At the expansion-stage, you don’t just need leads — you need qualified leads, ones that will convert into meaningful revenue. So, what’s the secret to generating them, and are you really ready to embrace it?
If someone told you that your expansion-stage technology company could triple its qualified leads & pipeline in a matter of months, you would probably laugh. But that is exactly what sales consultant and best-selling author Aaron Ross says could happen if your business builds an outbound prospecting team fine-tuned to generate truly qualified opportunities month in and month out, year after year.
Ross previously built Salesforce.com’s outbound prospecting team as the company’s director of corporate sales, and co-authored the best-selling book Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com.
“For the right companies, an outbound prospecting team can give you control over quality and quantity of your lead generation, and thus allow you to exceed your sales goals,” says Ross. “Not just any outbound prospecting team or process will do. There’s a lot of noise and crap out there.”
The secret, Ross writes in a thorough guide on his website, is to design an outbound prospecting process and team, that, like a manufacturing assembly line, yields consistent quality with fewer, better, bigger leads.
If you do it right, Ross states you can triple your pipeline in a relatively short period of time — and his history with previous clients backs that up.
That said, not every business is ready to commit the time and effort required to do inside sales-driven lead generation the right way. Before you run off to start putting Ross’s guide to outbound prospecting to work, you may want to look in the mirror and ask yourself three key questions:
1) Are you really ready to grow?
You wouldn’t blindly create a product without first investigating whether or not there is really a market need for it, would you? And you wouldn’t hire new team members without knowing if you really needed them, right?
Get fully prepared for lead gen success.
Driving growth is no different. The last thing you want to do is step on the gas before you know where you want to go, which is why Ross says it is critical to understand a few things about your customers and market before you’ll get results from an outbound prospecting or any other lead generation initiative. Ask yourself:
- Who is your ideal customer, the ones most likely to buy from you, for the largest amounts of revenue, and get the most value/success from your service?
- How does your product or service make them successful?
- What type of lead generation efforts are working for you now (word of mouth, inbound, outbound)?
- How can you appeal to and serve customers worth at least $10,000 in lifetime value (Ross explains this is a threshold for profitable outbound prospecting)?
The more confident and focused you are in your answers to those questions, the more you can invest to grow and get the results you want, Ross explains. The less confident, the more you should invest to learn in order to figure out what it’ll take to grow faster.
2) Do you have the right people with the right, focused responsibilities?
According to Ross, this doesn’t mean evaluating whether you’ve already got salespeople who are capable of prospecting, or if you’ve got team members who could transition to an outbound prospecting role. Rather, consider the responsibilities of who does what on your sales team and understand the specialized sales roles required to make prospecting successful and scalable.
For instance, Ross says an efficient sales organization has people specialized in different roles such as inbound lead response, outbound prospecting, customer success, and closing roles. If you have people juggling more than one of these responsibilities, you’ll struggle. Simply put, Ross says true outbound prospecting effectiveness requires role specialization, and you will NOT create a repeatable system unless you have prospectors dedicated 90-100% to outbound.
Even if you’re a small company with a single person doing it all, you can specialize with time blocks, dedicating parts of your week by “role”. For example, schedule a day a week, or specific blocks of time of at least two hours, to prospect.
3) Will it actually work for you?
If you’ve gotten past the previous two questions, this one might trip you up. Yes, you understand your customers and you have a team structure in place to execute outbound prospecting. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your company possesses the executive commitment or entrepreneurial people needed to develop a prospecting machine.
Ross says almost any company selling direct to customers or partners can make this work, if they are prepared, including:
- Assigning outbound prospectors and salespeople to work together on specific territories (prospectors should support 1-3 salespeople, but no more).
- Making learning more important than results. Results without understanding are random. If you understand, you can repeat.
- Promoting a culture of quality over quantity — “fewer, better, bigger.”
- Refining messaging to sell prospects on ideas, not stuff.
- Respecting the prospectors as valued teammates, and working to help them enjoy the role. If people — including salespeople — don’t enjoy their jobs in some way, the team won’t scale.
At the end of the day, developing a high-performing outbound prospecting team is a lot of work, but it is worth the investment if you do it right. It’s added hundreds of millions in revenue to Salesforce.com, and has tripled (or more than tripled) the growth of many other companies.
So, where does your business stand? Are you ready to triple your qualified leads by building a better outbound prospecting framework? If so, it is worth diving into Ross’s full post.
What are your secrets to successful outbound prospecting? How has your business driven stronger, more predictable growth through lead generation?