What Is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales refer to prospecting and sales activities initiated by salespersons, engaging prospective buyers using cold calling, email outreach, or any other combination of outbound communications leveraging voice and digital channels. Historically focused on telesales, telemarketing, and email campaigns, outbound sales have expanded dramatically in recent years with more ways to interact virtually available to the masses and Covid forcing all of us to do business remotely.
Virtual Buying and Selling are Here to Stay
Consumer online spending more than doubled in 2020, up over 32% for U.S. businesses, the highest growth in two decades according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures. This jump increased the percentage of online sales share of overall spending in 2020 to 19.6 percent, up 4 percentage points–the biggest year-over-year jump for U.S. retail sales ever recorded. i
While the coronavirus pandemic accelerated this growth in online sales, adding many first-time online buyers, analysts predict, and chief sales officers (CSOs) prepare for lasting changes in shopping behavior and a more permanent shift to virtual selling.
Outbound vs Inbound Sales
Two of the most important sales motions in virtual selling are inbound and outbound sales. They vary greatly in both buyer characteristics and sales approach. The primary difference between the two is in who initiates the relationship or current engagement. Inbound sales happen when the customer or prospect initiates the contact. The buyer is further along in the customer journey. They are already aware, educated, and engaged; they display strong buyer intent. They are a smaller subset of the pipeline. Leads are warm and require less effort and time to convert.
Outbound is cold calling –when the organization makes the first contact with a potential buyer. Outbound selling targets a much larger market. Sales must be proactive and initiate the engagement. Though the sales process for outbound can be slower, having an outbound sales strategy allows organizations to reach out to people who don’t yet know they need your product or solution to solve their problem.
Outbound Sales: No Longer One-Channel, One-to-Many Outreach
Outbound sales have changed dramatically from the outbound telesales or telemarketing of the past, known for aggressive cold calling, robocalling, and scams. Companies would buy lists, maybe come up with a generic script and start cold-calling or mass snail or email blasting out to the universe. There was little customization or knowledge of the buyer beyond the basics, and the communication was a one-time, one-way, one-to-many approach. Today, customer expectations and behaviors have changed.
There is little tolerance for invasive telemarketing calls during dinner. Consumers expect proactive service, personalized interactions, and connected experiences across digital channels. Success in outbound selling is achieved with targeted, personalized, and omnichannel approaches. Traditional–blast-type–approaches are being replaced by multi-touch, multi-channel sequences to engage prospective buyers at the most convenient time, using the best channel, and the most personalized way.
Differences in B2B vs. B2C outbound
While many outbound sales challenges are the same for business-to-business sales (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, the buyer and buying processes vary greatly.
B2B sales characteristics are:
- Very defined, smaller, or niche target market
- Complex purchasing decisions and multiple buyers
- Selling high-priced products or services
- Long, drawn-out sales cycles
- Combination of virtual and in-person
- B2C sales, on the other hand, are the exact opposite in scale and velocity. B2C characteristics are:
- Vast, diverse target market; almost everyone is a potential customer
- Individual consumers with an immediate need
- Selling lower-priced, commodity goods and services
- Buying is often impulsive and instantaneous
- Combination of branches, stores, or over the phone, online but increasingly virtual
Challenges in B2C outbound sales
Outbound selling is considered more difficult and presents unique challenges.
How to Penetrate a Large Market? You are selling to a large, amorphous market. Everyone as a potential buyer makes it difficult to selectively train on one set of behaviors and features that is unique to a prospect. Traditional lead generation and prospecting activities need to be recrafted.
How to Engage, Not Invade? Outbound selling is known as interruption selling because you are interrupting prospects who may not know you and didn’t ask to be contacted. How do you engage and convince the uninterested?
How to maximize agents and time? Outbound sales teams are often measured by contacts made, call length, conversion rates – you have limited agents and time to target and convert buyers making quick decisions. Pandemic-related labor shortages have only added to resource constraints. Who and how do you target effectively and efficiently?
How to Ensure Compliance? The move toward digital selling has increased the significance of information security and telemarketing compliance for contact centers engaged in outbound selling. Top compliance to ensure customer privacy and data protection include obtaining consent to record; ensuring security of credit, debit, and cash transactions; protecting the misuse of personal information; and refraining from misleading or abusive selling and marketing tactics.
Overcome challenges and crush B2C outbound sales
Arming your sales reps with an omnichannel campaign management solution and strategies to engage the B2C market will increase their efficiency and effectiveness in turning prospects into customers. The following is a checklist to tackle the challenges of outbound B2C sales and crush your sales goals.
Omnichannel Outbound Campaign Orchestration to Target, Personalize Outreach
The increase in B2C virtual buying at the expense of in-person, brick-and-mortar sales requires you to go where customers are and do what they do – go online and engage them digitally. So, exactly how do you cut through the noise, engage, and personalize rather than interrupt or invade B2C prospects and customers?
One way is to use multiple channels in an integrated, holistic way to meet prospects where they are. Successful outbound sales organizations leverage omnichannel for personalizing outbound prospecting. Gone are the days of a one channel, many-to-one approach replaced by 1:1 multi-touch, multi-channel campaigns. Look for an engagement solution the delivers the ability to develop, execute and automate outreach omnichannel engagement strategies and campaigns.
Multi-touch, Multichannel Outbound Sequences to Engage Rather Than Interrupt
Key to a successful omnichannel outbound campaign is the ability to create outbound flows using multichannel, multi-touch sequences. Such cadences replace email blasts and voice-only campaigns. They combine email, voice, and– the most effective for B2C–2-way SMS messaging so your sales agents can determine what works and successfully engage and interest prospects.
The ability to define and trigger next best actions per channel is a key component of successful sequencing. Outcomes like voicemail or opened emails or the prospect responding to 2-way SMS messaging suggest next best action such as retry; or when to shift the conversation to another channel.
And just like your prospects, sales reps often prefer and excel at one channel over others. Strong email sales may lead with this channel and add other communication steps such as phone or text. Omnichannel channel sales sequences prove very effective in helping sales convert prospects or upsell or renew existing customers with multichannel notifications, appointment setting, and reminders.
Whether it’s cold calling, cold email, or social selling, the ability to use multiple channels in sequence to augment a sales rep’s bread and butter will drive them towards quota attainment.
Built-In Customer Data Platform and Dialog Designer to Personalize, Optimize Outbound Targeting
Critical to omnichannel outbound campaign management is a Customer Data Platform (CDP), a database that connects all your data sources and gives sales agents an aggregated single view of demographic, behavioral, and transactional and engagement customer data. Access to this real-time view enables sales to engage in show-me-you-know-me outreach.
A rich CDP provides the foundation for segmentation and predictive models including Best-Time-To-Call (BTTC), best channel to use, and propensity models. Sales can target the amorphous B2C market with precision and become personalized advisors and manage and develop relationships with your most valuable customers at scale.
Outbound sales transform from a one-time touch to an integral step in the lifecycle activity of prospects and customers with the ability to aid in outbound selling of subscription renewals, recurring purchases, and repeat business.
A Dialog designer lets you create, test, and rework automated outbound IVR and digital messaging and use live call guide scripts and objection handling based on successful outcomes. These tools enable sales reps to target with precision and to make the most of their prospect engagement.
Full-Featured Dialer Maximizes Resources and Increases Productivity
Despite the growth of other channels, having a direct conversation with your prospect is still one of the best options leading to conversion. Full-featured dialers are integral to omnichannel outbound sales campaign management and sales sequencing. Ensure your dialer supports all dialing modes – preview, progressive/power, predictive, and agentless – letting you choose the best for each campaign. Look for the ability to handle both personal and campaign-level callbacks. Your dialer in combination with powerful contact strategies provide detailed control over the phone number to use and retries based on the outcome of previous attempts.
Analytics and AI-Guided Intelligence Selling to Increase Efficiency and Effectiveness
With limited resources, especially during Covid-19-induced labor shortages, the ability to prioritize outreach and maximize your agent pool is critical to successful outbound sales. Engagement solutions that can target with precision and maximize contact and closing rates are driven by analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)-guided selling.
AI models can deliver next-best-action intelligence, generate powerful predictions, and uncover the drivers of performance and connection rates. Best time, best channel capabilities use propensity models to uncover key metrics like drivers of answers; recency o product purchase; drivers of no response.
You can boost your predictive dialing with AI to determine Best Time to Call (BTTC) and/or best channel to use. In combination with a rich CDP, guided selling provides information on renewal windows and past renew dates that can trigger outbound contact to retain and renew customers.
Integrated Compliance Checks Protect Customer Privacy Secure Customer Data
Outbound cold calling opens organizations up to the risk of shutdowns and heavy fines given regulatory actions to reduce fraudulent robocalls and unwanted solicitation and restore trust in voice communications. Avoid the blocking of calls and economic and regulatory enforcement consequences with compliant dialers. Look for outbound engagement solutions that are integrated within core conversational engagement platforms and designed to automatically comply with the TCPA, DNC, GDPR/CCPA guidelines to streamline your entire outbound engagement.
The ability to configure rules and policies in real-time based on compliance checks and run them on autopilot enables laser focus on proactive customer acquisition and engagement strategies rather than worrying about statutory regulations and regional-specific regulatory adherence or soft compliance issues.
Solutions that Overlay or Integrate with Existing Data Sources and Infrastructure
Omnichannel outbound campaign management solutions are truly omnichannel when they can easily connect to all your data sources using native integrations to CRM and EHR systems and APIs to connect to custom apps and file imports. Look for a solution that can easily overlay and integrate where required with your existing Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) and Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS).
Your outbound sales team, guided with an easy to articulate value proposition and supported by data, analytics, and AI-driven omnichannel campaign management can succeed in penetrating the B2C market. Learn more about technology-enabling your outbound sales here.