Want REAL Results from your Outbound Prospecting Efforts? Don’t Half-A$$ it!

There are a lot of sales heads out there right now saying: “We really need a richer, fuller pipeline, and our inbound leads and rep’s rolodexes aren’t cutting it. We need some real outbound prospecting efforts taking place.”

Okay, well that’s a good first step. You recognize that outbound prospecting is very necessary to scale your business, and that it’s going to take some hard work.

But here’s the deal: If you really want to make this work — ie. adding legitimate/closeable new opportunities to your sales pipeline and making the process repeatable and scalable — then you are going to need to have individuals on your team whose sole function is doing just that — prospecting to new (highly focused companies/ buyer profiles) day in and day out. It can’t be a side job of a preexisting sales rep. It just doesn’t work.
After hearing FOUR different sales heads within OpenView’s portfolio in the last two week’s rave about Aaron Ross’s book, Predictable Revenue (co-authored with MaryLou Tyler), I decided it would probably be worthwhile to order it on Amazon, so I could see what all the fuss was about. I read it — and I’m now officially a huge fan.

Much to my liking, Aaron really drove home the point that in order to have a team that can REALLY source qualified leads by reaching out to cold accounts in a highly productive and scalable manner, they need to completely focused on the task at hand — outbound prospecting 100% of their time.

Aaron built Salesforce.com’s first pure outbound prospecting team in 2003, and by the end of the year the team it had generated $1,000,000 in new bookings and at least $3,000,000 in lifetime value. More impressively, it cost the business less than $150,000 to generate. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

One of the ingredients of his team’s secret sauce:

“…the team had a single mission: to generate new, qualified sales opportunities from cold companies and passing these qualified opportunities to quota-carrying sales people to close. The team contacted cold business accounts which we didn’t have a relationship or current interest, and past accounts which had gone cold for at least six months. The team didn’t receive any new inbound leads generated by word-0f-mouth or by marketing (these leads went specifically to a separate Marketing Response team to qualify and pass to Account Executives.)” (p 12)

Case and point: Aaron’s team’s did NO inbound lead qualification, and NO closing. Only outbound prospecting.

You might be thinking, “Okay, if you are encouraging true specialization of roles, then does that mean that my account executives should only be focusing on opportunity development and closing, no prospecting of their own?” (I’ve heard this come up in the portfolio a couple times this month.)

Aaron sheds some light on this topic, stating:

“Here are the rules of thumb about where Account Executives should spend their precious time prospecting:

  • A short, targeted “Top 5” or “Top 10” list of strategic accounts to penetrate

  • Their current customer base

  • Developing referrals or channel partners

The point is to focus your highest value people on low-volume, but high-value actives, (building relationships at key accounts), and specialize other roles and sales reps to take over low-value yet high volume activities (prospecting into untargeted cold accounts.” (p 31)


***Just to clarify, in Aaron’s quote, “sales reps” are outbound prospectors (I don’t usually call these individuals sales reps, as they are not closing deals). Also, regarding his use of  “untargeted cold accounts” — well, cold yes, but all accounts should be targeted, just not perhaps as limited as the Account Executives’ targeted accounts.

If you are thinking about investing in a outbound prospecting engine to build your pipeline it is going to take an investment of both time and money. So why not do it the right way? Make your team more specialized and focused, rather than doing a million things at once. Don’t half-a$$ it!


Editor’s Note: For more advice on outbound prospecting, managing your sales teams, and growing your business, sign up for the OpenView newsletter.

Devon McDonald is a Partner at OpenView, where she sits on the firm’s investment committee and oversees OpenView’s Growth team, a group of Research, Sales and Marketing Strategists responsible for helping its portfolio companies acquire more customers and scale at an accelerated rate.
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