Tricks of the demand generation trade: How Nishank Khanna combines marketing and outbound skills to drive leads

Collin Stewart, CEO

8 May 2019

Outbound skills are just a part of life – even for a veteran demand gen marketer.

That’s according to Nishank Khanna, Co-Founder and CEO full service marketing agency Demand Roll. No matter how many leads you bring in, says Khanna, somebody’s got to work them. And that function – that very act of picking up a phone and calling even an inbound lead – takes outbound skills.

“Outbound, for me, is an umbrella term for lots of things that includes demos and sales calls,” says Khanna, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“You have to get on the phone and be able to sell. And that means if you’re in the B2B space, even if you are entirely dependent on inbound leads, you’ll have to do some sort of outbound-type work.”

What Khanna is discussing here is a longstanding marketing and sales issue: how does a team ensure that, even when leads are being driven by marketing, that sale is able to put its best foot forward when they pick up that phone?

“Get both departments in a room and discussing each other’s KPIs. That way, both sides completely understand its audience, what a qualified lead is, and what everyone’s pain points are,” says Khanna.

“In fact, this kind of communication means the two teams are basically combined. And the benefits are massive – you start to really hone in on what is bringing in good leads, and what is bringing in poor leads.”

Producing content that converts

In an inbound-driven world, content is king. It’s the driver of all those leads the sales team is working. But not all content is created equal – content has to convert.

If you’re new to content production, Khanna suggests having sales and marketing strategize on what keywords they should be targeting. And, to go a little deeper, strategize on what the intent behind each keyword is. For example, if someone types a particular keyword in a Google search, ask yourself “what are they after?” You really want to pinpoint those keywords that are representative of someone is further down the decision making process.

If you have a content production machine up and running, then you need to establish feedback loops. Sales needs to tell marketing about what leads worked, what didn’t. Then, marketing can review what content brought what kind of lead in. The content that is attracting poor leads can immediately be fixed. You can have that feedback loop setup in Salesforce, or it can be done in person.

Getting people to respond to emails

(Editor’s note: we spoke with SDR extraordinaire Alex Palomino about how she gets the highest open rates on her team. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the full interview here)

Let’s face it, everyone is playing the email game. If you’re in tech world, you’re probably getting hundreds of emails per day.

So, how do you stand out? Khanna says the trick is going your own way and not copying the rest of a crowded field.

“Do the opposite of what everyone is doing. Don’t copy emails. My view is to always go against the grain. Everyone is trying to sell quickly and asking for a call in their first email,” says Khanna.

What’s missing in this is the relationship. So, don’t sell on that email. Try and establish a bit of a relationship first. This is tough, as a salesperson, I know. And it is extra effort, for sure. But when you look at the long term view, you will get more out of it.”

Building a relationship in one email can be a tall order, to be sure. So, what Khanna suggests is just reaching out to a prospect with a compliment on something they’ve just written or a product they’ve just released – with no hard sell.

Hopefully, this more open-ended style will elicit a response. If it does, you now have a more receptive prospect that you can engage in conversation.
Another effective method, adds Khanna, is asking prospects if they wish to be featured on a blog post you’re writing. For example, Khanna and his team often do “round-up” style posts for their clients, in the vein of “Top 50 marketing lessons from industry leaders.” To fill out the piece, they reach out to 50 top marketers, ask them to contribute, and highlight their contributions upon publishing via social.

Marketers participate in this freely – who doesn’t love getting their name out there for free? – and Khanna is able to build a relationship with 50 prospects. About a week or two after they publish, they reach back out to engage in a sales-focused discussion.

“When you are giving out value on the first touchpoint, don’t expect anything,” says Khanna.

“Just help, put great stuff out there, and let it build. That’s why people respond to being featured in a blog post – you are bringing them value.”

Finally, says Khanna, for a more scalable plan, you can try a three-step process of serving your prospects Facebook ads, followed by a tailored email, and, finally, a phone call. That way your sales team is always approaching a “warm” prospect.

Getting clean data for this process, says Khanna, can be a challenge as the quality of data provider can vary greatly from vertical to vertical. Typically, the more specific you get, the better data you can buy. And, depending on the size of your target list, buying Facebook ads can be very affordable.

“We learned the hard way – we  were buying emails and they were wrong,” says Khanna.

“So, we built out our own engine out over a couple of years. We have 600 million people in there, and use a bit if magic to figure out their work and personal emails.”

 

Bottom of funnel vs. top of funnel leads

Even when you are having regular cross-functional meetings and producing killer content, not every lead you capture is going to be ready to buy immediately.

Sad, but true.

So when you attract top of funnel leads, and you just don’t know when they are going to be in a  buying cycle, you just have to nurture those leads until they are ready. You have to have be prepared for it all, says Khanna – nurture when you need to nurture, and sell when you need to sell.

“I don’t think there should be a focus on one vs. the other. It is all a process and a cycle,” says Khanna.

“You need to have all of your bases covered.”

For more on Khanna’s thoughts on using demand gen and outbound skills to drive leads – including what an expected ad spend would be and when to get sales involved in the demand gen process – check out his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.