gain this knowledge by linking them up with people in your business who have similar titles to your ICP, or others in your network.
Whereas sales leaders once used their reps to book meetings on the first call, and reps themselves desperately tried to hit their number, both need to reframe their objectives.
After all, with this approach, prospects don’t have enough time to make the leap from not knowing who the heck you are, to thinking your offering is interesting, to booking out their calendar.
The end result is high-activity, low-quality outbound.
Instead, sales leaders and reps need to become more outcome-oriented. If a rep books a meeting right now, or sets one up for a few months down the line, be happy with it.
Because every step they take to listen to prospects and learn about prospects’ problems will help to create more predictable pipeline and revenue.
THE FUNNEL ABOVE THE FUNNEL: CONTENTS
The funnel above the funnel | Measuring success | 3 things that help reps leverage the funnel above the funnel
PART TWO: The funnel above the funnel: A cure for cold calling thirst
Obviously, you won’t be able to usher in a brand-new status quo with a speech in your morning standup.
You need a proper framework to replace the old way of working and to enable your reps.
And the best way you can get started is by leveraging the funnel above the funnel 👇
The funnel above the funnel
The funnel above the funnel is designed to do 3 key things. These are:
- Build awareness
- Gather information
- Book meetings
The purpose of this is to ensure that reps don't try to sell your prospect on your product/service immediately.
Instead, they figure out whether the prospect is both contactable and the right person in the company to speak to.
Then they confirm the problems, threats, and/or opportunities facing the prospect and whether they are immediate enough to make your product/service relevant.
Finally, reps book a meeting having properly qualified the prospect, making them easier to close.
Let’s dive deeper into the 3 stages👇
1 - Build awareness
In the first stage, reps need to get a handle on the basics.
For example, they need to learn whether the number they’re calling connects to their prospect before introducing themselves and your company.
They should also document other paths and outcomes along the way. These include whether:
- The number is a direct dial or mobile
- The number can only be reached via a dial tree (and if so, what’s the path?)
- The number has a gatekeeper
By doing this, reps' prospecting attempts will have a far better chance of succeeding. And either way, they'll get to an outcome much faster.
Now let’s move onto how they can handle different scenarios they experience in the awareness stage:
Alternative scenario 1
Even if your reps do get all the way through to the prospect’s number, there’s a decent chance they’ll go to voicemail.
When this happens, they should not hang up the phone before they’ve listened to the full recording (unless you want them to miss out on some 24-carat gold).
At the end of recordings, for example, the prospect may give their mobile number to text or call if they’re away from their desk. They may also provide you with an email address if that’s how they prefer to be contacted.
This is all information reps can use to elicit a follow-up.
All reps need to do is record the prospect’s preferred contact method in your CRM and tailor their outreach accordingly in follow-up.
Did you know? 💡
Prospects who take the time to program their voicemails will generally respond to emails. And they’re about 20% more likely to pick up the phone than your baseline connect rate.
Alternative scenario 2
If your reps can’t get to someone’s voicemail, that means:
- The number is bad
- There’s a dial tree without a name in it
- An operator/gatekeeper isn’t willing to transfer you or says they’re not there
This means the number isn’t worth calling again.
2 - Gather information
Follow-ups connect at 25% by comparison to pure cold calls at 3%. So, in other words, follow-ups are where sales are made.
That means your reps can’t just repeat what they said the first time around. Instead, they should leverage their original conversation to compound into their next conversation.
For example, they could confirm the problem/threat/opportunity they’re facing and expand on it, like so:
“You mentioned that you were struggling to generate leads in EMEA with your current data provider. Out of interest, how is that data performing for you in AMER?”
And if this is something they care about right now, reps should move them towards booking a meeting.
Now let’s see how reps could handle another scenario while they’re gathering information:
If your reps didn’t get past “hello” in their first conversation, they won’t be able to compound on much. So give them this disarming opener to use:
“Hey [name]. This is [your name] from [your company]. We spoke [insert day] and it sounded like the worst possible time.”
Generally, even the most aggressive prospects will respond with something like:
“I’m sorry, what’s up and how can I help you?”
Now, all of the sudden, your reps have opened up the pathway to consideration. Then they can come in with something like:
“I know you’re a busy person, but we haven’t had a full conversation yet. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions and then I’ll get out of your hair?”
At this point, they’re well on their way to qualifying the lead and getting time booked in the calendar.
3 - Book a meeting
Once reps have done all this work beforehand, the next stage is simple.
Now the prospect knows who you are and how you can help them, they’re willing to seriously evaluate your product/service.
You’ve probably guessed it already, but transforming MQLs into SQLs to hit arbitrary MB targets won’t cut it when your sales team is enacting this philosophy.
I mean, let’s face it:
It’s not even working now, given that marketing organisations hit 300% of their pipeline quotas, while sales organisations 50% away from target.
Instead, the key metric you need to be focused on is daily completions.
As Shafiroff and Shook mention in their book, Successful Telephone Selling in the 80s, a daily completion is:
“A telephone call that actually gets through to the right individual. A call that is to be returned, or a discussion with an assistant or a secretary does not count.
“In this initial call, you briefly explain what you have in the way of a product or philosophy. You bring to the individual’s attention what you have to offer, and you discover his interests.
“In some cases you will want to make an appointment for a face-to-face presentation; in other cases you will follow up with a letter or a telephone call.
“But the completion is not aimed at getting an order. It is aimed only at finding out whether or not you can proceed with future contacts with this individual. He may say yes, he may say no. It’s still a completion.”
By adopting completions, you’ll encourage the right behaviours in your B2B sales team, where reps understand exactly who the prospect is and what their priorities and pain points are.
Combining this with dark funnel marketing, content marketing, and demand generation, your revenue team will create truly resonant prospect experiences.
3 things that help reps leverage the funnel above the funnel
Now onto enablement. If you want to go the extra mile to ensure your reps are driving the best possible results for your business, you may want to think about investing in these 3 things 👇
1 - Verified contacts
It’s a familiar scenario:
A sales leader gives their SDRs a list of prospect contact data.
It’s the SDR’s job to call everyone on that list and pray that they all pick up at some point. But the likelihood of this actually happening is slim to none.
That’s because a ton of the data on these lists is either inaccurate or out of date.
In this case, you should expect that your SDRs aren’t going to reach a prospect in 97/100 calls. And for every 100 they get on the phone, you should expect a conversation 25/100 times.
Clearly, that’s not a sustainable model.
But phone-verified contact data can go some way to changing this. That’s because the connect rates it can offer are wildly improved.
For example, you can expect:
- 5x increase in reach
- 7x increase in connect rate
- 25% less attempts to get through a cold call list
- 80% less data needed for better results
This will radically improve the number of prospects your SDRs can qualify and nurture, meaning your AEs can close much more business.
2 - Cold calling scripts
By mapping your conversation funnel, you’ll be able to get “analytics” that help you address poor performance and optimise your cold calling.
The key components of this conversation funnel include:
- Permission statement
- Value pitch
So, for example, if you’re losing people in the intro of your cold calling script, you may be taking too long to introduce yourself.
If you’re getting past hello but you’re not booking meetings, your value pitch may need updating.
If prospects are palming you off saying they already have a vendor in place, you may not be asking the right questions to understand their pains and ambitions.
With this information, you can understand exactly where prospects are leaking out of the bucket, and plug that gap with tweaks.
The 3 Cs
Once reps have these benchmarks, all they need to do is approach them with consistency, confidence, and commitment.
Because ultimately, there are only about 5-7 paths a conversation could take. And once reps learn those, they can handle any objections they encounter.
3 - Double down on industry (not product) knowledge
Sadly, no one implicitly cares about your product.
Unless you’re Apple. Or Supreme. Or Tesla.
So your reps shouldn’t spend too much time building up their technical and product knowledge.
Instead, they should become an expert in the marketplace your company is in and the industry it’s serving.
Get them to learn about your competitors. Get them involved in topical conversations. Get them connected to executives in your company so they can discuss their pain points so they can apply it to their cold calls.
By doing this, reps will naturally focus on the business problems your company can solve in the context prospects find themselves in.
AEs, meanwhile, can fill in the gaps with expert product knowledge when the prospect books a meeting, and move them closer to conversion.
🔎 CAREER SDRs: CONTENTS 🔍
The career SDR | The what, how, and why of sales pods | The future of sales management
PART THREE: Why career SDRs are the new kingmakers of B2B sales
Back in the day, salespeople wore three hats.
They were hunters, closers, and farmers who were responsible for the whole customer lifecycle. Their aim?
To build a book of business and … well … sit on it.
But over time, this came to frustrate businesses who needed fresh as well as existing custom to scale.
And, luckily for them, the status quo was soon to change.
In 2011, Aaron Ross came along with his seminal B2B sales book, Predictable Revenue, introducing the concept of specialisation.
Ross said that to drive growth, a salesperson shouldn’t fulfil these three separate functions, especially when each role required completely different skill sets.
Instead, their roles should be split out into an assembly line 👇
And, when deployed correctly, Ross’s approach worked well, dovetailing nicely with the workflows of salespeople who had to close and farm in person.
With SDRs drumming up all the business, travel to sales meetings became a less significant productivity drain and the assembly line was soon a well-oiled machine.
But in 2023, is that still the case?
The short answer is no. The process of digital transformation is all but complete and the normalisation of video conferencing means in-person meetings are no longer required in most industries.
This has created an imbalance between how different components of the assembly line are compensated, with SDRs doing many of the hard yards for crumbs in return.
What’s more, the meeting targets they’re forced to hit reward spammy and counterproductive behaviours, leaving huge gaps in the customer journey; particularly for those who aren’t ready to buy right now.
The solution to this is two-fold.
- Embrace the concept of the career SDR - one focused on educating the market over the long term, not on becoming an AE.
- Move towards the pod model - small groups of hunters, farmers, and closers who have an equal share of the spoils.
The career SDR 👔
In the assembly line, SDRs are bottom of the pile, desperately trying to turn MQLs into SQLs.
If they don’t hit quota, they’re either on a performance plan or moving on, because there’s no way they’ll make it to AE in the same organisation.
This is insane. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
Identifying hunters who can get out to your addressable market and serve as a helpful first point of contact—rather than attacking it with commission breath—is incredibly valuable.
And when you measure them on net new, active, and upsell completions, rather than MBs, you start to incentivise these types of behaviours.
Combining this with a better comp plan, which we’ll come to later, you can keep SDRs in your business for years rather than weeks or months.
Your SDRs gain the business acumen they need to become trusted market experts, enabling them to build problem awareness, communicate the “why”, and establish market relationships.
As prospects move on to new roles and companies, the career SDR re-engages them, compounding on previous conversations to create new opportunities.
Meanwhile, they connect with partner companies who can refer prospects your way and vice versa, depending on their current requirements.
The key to this nurturing, educational function is, of course, thought leadership, disseminated via channels your SDRs are strongest in and where your prospects hang out.
And the end result?
You create ecosystems that open doors for the rest of the sales team and enable them to better do their jobs.
The what, how, and why of sales pods 🙋🏼
So, what exactly is the pod? How is it different from the assembly line? And why does it align well with the concept of the career SDR?
Well, like the assembly line, the sales pod has dedicated hunters, closers, and farmers. The difference is the roles are interconnected, rather than separated, to ensure the whole customer lifecycle is covered, as you can see above ☝️
This means AEs aren’t possessive over leads once they’ve been passed over by an SDR. And the CSM isn’t the only one who can add value to the prospect once they become customers.
Instead, the SDR is the core of the pod, circling back to prospects who are pre-purchase, in-purchase, and post-purchase, reactivating these relationships whenever needed.
This could be inviting prospects to a webinar, or sending them an ungated, value-adding resource to breathe new life into a deal.
Of course, this changes the conversation about hierarchy and commission.
In the pod, the SDR, the AE, and the CSM are one organism; each component of equal importance. As a result, they should split the rewards equally.
But what the rewards themselves should be is a more interesting question.
Prospects in every industry distrust salespeople because they’re paid in commission. So much so that the reps at Best Buy use the fact that they’re not paid this way as a value prop!
To help change this conversation and remove the objections reps encounter every day, the pod bases its incentives around revenue growth and bonuses.
It makes them company partners and shares profits when they perform well. It gives them equity and dividend payments.
This means there’s no hidden agenda and no reason to think that the salesperson’s intention is anything other than to help the prospect.
The future of sales management
So, if sales pods are less focused on hitting arbitrary numbers and more focused on building and maintaining prospect relationships, where does that leave sales leaders?
Well, it’s bad news.
Without the need for relentless pipeline updates, it’ll be up to revenue and enablement leaders to, on the one hand:
- Own the number and report to the CEO
And on the other:
- Take charge of learning and development, best practices, and tech stack
Generally, though, functioning pods are self-sufficient entities, comprised of top performers who are committed to the success of their prospects and themselves. Which, in turn, benefits the wider business.
CONCLUSION: The human distribution channel
Once upon a time, outbound reps would do anything to hit their number at the cost of destroying countless future business opportunities.
But not in the new frontier of outbound.
With reps measured on activity that incentivises the right behaviours, while being armed with accurate mobile data and refreshed sales frameworks, they will serve as a human distribution channel for B2Bs.
The end result?
Establishing, building, and maintaining trust with prospects to create a truly predictable pipeline and revenue engine.
The data is the last piece of the puzzle
A high-performance sales team is only as effective as its high-performance sales data.
- Cognism has more mobile numbers than any other data provider on the market.
- Cognism’s Diamond Data® is phone-verified contact data that gives means you never hit a dead end again and can get through to your highest value prospects with ease.
If you're ready to supply your red-hot sales team with red-hot data, take some time to talk to one of our experts.
Find out how Cognism can change the way you do sales.
Start your journey.