Cold outreach in B2B is probably the most feared discipline in B2B sales. To reach out to prospects out of the blue without knowing them holds many opportunities—but can also be risky. Cold outreach will never be the same as door-to-door sales or just a funny call after you’ve looked up a number in the yellow pages. It’s a whole field of expertise!
With a cold outreach in B2B, you basically take the plunge and for example for many sales trainees, cold calling is their first step into the B2B sales world. Cold outreach in B2B gives you the opportunity to try out what sales skills you already have and proof yourself to be resilient, even the unfriendliest prospect. However, if you don't want to leave your sales success to chance, you should also carefully plan and prepare your cold outreach in B2B.
In this article, you'll not only learn what cold outreach in B2B is all about and what you need to consider in terms of data protection, but we'll also reveal the ultimate tips on how to get off to the right start in cold outreach in B2B.
What is Cold Outreach in B2B?
Cold outreach in B2B is one of many ways to acquire new customers. With cold outreach in B2B, you reach out to companies you think might be needing your product over the phone, by letter or social networks such as LinkedIn.
“Cold” in this context means that there has been no previous contact between you and your potential customer. Therefore, you have to convince him or her of your offer within a few minutes or a few words—or at least try to make your offer as interesting as possible so that people remember it and want to speak to you in the future.
In contrast to cold outreach in B2B, sales also works with "warm" outreach. Warm means that companies have already contacted you via your own website or you’ve met someone on a trade fair or in a webinar. Social networks such as LinkedIn are also very popular when it comes to cold outreach.
What Types of Cold Outreach Exist?
There are many different forms of cold outreach in B2B. It's best to choose the one that your target audience can relate to the most. Is your offer aimed more at traditional companies? Then it's better not to try social selling on LinkedIn. You want to address young start-ups? Then your cold outreach channel must be just as young and “trendy”.
a) B2B Cold Outreach Over the Phone
Probably the best-known form of cold outreach in B2B is via the good, old telephone. Call companies directly, pitch your product and hope that your counterpart is willing to listen. This form of cold outreach in B2B is very straight-forward—you can either receive rejection or open ears. Either way it’s direct feedback. Try it! All you’ve got to lose is a company that wasn't your customer before and still isn't after your call.
b) Cold Outreach via LinkedIn
It's hard to imagine today's working world without business networks such as LinkedIn. So, it's not surprising that in B2B you’ll also search for customers there. In many cases, it starts off with a "harmless" networking request and then transitions into a direct message including a pitch. Although this is not quite as direct as by phone, LinkedIn users prefer a personal and individual approach here as well—sending the same direct message to 100 people is considered an absolute no-go!
If this is an option for you and your target audience, you should give social selling a try. Social selling is THE sales trend in B2B! But while social selling is based on the fact that interlocutors already share a network and "know" each other through the platform, cold outreach via LinkedIn is still quite...well... "cold".
c) Cold Outreach at a Trade Fair
Of course, trade fairs are considered an absolute boost when it comes to cold outreaches in B2B. At the trade fair, companies aka. their employees are much more willing to listen and respond to your pitch and to deal with your product. The atmosphere is usually more informal, and after the business meeting you can then head directly to the bar with your new future customer.
d) Cold Outreach by Letter
The letter may be somewhat forgotten in cold outreach in B2B, but it certainly hasn't fallen into disrepute. While everything is digital these days, some companies still appreciate being contacted with a letter. Be creative! With an outreach by letter you will certainly catch you future customer’s eye before a competitor does. Try old-school things such as flyers, too!
e) Cold Outreach by Email
Wait a second… cold outreach in B2B via email…is that even allowed in other countries? The answer is: It depends. In Germany or the EU for example, the law against unfair competition (UWG) regulates the use of emails for sales and/or marketing purposes– and clearly prohibits the sending of mass and spam emails! Therefore, cold outreach in B2B by email is only recommended to a limited extent. You could limit the risks by sending personal and individual emails that are tailored directly to the person and their use case, but it still isn’t 100% waterproof.
The same applies to the US: It is legal in the U.S. to send an unsolicited commercial email. But you still need to be careful not to spam people. With personalized emails you minimize the risk of penalties. Most countries have regulations when it comes to spam emails, so you always must be careful to respect the regulations of your target country. Find out how your target markets feel about cold emails before you even consider sending them!
How Do I Find Relevant Contacts for a Cold Outreach in B2B?
All types of cold outreach in B2B are of little use to you if you have no one to target. So, the question is: Where do you get suitable addresses or company lists from?
Tools for B2B Lead Generation to Boost Your Cold Outreach
Probably the most powerful weapon for cold outreach in B2B is a good software for prospecting and lead generation. Such tools provide you with filters with which you can search for your dream customers within a company database. These filters, which often rely on Artificial Intelligence, minimize scatter loss because you can immediately see the companies that fit to your product. In contrast to buying address lists, these tools ensure that the contacts and companies you obtain are really fresh and up-to-date.
As examples, we can recommend Dealfront and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. With the former you can filter for location, company size, industry, financials, keywords and much more. The lists Dealfront provides you with are a perfect basis for highly personalized sales approaches in B2B—no matter if via phone, letter or on social networks. With this method, you’ll make cold outreaches in B2B less cold!
In addition, Dealfront provides you with suitable sales trigger events, such as an expansion or relocation of a company, which you can use in your approach to make your cold outreach in B2B as "warm" as possible. Let's say you manufacture warehouse shelves and Dealfront shows you where companies are currently planning to build a new warehouse. Wouldn’t that be great? You can be sure that these companies have a demand for your product, and you can immediately address that issue in your conversation opener. The tool includes the right contact with their respective business email addresses and phone number! With the LinkedIn Sales Navigator on the other hand, you can find contacts and decision-makers who you can target directly in the popular business network.
Below, you’ll find more tools that we can recommend for cold outreach in B2B.
Buying Address Lists for Cold Outreach
When you buy address lists for a cold outreach in B2B, you usually get some names and addresses directly at hand, which you can then call straight away. But this method has some pitfalls: These address lists are often faulty and after a few weeks they become unusable because pieces of information (maybe there has been a change in personnel) might have already changed.
Cold Outreach in B2B and Data Privacy in DACH: What Are You Allowed to Do?
Now, of course, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to sales in the EU and German-speaking countries: Am I allowed to call potential customers in DACH just like that? Can I send a prospect an email? And what about LinkedIn—am I allowed to just send someone a direct message there?
First of all, don't panic! A cold outreach in B2B via phone and letter in the DACH market is allowed if you can assume "presumed consent" (§7 Abs. 2 Nr. 2 UWG). Presumed consent exists mostly when you are mostly sure that your product will help your counterpart. This can be the case, for example, if:
- there is a reference to an industry: If your product is particularly suitable for certain industries, e.g. presenting agricultural vehicles to farmers.
- there is a time reference: If you offer products that companies use at regular intervals, e.g. tax consultants to prepare annual financial statements
- there is a reference to a group of people: For products that are only used by certain groups of people, e.g. promoting software tools for personnel administration to HR employees
- there is an occasional reference: For offers that are in demand on certain occasions, e.g. tenders or sales trigger events
Other countries have other regulations on data privacy. Make sure to check out the restrictions in the country you want to send business emails to!
Are Emails Illegal for a Cold Outreach to B2B Prospects?
As already said before, make sure you are familiar with the legal regulations concerning cold outreach in your target country! Most countries outside the EU are considered to be less “strict” with cold outreach, especially emails. But that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to spam target companies with thousands of emails! Most countries have their own regulations, so make sure to check them out!
How About Cold Outreach on Social Networks?
It has long been common practice to make cold outreaches in B2B on social networks like LinkedIn as well. Most platforms have regulations that allow you to only send messages if a person accepts your networking request, which is then their double opt-in, so to speak. With the confirmation of a request, you also agree to conversations.
As a rule of thumb: Keep your approach as individual as possible! No matter which medium you choose in the end. Not only will your prospects benefit from this, but such an approach will also lead to a higher success rate within your B2B cold outreach
5 Tips for a Successful Cold Outreach in B2B
So much for the legal side and data protection in relation to cold outreach in B2B. Let’s get down to business: How do you succeed in cold outreach in B2B? What's the most effective way to land new customers? We'll tell you.
1. Define your Target Customers
Cold outreach in B2B offers an inexhaustible pool of potential customers who are worth talking to. Figuratively speaking, every published telephone number of one of the approximately 3.5 million German companies is just waiting to be dialed by you.
Simply calling phone numbers at random, however, promises more frustration than measurable success. If you only find out during the first call whether a product or service is even suitable for the person you are addressing, the time and energy you have invested up to this point will have been wasted. The deeper in the sales process the realization becomes apparent that offer and customer do not match, the higher your loss.
Therefore, you need to select your B2B target audience as precise as possible. Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) as deeply as possible in order to address the really promising leads! It's not about quantity, but about the quality of the leads! It's better to have five highly qualified leads for your cold outreach in B2B instead of 15 companies that have no idea what to do with your product.
How concretely can you define your ICP? It varies. From simple categorizations such as industry affiliation, a local or regional assignment to very detailed firmographics and details such as revenue, company structure or even technology used in the company—the more precisely you define your dream customer, the more successful your cold outreach in B2B will be in the end.
2. Determine the Right Person to Contact
You can be sure of one fact: You are not the only one vying for the customer's favor. Every day, companies receive numerous calls and emails with a wide variety of offers—from office supplies to highly specialized services. And very few of them are directed specifically at the responsible employee in the company. This means that most inquiries, especially in larger companies, end up in the trash.
How to deal with unsolicited offers is an individual decision of the company management. However, the probability that your call actually be forwarded to the responsible employee with an inquiry is comparatively low. You can save yourself the time and energy spent on talking to the wrong person in the company when you know where to get the right contact from!
However, if at the last moment it turns out that a deal cannot be closed because the your contact has no budget at all, that is annoying. In the best case you have to repeat your cold outreach in B2B to the actual decision-maker, which costs even more time and energy. So, talking to the right person right from the start is a decisive factor for your success in cold outreach.
The wrong first contact in this case means that he or she may present himself or herself as receptive to your offer and even has the product presented to him or her in more detail which makes you think your cold outreach was successful.
3. Choose the Right Conversation Starter
Whether your cold outreach in B2B is successful is usually decided very early on. Although buying decisions in B2B
are rarely made emotionally, you still need to get off the right foot with your counterpart. If your pitch fails or you come off unfriendly, you probably won’t land the customer.
First and foremost, the person being addressed must immediately recognize the individual benefits of your offer. You can point out the benefits when you’ve learned all about the characteristics for that specific target audience you’re addressing. In addition, if you know anything about important current corporate events, you can also use that information accordingly to start a great sales conversation.
In cold outreach in B2B, different business signals or so-called sales trigger events give you the opportunity to assess a demand for your product and thus make a preselection among possible contacts. In addition, with the right sales trigger events, you also get a very elegant conversation starter!
Let's look at an example: If a company talks online (on their website, social media etc.) about an upcoming move to new business premises, you can assume that there is a demand for new office equipment. If you use this information to start the conversation, it shows that you have done your "homework", which will certainly impress your counterpart.
4. Document Your Sales Process
The best foundation for B2B sales is a carefully maintained CRM system. An Excel spreadsheet or the trained memory of the sales professional are no basis for long-term success.
Not every cold outreach in B2B leads to success right away. However, this does not always mean that a contact is fundamentally unsuitable as a customer! Perhaps the initial contact was simply made at the wrong time, or perhaps a responsible employee was temporarily unavailable, or a specific need may not currently exist but is foreseeably likely, or some other reason led to the decision to discontinue efforts and resume them at a later time.
Maybe, a more detailed analysis also shows you that a certain company does not meet your target audience definition due to changing characteristics, but will meet the specified criteria in the future. Why? Maybe there will be foreseeable changes (like new employees etc.) or the company will be eligible for other offers: speaking of cross selling! Only if you continuously maintain information and document your sales activities (within the GDPR framework, of course) a will have access to a growing pool of potential customers in the long term.
Careful documentation also helps you to avoid unpleasant mistakes such as: Contacting different people in a company simultaneously, approaching people too soon again after a rejection, or asking for information again that you’ve actually already received. Such supposed trivialities can contribute to the fact that no new business is generated from a promising contact. This is especially true when several sales employees are working on the same project! A well-documented sales process keeps you in the loop.
In addition, comprehensive documentation, especially for cold outreach in B2B, creates repeated opportunities for contacting existing customers and provides the basis for strategic success control.
5. Use Intelligent Technologies
Sales success—especially when it comes to cold outreach in B2B–depends on numerous factors. A few of them you have no influence on, but most are more or less directly related to the care and precision you take for sales preparation.
The basis for all good preparation, whether in B2B sales or marketing, is data. Data collection, preparation, evaluation and maintenance require a great deal of time and effort on your part. Effort that you can hardly afford in addition to your daily tasks in B2B sales, right?
However, with the help of sales intelligence tools, many of these tasks can be automated and integrated into your workflow and existing systems. An intelligent CRM system with interfaces to sales intelligence, for example, compares contact data from existing customers with daily updated online sources. It will find and correct errors for you and add relevant data for lead qualification and strategic contacting. In addition, sales intelligence software automatically searches online news, company websites and social media specifically for sales trigger events and link them in your CRM to data records.
This way, you reduce database maintenance and data enrichment efforts with just a few clicks! Reduce tedious and time-consuming research to a minimum and concentrate on what you really need to do: reaching out to potential customers!
Tools to Improve Cold Outreach in B2B
With the right tech stack, you can make a lot more out of your cold outreach in B2B. Sales intelligence, sales engagement or video tools push your cold outreach more than you might expect. We have collected some handy tools that will help you land the deal!
We mentioned Dealfront earlier on and we'll gladly do it again: With this sales intelligence cloud software, you'll find exactly the companies you'd like to have as customers. With the help of more than 300 filters, you select your target audience in a way that your cold outreach almost feels as if it is not "cold" at all. With Dealfront, you’ll discover companies that really need your solution. Thanks to valuable sales trigger events, you can even filter by a company's current challenges or use artificial intelligence to display similar companies to your existing customers. Use the use cases from your best customers to convince prospects with the same challenges!
Speaking of approaching customers: Dealfront also provides you with 360° company profiles for your cold outreach in B2B, which give you all the important information about a company. This way, you can also identify the decision-maker and get his or her email address and phone number on top of it!
Tolstoy is a video tool that makes the difference. While video tools like Vidyard only allow you to record and send videos, Tolstoy helps you create interactive videos for prospects and customers. That means you can ask questions in the video itself and your prospect can click on a button—depending on the answer they pick, you immediately see their major pain points. The advantage is that your ideal customer not only participates much more actively in the process, but also that you collect an incredible amount of useful information about them! This makes your cold outreach in B2B very personal.
Do you remember your last B2B cold call? How was your pitch? Did you pause often? Did you let your counterpart finish and listen to what she or he had to say? If you have absolutely no recollection of such details, we recommend Gong. Gong is a revenue intelligence platform that helps you analyze any interaction with your leads or existing customers and thus helps you to improve these touchpoints. For example, you can use Gong to record your calls and see where there is room for improvement. Especially in cold calling, the Gong insights provide you with solution approaches for the next process steps.
Conclusion: Help Your Cold Outreach in B2B with Intelligent Tools
As you can see: The words "cold outreach in B2B" alone spread fear and terror among more sensitive minds in sales. The "cold call" is widely frowned upon and is seen by some as a necessary evil that is only used as a last resort when no "warmer" alternatives are available. But this does not have to be the case!
This reluctance is unjustified and at the same time an opportunity. Many companies that rely on cold outreach in B2B sales today do so, metaphorically speaking, with a large net. Measures are kept as unspecific as possible and focus on quantity instead of quality. But with good preparation and the use of modern technologies, you can keep the quality of your cold outreach in B2B as high as it gets—and be really successful!