Everything You Know About Building Sequences Is Wrong

Dec 16, 2020
Author: collin stewart

Sales Development Representatives put a huge amount of time into designing their sequences and cadences so that they have maximum impact. However, there is such an overwhelming amount of (often contradictory) advice available on how to do this that it can be hard to know how to approach the task.

To help give SDRs some reliable advice in this area, Predictable Revenue’s Co-CEO and Co-Founder, Collin Stewart, as well as Senior SDR and Podcast Host, Sarah Hicks, sat down with author and sales expert, Rex Biberston. As well as co-writing the widely admired book ‘Outbound Sales, No Fluff’ and working as the Director of Sales & Marketing at Opensense, Rex has worked with over 100 early-stage companies. He has been instrumental in developing go-to-market strategies, deploying outbound sales, and advising companies on maximizing their revenue team’s potential.

What Are Sales Sequences?

A sales sequence or cadence is a series of activities initiated by SDRs to convert prospects into customers. It takes into account the target audience needs, then identifies the best communication strategies to generate opportunities and ultimately, make sales. Sales sequences ensure that leads do not fall through the cracks and that they continue to move through consecutive stages of the sales funnel, essentially optimizing the sales team’s efforts.

First Things First

There are a lot of factors that impact whether or not an SDR is going to be able to successfully book, for example, 50 meetings with prospects a month. Importantly, some of these factors are going to be beyond the SDR’s control. 

A crucial element in sales success is having an excellent product/market fit. That is, having a product that successfully meets a strong market demand. 

“The number one thing you can do is have a product that people actually need, that solves a real problem, or that creates a real opportunity,” observes Rex. “If you don’t have that, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle a long way.”

However, even if you have a great product and are employing innovative sales sequences with great results, the process doesn’t stop there. “Regardless of the product/ market fit, regardless of how great your sequences are,” argues Sarah. “You’ve got to be testing, you’ve got to be iterating, and you’ve got to be trying out new things.” Failure to optimize your sequences based on varying situations and prospects could mean you quickly find your sales efforts running out of steam.

The Cornerstones Of A Healthy Sales Sequence

There are four major factors that are key to building a healthy sales sequence that will increase the number of meetings you are booking each month. 

      1. Target – Identify your ideal customer profile (ICP). Do some research to find out who has a problem you can solve, and then understand what their pain points are.

      2. Message – Tailor your communication to directly meet your prospect’s pain point or need. The way you phrase your communication, as well as the actual offer that you are sending, needs to leave no doubt in the prospect’s mind that you are providing value. 

      3. Channel – A good sales sequence will make use of a variety of communication channels based on the prospect’s behavior. Find out your prospect’s preferred mode of communication, prioritize it, and use it to your advantage.

      4. Timing – Try to figure out when the most fruitful time to reach out to your prospect is, depending on their profession and behavior on their preferred communication channels. But ultimately, there is no right or wrong time. Your calendar is flexible, and you should use this flexibility to your advantage by ensuring that you are making the most out of the periods of the day when you are most energetic and most likely to get results from calling.

Which Channels Should SDRs Concentrate On?

Rex has an elegant and effective axiom, which can be applied to this question: “Every channel works for some people some of the time.” Though it may sound like a broad statement, it is important for SDRs to recognize.

Rex explains that one of the best ways to apply this concept to your prospects is by developing ‘personas’. Create categorized profiles of your prospective clients structured by important features such as their role and the industry they work in. For instance, if your prospect is a marketer then they are very likely to be using their computer a lot and so will probably be more receptive to emails.

However, if your prospect is a salesperson, then they probably spend a great deal of their time on the phone – which means that there is a greater likelihood of them being positively responsive on this channel. 

Rex adds that it is still useful to build sequences that involve all these channels, but also ensure that if you are successful in reaching the prospect via one channel, to have this trigger a halt in trying to continue reaching them through the others.

Don’t Overvalue E-mails As A First Step

An idea that has been gaining momentum amongst sales professionals is that they should only call a client once they have first opened an email. 

“Channel one does not influence channel two”, warns Rex. “Whether or not they pick up the phone doesn’t influence whether or not they respond to emails”. 

While a prospect who has read your name first in an email is much more likely to respond positively to a sales call from you, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that by opening an email, their behavior has changed. People are going to be more receptive to different channels, depending on their profession and personal preference.

For example, someone might not have opened an email simply because their job requires them to be out in the field all day. So, by not calling them on the basis that they have not opened an email, you are robbing yourself of a potential sale. 

“What does change,” explains Rex, “Is your likelihood to win because you put something of value ahead. They’ve seen this and engaged with it.”

It is vitally important that SDRs employ multiple channels and never stop testing the efficacy of different tactics or means of approaching clients. 

SMS Cadences

Depending on your situation, you might find yourself needing to employ SMS to reach your prospects. In this situation, what is the most effective way to proceed?

“The cadence comes down to behaviors and what’s acceptable culturally in your region,” says Rex.  For instance, in many regions of Europe, people use SMS for business much more extensively than in areas such as the United States. 

Importantly though, Rex adds that sales professionals should go back to the history of what’s been successful in their organization and analyze how to replicate that success. 

“I don’t think there’s a magic secret to how far apart you separate your text messages or how many you send,” continues Rex. “Go back and look at the data. If you don’t have that tracking data, then start to track it today. Then go and test a few things, separate them, and see what’s working better”.

LinkedIn vs. Cold Calling Cadences

As is often the case in sales, rigid adherence to one methodology at the expense of another is not an effective way to proceed. 

“Your audience is not necessarily going to be active on one rather than the other.” observes Sarah. “So, this is completely dependent upon who you’re trying to target.” 

For instance, if you were to attempt to contact an older, brick-and-mortar, industrial construction company then you would be less likely to find success through LinkedIn than you would with cold calling. By the same token, much younger tech entrepreneurs are probably less likely to answer the phone. 

Pointers For Connection Request Success

The manner in which you first contact a prospect can be a crucial factor in how your professional relationship develops. So how should you approach this to ensure that you achieve the desired impact? Once again, there is no straightforward right or wrong answer here. The short of it is it depends on your audience. 

“There are some obvious turn-offs,” explains Rex, “For example, don’t pitch them super hard in your connection request.” 

Rather than asking a lot of them straight away, try starting a dialogue and engaging with them in a more natural fashion. Patience goes a long way here. Eventually, you will organically get an opportunity to make that all-important sale.

How To Avoid Landing In The Spam Folder

A problem that besets anyone using email as a channel to reach prospects is the dreaded spam folder. How can SDRs avoid their messages ending up there, as well as avoiding the damage to their reputation as a sender amongst companies such as Google?

“It’s remarkably difficult,” opines Rex, “But I think one of the most important things you can do is not send a thousand of the exact same email.” 

Personalization is key here. Adding unique elements to your email messaging – even if it’s just the last sentence of each email – can mean the difference between reaching your target audience and reaching their spam folder. Making that small change will alert your email server that this is not spam. More importantly, it shows your prospects that you’ve put some effort into getting to know who they are, thus increasing the chances of engagement.

Another key factor that can strongly influence your emails reaching their desired destination is the timing. Sending a thousand e-mails at once is a sure way to get blocked and blacklisted by your email server. An easy way around this is to use sales automation tools that can stagger the frequency with which the e-mails are sent so that they appear more human in behavior

“The more personalized, the more relevant, the better,” agrees Sarah. “Half of it is going to be the Google spam filter and the algorithm reading the emails deciding whether or not they’re spam. But another thing that’ll send you into the spam folder is when people click on ‘spam’ when they get your emails.” 

The chances of this happening are significantly lower when you send an email that is clearly written for the recipient, referencing something that they have done or achieved. Make sure you have a compelling subject line and that the ensuing message is clear.

Lastly, it is vital that SDRs ensure they do not send excessive numbers of emails to people within the same company. “SalesLoft and Outreach both have an option to limit the number of people you reach out to at a company every day,” Collin explains. “You need to have that enabled.”

Location, Location. Where Should You Build Your SDR Team?

The business world is increasingly international in scope, to the extent that even small teams can now consist of people scattered around the globe. But what is the most effective and efficacious way of building an SDR team? Should you focus on developing it in an office or employ home-workers from different countries?

“With all the tools, like Zoom, SalesLoft, Outreach “it doesn’t really matter ‘where’,” argues Collin. “It’s about finding the right people. Is your hiring process equipped to dig in and really help you understand who’s the right fit to be an SDR? And then, is your onboarding geared-up so you can onboard and hire people wherever they are?”

For Rex, the benefits of developing a team remotely make it preferable to focus on building one locally. COVID-19 has proved that we can work well remotely, so why not harness the power of all the talented people located all over the world?

Final Tips For Budding SDRs

The first few months of being an SDR can be a bewildering experience, with an astounding volume of information to take on board and methodologies to master. So, here are some tips to help those new to the role take this all in their stride.

“First of all, take all the training that you can get,” Sarah explains. “Lean on everyone you can. If there are other SDRs in your team, listen in on their calls, ask them for tips. Do your best to absorb all the information you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions all the time.”

Lastly, Sarah, Rex, and Collin all agree that the most crucial thing for any SDR to be doing in order to reach success is aiming to exceed the targets that are set for them. The best SDRs focus on winning by setting their sights higher than whatever the manager requires. While you will get a lot of ‘no’s’, your level of grit will ultimately determine how you deal with those rejections.

If you would like to hear more advice and guidance from Collin, Sarah, and Rex on sequences and cadences, effectively utilizing different channels, and becoming a more successful SDR, then listen to the full video here.

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