Although 2023 is already a quarter of the way through, it’s not too late to think about the outbound sales strategies you’d like to use this year to help grow your ethical business.
Back in January, we interviewed three expert panellists to get their thoughts on how to grow your business with outbound sales strategies. Our panellists were Guy Littlejohn, the founder of commercial development company Facets; Imogen Keane, Business Development Manager at Service Robotics; and Pip Marshall, Group Partnerships Manager at cargo bike delivery company Zedify.
It was a fascinating discussion that touched on many elements, from the return of face-to-face meetings to harnessing the power of Google Docs! You can watch the webinar here.
Here are the four ways our experts believe you can maximise your outbound sales strategies this year.
Integrate AI into your sales process
There’s been a lot of chatter around the new AI platform ChatGPT and the clever content it can create at the click of a button.
The use of AI in all businesses needs more debate but the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no doubt that AI is here to stay – and will have a huge impact on our roles as salespeople.
“There’s definitely a lot of buzz around AI,” agrees Guy.
“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the potential of ChatGPT and other platforms. While they can’t replace humans yet, they can enable a human to stretch further, possibly be more efficient and effective, and come up with more strategies.”
Guy feels that AI is a definite help with research and data prospecting. Facets has been researching the potential of AI software to create a sales navigator event hosting – one that will tell you when your target has done something such as posted, and that can also look at large datasets and directories and pick out relevant information to put into your business’ CRM.
“Understanding the movers and shakers in your target audience is key, so AI for this can be great,” says Guy.
He does, however, stress the limitations of AI at the moment. For example, it’s crucial that you give it the right information, otherwise it won’t create something of value to your business.
The other big question for our community of ethical sales changemakers is how to integrate AI effectively while also staying true to our values and business mission.
And as Pip says, while this software is incredible, it’s also good to go old school and remind ourselves that they are just a framework.
“I still think Google Docs is amazing! You need to get the basics right before you start doing anything more complicated.”
Personalise communications as your key to success
All our experts agreed that it’s not good enough to simply send out mass emails and hope for the best – check your spam filters for why not! The key is creating communications that are highly personalised and relevant so people want to open up and engage with them.
“You have to make it easier for the buyer,” states Guy.
“Don’t make them click through, don’t make them download.”
Guy has been using embedded short-form content for some communications, similar to that of a text or WhatsApp message, as this is how people digest information these days.
“You’re trying to mimic how people communicate on a daily basis. When you’ve got that right, you can then expand on the details through meetings, phone calls, etc.”
Pip agrees that his messages are decreasing in length, and he sees them as a means to an end to get a conversation. He emphasised the importance of knowing how to communicate with a diverse range of customers.
“Some people still prefer a well-structured email, one that uses a more old-fashioned, flattery-based relationship. A younger start-up won’t respond to that – they’ll prefer a short message. It’s vital to know when to use which approach.”
For Imogen, using what’s topical and matching it to people’s priorities is a good way of personalising communications. She cited the example of the extreme ambulance waiting times back in December, and how Service Robotics used that in sales messages as a way of highlighting the benefits of the health service robots the company offers.
Of course, this takes time, effort and not a small amount of skill. As salespeople, we need to be improving our communication skills all the time, including how to create engaging email copy or have valuable interactions that resonate with our buyers. Is the line becoming more blurred between sales and marketing functions?
Engage multiple channels to connect with buyers
The pandemic had a huge effect on outbound sales and how these could be conducted, taking everything virtual for a good two years. But now we’re moving away from the immediate challenges of the pandemic, what channels are returning to outbound sales?
Guy has seen direct mail making a real comeback. “We launched a couple of strategies late last year with an online and offline twinned approach, which has worked well. It comes across as considered, and really puts your credentials in front of the buyer.”
Pip is still enjoying setting up face-to-face meetings after so long online.
“It’s a nice novelty to meet in person after being cooped up for a while. It’s the same with going to events.”
The biggest challenge facing us as salespeople is that we’re expected to be everywhere – in-person meetings, LinkedIn, email, direct mail – so that we can nurture those buyer relationships. This can, of course, make it tricky for time management and not stretching yourself too thin. But our experts agree that this multi-channel approach is essential in 2023, and no sales leader can choose to ignore it if they want to get results this year.
Imogen suggests testing different approaches in your multi-channel approaches.
“You can run an AB approach, see what works and learn from it.”
This way you can focus your time and energy on the channels that work for your business.
But while a multi-channel approach is important, you also need to treat each customer as an individual. This in turn leads to our fourth point…
Show the buyer you care
More than ever before, a buyer-centric approach to sales is absolutely key this year. This runs all the way through the sales cycle, from clearly identifying who you need to target to building a trusted relationship with your buyer/s.
Pip shared a story of how not keeping a buyer-centric approach nearly derailed a new customer last year.
“We reached out to a new client just as we took on some other big customers. We thought we could keep the new client simmering while we dealt with operational pressures, but we hadn’t gauged their level of urgency.”
He feels the way to stop things like this from happening is through internal advocacy.
“You need to emphasise any needs to your internal teams to make sure things happen and know when to push that.”
This in turn will make your buyers feel valued, and that their individual needs are being met by your product or service.
Some of Guy’s sales failures have come from contacting people in the same business with the same message in a short period of time.
“Those prospects didn’t feel the love or felt like the company cared for them. It just came across as a shot in the dark.”
For Guy, this highlighted how crucial segmentation and personalisation are in order to engage and develop a relationship with a potential customer.
“You need to show the prospect that you care about them and that you’ve done great things for similar businesses before.”
Want to further explore these trends, and gain more insights to help plan your 2023 sales strategy? You can watch the full webinar here.