Early-stage companies often cast too wide a net when defining their target customer base. They believe the more prospects, the better — but pursuing the wrong types of prospects wastes precious time, cash, and sales resources. There’s a high opportunity cost to chasing someone who won’t buy (or buys and quickly churns).
All the while, your competitors are entering the market and getting to large and enterprise clients more quickly than you. This is why having an outreach strategy is critical.
What is outreach strategy?
An outreach strategy is a specific set of tactics intended to attract new business. Depending on the complexity of your sales organization, your outreach strategy can consist of one action or a combination of multiple tactics.
I’ve now helped three early-stage tech companies go from zero revenue to cash-flow positive. Honing in on the most valuable accounts and customer stakeholders has helped me accelerate B2B sales at each of these. In fact, the company I currently lead, Spotted Media, used these tactics below to acquire our first set of customers before we even had a fully functioning web site.
Sales Outreach Strategy
- Create an ideal customer profile.
- 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.
1. Create an ideal customer profile.
An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) should consist of five strict bullet points that you will not waver on. This means you can’t work any prospect who does not check all five boxes of your ICP.
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 Ideal Customer Profile, the next step is thinking through the people who work for this ideal customer. Stop asking yourself surface-level questions like, “Are they in marketing?” and start asking yourself in-depth, meaningful questions about these professionals’ motivations.
That leads me to the next step.
2. Create a persona map.
Choose the three primary roles that you sell into (e.g. the VP of Advertising, the VP of Media, and the VP of Brand Marketing), then outline the following for each of these three roles:
- The buyer’s 2-3 primary daily responsibilities (projects they work on and think about every day)
- 2-3 ways your company can help make the buyer’s daily responsibilities easier
- The buyer’s 2-3 longer-term goals
- 2-3 ways in which your company can help further the buyer’s longer-term goals
- How your company can get this person promoted faster than their peers
This approach will save you and your team a great deal of time in the future when you’re at your laptop thinking, “What messaging and language should I use when reaching out to this person?” By filling in the five points above for each of your target roles, your outreach messaging will practically craft itself. Repurpose points #2 and #4 specifically for your email outreach.
These should appear within the first few sentences of your outreach emails to the target contact. Here is an example:
You’ve mapped out the specifics of your ideal customer, the personal motivations of the stakeholders -- now where do you go from here? To focus your outreach on the right people, you have to prioritize.
3. Prioritize your personas.
Prioritize your personas by ranking each buyer on a scale from one to five on the following:
- Alignment with your solution
- Size of their budget
- Level of influence within the organization
Once you’ve calculated the scores for alignment, budget, and influence, lay out a strategic plan for your outreach starting with the buyers with the highest totals. (In this example, the VP of Media ranks the highest.)
This exercise will drastically reduce wasted time and optimize your outreach 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. If possible, aim to reach out to prospects via the channel they are most engaged in.
Did you notice your prospect is especially active on LinkedIn? That could be a good platform to make your initial contact from.
Is your prospect on your company’s email list, opening every email? This tells you their inbox is active and they are conditioned to engaging with emails from your company. In this case, email outreach could be a good fit.
What channel you use to reach out to contacts will vary depending on the prospect’s preference, what information you have available, and the nature of the sale. Don’t be afraid to meet prospects where they are.
5. Personalize your messaging.
As you know, landing the sale with a new customer largely depends on your ability to build trust with them. Few things build trust with a new customer like a tailored message that makes prospects feel seen, heard, and understood.
When conducting outreach, customize your message with the prospect’s name, company name (if selling B2B), and relevant context you have about the recipient or the problem they are trying to solve.
While using templates or scripts can be a good way to keep your messages structured and to improve efficiency, avoid coming across overly scripted or sending generic emails. Sending thoughtful personalized messages feel less salesy, and are more likely to receive a response.
6. Send a follow-up.
You successfully contacted a prospect and had a great consultation — congratulations! When is the next time they can expect to hear from you? If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to send a follow-up message so your conversation stays top of mind.
Here’s an example:
This message recaps the conversation you had with the prospect and establishes your willingness to answer any questions they may 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.
Last but certainly not least, make sure all of your outreach efforts are documented in your CRM. Having all of your prospect data logged in one central location makes the rest of the sales process easier because you are able to pick up right where you left off without searching for information.
In the event a team member has to take over an account for you, everything they need to know to finish the sale will be clearly laid out.
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 business.
Originally published Dec 10, 2019 6:00:00 PM, updated December 11 2019