Outbound Ops: building the bridge between Sales & Growth
Who are we?
We (Louis and Edouard) have been running outbound strategies for 4 years now.
We started together at Kymono as full-stack Sales (from lead generation to closing customers).
We closed more than 250 companies within 18 months (including customers such as Uber, Lime, Sendinblue...) with a 100% outbound approach in France and the UK.
Full-stack work is a lot. It builds a diverse set of skills, but there's a reason very few people do it. What we really enjoyed was identifying the right companies and driving demand. This was fun, but A LOT of manual work. This is why we started to look at scraping and automation tactics to save time and scale our processes.
We decided that jumping into Le Wagon, a coding bootcamp, was the best and quickest way to develop our technical skills. It's thanks to this business and technical mindset that we moved to Growth roles.
Today, we both work as Growth Managers for eFounders fintechs. Louis works at Spendesk (300 employees - post Series C) and Edouard at Upflow (20 employees - post Series A). Even if our two startups are at a different stage, we share a common mission: generate revenue by identifying and leveraging repeatable acquisition channels, always in collaboration with the Sales team.
Outbound is tough. There's no magic tool that will instantly level up your outbound results. The mix between a good mindset, powerful processes, and Sales collaboration will help generate qualified leads and focus your time on the most valuable tasks.
Your outbound strategy depends on many things like your market, the competitive landscape, your company stage, and your target persona. But, every successful outbound strategy is always a combination of three forces:
If you already run outbound campaigns from scratch, you probably went through these different stages:
Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
Identify and track companies and contacts to target
Enrich the data (firmographic information, emails, phone numbers...)
Clean the data (wrong persona/title, emoji before the first name...)
Import the data in the CRM
Build the scenario and the copywriting (templates, scripts...)
Launch the sequences + personalize your emails through an outreach tool
Salespeople often spend too much time doing these things manually instead of focusing on selling. It's often challenging to coordinate the sourcing and contacting stage when doing outreach. However, it's precisely targeting the right audience with the right message that is key in outbound.
One motto: Target the best companies with the right message and at the right time
As your Sales team is growing, Outbound can become even more challenging as you balance lead allocation, territories, volumes, message harmonization, and alignment between the different stakeholders (Growth/Marketing, Operations & Sales teams).
Outbound operations serve two key objectives:
Fill the Sales pipeline with the best leads to drive more conversations, more relevant and resonant messaging, and more timely interactions
Improve Sales efficiency and productivity to eliminate low-value tasks, put the right sales effort and focus on properly engaging leads
We’ll explain below a few tactics and processes we implemented to step up outbound efforts. Here are the different parts:
Find your ICP and best prospects
Leverage buyer intents
Build your enrichment and contact search processes
Leverage your CRM to personalize at scale
1. Find your ICP and best prospects
The first thing you can do is to use your CRM to look at historical sales data. You should be able to identify patterns and better understand who are your best customers. Patterns can be:
Firmographic data: industry, company size, revenue, technologies used...
Psychographic data: title, seniority, background...
SaaS metrics: MRR, Life Time Value (LTV)
Product usage: # of event, # of users...
Ideally, your best customers have the highest LTV and the shortest Sales cycle.
Listening to Sales and Customer Success call recordings is also a good way to understand your prospects and customers (pain points, verbatim...). This is particularly important when you're pre Product Market Fit (PMF). This can change quickly, hence it's important to keep teams in sync.
At Spendesk (post PMF), the Growth team does this exercise 1 hour per week thanks to Modjo. It's super helpful to keep an eye on the ground and collaborate with Sales reps.
Last tip - look at inbound prospects and customers to find patterns. This can fill in blind spots, such as new industries and personas that you didn't think about during structured outbound.
Once you know your ICP and persona well, you can now start to find them on the Internet. Different sources you can use:
Data providers: Crunchbase, DealRoom, Zoominfo...
Rankings: Best YC startups...
You can also use technographic tools like BuiltWith to know which technologies your prospect is using and use these insights to calibrate your offer and messaging better. Let's imagine you're a SaaS business that integrates with CRMs (Salesforce, Hubspot...).
Here is what it looks like:
Gsheet function build with a homemade script
Now you have a good list of companies/prospects that you can target, the challenge is to find the right audiences that are likely to buy now. This is why using signals can help prioritize your outbound efforts.
2. Leverage buyer intents
Timing is key in Outbound.
"Bad timing" is one of the first "closed lost" reasons for many opportunities. Identifying buyer intents (an event showing that a company is more likely to buy now) will help you reach out to the prospects at the right time by leveraging a specific moment. Some examples include:
New technology installed
New customer signed
G2 Buyer Intent feature
For example, at Spendesk, we use Albacross to identify website visitors (more info here about our process) and Asgard.ai to track job offers.
These intents are also a way to improve outreach personalization by finding custom hooks/personalized ice breakers. For example, with the hiring intent, you can find a lot of useful information in the job description like:
Company priorities and specific missions
Technologies used within the "experience in..." part
The Key Decision Maker (KDM) and team structure
Here is an example of a job description with information we can leverage to personalize our outreach at Upflow:
NB: Just because you identified a signal doesn't mean that now is the right time to target your prospect. You should have a specific strategy and approach for each type of intent. i.e., Sometimes it's worth waiting a bit before using the signal. Examples:
Fundraising announcement: It's generally a bad idea to contact them the same day of the announcement (C-levels are flooded with solicitations). Either you should wait a few days/weeks or find a way to identify the fundraise before it goes public (i.e., a startup that posts 15 new job offers the same day).
Hiring a C-level: According to the role they're looking for, the approach can be different. If they're hiring a C-level, they are probably your (future) Key Decision Maker (KDM), so it's often better to wait until this new C-level joined the company. As you spotted the job offer and have it in your CRM, you know exactly his/her missions and can use it to personalize your outreach.
When you find an intent that works - the magic is that you have a repeatable bucket of accounts to target each week/month.
You've identified a list of companies with buying intents. Now it's time to enrich this data with company information and the relevant contacts.
3. Build strong enrichment and contact search processes
According to the volume of leads you need, your company stage, and resources (either internal resources or ability to buy tools), you have different ways to scrape and enrich companies and contacts data.
At Upflow, as we're still in early-stage with limited resources, we prefer using software like CaptainData to scrape LinkedIn and Dropcontact to find emails. On top of this stack, we use Integromat to connect these tools and build powerful workflows.
If you have an account-based approach, you've probably had trouble finding the right contacts for a given company. The easiest (and accurate) way to do it is going manually on each LinkedIn company page and scrolling each page to find and copy/paste all the interesting contacts for your company. Granted - It's very time-consuming, this is why at Upflow we've built a workflow to automate 90% of our contact search.
It's pretty straightforward: we input LinkedIn company URLs, and the workflow will automatically output all the contacts that fit our persona (in our case, the finance teams) with their emails.
Here is what it looks like with 10 input companies:
Workflow built with Integromat and several APIs such as CaptainData and Dropcontact
At Spendesk, we've built a Prospect Relationship Management (PRM) to set up a scalable lead generation engine. The idea is to have our Total Addressable Market (TAM) enriched with multiple data sources. Then, we are able to build buckets of leads and push them to our business tools like Salesforce or Salesloft thanks to Hightouch, a reverse ETL tool.
To give you a concrete example, at Spendesk, when we identify a C-level Finance who recently joined a company, we will:
1 - Send them an invitation to our community, CFO Connect, through an automated email.
2 - Notify a Sales Rep in Salesforce to outreach the person and congrats them for his new move and smoothly introduce Spendesk.
Here is an example of a workflow that we created with n8n (a workflow automation tool) - through which we've been able to scale & automate all the steps, from detecting the new hired on LinkedIn to the enrichment, all the way to the synchronization/import in our CRM.
Once all your data is ready, now is the time to activate it to generate meetings and opportunities!
4. Leverage your CRM to personalize at scale
As a Growth team, scraping thousands of datapoints & signals and having them in a database or a spreadsheet is cool and can be pleasant... but data is useless if it's not actionable to generate revenue.
Now, the crucial part is to push the right data to the right place. It's important to always have in mind that data is here to answer a specific need. One of the most important parts of Outbound Operations is ensuring that data/lead flow to sales is working properly. The goal is to make data easily visible and actionable for the teams.
Our CRM (Salesforce) is the source of truth for our prospection data (and where the Growth & Sales magic happens).
At Spendesk, we can import in our CRM 1000+ accounts and associated contacts per month. It’s so important to do it in a clean way from the beginning to avoid all the classic mistakes like duplicates, bad data, internal conflicts, etc.
When we have good data in your CRM, we are able and confident to use it in our prospecting tool and save precious time by having pre-written emails with relevant personalization.
Below, an example of datapoints we push for the Job Offer Intent:
All the extra mile that we can do for our Sales Team to gain in efficiency is a lot of time-saving for them, and at the end of the month, it's more time speaking with prospects ;)
5. Visual prospecting
Email boxes become more and more inundated and buyers overwhelmed - personalized images and gifs can be a good way to stand out. Here, we don't really talk about the classic photo of a Sales Rep and cup of coffee or a board with the prospect's name. It's not about personalizing just for the sake of it, it's about providing a better understanding of the value proposition, in a visual way.
Here are two examples of dynamics images/gifs we use at Upflow and Spendesk (the words underlined in yellow are dynamic variables):
Upflow - personalized Customer portal with prospect data
This portal mockup shows to Loom's finance team how their customers, here Netflix (a real customer of Loom), could pay them in with Upflow.
Spendesk - personalized Spendesk card
Example for Brest Metropole's finance team with a past Spendesk user who worked at Mailchimp.
When a good messaging and audience are reunited (Upflow)
Many people say outbound is dead, but if done correctly, powerful Outbound processes and personalization at scale are super helpful to find the best prospects, drive more resonant/timely interactions and help your Sales team eliminates low-value tasks. However, it's generally not enough to maximize outbound results - this is why having great BDRs with business acumen makes the difference to add high personalization and stand out with relevant messages.
We see many teams who think automation first, but you should avoid automating something (a process, a sequence...) without testing and validating it manually. Automation is not an end in itself: it's what you do when you need to scale. #doThingsThatDon'tScale.
We see Outbound Operations as a tactical support function to help BDRs maximize their productivity & focus on high value-add tasks, so they can ultimately book more meetings. The collaboration between Growth, Operations, and Sales teams is key, and they should share the same goal: generate revenue.
Thank you to Max, Vincent, Charlie, Aleks, and Côme for the feedback and help!
P.S. Both Spendesk and Upflow are hiring in Sales, Marketing, and Growth. Feel free to reach out 👋
Impressive. Thanks for sharing guys !