Prospecting 101: Sales Hacker’s Scott Barker shares his sales tips and tricks from the trenches

Collin Stewart, CEO

3 April 2019

Sales development is a complex gig – every SDR (every successful one anyway) is required to keep a lot of balls in the air in order to get their job done, day after day, quarter after quarter.

And as the sales development discipline continues to grow, evolve, and mature, so too will the complexity. More tools, more opportunities to connect, new methods of standing out from the crowd – these are just a few of the tricks we’re going to have to learn to keep up.  

But, as is the case with most professions, every now and then, you have to back the beginning to remind yourself of its foundations. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they say.

We spent this week’s podcast going over a few of the foundational pillars of sales development with the one-man-sales wrecking crew that is Sales Hacker’s Scott Barker.

Below are just a few of the highlights – including a few awesome tips and tricks – from our wide-ranging chat.

How to handle the “brush off”

This is a super common problem: you get the prospect on the phone, but they’re “not interested” or they have ”no time.” We’ve all been there…and it’s frustrating.

It’s easy to bog down trying to navigate these responses and forget that, more often than not, the prospect isn’t actually paying attention. They’re just trying to get you off the phone.

To bridge that gap, and find a way to build a meaningful conversation, Barker says he asks prospects about how he can improve his cold call process. After all, if they aren’t interested now, why not get them to shed some light on what would make them interested in the future, right?

“It is an auto response – when you hear that line, you know they aren’t listening. They are on auto-pilot. You just got lumped into every other cold caller. A good way to break down walls is to use vulnerability. When you do that, people can connect,” says Barker.

“When I hear those lines I ask ‘what could I have said to get a meeting with you?’ I want to their suggestions. Some people will respond – they offer advice, or, they would ask me what I was selling. Asking such a question gets them into a place where they are present and listening. You may still hear no, but at least they are listening.”

By employing this tip, you’re changing the tenor of the conversation and injecting something the prospect just wasn’t expecting to hear. That can be a huge element in the call.

How to increase your response rates

This is what it’s all about – you have to get people to care, and you need to stand out.

We’ve all written hundreds (thousands!) of emails, all aimed at getting the attention of our prospects. And, naturally, we’ll continue to do so (SDRs have become pretty crafty writers over the years).

But in your always-evolving pursuit of the perfect email, why not try this one on for size: the prospecting email that contains a script of your first call.

Wait, what?

That’s right…an email that contains a short, made-up script of what your first call wit the prospect would sound like.

“I’ve spent many, many hours playing around with emails – probably a/b tested hundreds of options,” says Barker.

“The 1-2 punch that I landed on, when I was a BD manager and got a 30% response rate, was to transcribe how a cold call would go and include it in my email.”

So, what does that email look like? Below is a basic framework for Barker’s email:

Subject: [insert prospect name], no one likes a cold call…

In the copy:

Transcribe what a typical cold call would go like, in the hopes of saving everyone time. Of course, the “script” ends with Barker getting a demo.

But, more functionally, Barker was always sure to end the email with a Calendly link – so people could actually book that demo.

“People would actually click the link. I would just get meetings pop up in my calendar,” says Barker.

“If they didn’t respond to that initial email, we would hit them up with a tailored video – a 1:1, tailored video in which I would say something like: ‘I got tired of talking to myself.’ It was cohesive, and tailored, and funny. And it got results.”

How to stay on a prospect’s radar

Another classic.

Even when you have a great conversation with a prospect – this still happens. You follow up, and you hear nothing.

Typically, you’d start running them through your sequence for people that are going quiet, right? That’s pretty standard practice. But, when you’ve exhausted all your moves, Barker tries this innovative trick (one he stole Sales Hacker founder from Max Altschuler):

Instead of re-iterating the same messaging (hey, let’s get time on the calendar…hey, let’s get time on the calendar…) he would send a blank email. It almost seems like an accident, but it gives them another opportunity to respond, as it bumps you to the top of their inbox.

Another successful method is creating content for social media. The content in question is targeted at a particular prospect, but doesn’t mention their name or company. It simple references a situation that reflects them.

“It’s about staying top of mind. That relevant piece of content could be the touchpoint that gets them to respond,” says Barker.

“As for where that content lives, I usually post on LinkedIn. You could use other social channels, but, likely, LinkedIn is the best.”

One last play Barker run, although manual, was to send an email thread to his CEO and have him respond, in the hopes of a new more-senior title would inspire the prospect to write back.

The message from the CEO would go something like: “Hey, I was just combing through our CRM this weekend, and saw Scott had been reaching out to you. I thought I’d jump in and just let you know I’m a huge fan of your company.”

This tactic works best when reaching out to an executive, of the C-Suite. A CEO getting a note from a CEO likely resonates, and can inspire action.

(Editor’s note: we chatted with Max Altschuler late last year about understanding buyer psychology. You can read about it here, or listen to our full interview here)

How to keep objection handling fresh

No one likes going over objections, but it’s super important. And it’s best done in a team environment.

On Friday (once per month, or bi-weekly, whatever is necessary), Barker would gather his SDR team together to do “objection battles.” Members of the team were placed in pairs, given a popular objection the team has been hearing, and asked to come up with responses in just two minutes.

Once they’ve drafted their response, each is asked to deliver it to their manager (in this case Barker), who is playing the role of the prospect. The team member with the best response is the winner. And, if the response is deemed extraordinary by the rest of the team as well, they would update their playbook with the new response.

“That was the goal for the entire group – to update our sales playbook with an excellent answer. It was something fresh, new, and effective,” says Barker.

“And our whole team was stoked we had this awesome new answer.”

For more on Barker’s prospecting tips – including the right way to onboard, navigating the routine “brush off,” and how to handle the inevitable end-of-quarter push – check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

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