How Salesforce Does Outbound Prospecting


I’ve been training the Salesforce sales team on outbound prospecting skills for over five years, and have shared and learned a lot along the way. It’s one of the more aggressive and fast-moving sales organizations in the world, which forces me to evolve as I try to stay one step ahead and continue to add value.

These days, any sales “technique” has an extremely short shelf life. This was not the case when information was less readily available. Now, if someone comes up with a technique that works, someone else finds out about it and writes a blog, and then everyone uses it and kills its effectiveness. A perfect example of this is the alligator email.

The reason I bring this up is because my training used to be focused on techniques. In working with Salesforce, I noticed how quickly these techniques would become ineffective after overuse. This is why I’ve shifted my training to focus on the structure of how to approach prospecting, and help reps build their own prospecting engine that they can plug any technique into. A solid foundational structure on how to prospect is far more effective than any specific technique.

This structure applies to all aspects of targeted prospecting: emails, calls or voice mails, contact strategies, social selling, daily routines, and everything else. This structure also has a significant impact on results and time management. If we all had all the time in the world to research every aspect of our target accounts and then spend an hour writing the perfect email, it would be great.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as many of us (including Salesforce reps) are held to certain activity metrics. However, if we blast out template emails and make generic cold calls just to hit our activity numbers, we’re no different than marketing and will be replaced very soon.

Outbound Prospecting Qualification Criteria and Prioritization

The structured approach I train Salesforce reps to take starts with a detailed look at how they prioritize their accounts. Most reps are given their territories broken down into quality-based tiers: Tier 1 is great, Tier 2 is average, and Tier 3 is not ideal. The breakdown is usually based on very basic information, like industry, revenue, or number of employees. The problem is that most of us take this information for granted and rarely look any deeper into what we call our lists.

I work with Salesforce reps to identify the additional levels of information (current solution, existing technologies, competition, social presence, and so on) that help clarify which accounts are worth spending time on. This is the foundation for time management when it comes to prospecting.

The Tier 1 accounts are the ones we take a “quality” approach to, with research, top-down selling, and customized messaging. The Tier 2 accounts are the ones we take a more “quantity” approach to by coming up with a message to a specific segment (for example, VPs of sales in the SaaS industry), and sending out 30–50 emails at a time while we track the responses. The Tier 3 accounts are the ones we practice new approaches with.

Setting Up Your Systems and Routine

Once we have a clear understanding of which accounts to focus on (Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3) and which approach to use (quality, quantity, or practice), we are now ready to set up our systems to optimize the collection of information and coordinate our outreach strategy. I recommend everyone have a list of 25 Tier 1 accounts to focus on with a quality approach.

These are the ones we set up on all the social listening tools so that information about them comes to us. This leads to a one-hour morning routine of looking through the data feeds for triggers and sending out a few really high-quality emails every day to some key target accounts, in addition to doing some social selling and helping the reps build their brand.

In addition to the daily routine, I also recommend choosing a select group of accounts (5–10) on a monthly basis for which to develop a very specific and targeted contact strategy. It takes about two hours at the beginning of every month to research these accounts and find at least five or six different triggers or reasons related to their business that we can use to develop a contact strategy. With the 5–10 accounts a month and the one-hour routine each day, we keep the high-quality outbound prospecting very consistent and effective.

Turning Up the Volume

In order to get the quantity levels up so we can hit our activity numbers, we focus on specific personas and information we can segment from the database. The idea is to be able to run a report (on VPs of sales in the SaaS industry, for instance), and come up with a specific message and contact strategy we think will resonate with our prospects.

Once we think about what these personas’ priorities are and what we think will get their attention, we execute the contact strategy with one group, and A/B test it against another group with a different message. With this approach, we can run multiple campaigns and learn what works along the way.

For more insight on inside sales, be sure to visit our High Velocity Sales collection page.

If we all had all the time in the world to research every aspect of our target accounts and then spend an hour writing the perfect email, it would be great.”

John Barrows | Owner, j.barrows LLC
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