What moves the needle?

Outbound is moving in a new direction and revenue teams must keep up or get left behind.

Are they prepared to shift gears before their pipeline runs empty?

We asked 100+ revenue leaders to weigh in on what’s fueling their pipeline generation, what’s breaking down, and how to navigate the road ahead.

Including answers from revenue leaders at…

Key takeaways

Did you really think outbound was dead?

A majority of respondents reported that they generated less than half of their pipeline through outbound in 2023.

But 98% are still using some sort of outbound motion for pipeline generation.

Buckle up, outbound is changing fast

The old tried-and-true outbound playbooks and channels are losing efficacy. Over half expect email and cold calling to become less effective in the next 12 months.

It's official: smart leaders need to adapt or get left behind.

Signals make big promises, but the way forward is bumpy

Whether leaders call it signal-based selling, signal-based GTM, or signal-based prospecting, they clearly believe signals can help them cut through the noise.

Now these teams face a new challenge: implementing signals the right way.

Chapter 1

What got you here won’t get you there

Despite a difficult market last year, the majority of respondents came close to, or did, hit their targets.

74%

of respondents reported hitting over 75% of their targets in 2023

47%

said their pipeline generation programs are performing the same or worse than 2 years ago

59%

do not feel they can confidently predict the success of their pipeline generation this year

These stats paint a pretty positive picture.

So, why are we seeing so many conversations about pipeline anxiety?

  • Market conditions in 2023 led to reduced targets/rightsizing targets in the second half of the year. (Pavilion Pulse Report)
  • Traditional pipeline strategies hit a few speedbumps last year due to new restrictions on email deliverability & the AI takeover.

Companies are adjusting their strategies to keep their pipeline targets on track, and teams need to buckle up for big changes.

Chapter 2

What’s blocking the road to success?

Macroeconomics played a big role in conversations about pipeline generation last year, but an unstable market isn’t the only thing influencing missed targets.

When asked which factors are the biggest contributors to missed targets, here’s what respondents had to say:

49%
Spending too much time on non-value-added tasks
43%
Unrealistic targets
66%
Not leveraging all the data and signals they already have
48%
Lack of alignment between sales & marketing
48%
Insufficient training and support
22%
Not enough budget

What this means:

  • Getting "more" data isn't the answer. Revenue leaders want to use the data they already have more strategically and efficiently.
  • The new goal for teams: No sales rep gets left behind. Offering more robust training and support is top of mind for nearly half of respondents, indicating an increased interest in rep preparedness.
  • Sales and marketing should be a united front. 48% of leaders shared that a lack of alignment between revenue teams contributes to missed targets.
Chapter 3

Is outbound really down-and-out?

We’ve all heard the rumors that outbound is dead. The data says otherwise.

98% of respondents reported using some sort of outbound motion for pipeline generation.

98%
<50%

However, when asked about outbound's performance last year, leaders revealed why the channel is getting a bad rap.

60% of respondents generated less than half of their pipeline through outbound in 2023.

And confidence in outbound has dipped even among these high performers.

17%

Only 17% of respondents saw three quarters of their pipeline came in through outbound in 2023

13%

And just 13% expect to bring in the majority of pipeline through outbound in 2024

So even though most companies are still doing outbound, the "old way" of running outbound playbooks is losing efficacy.

What percentage of your company's pipeline do you expect outbound efforts to contribute in 2024?

19%
say <25%
36%
say 25-50%
32%
say 51-75%
13%
say >75%

What’s new? Revenue leaders are meeting in the middle on outbound expectations.

Nearly 68% of respondents expect to generate between a quarter to three-quarters of their pipeline targets via outbound, and supplement the rest through a mix of other programs and channels.

What this means:

  • Outbound is not dead, but it's quickly evolving. High-performing outbound teams are losing confidence in the "old way" outbound as a reliable pipeline channel, but teams that are adapting their outbound motion still believe it’s a valuable channel.
  • Don't put all your eggs (or pipeline) in one basket. It seems that more teams are realizing they need to diversify pipeline sources. Last year was a wake-up call for outbound – update your playbooks or get relegated to the spam folder.
Chapter 4

The road ahead for outbound is bumpy

Change is inevitable, and it’s coming for the “old way” of outbound.

Based on what they observed in the past 12 months, respondents predicted that these channels will become less effective in the next 12 months:

Leaders predict effectiveness of these outreach channels will go down in the next 12 months

Email
Cold calling
Events & conferences
Social selling
Referrals
0
20
40
60
80

Nope, it’s not just you. Everyone is feeling the squeeze around email and cold calling performance.

Leaders also indicated that they anticipate these challenges will affect outbound success this year:

Standing out
amongst the noise
Understanding and using AI and automation tools
Reaching the
right people
Refining messaging for better personalization

What this means:

  • Outbounding by volume will generate diminishing returns. Don’t expect to add more activities to your workflows and achieve better results.
  • Teams are losing faith in email's effectiveness. Whether this means they will use it less is still to be determined. A dip in email outreach could benefit sellers who optimize their messaging to get noticed.
  • Smart leaders are getting ahead by helping reps prioritize high-quality, intentional touches that are more likely to convert. Leaders should prepare to free up time for reps to do more thorough research and personalization.
Expert opinion

“Focus will have the most impact on pipeline. Focus on the 2-3 programs that generate the most pipeline. Don't try to do it all.”

- VP of Marketing, High Tech Company
Chapter 5

Revenue leaders’ new roadmap to pipeline generation

Everyone agrees it’s time to adapt pipeline generation strategies, but what direction are leaders taking this year?

We’re not in “survival mode” anymore.

It’s clear that generating new opportunities is top-of-mind this year over maintaining the status quo. The majority of respondents indicated that uncovering new reliable source of pipeline is most important to them.

When asked what new solutions they are exploring to hit targets this year, these top leaders shared that they’re evaluating:

Using more automation in team workflows
Building ABM programs
Offering enhanced sales training
Adopting AI tools
Most Popular

Over 50% of respondents are exploring these solutions

Adopting sales enablement tools
Consolidating tools or platforms
LESS Popular

Less than half are exploring these solutions

What this means:

  • ABM is a popular route for pipeline this year. There is considerable interest in building ABM programs, which could help with the perceived lack of alignment between sales and marketing
  • Great personalization is table stakes. Reps that really want to stand out should expect to up their personalization skills. The move from quantity to quality will uncover which reps understand their prospects the most.
  • Optimization is the ultimate goal. Leaders want to know: how can every rep perform like your best rep? How can teams work in alignment with each other? How can automation and AI help employees accomplish more?
Expert opinion

“Do fewer things but go deeper on them, invest in automation to scale efforts and remove low value-add time waste.”

- Head of Marketing Ops, Mid-Market Software Company

“Leverage the right signals to identify the right targets and optimize spend, sales and marketing alignment, the right reporting needed to prove ROI.”

- Marketing Manager, SMB Marketplace Company
Chapter 6

All roads lead to signal-based selling

One word that kept popping up: signals. Many leaders are evaluating how they use buying signals within their outbound motion to stay focused.

  • 91% are already using buying signals as part of their pipeline generation strategy
  • For those teams that are using buying signals for pipeline generation, the top 3 most popular signals are:

The top 3 most popular signals according to revenue leaders

Intent Data
80%
Website Visitors
74%
Past Customers
69%

Account-level signals are clear favorites, but contact-level signals are gaining traction among these teams.

It looks like more teams are putting their money where their mouth is to provide prospects with more personalized experiences!

However, many respondents also revealed that they aren’t fully confident that sales reps know the next steps to take when presented with prospecting signals:

How confident are you that sales reps know the next steps to take when presented prospect signals?

Extremely confident
5%
Somewhat confident
45%
Slightly or not at all
20%

What this means:

  • Signals are the hot new thing in pipeline generation. The majority of respondents are either building or have already built buying signals into their GTM strategy.
  • Signals-based strategies still need work. Revenue teams understand the value of signals for going after target accounts, but many have not operationalized signal-based workflows for their teams.
  • Processes have to evolve as GTM moves away from spray-and-pray activities.  Otherwise, teams won’t get the full benefits of their programs and will waste resources.
Expert opinion

“You've got to be playing the long game. We've proven that a lot of companies will think 'okay, that's really interesting,' and then they come back six months later. That's the job of this signal-based prospecting now – we're germinating.”

- VP of Sales, SMB Software Company
Chapter 7

Where the rubber meets the road

What does all of this mean for you? We wanted to know how respondents are applying what they learned in 2023 to their GTM moving forward.

Here are some of the strategies top revenue leaders are using for the road ahead.

#1 - Think about relevance at the person level

“At the end of the day, companies don't buy products; the people behind companies buy products.”

Chris Block
VP Revenue, Import.io
TAKEAWAY

Want to really stand out? B2B sales uses account-level information to make decisions, but the people at these accounts are equally important. Look for more ways to reach and relate to the individual contacts at target accounts to truly resonate with buyers.

how to adapt
  • Create your own IPP (ideal person profile) to understand the people at target accounts who are most likely to convert.
  • Identify which person-level signals are most relevant to that IPP and orchestrate what actions reps should take when they receive those signals.
  • Continue to optimize for affinity at the person level to maintain relevance at scale.

#2 - Distinguish signals from noise, then act

“We're trying to distinguish between actionable buying signals and noise to help reps focus.”

Bob Evans
Sr. Manager, Business Operations, WorkTango
TAKEAWAY

Efficient teams focus on taking action, not collecting data. When individual reps are inundated with data, they do not always know what steps to take next. Creating guidance and processes can reduce time-wasting, low-yield activities.

how to adapt
  • Audit what information, data, notifications, and platforms your reps interact with on a daily basis.
  • Identify which of these are critical for rep success, and which ones cause the most distractions, then limit rep access to data sources that do not provide actionable signals.
  • Create a clear prioritization framework that outlines which signals are most important for reps to pay attention to.
  • Train reps on which signals should be paired with an action, and the process or workflow they should follow when those signals are surfaced.

#3 - Brush up on the fundamentals

“We're giving everybody all of these tools using AI, this, that, and that doesn't mean anything if you don't understand your buyer

Brian Liebel
Director of Sales Development, Ambition
TAKEAWAY

AI and automation tools have made outreach easier, but not necessarily better. Teams should evaluate how to use AI in outbound. Does AI augment a rep’s knowledge and abilities, or simply give them an easy button?

how to adapt
  • Upskill the team’s business acumen. Reps need to understand the buyer at a deeper level – how their industry works, their level at the organization, and their motivations within their company.
  • Provide training on the “right way” and the “wrong way” to use AI and automation tools to avoid compromising the quality of outreach.

#4 - Prioritize quality over quantity

“What we figured out is we don't need 50 pieces of information. We just need 50 pieces of right information.”

James Eaton
VP of Sales, Dozuki
TAKEAWAY

Having a massive funnel of data for teams isn’t a fix for broken outbound. Instead, companies need to hone in on the right accounts in their ICP and layer on the most relevant signals to reach prospects at those accounts.

how to adapt
  • Rethink your approach from volume-driven outbound to value-driven outbound.
  • Figure out which signals support the targeted motion you want to orchestrate.
  • Align efforts between sales and marketing and plan your tech stack accordingly.

#5 - Get to know your sweet spots

“There are certain things that we know historically provide us with a higher conversion rate from stage to stage, so we have sweet spots in our market.”

Ralph Bastarache
Director of Client Acquisition, iWave
TAKEAWAY

Spray-and-pray worked in the past, but understanding your ICP inside-out will give you a leg up going forward. Use historical data to triage accounts and prioritize the ones that fall within your “sweet spot.”

how to adapt
  • Create a system for reviewing closed won and closed lost deals.
  • Identify common denominators that exist among your best deals, a.k.a. your “sweet spots,” to inform prospecting workflows.
  • Double down efforts on your known best bets and use prioritization processes to move fastest on prospects within your sweet spot accounts.

About this survey

Departments

  • 44% - Marketing
  • 27% - Sales
  • 26% - RevOps

Seniority

  • 41% - Director
  • 37% - Manager
  • 15% - VP
  • 7% - Other

Business Size

  • 41% - SMB
  • 47% - Mid-market
  • 12% - Enterprise

Continue reading the report

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