Small businesses have it hard. Lacking the resources of the big boys, it’s a struggle to keep juggling all the responsibilities and obligations while remaining competitive and (hopefully) also making a profit.
While taking care of the million and one things you have on your to-do list, it’s essential to have your sales process nailed; without sales, all your hard work is for nothing.
And the first step in any sales process?
Imagine the difference an effective outbound prospecting process can make to your business.
Rather than wondering where your next customers are going to come from, a clearly defined and structured prospecting process gives you the confidence about what to do next.
What exactly is outbound prospecting anyway? This post will guide you through everything you need to know and outline how you can get started in your small business today.
What is prospecting?
What exactly is prospecting, and why should you care?
Prospecting is the act of identifying potential customers for your product or service. As such, it’s the first step in any sales process. If you’re not prospecting for customers, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.
Just as people will prospect for gold, searching through piles of stones and dirt, prospecting in business will sort out your ideal customers from the masses, allowing you to market and sell directly to them.
While it may be tempting to think your ideal customers will come to you, nobody ever achieved their goals by sitting down and waiting for it to happen.
It takes work. It takes knowledge. And it takes a plan.
But like finding gold, finding your ideal customers is well worth the effort.
Why use outbound prospecting?
Outbound refers to the traditional method of prospecting, where you reach out and make contact with your customer. Examples include cold calling, cold emails, and advertisements.
Inbound prospecting has become increasingly popular, using methods such as valuable content and social media to attract leads.
It can be significantly cheaper (Hubspot estimated that inbound leads cost 61% less on average than outbound), and prospects who show an interest are typically more qualified. Inbound is great, don’t get me wrong.
However, it’s not without its drawbacks. It usually takes a lot longer to see returns on an inbound strategy, especially if you’re not already well known.
We’re back to sitting and waiting for the gold to come to us. Effective inbound prospecting can be a powerful magnet and should definitely form a part of your long-term strategy. For many businesses though, it’s not enough on its own.
Unlike inbound prospecting, outbound prospecting can be used at any stage to start finding customers, fast.
Here’s what you need to do to start the outbound prospecting process.
Identify your ideal customer type
Before you start any kind of prospecting, you need a solid idea of who your customer is. This will be tied to your product/service, but work on getting specific.
For example, if you’re a bakery, are you selling cheap packs of doughnuts for the office lunch break or artisanal cakes for high-end parties? If you’re selling an accounting SaaS solution, is it for freelancers trying to get a hand on their invoicing or Fortune 500 companies looking for detailed reports?
Have a crystal-clear idea of your target market and what their specific requirements are before you take another step.
Identify where your customer is
Gold prospectors don’t spend their time searching in supermarkets and cinemas. They go where the gold is.
Once you’ve identified your customer, you need to work out where they are. This could mean their digital location; are they managers networking on LinkedIn, or maybe millennials hanging out on Instagram?
However, if you’re selling a physical product, this could also mean identifying a physical location; you can find office workers in the city center or brides-to-be at a wedding fair.
Identify the best way to reach out
Once you know where they are, you still need to make contact in a way that suits the prospect. Cold calling is a well-known method, but cold email has grown rapidly thanks to the low costs and the ability to easily scale up.
However, the golden rule is to consider your customer. It doesn’t make sense sending cold emails to a person who prefers to do business over the phone, or sending a LinkedIn message to someone who isn’t active on the platform.
Sometimes this means going offline and using methods like direct mail.
Personalize your contact
Many criticize outbound for being impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, your results will be significantly better if you take the time to personalize.
This means more than dropping an [FNAME] tag into your email, though. Whatever form your prospecting takes, tailoring it to the person’s situation and addressing their pain points will serve you far better than firing off generic messages that have no relevance.
Measure your results and optimize
Karl Pearson, a famous mathematician, once said, “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”
If you want to see those exponential improvements in your prospecting you’ll need to measure your results and see what’s working.
Many prospecting tools include detailed analytics so you can keep an eye on performance, but it’s important to put what you learn into action.
If you see certain subject lines lead to better open rates, use more subject lines like that. If you find phone calls at a certain time are more successful, schedule your future calls for a similar time.
The information you learn firsthand from your campaigns with your own audience is far more valuable than anything you learn from other people’s campaigns.
Outbound prospecting can be hard work, but if you take the time to research your ideal customers and set up a relevant campaign, the results are well worth the effort.
Ready to get to work on your next outbound campaign? Make sure you’re using the right software for the job. Reply.io is perfect for email outreach, allowing you to automate your emails while keeping them personal. Try it out now with a 14-day free trial and power up your prospecting today.