Outbound Sales: A Winning Game Plan for Your Small or Medium Business

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Can you imagine the outcome of a game on any given Sunday if the coach didn’t bother with a game plan? Somehow drawing up plays in the dirt like in the playground seems unfathomable. The odds of winning are negligible. The odds of the head coach keeping his job are no better.

A key part of being professional is the commitment to preparation. It became almost legendary that former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden was up everyday at 3:11am. His typical workday was one of exhaustive review of game films, strategy sessions and running practices. It’s grueling to get to the top, and stay there.

“Spectacular achievements are always preceded by unspectacular preparation” – Roger Staubach

Busch Stadium - 1970

Photo courtesy of Blake Bolinger(CC Attribution)

There are only 32 head coaches in the NFL, and each of them had to start somewhere. Many of them from very humble beginnings that could have included scratching out plays in the dirt. Like every coach who is working up the ranks, there are thousands and thousands of companies in business today, but is only one Fortune 500. If you’re playing in the big show or in the big time enterprise, you’re already working with an advanced game plan.

The challenge for many small and medium sized businesses is finding an outbound sales game plan that’s right for you. The web isn’t the only place where commerce is happening. There are countless businesses where outbound sales are not only relevant, it’s your lifeblood. Yes, an inbound sales strategy is important too. You have to add in marketing, and the role of creating and sharing great content too. A great sales organization uses every tool at their disposal. A great sales organization isn’t defined by how big you are; it’s defined by significance and size of your results.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” – Zig Ziglar

If you’re formulating a first outbound sales game plan, or making some adjustments to the current one, here’s a framework that’s designed with delivering big results in mind. Our goal is to help you proactively identify your ideal potential clients and open a dialogue with them.  Before we can do that, you need to understand who you’ll be dealing with and what their motivations are for purchasing your product or service.

Identify and Understand Buying Influences

Purpose: It’s crucial to understand what influences the people who make the buying decisions for your product. You need to identify each one in your discovery, and determine which type of buyer they are in order to pitch effectively.

Identifying all the Buying Influences early in the sale is the first key element of strategy taught by the Miller Heiman group in, “The New Strategic Selling.” We highly recommend picking up this book for a more detailed explanation of some of the concepts in this article.

So who are these Buying Influences, and how do you identify them? In any sale you will typically encounter three different Buying Influences:

  • The Economic Buyer
  • The User/Manager Buyer
  • The Technical Buyer

The Economic Buyer

ROLE: The Economic Buyer is the financial gatekeeper. They are the ones who make the final decision to write the check to buy your product or service. Because they hold the keys to the cash register, they still have the ultimate power to kill a deal, even if everyone else has said yes.

Where to look: Economic Buyers are typically higher up in an organization.  In a small organization it could be the CEO or Owner.  In a larger organization it could be a VP or Department Manager. Look for the person in charge of the budget that this purchase will be coming out of.

Delivering them a Win: This buyer is concerned about ROI rather than just price. They want to talk in terms of the bottom line impact your proposal will have on their organization.

The User/Manager Buyer

Role:  The User/Manager Buyers will use or supervise the use of your product. Their role in the sale is evaluating the potential impact your product will have on their organization.

Where to look:  Look for anyone whose job will be impacted by your product.

Delivering them a Win: Because your product will impact operations in their area or department, the User Buyer will be concerned with usability factors such as reliability, maintenance, ease of operation, and level of training required.   

The Technical Buyer

“They don’t decide who wins, but they do decide who can play.”  – Miller/Heiman: Strategic Selling

Role:  It’s the Technical Buyer’s responsibility to screen potential purchases. They’re the ones with domain experience or related education, and it’s their job to make sure that if your proposal is approved everything will be technically sound.

Where to look: Not all technical buyers will be concerned with the actual technology behind your proposal. They make judgements about the measurable aspects of your product based on a set of specifications. Find the authors of those specifications and you’ll be close to finding your Technical Buyer. Look for Engineers (P.Eng), Doctors (PHD’s), or individuals with other professional accreditations (ASTT, CSAB, etc…).  If you’re having trouble, check the email signatures.

Delivering them a Win: Ensure that your proposal accounts for their system’s specifications as well as any legal aspects of your solution.

Create Your Ideal Customer Profile

At the top of a blank page – complete the following:

  1. Write out the business problem you solve better than anyone else.
  2. List 5 ways solving this problem will affect your customers core business
  3. List the types of companies that would benefit most from you solving this problem.

Next, create a spreadsheet with the following headings:


·      Name

·      Industry

·      Size (number of potential users/potential sales revenue for you)

·      Structure (Corporation, SMB, Consultant, Franchise, etc…)

Business model

·      Identify the part of their business model that you’ll impact

·      Think: How will our product affect their bottom line?

Who will be involved

·      Economic

·      Technical

·      Manager

·      User

Psychographics – list their best and worst attributes

·      Best attributes

·      Worst attributes

The Key Purpose of this is to:

  1. Illustrate a picture of who your long term customers are.
  2. This also gauges if the customer is a right fit for you and your company

Remember that demographics are factors which are measurable and objective. While psychographics are not measurable and are very subjective.

If you’re running low on cash (or just bootstrapping), we have good news, there are numerous sources of free leads on the internet, you just need to do a little work to find them.

The first place to start is (formerly  Use their “Advanced Search” functionality to build a list using the criteria from your Ideal Customer Profile above.  Depending on how niche you went this can provide anywhere from a few hundred to many thousand companies, be sure to narrow it down to the 100 most likely companies to prove our your ICP hypothesis.

Purchasing leads from is expensive ($250 /year + $1.00 per contact OR $5 per contact without a plan).  Fortunately, gives you enough information to find the exact contact information yourself (see our next article to learn how to find anyone’s email).

If isn’t providing you with the results you need, the following are some great sources of potential lead lists.

Industry Associations

Most associations, events, and online publications want to drive publicity for their members & advertisers and will publish a list or directory of all their members directly on their website.  Simply browse to the site and look for links to a “Members Directory”.

If you the organization doesn’t have a public directory listed on their site, it doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist.  Many publications will host excel spreadsheets or PDFs of their members directories online and can be found by using a Google search with Advanced Search Operators. There are basically two Advanced Search Operators that will help you find these lists:


This will limit your search to only files of the matching type.  XLS is the most commonly shared format – to use, simply add the following to your Google Search “filetype:xls”


This will limit your search to results from only the specified domain – to use, add the following to your Google Search “”

Using both advanced search operators together is a very powerful way of finding lists.  One of our favourite searches is:

“Member filetype:pdf”

If you have some cash in the bank, here are some sources of paid lists :

·      Dunn & Bradstreet (

·      InfoUSA (

· ( – formerly Jigsaw)

Some magazines or trade publications also offer paid lists – if you’re based in Vancouver, BC this one might help.

Once you have your list – prioritize by closeness to your Ideal Customer Profile.

·      Organize by company type/structure/vertical and attack one segment at a time

       – Ex. Asteroid Mining companies in Vancouver – larger than 15 employees

Now, load them into your CRM/Google Spreadsheet & track the campaign efficiency (ratio of yes’ to no’s)

So, you have your target companies loaded into your CRM, now what? We’re going to share some winning plays every sales prospecting game plan needs with you in our next blog entry.

Remember, that great planners know how to adjust their plans at any given time in the face of any given circumstance. Sales is ultimately about communicating, understanding and delivering value. Most importantly it’s always about people and relationships. Without great people, the greatest of plan ever conceived  isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” – Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

  • Ian MacKinnon

    “The first place to start is (formerly Use their “Advanced Search” functionality to build a list using the criteria from your Ideal Customer Profile above. ”

    It always concerns me how close dating is to sales.

    • Collin Stewart

      Couldn’t agree more! Think about the buying process:

      Awareness -> Assessment of Alternatives -> Alleviation of Risk -> Decision

      Sounds awfully familiar.

      • Collin Stewart

        … are you using Facebook’s Graph Search for “list building”?

  • Alexandra Skey

    While I’m an advocate of inbound marketing, this is a great piece on how to create a framework for outbound sales. Not a huge NFL sports fan, but still enjoyed the intro!

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