Does outbound still work?  It’s one of the questions so many sales leaders are asking out loud these days.  The outbound playbook from the past 5-10 years in SaaS clearly … isn’t.  Hiring 10, 20, 50 SDRs straight out of school to send the exact same email sequences to try to get meetings for an AE with more experience that them isn’t performing for 90%+ of us anymore.

And yet … almost every CEO, almost every buyer, still opens and reads the best emails they get.  Every single day.

I remember when I joined Adobe for a bit, I wondered if the very top execs really read their email.  How could they?  How could they process so much email?  So I did a little “study”.  I watched, asked, and sort of … snooped.  It turned out, they were on email all the time.  The bigger the team, the more folks you had to forward emails to.  But every senior exec even at one of the largest tech companies was on email all the time.

Fast forward to today, two of my fastest growing investments sell to SMBs. 1-2 call closes, low ACVs.  You have to be relentlessly efficient here.

One has mostly abandoned outbound and done just fine. Doesn’t move the needle and was a big distraction. The other has doubled down here and seen it grow to 30%+ of new customers. Different industries, different teams.

But most importantly, perhaps, different CROs. Different DNA.

We can all agree the old “break up email” sequences run by kids straight out of school has very limited effectiveness today.  We can all agree 1000+ SaaS vendors makes the old outbound playbooks just not work well today.

It doesn’t mean outbound is dead though

I think what’s most important in 2024 is that outbound truly adds value to the prospect. That still works.  The break-up email chain never really did.

Email remains a magical thing. If the email is strong, and importantly, the value strong — it will get opened and it will get read.

That’s something right there.

If nothing else, less is more may be the answer to most outbound today.  Spend more time on each prospect, rather than the scatter-shot approach.  Put more experienced folks on the problem.  Not easy, when SDR has traditionally been an entry-level position.  But maybe necessary today.

A few tactical thoughts:

  • Read the outbound emails your team is sending.  Would you buy, based on them alone?  I bet you wouldn’t.
  • SDRs may be able to do a better job on reviving “lost” deals than AEs can.  Try that.  AEs just move on from a Lost deal.  But put a smart, thoughtful SDR on following up afterwards.  They may find not all those deals are really lost.  The timing was just off.
  • Most AEs won’t do outbound themselves, no matter what X and LinkedIn say.  So try to find them an SDR partner.  The idea of “full stack” AEs that will do outbound and inbound sounds great.  But boy it’s rare.  Find a solution that works well for even just 1 top AE so they can close more.  Then replicate.
  • Slow it down, do 50 great personalized pitches — and see if you can get 4-5 meetings. If you can, you have something.   A 10% meeting rate is pretty impressive.  It shows there’s a way to make your product and its value prop break out of the noise.  Invest more after that.

And while we don’t all have the resources Rippling has, this great deep dive with their head of outbound really shares a lot of insights on how to make outbound work, even today:

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