Last updated on August 7th, 2023
In this definitive guide, I’ll be going over what outbound lead generation is, why your business needs it, and the best outbound strategies for 2020 and beyond.
While it should be every business’s top priority for sustainability to establish an inbound lead machine, outbound lead generation is far from dead.
In fact, it’s one of the best ways for businesses to get leads fast, and gives smaller companies a better shot against the competition.
We’ll be covering:
- What is Outbound Sales?
- Outbound vs. Inbound Lead Generation
- 5 Benefits of Outbound Sales Strategies
- Outbound Prospecting — Targeting & Personalization is Key
- 9 Outbound Sales Strategies that Get Results
Let’s start with the basics.
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What is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales is a sales method by which a seller goes to a lead to sell a product or service. Outbound lead generation is the process of acquiring leads by manually targeting, prospecting, and reaching out to a potential lead.
In simpler terms, it means you are going to the customer; the customer is not coming to you.
An example of outbound marketing would be a telemarketer. They’re notoriously known for being the peskiest salespeople, but everyone probably has had a telemarketer call them before. (They’re also a good example of how you shouldn’t run your outbound sales campaign.)
Let’s quickly sum up the characteristics of outbound lead generation.
According to Seth Godin, if people didn’t give you the permission to contact them, you’re doing an outbound lead generation.
So if you bought an email list, or hid some fine print on your opt-in form, then you didn’t really get permission from your audience to contact them.
The real permission would work like this: if you stop showing up, your audience would start asking where you went. And they might even contact you to find it out.
On the other hand, if you generated a subscriber using a web form that clearly said something like “Subscribe to our email list to get updated on newest marketing trends”, then you’re doing inbound lead generation.
As a result, your prospects have clear expectations: they give you their email address in exchange for receiving valuable content. And this is a straightforward agreement.
2. Paid Vs. Organic
What makes marketers confused is paid vs. unpaid aspect of lead generation. Some think that “paid = outbound” and “organic = inbound’.
While this is technically right, inbound and outbound lead gen are much more complex than that. If they weren’t then they’d be simply called “paid” and “unpaid”.
For example, it might come as a surprise, but Google Ads belongs to an inbound lead generation tactics. It’s because your target audience will only see your Google Ad after they begin searching for a solution to their problem. So even though Google Ads is a paid channel, potential customers are still coming to you by themselves.
We’ll go over the benefits of running a high-quality outbound campaign in a moment. Still, when it’s done right, the ROI of outbound marketing can be exceptional — especially for B2B businesses.
Outbound vs. Inbound Lead Generation
The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you that outbound lead generation is better than inbound. Before explaining outbound and the reasoning why you need outbound sales techniques, you should also understand inbound sales.
Inbound marketing is all the rave with marketers these days, and for a good reason. With inbound, customers are organically going to the seller. Who wouldn’t want an organic, passive sales process?
A lot of inbound marketing fanatics may tell you that outbound lead generation is dead.
But that’s simply not the case. Although — it depends on what type of industry you’re in.
I’ll begin this discussion by comparing inbound vs. outbound marketing in B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer) industries.
B2C — Inbound vs. Outbound Lead Generation
When it comes to most B2C industries, customers tend to favor inbound marketing.
And the reasoning is simple:
- It’s less salesy. Inbound marketing tactics such as content marketing and SEO attract leads organically and are primarily about being as helpful to the user as possible. Meanwhile, outbound is known as “interruption marketing” since people usually aren’t actively searching for what you’re selling.
- It’s not as spammy. In the B2C market, the volume of buyers is drastically more than B2B, and the ticket price of items is usually a lot less for B2C. So for an outbound lead generation to be profitable, it’d have to be done at a much larger scale. This could easily lead to a sacrifice of personalization in the campaign — which makes it more spammy.
Just think about it:
Remember a time when you were forced to watch an annoying ad on TV for the 100th time, or a sales rep walked up to you at the mall. It felt pretty obnoxious, right? (if you’re anything like me)
B2B — Outbound vs. Inbound Lead Generation
The B2B world is much different than B2C.
To put it into perspective B2B emails see a 23% higher open rate than B2C emails.
The number of buyers is much less, and the sellers are selling higher-ticket items. Typically whatever is being sold helps businesses make more money, which is a strong selling point in itself.
An inbound lead generation machine works perfectly with B2B when done right — it’s organic, brings passive leads, and the leads are more likely to convert.
However, outbound sales techniques can still be very effective when used on other businesses.
If your service or product can help them make more money, then paying you is a no-brainer, so a lot of the time, it won’t even matter if the lead is cold. Assuming your targeting and campaign were on point, that is…
5 Benefits of Outbound Sales Strategies
Now that you know the difference between the two main marketing strategies — let’s go over five compelling advantages to outbound sales.
The first reason outbound sales still has its place in the marketing world is it usually gets results much faster than inbound strategies.
I’ll use SEO & content marketing as an example. These two inbound marketing techniques take time. Not only will it take months or years for the investment to pay off due to competition, but creating the content takes time, and lots of resources, too.
This is precisely where outbound tactics come in. Instead of posting a blog post and waiting for it to rank on Google (an inbound strategy), you could be sending cold emails to a targeted pool of qualified leads and get prospects virtually immediately. Assuming you did everything right.
So to sum things up:
Outbound sales techniques get you results faster.
The second part about using an outbound tactic that can make it superior to inbound — is personalization.
When you reach out to a potential prospect, you’re going to need a special personalized message that resonates with a lead to get them to respond.
Personalization is key to outbound marketing to separate yourself from the low-value spam messages that people get every day.
Choosing an outbound technique gives you the chance to have a connection and build rapport early on in the sales process.
#3: Controllability of Pace
Inbound marketing is great for getting an unlimited amount of leads every day. But if you’re a digital agency that can only take on a certain number of clients at a time, you don’t need that.
And that’s what makes an outbound campaign so nice. Once you’ve perfected your targeting, offer, and sales process, you can easily regulate the number of prospects in your pipeline.
#4: Controllability of Targeting
You get to control the type of prospect you get and choose to have as many prospects as you want.
Yes, you can somewhat control who you’re targeting in an inbound search-focused campaign, but there are some things you can’t control. One of those things would be the size of the companies that are reaching out to you (if you’re B2B).
But when you’re choosing the companies to target in — for example — an email campaign, you can easily weed out any leads that are too small or big.
#5: It Can Become Partially Automated
There’s no debate when it comes to getting passive leads that inbound marketing is king. And I’m not going to lie to you and say outbound beats inbound in the automation field.
But that’s not to say you can’t automate your outreach for your lead generation. It’s not as easy, but it is doable with the right team and software tools.
Here’s how to automate your outbound lead generation:
The first step to automating your outbound sales process would be to come up with a system.
Choosing the right sales CRM is going to play a role in creating a system that you can use time and time again.
After you create the perfect system, you’ll be able to automate a good portion of the lead generation process.
But you won’t be able to automate all of it without turning your campaign into spam (which is a terrible decision if you want to be a reputable brand).
So that’s where hiring a sales team comes into play. You have two options for this part:
1) Hire an in-house sales team (if it’s in your budget).
2) Outsource the parts of the process (like collecting leads or personalized first lines) to freelancers. Contracting out freelancers can be more affordable since you can choose talent from around the world. Just make sure not to sacrifice quality. (The system you created will help train the freelancers and keep them in check.)
Outbound Prospecting — Targeting
Before I share the best outbound sales strategies with you, there are two things you need to know that can make or break your campaign.
The first is targeting. Targeting the right lead pool is going to be crucial to the success of your campaigns.
It makes sense:
If your messages or efforts are being sent to a person, business, or organization that isn’t your ideal prospect, it was all for nothing.
Make sure you narrow down a lead pool in your ideal industry, niche, and size. After that’s taken care of, make sure you’re specifically targeting the person who calls the shots. This is especially important for B2B.
If you sell marketing services, you’ll most likely want to talk to a CEO or owner — or a CMO — depending on the size of the company you’re targeting.
Personalization Makes or Breaks Outbound Campaigns
The second imperative factor that can be the only thing separating you and the other guys is personalization (like I mentioned before).
If you’re running an email campaign, the last thing you want is your emails delivered right into your leads’ “Spam” folder.
There are various ways to add a personalized touch to your outreach campaign.
Here are some tips to stand out and increase your response rate — even with cold leads:
- Start with a personalized first line about the person you’re contacting. A specific compliment or something you relate to that they did is a good start. Don’t use any generalized first lines like “I love your business.” That would be an obvious sign to the lead that they’re part of a mail merge.
- Add a personalized video. You don’t have to put too much effort into a video, but sending a short video email with unique insight into how you can help can do wonders.
- Provide free value. You can also include tips for things they can do to solve their unique problem to provide initial value to increase your response rate. You could include these tips in a video, too.
What are the Types of Outbound Lead Generation?
There are various strategies you can use in an outbound sales campaign, but for the most part, they can be divided into two categories:
- Not in-person
The type of business you’re running will depend on which, or if both, are good for you.
If you strictly work with other online businesses, then doing a cold in-person approach wouldn’t make sense. But if you’re a marketing agency that works with local brick & mortar businesses, then cold approaches and calls may be your best bet.
Now let’s review the most cost-effective tactics to maximize your outbound lead gen efforts in 2021:
#1: Cold Email
Thought cold email was dead?
Well, you might want to think again.
According to BtoB Magazine, 59% of B2B marketers say email is their best channel for generating revenue. It’s so effective that some companies use cold email as their primary marketing source for acquiring leads.
And when done right, it can be for you, too.
Email is far from dead in 2020, especially considering businesses and consumers are checking their email numerous times throughout the day.
As I mentioned, when discussing outbound strategies’ advantages, cold emails are most effective for B2B companies.
Possibly the biggest pro to choosing email as your weapon of choice for your outbound campaigns is its versatility. Practically anyone you could ever dream of contacting has an email. And the automation you can tie into your email systems is endless.
You can even automate entire workflows.
#2: Cold Calls
If you thought cold email was dead, you definitely thought the same for cold calling.
But believe it or not, for certain businesses, cold calling is very relevant. According to RAIN Group, 69% of buyers claimed to have accepted a cold call in 2019.
While cold calling isn’t the fanciest or scaleable form of outreach out there, it does have some advantages.
Besides going out and meeting a lead face-to-face, calling them is one of the most personable approaches you can take.
You don’t want to be like a spammy telemarketer. You should be ready to provide a personalized message, and some initial value to spark interest. As long as you listen to those two rules, you’ll already be more likable than a telemarketer.
Also, in the day-in-age of everything being online, some buyers might find the personable approach of a cold call to be more refreshing.
#3: LinkedIn & Other Social Media
Virtual networking on social media has come a long way. However, I’d like to start with LinkedIn since it’s more of a business-focused social media.
As far as social media goes, LinkedIn is most likely going to be your best bet.
Statista research found that 66% of B2B marketers found LinkedIn to be effective, with Twitter coming in at second with 55%. Meanwhile, Facebook only had the approval of 30%.
Don’t get it twisted, though; social media can be used for inbound strategies, too — especially if you’ve built up a following. But since this article is about outbound marketing, I’m mainly talking about using it as a form of outreach.
There is one downside to using social media like LinkedIn for your outreach — which is spam. And LinkedIn is notorious for random people trying to connect to sell you their services.
But the worst part?
The majority of strangers trying to connect don’t include any personalization. On the bright side, this can make it easier for people who do high-quality outreach to stand out.
#4: Online Communities
This one is probably one that doesn’t get enough credit in the marketing world these days. After all, it’s not a commonly practiced one.
By “online communities,” I’m talking about things like Facebook groups, Subreddits, and forums.
Unlike the other outreach strategies I just discussed, this strategy is unique since you’re not reaching out to individuals from a lead pool. Instead, you’re jumping into a community that is the lead pool.
However, just don’t jump into a Facebook group and start promoting your business. That’s just flat-out spammy and is an easy way to make people dislike you.
The key, like anything with sales and marketing, is to provided value first. So the right way to do this is to join and observe the community for a while. Whenever someone posts about a problem that you can help with, offer valuable advice and tips. Providing this value will build trust.
After some time and building relationships (which is a huge part of sales) with the community members, it’ll then be a lot easier to sell and get them to buy.
#5: Job Boards
Job boards are another strategy you can add to your outbound campaign — and another many might not always think about.
Some marketers might argue that job boards don’t count as a form of outbound marketing, but I disagree. As long as you’re treating the job postings as outreach opportunities, these leads can be easy slam dunks.
This one is specifically for service-based businesses and is a favorite among freelancers and smaller agencies.
Possibly the most significant advantage of doing outreach on job boards such as Upwork is that the leads are much much (much) warmer. Often, people are posting jobs in search of someone similar to you to solve their problems.
You can even use filters and advanced search to niche-down your targeting.
Combine this advanced targeting with a personalized Loom video for each job posting, and you can fill up your pipeline in a week or two.
This technique isn’t without caveats, though. Despite the warmer leads, your ideal lead pool can be much smaller than you’d like and can lack qualified leads.
#6: Networking Events
Now it’s time to get to the other kind of outbound campaign — the in-person strategies.
Networking events are by no means a highly scalable way to market your business, but they are an excellent way to connect with a group of highly qualified leads.
The trick to acquiring leads through networking events is to attend niched-down events full of your ideal lead.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a SaaS company that specializes in helping e-commerce brands. Although it might sound like a good idea to go to a SaaS meetup to link-up with like-minded people, this is the wrong approach.
A better — and more targeted approach would be to attend an e-commerce event. This way, you put yourself in a position to get to know your target customer and meet potential leads.
But even if you attend an event and get no leads, the insight you gained will be enough to say it was worth it. Don’t believe me? A study from the Economist Intelligence Unit found that networking is crucial to the success of 78% of startups.
#7: Cold Approaching
Out of every strategy we’ve discussed, this has to take the cake for being the most old-fashioned. However, even an old-fashioned strategy has a place in today’s marketing world.
In a way, a cold approach is very similar to a cold call, except it’s in person.
This strategy is going to be most effective for businesses that work with local brick & mortar businesses, or directly with consumers.
An advantage can be the ability to gain instant access to decision-makers and to make an impression on them in person. How receptive a business will be to this sort of tactic will likely vary quite a bit from industry to industry.
The cons of this approach are that it lacks scalability and the pros that come with other forms of digital marketing. If you are to try this technique, it’d be best to still do research online beforehand to have some type of targeting strategy.
#8: Multichannel Outreach
While you can still have a primary channel to target your audience, you shouldn’t disregard others. Multichannel outreach helps you reach more of your ideal audience. For example, some people prefer Twitter over Facebook. Being present on both platforms can only increase your lead generation efforts.
But it’s not only about social media.
In fact, 82% of buyers reported that they have accepted meetings with salespeople after receiving a series of contacts through various channels. These include cold sales calls, personalized emails, social media ads, and so on.
To sum it up, multichannel outreach helps you:
- Spread company awareness
- Increase customer retention rates
- Create a full customer journey
#9: Content Syndication
Content syndication is one of the most cost-effective ways to generate leads online. It’s the process of distributing your content online to reach your ideal audience.
Overall, content syndication helps you:
- Create brand awareness
- Build brand credibility
- Boost content ROI
But don’t confuse content syndication with (guest) blogging. Blogging generates inbound leads while content syndication is all about outbound lead generation.
For example, with content syndication, you get to choose who and when reads your content. You can distribute your content through cold calling or email marketing (cold emails).
4 most commonly used content types for content syndication include:
Automating Your Outbound Sales Process
After you’ve successfully generated an outbound lead, it’s time to book a meeting for a discovery phone call to turn that lead into a prospect. Check out our discovery sales call template to learn how to prepare for the next step in the sales process.
Are you ready to get help automating your outbound lead generation process?
Outbound Lead Generation FAQ
Direct emails and phone calls are excellent examples of outbound lead generation.
Traditional outbound marketing channels businesses use to advertise their products and services include television, magazines, newspapers, and radio.
SEO is an excellent example of inbound lead generation strategies. It uses search traffic to spread content that is personalized to a certain audience. As a result, it can attract customers to your brand who are more inclined to buy items or make other conversions.