Is there a need for OUTBOUND Prospecting in a world Of INBOUND MARKETING?

In a world of seemingly endless choice around the ways that your business can develop B2B lead generation channels. The main two are:

  1. Inbound Marketing
  2. Outbound Sales

If you believe the ‘blogosphere’ and marketing machines of many big businesses you’d be likely to believe that the future of  B2B lead generation is all inbound marketing.

Don’t be too quick to believe the hype…

2014 Research by the Aberdeen Group  into companies using marketing automation (still ahead of the game for most industries), showed the ‘best in class’ used a split of 80% outbound sales and 20% inbound marketing.

 

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It is compelling reading and something we concur with. So don’t ditch your outbound process just yet.

Refine it maybe….but don’t ditch it…

What exactly is outbound selling and what approaches can be used?

www.marketingprofs.com believes the single best method to be — Inside Sales. We are obviously in agreement, because that is what we specialise in.

But is there basis in their research?

So lets have a look at the results….

Their top 3 Ranking:

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  • Inside Sales
  • Executive Events
  • Telesales

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And they go further to demonstrate that telephone based sales – what they group as ‘outbound’  accounts for by far the most successful B2B Lead Generation method:

 

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Does this come as any surprise to us? Absolutely not!

Although there are a few caveats we want to stress:

  • What is their definition of the distinction between Inside Sales and Telesales? As this is the focus of nearly everything we do here at The Prospecting System we would be keen to understand how they determined the distinction.
  • I think they underestimated the multi touch communication world that we live in. It is much easier to track the statistical  success of Inside Sales (you do don’t you?) because that is all under the control of the organisation. It is harder for most businesses to track the effectiveness of Social Media in B2B lead generation.

Having said all of that we couldn’t help but agree that focused, professional outbound B2B prospecting is still the most effective and predictable form of lead generation. Due to the technological enablers that have happened in the last few years it has also become by far the single most cost effective B2B lead generation mechanism. 

 

What The Blogosphere and PR would have you believe about Inbound Marketing

The following are some of the well know perspectives on inbound marketing along with our commentary on some of the ways we don’t always agree!

Strengths:

 

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  • It allows you to educate people early on in the sales cycle that you aren’t aware are looking. This has been termed ‘the invisible sale’. In, fact Demand Gen showed that 51% of buyers formed a short list before they contacted anyone.  As huge proponents of OUTBOUND SELLING we don’t agree with this because when implemented correctly outbound can connect to the most senior people in an organisation and influence their long range business strategy, their buying criteria and ultimately their specification criteria BEFORE they ever delegate the task of building the ‘short list’ (or cannon fodder as we like to call it) and reaching out via inbound means.
  • If you have built your list of Target Prospects, or Named Accounts, then inbound is a slow and indirect way to communicate with them. These are the companies that you have singled out as being the ones to add into your top 20% percentile of best clients. These are the ones that Chet Holmes would have called his ‘Hot 100’.
  • It builds brand awareness and ‘Top of Mind’ presence. We agree but we prefer revenue.
  • It helps provide an environment where your Ideal Prospect can find you before you find them – if you ever would manage to.
  • It must work because look at the success that Hubspot has created using inbound.  We totally agree that it worked for them and it had to because they had to prove thier own concept. A different perspective is to look at the success of Salesforce who built their success largely on outbound prospecting.[/bullet_block]

 

Weaknesses:

 

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  • It is hard to correctly qualify the prospect and only a small percentage of people who engage will be a great fit with your Ideal Prospect Profile.
  • It takes significant Resource: Not many people talk about this but a true inbound marketing lead generation system takes a huge amount of resource. It isn’t just a case of turning on Google PPC and sending them to your home page. You have to identify your prospect personas, identify their different evaluation stages and create a MASSIVE amount of professionally written and packaged content to serve up to them. This isn’t a cheap en-devour and very often gets overlooked when people do price comparisons between inbound and outbound. It isn’t the just the cost of the PPC  but also the army of interns or outsourcers who created the content, the designers who packaged it, the marketing automation platform that delivered it, the heat tracking and analytic programs that tested engagement and on and on.
  • It takes significant Time: All of the things mentioned above take a significant amount of time. Time, which many companies don’t have when in start up phase, VC funding acquisition, market penetration or new product launch phases.
  •  Little or No HUMAN feedback: Very often all of the Inbound process is done at the PC looking at buyer personas, analytics and reports with little to NO interaction with the real human beings that you desire to help (and SELL to). Our biggest fear for inbound is that, for many, it is creating a culture where no one is capable or actually wants to pick up the phone and speak to a prospect.
  • You engage later on in the Sales Cycle: This is definitely one of our biases. One of the hyped positives of Inbound is the ability to tap into the ‘invisible sale’ where people research companies they might be a good fit. Great sales companies (even pre-internet – yes that time did exist!!) have always know that if you wait for people to research what suppliers are in the market then you are probably to late into the sale and if you aren’t you will be fighting a price battle. The Vision Group did a huge study on selling to senior executives and what they found is that senior execs spend the majority of their time in the first 3 parts of the a buying process 1) Assessing the competitive landscape 2) Evaluating business alternatives 3) Setting long and short range business strategy. After that they handed of to a more ‘traditional’ Decision Making Unit (DMU) made up of people lower in the organisation who would go and research the marketplace. Thus enetering your Inbound channel. By that time the real decisions were made and they are seeking to ratify the decisions they have already made. Unless you can convince them otherwise…[/bullet_block]

 

What The Blogosphere and PR would have you believe about OUTBOUND Prospecting

The following are some of the well know perspectives on outbound prospecting along with our commentary on some of the ways we don’t always agree! On this one we have led with weaknesses first as there seems to be a whole lot more of it!

Weaknesses:

 

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  • Research shows that any one time 70 – 90% of the prospects in a market aren’t open to considering the purchase  of any product, service or solution. They are  either satisfied with their current situation, or they’re simply not thinking about it. About 7 – 20% of prospects are thinking about the problems you say you solve and may allow your outbound approach and only about 3 – 7% are in an active mode of searching for a product, service or solution. Rather than give our commentary here (we have a lot) see the separate section below called ‘The Myth Of The Buying Percentages’. 
  • You need a high Lifetime Value of around $5k minimum in year 1 to make the numbers work. We partially agree with this. In an ideal world you would have this BUT if you don’t what are your alternatives? As you can see from our perspective above, we believe that Inbound isn’t a zero cost option – far from it!  Sales enablement technology is evolving so rapidly and is allowing the development of highly systemized outbound processes which means we believe this figure to be out of line with reality now. In fact, only last week, we found a system that sells for $100 a month as a SaaS that provides far in excess of the functionality a client paid $10k for custom Salesforce development.
  • Cold Calling Doesn’t work: Search the internet and there are hundreds of people peddling the ‘Cold Calling doesn’t work’ position. Mostly to sell their perspective. There is nothing wrong with that, I get it. The people with this position are usually the ones selling some sort of inbound marketing solution albeit packaged as something else. The reality is some people can make cold calling work by what ever name you call it – cold calling, warm calling or even smart calling. BUT  the ones that can make it work are becoming fewer and fewer. It takes a lot of training and practice and most companies don’t have the time, energy or resources to build a system this way. And why should they when there is a better way? That better way is building a system based on cold email as the FIRST contact.[/bullet_block]

 

Strengths:

 

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  • Outbound enables you to pinpoint your best prospects and VERY QUICKLY open up a dialogue with them. It allows you to speak to a HUMAN, in most cases and ask questions. If they aren’t in a position to be a good fit for your product demonstration or your Discovery Call you can ask permission to put them into your marketing automation programs to position you as the logical choice when the time comes.
  • It allows you to very quickly gain access to senior people within an organisation. Most companies don’t have the traditional ‘gate keeper’ that protects senior executives anymore and ring fences them from the outside world. It is easier today to access senior executives than it has ever been at any time in sales. The irony is this is a time when some companies are abandoning outbound prospecting. That is great for you if our competitors are and you know how to do it right!
  • Outbound allows you to profile your marketplace and get feedback on what the market is thinking and doing. I see so much ‘analysis by paralysis’ from companies who try to determine everything about their Ideal Prospects by boardroom sessions and analysing data. What they often overlook is the fact that you can use outbound to quickly engage witht hem and begin the process of testing and refining your messaging, your offer and even your core product. [/bullet_block]

 

The Myth Of The Buying Percentages

Many people happily cite research that shows that any one time 70 – 90% of the prospects in a market aren’t open to considering the purchase  of any product, service or solution. They are  either satisfied with their current situation, or they’re simply not thinking about it. About 7 – 20% of prospects are thinking about the problems you say you solve and may allow your outbound approach and only about 3 – 7% are in an active mode of searching for a product, service or solution.

And they cite this as a negative which is what I find astonishing!

So what that means to me is:

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  • 3 -7% of the market have already been influenced by someone else or they have come to their own conclusion about what their ‘problem’ is and have determined what they believe to be the best likely solution. They are actively seeking every vendor in the marketplace and seeking to ‘cut a deal’ or prove that the vendor they have already chosen  is in fact the best choice so they don’t suffer too much buyers remorse and to get the final internal sign off. These prospects have a very defined criteria which is often not a true reflection of what they NEED but is what they WANT and they won’t listen to you when you try to influence that choice. They frequently won’t engage in a dialogue and want you to submit proposals, tenders or turn up and do a ‘dog and pony show presentation without being able to ask too many questions. Hey, did I say that they expect you to be the least cost provider? I’m not sure I want a pipeline full of these prospects. Never mind paying extortionate PPC costs to get an opportunity to quote for them.
  • About 7 – 20% of prospects are thinking about the problems you say you solve and may allow your outbound approach and are the real ‘low hanging fruit’. These are the people and companies that will be willing to listen if approached correctly and aren’t too far down the line of the purchasing decision to make them more of a pain than a prize.
  • About time 70 – 90% of the prospects in a market aren’t open to considering the purchase and these are your very best prospects.  These are likely to be the people and companies that you look back at after finishing your project and think “man, those guys were great. why can’t they all be like that?” These are the companies that you can really influence, educate, help set long range strategy and provide value to. If, that is, you can get to them. Very rarely will you get to these in any quantity by using inbound methods. BUT you can with an effective outbound prospecting system.

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So To Conclude With My Thoughts:

Does Outbound Lead Generation still have a place in professional B2B Sales Prospecting? – My point of view is ABSOLUTELY!

Does that mean I don’t favor the use of Inbound? Absolutely not! The highest returns are there for companies that can effectively use both methods. If anyone ever tells you it’s an either or equation then run away kicking and screaming. It is like a childhood maths question:

Q) What is 1 + 1?

A) 5

By combining effective inbound and outbound you can create value greater than the 2 component parts.

So all that remains to be answered is what is the most effective way to build an outbound prospecting system? I cover that in my advanced Advanced Prospecting Training  Webinar available here.

The training breaks down the 6  steps in a revolutionary new prospecting system and exactly how you can quickly and easily build a PREDICTABLE  outbound prospecting system you can scale and grow.

Registering for the webinar is easy.  Just click the banner below, then enter your name and email to reserve your spot.