The power of aligning brand and outbound sales with Sigstr’s Sarah Harbison Tosh
Collin Stewart, CEO
Brand power, especially for young or growing companies, is really hard to measure.
Of course, everyone knows it’s important – who doesn’t want powerful brand recognition? – but unless you can tie that awareness directly to pipeline and closed sales, it’s hard to gauge its effectiveness.
That’s why alignment between brand and outbound sales is so important: not only does sales help measure the power of (and a company’s investment in) a brand, but a brand team can empower prospectors with great content, sales assets, and ensure that messaging is always spot-on.
“We use sales development to help measure brand plays that we know are important but often feels fluffy and something that you shouldn’t do,” says Sarah Harbison Tosh, Senior Director Market Development at Sigstr, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
“But everything – your sales team, ops team etc. is an extension of the brand. I compare SDRs to blind dates. We’ve all been there: you’re excited for the date, and it either goes well, or it doesn’t. SDRs are the people that go on the first date for the company. They are the first people to display that brand to those customers, and you want it to go well.”
Why brand is getting involved with outbound
At Sigstr, a major part of aligning brand and outbound is instilling a unified mindset and shared goal: everything both brand and sales development do is aimed at driving pipeline. And to support that objective, Sigstr has made sales development a function of marketing, not sales.
“Historically, sales development has been a sales function. But, organically, that’s changed here over the last few quarters. So, we made it official: sales development is now a marketing function,” says Tosh.
“By combining these forces into a pipeline team, we make sure they are aligned – sales development is aligned on all new marketing initiatives, and vice versa.”
This is critical in a crowded marketing technology space, adds Tosh. For example, each year the MarTech 5,000 list is published – although Tosh says it’s more like the MarTech 7,000 now – that details the ever-growing list of companies in the marketing-tech space. And Tosh considers all of those companies to be competitors of Sigstr. But with that many companies vying for the attention of marketing leaders, it’s critical that your outreach hit the right notes…all of the time.
That takes alignment, coordination, and top-notch execution.
“If you and your application aren’t delivering results, then someone else will. It’s that crowded,” says Tosh.
“So, we’ve defined our sales philosophy (which is bolstered by their marketing efforts): midwestern nice. We make ourselves easy to do business with.”
Staying on brand while giving SDRs the freedom to be creative
Although marketers are trained to craft compelling messaging and sales collateral, it’s imperative to give your salespeople room to be creative and personalize their outreach, says Tosh.
To ensure that happens, she, along Sigstr’s VP of Marketing, determine new messaging and makes sure it’s loaded into SalesLoft in the correct spots along a cadence, but with enough whitespace to allow for their salespeople to round out the messaging as they see fit.
It’s a skeleton message, if you will, that delivers the core messages, but still needs the personal aspects that show prospects you’ve done your research on them.
“I believe that we hire sales professionals for a reason – they are not robots. We want them to be themselves. So, because we work with marketing our core messaging stays in tact, but we’re building personalization on top of that,” says Tosh.
We believe in adding the heaviest personalization up top and in the subject line as well, we want people to see that straight away. And, also, people are reading on their mobile devices, so we’re optimizing for that experience as well.”
Throughout the Sigstr cadence, most emails are personalized, but the “heaviest” personalization is front-loaded before then it tapers off a bit, before getting becoming more prominent again at the end of the cadence.
According to Tosh, Sigstr reps execute a 20 – 25 day cadence, with 10 touchpoints that includes email, phone, direct mail (custom stationery and custom stickers, typically), and social touches.
The stationery Sigstr sends, and the call to action it includes, changes depending on who they are targeting (Sigst’s top personas are: CMOs, event marketers, content marketers, marketing operations leaders, and directors of Marketing).
“Direct mail is usually on the front end of the sequence. And it is a great tool for getting a yes, or a no,” adds Tosh.
“If you haven’t invested in direct mail yet, do it.”
Ads for video, well, that’s still a work in progress at Sigstr. Traditionally, Tosh admits, she’s struggled with video – it’s easy to nitpick (does anyone like watching themselves?), and understanding the engagement a video gets, as the medium has gained in popularity in the sales world, has been difficult.
But Sigstr has started using videos in interesting ways. Instead of just creating a video with a rep beside a whiteboard outlining why their product is awesome, Sigstr reps have been using video to follow up on a call to add more context of information, or to remind prospects of an upcoming call and discuss its agenda.
“It’s not a video-based first touch,” says Tosh.
“We use it in sequence, when it makes sense, like when we’ve had some engagement and we want to re-engage our prospects.”
(Editor’s note: we had David Cancel, renowned entrepreneur and CEO of Drift, on the pod a while back to discuss the future of sales development. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the whole interview here)
The power of events
Finally, Sigstr has invested heavily in event / conference attendance – another great avenue for marketing and sales collaboration. Sigstr SDRs act as “activators” for events: reaching out to attendees with information about the event, sharing useful panels / discussions, sending small incentives such as local coffee shop gift card.
All of this outreach, of course, is to eventually book a meeting at the event. And afterwards, once the event has wrapped, Sigstr reps quickly loading those prospects with notes into our CRM, and sales team gets to work them.
“To help with the post event sales cycle, we ask the people working the booth as well for some of their more memorable conversations as well – it makes it a little smoother,” says Tosh.
“One thing to remember, though: event pipeline can happen right away, but it can also come back from 3 quarters back, so be patient with the pipeline from events. We have a 45-day average sales cycle. So, we give an event 3 quarters before we decide if it was worth it or not. And, finally, a good rule of thumb, is that events must be 2x for us to consider doing it two years in a row. We have had some that have been 10x.”
(Editor’s note: we’ve written extensively about how to maximize your ROI for conference attendance. Check out the first of our series, The Secret to Getting ROI From Your Conference Sponsorship, here, and the second installment here)
Fore more on Tosh’s thoughts on the importance of marketing and sales alignment – including how to teach authenticity – check out the rest of her interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.