Companies often believe the more prospects, the better — but pursuing the wrong types of prospects wastes precious time, cash, and resources. That's why having a well-constructed outreach plan is absolutely critical to your sales department's immediate effectiveness and long-term success.
In this post, we’ll define outreach strategy, review some sales outreach statistics, see some actionable sales outreach tactics, and go over some essential sales outreach tools.
What is outreach strategy?
An outreach strategy is a specific set of tactics intended to attract new customers. Depending on the complexity of your sales organization, your outreach strategy can consist of one action or a combination of multiple tactics.
There's no one-size-fits-all model for an effective outreach plan. How you structure yours will rest on your business needs, the nature of your product or service, and the personas you're targeting. That being said, some common objectives guide how many — if not most — outreach strategies are constructed.
Those include goals like closing deals, initiating new relationships with prospects, building trust with your audience, educating leads on your offerings, or simply making contact with potential customers for the first time.
For many, the term "outreach" is most closely associated with traditional models like cold calling and door-to-door visits — but modern sales teams aren't restricted to those more dated methods.
With access to a diverse array of channels — including email, phone, social media, and marketing campaigns — today's sales teams can readily conduct more versatile, wide-reaching outreach.
By and large, teams most involved in conducting sales outreach are salespeople and their managers, but nowadays, assisting outreach isn't always specific to the sales org — marketing teams occasionally provide additional insight to flesh out better-informed, more effective outreach efforts.
Before we get into the hard, actionable strategies you can use to shape your sales outreach plan, let's take a look at some key sales outreach statistics.
Sales Outreach Statistics
- 41.2% of salespeople said their phone is the most effective sales tool at their disposal.
- 19% of buyers want to connect with a salesperson during the awareness stage of their buying process — when they're first learning about the product.
- 60% want to connect with sales during the consideration stage — after they've researched the options and come up with a shortlist.
- 20% want to talk during the decision stage — once they're decided which product to buy.
- Only 24% of sales emails are opened.
- 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls
- 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call.
- Eight out of 10 prospects want to talk to sales reps via email over any other medium.
Sales Outreach Strategies
- Create a persona map.
- Prioritize your personas.
- Determine the best outreach channel.
- Personalize your messaging.
- Schedule a follow-up.
- Record all information in your CRM.
- Align with marketing teams.
- Automate whenever possible.
1. Create an ideal customer profile.
An ideal customer profile (ICP) should consist of five strict bullet points — those will guide who you reach out to and how you reach out to them. If any prospects don't check all five boxes, aim to discount them.
An ICP might consist of the following:
- Revenue size (e.g., more than $200 million in annual sales).
- Employee count (e.g., no fewer than 1,000 verified LinkedIn employees).
- Organization’s employee structure (e.g., the brand must have an in-house media team).
- Type of product sold (e.g., a direct manufacturer).
- A mutual goal (e.g., a manufacturer that cares about increasing brand awareness).
Once you’ve created your ICP, start thinking of who might work for a company that fits your ideal bill, and be sure to think beyond the surface. Don't ask superficial, trivial questions like, "Are they in marketing?" Instead, address in-depth, meaningful issues and concerns regarding their professional motivations.
That leads me to the next step.
2. Create a persona map.
Choose the three primary roles that you sell to — like the VP of advertising, VP of Media, and VP of Brand Marketing — and identify the following for each role:
- The buyer’s two to three primary daily responsibilities, like projects they work on and think about each day.
- Two to three ways your company can help make their day-to-day tasks more manageable.
- Two to three of the buyer’s long-term goals.
- Two to three ways your company can help further the buyer’s longer-term goals.
This approach will save you valuable time and effort. By filling in the five points listed above, you can easily craft effective outreach messaging — saving you valuable time and effort that would otherwise go into putting your messaging together without structure.
When conducting email outreach, you can repurpose points two and three for targeted messaging. Here is an example:
So let's say you’ve mapped out the specifics of your ideal customer and the stakeholders’ motivations — now, where do you go from there? You can start by prioritizing the right prospects.
3. Prioritize your personas.
Prioritize the personas you create by ranking each buyer on a scale from one to five on the following metrics:
- Alignment with your solution.
- Size of their budget.
- Level of influence within their organization.
Once you’ve calculated the scores, lay out a strategic plan for your outreach that begins with buyers with the highest totals. This process is sometimes called Account-Based Selling — a strategy that focuses on bringing in the right clients instead of the most clients. The email below is an example of an outreach email to a VP of media, a high-ranking lead.
This exercise will drastically reduce wasted time and optimize your outreach — all while allowing you to get in front of the right people faster.
4. Determine the best outreach channel.
Not all outreach channels are created equal, so do what you can to identify the ones your prospects are most active on. Once you've done that, meet them there, and connect with them on their turf — for instance, if you notice a prospect is particularly active on LinkedIn, see if you can initiate contact over the platform.
Or maybe your prospect is on your company's email list and opens every email they receive. That would tell you their inbox is active and they consistently engage with emails from your business. In that case, email outreach could be a solid bet.
The outreach channel you use at any given time will vary based on the prospect's preferences, the information you have available, and the nature of the sale. One way or another, meet your customers where they are — and treat that process like a priority, not something you throw on the back burner.
5. Personalize your messaging.
Sales, as a practice, is the process of cultivating trust in a tight window. You'll rarely land deals with prospects who aren't sold on you — and coming off as callous, uninterested, and impersonal is one of the easiest ways to undermine a potential business arrangement.
That's why a thoughtful, tailored message can be a crucial asset in moving a sale along. Prospects want to feel seen, heard, and understood — if you can convey all that through your messaging, you can build the kind of trust you need to develop a lasting, productive relationship.
When conducting outreach, customize your message with the prospect’s name, company name (if selling B2B), and any other relevant context you have about the recipient and the problem they're trying to solve.
While using templates or scripts can be a good way to keep your messages structured and improve efficiency, you need to avoid coming across as overly-scripted or generic. Thoughtful, personalized messages will feel less sales-y and are more likely to receive a response.
6. Send a follow-up.
Say you've successfully contacted a prospect and had a productive consultation. Now, you need to address when they can expect to hear from you and touch base with them quickly enough to keep your conversation top of mind.
Sending a follow-up message shortly after your engagement is the best way to get there. Here’s an example:
This message recaps the conversation you had with the prospect and establishes your willingness to answer any questions they might have. It also serves as a reminder about the agreed-upon time and date for your follow-up conversation.
7. Record all information in your CRM.
Documenting your outreach efforts in your preferred customer relationship management (CRM) system is crucial to your outreach plan's success.
Storing all of your prospects’ data in a central location lets you readily pick up where you left off without searching for information — making the rest of your sales process that much easier.
For instance, if a team member has to take over an account for you, logging your data in your CRM gives them everything they need to finish a sale whenever, wherever.
The seven points listed so far are generally enough to establish a solid basis for a sound outreach plan. That said, there are some "bonus" steps to consider that can make your strategy more straightforward and effective.
8. Align with marketing teams.
Sales outreach has a lot in common with certain brands of marketing — after all, outreach is essentially the process of salespeople "advertising" themselves and their businesses to leads.
That common ground — along with outreach's potential for helping generate and retain business — can make sound sales and marketing alignment a cornerstone of an effective outreach plan.
Marketers can review the copy you create for email, social media, and call scripts to ensure that it is on-brand and in keeping with your business tone and style — or they can even supply you with branding copy that you can incorporate yourself.
Analytics are also central to successful marketing efforts, so you can ask them to give you the data you need to decide on the channels you’ll use to conduct your outreach.
For example, maybe you’ve initially planned on making phone calls, but analytics data shows that emails with CTAs are the most effective for driving conversions. Your marketing team can help you craft the right approach to get the most out of your emails.
9. Automate whenever possible.
Automation is becoming a staple of sales org's operations and for good reason — the right automation tools can enhance productivity and save valuable time, taking the inefficient legwork out of the more repetitive, rote tasks associated with sales outreach.
There are various routes you can choose to take based on your individual business needs, but you should at least look into standard tools that help with processes like email automation or setting meeting reminders — along with pipeline analytics tools that help you understand how leads engage with what you send them.
Sales Outreach Tools
Your average customer relationship management (CRM) system offers functionality that can help streamline, simplify, and ultimately enhance your sales outreach efforts.
A CRM provides a shared repository for storing your customer data. It lets various stakeholders within your sales org track any interactions your business has with customers, maintain notes on potential opportunities, and establish and standardize processes and workflows reps can follow to connect with prospects more effectively.
Taken together, those features — among several others — allow your sales team to conduct better-informed, more effective outreach efforts. A CRM can offer a more robust, thoughtful picture of who tends to buy your product or service. With that intel, you can create detailed buyer personas and tailor your messaging to best suit the prospects you connect with.
An estimated 65% of sales organizations used a CRM in 2020 — and that number is bound to trend upward as these systems become more commonplace. If you're not incorporating a CRM into your sales outreach plan at this point, you're selling your sales org short.
2. Email Automation Resources
As I touched on earlier in this article, roughly eight out of 10 prospects want to talk to sales reps via email — so any resources that can expedite and assist your email outreach can be invaluable assets for your sales org.
Email automation tools allow your reps to structure thoughtful, effective messages to be distributed via timely, well-targeted workflows and campaigns. These kinds of resources allow you to push along a high volume of messages that don't sacrifice too much personalization in the interest of efficiency.
Several email automation tools allow you to match the content and cadence of your messaging to suit individual leads' behavior and preferences — considering factors like the emails your prospects open, web pages they visit, and purchases they make when determining what messages they receive at certain stages of their buyer's journeys.
It can be difficult to reconcile thoughtfulness and solid time management when conducting sales outreach — especially when trying to reach prospects via email. Being able to consistently strike a balance between the two is where email automation's value lies.
3. Sales Automation Resources
Sales automation resources — beyond the email ones just mentioned — can add another layer of efficacy to your sales outreach efforts. Tools that allow for automated workflows that notify reps when prospects take noteworthy actions can help your team zero in on who will be most receptive to your contact at certain points in their relationships with your business.
Other sales automation tools like meeting scheduling links, automatic call logging, and predictive lead scoring can help you reach the right prospects at the right time with the right messaging and resources for seamlessly advancing deals.
Your Strategy Will Help You Meet Business Objectives
What’s the result of this upfront investment in strategy? Efficient outreach that specifically addresses the needs of your various buyers. Your messages will resonate more, and your prospects will respond more frequently.
Say goodbye to the typical results at early-stage companies, and say hello to more calls, meetings, and closed deals.