Episode 118: Sales are all in the Details – Nick Hart

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 118: Sales are all in the Details - Nick Hart
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Making a sale is rarely a one-and-done encounter. Instead, it’s an ongoing process and a series of conversations, sometimes with multiple different people. In order to sell effectively, you need to be able to keep up with important details about each prospect, including what your last conversation entailed and when is the best time to schedule the next call or email. This can be a daunting task, but tools that allow you to streamline the process can help.

Outreach.io is one of those tools. Outreach is designed to help salespeople remember critical details and schedule ongoing conversations. Today’s guest is Nick Hart, the customer success manager at Outreach.io. Listen to the episode to hear what Nick has to say about what’s happening at Outreach and what he thinks about things like email personalization, referral strategies, and building and testing your processes before you implement new sales tools.

Episode Highlights:

  • New things that are happening at Outreach.io
  • Key things to look at for people who are looking for a solution like Outreach
  • Understanding the different personas that you may be selling to
  • How to approach sales from different channels
  • Email personalization
  • Referrals, and the benefits of a top-down referral approach
  • Why it’s important to test and experiment with your processes
  • The importance of providing value with each interaction
  • Why you need to build the processes that work for you before implementing a new tool
  • Why understanding and mastering tech tools for sales is going to be more important as time goes on
  • How marketing professionals can help pave the way for the sales team

Resources:

Nick Hart

Outreach

Transcript: 

Marylou: Hey everybody, it’s Marylou Tyler. This week, we are coming to you sort of like live. I’m sitting right across from Nick hart. He’s the customer success manager at Outreach.io. I’m in Seattle having this fabulous conversation. We’ve been talking back and forth and realized, “We should probably tape this.” We’re going to go quickly pass it over to Nick, have him introduce himself and what he wants to talk about today, and then we’re going to just dive right in.

We have selected three topics we thought would be of interest and it’s based on his experience here with Outreach. They’re going strong. They have 300 people and a big building now when I walked in which is kind of cool. Without further ado, Nick welcome to the show.

Nick: Thanks, Marylou, thanks for having me. It’s good to be on the podcast again.

Marylou: Tell us what’s happening. What’s new in the land of Outreach?

Nick: I’ve just came off a strong Dreamforce week which is actually really cool because I got to go last year. It’s great to see that this space is now being validated. I noticed I get to spend a lot of time at our booth and just have people come by and say, “Oh, we know what Outreach is, we’ve heard about you. We just implemented you.” that’s really cool recognition to be able to see that from last year to this year.

Marylou: Well I tell you, we’ve always needed a good follow up software system and the fact that you’re blending all these different channels is just, it’s solving so many business problems out there because we do need to have an idea of who we’re talking to on the other end of the line and also how they like to consume information. So the fact that you gave us this multiple modalities of conversation in an automated fashion is fabulous. It’s a game changer for us.

Nick: Yeah, it’s been really fun. It’s a market that’s now being validated. There’s competitors in the space. Even Salesforce is talking about creeping into our space which we actually look at it as a good thing because again, it just means that what we’re doing is a real pain point that people need a solution for.

Marylou: Definitely. So you’ve been in this role for quite some time now. help us understand some of the key points that you’re still seeing out there that you’d like the audience who is listening to think about as they pursue whether or not this type of a solution is a good fit for them.

Nick: Yeah, well I think even before you look at a solution, you need to look at things. This is one of the points that I thought would be fun for us to talk about is, how do you define your entire strategy and who’s involved in defining what that strategy is? This is where we see a lot of our customers come to us and they think that Outreach is going to be the Holy Grail and it’s going to solve all of their problems. They come to realize that you can’t just throw a tool at your sales team and just hope that they build a process and they figure out what content works best with which buyers. That’s a lot of what we start the beginning part of our process and where I spent a lot of time on as a customer success manager here is sitting out with customers and saying, having a very real conversation of, “Who’s going to build this? Who’s going to do the upfront investment and define your process?”

Some of the things I’ve seen work really well, are getting cross functional teams and you’ve probably seen this in your work, get cross functional teams all in the same room. One thing that works really well is your marketing folks, they generally have a pretty good idea of who should be selling to. Hopefully they do, they know who your ideal customer profile is and they know who the key buyer personas are. Have them take a first pass at content and then have your sales people come in and humanize it.

A lot of time, sales people don’t like the content that marketing puts together but let’s be honest, marketing knows who your buyers are. They also know that maybe the campaigns that they’ve run against those certain buyers and what’s going to resonate best with that audience.

Marylou: Yeah, they definitely spend a lot of time working on persona development and some of that includes both external interviews and internal interviews. There’s the loyalty piece of existing customers if you have existing customers that plays into the definition of who’s going to be most likely to buy, who’s going to be the lifetime value, the higher revenue type of client and marketing does a really good job to get us started. But it doesn’t stop there as Nick said, what we need to do then is take those profiles and enhance them for the sales conversation.

For us especially at the top of the funnel, that means looking at who also directly or indirectly influences this particular persona. So marketing is really looking at one person. The decision maker primarily but there are also influencers that we need and we need to talk to via either an automated system like Outreach, or through a phone campaign, or social campaign in order to get our foot in the door. I mean that’s really what we’re trying to do. The people we meet at the top of the funnel may not be the people that marketing had ideally designed their personas for. But they’re going to get us in and get us to the point where we can advance that sale into the pipeline. So that when we do turn it over to an account executive, or we end up working at all the way to close, we’ll have all of the information that we need in order to have a more positive outcome.

Nick: Yeah. I think that’s a great point. I used to work with a lot of our smaller customers as well and they’re trying to figure out how do we put all of this together. Maybe our marketing team is one person right now and they haven’t defined all of our personas. What I told them, this works with small as well as large businesses but, go talk to the people that your customer success managers are working with today. Somebody hopefully is managing that post sales relationship and they know the exact pain points that you’re actually solving for that business.

So if you go and sit down with some of your account managers, CSMs, they’re probably going to have a good idea with what sort of projects they’re working on and why your product or service is contributing value. That’s always a great place to go.

Marylou: Not only that, they’ll have the language of the buyer because they’re having these conversations with the client already. The way they describe a challenge, a pain point, a nuisance or whatever is going to be in a language that’s specific to that role and we can take that language at the top of the funnel to be able to get people more interested and engaged because they’re hearing words and they’re looking at how we place the importance of a pain point in that certain order that would allow us and allow them to say, “Oh my gosh, they get me. They understand what’s going on with me.” And the way we know that is because we’re talking to our internal people who already worked with these folks post sale to get an understanding of the priority and importance that they place on a particular pain point.

Nick: Yeah, 100%. If our sales guys come to me and ask, “Hey, what does a sales ops person care about?” I can tell you first hand the last 15 conversations that I’ve had with sales ops people and the exact projects they were working on, the problems that they’re trying to solve within their business, that’s going to be a great ammo for a sales person to have when they’re trying to go after a cold account.

Marylou: So let’s pretend we’ve got our couple personas and we’ve segmented just for now, we have maybe two or three. What’s the next step that you would recommend once we have our personas defined enough to be able to say, “Okay, I think I need three sequences an Outreach. One for this guy, one for that guy and one for the third person.” What’s next?

Nick: Test. You just have to test. If you have a tool like Outreach or something that helps get higher volumes out there that’s definitely going to help you test faster. You can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, is that the way that the adage goes?

Marylou: Don’t worry, be crappy I say.

Nick: There you go. You just got to start. You have to start somewhere. Circuiting content out there. Whatever channels that you find resonate best with your buyer and you can experiment with those as well. I have a lot of people come to me and say, “Well, is it phone or is it email? Is it LinkedIn? Which one ‘s going to be best for us?” The answer is, it really depends on your business. It really depends on your buyer. Again, maybe while you’re asking what they care about and trying to define what messaging and pain points that you’re solving, but what messaging works in pain points or solving for. You might also ask them, “What channels are you on?” When you’re looking at other vendors or solutions, how are you learning about them and maybe you prioritize those channels.

What I think is most important is that when you’re prospecting, you can’t just come at somebody from one channel. Just because email might be the most effective for your business, it doesn’t mean that you need to do only email. What you want to make sure is that your buyer sees you as a human and by surrounding them from a bunch of different channels, that’s how you’re going to do it. They’re going to hear your voice in voicemails. You might say, “I’ve never gotten a call back from a voicemail.” It doesn’t mean that people haven’t listened to it. I think there’s actually a lot of studies that show that people are still listening to voicemails.

They may not be calling back but they know that you’re a real human. I think that’s really important. In LinkedIn, you may never get a response on LinkedIn but trust me, they’re going to see if you’ve ever gotten a connection request confirm, they’ve seen you as a human and it just helps build that personification of who you are and therefore makes it more likely that they’ll actually respond.

Marylou: Right. Now, what kind of questions do you get regarding the personalization of these emails? Does it matter based on the persona? How you personalize or is there a golden rule? What do you normally tell your folks?

Nick: Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s funny because too much personalization can absolutely paralyze a team. So one thing that our sales development teams started to do internally is they pre-build their entire sequence with all the messaging in it they do their customization on the first email but they’re only customizing the first two sentences.

So the rep doesn’t have to think about how I’m going to build this entire email message because every message is going to have a call to action. If you’re building persona based messaging as it is, you’re probably going to have a good idea of a couple rough bullet points of how you might help them. All we really need to show them upfront is that we’ve done our research. So grab something off their LinkedIn, something off their website and usually that’s good enough to kind of open up the door. I probably started there. But again, you need to make sure you have a good email format to start with. You need to make sure that you got the traditional Dick John Barrows, “Why you? Why you, now?” I’m reaching out because I’ve done my research, I’m your business for you as an individual. Here’s how I think that we can help you, here’s my call to action.

Marylou: Right. There is a flow to a well crafted email and it’s very analogous to the Hero’s Journey of your favorite movie where you feel this challenge, you’re triggered by some emotion that causes you to wake up and realize life is maybe not that great. Then you contrast that to, “Well, it could get better. There could be a good outcome and here are some examples of good outcomes that are out there.”

Then from there, you’ve got them sort of hooked about how do I go about doing this now. How did they do that? Is it a good fit for me? When you get them starting to ask those questions, you switch over to logic and specificity around, “Not only can we do it for you, but here’s who’s done it before you from a social perspective. Here’s the success they’ve had. Some are along the success path, they’re not yet to the pot of gold but they’re on their way to the pot of gold.” That is the perfectly crafted email, whet their appetite, get them engaged emotionally, switch it to logic to prove your point and then have a very simple easy call to action. Do not ask them to build an entire building. Have them bring a brick. That’s it.

Nick: Yeah, you absolutely nailed it. It’s probably one of the biggest problems that I see out of the gates. Sales people think that they have to cram everything into that first email and it’s really not. One of my customer said it perfectly, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” You know that you’re going to be getting hopefully eight to 12 touch points to these individuals. Just pace it out. One thing that I’ve seen, one thing I tell my customers is, you start a new thread at the beginning obviously. Every new email starts with a new thread and talk about a couple of things that are value adds for the organization, two maybe three bullet points at most. Then do a couple responses to that, “Hey, I just want to make sure that you got my note.”

I am still a big fan of those short and sweet because people busy. People are busier now than they ever have been. Is always you’re doing it politely saying, “Hey, bringing a stop to your inbox. I know you’re really busy but I think this could be really valuable for your organization.” Do it in a polite way. It still makes sense.

Marylou: Yes, be patiently persistent and pleasantly persistent.

Nick: Yeah, never ever reference failed attempts. Never make somebody feel guilty. They don’t owe you anything. If that first email that you worked whatever theme that you’re going on doesn’t resonate, then you do one or two bump emails to that and then you follow it up and just start a new thread. New value add, new way you think that you can help their organization. You do that a couple times and then hopefully find something that resonates with them.

Marylou: Yeah, a lot of times when I’m working with clients, I like to start off still to this day as a test with the old tried and true predictable revenue email looking for the right person at lost lamb approach. I’m not sure if it’s you. I did my research, it looks like it’s you but I’m not quite sure. If it is, great. If it’s not, if you could pass me along and let me know who the right guy is. Then email’s two through seven are what I call value theme emails which is what Nick was talking about. Why change, why now, why us? Your value proposition for the product is in each of those emails but addressing a nuance at the same pain point or a whole different pain point. But there’s only one pain point per email.

Nick: Now I have a question for you. So in that first email, you like to do a referral and do you like to do a referral across a horizontal referral or referral down? I’ve always recommended getting referred down because if your boss forwards you an email, the chances that you’re going to reply are much higher. But I don’t know if you think otherwise.

Marylou: I like the top down approach. A lot of my clients are afraid to start that way. They feel more comfortable, remember we talked about that bull’s eye at the direct—the person who’s making the decision is in the center of the bull’s eye. The people who directly influence him have his ear are the next ring out and then the third ring out are the warm influencers. They give you the sense that you could have a conversation with them.

A lot of my clients like to start there. They like to start there because it’s safe. I am kind of like, “Alright, if you want to start there, then let’s use the phone for that.” I don’t necessarily believe in using the email for that because think about this, if your boss told you to go talk to these people, would you not do it? Yes, right? So if you’re going high to low on that first email chances are, if the boss thinks this is something worthy of your time, he’s going to suggest strongly that you follow up on that. Whereas if you start with the receptionist to work your way up, it’s just really a difficult way to get in the door.

Nick: I agree yeah and I think in that same thing, where I see a lot of customers go wrong is okay, at the VP of ops is our guy, that’s our person. So I’m going to go build a list of 500 people that are VP’s of ops across a bunch of organizations and I know exactly what’s going to resonate with them and they throw them all into a sequence and then they just cross their fingers. It never works. I think a lot of times, people don’t think about exactly what we’re talking about, those rings of influence are around your ideal buyer.

So when you think about going after an account, those sequences that you have that are for maybe your VP or your C level or whoever it is that’s a step above your ideal buyer start there and then get referred down. One trick that I used to do back with my sales days is, I do the research on the exact person that I’m looking for. I’ll go to their LinkedIn and see what is their job description if they have it there and then I’ll go to the person that I feel like is probably their boss and say, “Hey, I’m looking for the person who’s responsible for X, Y and Z,” as they describe it on their LinkedIn and nine times out of 10 if I’m going to get a referral, I’ll get a referral to directly who I’m looking for.

Marylou: That’s a great tip.

Nick: And then it shows them that you’re doing your research because it’s very different than just blasting out a bunch of emails to all of the C level saying, “Hey, can you refer me to your VP of whatever.” That just looks lazy.

Marylou: I think the personalization that way where you’re taking maybe that first paragraph shouldn’t take you a whole heck of a lot of time. anywhere from two to 10 minutes, 10 minutes is kind of way out there but I like to think that we could do 25 of those a day of what I call hyper personalized emails which is starting with a good template a high converting template because with tools like Outreach, now you can actually see the performance of each template that you sent through that sequence.

So start with a high performing template, personalize the first paragraph and then you’re done. You get to send that out, we get to track the validity of the email in terms of the conversion rate and then we’ll know what position in that sequence eventually it should go. Should it go in one, should it go in three, should it wait till the end. We’ll know that because these tools now like Outreach allow us to get very scientific on conversion which we never had this before. So we were guessing a lot of the time which is not good.

Nick: Yeah and you know it’s funny, my customers ask me all the time what are best practices, what is everybody else doing and I always like to turn it on them and say, “I’ll give you a baseline but I love to be proven wrong.” So we’re sitting here saying, start high level, start with the referral, I would love to see somebody go on experiment and say, “Actually for our business, we found doing two or three first emails, telling them about what we do and maybe asking for a direct meeting before going to the referral.” Maybe that works but data is going to tell you that.

You have to again kind of going back to where we started, once you’ve got some personas defined, just start testing. Build a couple of sequences, build a playbook around how you want to engage with those individuals and then start measuring what’s working.

Marylou: And since you have done some interviews with your internal folks, your product management or product marketing people, the customer service, professional services people if you’re in a company that has multiple touch points for the clients, you’ll know the order in which to start this conversation. What pain point resonates best. And then think of those like little legos that you organize and those become the touches and eventually you’ll know which pain point should be in what position of the sequence so that you have a consistent high performing, high converting sequence. You set that aside and start working on the next segment and the next segment.

The point here is, these are systems, these are processes which by definition means you’re iterating, you’re testing, you’re constantly improving, you are never satisfied with the results you’re getting and you’re always working towards maximizing the return on your effort. But also a topic that’s near and dear to my heart is, you’re not fatiguing your list. If you do this correctly, your list is going to be healthier for a longer period of time.

Nick: If you’re contributing value on every interaction, people are not going to be unsubscribing, you’re not going to be burning them out. I think you nailed it there. The other thing too, I think we kind of mentioned this but just to make it really clear. When you go after an account, you want to pick all of the different personas around the individual that is ideally your key persona. Obviously, you can go after that key persona as well. But we always tell our customers and actually this is the way we do it internally but we have what’s called rule 52 which means…

Marylou: It sounds like NCIS rule.

Nick: We call it rule 52 and that is, when you go after an account that you need to have five people active in a sequence, when you go after five people no more, no less, two of those need to be executive level or higher which just ensures that the team is going after high level individuals and not just low level. For each one of those different personas that we’re going after, we have a slightly different strategy. Your people that are lower on the totem pole, we might do more automated emails and maybe fewer phone calls because we don’t want to put in as much manual effort to try and either get a meeting or get a referral from them.

Whereas the people that are higher on the totem pole, we need to show them that we really did our research, we’re going to do more social engagement, more phone calls. Again, that’s just the way that we do it for our business.

Marylou: I like that because I like to also do that relative position in the pipeline. So if you have a cold record that you’re not quite sure anything about it, you want to leverage technology as much as possible to kind of warm up that chill for you. I call it the “while you’re sleeping sequence” because it’s basically, your value prop is discussed through the sequence touches but you’re not physically stopping the sequence to get on the phone or do something manual.

That gives us the ability to then once we take those probably bigger sized data sets of records as we move further into the pipeline as people start responding to us, then I like to hyper personalize as we move from that cold to what I call it more of a working status. Where now we’re working to highly qualify or disqualify them based on what our criteria is for fit. And during trying to figure out fit, I like to hyper personalize because theoretically if we’re doing this right, we shouldn’t be working more than 25 to 40 records in that status at any given time as a sales executive.

A lot of my colleagues want their folks to handle 40 to 60 records. I’m gentler, I’m like 25 to 40 is my number. But they think if they can go even further than that. If we could each handle those 25 to 40 that are in that fit sequence, then if we need to go further and do more of a heavier qualification like at band or trying to figure out do they have money, am I talking to the right people, should we meet with their point people to see if this is something that they want to put on the docket or they’ve got initiative for. And then finally, should I start bringing in my resources now to work on this account.

Those are the further qualification, I have those. I like to see somewhere in the 10 to 20 range of those accounts because they’re so close to a sales qualified opportunity that we’re going to be talking to a fewer of those people because we got the last two more people. This is more for the more complex sales or bringing in more people and we’re seeing their side versus our side, and should I start bringing in my bodies and their bodies. So that’s why the sales conversation and what it takes to get from that initial conversation to opportunity is so important on how you set up these sequences and how you personalize.

You’ve got to know your sales process and it may change the same product, maybe sold a variety of ways depending on the buying scenario, the situation of the product. Is it sold on a department level, fast sale done. Is it a strategic initiative for the company? Or is it something that’s done maybe as a forklift upgrade. So we really need to understand how our products are sold and how they’re bought and do those also mean that we have to align our sequences differently based on that.

Nick: That’s such a good point I mean I just spent a few minutes talking about we have a rule 52. It was just because we know all our business, there’s about five buyers involved in the purchasing decision but if you’re selling into a Mom and Pop shop, they may be that you’ve got two people involved your influencer the person sitting at the front desk and then you got your business owners. I work with a lot of customers that are like that. So I can’t tell them, “Hey, go do this rule 52 thing.” This is not going to work for them.

Marylou: Even leasing, I mean I work with a lot of banks, leasing. They’re working with the owners of companies or the operations manager and that’s about it. Those are a million dollar sales but those are the people buying equipment and then the owner or the CEO is the one that’s responsible for trying to figure out if they can leverage leasing as a part of their business plan. Those are two people, that’s all they need. They wouldn’t be able to find five people to go after. It just doesn’t exist. So that’s why it’s really important to understand and map out.

I visualize you mapping them about either on a whiteboard, on the wall, on one of those sticky things and you sit there and you say, “Okay, what is our process? How do our people buy? Can we put them in buckets?” And if so, that’s how you begin to design these sequences because that is going to be how you scale it, how you make it consistent, and how you can make it predictable.

Nick: Yeah and it’s interesting, one thing that we’re talking about before we turned on the microphone was how it’s important to build this process before you ever think about putting a tool in place. I’ve got a lot of customers that come to us just trying to throw tool at a problem. Doing exactly what you’re talking about, understanding who your buyer is and how you should be engaging with them, that’s the first thing that you really need to figure out.

Obviously it makes it a lot easier to have a tool like Outreach but you don’t need to have a tool to help you do that. You just have to define it. I’ve seen people do it fine within spreadsheets. You can’t do super high volume but at least you can map out your process and you can say for these types of individuals, I’m going to do these types of touch points, and I’m going to do one on these days and then you measure how many meetings that you’re actually booking and if the process is working. Then when you really want to put fuel on the fire, then you come to somebody like Outreach.

Marylou: I think to your point, the more that we can do this without leveraging the tools right now because there are tools that again we talked about form versus function. Some tools do certain things and some tools don’t. So you have to really understand what are we, what’s our unique situation and then apply the tool to that. As Nick said, I mean I torture my clients and make them start with a manual process and only when we get consistency do we reward the team with technology.

They know they’re going to get technology because we tell them we’re not going to let them do this forever but we’re looking for consistency in the process and we’re looking to find and shore up the gaps and the holes and then whoops, we didn’t design that properly. Do that in a manual environment or at least a semi order automated environment and then and only then do we like Nick said, then they can see the follow up software on the horizon coming. So it’s a real reward, it’s almost like a right of passage by the time we get something in.

Nick: Actually this is a good segue because one of the things that I was thinking we could talk about is how to make sure that these new tools that you purchased don’t become shelfware. It happens so much in today’s world. I think a lot of this is symptomatic of people trying to throw a tool and a problem. One example of ways that we’ve seen this work really well internally is I’m sure a lot of vendors will say this, but you got to find somebody who’s going to own the tool.

It’s really tough in the space that we live in because we kind of sit in that nebulous space between sales and marketing. Sometimes, it’s kind of hard to find somebody who will own that. Generally if you want to get your investment out of any sort of solution, you have to have somebody who’s solely devoted to making sure that at the very least, it gets off the ground. Most tools today, you can’t just throw it people and they just start using them. Especially if it’s really involved within their process.

I guess one way to make this even easier to consume is, the more involved it’s going to be within their process or the more process change that you’re expecting the team or the reps to go through, the more ownership somebody’s going to need to take over that change management.

Marylou: Okay. Yeah, that’s a good point. What other things with the tool itself have you found in deploying it? Are these tools since the bridge is between marketing and sales, and you’ve had thousands of customers now, where are you seeing it fall generally?

Nick: Yeah, it’s funny about 30% of the time, the budget comes from marketing and we’re still seeing that sales development reports up to—actually what I generally see is more often, the larger the organization, the more likely the sales development reports up to marketing. I think the main reason for that is because the sales development reps are so, you got marketing that’s running bigger campaigns and they’re dumping more money into their campaigns and it makes more sense to have sales development reps following up on those campaign specifically. I think that’s probably why you see more sales development reps on the marketing side. I would still say the vast majority of the time, we see them reporting up through. I’m curious if you see different from your perspective.

Marylou: As you mentioned up market and larger enterprises, marketing is responsible for what’s called demand gen and they’ve been doing that for like since I was a kid which is a long time ago. So they have really mastered the analytics of finding out from the different channels. They have a lot more channels at their disposal or used to than we did in sales. We used to use the phone. We use email, direct mail, but they do these gigantic campaigns with pay per click, SEO, all the ways that someone could possibly engage and cast that wide net out there.

So demand gen is something that marketing traditionally run. Makes sense that this is a channel of demand gen that I used to call outreach before Outreach became Outreach. It’s us targeting the people we want, those whales or those bigger accounts with high lifetime value, high revenue potential, and high likelihood of closing. That then becomes a channel to them. It’s just another channel that we’re going to use, we’re going to put different names in there. They’re going to be based on prospect personas and an ideal account profile.

There probably will be fewer of the universe, so if we look at the total addressable market that your company can sell to, this would be the total serviceable market for Outreach. What is of that universe, what percentage can be put in this channel called Outreach that we’re going to spend our resources on trying to win this business. So it kind of makes sense that in larger companies, it would fall there because in the smaller companies, they may not even do demand gen. There may not even be a demand gen person. So it makes sense that until you get that, I don’t want to say sophistication because that’s not giving you a good service.

If you’re a smaller company, you could have really great marketing but there is a hierarchy of marketing in the larger companies that encompass a lot of different things. There’s also brand distinction, there’s people who are just worried about the logo and trying to get that awareness campaigns, and then there’s people trying to get actual business click through campaigns. so I think you guys so if you’re a smaller account, you have all this, it may not be under a demand gen type of person and that’s why it might make more sense for sales to own that as well. The problem I see with sales owning is you’ve got to have an analytic in there or an operations guy or someone who absolutely loves process.

Nick: Yeah, it’s so true. It’s funny everybody has sales more art or science and I think the further we go into the future, the more scientific it’s going. It really is. I think the salesperson of the future is going to be one who’s tech savvy, who can work their way around tools because you throw Outreach in somebody’s hands who has some decent sales chops. They’re going to run circles around the person who has really good sales chops but can’t figure out how to leverage technology.

I think that’s one thing that you really got to be, for anybody who is listening who is thinking about hiring people, I think technical aptitude should be at least a box that needs to be checked when you’re hiring someone in sales these days.

Marylou: Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of it too let’s think about this, because we can monitor through analytics, how successful a conversation is using these tools. That gives us a heads up on how should we organize our sales conversation in general. What’s working? What is allowing us to convert at a faster rate to reduce the lag in the pipeline which is what we want to do. Then we ought to look at how can we increase our return on effort. How can we make it easier? Higher impact with least amount of effort.

This is all kind of under the umbrella of operations to really figure it out because the data is what we start with. We don’t go by gut as much. We still use gut but we really look at a statistically relevant sample to help guide us with how we should be having the conversation. We can always override our data but, we have to use the data to begin with and a lot of times we don’t.

Nick: It’s funny that you bring that up because we actually have recently invested in a data science team because we believe that we need to enable our customers to be scientific about their process and perfecting what they’re doing. It’s a really cool thing. It’s like guided AB testing where we can actually tell you you’re doing an AB test to see if email A works better than email B and we’re going to tell you when you’ve reached statistical significance and which message that you should continue to keep using that’s resonated best with your buyer. It’s pretty fun.

Well actually one other thing I want to throw in there before I forget was, I always like to throw in just like little gold nuggets for people to take with them. We’re talking about campaigns and part of that is how can you get sales and marketing to work well together. It’s always been an issue but one thing that we found works really well internally and it’s working well for our customers is, when marketing goes and runs a campaign, they should write the follow up emails for that campaign.

Again kind of like we talked about before, sales can come in and humanize it but marketing is going to know what the content of that campaign was better than anybody else. I remember when I was a sales rep I say, “Hey, here’s a bunch of leads for you to follow up on. We’re just in a trade show, or an event we just came from.” So I have no idea who the speakers are. I have no idea what the content was. I don’t know what the conference, who was supposed to go. Now you’re asking me to follow up with these people and continue the conversation? You’re setting your sales development reps up for failure. Have marketing do the first pass and they come in and humanize it.

Marylou: Right and the other thing is, let’s borrow some of the already existing age old ideas from marketing when we did demand gen which is, every campaign has a unique identifier that tells us what value theme the campaign is centered around, the primary target which will be the persona that the campaign was centered around or targeting, when it was launched, what assets were put against it so that the STR has a really easy way to click on the asset to see ahead of time, what was in there, and they can make a more educated conversation based on that.

The tools are all there for us to use, it’s having again that ability to say, “Alright, we got technology here, we got technology here, how do we get these stuff to talk.” That’s going to be someone in the operation who will bring that in for you. It also means though that marketing has to be smarter about organizing their campaigns around value themes that you can then also piggy back on.

Nick: It’s funny, with a lot of the customers that I work with, one role that I’ve seen recently come up that I did not see a couple years ago when I started doing this is sales development ops. They have a devoted person to building this process. When you think your sales development reps are probably the most operationally focused of the sales team.

Marylou: They are.

Nick: Right, because everything that they’re doing is kind of, I don’t want to say rinse repeat because that kind of has a negative image.

Marylou: They work with a lot more records.

Nick: They are, yeah. And so you really need to build a process around that. Again, we see this first hand. If you have somebody who is solely devoted on building the process for that team, the payoff is going to be…

Marylou: Tremendous.

Nick: It will be. The greatest part about working in sales is that it’s so much easier to quantify ROI. ROI on a head count, you can see, we have this person in the role for a quarter, did we book more meetings? Did we get more opportunities? If no, then we should get rid of the role.

Marylou: Right. We can always fall back on the people. What we did with direct mail, we had it down to a science of follow up. There’s even a old books, one is called Scientific Advertising. It’s all about direct mail and how to do these follow ups so that you can leverage the mail to the chase the mail. Now we’re doing email and social but we’re chasing that. So it’s not any different, there of people who have come before you and done this successfully with millions and millions of records getting worse response rates than we’re getting now.

The response rates for direct mail were dismal. But they have the systems in place to follow up. So do a little studying of that era and you will find a few little tweaks in your marketing and then in sales ops and you will be able to have these conversations that are more pointed, on target. Taking that conversation and extending it and continuing it when you do the follow up instead of trying to start something brand new because you don’t know what they had been exposed to in the first place.

Nick: Yeah. it is an interesting thought, a couple of things I want to pull out of what you just said is that, the process hasn’t changed that much, the channels have but what works, still works today. If you do it responsibly and you do your research and you build the process right, it’s going to work for you. This is one thing that I’ve become more aware of and I think our organization has is that, if we empower people to do the wrong things, then it creates noise. And then we all end up fighting that noise. This is kind of my public service announcement. Let’s all collectively do what we know we should be doing when it comes to prospecting because it means that those channels that we’re going through today, we’re not going to completely burn out and they’re going to continue to be effective over time.

Marylou: So we’ve been listening to Nick Hart, Customer Success Manager at Outreach. This man works with millions of records, thousands of clients. He’s your go-to guy people. He’s the one who’s going to be able to really help understand different what-if scenarios. If anything, to get you thinking outside the box as to, “Okay, I may not fit into this vanilla type of baseline but there’s a baseline that I could start with,” and that’s really where this all begins. Find a baseline, get the metrics of that waterfall and then from there, you are crafting your unique waterfall, your unique metrics, your unique conversion rates and that becomes best practice.

Nick: You nailed it. I love it.

Marylou: Yeah, thanks so much Nick for spending this time with us today in beautiful Seattle, Washington.

Nick: Of course, thank you for having me. Alright, Great.