How to generate outbound leads to elevate your sales

Yuriy Boyko
Author: Yuriy Boyko
Updated: 2023-02-10
Reading time: 13m

From everything you have heard and read, you know outbound lead generation must work. But for some reason, it either barely brings a handful of low-grade leads for your business or isn’t as effective as you believed.

Based on our experience, we’ve outlined the 6 most common mistakes our clients make in their outbound lead generation attempts. These real-life examples from Belkins’ case studies will explain how to make the most out of your outbound strategy and drive new, lucrative deals.      

How to make your outbound lead generation process effective

Regardless of business size and industry focus, most companies make these same 6 mistakes when launching outreach campaigns:

  1. Miss the strategy planning
  2. Use no ideal customer profile (ICP) or a poorly defined one
  3. Reach out to non-decision-makers
  4. Craft generic messages and pitch too much
  5. Underestimate LinkedIn as a lead generation tool
  6. Omit follow-up tactics

Mistakes happen, it’s a fact. But failure is a huge resource for learning how to improve. So before you start your growth journey, make sure to include these pivotal steps in your action plan.

Elaborate on your strategy and set clear long-term objectives

You’ll never know how far you’ve moved forward if you don’t know where you’re going. That’s why you need to start by outlining the destination and then build the route to it.

The same is true for your outreach efforts: To make them work, you need to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what impact it’ll bring to your business from a long-term perspective.

More importantly, having a clear vision of your future results makes it easy to pick the most effective toolkit to achieve them. 

Finally, if anything goes wrong, it’ll be easier for you to “reroute” and try a different approach.

How we set up goals that determined our client’s campaign success

Once a business straightens up its long-term sales strategy, all the other pieces fall into place. Here’s how it worked for one of our partners, 7Wonders Cinema.

A U.S.-based digital video agency, 7Wonders would use warm referrals and connections as their major source of new clients, which was enough for their 2 offices in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Once they decided to scale, though, their long-term outbound lead generation strategy required adjustments.

The new sales goals revealed that the company had the following issues:

  • Narrow ICP that failed to include possible global clients
  • Insufficient digital presence that didn’t match their ambitions to scale
  • Underperforming email outbound because 7Wonders’ existing sales capabilities and cold email infrastructure couldn’t pull off their scaled-up outbound lead generation process 

What did Belkins do to achieve those goals? 

Upon setting up the sales goals and deciding on the growth strategy, we prepared the playing field for 7Wonders by calculating their basic need for leads and sales calls. We figured out their in-house team requires (and can handle) 10 to 20 qualified appointments per month. Based on this data, we knew the capacity of email inboxes and the needed team size on our side to support their outbound lead generation efforts.

Furthermore, we forecasted how we would scale our campaign. Having started with 750 leads and 3 to 5 scheduled appointments per month, we revved up the client’s sales capacities to 3,000 leads and 25 calls per month. It was organic and planned fourfold growth within 6 months for 7Wonders. Just like that, setting clear targets from the get-go allowed both teams to work as 1 unit toward a common goal.

Belkins' outbound results for 7Vonders

Tips on how to create a stellar outbound strategy 

  • Analyze previous results and responses. From unsubscribes to feedback, review anything you do, make conclusions, and then apply outbound lead generation best practices. Look at statistics to determine what works and what doesn’t for your campaigns. Analyzing responses shows you if your emails are actually performing well.
  • Be flexible and tweak when needed. Mistakes are not big problems if you know how to fix them. Effective outbound lead generation strategies require adjusting according to new data and statistics. Don’t just give up. There are so many things that you can test.
  • Set deadlines for testing. If you don’t have a specific deadline in place, you’ll suddenly see it’s been a month, and you don’t remember when you started testing these outbound lead generation techniques. Choose 1 thing to prioritize, run it, and give it at least 1 week, depending on your campaign’s specifics and the lead pool you have. Whether you see positive outcomes or not, you’ll be able to verify or reject your assumptions.
  • Use team power. When working with many people, 9 times out of 10, something will come up that you didn’t think of (despite your head exploding from all the different strategies and ideas you’ve come up with). Before you start, think through a plan for a week or two. Or at least understand which direction you’re moving toward.

Make your ICP super clear

Just like some parents are overconfident that their kid is the best one, some businesses tend to think, “Our product is so awesome that it appeals to multiple job titles and teams. We don’t need to push it at all.” Yet this is never the case in B2B sales.

Without an ICP, you’re targeting every company with a web presence and a phone number. That’s a lotof contacts, as well as a lot of your time and resources. Save them for better use. Besides, if your message isn’t individually tailored to each one of them, then it won’t be effective for anyone.

Here are 2 stories from our experience when elaborating the companies’ ICPs was a turning point in their outbound efforts.

How we improved targeting and brought more orders by defining client’s ICPs 

For Café Zupas, a B2B catering business, one challenge was to understand how to single out a handful of ICPs when your product seems to cater to everyone. To sell more, Café Zupas needed to zoom in not just on any random small business in their state but specifically on those they could serve best (e.g., diet preferences, event frequency, etc.).

As Café Zupas had already been on the market for some time, Belkins analyzed their lead database, found patterns, and based the client’s ICP and buyer personas on them. All of Belkins’ outbound lead generation strategiesbrought Café Zupas 11 scheduled meetings in 3 months.

Belkins' outreach results for CafeZupas

How we helped ValueLabs differentiate through reidentifying their ICP

In contrast, ValueLabs, a global technology company, was laboring in an oversaturated software development market and needed a clear-cut ICP to stand out from the crowd. The work to define the client’s ICP involved making sure they were reaching out to the right industries, titles, and audiences.

For ValueLabs, Belkins picked industries that would respond best to the client’s IT services and bring the most leads. Belkins’ testing method and extensive research through the client’s website, testimonials, and case studies helped us figure out the industry types that provide the best regional results. As a result of a 14-month collaboration, ValueLabs received 115-plus appointments, over 150 prospects in their pipeline, and 2 closed deals.

Belkins' outbound results for ValueLabs

Tips on how to define a good-to-go ICP

  • Include the correct title. It’s useful to test every aspect of your ICP, including titles and personas. Not every company has a chief financial officer or chief operating officer, so you might need to try out different titles and see which works best. One company might give the title of chief financial officer to its CEO, while another company may opt to call its CFO a financial manager. You will need to figure it out along the way for each company.
  • Differ the profile from the persona. Each business needs an ICP and personas to know who they cater to. Think of an ideal customer profile as a roughly sketched portrait of your average buyer, whereas personas are high-resolution images. The more exact your ICPs and buyer personas are, the higher sales rates you’ll get.

Determine real decision-makers

Booking meetings with low-seniority titles who may not be responsible for closing deals is often a waste of time. Therefore, we suggest looking for senior titles during lead research or getting in front of them after communicating with their lower-seniority colleagues.

Which titles to reach out to is an important question that you ask yourself at the ICP development stage. Oftentimes, title research is one of the challenges clients pose for us as a lead generation agency.

How we helped OTH boost their sales by identifying and contacting decision-makers

When OpenTeleHealth (OTH) requested Belkins’ sales acquisition services, they didn’t have a specific title-search strategy in place. OTH, a white-label patient engagement platform for remote monitoring, had worked off a list of referrals and never had a lead-prospecting strategy that would cover all titles interested in the product. With the new sales goal set, the OTH sales team had to figure out how to do effective title research.

When partnering with OTH, the Belkins team went beyond the obvious medical positions like head doctors. As OTH is a digital platform that promotes medical devices, it made sense to reach out not only to C-suite titles responsible for business development but also those related to finance, innovation, and IT talent.

After Belkins researched CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, and VPs of health care providers, a reply rate was 30%-35% for Germany and 10% for the U.K. Overall, the OTH lead generation campaigns brought 91 scheduled appointments out of 60 promised in the first 3 months. And the total number of meetings reached 116.

Belkins' outbound results for OTH

Tips on how to get in touch with the right person

  • Brainstorm a variety of titles to target.For example, if you sell a medical device, expand the pool of titles to include IT people and innovation teams. When you sell SaaS solutions, you don’t necessarily need to target B2B marketers as much as application development and IT personnel. This idea may not be obvious. But in account-based sales, you should single out multiple decision-makers for your effort to be successful.
  • Have a selection of email-finder tools. Searching for leads’ emails online is the most obvious way to get what you need. Combine the decision-maker’s name and company name on Google. It may bring you 0 results, though. Try FindThatLead to locate leads’ emails in bulk. Now, check the emails the tool generated to make sure they are correct. If Google search shows the lead using their email address on Meetup, LinkedIn, or elsewhere, you’re on the right track. Check each email address once more with Hunter, NeverBounce, or any other email-verification tool of your choice.

Craft personalized emails

“I got a terrible email recently. In fact, it was just a huge product description without a call to action. There was no single word about my company’s needs — it was about their business only. Very much like bragging, basically. I’d never respond.”

Alex Sribnyi, Managing Director at Belkins

Crafting an email template that actually works isn’t easy, but it isn’t too difficult either. Here are basic rules that SDRs need to know and follow, seasoned with human empathy.

  • Focus on your client’s pain points and needs rather than purely promoting your services.
  • Keep the first emails short but relevant and informative.
  • Do your research and add the lead’s name and company name, where appropriate — mention anything that would show you understand them. 

Check out how delivering personalized messages helped our clients boost their sales.

How we booked over 70 appointments for Ebco by experimenting with personalization

A high-performing email doesn’t appear overnight. It’s OK if template creation takes some time and rewriting. For a trend consulting company, Ebco Trends, Belkins went through multiple approaches and content strategies based on lead feedback. Diligent research and endless testing helped us figure out the right approach.

For Ebco, Belkins did a lot of experimenting and testing — from email length and subject lines to storytelling arcs. This passion paid off in closing a big deal with a hard-to-get prospect that Ebco had pursued for 2 years!

Belkins' outbound results for Ebco

How we skyrocketed ed2go open rates by testing and tailoring email campaigns

Sometimes, asking a direct question right away brings you a reply and saves you plenty of time. When Belkins worked with ed2go, an online learning company, we would ask the prospects in our first-touch email templates if they provided direct workforce training, which was a great trick to quickly identify good-fit organizations.

Belkins’ cold email templates boosted email open rates by 60% for ed2go. Whenever our team got no reply, we continued emailing case studies and other relevant materials. This persistence resulted in 145 quality calls in 9 months.

Tips on how to increase email performance through personalization

  • Ensure your value proposition is easily recognizable. It should be the first thing your cold-email leads take away from the message.When you’re confident in your lead research and know that your product is a solution to their problems, don’t be stingy about letting them know how they’ll benefit. If you send your carefully crafted sales pitches but the recipient’s reaction doesn’t match your business goals, keep working on messaging to make sure it reflects where the product and the potential client’s pain points align.
  • Add a clear call to action (CTA). Keep your call to action short and sweet: People’s attention spans won’t indulge in rambling thoughts. If your CTA can be read in less than 20 seconds, you’re good. In some cases, it’s reasonable to use a sharp CTA with a question that requires a simple yes or no response.
  • Say goodbye to long email copies. For some sectors like government or manufacturing, long cold emails work best. However, a 2-paragraph email from a stranger who failed to pique your interest feels like a long read, not to mention a 2-page proposal with extensive product descriptions and pricing. We recommend opting for brief email messages when doing a cold outreach, but to find out what works for sure, email length can be and should be tested. 
  • Use the language of your prospects. Even though English is traditional for international communication, using native languages can be efficient as well. What could be more comfortable than communicating in a language you know like the back of your hand?

Want more tips on creating an irresistible email pitch? Read how to write B2B emails to win more clients.

Use LinkedIn to enhance your growth strategy

Although it is possible to do B2B prospecting exclusively off LinkedIn, most companies prefer not to generate all their leads from a single source. LinkedIn is indeed a perfect lead generation tool. It would be a shame, however, to use it only as a lead database. This professional social media platform performs immaculately for long-cycle lead nurturing.

How we filled HiBob’s pipeline with quality leads from emails and LinkedIn

Here’s an example from our practice. Our partner HiBob, an HR platform, works in the competitive niche of HR Tech. Filling their sales pipeline with small companies has never been a problem for HiBob, but breaking through to midsize businesses usually takes longer to build rapport and close deals.

We warned the client that lead nurturing would dry out the pipeline for a month or two. While our team took that time to work on the value proposition, get to know the product, and run cold outreach campaigns, LinkedIn played its role in lead research and personalization.

We made connections with leads through LinkedIn and used the platform to recruit potential B2B clients who were interested in HiBob’s services. Using cold email and LinkedIn outreach, Belkins researched about 12,000 contacts and sent more than 30,000 emails on HiBob’s behalf with an average open rate of 31% and a response rate of 12%. This strategy resulted in 20-plus calls per month.

Belkins' outbound results for HiBob

Tip on how to drive more leads from LinkedIn

  • Avoid overlap between communication channels. When you’re emailing people while sending that same group of leads LinkedIn messages, you can’t ensure it automatically stops once you get a reply. So the only way to synchronize it properly is to send cold outreach campaigns via email and LinkedIn by turn. Or divide the leads into 2 groups and reach out to Group 1 by email and Group 2 via LinkedIn.

Need a closer look at this lead source to lauch lead generation at full capacity? Check out how to use LinkedIn for lead acquisition.

Follow up relentlessly

Salespeople are notorious for overdoing their follow-ups. Either they reach out too many times or they do it too frequently without giving prospects enough breathing room. One of the reasons can be they are overwhelmed with packed work schedules and struggle to find time to follow up properly.

To ensure excellent outbound salesperformance, all the elements of the company’s lead generation engine must run like clockwork, including a robust follow-up strategy. If you straighten up your ICP, target audiences, email templates, and the correct titles but fail to follow up on each high-quality lead as often as it takes, all your previous good work will be in vain.

How we helped our client close more deals through regular follow-ups

The problem can lie with a small sales team, as with GoHealth Urgent Care, an online health insurance marketplace. They lacked persistence with hesitant clients, and it took a while to provide quotes simply because they lacked a large workforce. By outsourcing lead generation to Belkins, GoHealth’s sales team size remained the same and had the sales pipeline chock-full of high-quality leads.

The Belkins team is always meticulous about following up. With GoHealth UC, our sales reps connected with leads through different communication channels on Days 1 and 2 and then gave them some time to process the information. Then they reached out again with added value, ensuring that each contact is persistent and polite.

Thus, GoHealth UC was able to close their largest high-ticket sale and get 376 appointments into their pipeline.

Belkins' outbound results for GoHealth UC

Tips on how to make that “one last push” right

  • Plan a follow-up. Setting up a follow-up meeting on your first call is an excellent tactic. Don’t wait until you’re off the call. Instead, say something like this at the end of your appointment:“Hey, I’d like to set up a call so we can follow up after you talk with your team.” Right away, look at your calendars and set something up. That’ll save you plenty of time and effort that you would have otherwise spent chasing that second appointment.
  • Use a recap after a demo call as a follow-up tactic. Sending a recap with clear action items and deadlines is good for both parties. During demos, a lot of information is shared back and forth. And when you prepare and show that you actually understand and remember everything you talked about, this shows your intention to contribute to a long-lasting relationship. Besides, a recap email is an excellent follow-up tool.
  • Follow up with the right point of contact. Your first call with a lead is an opportunity to find out the decision-maker within their company. You may think that the right person to reach out to is the CEO, but they’re going to be impossible to reach. So just ask the simple question: “Who should I follow up with after our call for updates?” and the prospect will tell you.

Cold outreach mistakes and tricks: Wrap-up        

As you can see, we just scratched the surface of lead generation mistakes and effective tactics. But prospecting is more complex and circular in nature. You’ll most likely need to do everything at once and all over again: figure out a customer profile, search leads online, ensure the title is right, and adjust email templates.

However, once you get the hang of it, you will see that there’s always a challenge that you need to crack to get a new batch of top-quality leads. Stay tuned, and we’ll share more info on how to generate sales-ready leads for your business.

Yuriy Boyko
Yuriy Boyko iconHead of Account Management at Belkins
Yuriy has been working in the B2B sales sector for more than a decade. His approach is the integration of scientific methods combined with thinking out of the box, allowing to achieve the highest results in any industry.
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