Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Outbound Prospecting Defined

Outbound lead qualification is a direct marketing channel, whereby you identify your target customers and then directly reach out and introduce them to your company, its products, and its services.

Outbound prospecting for B2B companies in its simplest form is essentially
  1. Compiling a list of companies and people that you believe are the best target prospects for your company’s products and services
  2. Calling those prospects to introduce them to your company and discover if they are indeed a good fit. Outbound prospecting for B2C companies is similar, although there are more potential people to call.

The output from your prospecting team, in its simplest form, is the hand-off of qualified leads or sales opportunities to your sales team. The leads might be handed-off during scheduled meetings or through your sales automation system. In some instances, an outbound prospector might end up taking the prospect all the way through the buying process to close the sale (particularly with low-priced B2B sales or with B2C sales).

Your prospecting, marketing, and sales teams should join together for retrospective meetings on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly) to share what they’ve learned and identify ways to improve.

  • Better target lists (e.g., better target companies, target roles, and contact information)
  • More training of the prospectors in specific areas
  • Better sales content and pitches
  • Better prospect qualification criteria
  • Better hand-offs to the sales team

Teams that have a disciplined approach to identifying and executing improvements can dramatically boost their performance. Depending on the starting point, this can range from a 2X to 50X improvement in the number of great prospects that are handed off to the sales team as the practice ramps up.

  • An email marketing program that enables you to send emails to warm up prospects prior to the first call.
  • Website content that your prospector can direct the prospect to during or after the call.
  • Events, website content, outside (social media) discussions, and/or newsletters that your prospector can offer to your prospects — content that will provide prospects with ongoing value and improve their understanding of and relationship with your company.
  • Periodic follow-up calls from the prospector to further build the relationship and determine how the prospects are progressing in their readiness to purchase.
  • For B2B, using the first calls as a springboard to help identify other people in the company who might be additional prospective buyers, or who might be better suited for your company’s products.
  • You can also use outbound prospecting as part of a coordinated multi-channel marketing program, which is very effective given that it generally takes a few impressions from different angles to warm up a prospect. Outbound prospecting tends to cut through the marketing clutter better than other marketing channels and helps to prime prospects for marketing contacts through other channels. For example, in a B2B situation, emailing and then calling a prospect who will probably be attending an event where you’ll be exhibiting has proven to be an effective marketing strategy; while the person is walking the floor, he/she will probably stop by to “meet the people who were nice enough to call.”