Outbound Prospecting: Thinking Above The Sales Funnel

Author: The Sales Developers
Posted: December 6th, 2019

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Originally Posted Here.

Sales teams have everything needed for outbound prospecting activities. Access to all the data needed (e.g. big databases, low cost researchers, in-house manual scraping) and tools that make sales activities more efficient than ever. There are more vendors in sales acceleration every day and ever expanding budgets fueled by venture capital and other forces.

Yet, surprisingly most aren’t getting better at achieving quota.

In order to solve this, we believe that a funnel above the current sales funnel must be built. Whether you are trying to dominate the market you’re in or not, that means you’re going to have to have a specialized data team, whether internally or externally.

In this webinar, CEO of CloudTask, Amir Reiter, joined Ryan Reisert to break down the steps to do so and discuss how to activate the funnel above the funnel. These steps will eliminate roadblocks (gatekeepers, wrong titles, bad phone numbers, bounced emails, etc.) and allow more time for non-selling activities, like hitting quotas.

The Current Data Problem

Most sales funnels follow the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time is wasted on non-selling activities, such as insufficient data, wrong channels, and bad timing. The remaining 20% of the funnel is where follow ups and meetings happen.

typical outbound sales funnel


As you can see, 80% is made up of “sales admin” work and produces a lot of wasted effort. Some of these results of that wasted effort might sound familiar to you:

“You integrate with Salesforce? We aren’t on Salesforce.” = poor targeting
“Tom hasn’t worked here in 8 years.” = inaccuracy
“I don’t handle decisions like that.” = irrelevancy
*crickets* = incomplete data

What Data Validation Looks Like

The 80% of the funnel should be eliminated completely from your reps, so that they start with data that’s already validated for them. Data validation means that your data has no:

  • Bounced emails
  • Empty social profiles
  • Bad phone numbers

This means that every email was checked for deliverability, including catchalls. Every social profile was reviewed for title and current company. And every phone number was attempted to reach the prospect live, their direct voicemail, or their admin who confirms the best number and phone path to reach them on.

The Cost of Bad Data

When SDRs are able to have more time for conversations, it means that they will understand their buyer personas more clearly and sell better. If they’re distracted by the 80% of the funnel, reps don’t have as much time to work on their selling skills.
When you weigh the costs, most consider data costs of $0.15-$2/per record, but don’t think about the labor costs to get that record to become a worthwhile lead. The same record can easily get up to around $100+. This is what having bad data can cost you over an entire year:annual-cost-per-rep

The Solution

If you’re serious about growing your business, having a team that takes care of the data component of your funnel will be the future to drive it. If you’re fortunate enough to have expert salespeople who understand your product or service well, then they should be spending 100% of their time talking to people who are experiencing the problem that you solve.

So what options do sales organizations typically look to these when they need data?

  1. Buy the biggest list for the lowest price – This incentives the seller to add “filler data” that isn’t a fit to increase the record count to a number you’ll never be able to take action on.
  2. Buy access to a massive database – Being able to access millions of records you don’t need means you’re wasting money and adding more work to your plate.
  3. Manual record searching and scraping – Sales professionals doing anything other than professional selling is a waste of their time and your company’s money.

We propose a fourth option here. We recommend activating the funnel above the funnel. This requires having access to a data vendor or an internal team and in the next section we’ll go over how this works.

How to Activate The Funnel Above The Funnel

You have three options to achieve this.

  1. Build it internally. This role would be someone who understands directions and can follow through on their own due to the detailed and focused nature of this job. They need to be able to manipulate data in spreadsheets, makes lots of calls, document information accurately, and be familiar with your CRM.
  2. Build it externally. This would be the same role as above, but you can use as many or as little hours as you need with freelancers through places like Upwork. This can take a lot of time to find the right person who is capable of handling and validating data to meet your needs, but has a significant return on investment when you find the right freelancer.
  3. Outsource it. There are vendors who can deliver accurate, enriched, and validated data. If you lack the time or high enough demand for lead volume to manage this internally or externally, then outsourcing it is the best option.
What to Do Next

Once you have a list of validated data, have your reps work only the channel(s) that you know will reach the prospect.

If you’ve built a series of prospecting activities in a tool like Outreach or SalesLoft, you’re probably dropping leads into those funnels based on their industry or other qualification criteria instead of considering the most likely channel to reach them on. In the following example you can see phone would not be worth attempting for Mark Sanders, so it’s not worth your time to attempt it.

outbound prospecting channels

When we stopped making calls on numbers that we couldn’t validate with our research team (our sales reps don’t waste their time on this), we saw our connection rates double overnight. This process eliminates the minutes that add up significantly when trying to reach your prospects.


Building the funnel above your funnel is not just about getting the right data to your reps. It allows your team to spend time on real outbound prospecting activities, such as providing value to prospects, sharpening their cold calling skills, using social to engage, and build a solid pipeline.

We’re not trying to sugar coat it. Outbound is hard. It’s not magic that happens overnight, but a commitment to the process. Using the methods discussed here will help make everything more efficient and save you time and money, plus increase those conversations, leading to more new business!


This post is provided by AA-ISP Partner, The Sales Developers. If you have questions about building the funnel above the funnel, contact them here.