Fix Your Broken Outbound Prospecting

Grandpa – a man who could fix anything.

My Grandpa was one of those guys who could fix anything.

One summer, when I was a little kid, Grandpa decided it was time to paint our porches and that I was old enough to help.

First we had to replace a few rotten tongue-and-groove boards. Then we had to hand scrape and sand down all the porches. After that we swept them.  Then hosed them off. Then waited for them to dry.

Only them could we begin to paint.

When I was on my hands and knees scraping and sanding, I complained, “This is taking forever – why can’t we just paint over the old paint?”  His reply stuck with me ever since,

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”

The Outbound Prospecting Model

Ever since Predictable Revenue became a bestseller in 2011,  startups and tech companies companies have tried to replicate the outbound prospecting success that Salesforce, Echosign, and other SAAS businesses have achieved.

Although the Predictable Revenue model is much more than Outbound Prospecting, companies have keyed in on this component as the Holy Grail that will lead to $100M in revenues.

Here’s the model:

  1. Hire Business Development Reps to Cold Call to find qualified prospects then set appointments with these prospects & hand them off to Account Execs.
  2. Account Execs will perform Demonstrations, move the sale forward and close deals.

BDRs prospect via high volume cold calling & emailing to identify who is the “right person” at a company. They do a preliminary qualification with that person before setting a meeting for the Account Exec.

Account Execs do not prospect. Their job is to fully qualify any prospect they meet with and then move those sales forward to close.

Today I’m going to focus on how to fix the first half of this model – Outbound Prospecting.

Broken Expectations

“Let’s buy crappy lists of bad contacts with outdated information. We’ll assign these to our BDRs to cold call and SPAM. Then we’ll project exponential pipeline growth of fully qualified appointments for our Account Execs”, said nobody ever. 

Except that’s exactly what most companies do and then get disappointed with the results.

  • You buy leads from, ZoomInfo,, LinkedIn, Rainking, SalesGenie and other sources. Each vendor claims to offer the most accurate leads.
  • You segment your leads by territory, vertical, business size or other criteria.
  • BDRs then use sales automation tools to make 50-100 calls per day and SPAM the leads mercilessly following predefined scripts.

Following this method, BDRs are lucky to create 1-2 appointments per day (2% conversion). It’s a thankless, monotonous job. 

Those appointments aren’t well qualified so your Account Execs then complain about both the volume and the quality of the appointments. 

Then in management meetings, the Sales and Marketing leaders gets slammed for not producing enough sales.

Mindless, Scripted Prospecting  

After spending a significant amount of money to purchase leads, nurture them with marketing, and deploy a BDR team, most companies then instruct their BDRs to follow a prospecting process which guarantees mediocre results.

Below is an example. When I worked as a VP of Sales, I received pitches like these from up to 50 different companies per quarter. Almost none of them resulted in me accepting a phone call from the BDR, much less agreeing to a demo or making a purchase.

My comments, coming from the perspective of the prospect, are noted in green.

Email 1  

Subject: Meeting

Hi Steve, 

I work for ABC Company and we help companies like yours with sales- Salesforce, Microsoft and Google. I’d like to schedule a few minutes to discuss your business priorities.

Are you available Thursday at 11AM?

First, my company is nothing like Salesforce, Microsoft or Google. We are a midsize business. We are not a multibillion corporation. Referencing them tells me you know nothing about my company. 

Secondly, I have no idea what your company does. Why would I have a call with you to discuss my business priorities?”

Voicemail 1 

Hi Steve,

It’s Brandon with ABC Corporation. I sent you an email earlier this morning and was just wondering if you saw my email. I want to confirm our meeting on Thursday at 11AM. My number is 123-456-7890. Again it’s Brandon from..DELETE.

Yes, I saw your email and deleted it. If I was interested, I would have replied. Since I still know nothing about what you do which Is why I deleted your voicemail before you finished. 

Email 2  

Subject: RE: Meeting

Hi Steve, 

Per my email I a few days ago, I work for ABC Corporation and we work with Marketing Execs just like you at Salesforce, Microsoft and Google. I’d like to schedule a few minutes to discuss your key initiatives this year and how we can help.  

Since we weren’t able to connect Thursday, how about Monday at 9AM?   

<snip> The entire original email body is included below <snip>

First, I am not a Marketing Exec. Second, I still don’t care that you work with the Big Three. What they do is completely irrelevant to my business.  I am now marking your email as SPAM.    

Voicemail 2  

Hi Steve,

It’s Brandon with ABC Corporation. I sent you several emails and voicemails but haven’t been able to connect with you. I know you’re probably really busy and might have missed my previous emails and voicemails.  

Do you have time for a quick …


The BDR repeats the Voicemail/Email routine for 1-2 more iterations. If he’s really aggressive, he’ll  also call me 2-3 times in one afternoon without leaving a message hoping to catch me.  (I am talking about you RainKing-DiscoverOrg-AT&T-Comcast-InsideSales etc.)

Breakup Email   

Subject: Did you Fall Off a Cliff? 

Hi Steve, 

You haven’t responded to my multiple attempts to reach you. I must assume either you aren’t interested or you’ve fallen off a cliff. Please let me know because I want to be sure you don’t need me to send out a search party. 🙂

This was clever the first few times I saw it used back 2012. Now it’s just annoying since every BDR does it.   Why didn’t my SPAM filter catch this? DELETE. 

This mindless prospecting approach is a waste of time, money and effort.

It bums me out because companies that do this are taking enthusiastic, energetic BDRs and turning them into bored robots who are learning to despise sales.

And it has the opposite effect that everyone wants.

Rather than making a solid first impression when qualifying prospects, your BDRs are making prospects want to avoid speaking with them.

Rather than developing your BDRs into seasoned sales professionals who will grow your business, you are relegating them to a high burnout, high turnover role.

Worst of all, rather than creating solid pipeline, you create a pipeline filled with poorly qualified, disinterested prospects.

As Sales Managers, we can fix this

The Right Way to Prospect- Think, Research, & Engage in Real Conversation 

The process below can be tweaked to fit your business and then taught to your BDRs. If you include your BDRs when developing this process, it will bring even better results. If they help build it, they will take ownership of it to make it work.

Don’t forget, your BDRs are also the only people in your company making 50-100 calls a day. They are the people in your company who are the closest to your prospects.

What follows is the Inside Sales Dude method for developing an effective Outbound Prospecting process.


Step 1 – Define your objectives

  1. What is our true objective?  Sales  (not appointments, not calls, not meetings).
  2. Who is an ideal customers? Has a need that we fill perfectly, values what we offer and can afford us.
  3. Why would they be interested in buying from us? This is where we can apply our creativity, ingenuity and communications skills. We can also ask them.

Make sure you include the BDRs in this discussion. If they understand the “Why?” behind the process, they will surprise you with what they contribute.


Step 2 –  Prioritize your lists

Teach your BDRs how to identify leads that are similar to your Ideal Customer profile. Help them to recognize the common characteristics among your existing best customers. If you are doing any A-B testing of leads and finding meaningful results, share this info with your BDRs.

Anecdotal wins should be shared with the team as well. I encourage you to discuss what’s working and what’s not in your Weekly Sales Meeting.


Step 3 – Research your prospects

Your BDRs should do preliminary research once for each prospect. They should look at the company website, LinkedIn, 10K, Annual Report, and Google the person for business related background.

This should be limited to a few minutes per prospect.

BDRs should put a few notes in their CRM so that anytime someone contacts this prospect again, they do not need to repeat the research.


Step 4 – Develop your pitch (this applies to calls, emails and voicemails)

BDRs need to tell your prospect, in a few words, what you do while making him curious enough to check out your website (or ideally, have a longer conversation with you).

Here is where you should be creative. What did you learn from your research?  What has resonated with other prospects? If you were in his position, what would you need to hear to spark your interest?

You also need to tell the prospect what you want him to do.

Here are some opening pitches that might work:

“We work with your competitor/s <name at least 1> who use us to <solve this problem>. If you’d like to know how we might be able to help you, please check out this link…”

“We work with <a person or company you admire> who use us to <solve this problem>. If you’d like to know how we might be able to help you, please email or call me @..”

“I spoke to <your boss, your CEO, your friend> who suggested I reach out to you…

“Our customers often switch from <the product you are using> to us because we do <something intriguing>. If you want to learn more, let’s have a quick call…

“You <downloaded our software/attended our webinar/requested information>.  Why did you do that? How can I help you?”


Here are some lame pitches that are commonly used  – avoid these:

“I just wanted to touch base to get to know you and your initiatives…”  So what?

“We will save you money…”  Everyone says this. But spending money rarely saves money. 

“<Insert you favorite marketing blurb here>…” Meaningless fluff.  


Step 5 – Engage in a Real Conversation

Only now are you ready to call a prospect, send an email or leave a voicemail. This is when you get to apply your knowledge, your ability to listen & respond, your intellect and your creativity.

Here are a few tips:

  • Have a conversation with your prospect.
  • Listen. Be curious and ask questions about what I am saying vs. trying to follow your scripted questions. When you express genuine interest, a prospect will tell you a lot.
  • Do not read from a script. Everyone hates this.
  • Offer me something of value if you expect me to give you my time and attention. If you want me to meet with your AE for a demo, I need a good reason.

Mr. Snake – An early sign of my son Zack’s artistic talents.

Don’t be a Snake

I despise “sales techniques” that are used to trick and manipulate prospects into accepting a meeting or winning a sale.

I think this is a horrible way to do business. But many salespeople still try to do this.

In the short run, you may have some success. But over time, you’ll find that prospects cancel more often, appointments don’t convert to sales, and you might not be too proud of what you are doing.

When manipulative sales techniques are used on me, I get turned off quickly. So do most people.

Wrapping It Up

My Grandpa said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”

Then he taught me that “doing something right” requires planning, preparation, and hard work.

If you are not getting the results you seek from your Outbound Prospecting, now you have the tools to do it right.

If you want some help improving your team’s prospecting or closing, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

If you enjoyed this article, please forward it to a friend, send me a note, comment, or like it on LinkedIn. 


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