How to choose an outbound sales agency
The right partner can make or break your sales funnel
Before we get to How to choose an outbound sales agency, we’d like to start with a definition of what outbound sales are.
The definition of outbound sales refers to the process through which reps make outbound calls or utilize other channels to reach prospects. Outbound is where a seller, which is typically a sales rep, initiates engagement with a potential buyer.
So what is an outbound sales agency?
An outbound sales agency would be a business that offers outbound sales services to companies in order to help feed their top of the funnel with prospective buyers and initiate meetings where your company can meet and qualify opportunities.
Many of the outbound sales agencies offer services to generate demand (interested prospects to meet with you business), qualify opportunities to help you identify if a certain prospective buyer has a potential to become a customer and close deals.
The right partner can make or break your sales funnel!
In order for you to select the right partner you need to first define your needs. Here are a couple of questions you need to answer yourself before you go and talk with potential providers:
- What part of the sales funnel are you struggling with?
- Top of the funnel – Not talking with enough prospective buyers. The majority of business comes from word of mouth. Highly dependent on referrals.
- Middle of the funnel – I have 3-5 meetings with prospective buyers on a regular weekly or monthly basis (depending on the industry) but I’m struggling with what happens after the meeting. Oftentimes we just meet and introduce ourselves but no actual next steps and timelines are discussed. Prospects don’t move forward to a proposal or Demo/POC.
- Low end of the funnel – I have regular prospect meetings and send proposals but after that we hit a wall. Prospects ghost us and we end up waiting for an answer that never comes.
How to choose a winning outbound sales agency?
Once you’ve identified where you need help the most, you can start looking for a partner. In order to help you in your journey we created a list of questions you can ask during a meeting. These questions can be summarized in 3 main categories:
Questions related to Process
When talking about processes you need to make sure that your partner has structured, well developed practices that can provide you with predictable and measurable results. Ask questions like:
- What does your service look like in practice? – here you’re looking to see if they have a clear process with easy to track key performance indicators.
- When and how do they report results and to what extent do they rely on an interaction with you? – if they require little to no interaction with you that is a sure red flag because they don’t know your business and without working closely with you (at least in the beginning) then most probably they’ll have a more templatized approach that doesn’t differentiate you from competitors and wouldn’t yield qualified leads.
- How many channels do they use? – if an agency is using only one 1 channel then that is a problem for you because research shows that if you use at least 2 sales channels (email & linkedin for example) you can at least double your outbound results. Best use 3 channels in outbound sales 😉
- What’s the total amount of prospects you reach out to within a month? – we’ve seen agencies that target thousands of prospects for a month. That’s usually a sign that the said agency is more quantity over quality approach or “spray and pray” as some people like to call it. That is often a way to damage your brand and doesn’t yield high results. There’s also the flipside of the coin where they are highly focused on quality above quantity. In such cases the agency reaches out to too few prospects using personal network/connections. This brings some opportunities but not enough to sustain a business long-term. Often these meetings are simply get-to-know calls without much relevance or opportunity for your business. We’ve noticed that a good balance between quality and quantity is where there’s still room for a qualitative approach and enough prospects to really generate long-term results. At Out2Bound we keep a healthy balance of 200-400 new prospects reached per month.
Questions related to Sales acumen
Nowadays many agencies claim to help customers build their sales funnel and feed it with thousands of opportunities. Unfortunately, most of them don’t follow sales best practices which sometimes results in flooding people’s inboxes with emails and messages that are simply annoying and considered as spam. To make sure your potential vendor knows what they are doing I’d suggest trying to understand more about their approach. You can ask questions like:
- What methodologies do you follow?
- When writing an email what kind of structure do you use?
- What opening email would you send to a prospect if you were selling for our company?
- What is the difference between marketing and sales in your opinion?
- When you cold call a company what is the typical flow of a conversation you try to follow?
Essentially we’re trying to understand if the vendor brings anything else to the table aside from building prospect lists and clicking send on email & LinkedIn.
Questions related to References & Previous experience
Last but not least we talk about references and previous experience. Here we aim to understand what kind of background the service provider has in our niche and ask for references from customers they’ve already worked with. Here are a couple of example questions you could use:
- Have you worked with other companies that target the same customers or industry like us?
- What was your experience targeting these customers/industries?
- What were your key learnings from said experience?
- Can you provide references from customers who’ve used your service? Specific contact details of people we can call or email would be best.
When you’re engaging a service provider is not like buying a product. Oftentimes when buying a product you’ve seen a demo and know what to expect from it. When working with a service provider there are many things you usually learn after you start work. Your goal is to try and establish a clear understanding of what you can expect before you sign the contract.
Red Flags when choosing an outbound sales agency
To wrap things up I’d like to outline a couple of red flags which you can consider a checklist when you choose your outbound sales agency. Here they are:
- If they don’t have a practice of keeping you updated with regular and structured reports you’ll have a lot of problems tracking them.
- If they use only one channel then most probably you can fully automate the process on your own for a fraction of the cost.
- If they are targeting less than 100 or more than 400 prospects per month then you’ll probably have issues getting the most out of your outbound sales.
- If they don’t share any useful information on building sales acumen like books or thought leaders then you might end up being blacklisted too many times and potentially damage your brand reputation.
- If they can’t provide you a single reference or share example use-cases of clients they’ve worked with then most probably you’ll end up being the customer they learn on like a test subject. You might be OK with that but make sure that this reflects the pricing you’re given.
- If their pricing is 100% fixed, meaning that it doesn’t have a variable that reflects the performance of their work. In such cases your service provider doesn’t have any incentive to achieve (and overachieve) their results which usually results in a poor to mediocre performance.
Remember that “when you outsource a problem it usually stays a problem”. Try to have at least a general understanding of what your providers are doing. That way you can effectively manage them and ensure a successful collaboration.
Boris Georgiev is one of the co-founders of Out2Bound. As such he has worked with over 50 B2B founders helping them realize their go-to-market strategies. In 2018 he was acknowledged by Forbes Bulgaria in the 30 under 30 list. On a daily basis, Boris tracks trends and best practices in B2B Tech sales.