There comes a time in every business where the founders need to shift from working in the business to on the business. Like many growing businesses Struto has to deal with the push and pull of selling vs delivering services vs managing cashflow vs growing our people and managing our process and technology. We all want to see our business move from survive to thrive, to get some reward for the long hours we put in and feel like what we do results in traction.
TL;DR We needed a scalable, repeatable business development process in place to onboard and train a new salesperson.
A Little Background
A few months ago, we realised one vital thing that was holding us back. We’re like shoemakers’ children when it comes to sales. Why? Not for lack of trying or experience but for lack of focus. The sales function is shared between three of us all of whom have day jobs that stretch from the CEO, to the Chairman to Head of Content Strategy and we each have our approach. We’ve worked out what works for us over time, but that doesn’t scale. (Yes, everyone in a business is in “sales” but let’s not go there here).
Inbound Marketing is a big part of Struto’s go-to-market. In fact, inbound marketing generates a significant number of leads for us every month. We follow up the ones that raise their hands and all but hit us over the head with a hammer to do business with us and the rest are left to the marketing automation gods in the hope that something will come of them.
Here’s the rub. How many of those have gone off to engage the competition and not had a chance to taste any Struto love? Something had to be done. The solution was pretty obvious. Build a scalable, predictable sales engine. Apply a repeatable process to following up our leads and move beyond that into the realms of Account Based Marketing (ABM) and social selling with inbound principles at the core. We decided to onboard a senior sales person to focus on business development through consultative selling. Someone would need to support them in the business as they came onboard, and that person was me, so I had to make sure I was armed with the rudiments of a repeatable process to help guide our new starter. Fast.
Enter Dan Tyre’s Pipeline Generation Bootcamp. For those of you who don’t know Dan Tyre, he is a unique force of nature, a bit like a whirlwind… The kind of person with an incredibly high energy level that only knows one setting, full-on. He has recently published a book called Inbound Organisation co-authored with Todd Hockenberry. Check it out here. Dan’s bootcamp was eight weeks long and consisted of a one hour a week video conference and various homework tasks.
Anyhow, let’s get to it. Here’s what I learned. Some of it may seem a little like sucking eggs, but we all need a refresher sometimes no matter how long we’ve been selling. Some of it could well inspire future blogs, so I’ll keep it brief for now.
The key lessons
1. Most Folks Dread the Thought of Prospecting and Cold Calling; You’re not alone
Only 10-15% of agencies engage in proactive prospecting. Imagine that. I’m sure if you think about your industry the statistics are likely to be similar.
If you need some deep motivation and a little more insight try Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell is Human”.
2. It’s Not Cold Calling; It’s Warm Calling
This one is open to debate but here’s our take on it. If you approach someone directly that you have touched somewhere somehow then it’s not cold calling it’s warm calling. That could be someone you met at an event, someone who downloaded some content on your website or someone you connected with via social media or by implementing an ABM strategy. We don’t cold call, we warm call in a professional, "always be helping" kind of way.
3. Have a Plan
A robust plan will give you the clarity of action and confidence to get on the phone and start talking to people. Think about and document your priorities. What are the three to five big things you want to get done? Break those down into a little more detail by setting out your 12-month goals. Don’t forget to document the activities that will help you achieve those goals like how many leads you’ll need to generate each month, how many first connect calls will need to convert to the next stage of your sales cycle and so on until a closed deal drops out the bottom of your funnel. Know what you’ll do, how you’ll do it and the milestones you need to hit to get there.
4. Know Who You’re Targeting
Make sure that you have a Prospect Fit Matrix. If you’ve had any exposure to inbound marketing, you would have heard us, inbound marketers, banging on about buyer personas. That’s great; we know who we’re targeting at a human level but what about thinking about the combination of people targets and the type of organisation you currently work best with or aspire to work with best?
5. Start Your Sales Cycle Early and Fast
When to reach out to a prospect in person is going to depend mainly on bandwidth. As I said before, at Struto we have in the past only contacted Marketing Qualified Leads or MQLs rather than a prospect if they downloaded a piece of top-of-funnel content. Some businesses may receive hundreds or even thousands of leads per month. That’s awesome, but you’ll probably be using some form of lead scoring to filter out the less engaged and zone in on the more engaged prospects. If you’re like us though, do a little research and if they’re a fit go for it!
The adage that says the fastest organisation to get into contact with a prospect is the more likely one to win the business still stands!
6. Stand Up When You Make That Call
If you’re sitting down when you make that call you are not able to convey the same energy to the person on the other end of the line as if you are standing up. Try it. This could be the one point in this blog that is the easiest to execute on today. Cold callers sit around all day banging away at the phone. We’re not cold callers; we’re warm callers. Remember that.
7. Sell the Problem You Solve Not the Service
Selling the problem you solve is the basic premise of a solution sale, but it’s the one thing sales and marketing typically cock up. We fall back on what we know and love and what we do is precisely that. As a result, we’re not putting ourselves in our prospects shoes and talking to them about just that… them. Which leads nicely to the next point.
8. Always be Helping
Too many salespeople are from the Glengarry Glen Ross school of sales (ABC: Always be closing). There is no place for this kind of salesperson anymore. Today we have to give up control of the sales process to the prospect. Sure, we can create processes and guidance for a critical point in the sales process, but ultimately power must be with the prospect. The moment you try to shoehorn them into your process the level of self-interest you’re acting under will erode trust with your prospect. Rather than diving deeper into all of that here why not check out Dan Tyre’s blog over here for more.
9. It’s a Rule of 4’s
I read somewhere that 45% of sales people give up on following up a lead after one call. There are plenty of variations on this statistic all over the Internet. Dan teaches a rule of 4’s. It takes a combination of four calls and four emails to get the maximum potential out of your time vs return. Dan advocates a call followed by an email, but by the same token, they can be the other way around. I like doing it the other way around. It feels less intrusive, and I love the idea that the prospect may have a recollection of who I am.
Attempt 1: call & email – first call (intro)
Attempt 2: call & email – second message (2 days after 1st call)
Attempt 3: call & email – third ping (3 days after the 2nd call)
Attempt 4: call & email – should I stay or go (2 days later)
Ultimately you should make four attempts to call in 10 -12 days – this shows professionalism and persistence.
10. Pause, Pause, Pause
Pauses are a great way to stop yourself from talking in a seemingly incoherent manner to your prospect while they try to figure out who the hell you are. Introduce yourself and pause, pause, pause. Give the prospect time to put you into context.
11. There Are 10 Stages to Connecting Successfully with Your Prospect
- Identify who you’re going to contact
- Research them (LinkedIn is step one, closely followed by their website)
- Greeting – don’t forget pause, pause, pause
- Build rapport or give them a helpful hint based on the research you did
- Address any resistance (if you get it)
- Introduce your primary positioning statement followed by max two more
- General business discussion (open questions)
- Recap the conversation
- Move to next step – more help or exploratory call
- Send a recap email
Last but not Least
Dan likes a lion photo so Dan, this gratuitous lion photo is a thank you.