The Four Pillars of Outbound Sales Success

By: Michael McEuen

It’s become increasingly more challenging for sales reps to capture the attention of key decision-makers. They must compete with over 120 business emails an exec receives daily, while 80% of their calls go straight to voicemail (according to HBR).

Yet, an analysis by Crunchbase found that SaaS organizations that don’t cold call grow 42% slower than those that do. So, while getting an outbound program off the ground can be frustrating and expensive, it’s often a crucial channel to drive revenue.

To improve your team’s odds of creating a repeatable, steady stream of outbound pipeline, there are four crucial components to focus on.

Pillar I: Culture

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

Building a purposeful culture is essential. It helps reps understand the WHY behind their activities, be more resilient in adversity, and push themselves past their comfort zones to achieve their goals.

Tips for creating a winning culture:

  1. Encourage reps not to fear failure and openly share their triumphs and low points with the team.
    • Create spiffs for challenging milestones, like top rep with the most hangups.
  2. Celebrate the inputs, not just the outputs.
    • Track meaningful conversations held and celebrate them as wins, not just opportunities generated.
  3. Win together as a team.
    • Foster camaraderie and competition amongst reps with call blitzes, including the SDR manager(s).
    • If you’re working onsite, sit in a room together and move connected calls to speaker phones. If you’re remote, create a lively Slack channel and share call recordings and email templates.
  4. Be selective in who joins the crew.
    • Create ideal candidate profiles and interview scorecards.
    • Move out underperformers quickly and ensure your top reps are free to sell and surrounded by talent that motivates them.
  5. Share your team’s performance and pacing every day.
    • Have your reps prepare updates, including goal pacing, wins, and challenges before one-on-ones.

Pillar II: Goals and Reporting

The success of an outbound program is determined by the leadership’s ability to set clear goals that align with a company’s top priorities, coupled with the ability of their team to track, and hit those goals consistently.

These are the elements you need to get the plumbing right:

  1. Team goals should be built using top-down and bottom-up approaches.
    • Opportunity goals should be based on the company’s new revenue goals, analyzing historic win rates and average sales price.
    • Confirm the goals are achievable by dividing the opportunity goals by rep, accounting for new employee ramp time, and determining if the amount of activity to drive the opportunities is reasonable.
      • Look at the number of active business days and expected/reasonable daily activity for each rep, and use historical conversion rates (dials to meetings, meetings to opportunities, etc.).
  2. The ability for reps and managers to know how they track in real-time is crucial.
    • Each rep should be able to see their daily activity, month-to-date trends of meetings set, demos held, and opportunities booked in a refreshable dashboard.
    • Managers should be able to see trends across the team(s), drill into an individual rep’s performance, and share the highlights in a 1:1 coaching session.
      • Revenue Operations should be building these reports and dashboard views in your CRM.

Pillar III: Process and Enablement

We can’t expect reps to be successful without training and guidance. Successful SDR programs require coaching, upfront expectation setting, and significant operations and marketing help.

These are the building blocks for a tight process and enablement:

  1. What “good” looks like needs to be defined.
    • Reps should have access to a library of examples of excellent calls and email messaging that received replies.
    • Teams should be educated on the critical pain points your product solves for each buying committee member.
    • Daily activity (phone call and email volume), monthly meetings scheduled, and demo ran goals should be clear.
  2. Tight collaboration with AEs removes friction and doubt.
    • Map out the account and contact handoff process; make it as straightforward as possible.
    • When going upmarket, consider pairing SDRs and AEs in pods, which can encourage tight feedback loops and qualification criteria.
  3. Your Target Accounts & Contact Lists should be distributed top-down.
    • Marketing should collaborate with sales leadership and executives to define your Ideal Customer Profile.
    • Taking those inputs, Revenue Operations should create a list of Target Accounts and review them with Sales and Marketing leadership.
    • Once confirmed, 2 – 3 contacts should be auto-enriched to your Target Accounts based on seniority and job title (including contact email and phone information).
    • Target lists should be distributed fairly to the reps and displayed as actionable contact and account views in your CRM.

Pillar IV: Technology

Each rep needs a critical layer of technology investment to be successful and drive the activities needed to generate new sales opportunities.

Critical technology investments to consider:

  1. A CRM containing your prospect and customer records.
  2. A VOIP dialer integrated with your CRM (as many organizations don’t have physical desk phones).
  3. Call recording software to review individual calls and see trends across a team.
  4. A sales engagement tool to create sequences, send emails to multiple prospects, and sync activity tracking to your CRM.
  5. A contact enrichment tool that reveals the email addresses and phone number contacts of target prospects.
    • Sales operations admin support is needed to purchase, set up, fine-tune, and run these applications.

Investing time on these tools can help your organization become more structured, repeatable, and efficient. Often, outbound programs fail because organizations will hire reps first before investing in culture, goal setting, reporting, enablement, and technology, thinking they can figure things out while the program is in motion. This becomes an expensive mistake, contributing to SDR’s high rate of 39%+ attrition in lost productivity and new rep recruiting.

So, ensure your leadership team is invested in building the proper foundation, and revenue can soon follow. Now, go crush your 2024 goals!

Mike is a Senior Director of Demand Generation at Mainsail. He helps Mainsail’s portfolio companies build, optimize, and strengthen their demand generation & sales impact strategies.
More by Michael McEuen
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