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Sales - 8 min READ

How to create an outbound sales strategy that works

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Author photo: Dann Albright

Dann Albright


Does your sales team run like a well-oiled machine? Is everyone in sync and aligned on things like buyer profiles, goals, and incentives? Does everyone know exactly what they’re supposed to do and when?

If not, your team is losing efficiency. And if you want to generate the best results possible, you need to remedy the problem.

That’s where an outbound sales strategy comes in. A properly formulated and documented sales strategy ensures that your team has the resources they need to do what they do best: sell.

Don’t have an outbound sales strategy yet? Don’t worry—we’re here to help. Follow the six steps below to build an effective strategy from scratch.

1. Create (really good) buyer personas.

An outbound sales strategy is built on knowing who you’re selling to. Even if you know your customers well, having detailed buyer personas will be a big help to your salespeople.

Here's an example by Filestage:

Filestage’s buyer persona template contains lots of information that might be useful to salespeople.

This is an easy step to skip. Especially if you’ve been in business for a while. But it’s a crucial one. Clearly defined buyer personas help your sales prospecting, too—it’s much easier to prioritize prospects when you know which ones are most likely to buy.

Businesses use various personas. For instance, if you have a niche product, you might have a single buyer persona. But if you sell a wide range of products to different segments, you’ll likely have several personas you want to reach.

Be sure to spend time getting these personas right. What are your customers looking to accomplish? What problems are they trying to solve? What emotional connection can you establish with your brand?

The answers to these questions are useful not only in establishing your outbound sales strategy, but they also help your salespeople ask the right questions and make compelling pitches that speak to the needs and pain points of each persona.

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2. Choose the right tools for your outbound sales strategy.

There’s a seemingly infinite number of sales tools you can use. Which will be the most beneficial to your strategy? The answer depends on your company.

Before you choose any other tool, though, choose a CRM. Your CRM is the heart of your sales process and keeps your sales team as organized and efficient as possible. That means more time selling and less time messing around with tool that requires more maintenance, like a sales spreadsheet.

A modern CRM can deliver automated email sequences, saving your team tons of time on communication. It can track every customer interaction across multiple reps for better team selling. Provide you with actionable information like real-time sales pipelines. Even forecast your sales based on previous performance.

In short, a CRM can help every part of your outbound sales process.

Once you’ve chosen a CRM, you’ll want an email automation tool. Email has become a staple tool of outbound sales, and using an effective tool will make your salespeople’s lives easier.

Mailchimp, AWeber, and Mailshake are popular options, but there are plenty of others. Many CRMs also include this functionality. Find a system that works for your company and run with it.

Depending on your sales process, you might also want to include other types of tools, like premium email finding apps, calling software, or sales-specific software that work with your CRM.

3. Plan sales training and enablement.

The importance of sales and prospecting training can’t be overstated, especially when you’re putting a new strategy in place. Salespeople need to be trained both on sales basics and factors specific to your company, like product details and the specifics of your strategy.

You can run the training in house or hire someone else to do it, but it’s important that you plan for it when creating your strategy.

What are the most important things for your salespeople to know? What will they have to change when you adopt this strategy?

It’s also a good idea to adopt ongoing training along with your outbound sales strategy. It helps keep your reps sharp and may increase retention, according to TalentCulture CEO Meghan M. Biro.

You can also help your salespeople perform their best by building sales enablement into your strategy from the beginning.

Sales enablement ensures that your reps have the right information at the right time. It means connecting them with marketing to create materials they can use on sales calls. Making sure they understand the implementation process so they can better answer customer questions. Training them in common support issues to save customers time.

It’s important to include this practice in your outbound sales strategy because you need a plan for how sales enablement will actually happen. Will you give sales reps access to your marketing team’s cloud storage? Create a central database with items that might be useful for sales? Or use some other method?

Spend some time making sure that your sales reps have access to the information they need. It will pay off in the long run.

4. Set targets and provide incentives for hitting them.

Quotas and goals are a familiar part of any sales strategy. Reps might have quotas for the number of calls they make, emails they send, or deals they close. Or you can use a more bottom-line approach and set goals for the value of deals they close.

These targets can be great for motivation, but you’ll need to use some finesse in setting them. Targets that are too easy to hit aren’t motivating. Targets that are too hard to hit can lead to frustration and burnout.

Only you know which sales goals are realistic for your team. Your best bet is to use previous sales data. How many sales resulted from previous sales strategies? Or how many sales were you able to make when you started the company and were selling on your own?

If you have a niche product with a low number of high-value sales, your quotas might be lower than a company with a wide range of products that sells to lots of people. You’ll need to take factors like this into account when setting realistic and motivating sales goals.

And remember that you don’t have to get your goals exactly right the first time. You can always adjust them as you go on.

Once you’ve set those goals, you’ll need to have a way to motivate your salespeople to hit them. Salespeople are often intrinsically motivated, but adding a bit of extra incentive helps keep them focused on the task and cognizant of team goals.

Cash bonuses are a staple incentive, but there are many ways you can reward hitting sales numbers. Xactly, a provider of incentive compensation solutions, recommends gadgets, spa days, wine club memberships, and all sorts of other creative sales incentives.

5. Finalize and document your processes.

At this point, you’ve made a lot of decisions and organized a lot of information. It’s time to make sure that information is documented. A great outbound sales strategy isn’t going to do you any good if no one knows what it is.

Now is the time to assemble the documentation that shows sales reps, managers, and executives how the outbound sales process goes from marketing to prospecting to sales to implementation (or whatever the first post-sales step is at your company).

Spare no details in this documentation. Anyone looking at it should know exactly what to do at any step in the process.

Your sales process documentation doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should be as detailed as possible.

Just as important, if not more, is storing this information in a location where your reps can access it easily. A learning management system or a central data repository will work. But just putting it there isn’t enough—you also need to let people know it’s available.

No one should wonder what’s supposed to happen next in the sales process. As long as they can access this documentation, they’ll always know what to do after each step of your outbound sales strategy.

Keep the documentation updated, too. Your sales process will change as your company and sales team grow. Don’t let this documentation get out of date.

6. Measure your success and update as needed.

After you’ve crafted your strategy and started using it in your day-to-day sales operations, it’s time to start seeing how well it works. Your CRM can give you information like the number of sales each rep has made, whether they’re meeting their quotas, and closing rates.

But you’ll also want to track important sales metrics like lead response time and pipeline performance. Watch for areas that aren’t improving or that are falling behind other metrics and take action to correct those trends.

Update your strategy based on what you find.

You might also use these metrics as motivation for your team. Post key metrics publicly on dashboards to foster a sense of competition and help reps see how close they are to earning incentives.

Build the foundation first.

An effective strategy is the foundation of outbound sales success. It’s easy to skip straight to selling, because it feels like you’re being more productive. But diving in without a strategy makes it harder for you to get the most out of your team’s time and effort. And leaving deals on the table isn’t going to help you hit your sales targets.

Take the time to develop a strong outbound sales strategy. You might be itching to get your reps moving, but you’ll be glad you stepped back to develop an analyzable, repeatable process.

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