2023 was no joke. It was a hard year for most. And in most parts, it caught businesses off guard as there was some hope of recovery post-pandemic.
There was demand, but so few had the budget to spend, so finding those opportunities took more work than ever, which shone a light on how many businesses were tackling sales.
It was (hopefully) an awakening that the reliance on inbound opportunities isn’t sustainable. Why? Because they're hard to scale, difficult to predict, and almost impossible to create a sustainable business.
Coupled with that, most businesses realised that Leads don't grow on trees. You can't manufacture them. No one can guarantee you 'xx' amount of qualified leads each month.
There is an awakening around what sales is about. The strategies that worked yesterday might be less effective today, and we all know we need to take charge of our own sales agenda, get our engines working inside our own business, tackle the big hairy 'outbound' sales problem and get 'demand' working for us.
Looking forward to this year
So, as we step into 2024, businesses are facing a real need to reevaluate their sales approach. While inbound sales have been a go-to for many, relying solely on this approach is no longer sustainable.
The Pitfalls of Inbound-Only Strategies
Inbound sales, emphasising attracting leads through content marketing, SEO, and social media, has been a reliable avenue for customer acquisition. However, its limitations are becoming increasingly apparent. Inbound sales is neither a strategy nor scalable, predictable, or sustainable in the long run. Relying solely on inbound opportunities puts your business at the mercy of external factors, and as competition grows, standing out amidst the digital noise becomes a Herculean task.
The Outbound Revolution
To unlock your next phase of sales success, you must break free from the shackles of inbound reliance and embrace outbound strategies. Outbound sales are often overlooked as they're - well, too 'salesy' - and involve proactively reaching out to potential clients through various channels.
But just because you're taking your message out, that doesn't mean it needs to be a horrible, cold, overly salesy message. It can still be sophisticated, value-add, and look to build your authority.
And let's be honest, we've all received something along the lines of, "Do you need a mobile app? We're specialists in mobile apps...". UGH. It makes my skin crawl.
However, if done right, combined with the tactics that normally generate inbound leads, it can be done right. It can be done well. It can deliver some great results. And above all, this approach provides greater control, scalability, and predictability to your sales efforts.
Blending channels for outbound success
No one initiative, channel or tactic will solve sales for you. It needs to be a blend of things. Some you're more comfortable with than others, no doubt. But the art of blending these elements will drive success for you.
LinkedIn: The professional playground
LinkedIn is the powerhouse for B2B networking and demand generation. A well-crafted LinkedIn strategy involves building a robust profile, engaging with relevant content, and strategically connecting with potential prospects. Regularly sharing industry insights and participating in conversations within your niche can position your business as a thought leader, fostering trust and credibility.
All very obvious, I know. And you're probably doing most of this already.
But are you doing it consistently enough? Have you kept posting even though your engagement is low? Have you solved the scale challenge on LinkedIn? Have you worked out the right follow-up cadence to get replies and book calls to build a relationship?
Did you know it will probably take 6-8 'nudges' on LinkedIn to get your average cold connection to act?
Consistency and continuity of your actions are key here, and this channel is no doubt an untapped gold mine for you if you can crack it.
Email: The time-tested communication tool
Email remains an integral part of sales. Personalised and targeted email campaigns can cut through clutter and directly reach decision-makers.
Employing automation tools for follow-ups and segmenting your email lists based on specific criteria enhances efficiency and effectiveness.
Again, all stuff you probably know. But are you using it? Have you ever tried it? Most have yet to because, most of the time, it's poorly done, which puts us off.
Fair enough. But does that mean it can't work for you?
It can be done right. It can get you a hell of a lot of scale. And that scale can deliver some brilliant results.
But it's about getting your tech stack right, not to mention the sales strategy, offer, and language, so your proposition breaks through the noise.
The other thing about email versus LinkedIn is that you need to be more direct. So rather than the dance of demand you're doing over on LinkedIn, you can cut to the chase on email.
Content Marketing: Educate and engage
Quality content remains a cornerstone of successful B2B sales. Develop a content strategy that aligns with your target audience's needs and pain points. Articles, whitepapers, and case studies can position your business as an industry authority, attracting prospects actively seeking solutions. All are inextricably linked to your proposition and all value, non-sales content. It's not about adding value, giving the answer, and showing authority in your space.
But isn't content marketing an inbound tactic, I hear you say? It sure is. But the mistake most make is that they need to link the value in your content to the outbound sales channels, which is a waste of good content.
Linking the two and bringing the content into your outreach over LinkedIn and Email, not to mention into your active pipeline, gives you a great reason to follow up.
Events: Beyond the Digital realm
While digital events have gained popularity, in-person events remain unparalleled for building relationships. Attend industry conferences, trade shows, and seminars to meet potential clients and partners face-to-face. The personal connection forged in real-life interactions can significantly impact your sales pipeline.
They also provide a brilliant hook back into your outbound efforts. Either by inviting prospects to come to the event with you, perhaps as your guest, or as a good reason to show you're active, getting out there and becoming an expert in your field.
Link events back into your content as well as your outreach, and you have a really potent mix of value and a great reason to be staying in touch with your prospects.
Speaking engagements: Amplifying your voice
Whether on stages, webinars, or podcasts, speaking engagements provide a platform to showcase your expertise. Establishing yourself as a knowledgeable and authoritative figure in your industry can attract inbound interest and position your business as a go-to solution provider.
Speaking gigs can be hard to come by, which is why most engineer the opportunity themselves. So, if you're struggling to get a gig, do it yourself and don't worry too much about the webinar fatigue most people talk about. They still have an impact, and if you record the content, it has that multiplier effect that will really help bring your outbound efforts together.
Building a strong sales foundation
Beyond the channels and tactics, the success of your B2B sales efforts hinges on the right sales strategy and process. Crafting a strategy that helps your business stand out in a crowded market is paramount. Identify your unique value proposition, understand your target audience, and tailor your approach accordingly. This strategic clarity will guide your outbound efforts, ensuring they align with your business goals.
Process is the glue that holds your strategy together. Define clear and efficient processes for each of your outbound channels. From LinkedIn outreach to email campaigns, having a well-defined process ensures consistency and allows for measurement and improvement over time.
Don't underestimate the power of sales culture.
However, the real magic happens when strategy and process are infused into the DNA of your organisation's sales culture. A positive and collaborative sales culture empowers your team to execute strategies seamlessly and consistently. Encourage open communication, continuous learning, and a customer-centric mindset. When every team member understands and believes in the overarching strategy, and the processes are ingrained in daily operations, your outbound efforts gain momentum.
Let's wrap this up.
In the dynamic landscape of B2B sales in 2024, breaking free from the limitations of inbound reliance is essential for sustained success. Embrace outbound strategies through LinkedIn, email, networking, content marketing, events, and speaking engagements. All blended to drive the outbound sales agenda. Delivering this consistency at scale is the key to unlocking the full potential of these channels and your sales engine.
By adopting a proactive approach, diversifying your outreach efforts, and building a solid foundation through the right strategy, process, and sales culture, your B2B business can navigate the challenges of the modern sales landscape and thrive in the years to come.