Outbound sales is a specific type of sales with its own unique strategies for selling. If you’re new to what outbound sales is, and need to understand exactly what it means, start here!
What is outbound sales?
Outbound sales is the process of sales reps reaching out to prospects and delivering sales pitches. Cold calling is a classic example, but modern outbound sales teams also use email and other methods of communication. The defining feature is that reps are contacting leads—leads aren’t coming to you.
That’s the difference between outbound and inbound sales. With inbound sales, potential customers are coming to you (often because of your successful content marketing).
Before we talk about the outbound sales process itself, let’s talk about why it’s worth doing.
In short, outbound can be effective because it provides the things inbound (usually) doesn’t:
Immediate feedback and results
Personal contact with prospects
Control over the pace of marketing and selling
These benefits of outbound sales make it a powerful channel for generating revenue. You reach out to your ideal customers instead of waiting for them to come to you, and you find out right away if your approach is working.
Because you control the pace of outreach and selling, it’s up to you when to start scaling the process. Need more sales? Reach out to more prospects.
To get the most out of your sales process, you can combine inbound and outbound tactics—giving you the best of both worlds. So, let’s take a look at what’s involved in outbound sales.
An overview of the outbound sales process
Every company has a different outbound process, but there are 5 steps that every outbound sales team has to go through. Here’s a summary of what that usually looks like:
1. Identify market segments
Who will you be selling to? What’s your target audience? Without this information, your sales team won’t contact enough of the right people to make a significant number of sales.
Segmenting your market into smaller groups also helps tailor your sales approach. This is especially important if you sell different products, or your customers are in different verticals.
2. Generate leads
Lead generation is a complex topic, but it all comes down to filling your pipeline. You generate leads by coming up with a list of people you want to contact and finding their contact information.
Sometimes you’ll have a lead-generation team in house. Other times you’ll pay for a lead database. You might even outsource to outbound lead generation companies. It’s also possible for salespeople to handle lead generation.
At the end of the process, you’ll have a list of people for your sales team to contact.
3. Outreach and qualification
This is when your sales team starts to take action. Whether by phone, email, or another method, salespeople contact your leads. Much of this process is taken up by calling and emailing prospects.
In their first interactions with a lead, salespeople will determine whether or not they’re a likely customer for your business; that’s what sales qualification is for. If not, they’re removed from your list. If they’re a qualified prospect, they’ll move onto the next stage.
4. Sales calls and meetings
Now your team gets to do what they do best: sell. This might involve a live demo of your software, a meeting with executives, or a call to discuss the features and benefits of your product.
Depending on your target market, this process can take a while. B2B and enterprise sales tend to have longer sales cycles with more decision-makers. Smaller sales might be closed in a single call.
5. Closing the deal
If the sales calls and meetings are successful, it’s time to sign the contract. The deal is closed, and your sales team has made a sale. Of course, there’s a lot more to do after this—but your sales team’s involvement in the process is done.
Now that you understand the basics of outbound prospecting, let’s dig into some more advanced topics.
You might think that starting an outbound sales system involves hiring a few salespeople and giving them a list of people to call. But if you want to succeed with outbound, you need to do a lot more than that.
You need to build a great team and create a strategy for closing deals. That requires a lot of scientific thinking and experimentation. Here are five steps that will help you build a profitable outbound sales process.
1. Build the right sales team
You can certainly start outbound selling when you’re the only person in the company. But if you’re building a sustainable outbound process, having a team onboard will be a big help.
So who do you hire?
There are all sorts of ideas out there about who you should hire. Some people hire for industry experience. Others have in-person tests that salespeople need to pass. We, for example, hire hustlers instead of veterans.
Find people who have the potential to be great outbound salespeople and cultivate their skills and attitudes. They’ll help you create and improve your process.
It’s also a good idea to hire more than one outbound salesperson. A sense of competition, a backup when someone isn’t able to call, and more room for experimentation pay off in the long run.
2. Create ideal buyer personas
You know who your target audience is. But it’s time to get more detailed. You need to know their job titles. Where they read articles online. The exact problems they’re looking to solve. What keeps them up at night.
All of this information is represented succinctly in a buyer persona. And that persona is a valuable tool for your salespeople.
You might already know some of the information that belongs in a buyer persona. But it’s also worth making sure you have as much information as possible. Talk to your contacts, current customers, and even strangers.
Keep in mind that you may have multiple buyer personas. It depends on how many products you sell and how many types of people they appeal to.
Why should your ideal customer buy from you? The answer to that question is your value proposition—and that’s what’s going to get you sales. Make sure every salesperson can articulate it on demand, and without hesitation.
Of course, you may find that your value proposition changes over time. Some customers might use your product for reasons that you didn’t expect, or you may have to reposition your brand to account for new competition.
But jumping into outbound selling without having a really good reason that people should buy from you is going to backfire. Make your value proposition irresistible and your salespeople’s jobs will be easier.
4. Start generating leads
Your salespeople now know the type of people they’re selling to and the value proposition that appeals to that audience. Now it’s time to build a list of people to actually start selling.
All of these methods of lead generation get people to come to you. They’re scalable, sustainable, and—generally—don’t require a big investment of cash, though they often take a lot of time.
There are outbound methods of lead generation, too. Print ads, outdoor advertising, direct mail, and other traditional types of marketing still work. And paid lead databases can be immensely useful (though you have to be careful about trusting the information you get from them).
The best method for your company depends on your industry, sales process, and growth stage. Most companies will use a combination of methods, but it’s worth taking the time to figure out what works best for you, because you’ll never stop generating leads.
5. Plan your outreach and start selling
By now you might be wondering if you’ll ever start selling. Don’t worry—once you’re done with this step, your salespeople can start hitting the phones. But to do that, they need an outreach plan. Here are some things to include in that plan:
Whether to call or email first
How long to wait before following up after leaving a voicemail
What format the follow-ups take
Specific messaging to include in calls and emails
Timelines for continued follow-ups
If you’ve been selling your product or service, you can build on your experience. If you haven’t, start with what you think will appeal to your audience, and then build from here.
This plan will change as you learn what works and what doesn’t, but you should have at least a rough guideline for how your salespeople should do their jobs before you set them loose.
Once you have a plan, you’re ready to start selling! Make sure everyone knows how to put your plan into action and then get them on the phones!
5 essential outbound sales tools and software
Outbound sales tools help your team make the most of their time. While you could start this process with a spreadsheet, it’s going to be a hell of a lot faster if you have the right software.
While most of these tools are optional, this first one is an absolute necessity. It helps you keep your team organized, tracks your progress, and improves communication:
1. Outbound sales CRM
Sales CRMs keep track of your leads, log the contact you have with them, and generally organize every part of the outbound sales process.
Why you need it: Because outbound is a complicated process, and an effective CRM manages much of it for you.
Price range (per user per month): $20–$300, depending on the complexity of the outbound CRM, the number of users, and the length of your licensing agreement.
After you generate leads, you need to gather information to figure out which of them are worth pursuing; that’s where sales intelligence tools come in. You get all sorts of information on companies, like org charts, contact information, and revenue.
Why you need it: It arms your salespeople with all the information they need to effectively generate and qualify leads, prepare pitches, and sell.
Price range (per user per month): $80–$1,200+
DiscoverOrg—for companies that need extremely detailed intelligence
There are a lot of tools out there that will help you with outbound sales. These are just the ones we recommend. Feel free to branch out and explore the options that are best for your company.
Common outbound sales techniques
There are as many ways to do outbound sales as there are companies using outbound strategies. But when you’re getting started, there are three main things to focus on. We’ll go over the basics here.
1. Cold calling
This is a staple outbound sales technique. People aren’t coming to you—in fact, they’re often actively trying to avoid answering your calls. Which is one of the reasons why some marketers and salespeople say that cold calling is dead.
In the age of inbound everything, outbound cold calling seems like a relic from a bygone age. But there’s a reason that companies still use cold calling as one of their go-to outbound techniques: it works.
Companies around the world have reported great results with cold calling; you just have to go about it in the right way. Cold calling is often paired with some inbound techniques to warm up leads, so it’s not as “cold” as it could be. But calling people who haven’t expressed interest in being called will always be cold outreach.
A tool like an outbound dialer helps reduce the amount of manual busywork that’s involved in calling through a lead list. Our CRM comes with both a built-in Power Dialer and a Predictive Dialer.
This not only allows you to make a higher volume of calls, and speak with more prospects, but also automatically tracks all sales conversations in the CRM, reducing the amount of manual data entry that’s required. (Which also means that you’ll have more accurate data in your CRM and reporting to work with, since the software keeps track of the numbers for you, which reduces flawed or incomplete data.)
Want to see how many more prospects you can speak to with the right outbound dialer? Try Close free for 14 days, which includes the full feature set of our sales CRM!
If you’re like most people, you probably have bad associations with the idea of cold calls. But this method of outreach captures many of the benefits of outbound sales:
You determine the call volume (which can be very high, especially with the right dialing tools)
You determine the call recipients
It’s a fast way to get a hold of contacts
It allows salespeople to make personal connections
You get immediate feedback on your sales process
Of course, there are disadvantages, too. Successful cold calling often requires a very high volume of calls, even if your leads are well qualified. And you’ll always be contacting people who haven’t requested a call, which can be exhausting for salespeople.
But all in all, cold calling is an essential part of any outbound sales campaign.
2. Cold emailing
Because the business world runs on email, sales teams have started applying the cold calling formula to outbound email. The process is almost exactly the same—salespeople reach out to potential customers via email to try and set up a sales call or demo.
But there are some distinct advantages to using email over phone calls. You can contact a huge number of people very quickly, for example, and scaling the process is easy.
Of course, there are drawbacks, too. Salespeople get a lot less feedback on each pitch, the less-personal nature of email might not be as effective as calling, and a large number of those emails will go unreturned.
This is why you’ll find companies using a combination of cold calling and cold email for outbound—often with the same customers. Here’s a sample schedule for using both:
Day 1: Cold call and leave a voicemail
Day 1: Cold email to request a follow-up
Day 3: Email follow-up
Day 5: Phone follow-up
Day 7: Email follow-up
Day 9: Quick call with prospect
Day 9: Thank-you email with additional information
Using phone calls and emails in tandem offers more options for salespeople and prospects. And that’s good for everyone.
3. Email automation
If you use cold email for outbound sales, automation is a must. You can type out each email individually, but when you’re ready to scale the process, you need to automate as much as possible.
In short, this means creating an automated sequence of emails that your mail client sends on a specific schedule or in response to certain events.
In Close, for example, you can create an entire outbound email sequence and send it to prospects if they don’t respond to your first email. That means all of the follow-up is taken care of.
Responsive email automation is especially useful for qualifying leads. After a visitor downloads a lead magnet, for example, they might get a series of emails sharing related content. Now when they get a sales call, they’ll be more familiar with your company and what you..
And, most important of all, don't lose confidence.
Just because someone has heard something bad about your company doesn't mean the sale is lost.
This is where many salespeople go wrong. They react quickly and they end up screwing themselves over. Remember that "I've read a bad review of your company" is just like any other sales objection. It can be overcome. It's not the death knell of your sales call.
In fact, you should be grateful that your prospect brought up this issue. They're under no obligation to tell you that you have a bad reputation, and many prospects won't tell you anything. They'll just politely listen to your sales call and then forget about it.
If someone tells you about your bad reputation, you've been given an opportunity.
Get the source of the bad review
First, find out where your prospect read or heard the bad review. Was it on a Google or Yelp review? A comparison site? A tweet? A friend or colleague?
The strength of the source makes a difference in how likely you are to sway the prospect. If they read a single tweet trashing your company, it might not take a whole lot to overcome this objection.
If a trusted coworker told them about a bad experience, though, you have a bigger task ahead of you.
You'll treat the objection similarly no matter its source. But it's a good habit to find out why the prospect thinks you have such a bad reputation. If you find out that you have a lot of bad reviews in a specific place or because of a particular issue, you can spend time to deal with it.
Now, let's talk about actually overcoming this sales objection.
Be honest with your prospect
There are four ways you can address this sales objection. The method you choose depends on how accurate and up-to-date that information is.
If you're getting these objections often, be sure to include responses in your objection management document so everyone knows how to deal with them.
1. The information was correct, but it's outdated
Every company makes mistakes. You made one and it resulted in a bad reputation. But you've addressed the concern.
How do you tell your prospect that in a way that doesn't sound like a denial?
Start by telling them that the bad review was correct. "Yes, that was true; good job doing your research before the call. We messed up. But we've addressed the issue and here's how things are different now."
The important part is to tell your prospect how you've changed. Maybe you had terrible customer service and you've brought on a new manager. Or your product was notoriously fickle, but you spent three months recoding the problematic areas.
Close actually had this issue. When we first released our CRM, we had no built-in reporting at all. And we would occasionally hear this from prospective customers: “I heard a lot of good things about your CRM, but not about your reporting.”
You might say something like, "Yes, it's true that we don't have the in-house expertise to work with companies in the manufacturing industry. We're working on that. But we've gotten great reviews from businesses like yours in the service industry."
This changes the focus from the true, but not contextually relevant, bad review to how you can help this prospect. You don't need to convince them to ignore what they've heard. Just that it's not as important as it may have seemed.
When the bad review or your reputation is totally false, though, you'll take a different tack:
3. The information is wrong
Sometimes this happens. People don't do their research before leaving a bad review. Or they exaggerate. Sometimes they lie.
It's easy to get defensive when you hear about a reputation that's just plain wrong. But don't give in to the temptation. You need to be sensitive about how you approach this one.
If the information is wrong, why is that reputation out there? Your prospect will probably want to know, and you'll get the best result if you have a concrete answer.
Unfortunately, this usually blindsides salespeople.
So you have to overcome this objection carefully. "I've never heard that criticism before," you might say. "Based on hundreds of interactions with customers, I can say that I've never seen that happen and that we always strive to make sure that it doesn't happen."
Backup your assertion with your experience—let the prospect know that you've seen hundreds or thousands of interactions. Or that you've been with the company for years. And promise to look into the false criticism to see where it's come up and why.
This is an important one to follow up. If there's false information out there, it can seriously hurt your company. And you don't want other salespeople to be dealing with this on a regular basis.
And now, onto the final situation. When the information isn't totally wrong—but totally right:
4. The information is right
Believe it or not, this situation is a great time to impress the prospect. If you own up to a bad review or admit that your company sucks at something, they'll be surprised. And they'll respect you for it.
Of course, you have to admit your shortcoming in the right way. You can't just say "Yeah, we suck at that."
Instead, approach it like this: "You know what? You heard that we're bad at providing social media tech support. And you're right. But we chose to not put an emphasis on quick social media responses. Only our paying customers have access to our direct tech support phone line, and we're more concerned with solving their problems immediately. That's what you'd get from us, and that's why the delay in social tech support won't matter to you."
Every company makes compromises, so there's a good chance you'll have to take this approach to address a criticism or shortcoming.
The crucial part of addressing this objection is to tell people why they should go with your company anyway. Maybe that criticism isn't a big deal because you offer something more important. Or it seems overblown because people get really upset about it, but later realize that other services you offer make up for it.
Whatever the case, make sure your prospect knows that your reputation for being bad at something isn't actually as big of a deal as it seems.
Admit it, address it, move past it
Whether your bad reputation is deserved or not, you can move prospects past being worried about it. But you'll need to approach this situation delicately.
It's easy to get upset or feel defeated when a prospect tells you that your company has gotten bad reviews for a particular issue. But you can turn that around and emphasize the best parts of your product or service.
I'll say this again, though—you can only do this effectively if you stay calm and have a plan. If you get defensive, you're not going to create a compelling face for your company.
Sales Manager #1 wants to crush her quarterly targets and has an idea of what it’s going to take to get there. Who knows, maybe she’ll even take home a plaque for salesperson of the year.
Sales Manager #2, on the other hand, doesn’t hope. She knows exactly how many leads need to enter her team’s pipeline every single day to get where they want to be 90, 180, and even 365 days from now.
The difference between these two sales managers can be explained through one simple, yet ultra-powerful tool: A Sales Forecast.
Before you yawn and your eyes glaze over, realize forecasting doesn’t have to be a complicated or tedious tool to manage. In fact, with the 23+ templates and examples we give you in this post, you can track your entire sales process in as little as 5 minutes a day.
Listen: If you’re a sales manager, VP of marketing, or in charge of generating revenue for your business, it’s okay to wonder if Bitcoin will ever bounce back or if the White Sox will ever win another World Series. But it’s not okay to wonder about your sales numbers.
Sales forecasting gives you the super power of always knowing what’s coming down the pipe. In this post, we’re going to show you step-by-step methods, give you templates you can use in your business, and more. But, before we jump into that, let’s dive a bit deeper into its importance and the factors that influence it.
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Sales forecasting is important because it allows you to see what your business looks like in the future. While your competition may be guessing where they’ll be in 6-12 months, you’ll know exactly where your revenue will be. And that means you can spend confidently on advertising, hiring, and more.
You’ll also have the advantage of spotting potential issues with your lead flow, follow up, and sales process before they rear their ugly heads. So you’ll never be caught off guard and scrambling to make up quotas hours before the 31st of the month.
Instead, you can show up to work each day, check the pulse on your business-generating activities, and take calculated actions to get where you want to go.
For example, if you notice you’re generating 10% less leads than you need to hit your sales quota, a forecast can warn you it’s time to scale up your lead generation efforts before it’s too late. Or maybe you need to double down on content marketing? Or perhaps you just need to pick up the phone and start smiling and dialing?
On the opposite side of things, maybe you notice your lead flow is great, but that one of your sales reps (or sales funnels) is performing better than average. Instead of reacting to this news months after the fact, you can immediately start putting more leads through that funnel, flow, or sales rep and crush your quarter.
Sales forecasting also plays a pivotal role in a number of decisions. For example, say you’ve got a rep who’s calling on leads from one campaign and unable to convert them into customers. That might be a sign to shut off spending on that lead source. Or it could be an early tell that the sales rep needs to be coached… or even shown the door.
That may sound harsh, but having these tough conversations after the fact never helps anybody. But if you’d just known earlier, you might have been able to work with them on the plan to fix the problem and save their job.
It’s not just about turning bad reps around. If you’re blowing past expectations, you can also know when it’s time to start recruiting. Because the reality is, by the time you realize you need more help, it’s already too late.
Lastly, it is a powerful motivation tool for your sales team — especially if you have a longer sales cycle. It allows you to paint a clear picture that the work your team is doing today is going to pay off months down the road—in a big way.
As the great business thinker Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” And sales forecasting is how you measure and manage your sales process from start to finish.
23+ sales forecast templates for any sales team
Every sales forecast has the same goal: to give you a glimpse into what your business will look like in the future. But there are subtle tweaks in each technique for different types of business.
For example, if you’re a small business with a physical location, your forecast will look very different from an e-commerce business that sells mostly through an online storefront. Both businesses still rely on traffic, a sales process, and follow up. But how those variables shake out couldn’t be more different.
So we want to give you templates for any type of business. That way, you’re able to manage your lead flow and forecasting — no matter what type of business you run or are in charge of growing.
WAIT! Need to download a sales forecast fast? Here’s a full list of the 23 templates, including the file type, if instructions are included in the download, whether you have to enter your email to get it and the best features about it. Choose the best one for your business here:
23 Sales Forecasting Templates You Can Download Instantly
Allows for different growth rates for different product lines, great for businesses with multiple products growing at different rates.
Sales forecast templates for startup businesses (beginner friendly!)
When you’re running a startup business, you’re moving at 90 miles a minute.
It’s a struggle just staying on top of tasks while you’re getting your business off the ground — especially if you’re bootstrapped.
That being said, while it’s tempting to skip forecasting in a startup environment and focus on the more “immediate” business needs, it’s important to know these numbers.
There’s a reason so many startup business find themselves in a position where they need to raise and raise and raise (and give up more and more equity at each stage of growth), and it can be traced back to improper sales forecasting. But with a proper sales plan, you can grow with confidence.
The good news is that just like you keep your startup lean, your forecast can be the same way.
You can do it all for your startup in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. The goal is to get the basics down on paper:
The time interval for your sales projection (you can do this on a monthly or quarterly basis)
Has best, worst case, most likely projections, great for companies that do not have a lot of data already, such as a brand new startup.
As you can tell, the template for a startup business is simple. The hard part is making accurate projections about your sales future.
But don’t stress. Here are some quick and simple tips for projecting sales in startup businesses:
Ask the question: How many widgets will we sell? — If your business sells individual items, start by planning the number of units you think you’ll sell each month. In the beginning, these can just be goals — not true numbers. But as you go through the year, it will give you a sense of how you’re stacking up against your goals. Jump to the section on how to forecast sales below to learn more about what to do when you get some of these real numbers in your database.
Look to the past to predict your future — If you have old sales data, this is a great tool for predicting the future. Of course, you’ll need to take into account new variables like increased traffic, leads, or improvements in your sales team’s conversion rate. But the best way to predict what WILL happen is to think about what HAS happened historically, and project those numbers 6-12 months into the future.
Think about the steps in your purchase process — For example, as a SaaS company, the number of free trials that turn into paid users is important to knowing what kind of sales you can expect in the future. If you’re not sure where you want to be, get more free trials or fix links in your free-to-paid funnel so you convert free users better. Every startup is different, but think about the steps that your prospect has to go through to ultimately buy, and you can back into your sales projection numbers that way.
Sales forecast templates for small businesses
You’ve heard the stat that 90% of small businesses fail. But maybe you wondered, “Why?” In many cases, it’s because they don’t manage their cash properly. And, in large part, that can be traced back to improper sales planning.
Just like with startup businesses, it’s tempting for small businesses to skip this process and focus on the more immediate business needs. But, as a small business, you need to at least ballpark what your sales, costs, and profits will be in 6-12 months, or you’ll put yourself at risk of closing up shop too.
For small businesses, we recommend keeping your forecast simple so it’s something you stick to managing and not something that stays on your to-do list for months and months.
All you need is Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to get started. Here are the best templates you need to begin:
Has best, worst case, most likely projections. Great for companies that do not have a lot of data already, such as a brand new startup.
Sales forecast template for e-commerce businesses
Forecasting is critical piece of an e-commerce businesses’ success.
Without a proper process in place, you won’t know how much to spend on advertising, what tactics are working, and what needs to be stopped immediately.
Unlike service-based businesses, e-commerce businesses also need to manage inventory flows. And if you’re not predicting sales properly—for an upcoming holiday sales spike or seasonal sales decline—you could end up without enough product on hand, or owing your suppliers a lot of money… without any way to pay them on time.
But let’s take a step back. Let’s talk about the real problem with metrics like these.
Context matters (a lot) in sales metrics
If I told you that I doubled my company’s product sales in the past two months, that would sound pretty impressive, right?
What if I then told you that I started with 10 sales, and I’m now up to 20? That doesn’t sound nearly as good. That’s why sharing numbers without context is problematic.
You see it in marketing, too. “We have an 80% open rate on our emails!” That’s great. But it doesn’t tell me anything about why you have an 80% open rate. If your subject lines say “I have your parents in my basement with a gun to their heads,” you’re going to get a lot of opens. But you’re going to get zero sales.
Even if you aren’t using an intentionally misleading (and alarming) subject line, I need more information to make a judgment about whether your email marketing is working.
Let’s take a look at another sales example: “We’ve doubled the closing rate since I took over the sales team.” Seems like a claim that’s hard to argue with—an increase in closing rate is always good, isn’t it?
Again, you need more context.
What did you do to double the close rate? Did you double the discounts that you give out? Use short-term pressure tactics that result in unhappy customers? Close shitty deals and double churn?
Or was there another factor? Maybe marketing is generating better leads. Or the product team released a new version of your product that’s notably better. There are lots of reasons why your close rate could have gone up. If you want me to be impressed, you need to show me the context that proves your actions caused the increase.
And that means you need to give me more information.
The information you need to assess sales numbers
If any sales metric can be misleading, what are you to do? Not trust anyone?
You should be skeptical—but not so cynical that you don’t believe any numbers you hear. Instead, understand the information you need to properly assess the metrics you’ve been told.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s go back to when I told you that I doubled my company’s product sales in the past two months. We’ll break it down using the AQC framework:
Activity: In January, the team made 2,000 sales calls. By the end of March, I increased that to 5,000.
Conversions: In January, the team converted 500 (25%) prospects to customers. In March, they converted 1,000 (20%).
Using those two facts, we can see that the quality of the prospects (or the sales calls) has decreased. While the number of conversions doubled, the conversion rate actually went down.
Now you see the whole story. On one hand, sales doubled. And that’s good. On the other, the conversion rate went down by a fifth. That’s not so good, and it warrants some investigation. If you can find a way to get the conversion rate back up, this sales team would be doing even better.
As you can see, it’s not always a matter of numbers being true or false, good or bad. There’s a lot of gray area in between. But more information is always better.
In the example above, it’s probably not. You’d need to figure out why the closing rate has gone down.
But this skepticism isn’t only important when other people bring you numbers. It’s important when you’re looking at your own numbers, too.
Use the AQC framework to check yourself
You hear claims about sales and marketing all the time. And if you do any hiring, you probably hear them from candidates, too. (We request further information from job seekers all the time, and we usually find that they were trying to make themselves look better.)
Using this framework helps you get the most useful information out of those claims. But there’s another important place to use this information: in your own claims.
When you see that you’ve made a big improvement in a KPI, you might get excited and decide that your campaign has been a success. But you need more context. Maybe you significantly shortened your sales cycle. That’s a victory, right?
In most cases, yes. But if you had to decrease the quality of your pitches or reduce your conversion rate, you’re making a tradeoff that might not be worth it.
It’s easy to see a big gain and skip over the rest of the work you should be doing. We all want to post great numbers. But those numbers aren’t as important as getting the real story about what you’ve accomplished.
Whether you’re a front-line rep, a manager, or a sales executive, you need to use context and the AQC framework to measure your success. Falling back on meaningless vanity metrics isn’t going to help you, and it’s not going to help your company.
The one question to remember when you’re talking about metrics
Want a shortcut that will help you figure out if a metric actually has meaning?
Whenever you hear a number related to sales, ask yourself this: “Does that metric drive revenue?”
If the answer is “yes,” you’re golden. You’ve learned something useful.
But you’ll often find that the answer is “I don’t know.” Do increased blog views actually drive more revenue? There’s no way to tell without more information. Does a higher calling volume translate to more sales? There’s no inherent connection.
It’s not always easy to remember that. Many times a higher calling volume will be correlated with increased sales. But it’s crucial to remember that making more calls is only one part of the AQC framework: that’s the action your team has taken. You still need to find out about quality and conversions.
This goes for your CRM, too
Unfortunately, misleading sales numbers come from many sources. Including CRMs. It’s not really the CRM’s fault—we don’t (yet) have artificially intelligent CRMs that can provide you with all the context you need.
But some CRMs don’t try to hide useful information from you. We built Close to provide you with as much context as possible. You’ll still see single metrics, but it’s easy to dig deeper to find the related numbers you need to see what’s really happening.
So let's say Gob at The Bluth Company said that we doubled our opportunities created in Q1 of 2019 and announced it to the whole company as a huge success.
But his CEO finds that surprising, based on the work he’s seen from the sales team recently. Here’s how he can put these claims to the test with Close:
Step 1: Go to Activity comparison reports and select opportunities created by the sales team
Step 2: Dive deeper and see the number of opportunities closed in Q1 of 2019 and compare the two in different time periods
He might see that in Q1 2019, total opportunities created were 1000 and opportunities closed were 20 and Q2 2018, total opportunities created were 500 and opportunities closed were 50. While Gob’s team really had created a lot more opportunities, it’s now obvious that this wasn’t a successful quarter. The more meaningful number would have been that they closed 30 less opportunities in Q1.
Or the CEO might be surprised to find that Gob’s claim holds up. And the doubling of opportunities is mostly because of this one sales rep’s hard work—James. Now James gets acknowledged for his great work. Maybe he can share some of his own tips that enabled him to create these great results, and those can be implemented into the sales team’s documentation. This will lift the performance of the entire sales team.
The fact that all the sales data flows through Close and the reports allow us to see the full story, makes it easier to show the real impact of the sales team on a team level and on an individual sales person level.
Think carefully about metrics
Most people don’t share metrics with the intent to mislead you. In most cases, they just forget to give you the context or don’t have it themselves.
But whether they’re purposely leaving out information or not, you need to be aware of it. Keep an eye out for metrics that could be misleading, and you’ll soon find that they’re all over the place. Don’t be mislead by them.
If you want to scale your sales team, grow your revenue, and beat out the competition, there’s no question you need to understand data. All the best sales teams in the world run on data. Unfortunately, almost all of them make the same critical mistake.
Unlike revenue, more isn’t always better when it comes to sales data. Once you start tracking and measuring every move your team makes, you’re bound to hit analysis paralysis. And instead of empowering your team to sell more, all those numbers and charts and just slowing them down.
You don’t need more sales metrics and data to wade through. You need the right ones.
Announcement: We've just released a new set of sales reporting tools in Close! Our brand new Activity Overview and Activity Comparison reports give you actionable insights that are just one click away. And the customizable leaderboard helps sales reps stay focused on activities that generate results.
Whether you’re a sales manager trying to get the most out of your team or a rep gunning for the top spot, you need to understand which sales KPIs and metrics to track, why they matter to your company, and how you’re going to use them.
In this guide, we’ll run you through everything you need to know about sales KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and metrics and then highlight the 18 essential sales KPIs used by top sales teams around the world to court better prospects, close more leads, and boost their bottom line.
As a sales team, you’re in one of the best positions to take advantage of data. Nearly every action you take–from the calls you make to the sales you book–can be measured, tracked, and optimized.
Unfortunately, simply having more sales data doesn’t guarantee more sales. As I've said before, complexity isn’t difficult to achieve, it’s difficult to resist.
In order to take advantage of all the data and sales metrics you’re collecting, you first need to understand why they’re important, what sales metrics you should be tracking, and how they can be used to your advantage.
What is Sales Analytics and why is it so important?
The best sales teams understand that while there’s an art to sales, there’s also a science to it. And in order to take a scientific approach to growing your pipeline, you need to use sales analytics.
Sales analytics is the process of identifying, collecting, and analyzing the right sales data so you can model and predict sales trends, forecasts, and future opportunities. In other words, it’s a crystal ball for your sales team.
Unfortunately, most sales analytics are captured and presented in a way the average sales rep can’t even use! Instead of using a tool that gives clear, actionable insights, most sales teams just export their sales metrics from their CRM into a spreadsheet. But this has a number of issues:
The data isn’t usable right away: Someone has to go in and identify the right sales metrics and how to use them. This takes time and can mean you’re missing out on opportunities while you wait.
Your insights are static and don’t respond to the dynamic nature of sales: The status of a sale might change by the minute and using a spreadsheet of static data won’t give you what you need to keep up with it.
It’s too complicated: You might even have to hire a dedicated sales ops analyst just to make this sales data actionable.
You don’t know if you’re tracking the wrong sales metrics. Without a way to tie metrics to your company goals, you’ll more than likely end up tracking disjointed and meaningless metrics.
The job of every sales team is to bring in revenue. But according to a Harvard Business Review study, only 14% of sales metrics are manageable (i.e. things your team can act on rather than just outcomes).
Any sales analytics tool is useless if you don’t know what you want it to tell you. This starts with understanding the difference between sales metrics and sales KPIs.
Sales metrics are data points that represent your sales performance either as an individual, team, or organization.
Sales KPIs—or Key Performance Indicators—are specific sales metrics connected to one or more of your company-wide goals, priorities, or objectives.
While these data points might sound the same (and many people use sales metrics and sales KPIs interchangeably), they have some key differences.
A sales metric lives on its own. It tells you a fact about what has happened. Whereas a sales KPI tells a story. It’s a metric attached to a goal and can be acted on much easier.
For example, you might want to track sales by region if you’ve launched into a new market and want to see how you’re performing. On its own, sales by region is a sales metric. But when used to track and optimize your performance in a new market, it becomes a sales KPI. It’s indicating your progress towards your company’s goal.
Sample sales KPIs and metrics
So far, we’ve mentioned a few examples of sales KPIs and metrics. But before we dive into the full list of essential sales KPIs, we need to reiterate the golden rule:
You don’t need to track every sales KPI. You just need to track the right ones.
Sales data needs to tell a story about your company. If you’re looking at a Sales KPI dashboard full of numbers and graphs and have no clue how they relate to each other, you’re in trouble.
So how do you set the right KPIs for your sales team?
At Close, we’ve always believed that no matter how complex your sales process, you should always start with your sales funnel KPIs. And the easiest way to do this is with what we call the AQC formula:
Activity. This covers what your team is doing on a daily basis to close more deals and bring in more revenue. Some sample activity sales KPIs would include the number of inbound and outbound calls, revenue per rep, number of onboarding or demos booked, individual rep performance metrics, and so on.
Quality. What we’re talking about here is the result of your activity metrics. Some sample quality sales KPIs would include email open rate (or call reach rate), sales opportunities created, trial starts, and so on.
Conversion. Finally, you need to look at the outcomes of these efforts. Some sample conversion sales KPIs would include your quote to close ratio, sales by contact method, average conversion time, and so on.
You can probably already see how this formula tells a story. Instead of drowning in disjointed metrics, you can look at these sales KPIs and tie them to your actual sales funnel.
Of course, these are only a few of the sales metrics you need to track to run a successful sales team.
Sales analytics case study: How a century-old company transformed its business using sales metrics
Learning how to set KPIs for your sales team can benefit every company. Take the story of Monroe Systems for Business—a 104-year-old commercial calculator manufacturer that works with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies including NASA.
Before tracking the right sales metrics in Close, Jason and the sales team at Monroe Systems were missing one of the key parts in building their business: tracking the right sales KPIs to move their business forward.
As Jason Marsdale, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager at Monroe Systems told us:
“I’m able to track the duration of the phone calls and say alright, how many meaningful conversations did we really have today? It’s a seemingly small feature that provides huge insights.”
“The sales reps can now see exactly where they’re at all times, and they always know what to do next in order to drive additional sales.”
After getting into the metrics behind their sales process, Jason’s team was able to streamline their sales process and set impactful sales KPIs. After just a few months, one of his sales reps experiencing a staggering increase of 50 percent in his personal sales while others saw an increase of 10–20 percent.
18 essential sales KPIs for high-performing sales teams
When it comes to sales KPIs, no one can tell you exactly which ones are “best” for your company.
By their definition, sales KPIs depend on your specific goals. Meaning what’s best for you won’t be what’s best for everyone else. That’s why we always say the best sales KPIs are the ones that empower your sales reps to do their best work.
The AQC model we explained above–Activity, Quality, Conversion–is a powerful framework for empowering your reps. However, it doesn’t cover every aspect of your business.
There are all sorts of sales metrics and KPIs you could consider depending on your goals. But only a few that are guaranteed to help you optimize your sales team. Here’s our list of the best sales KPIs and metrics you should be tracking.
1. Monthly sales growth
If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying.
This sales KPI measures the increase (or decrease) of your sales revenue month-over-month. And while it’s one of the most important KPIs you can measure, you need to make sure you’re looking at it with the right context.
Why it’s so important to track your monthly sales growth: Using monthly sales growth as a sales KPI gives you actionable insights you can use to optimize your sales processes, strategies, and product priorities.
While annual sales revenue seems more important for tracking the health of your company (especially for SaaS companies), it’s often too far of a projection for most startups. Instead, when you monitor sales growth month-to-month, you get a sales metric that you can use now. Not 12 months from now.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales managers use this sales KPI to track the results of their efforts and see where they need to make changes to their sales funnel and process. While for sales reps, seeing monthly revenue growth can be inspiring and motivating.
2. Calls and emails per rep (daily, weekly, monthly)
If you want to use our AQC framework to build out a powerful sales funnel you first need to know what your reps are doing to bring in new leads. And that starts with how many people they’re talking to.
This sales KPI tracks the volume of calls and emails your sales team is making over days, weeks, and months.
Why it’s so important to track calls and emails per rep: Not only does this sales KPI tell you how active your sales reps are, but it also can indicate when something’s wrong in your sales funnel.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales managers and directors use this sales KPI to track team activity. While sales reps can use this as a sales productivity metric.
3. Sales opportunities created
It doesn’t matter how many calls or emails your reps are making if no one’s interested in what they’re selling.
This sales KPI tracks the opportunities your reps are creating so you can forecast future sales and potentially determine which opportunities are most worth pursuing. Think of it as the quality part of our AQC framework. At this point, you know your lead fits your ideal customer profile, they’ve responded to your outreach, and are ready for your pitch.
Why it’s so important to track sales opportunities created: Opportunities are the lifeblood of your sales team. By tracking this sales KPI, your sales team gains invaluable insights into their sales process, such as:
Are their outreach efforts working? Compare # of opportunities created to # of calls/emails per rep.
Are they reaching the right people? Compare estimated purchase value to # of opportunities.
Is their pitch effective? Compare # of opportunities created to # of sales made or trials started.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales managers use this sale KPI to see the health of the sales pipeline and make decisions about their overall sales process.
4. Monthly onboarding and demo calls booked
Not every customer will go directly from opportunity to customer. For SaaS companies especially, it’s most likely that your product will do some of the selling for you.
Put simply, this sales KPI tracks how many trial starts or demo calls your team and individual reps make.
Why it’s so important to track monthly trial starts and demo calls: This sales KPI is critical for closing deals. Leads who make it this far down your funnel are in a much better place to convert. Seeing how this metric changes month-on-month is a powerful way to track the health of your sales funnel.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Both sales reps and managers benefit from seeing their monthly onboarding and demo calls. Like most of these sales KPIs listed, this one gives individual reps insights into their processes, while sales managers use it to plug holes in their sales process and funnel.
5. Lead conversion rate
This sales KPI answers one of the most important questions for sales reps: How many leads are converting into sales?
While there are lots of ways to segment this data further (which we’ll get into), a high-level overview of your lead conversion rate is an important performance indicator for your entire team.
Why it’s so important to track lead conversion rates: Tracking your lead conversion rate gives you a proven plan for gaining future customers. You can work backward to track where those customers came from or use the ones you lost to understand why your process didn’t get them to convert.
More specifically, you can use this sales KPI to answer other important questions about your sales process, such as:
What’s the ratio between qualified prospects contacted and customer conversions?
When did qualified prospects fall off in your funnel?
Are you contacting the right leads?
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales reps use the lead conversion rate to measure the effectiveness of their pitches and to adjust their process to target more qualified leads. The more you know about who converts, the more you can make sure you’re always targeting your ideal customer.
6. Sales by contact method
A closed deal is one of the best sources of sales data. And one of the best insights they can give you is: Where did this sale come from?
This sales KPI measures which contact methods are most successful for generating sales. Are you more likely to close a deal that came from a cold call/email or from an in-person meeting?
Why it’s so important to track sales by contact method: There’s nothing more powerful than a great first impression. By giving your sales reps the tools to understand which method of outreach is most likely to generate a sale, you’re putting them in the right place from the start.
However, as we’ve said before, context is king. When looking at this sales KPI, it’s important to also consider individual sales rep performance metrics. Some reps are simply more effective on certain contact methods and you shouldn’t instantly change your outreach approach for your entire team based on this KPI alone.
You also need to consider the contact cost associated with this sales KPI. If you’re generating more sales from in-person meetings, but the associated cost is eating into your average profit margin, it’s probably not the best method for you.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales managers can use this KPI to change their sales process and target only specific leads. For example, decreasing the percentage of sales coming from low yield, high-cost contact methods.
7. Average conversion time
How long does it take for a lead to convert?
This sales KPI gives you insight into the productivity of your sales funnel so you can make better decisions about how much effort you put into closing a prospect.
Why it’ so important to track average conversion time: Time is money. And if you’re selling a SaaS product at $9/month but it takes upwards of 6 weeks to close a deal, you’re on the losing side of that deal.
When looked at in conjunction with some of the other sales metrics we’ve mentioned (such as lead conversion rate and sales by contact method), this KPI gives you a clear picture of your sales pipeline and if you’re on track to hit your sales goals.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales directors and executives at your company can use this KPI to forecast revenue, get insights into the funnel, and decide how to approach follow-ups with qualified leads.
8. Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
How much does it cost you to acquire a new customer?
This sales KPI tracks all the costs associated with bringing in a new customer (both in sales and marketing). And while it might sound simple, it can quickly get complicated depending on your product and your sales funnel.
For example, let’s say you use Facebook ads to drive customers to a landing page where they sign up for your service. If your campaign costs $15 per lead and results in a sale of a $20+/month product, you’ve got a winner.
Now, let’s say you’re a SaaS company with an inside sales team and an average conversion time of 60 days. Not only will you need to make sure that you’re properly calculating CAC based on that lead time, but you also need to include all of the other associated costs, like salaries, overhead, and money spent on tools.
Why it’s so important to track customer acquisition costs: Not every company can run at a loss for years on end like the Ubers and Teslas of the world. Instead, sometimes one of the most effective ways to increase sales revenue is to reduce costs. By understanding this sales KPI you’re able to determine which sources are worth your time and increase your profits.
Who benefits the most from understanding this sales KPI? Sales directors use this sales KPI to create a sales process that’s profitable and scalable. Spending more than you earn is the only way..
Let’s take a look at how you should be offboarding your sales reps. There are two situations to talk about.
We’ll start with the easier one:
When things are going well with your rep
Let’s assume that you have a good relationship with your rep. They’re leaving for another opportunity, being transferred, getting promoted, or are leaving for some other reason.
The important thing here is that they’re not being fired. This is a planned exit.
If you have a good relationship with your reps, offboarding situations shouldn’t be a surprise. You should know that your rep is leaving in advance.
Pro tip: Did you get blindsided by a rep leaving? Use the opportunity to learn from the situation. Why weren’t they comfortable enough to give you some warning?
In this case, there are three questions to ask yourself.
1. How can you help your rep?
Sales team management starts with taking care of your reps. And that doesn’t end when they leave the company.
Taking care of your rep even though they’re leaving is when you get to show the importance of your values.
So make sure that you do right by your rep. How can you improve their transition? How can you help them succeed in their next job?
Remember that just because someone is leaving your company doesn’t mean you’ll never work with them again. They may come back looking for another job. Or ask you for a reference on a future position.
You might partner with their new organization. Your former rep might even start their own company and look for investors or partners. For us at Close, many of our earliest customers were actually employees of the sales consulting company we ran before releasing our software. They took on sales leadership roles at other companies and then introduced our CRM in those organizations—so sometimes ex-employees can become future customers! All of these are opportunities—and you won’t get them if you treat your rep poorly.
So ask yourself right away: how can I help my rep succeed?
2. How can your rep help your team?
Think about your sales team next. Your team needs to be ready to take over the work from the rep who’s leaving. And to serve those customers well.
Work together with the rep who’s leaving to make sure that this process goes smoothly. Make sure the rep knows that performing admirably in this phase of the transition will be good for your continuing professional relationship.
Once your team knows that the rep is leaving—and you’ve done what you can to address any of their specific worries—it’s time to build a transition plan. You’ll start with two specific tasks:
Pipeline audit: Go through each of the rep’s accounts and find out where they are in the sales pipeline. Here are some questions to consider:
What’s happened in this relationship?
What are the next steps?
How should the new rep get started?
Ask lots of questions, and take lots of notes. The new rep should be in this meeting, too. Record everything.
CRM audit: Go through the rep’s accounts in your sales CRM and make sure they’re updated. The information from the pipeline audit will be a big help in this phase.
But there are other things that might come up, too. Updated contact information, job titles, and communication preferences can slip through the cracks when a rep gets busy.
Again, ask lots of questions and make sure to take notes. Record any notes that will be useful for the incoming rep in the CRM itself.
If you use a CRM that automatically tracks customer touchpoints and account changes (like Close.io), you’ll save a lot of hours in this part of the process.
Post-mortem: Give your rep a couple weeks to adjust to their new job and put some space between themselves and your company.
Then schedule a coffee, virtual coffee, lunch, or another short meeting where they can speak candidly about their experience.
You’ll get valuable insights that you wouldn’t get from a current employe.
Here are a few things to talk about:
Your management practices
How the sales team could be better
How the company could be better
Processes that need improvement
Onboarding or offboaring advice
What you could have done to make the relationship even better
It’s easy to overlook this step. Lots of sales team managers would rather not have this conversation, especially if the rep is critical of your team and company.
But it’s absolutely worth doing. This is where you get valuable insight that helps you improve your sales team and your company.
3. How can you and your rep help your customers?
Changing sales reps can be a jarring experience for customers. And when customer experience is one of the most important factors in a purchase decision, it’s in your best interest to make that experience as positive as possible.
The transition from one rep to another won’t always be smooth. In fact, there are a lot of problems that might come up, even with great sales reps.
But it’s worth doing your best.
The important part is to have the rep who’s leaving reach out to their customers to let them know what’s going on.
The rep should let their customers know that they’re leaving the company on good terms. And they should introduce the new rep that will be taking over the account (or, in the case of older accounts, the customer success manager).
Here’s the important part: your rep needs to sell their replacement. Why should the customer be excited to be working with this new rep? Are they the most senior in the department? The most experienced? The most innovative?
Maybe they’re dynamic and exciting, or have a proven record of saving people money, or they’re just a hell of a lot of fun to work with.
Whatever the case, make sure your customer knows who they’re going to be talking to and why they’re awesome.
The new rep should also follow up with an email introducing themselves and offering to answer any questions.
But what if your rep has hundreds of leads and accounts?
If a personal email to every account isn’t feasible, use the 80/20 rule. Have the rep send an email to their most important accounts to fill them in and introduce the new sales rep.
The less important accounts can get an automated email and—if possible—a follow-up from the new rep.
Just make sure to not provide a bad customer experience. Bad handoffs make customers feel like they don’t matter. If they find out that their rep is no longer with the company from an autoresponder when they’re trying to buy something, they’re not going to be happy.
Don’t be that company.
When things aren’t going so well with your rep
Now you know the three questions to ask when you’re parting ways with a rep on good terms.
But what about when things aren’t going so well? What if you have to fire a rep? How do you offboard them?
This is going to be a test of your sales team management skills. If you’re prepared, you’ll pass.
1. Start the process early
Successfully offboarding this type of rep starts before you end the relationship. Make sure they know that you’re not happy with your performance, and give them a chance to improve their behavior or results.
You should also strive to complete pipeline and CRM audits before you have the dreaded meeting with your rep. This won’t always be possible, but it will make your life a lot easier, because the entire offboarding process has to be completed fast.
While you might have several weeks to offboard a sales rep that you have a good relationship with, you’ll probably only have a day with one you don’t.
So do as much of the work above as possible beforehand.
Pro tip: When you’re having the discussion with your rep, have someone else turn off their email account and revoke their access to the CRM. An unhappy salesperson could do a lot of damage to your company.
2. Ease the transition with help from management
After the rep has left, the sales team manager or even an executive needs to help with the transition.
Important accounts should receive a phone call, and just about everyone should get a personal email in this situation.
Let the customer know that you’ve parted ways with your sales rep and that you wish them the best (even if the split was a nasty one).
Tell the customer that you took interest in their account and that you’re connecting them with their new sales rep. As in the transition above, sell the new rep’s skills and experience. Get the customer excited about working with their new rep.
You might even invite the customer to hop on a call with you and the new rep to answer any questions they have about the transition.
3. Complete a post-mortem
You’ll also want do perform a post-mortem here. You probably won’t be having one with the rep, though. So you’ll need to meet with someone else to find out what went wrong.
Usually that’s the hiring team, the rep’s manager, or someone who worked closely with that rep. Talk about what went wrong and why you didn’t notice the red flags earlier. Why wasn’t this rep weeded out in the interview or onboarding process? What could you have done differently?
Be open to suggestions here. You might not like what you hear, but you can learn from it and improve your sales hiring practices and the rest of your sales process.
Extend your sales team management to offboarding
Sales offboarding might feel strange at first. It could be uncomfortable until you’re used to it.
But it’s a crucial part of effective sales team management, and it pays big dividends for your company.
Put an offboarding process in place sooner rather than later, and your reps, sales team, and customers will have a better experience. It’s good for everyone.
And remember that good offboarding starts with good management long before the rep considers leaving. Open communication, clear expectations, and good habits go a long way.
How to successfully offboard a sales rep by @Steli from Close - YouTube
Offboarding sales reps is a crucial part of running a sales team—something I cover in much more detail in The Sales Hiring Playbook. You can download your free copy today!
When sending sales emails, make sure your subject line isn't foiling your efforts. Though the subject line is sometimes overlooked when sending cold emails, we think it's arguably the most important part, as it can determine whether or not your email will be opened at all.
Here’s how to craft the perfect subject lines, plus examples you can use for your own emails. Here’s an overview of everything we’ve included:
Essential questions to ask yourself when crafting sales email subject lines
8 tips for making good subject lines for sales emails
9 advanced email subject line hacks sales reps swear by
22 killer email subject line examples for each sales type
39 proven subject lines by industry: B2B, SaaS, startups, small business & more
How to set up subject line experiments to let data do the thinking for you
"Subject Lines That Get Your Sales Emails Opened" by @closeio - YouTube
Let's dive into the first section - the starting point for creating your subject line.
Essential questions to ask yourself when crafting sales email subject lines
Before you even start a first draft, get into the right mindset to better relate to your prospects, and remind you of key points you can make with your email subjects for sales. Here are 9 questions to ask yourself before you begin:
What are you selling? - Of course you know what your company has to offer, but think about the value it can bring to the potential customers you’ll be sending this email to.
Who are you selling to? - Who are your potential customers? Why do they need your product or service? Put yourself in their shoes and think about their needs.
What metrics are you aiming for (open rate % goal, reply rate goals, etc.)? - Knowing your targets may help you craft better subject lines so you can elicit the proper action from your email recipients.
Are they familiar with your company already? - Are you corresponding with someone who knows your company, or is this email going to be their first introduction to it? You want to make a good first impression.
Do you have any mutual connections? - Maybe you have a mutual acquaintance, went to the same school, or are part of the same Facebook group. Finding common ground and hinting at it in your subject line may lead to more sales.
Why should they want to open your email? - Think of this as a way to “hype up” the body of your email, in a sense. Make it sound good so they will be interested in reading the rest.
Would you delete an email with this subject line if it appeared in your own inbox? - Think about your own experiences with receiving sales emails. How many of those do you delete and how many do you actually read? If you wouldn’t click on it yourself, your prospective customers probably won’t either.
BONUS: How are you going to track which subject lines work best? - Once you start experimenting with different types of subject lines to see what your customers have engaged with most, it’s important to keep track of what’s working and what isn’t.
8 tips for making good subject lines for sales emails
Your subject line is perhaps the most important part of a sales email, as it’s the first impression you give to the recipient. To make the best first impression, here are 8 top tips to creating the best email subject lines for sales:
1. Keep it real
You don’t want your subject line to sound too much like you’re trying to expedite a sale. Craft them in a way that you would in a ‘real’ email, as you would to a friend or coworker. Communicate like a real human—not a pushy marketing expert trying to make some quick sales. Including things like slang and idioms (where appropriate) can be a great way to do this.
Good Example: Hey! Our [product/service] has your name all over it
Bad Example: What’s up, homie? Check out our [product/service]
2. Keep it short
Many people only check emails on their smartphones, so keeping your subject lines short and sweet is imperative. If they’re too long, they may overflow on to a second line, or worse—get cut off. Based on analysis by Leadium of over 40,000 sales emails, subject lines with 4 words or fewer seem to perform best. Try keeping them short and to-the-point and see how it goes.
Good Example: CRM with predictive dialer
Bad Example: Wasting too much time manually calling your sales leads? We’ve all been there! Our CRM with a built-in predictive dialer will help you!
3. Keep it personal
When you see a subject line that addresses you personally, or seems catered specifically to you, you’re more likely to want to open and read the email. Personalized subject lines are far more effective than a ‘universal’ sent to everybody on your list.
Good Example: How happy are you with [company Name]’s project management tool?
Bad Example: We can offer you [product/service]
4. Keep it relevant
Think about why this person needs your product or service. How does this sales email pertain to them? Also, keep it relevant to the body of the email. Putting unrelated text in the subject line may spark interest for some, but it could also make your email look “spammy.”
Good Example: Declining email deliverability rates with your current marketing automation solution
Bad Example: This could be a game changer for your marketing efforts!
5. Keep it genuine
You should make it a goal to have the recipient of your email feel like you genuinely want to help them by providing this product or service to them. Maybe that means giving them a compliment, or commenting on an event you both attended. Try to build a genuine connection rather than trying to close the sale as quickly as possible.
Good Example: It was nice seeing you at [event you both attended], [name]!
Bad Example: Let’s get down to business. Are you interested in [product/service] or not?
6. Keep it casual (but not too casual)
If the recipient’s first impression of your email feels cold and too business-like, they might see it and think “ugh, no thanks.” Something a little more casual can be more appealing, and make your email feel more approachable. You don’t want to be too casual, though.
Good Example: Can we chat about [their company/your products/services/etc.]?
Bad Example: What’s up, [name]? Hit me up if you’re interested in [product/service]
7. Ask a question
Questions can spark interest and encourage someone to open an email. Whether you’re aiming to make them feel useful by asking for information, or making them consider their own needs and wants, sales questions are the key.
Good Example: What does [department] need at [their company]?
Bad Example: This is what you need: our [product/service]
8. Keep your promises
Whatever your subject line promises, make sure the body of your email lives up to that. Whether you’re promising to make their life easier, give them a good deal—or whatever else it may be—you need to follow through. Don’t make false promises or “click bait” your potential customers. That will only lead to you losing business.
Once you start getting creative with subject lines, it’s easy to get tempted to go too far. Certain subject lines might get you amazing open rates, but you need to look at more than just this one metric. Instead, consider the overall funnel. A lot of cold emailing nowadays is done with the “Re:" subject lines, implying that there’s been a previous conversation.
But your email body should deliver what your subject line promises. If you mislead people to get an email opened, they’ll read your email and delete it. Nothing is gained from that.
Here's an example of a clever subject line tricks prospects into opening the email, but irritates by being misleading: "Your meeting got cancelled."
And one of the most effective attention-getting emails I got was the subject line: “Steli, I’m disappointed.”
I immediately clicked on that email, and then, it went on, basically saying: “I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to connect. What we’re doing is … blah, blah, blah …,” and the email went straight into the pitch.
That email was like a guy running a marathon, sprinting the first three miles, being ahead of everyone else, and then collapsing and never making it to the finish line. It was the first email that I opened in my inbox, but once I saw that the subject line was just a clever trick and the sender wasn’t really disappointed, I didn’t bother responding.
Good example: I have a follow-up offer that you will want to consider.
Bad example: [First name], I’m disappointed
9 advanced email subject line hacks sales reps swear by
Want to up your game even more? These nine tips are next-level. Experiment with them to see what gives you the most success!
1. Intentional misspellings
We know, this one sounds pretty weird. However, a tiny intentional spelling mistake can make your email come across as more human. A small mistake such as hitting the key beside the letter you would normally put in that word won’t make it seem like you don’t actually know how to spell the word, but rather that you may have typed and sent it in a hurry. This can create a sense of urgency and may actually entice the recipient to open your email more than if everything was spelled correctly.
2. Connect the dots
No, we’re not suggesting you create some sort of children’s art project—we’re talking about capitalizing on shared connections. If you have a mutual acquaintance or attended the same event, these connections may be able to help you secure a new client.
3. Check on deliverability
Ensure you’re not using any words that may trigger your recipients’ email services to sort your sales emails into their spam folder. Including words and phrases such as “bonus,” “click here,” and “winner” may send your emails straight to junk. You should also run a test on your DNS records to make sure there aren’t any issues.
4. Know your audience
Adjust the tone of your email based on the type of people you’re sending it to. If you’re sending an email to CEOs of large companies, your tone should be different than if you’re emailing free-spirited small business owners.
5. Only use company names
Instead of addressing your recipients by their first name, experiment with only including their company name, or no personal/customized variables at all.
6. Use lowercase text
When sending an email to someone you know, you likely wouldn’t capitalize every word in your subject line. Only using capital letters where necessary can make you come across as more human and genuine.
7. Be creative!
Making use of your wit and sense of humor is a great way to create catchy email subject lines for sales. People may be intrigued if you use a pun or set up a joke, and it’s a unique way to make your emails stand out. We’d recommend giving this a shot.
8. First sentence of the email
While this isn’t actually a part of your subject line at all, we’d recommend also being mindful of the first sentence or two of body text in your email, as this part can sometimes be shown as a snippet, directly below the subject line, in an email inbox. If your snippet reveals that your subject was simply clickbait, or is full of junk like an unsubscribe button, this can deter your potential customers from opening your emails.
9. Subject-line-only emails
Send out emails with only a subject line and no email body text. Using EOM at the end of your subject line also works well. I know a sales team that’s killing it with this technique.
22 killer email subject line examples for each sales type
Need some guidance? Have a look at these examples for every kind of sales email you might be sending out and tweak them to suit your specific needs.
If you’re looking for something a little more specific, keep reading to get industry-specific tips for crafting your subject lines.
39 proven subject lines by industry: B2B, SaaS, startups, small business & more
Based on what industry you’re in, your target audience will be different, and the types of sales subject lines you use will vary as well. Here are 39 industry-specific subject line examples to get you started:
Sales Email Subject Line
[your company] x [prospect's company]
Looking to outsource [service you can provide]?
We'd love to help you grow your business!
From one small business to another...
You know you're running a startup when...
Could your startup use some help with [common issue]?
Regarding your [related department] needs
Large companies need [your service/product] too!
SaaS & Software
Looking to improve your software sales?
X ways our software can improve your life
A must-have update for [their company]
Your site needs this
Could this go viral?
Ding! You don't want to miss this notification
Are your employees' heads in the clouds? We can help.
We'll help you ditch external hard drives
X benefits we can bring to your platform
We can help you build the app of your dreams!
Improve your services with this tool
Let us do the groundwork for you!
Let's turn your ideas into reality
We can "smarten up" your home!
Want to be #1 on the app store? Let us help!
Get better app reviews with this one awesome tool
The best thing you'll download today
Sell more properties with help from [your company]
There's a smarter way to sell real estate...
This deal deserves a billboard
3 ways to make your next commercial a hit
Want to get more clicks on your Facebook ads?
X ideas for your next blog post
All content creators need this tool
Bring in the foodies with [your company]
We have a delicious deal for you
Grab a bite of this!
Check out our claims & we'll help you with yours
Risk Management: preparation is not having to gamble
Investment opportunity too good to pass up
Need help with financial planning?
These subject lines will be more relevant to your prospective customers than a more general example would.
How to set up subject line experiments to let data do the thinking for you
Have you been paying close attention to the performance of your sales emails? You might not have even thought to run experiments with your email tactics, but it can be a great way to improve your results. Here are some tips and advice for the best practices when setting up subject line experiments:
Decide what you want to test - How are you going to measure what’s working and what isn’t? You might want to look at your open and response rates for starters.
Have an idea of what metrics you’re aiming for - It’s important to set quantifiable goals when it comes to these tests. If you’re not seeing the results you want, it’s time to try something different.
Pick how many variations you want to try out - What types of subject lines do you think will work best? Select a few types and decide how long you want to test them before having a look at your results for comparison.
Don’t get caught up in your success - What’s working now won’t work forever. Always challenge your current techniques, because the time between realizing you’re losing leads and finding a new template that works could last months. Don’t stop experimenting altogether just because you’ve found one thing that works.
Following these guidelines, run some experiments to see what types of subject lines seem to resonate well with your target audience and generate the most engagement.To take it to the next level, learn how to run cold email experiments when you’re emailing smaller sets of leads and don’t have enough data to achieve statistically significant results.
Keep in mind that if you wouldn’t open an email with the subject line you’re using, your leads probably won’t either. Entice your prospects with great subject lines for sales emails that are short, relevant, to-the-point, and sometimes funny, and you’ll be improving your cold email response rate with new customers in no time.
When a prospect says your product is too expensive, it isn’t always about price. In many cases, they have the budget for your product, but you haven’t demonstrated enough value to justify your price.
But sometimes it isn’t about price or value. Sometimes your prospects will use the pricing objection to hide their real concerns. The first thing you need to do when you hear the pricing objection is find out what’s really going on.
Whenever a prospect throws out the idea of getting a discount before they even try your product, don't give in. Instead, refocus the conversation on what matters most: your product. And even more importantly, the value it'll create for your prospect.
Instead of engaging in cumbersome discount negotiations, use this technique to weed out bad fits, and demonstrate value to prospective customers.
Feature demands are common when selling to enterprise customers. They’re used to getting what they want, and what they want is for you to customize your software to their needs.
When prospects demand features that aren’t aligned with your vision, the best thing you can do is walk away. You may lose some accounts over this, but that’s better than compromising the integrity of your product. Besides, you’ll be surprised how often taking the deal away is all it takes to close on your terms.
When a prospect says your product isn’t a priority, one of three things is true. You’re either selling to the wrong customer, you aren’t pitching to your prospect’s priorities, or your prospect is masking their real concerns.
First things first: Uncover what’s really going on. Then you can customize your approach based on their situation. In most cases, you just misunderstood what was really important to them.
With a failure rate of 90%, it’s no wonder prospects hesitate to commit to startups when they could keep using the proven incumbent. Your product may be better, but the industry standard is safer.
The trick to winning over these prospects is presenting an option they haven’t thought of: Using both solutions. Turn an “either-or” situation into an “and” situation and you can close even the most stubborn prospects.
Your prospect may have good intentions when they promise to get back to you, but you’ll probably never hear from them again. When you leave the responsibility of follow-up to your prospects, you’re basically surrendering the deal.
Agree to send them more information, but don’t hang up yet. Ask them an open-ended follow-up question like, “Just so I know what to include in my email, can you tell me …”
Usually that’ll lower their guard enough to start a conversation, and you won’t end up needing that email afterall.
If you hear this objection early in the sales cycle, your prospect is just trying to get you off the phone. Your response needs to convey that you only need a few moments of their time to provide a ton of value.
If you hear it later in the sales cycle, it means you’ve dropped the ball. They were interested, and now they aren’t. Your price has exceeded your perceived value and, until you tip the scales, you won’t close the deal.
The larger the businesses you sell to, the more common stakeholder meetings will be. They slow down the sales process, but can also be powerful sales tools. The trick is getting an invite.
Next time your prospect says they need to meet with other decision-makers, find out if you can be present (even just over the phone). If this meeting is between all relevant stakeholders, you may be able to close the deal on the spot.
This objection is another example of good intentions. The prospect may want to buy from you next week, but something’s going to come up. Next week turns into next month, and next month into next year.
When a prospect says they’ll buy sometime soon, find out if there’s anything that could happen to derail the deal. If there is, create an action plan. If there isn’t, walk them through the virtual close so you both understand exactly what needs to happen next.
Gatekeepers are living, breathing objections and, in many cases, they’re the first roadblock you’ll face. How you interact with them determines the direction of the entire deal.
The gatekeeper is a unique objection because they can become one of your most valuable assets. If you can convince them to buy into your vision, they’ll become your internal champion and most vocal advocate.
Don't fall into the trap of the bully prospect. Their entire mission is to break your confidence and get what they want from you. You already know they're interested in what you're selling (no matter what objections they may bring to the table), but they don't think you know that.
So, stand firm and go into the conversation strong and you'll be guaranteed to flip things around and get what you want. You just need to keep one question in the back of your mind the entire time: What are they still talking to us?
There are three different kinds of “no's” in sales. Early in the sales cycle, it means, “You haven’t provided enough value,” later in the sales cycle, it means, “Not yet,” and at the end of the sales cycle, it means, “I'm not interested.”
Each “no” requires a different response, so the trick is learning to differentiate between your prospects’ rejections and responding accordingly.
These 12 sales objections are some of the most common you’ll encounter, but they aren’t the only ones.
Each market has its own objections. If you aren’t prepared for those, you’re going to lose deals to someone that is.
Create an objection management document for your market. This document should be a list of the top 25 objections you face, along with a 1–3 sentence response for each. If you work with a team, collaborate on this project together.
You don’t have to recite these responses word-for-word, but you should at least have them in the back of your mind. That way, when you hear one of those 25 objections, you have a strong foundation and can deliver confident, compelling responses every time.
Anyone can close the easy deals
No deal worth closing will come easily, but that doesn’t mean you should make it harder than it needs to be. Here are a few tips to turn objections into sales:
Next time you practice your pitch, practice your objection handling skills.
Every time you successfully overcome an objection, make a note of what you did.
Talk with other salespeople about the responses that work for them.
And the next time you get frustrated by your prospect’s sales objections, remember: Anyone can sell to eager prospects. Salespeople exist for the difficult customers, the ones who say, “No,” “Maybe next month,” and, “Yes, but …”
So start overcoming objections, and stop letting them overcome you. Create your objection management document, practice your responses, then get out there and crush it.
Just a few weeks ago, we announced our rebrand as Close and shared the news that we purchased the close.com domain name.
First off, thank you for all of the overwhelmingly positive feedback and praise! We’ve been fielding tons of great questions, messages, and tweets over the past couple of weeks, so please keep them coming.
And today, I wanted to take a few minutes to answer by far the most frequently asked question I’ve been getting since the rebrand… how the hell did you get the close.com domain?!
It’s a great question, because five-letter .com domains can go for many millions of dollars when they’re a word as common as close. And because our journey to becoming a profitable company has been funded entirely by our customers, we didn’t have millions of investor dollars just sitting in the bank waiting to be deployed for something like a domain name.
So, given these constraints, how’d we do it?
The answer is… Five and a half years of following up.
It took five and a half long years of back and forth negotiations to get close.com.
Not too bad right?
While this is certainly one of the most time-consuming deals I’ve ever worked on from start to finish, we’ve always had a very clear purpose driving our motivation to acquire the domain—which helped immensely in guiding the deal to a finish that made sense for us.
Why we wanted the .com in the first place
Pretty much immediately after we pivoted from Elastic Sales to working solely on Close, we knew we’d want to own close.com if we could. Who wouldn’t, right?
Now, at the time, we had a growing CRM product, but it was far from proven in our industry—and we certainly didn’t have capital to allocate toward buying a domain that didn’t promise any real immediate return on the (hefty) investment.
A lot has changed since those early days. We’ve become a much more mature business with thousands of happy customers. And as the years went on, we acquired more customers and more people calling us “Close,” which is the name we’d been adopting internally as well.
Beyond just the benefits of properly aligning our brand with the .com name, we knew that owning this domain would illustrate to future customers that we’re here to stay for the long haul.
When the negotiations started
Back when we first launched Close, there was another startup named Close in the social networking space that had already registered the .com domain name and raised a bunch of investor funding.
Knowing the nature of how unpredictable it can be launching a startup, I met and connected with the founder of that company five and a half years ago when they were still early on in their journey.
Right away, I expressed our intentions and asked if we could get the first opportunity at purchasing the domain from them if anything ever changes on their end.
At the time, they were still building their product, they had a healthy runway and it was all looking exciting. So, his first reaction was to say, “that’s impossible. We’ll never sell!”
He gave me a bunch of compelling reasons for why it wasn’t the right time for him to sell and that he didn’t believe he ever would, so I resorted to doing what we do best… set a follow up reminder to regularly check in and see if his situation would change over time.
The follow up strategy that closed the deal
It’s easy to focus all of your efforts on that initial outreach email, conversation or pitch. You’ve confidently made your request, laid all your cards down on the table, and now all that’s left is sitting back and waiting for their excited response.
Like it or not, that’s not the way transactions play out in the real world.
Even if you get nothing but radio silence after attempting to make contact, that doesn’t mean the deal is dead. It takes time and effort to capture the attention of busy people.
When you know exactly what you want and you’re in it for the long game, there’s always the possibility of making a deal happen.
So, once per quarter, I’d ping the owner of the domain to check in and see how things are going with his startup.
At first, there wasn’t much to hear—still working on building the product and getting some initial traction with beta users.
After a year of working on their idea though, the business wasn’t really taking off the way they’d anticipated. Things weren’t looking as promising anymore, but he still didn’t want to sell the domain yet despite starting to fold up the operations of their startup.
That’s when he began entertaining the idea of giving the domain to one of his investors who was working on something else with a Close-related name. That didn’t ultimately pan out either though, and he was then just sitting on the domain with a static landing page advertising a social networking app they were no longer working on.
All along, I was regularly following up every three months, nurturing the relationship, checking in and to see if he’d changed his mind.
Fast forward to year three of these regular follow ups and check-ins, I kept offering him the same (very humble) price for the domain, seeing that it was sitting unused for all this time.
With each conversation we’d have, he continued to reiterate that he wanted to sell the domain name for a much, much higher price point so that he could make his investors whole again now that his startup had shut down.
For now, the gap between our maximum and his minimum was too wide to meet in the middle and leave both parties happy enough to make the deal.
And still… I kept following up once every quarter.
It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that we finally got into serious negotiations.
With all the time that passed, he started to be more flexible on the original price he’d given us, and we were also growing to a point where we could afford to spend more as well.
We worked really hard to structure a deal that worked in everyone’s favor. That meant:
A very fair price that met somewhere in the middle from our last discussion
A payment structure that gave us a lot of flexibility around paying over time
Everything was finally lining up and the deal was looking like it’d actually materialize.
But, at the last minute, we decided to pull out once the contract had already been sent to us.
At that very last step, something just didn’t feel right.
Call it founder’s intuition—because after having a conversation with the founding team and running through the pros & cons of making this move right now, we decided as a group to pull the plug. It wasn’t the deal we were all excited to make at the time.
Here’s what we knew…
The seller had a particular price range in mind that was a bit higher than we liked
While still an obviously attractive domain, it had been on the market for five years
Our business has been steadily growing over the last six years without this domain, so why did we all of a sudden need it for more than we could justify?
Plus, I’d built a strong relationship with this founder over the last five years, so if another competitive offer came in from a different buyer, I expected to get a courtesy heads up.
We waited much longer than we normally would, without any follow up…
Nearly a year went by after we decided not to sign the previous contract, and then…
The seller reached back out to us first.
It wasn’t to tell us about another potential buyer, but rather to ask if we’d be interested in coming back to the table and seeing if we could strike a new deal now that some time had passed.
In that moment, a lightbulb went off. I knew that we had at least some sort of leverage. When he began pursuing us, it signaled that the tables had turned to some degree.
What ensued was A LOT of back and forth for the better part of a month—dozens of emails and phone calls with the seller and our leadership team to land on a mutually beneficial transaction.
Ultimately, we were able to come up with a deal that was much better for us.
We avoided taking a big hit to our cash flow (which helps us keep delivering the best sales communication platform on the market today) and got the domain at a lower overall price than we originally thought possible.
Now, before you ask in the comments below… Out of respect to our agreements with the seller—we’re not able to disclose the sale price or dive into any more particulars of the transaction today.
What we can say however, is that making this deal happen took a lot of persistence, dozens of follow up emails over the course of five years, and multiple rounds of contract negotiations to finally land close.com.
Using Close throughout this process was integral to managing my relationship with the seller, keeping track of the complexity of all the details that spanned across dozens of email threads, and in queueing up the regular follow ups that made this possible.
A lot has changed this year inside our CRM for SMBs. We've added tons of impactful new features, fine-tuned the classic ones that keep our customers coming back for years, and we've got much more in the works.
Start a free 14-day trial (no credit card required) and see for yourself why thousands of salespeople around the world use Close to scale their sales process and convert more customers. And if you sign up now, you even get full access to all of our best sales templates, checklists, books, and more!