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Outbound Lead Generation - The Ultimate Guide

How many times have you heard that [fill in the blank] is dead or out of fashion? Vinyl records, crop tops (wait, are those back now?), mini skirts, hanging out with people in person … they’ve all made a comeback after being declared dead.

The same can be said about outbound lead generation (AKA lead gen). Salespeople are still making cold calls, PR firms are still sending out press releases, and companies are still advertising on social media and in the real world because these lead gen methods work.

Outbound lead gen has been around for a long time and it’s not going away, now or anytime soon. Learn how to make it a part of your overall lead gen strategy to help with generating a steady stream of leads for your business.

What Are Outbound Leads?

Outbound leads are a bit more difficult to define than inbound leads. 

In a nutshell, outbound leads are “strangers” who have no prior knowledge of your company and your products or services. However, these strangers fall within your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP).

Since they fit the ICP, sales and marketing will use outbound lead gen tactics to promote your company and its products or services. These strangers show some level of interest in your website, company, products or services, and will then offer their information, which then turns into outbound leads.

Capturing their information is essential to creating an outbound lead. Otherwise, they’re just visitors to your website who have some level of interest in your business, product or service.

Outbound leads fall into two categories:

  • A marketing qualified lead (MQL) shows interest in your product or service by how they interact with your business (e.g., visiting your website, downloading marketing materials, reading or watching your content). 
  • A sales qualified lead (SQL) has been assigned to a sales rep and is ready to move to the next step in the sales process.

What Is Outbound Lead Generation?

Outbound lead generation is the process of generating outbound leads by engaging your target audience through traditional forms of advertising.

Outbound lead gen includes: 

  • Cold calling
  • Cold and mass email
  • Traditional advertising (e.g., radio and television ads, billboards)
  • Digital advertising (e.g., banner ads, search engine ads)
  • Direct mail

Understanding the Outbound Lead Generation Process

The outbound lead gen process will vary from company to company. The steps can be different and so can the number of steps in the process. But its core purpose is the same across all companies. The goal is to engage with prospects and convert them into customers. 

To help you better understand the outbound process, we’ve it into the following steps:

1. Identify Your Target Audience and Segments

The first step is to identify your target audience and segment them.

You don’t want your sales team spending time selling to the wrong people. You also can’t afford to have sales pitch the wrong product or service to your target audience. 

By defining your target audience first, you ensure that the leads you generate have greater potential to result in sales and that your team isn’t wasting valuable time. 

Further segmenting your target audience into smaller groups will enable your sales team to be more strategic in their approach and pitch the best products to the right prospects.

2. Generate Leads

After you’ve identified your target audience and segments, you want to create a list of people (with their contact information) that fall within your ideal customer profile (ICP). 

To generate these leads, your sales team can go out and prospect, you might have a team dedicated for this type of work, or you might even outsource this to lead generation companies. You can even buy lead lists, though it’s generally not recommended.

At the end of all this work, you’ll have a list of leads for your sales team to reach out to and qualify.

3. Perform Outreach and Qualify Leads

Now it’s time for your sales team to perform outreach. Sales will reach out to the leads on their list, via cold calling or cold emailing, and qualify them. 

Through lead qualification, the sales team can determine which leads are more likely to result in a sale (qualified) and which ones aren’t (unqualified). This is done by collecting more information from leads via qualifying questions and comparing their details to the criteria set in your service-level agreement (SLA). Those that meet the criteria in your SLA are labeled as sales qualified leads (SQL).

SQLs are moved forward in the process and are handed off to an Account Executive. 

4. Demo Your Product or Service

Now that your leads are qualified, your Account Executives (AE) are ready to work on converting them into customers. The first step in this process is typically setting up a meeting to demo your product or service to the lead. 

These demos are tailored to each lead based on the information that AEs receive from Sales gathered during the qualifying process. All of this work before the call should also help AEs better overcome objections so they can close more deals. 

5. Closing the Deal

The ideal conclusion to the outbound lead gen process is closing the deal. The lead becomes a customer once the sale is made. 

This step isn’t as simple as having the client sign the contract. It may require getting buy-in from multiple stakeholders, negotiating with the potential customer, and delivering multiple quotes or proposals. 

Once you close the deal, the customer is moved on to a Customer Success Manager and an Account Manager to further nurture the relationship and sell more products. 

Top 5 Outbound Lead Generation Techniques

There are numerous ways to reach out to potential leads who could become customers. The following five outbound lead gen techniques will help you to develop a regular stream of outbound leads.

1. Campaign Marketing / Paid Advertising

Campaign marketing involves running paid advertisements in print, on the radio or television, online, on social media, and via email. Its main goal is to create awareness by promoting your company’s message to a wider range of prospects.

Paid advertisements can include:

  • Postcards
  • Newspaper and magazine advertisements
  • Television and radio commercials
  • Display ads
  • Ads on Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • Sponsored emails
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads

For example, when you do a Google search for “lead generation software,” the following ad appears at the top of the search listings.

Chili Piper's Google ad for lead generation software search term.

Paid advertising can help you to scale your marketing efforts relatively quickly. To improve your return on investment, it’s important to know your cost to acquire a customer and their lifetime value.

A key downside of paid advertising, particularly with traditional media, is that your message will reach people outside your target audience. You’ll be spending money on people who have no interest in your product or service, and you’ll be attracting people who are not a good fit.

Some people also find paid advertising and campaign marketing intrusive. Your marketing could actually push customers away.

2. Cold Calling

Cold calling refers to calling B2B prospects at their place of business to discuss, promote or sell your products or services. It’s cold because the prospects don’t know you and are not aware of what is about to occur.

This method involves creating a targeted list of contacts. Your sales reps would then call those prospects to set up a meeting or demonstration of your product or service. 

The list of prospects is essential for making cold calling more effective. Create a buyer persona to identify the right prospects, research the company to understand their needs, and use prospecting tools to ensure you contact the right people at the target company.

Successful cold calling also requires:

  • Setting a goal for the cold call
  • Identifying the right sales triggers
  • Being well versed on how to pitch your product or service
  • Creating a script to help direct your call
  • Determining the best time to call prospects
  • Knowing how to deal with objections
  • Adapting to changes in the conversation

Effective cold calling requires identifying the right prospects and reaching them with the right message at the right time. Cold calling is time-consuming, and it’s relatively easy for prospects to ignore or block calls from people they don’t know.

3. Cold Email

Cold emails are similar to cold calls, but the contact method involves email instead of the phone. This method is more cost-effective and efficient than cold calling, as you can reach many prospects at the same time with the touch of a button.

The methodology is similar to cold calling as well (e.g., creating a targeted list, doing your research, ensuring that you have the right person’s contact information). 

The key to cold email is personalization. You want to reach the right prospect with the right message at the right time.

Use a CRM and prospecting software to group prospects according to various factors (e.g., industry, problem, solution). Then send customized emails to the segmented groups.

Cold email is also more effective when you encourage engagement and conversation, rather than trying to simply sell your product or service. When you do sell, focus on benefits over features, and how you can add value to the prospect’s life.

While cold emails are easier and less time-consuming to scale (thanks to email marketing software) than cold calls, they’re also easier to delete and ignore. Emails can end up in spam folders or create a negative impression of your business if they become too intrusive.

4. Social Selling

Social selling involves networking with prospects on social media. LinkedIn is a core avenue for B2B networking, as it is a business-focused platform.

In a nutshell, your sales reps will connect with prospects on the social media platform and work to build a relationship with them. The goal is to nurture those prospects to turn them into leads and then customers.

Social selling must be personal and personalized. When reaching out to prospects, do it on a one-to-one basis and personalize the message with a reason for the connection.

Effective social selling takes time, much like developing a relationship takes time. Once you reach out, you must find ways to demonstrate and add value to the relationship with the potential buyer.

Adding value can include:

  • Sharing useful content (e.g., articles, blog posts, case studies)
  • Commenting with valuable insights on their posts
  • Providing referrals and connections
  • Offering free demonstrations of products or services

Social selling can be difficult to do right, as some salespeople focus on the selling part over the relationship building. It’s easy to come off as aggressive and spammy, which can sour relationships with prospects.

5. Content Syndication

Content syndication is often confused with content marketing, which is an inbound lead gen strategy. There are similarities, in that they involve creating content to generate leads, but the results are different.

Content syndication involves republishing your content on different websites and platforms. The strategy is to get your content on websites that your target audience visits.

Content syndication can employ many types of content, depending on the audience and your intent. The most commonly syndicated types of content include:

  • Articles
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Reports
  • Presentations
  • Infographics

When done right, content syndication is a cost-effective way of reaching more of your audience, building brand awareness, and generating traffic to your site.

However, there are potential drawbacks to syndicating content. Other websites could outrank you using your content. And if you pick the wrong website for syndication, it could negatively affect your SEO performance.

When deciding on publications to syndicate your content:

  • Choose publications with a similar readership and equal or better authority than your blog
  • Ensure they provide canonical links to the original article
  • Verify that they provide clear editorial guidelines
  • Avoid publications with low authority and spammy outbound links

The Bottom Line

Outbound lead generation is a proven way to spread your message to a large number of B2B leads and build your customer base. Determining which methods you use will depend on many different factors, but learning to implement outbound lead gen will help to support your overall lead generation strategy.

About the Author

David Gargaro has more than 20 years of experience as a content writer and copy editor. His content has appeared in Business.com, ITPro.com, RHB Magazine, Advisors Magazine, and more. In his free time, he enjoys reading, catching up on TV shows and movies, watching hockey, and playing with his daughter.

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