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Outbound sales: A guide from a top-performing SDR

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Some companies can get away without having an outbound sales team—or any sales reps at all. But in certain industries (B2B sales, for instance), you often have to do cold outreach or outbound lead generation activities to support your advertising, SEO, and content marketing. Otherwise, you might be waiting a long time for prospects to come inbound and trickle in.

As one of the top-performing SDRs (Sales Development Reps) at Dialpad, I do everything from outreach, to follow-ups, to cold emails and passing along qualified leads to our AEs, every single day.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through some of the outbound sales techniques I use, along with other tips to improve your outbound sales efforts.

What is outbound sales?

Outbound sales describes the part of a sales representative’s job that’s fully focused on doing outreach to bring in potential new customers.

Typically, this includes researching and finding cold leads’ contact information, using sales prospecting tools, responding to inbound leads or referrals, and picking out quality leads who are a good fit to move to the next step of the sales cycle.

The goal of outbound selling is to generate new leads and bring in new business. In some industries, you might have “full-cycle” salespeople who handle the later stages of the sales funnel as well, but in my team, we have AEs (Account Executives) who’d own those stages and close deals. SDRs and AEs work as a team.

Outbound vs inbound sales: The main differences

The main difference between outbound and inbound sales is that outbound sales is proactive while inbound sales is reactive.

Outbound sales is the process of proactively reaching out to potential customers, usually through cold calls, emails, or social media messages. In contrast, inbound sales involves prospects coming to you, whether that’s through a “Contact Us” form on your website, attending your webinar, or calling your business directly.

Another key difference is that outbound sales is typically more expensive than inbound sales, since you have to hire a team of sales professionals and/or operate an outbound call centre to proactively reach out to potential customers. It’s very much a volume game—the more cold emails and cold calls you make, the more ideal customers in your target audience you can have conversations with, the more deals you can potentially close.

The benefits of a strong outbound sales strategy

So, given that outbound sales is a volume game and that it can be expensive, why should your business be interested? Well, a well-optimised outbound sales process can deliver a range of benefits:

Results are more predictable

There’s often a degree of luck involved in inbound sales. Sure, you can take steps to create great content to sway potential leads and get it featured in the right places. However, there’s no guarantee that that content gets in front of the right eyes at the right time. You have to trust—at least a little—to good fortune.

In the case of outbound sales, the potential effectiveness of your efforts are generally more predictable. If you have skilled reps and use the right outbound sales tools, then the biggest factor impacting your success is the number of contacts you reach. And that is something you have control over. Speaking of which.

You have greater control

Control in general is another big advantage of outbound sales. It makes it easier, for example, for you to target key decision-makers at predetermined organisations.

As part of an outbound sales strategy, you can (and should) target ideal buyers, research those businesses, and then hone in on the key figures you need to speak to. That allows you to tailor your efforts not only to the right organisations but also the right individuals.

Sales cycles are typically shorter

Partly as a result of the two benefits of outbound sales we’ve already mentioned, the outbound sales cycle is also typically shorter.

With inbound sales you have to spend—often a lot of—time crafting top quality content. Then, you must leverage Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to get that content in front of the correct audience, which itself is a long game. Only then might a prospect reach out to you, and you can begin your sales process in earnest.

With outbound sales, things are higher octane. You needn’t wait for prospects to organically discover you; you can seek them out. Then, once prospecting starts, you can continually iterate your techniques to further streamline and speed them up moving forward.

The basic outbound sales process

The basic outbound sales process contains a few key steps:

1. Prospecting

The first step in outbound sales is finding your decision makers or potential customers. This can be done through research into your target market, buying lead lists, or even social media. At this stage, you should have a clear idea of who your buyer personas are and a solid sales pitch for each persona. (What are their pain points? How can you solve their problem?)

Once you’ve got a set of quality leads, you can start reaching out to them.

2. Contacting

Now, it’s time to reach out and make contact with these potential customers. Depending on your company’s sales approach and the tools you have, this can be done through a variety of ways:

Phone calls — A classic. We use Dialpad, which has a great power dialler and Salesforce integration designed to help us make as many calls as efficiently as possible:

Dialpad’s power dialler embedded in Salesforce makes for a potent outbound sales tool

There’s also a voicemail drop feature, which lets us drop pre-recorded messages into a call as soon as we hit a prospect’s voicemail instead of having to recite the same message every time. A few minutes here and there may not seem like much, but when you’re making hundreds of dials a day, it really adds up:

A Dialpad call with the voicemail drop option highlighted

If you’re calling prospects in different regions, you may also want a local presence dialling feature that lets you make calls from local area codes to increase the chances of prospects picking up.

Emails — Another big communication channel. There are many automations that can help speed this up, and you can use email templates too so that your sales reps don’t have to write messages from scratch. Dialpad has a nice integration with Outreach, an email automation tool that lets you design multi-touch campaigns and that also comes with built-in metrics like open rates:

An example of the Dialpad and Outreach integration in action

Social selling — Again, this depends on your industry, but for us being in software, social networks like LinkedIn are a great way to get in touch with sales leads if they’re not picking up their phones.

3. Qualifying

The next step is to qualify the prospect by getting on a call and having a conversation with them. This is where you determine if the prospect is a good fit for your product or service.

To do this, you'll need to ask some questions and learn about their specific needs and pain points. Not all leads will be good customers—what you don’t want is to have a great conversion rate, but then have customers drop off or churn soon afterward. You want these customers to be a great fit for your business, and to stay with you long-term.

I add notes pretty diligently to our call centre CRM—it’s important to log as many of these details as possible so that anyone on your team can pick up the threads of a conversation later if needed. Dialpad integrates with many different CRMs, like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho CRM to automate logging call details and embed the dialler inside these CRMs. It saves us a ton of time:

The Dialpad and HubSpot Integration

And that’s pretty much it for our outbound sales process! After this, the leads get passed onto our AEs, who are our closers, to hopefully win the deal.

How to improve outbound sales: 5 Tips and how outbound sales software can help

That covers what outbound sales are and how a typical outbound sales process might look. What you’ll likely want to know now is how you can make the process work for your business. Here are some of my top outbound sales tips:

1. Be prepared to handle objections

One of the most important things you can do when making outbound sales calls is to be prepared to handle objections. Prospects will almost always have objections, and you have to know beforehand what you’re going to say.

For us, the most common objections we hear are things like “it’s not the right time” or “I’m not the decision maker.” They’re not a hard no—objections rarely are. A skilled sales rep will be able to finesse their replies so that they can still get to the next step or a different influencer or decision maker when faced with an objection.

One neat thing about Dialpad is that it has AI-powered features designed to help us with this. For example, not only does it transcribe calls in real time, it can also track how frequently certain keywords or phrases (like a competitor name or an objection) come up on sales calls. Say we know that pricing questions come up often. We can create a “Custom Moment” to track how often this comes up (and dig into the transcripts and call recordings in Dialpad) if we notice any unusual trends:

Creating a Custom Moment in Dialpad to help ID trends in outbound sales calls

And to go one step further, we can also create RTA (Real-Time Assist) cards with tailored notes on specific topics that pop up automatically on our screens when certain keywords are said on a call. To take that pricing example I just gave, we could create an RTA card with notes on how to talk about our pricing to prospects, and set that to pop up on sales reps’ screens whenever “price” or “cost” is said:

Dialpad's real time assist card feature, which pops up helpful notes for sales reps automatically when tricky topics come up on calls

This way, sales managers don’t have to personally coach every call, but reps can still get the information they need to handle calls!

2. Know your pitch

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your outbound sales calls is to create mock call scripts and practice, practice, practice. This will help you sound more natural on your calls, and you'll also be able to pivot more easily when prospects throw different questions at you (as opposed to trying to stick to a script too rigidly).

There are a few different ways you can go about creating your scripts. One method is to start with a general outline of what you want to cover on the call, and then fill in the blanks with specific details about the prospect. Another approach is to write out the entire script beforehand, including all the questions you want to ask and the points you want to cover.

Whichever method you choose, it's important to practise your script ahead of time so that you sound confident and prepared when you're on the call. You can practise by yourself, or you can have a friend or colleague play the role of the prospect. Either way, the more you practise, the better your chances of success.

3. Cold call every good opportunity

It's important to remember that not every outbound call is going to result in a meeting or a sale. This will help you not feel so discouraged when most prospects inevitably don’t respond.

Even if you aren't successful in booking a meeting or selling your product, you can still learn a lot from each call. Maybe you'll learn more about what objections prospects are giving you or what questions they're asking. This information can be valuable in tweaking your outbound strategy.

4. Do your homework

One of the best ways to stand out when you’re cold calling is to show that you’ve done your research and you’re knowledgeable about your prospect and their company. This means taking the time to learn about their background, their current role, and their company’s mission and goals.

One way to do this research is to look at their LinkedIn profile. In addition to providing information about their work history, LinkedIn also allows you to see mutual connections that you may have. These connections can be a valuable resource for learning more about your prospect.

Another way to learn about your prospect is to visit their company’s website. In addition to their About Us page, most companies also have a news section where you can learn about recent press releases, new products or services, and other newsworthy items. This information can be helpful in customising your sales pitch to meet your prospect’s specific needs.

Finally, it’s also helpful to set up Google Alerts for your prospect’s company. This will allow you to receive email updates any time their company is mentioned in the news. This is a great way to stay up-to-date on what’s going on with their business and to be able to reference recent news items in your conversation.

5. Be mindful of how many touchpoints you're subjecting your prospects to

It's important to be mindful of how often you’re reaching out to prospects. Yes, people are busy, and maybe they just haven’t seen your email or were in a meeting when you called. It’s a balancing act, and your goal is to get a conversation with them—without coming across as too pushy. You don't want to risk turning your prospects off.

Think about the ideal number of touchpoints for your prospects. You want to make sure you're providing enough information and value to pique their interest, without bombarding them.

The number of touchpoints will vary depending on your product or service, and the type of prospect you're targeting. I wish there were a magic number, but this is genuinely something that you have to test out and see how your particular target audience responds.

Outbound sales metrics: What to track to measure your outbound sales development

One of the best things about outbound sales strategies is that they’re not static. You can and should continually improve and iterate them to get the best results. Such continuous improvement starts with knowing which metrics to track to measure your success and development.

The best outbound sales software should make it easy to collect and analyse data. The following are just three of the most useful, top-level outbound sales metrics to keep your eye on:

New business revenue

This is a pretty simple yet crucially important outbound sales metric. Sales is—at its heart—about generating more revenue for your company. So, tracking how much revenue you generate each month from new business is a vital top-level assessment of your success.

Monthly is typically the most sensible cadence for tracking this metric and it also pays to track it against a target percentage. For instance, perhaps you want new business to account for 25% of your monthly revenue, each month.

Conversion rates

This is a metric that essentially measures the efficiency of your outbound sales reps. You’re tracking how many outbound sales calls or interactions out of the total undertaken lead to a desired action or conversion.

You can, of course, define conversions slightly differently depending on your product or service, business, and more. In general, organisations would consider the booking of a follow-up meeting with an AE to be a successful conversion for an outbound sales call.

Projected pipeline value

This is a trickier metric to track than those I’ve covered so far. Your projected sales pipeline value is how much you estimate the deals currently progressing through your funnel will be worth.

To calculate this figure you need to calculate the potential value of a deal and the percentage probability of closing within a chosen timeframe. Then, multiply the two figures, repeat the process for each live deal, and add up the result.

The projected pipeline value provides a useful snapshot of your sales cycle. A high value, for example, suggests a full funnel. That could lead you to realise that your resources are best spent getting existing deals over the line rather than adding more to the top of the funnel.

Running an outbound sales call centre?

Dialpad Ai Sales Centre helps our outbound team do high volume outreach and lead generation, every day. From being a truly unified solution that lets us make phone calls, have video meetings, and send messages—to the truly unique AI features that help speed up ramp time and training, it's the most important tool in our tech stack.

We have customers that are startups and enterprises in every industry—as long as you have a sales team, Dialpad can help you book more meetings and close deals more efficiently.

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FAQs about outbound sales

What is outbound prospecting?

Outbound prospecting is the process of finding and qualifying potential customers who are not already aware of your product or service. It typically involves activities like research, emailing, and cold calling.

The goal of outbound prospecting is to generate new leads for your sales team. It’s a necessary step in the sales process, but it can be time-consuming and difficult. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and a team that is dedicated to outbound prospecting.

When done correctly, outbound prospecting can be an effective way to reach new customers and grow your business.

How can you build an effective outbound sales team?

What are the phases of an inbound sales strategy?