How to take advantage of sales automation tools while maintaining a human touch with SalesSource’s Travis Henry
Collin Stewart, CEO
15 May 2019
The proliferation of sales engagement tools – Outreach, SalesLoft etc. – have revolutionized the practice of sales development. Thanks to those apps, teams of prospectors, in mature organizations and startups alike, have been able to reach out to leads and generate pipeline like never before.
What did we do before we had our cadences locked and loaded in software platforms?
Of course, nothing is perfect – the ease and consistency these tools have brought to the job have also, at times, removed the all-important human element in prospecting. The pull of working lots of leads, all while never forgetting a message, is powerful. But that method can turn SDRs into mini versions of Marketo, blasting emails into the market.
So, then, how do you continue sharing thoughtful and valuable messaging, while taking advantage of very efficient tech stacks and platforms?
By making sure you don’t forget the basics, that’s how.
Remembering sales fundamentals
“The evolution of sales software has done a lot of great things – you can control messaging and scale teams, for instance. But, in hyper growth companies there has been a watering down of messaging at the same time,” says Travis Henry, Director of Inside Sales Operations at renowned Bay Area sales consultancy SalesSource, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
“So the trend I’m seeing is all about staying sharp and thoughtful to get the attention of prospects. So one of the first workshops I do when I walk into a new company is a buyer persona or Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) workshop. This works for new companies, as well as those that are more mature.”
The fundamental piece, says Henry, of holding an effective ICP workshop is getting marketing and sales in the same room to discuss what they believe their market to be. You’d be surprised, adds Henry, how often both sales and marketing professionals end up discussing their product’s features – not their buyers.
“When you pull marketing and sales leadership in a room and ask them who their buyer is, what you often hear back is product benefits. What you don’t hear enough is the responsibilities and pains of the buyers,” says Travis.
“And, as we know, there can be more than one unique buyer persona you need to cater to – the technical buyer and business buyer, to name just two. Those personas will have different messages you will need to share, so you need to be able to discuss these.”
And how do you define those personas? By taking an in-depth look at your Salesforce records.
Most companies, when reviewing their deals, simply ask who signed off on their closed–won opportunities. Of course, that is relevant information – it is always important to know who controls the purse strings. But when we are selling more complicated solutions, there is a bigger buyer journey to understand. Who the SDR first comes in contact with is often not the person that ends up writing the cheque.
So, in addition to pulling who signed off on a deal, look at who your SDRs booked qualified meetings with. That will be a huge help.
“To do this right, you have to make sure you keep a clean record of contact roles – it is not just another field,” says Henry.
“If you need to, educate your sales team on the value of contact roles. Ultimately, it helps AEs and the business as a whole when trying to understand the funnel.”
Designing unique, human cadences
If you’ve been an SDR, you may have encountered this situation before: you start at your new job, learn all about who the company sells to, how many touchpoints they expect everyday, and you’re sent off on your own to craft some messaging. This is not an effective onboarding experience.
Somewhat better, although still not ideal, is when marketing and sales leaders craft the messaging used by all prospectors. This ensures consistency, to be sure, but it often strips outbound copy of any creativity.
When Henry worked at Bluewolf, however, they used the company’s subject matter experts to help inform messaging. Whether it be product people, technical specialists, even executives – team members with a specific understanding of different elements of the business chipped in and offered their help with sales messaging.
“Typically, companies don’t think to do this. At Bluewolf, it was different consultants. At a startup, it might be the Chief Technology Officer or the Head of Product that would be called upon,” says Henry.
“We even brought in our Head of Analytics to talk about how the value of analytics related to our customers. And we got some fantastic messaging out of it.”
While subject matter experts can help compile the foundation of sales messaging, they can’t help personalize it to each of the different prospects an SDR team will be reaching out to. That task still falls on the individual rep. What Henry suggests as an effective method to personalize at scale is only to craft unique copy for 20% of each email (80% will always be a stock copy), and spend only three minutes per account researching relevant facts and anecdotes to fulfill that personalized portion.
“It’s about getting your team excited and understanding where they can get their quick wins – be quick and thoughtful about how you can infuse a human touch into your prospecting,” says Henry.
“I like to gather three facts in three minutes. Lots of people can get bogged down in their research, so this method is an attempt to bucket a rep’s time around the research.”
The importance of A/B testing…and some out-of-the-box thinking
To ensure you are always using the best copy possible, Henry strongly advises all prospecting teams take advantage of the A/B testing options in sales engagement platforms. Try out different subject lines, or calls to action – the only way to constantly improve your copy is to test different iterations and see what registers with your prospects.
Another really interesting strategy, championed by Lars Nilsson, Henry’s colleague at SaleaSource, is to bringing in executives into the world of SDR to run sniper campaigns – executive to executive outreach.
(Editor’s note: we had Lars Nilsson on the podcast a while back to discuss the importance of getting sales development a seat at the leadership table. You can read about our in-depth chat here, or listen to it here)
This method is good for your top 50 global accounts, executive time is expensive, so make sure the potential deal value is worth it.
To execute this, go to your CEO and build a very tailored sequence to the counterpart executive at a prospective account. The prospecting is done by the SDR, so the executive will have to provision their inbox. As for the messaging, Henry suggests the theme should be high-level strategic topics, aimed at starting a dialogue.
If the CEO can’t take a call or a meeting, you will often get referred to a lieutenant and get a meeting from there.
Finally, be sure you are designing a multi-channel approach – email is good, but so too is direct mail. At Bluewolf, for example, they published a “State of Salesforce” report each year and sent a copy to key decision makers, with an email follow up scheduled for a week later.
“That follow up would be simple. It would just tell them that we hoped they enjoyed the report and that we thought, say, page 73 would be of particular interest to them for a specific reason,” says Henry.
“By following up via email, you tie it back to the rest of your touchpoint strategy and remain thoughtful in the process.”
For more on Henry’s views on thoughtful prospecting – including his thoughts on data preservation and effective phone calls – check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.