How to generate quality leads for outbound at scale
[UPDATED] Originally posted on March 15, 2019
One of the biggest challenges sales teams face isn’t necessarily closing leads — it’s finding more qualified ones — especially since they only spend a quarter of their time actually selling.
We ran into the same problem in the early days of Clearbit. A few years ago, we had a group of customers who’d come almost entirely from a healthy flow of inbound organic leads, but we hadn’t cracked an outbound sales process just yet.
When it comes to finding qualified leads, research is non-negotiable. According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2022 Report, 68% of buyers report that they’re unlikely to engage with sellers who reach out with irrelevant information.
So, we decided to try something a little different: for every single inbound, unaffiliated lead that came in, we’d manually find and reach out to 10 similar companies. It took a lot of tedious work, starting with taking an email address for our newest paying customer and running lots of searches on Google and LinkedIn to find similar companies and using Clearbit Connect to source relevant email addresses.
The outbound emails we sent had a 61% open rate and high reply rates — and within nine months, they helped us grow our business by 150%.
We knew we were onto something great, but all that manual, painstaking searching — even with Connect — didn’t result in a process that could be replicated at scale.
We’re not alone in our desire to streamline the data we use for lead generation — 82% of top performers conduct research “all of the time” before reaching out to a prospect. But they still have to deal with data challenges — 48% of sellers have to deal with incomplete data, 41% complain of inaccurate CRM data, and 37% have issues with siloed data.
So, we created APIs and then a product — Clearbit Capture — to identify high-intent website visitors and automatically create new leads, contacts or accounts in salesforce.
To successfully generate high-quality leads, you need to roll out an automated outbound sales strategy by defining an audience, identifying their attributes, and automating the collection of prospects who fit those criteria.
Step 1: Know your target customer
First things first: start by defining who you’re trying to reach.
Often the answer is prospects who fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). If you use account-based marketing (ABM), you might already have identified lists of target accounts. Maybe there’s a new segment or market you're trying to go after. Or, if you’re not too certain about your ICP yet, you can make educated hypotheses by looking at your most recent batches of new customers.
You should also pay attention to how the pandemic and the subsequent economic situation have changed buyer behavior and the industries you serve. It is no longer enough to know your customers; you must fully understand the customer segment. A McKinsey study found that most companies are changing how much they spend on purchases, which means your ICP may need to change.
Buying patterns have also shifted. Nearly 60% of buyers report that there are more than three people involved in the decision, resulting in even longer sales cycles. Research from Forrester also shows buyers demand more content and personalized interactions. That’s even more research you’ll need to win them over.
Step 2: Determine the attributes that define this target audience
Once you know who you’re targeting, it can become simple to settle on which data attributes will help you find them.
For each target customer segment, identify at least one quantifiable data point by which you can define them. It could be company size (by employee count) or whether they’re based in San Francisco. While there’s a lot of room for flexibility, your search criteria should be able to definitively distinguish a qualified lead from an unqualified lead. The better you are at identifying which attributes match your ideal customer, the more useful your prospect results will be for your sales team.
You set up conditions for any combination of search parameters like employee count, tech tools used, industry, location, domain, and more. For instance, here’s a search for accounts with more than 50 employees that use Google Tag Manager and are SaaS or B2B businesses.
Capture will automatically create accounts for high-intent visitors that fit your target audience. Capture identifies the company and IP belongs to, not the person. Capture will create an account in salesforce for the company and leverage our database to identify the best contacts or leads to for your sales reps to outreach.
Step 3: Bake this data into your outbound sales strategy.
The final step is to send this qualified prospect data to your sales pipeline and the tools you’re using to run outbound at scale. In light of recent shifts in buyer behavior, it’s possible that your outbound strategy could also use a revamp.
For instance, the rise of remote work prevented sellers from meeting buyers at conferences, lunches, or events. And so virtual selling became the new norm. Your customers actually prefer it this way — 55% of buyers report that working remotely has made it “easier” or “significantly easier” to make purchasing decisions.
But this new landscape has led to a decline in the spray and pray method. Buyers don’t want to listen to pre-written scripts. So, sellers are making more warm calls instead, where they conduct research prior to the call and customize their scripts to suit the customer segment. In fact, almost 90% of sellers make warm calls as opposed to 46% who are still making cold calls.
But before you jump into a call (warm or cold), consider LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report. In it, buyers said they wanted to be contacted in different ways.
- 66% voted for email
- 34% prefer social media
- 31% like webinars and virtual events
Check out the chapter on Outbound Sales Fundamentals from our Data-Driven Sales eBook.
The benefits of automated outbound lead generation
To run effective outbound at scale, the starting point is efficient sourcing of quality prospects. That’s where automatic prospecting enters the picture, empowering you to run queries for people who match specific criteria in just minutes rather than by painstaking one-by-one searches.
Increase the productivity of your sales reps
Supply qualified leads so that sales reps can put their time to better use nurturing relationships and closing.
Focus only on qualified prospects
Any kind of sales effort is more lean and successful when you’re talking to a tailored, relevant audience who is more likely to actually convert into a paying customer — prospects who fit your ideal customer profile (ICP), the right contacts in a target account, or new prospects who match criteria for a specific segment you’re trying to make inroads on.
Keep your sales pipeline up to date
Companies are growing and evolving constantly. Even if you build out a highly accurate contact list of leads today, it's only a matter of time before the names, email addresses, and phone numbers go stale. In fact, top performers spend 18% more time updating their CRM system. Instant prospecting means you can get started working with the most up-to-date information — and reduce bounce rates.
Get high-quality data to improve interactions and conversion rates
Highly targeted prospecting starts from a place of insight about who your new accounts and leads are. You can take this a step further by enriching these prospects with additional firmographic and demographic attributes to power personalization for outbound campaigns and other sales interactions.
The sales team at Intercom has seen 2,700 outbound leads each week and a 15% decrease in bounce rate since they started using Clearbit.
Automation holds the key to qualified outbound leads and humanizing sales conversations
You may think automated outbound sourcing can only give you a list of qualified prospects, but thanks to richer, more relevant data, you’ll actually make more personalized connections.
Automated prospecting tools like Clearbit help you constantly monitor target accounts and act on the ones that show engagement. You can also send alerts to sales teams with all the context they need to personalize the conversation and provide value, whether that be one-on-one sales calls or personalized outbound campaigns.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is outbound lead generation?
Outbound lead generation is a method to interact with prospects who may not be aware of your product or service. Usually, it involves sales reps getting in touch with leads via email, cold calls, social selling, or direct mail.
What is the difference between inbound and outbound lead generation?
Inbound lead generation, also known as pull marketing, focuses on encouraging prospects to get in touch with you to learn more, view a demo, or make a purchase. Methods include SEO, SEM, and content marketing. On the other hand, outbound lead generation, or push marketing, requires you to reach out to prospects through email, calls, or ads.
What is the best channel for generating quality outbound leads?
According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report, 66% of buyers prefer to be contacted by email. Only 21% like cold calls. But no matter which channel you use, research is key. LinkedIn’s survey data shows that buyers are more likely to engage with sales reps who understand their business needs and their role and offer personalized interactions.