When you think of traditional sales outreach, it may conjure up images of cold calls, spammy emails, or even intrusive texts.
But, sales outreach can look a whole lot different (thankfully 🙏). By using these channels, like email and social media combined with a thoughtful content marketing strategy targeting a wide range of *segmented* prospects who are more likely to convert.
With so many options, tactics, and all kinds of advice floating around, i.e “Best time to send cold emails,” or “4 sales scripts guaranteed to close the deal”, many sales teams struggle to nail down the basics of successful outreach efforts.
If your team is feeling this friction, we've got you. We spoke to GTM experts from the Product-Led Sales community to summarize 8 proven outreach best practices you can incorporate into your sales outreach strategy.
Spoiler alert: sales outreach works when it’s targeted to your prospect’s pain points, authentic (as in human), and driven by value.
1. Starting with the right foot (leads)
A spray and pray sales outreach strategy that focuses on quantity over quality leads rarely works. You may end up with a large volume of leads, but only a handful will convert, and your ROI plummets. You can improve your response rate by tailoring your sales outreach to generate leads that are most likely to convert.
The first step in finding the right leads is creating an ideal customer profile (ICP). Your ICP will give you a clear picture of the prospects you should be targeting. Any prospect that doesn’t fit your picture of the ideal customer will likely be a waste of time to chase. For instance, if your product helps B2B SaaS companies and costs $10,000 monthly, your ideal customer will be a SaaScompany that’s selling at the enterprise level, is encountering a need s your product can fill, and is big enough (read, has the budget) to afford it.
If you are a B2B company, your ICP should specify your ideal customers’:
- Revenue size
- Employee count and structure
- Product or service
- Business goals
Once you’ve got a clear picture of what your ideal account looks like, you’ve got to determine which individuals you should be reaching out to. Think about who the decision makers are, but don’t limit your sales strategy just to them. Also think about potential product champions, and people on the team who can benefit from your product and target them with free value, like educational content.
Here are some data points to consider when determining your product champions:
- Job title
- Frequency of usage
- What is their most used feature?
- Have they invited team members?
- Is their usage in the 99th percentile?
Use this data to tailor your outreach so you can add value. Instead of an email that broadly speaks to the problem your product solves. Use data about who they are, what type of company they work for, and what features they are using to personalize a message to their needs.
“Account Executives at a PLG company are in a great position to succeed at customer acquisition as well as expansion. With access to end-user data, AEs have insight into when a user is ready to convert to paid, and then when the user(s) are ready to upgrade to more advanced plans. This is a win-win-win for the AE, the company, and the customer.” – Garrett Scott, Head of Marketing and Demand Gen, Calendly
2. Identifying the best outreach channels
When creating a sales outreach strategy, not every channel will be right for your audience. You need to experiment to figure out the best channels for reaching your target customers.
Prospects that fit your ICP will have communication channels they prefer, and you should meet them where they’re already spending their time. That being said, different channels serve different points in the buyer’s journey. For example, social media is great for generating awareness, while email is more direct and works better for targeted offers.
You can find your prospects’ favorite channels by doing some research, aka stalking. For example, if a prospect has a super active LinkedIn presence, it might be easier to get in touch via DMs instead of an email.
Choose you channels based on the following:
- Goals - What is your goal with the outreach?
- Customer journey - Where in the journey is this customer? Awareness or are they ready to buy?
- Customer preferences - Where does the customer already hang out?
- Past performance - What channels have worked in any past communication
Other factors to consider when trying to pick the best sales outreach channel are the information you wish to share and the nature of the sale. For instance, in-person meetings are best for sensitive or highly confidential sales, while phone and video calls are ideal for sharing complicated information.
3. Grab attention without sounding spammy
If your sales outreach strategy involves using email (and it really should — it’s the most direct digital channel you’ve got at your disposal), you should optimize your message to grab attention and deliver value at a glance. One of the best ways to achieve this is with an eye-catching subject line.
The subject line is the first thing a recipient will see when your email enters their inbox. The message will be lost if the subject line is bland or seems spammy. Also, if your email or subject line contains certain words, the recipient's spam filter may flag the message.
Examples of words and phrases that trigger spam filters include:
- Act now
- Click here
- Get it now
- What are you waiting for?
- Will not believe your eyes
- You are a winner
- Dear friend
- Don’t delete
- Get started now
- Once in a lifetime
- Information you requested
- Please read
- See for yourself
Avoid putting off recipients by crafting subject lines that give cold or warm prospects a reason to open your message. Use the most surprising fact of your email, an eye catching stat, or the ultimate benefit of reading your message right in the subject line. Your prospect should have a pretty good idea of your email, just by reading the subject line.
To get started, check out this guide to crafting effective sales email subject lines.
Beside the subject line, the contents of your email need to be equally engaging. Get to the point by keeping your content short, sweet, respectful, and easy to read — white space, bullet points, and short sentences are your friend. Your email should aim to add value, and quickly.
4. Personalizing your outreach message
Personalizing a message with the recipient’s name can help build trust, engage the recipient, and make them more likely to open and respond to your message.
But a personalized message goes way beyond “First_Name”. Just as important, outreach message personalization should always align with your outreach goals. The goal may be to get your target audience to sign up for a demo, schedule a call, or convert from free to paid.
Julia Gilinets, VP of Salesat CodeSee also recommends personalizing your outreach message to match the personality type of your target audience: "If the personality you're talking to is someone who, for example, doesn't want to hop on a call, maybe you can start out by sending them everything you want them to know via email and just give them a Google form to fill out instead. Even providing this as an option makes them feel seen and heard.”
You can further personalize emails by adding relevant context about the recipient and the problem they want to solve. For example, mention rising challenges in the prospect’s industry and how you can help with them.
Lastly, end your email with a clear (and singular!) call-to-action (CTA). A CTA will guide a prospect towards the action you want them to take and increase the likelihood of them taking that action.
5. Build strong relationships
Building strong relationships requires more than just talking to prospects. If you want a lead to trust you and engage with your follow-up communication, you need to learn to listen. Listening to prospects will help you learn what they want, and when you know what a prospective customer wants, you can tailor your pitch and product to match their needs.
Hot tip: Start building valuable and lasting relationships with prospects by joining communities your target customers typically frequent. In such communities, you can start conversations, get to know prospects better, and build trust. You can also get insights into how your target audience communicates, the words they use, the challenges they’re facing, and trending topics you can use in your outreach.
For example, Pocus's Slack community is a place where teams from product-led growth companies can share questions and ideas around growth, sales and more. Communities like these can help you understand what your industry cares about, and allows you to engage with and help them.
One note: when you join a community, avoid immediately trying to hard-sell people. Focus on providing value and building genuine relationships.
“Your community is built and defined by community members, so pay close attention to what they're doing and what they’re asking for. Meet in the middle between business goals and community needs to keep that relationship healthy.” — Lena Vu Sawyer, Head of Community, Replit
6. Follow up the right way
Follow-ups don't have to read spammy or passive-aggressive. And they’re actually necessary — increasing your chances of getting a response by at least 25%. An effective follow-up email is best kept simple, and generally contains these elements:
- Ask to schedule a call: Ask the recipient if they can spare 10 to 20 minutes within the next few days to discuss how you can help them achieve their goals.
- Provide a simple overview: In two to three sentences, provide a brief and compelling summary of how your solution can help. You can mention case studies or other hard facts that support your claim.
- Restate your request: State again that you would appreciate the opportunity to tell the prospect more about your solution and ask if they can spare a few minutes for a brief call. For example, “how does Wednesday or Friday at 1:00 pm work for you?" Specifying a date can drive the recipient to check their calendar, which is a step toward scheduling a meeting.
Try to find new and creative ways to provide value and tell your brand’s story in each follow-up email. Repetitive messages may drive recipients to send follow-up emails straight to spam.
Remember your cadence for follow-ups. Sending follow-up emails too frequently may irritate the recipient and put them off. A good rule of thumb is 3 days after the first email, and once a week after that, about 4-5 times.
7. Use data to inform outreach
With the right data, you can target the right customers with the right message. This is where a Product-Led Sales platform (shameless plug: like Pocus) is helpful.
Pocus combines data about product usage (from the data warehouse) with customer fit data (from the CRM) to give a 360-degree view of your customers. Uncover the best opportunities and take the right action. TL;DR: quickly spot opportunities to upsell or convert existing users (aka the warmest leads you’ll ever encounter.)
Get deep insights about your customers that can be used to improve email personalization. Get alerts when decision makers within an account increase their usage or invite more users, use this as a trigger to reach out at the right moment with an offer.
Connect your PLS platform to tools like:
Sales Engagement Tools: Increase sales outreach efficiency by automating email sequences. Connect Pocus to your sales engagement tools and easily launch sequences based on scores and triggers like a new PQL or recent usage spike.
Example vendors: Outreach and Salesloft
Marketing Automation Tools: Similar to sales engagement, use insights from Pocus to add customers to new campaigns based on their product usage.
Example vendors: Hubspot and Marketo
8. Offer value early and often
The core purpose of outreach is providing customers with value early and frequently. Send educational resources, valuable content, and being available to help goes a long way in building those relationships that will help you close the deal later.
Instead of sending empty “Just following up” or “Just checking in” messages, keep leads warm by sending relevant articles or white papers that discuss your solution's value or success rate. For example, share customer stories or case studies that show how your product provided value to companies in the same field as your prospect. If a prospect can experience value before paying for your product, you’ve given them one more reason to convert.
Start turning leads into sales
Applying the above sales outreach best practices will help you reach more prospective customers and gain their trust.. If prospects trust you, you will have an easier time convincing them you have something valuable to offer and bring them closer to converting into paying customers.
Want to learn more about reaching and turning more leads into sales? Our Pocus Slack community is chock-full of folks in growth roles at major companies like Airtable, Atlassian, and Calendly. We share ideas across sales outreach, product-led growth, and more. Join the Slack community today!