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Outbound prospecting: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Dec 4th, 2023

Outbound prospecting: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Contrary to some of the hot takes you’ll see online, outbound prospecting isn’t dead.

Yes, spray-and-pray sales outreach has gone the way of the dinosaur (not to mention it will now get you locked up in email jail). And yes, product-led growth is now the inbound lead generation tactic du jour.

But B2B companies still have to create demand (aka outbound) in order to scale revenue. That goes double when budgets are tight and purchase decisions are in a vice-like grip.

So no, outbounding’s day isn’t done. It’s just gotten harder. And like with any go-to-market strategy, there’s a good way, a bad way, and, let’s be honest, an ugly way to go about it.

Keep reading to learn:

  • Why outbound prospecting isn’t going anywhere soon
  • Which prospecting pitfalls you need to avoid
  • How to uplevel your outbound strategy

From spray-and-pray to surgical (or why outbound prospecting can’t afford to suck)

From door-to-door knocks and cold calls to emails and LinkedIn DMs, outbound prospecting has evolved alongside the technology we use. But the nuts and bolts remain the same.

Outbound prospecting is any sales process that kicks off with sales reps making the first move. The goal, as always, is to initiate contact with qualified prospects and eventually convert them into paying customers.

Whereas inbound prospecting (which is dependent on inbound marketing) is all about converting customers who have already raised their hands, outbound prospecting requires reps to go out and create their own opportunities.

And it gets a bad rap.

Part of this has to do with how the buyer journey has changed. Sales reps (and marketing teams, for that matter) are no longer product gatekeepers. Buyers can choose from a wide range of resources—including their friends and peers—to research and compare different products.

Or, more often than not, they can simply sign up for a free trial and test out your product themselves.

But the bigger issue is lazy sales tactics.

Sales automation technologies made it possible for reps to blast out thousands of generic sales pitches in one fell swoop. Email spam folders swelled and buyer attitudes toward outbounding soured.

Smart sales teams switched gears and doubled down on personalization, value-adding, and relationship building. The rest leaned into the spray-and-pray approach by replicating it across new channels (hello, one-size-fits-all LinkedIn InMail messages).

Which brings us to today: Research shows that 75% of B2B buyers would now rather have a rep-free sales experience. And as it stands, reps only get about 5% of face time with potential buyers.

Still, even the most sophisticated inbound marketing machine has its limitations.

Outbounding, by definition, is proactive. It’s all about creating demand versus capturing it.

Inbounding is passive. No matter how much time and energy (and money) you put behind your organic search strategy and paid advertising, you’re still at the mercy of prospects coming to you.

This makes it difficult to book more meetings and develop more deals as quickly and scalably as you’d like (or as quickly and scalably as your board members expect).

As plenty of product-led companies have discovered, while inbound marketing is a crucial part of lead generation, you’ll inevitably hit a ceiling on your investments in earned channels.

Plus, human-led touch is still the best way to break into the enterprise and close high-fit, high-value deals.

If you’re only relying on form fills and product sign-ups to fill your sales pipeline, you’re putting a cap on growth.

Ideas to implement and bad habits to leave behind

Today’s sales reps face a paradox of sorts.

Modern buyers are digital-first, fond of self-service, and allergic to hard sales. That makes it difficult to get full visibility into their activities and win their attention.

At the same time, buyers are taking actions and having conversations across a wide range of digital channels. Many of these signals are hard to see (hence the term “dark funnel”), but they represent a treasure trove of sales intelligence reps can use to pinpoint and prioritize prospects.

With that in mind, it’s worth exploring which outbounding tactics will help reps hit their numbers (and which ones reps should avoid like the plague).

The good

Invest in tools that will help reps:

Get full visibility into buyer activity

The world doesn’t stop and start with a static list of target accounts that match an ideal customer profile (ICP). Neither do fruitful sales conversations.

Reps need to be able to expand their pool of prospects—and their view of them—using all the dark-funnel signals at their disposal: social engagement, community conversations, open-source activity, recent job changes, and more.

Visibility into what prospects are saying and doing across digital channels will help reps uncover new opportunities and paint a clearer picture of existing ones.

Add identity to intent

Not all intent signals are created equal. You need to know exactly who’s behind the buying behaviors, what their job title is, and whether they’re worth the follow-up.

Instead of settling for anonymous intent signals, reps need to be able to attach all relevant demographic and firmographic details to buyer activities.

This won’t just show reps who to reach out to—it’ll make it easier for them to separate the high-fit prospects from the also-rans.

Convert with context

It’s not enough to know which prospect you want to contact. You also need to know when, where, and how.

Reps need to be able to plan their approach and messaging based on recent buyer activities and the channels where buyers like to spend their time.

With full access to buyers’ questions, concerns, and behaviors, reps can break through the noise, avoid the dreaded no-reply, and kick off a real conversation.

The bad

Retire tools that cause reps to:

Action on anonymous activity

Poorly researched prospects make for missed quotas. And standard intent data makes for poor research.

Traditional intent providers serve up weak (and often stale) signals that stop at the account level. This leaves reps with no insight into the actual people they need to engage.

The best reps end up spending too much time trying to determine if someone is a good fit and the right way to personalize their messaging. The rest send off a generic email and cross their fingers.

Stick with a single channel

Email is an important prospecting channel. It’s also just one option to choose from.

Many of today’s buyers are more likely to be scrolling social media or engaging in online communities than hovering over their Gmail inboxes (or fielding calls from unknown numbers).

Reps have to figure out which channel makes the most sense for each prospect—be it LinkedIn, Slack, or another—and inform their outreach accordingly.

Get bogged down in grunt work

Outbounding isn’t a numbers game—it’s a performance play. Unsurprisingly, buyers are more likely to respond to personalized, well-thought-out communications.

But that doesn’t mean everything needs to be manual.

From personalized, preprogrammed Outreach sequences to real-time alerts that notify you when it’s time to get in touch, reps need ways to spend more time selling and less time juggling administrative tasks.

The ugly

Make sure reps never:

Spam prospects

A pushy email with a clickbaity subject line and one-size-fits-all messaging is bad enough. Imagine the damage when you multiply it by thousands.

Spamming prospects by throwing everyone into the same generic email sequence is a great way to burn bridges.

And now, thanks to Google and Yahoo, it’s an even better way to get your company’s email domain blocked from every inbox.

Put deals over dialogue

Buyers love it when you demonstrate a clear understanding of their pain points and articulate a thoughtful value proposition. Sending over a glorified sales script that includes a personalized name token doesn’t count.

Reps have to prove that they’ve put in the leg work—that they know exactly who they’re talking to, why it’s worth getting in touch, and why the prospect should care.

The best sales conversations start as actual conversations, not demos.

Fail the follow-up

Hitting “Send” on a message is the start of the journey. Too many reps treat it like the end.

Sometimes prospects don’t respond because they don’t want to talk to you. Other times it’s because they missed the message or the timing wasn’t right.

In any case, reps should have a clear next-step strategy in place that includes updated messaging and a pre-planned follow-up cadence, not just a copy-paste of the last message.

How to supercharge outbound sales with Common Room

Common Room is designed to put outbounding superpowers at sales reps’ fingertips.

With dozens of natively built and fully managed integrations—including with digital interaction, product usage, and customer relationship data sources—reps can centralize, deanonymize, and enrich every trackable buyer signal.

This makes it possible to surface new, high-potential prospects daily based on dark-funnel data, product activity, and other signals, all without cobbling together siloed data points or requesting access from engineering.

Reps can click into individuals and their organizations to quickly uncover names, job titles, contact information, recent cross-channel activity, and more.

Better yet, those same people and companies can be scored using proprietary machine learning models to show reps which prospects are primed to buy.

🎤 "Common Room gives our go-to-market team members daily feeds of users showing intent across multiple channels—all in one place. Over 50% of our meetings come from Common Room."

—Tim Hughes, Vice President of Sales at Temporal
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Sales-friendly filters and tags make it easy to slice and dice data to qualify prospects. Reps can filter for specific activities, job titles, role changes, industries, company sizes, annual revenue numbers, and more, as well as instantly zero in on which prospects are tagged as economic buyers and ideal personas.

This helps reps make sure high-intent prospects are also high-fit and that they’re reaching out to the right people with the right context.

🎤 "Common Room has made it easier for our SDRs and AEs to book more and better meetings. It’s our favorite sales tool here. One of our AEs called it 'my closest friend.'"

—Tyler Hayden, Director of Sales Development at Pulumi
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Intelligent automations help reps create a sales command center where they can work smarter and faster.

Prospects can automatically be added to fully customizable segments where reps can transform them into actionable burn-down lists. Reps can add prospects to personalized Outreach sequences, send them LinkedIn or Slack DMs, sync their records with Salesforce, and much more—all from the same place.

Meanwhile, real-time team alerts help reps stay up to date on the prospect activity they care about. Customizable notifications ensure reps never miss a signal and always reach out at the right time and in the right place.

🎤 "Common Room made the operationalization process easy and within a few days we were off to the races. Our sales team has realized real results with meetings booked."

—Aisha Nins, Senior Sales Operations Program Manager at Apollo GraphQL
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The reports of outbound prospecting’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Top performers are still building bigger and better pipeline via outbounding. With the right tools in place, every rep can do the same.

Upgrade your outbound prospecting with Common Room

Ready to see how Common Room helps you turn any buyer activity into pipeline?