Episode 119: Sales Automation – Forster Perelsztejn and Iulian Boia

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 119: Sales Automation - Forster Perelsztejn and Iulian Boia
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Sales automation tools can help at all kinds of different places in the funnel. Prospect.io is a sales automation platform that helps you start conversations and improve sales teams productivity. Today’s guests, Forster Perelsztejn and Iulian Boia are Prospect’s Head of Acquisition and Head of Customer Success respectively. They’re joining today’s episode from Brussels.

Listen to today’s episode to learn more about Prospect.io, who they serve, and how their platform works. Forster and Iulian talk about their roles at Prospect, patterns in customer pain points, how onboarding works, and how the GDPR is affecting their work and platform.

Episode Highlights:

  • Forster and Iulian’s roles at Prospect
  • How Forster and Iulian’s roles at Prospect are aligned
  • How customer pain points change or don’t change depending on where they are in the funnel
  • How to order customer conversations based on experience with previous customers’ pain points
  • The market that Prospect serves
  • Prospect’s onboarding procedure
  • What kind of work Prospect is doing with telephone numbers in light of the GDPR
  • How Prospect is using analytics with their data
  • Testing smaller samples sizes before moving onto larger audiences



Forster Perelsztejn

Iulian Boia

Full Transcript:

Marylou: Hey everyone, it’s Marylou Tyler. Today’s guests are from Brussels. I’m so excited. I have Forster and Iulian for Prospect.io. Iulian is in charge of customer success and Forster is customer acquisition for Prospect.io. So tell us about what it is that you do in those two areas. Are they aligned or are you separate entities within the company?

Forster: Well that’s a good question. They are separate but they are aligned in that. I am in charge of bringing customers into the company and Iulian is in charge of making sure they get the most value out of the product and ultimately stay with us. They are aligned in that, I’m not going to get him customer that are not qualified or that he did not work with.

Marylou: He is responsible then for making sure that they are long time clients of yours and I’m sure the feedback into what makes up a really great client for Prospect.io comes out at the work that you do Iulian, correct?

Iulian: Indeed. We work closely together I would say. So we try to align both on campaigns. We give feedback on the messaging. We run different ads and different methods of acquisition. So yeah, we try to work together. There’s always a feedback loop. So if I noticed that there’s a specific segment of customers coming from one of our competitor then of course, I bounce that back to Forster and he takes into account and we try to work more on that. We always try to align to make sure that we get the right customers, the ones that we can serve better.

Marylou: A big thing that I’m working on now with my clients is a notion of––once we’re working on getting a prospect to become a client, there are conversations what I call the sales conversation canvass where we’re having a number of different conversations at a relative position in the pipeline. We may be discussing particular pain points or themes through that conversation that eventually bubble up to the top as a high sense of urgency.

One of the issues that I’m seeing is that we’re having these conversations from a prospecting point of view but we don’t necessarily record what pain points are resonating so that when they get to become a client and you start working with them, it would be interesting to see, do these pain points that we start the conversation with also end up being resolved from a customer success point of view at the end when they become a client? Is it the same pain point that propagates throughout or is it ebbing and flowing depending on where they are in the pipeline?

And then the second question I have is, are those being recorded so that we can then take the order in which these pains are happening and their hot buttons associated with it and make sure that our nurture campaigns and future campaigns are ordered in the same fashion. So I’m curious, once you acquire a customer and you’re working with them now Iulian in customer success, are these pain points being recorded as to how you’re resolving them and if so, are you ordering any future conversations with new prospects in that order?

Iulian: Yeah. What I’ve noticed is that while I’m doing these onboarding calls with new customers, you do see the same things popping up over and over. So basically, when you get the same type of feedback, it’s usually about integrations from Prospect.io to different CRM tools. So whenever I get that stuff, first I pass it on to the product team and then of course it also reaches Forster in terms of acquisition. So we try to align with that.

That’s what I mentioned in the beginning. Whenever I hear something interesting, I make sure that I pass it on to the product team and to Forster as well so we can use that further. But then what I’ve noticed is that it’s quite repetitive. I just hear something once, I typically ignore it. But if you come back over and over again then indeed, I know it’s something valuable and maybe we should act.

Forster: The products we sell has a pretty short cycle so when I have a sense of the most important issues of our prospects and customers, conversations are usually pretty short and I actually try to scale as much as possible everything that touches to acquisition. In our case, conversation tend to be pretty short and customers can just try it out and have their money back if they’re not satisfied. In the meantime, most of the feedback will come to Iulian when he’s doing the onboarding calls and working on customer success.

Most of the feedback comes after the sale or in the few conversations we have before where people ask us question before they sign up. Actually, most of the feedback we get in and most of the pain points are after the sale is made because it’s generally the same pain points that come back over and over again. So that I assume that I already know most of what’s going to come out and I focus on that when I run campaigns.

Marylou: So tell us a little bit about Prospect.io. What market do you serve and what is your business process to onboard people.

Forster: So Prospect.io is a platform that aims at making prospecting easier and faster by taking the dull and tedious aspects of prospecting, taking them and help automating them so sales people can focus on what actually matters which is having conversation. Yeah, so Prospect.io is based on four main access that we think are paramount to this. The first one is list building, the second one is out of reach, the third one is analytics and the fourth one is integration.

So to keep it simple, list building is more about finding new prospects, finding their data. We have an extension that can help you find prospect’s contact data whether you’re on LinkedIn or on the company website or if you have none of it, you can just type in the first name, last name and company name and we will return an email address. You can upload your own list of prospects which works as well and we will verify the email address is valid. Because as you may know, data tends to expire pretty fast at the moment. So that’s the first aspect of the products. It’s building quality lists for deliverable emails down the line.

What’s important is when you have that list, you can reach out to prospects. We have cold emailing tool that allows you not only to have various steps programs but also to set up notifications to remind you to call that prospect or send them a message on LinkedIn which helps blend cold emailing into a more multi-channel approach if that’s what our customers are doing. We try to make our tool as personalizable as possible so that you can make the most of all the information and the research we’ve made on your prospects based on location, on their interest and everything that’s relevant to you actually.

One thing that are very good with analytics tool that allows you to, at the same time, I don’t really analyze each step of every campaign you send which led to some epiphanies among our customers. I think they realized that most of their responses came between the second and the fourth email and not in the first one. It is important because the insight you have from a campaign is almost as important as the campaign itself.

Also on the analytics side, we have a pretty cool reporting tool that gives like a general overview of the accounts where the CEO or the sales leader in general can take a look and really quickly see how the team is performing as a whole or each individual team member. Yes, so that’s for the analytics part. And also, budgeting is very important in this world and as a SaaS company, we use a bunch of tools. So our fourth access is integration. We want our customers to be able to use our tool in combination with all the other tools for CRMs like Salesforce, Pipedrive, or HubSpot CRM. So they can combine our tool with theirs. We try to have as many quality integrations, natives or through Zapier so they can combine and have a good sales deck.

Marylou: A nice seamless desktop is what you’re talking about. From finding a prospect, working the prospect and then analyzing your activity. It sounds like you’ve integrated that whole experience for the sales rep.

Iulian: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. And that’s one of our big differentiators on the market actually. There’s lots of tools who are not just doing lead generation or there’s lots of tools nowadays for cold email campaigns or for Outreach. What I’ve noticed and that’s also my experience as a sales guy, I hate switching between a lot of screens. You have lots of tabs open because you have a CRM system, you have a separate app for lead scoring and then you have another tool for research. So yeah, we try to bring as much as possible into one tool and keep it simple at the same time. It’s not always easy, but that’s the goal.

Marylou: Indeed. I’m really interested in the list portion of your framework. I know you mentioned upfront that you find and verify email addresses. What kind of work are you doing with telephone numbers. And the reason why I ask that is we all know GDPR is a new I think it was May 28, everybody had to convert over from a privacy perspective. It’s mostly impacting Europe but it’s going to be here any day now for US.

This is going to impact us because we got lazy and email, cold emails go out to people if we find their address but at some point in life, we’re going to be restricted. So I’m curious on that side of what you do the prospecting piece of the list build. Tell me about the phone numbers and what happens there.

Iulian: Indeed we started with that as well and we have this feature in the extension so in the tool that we use for finding contact information. But so far yeah, we have to be honest, we were still mostly focusing on finding company data and email. I think it’s just a small percentage of the contacts that we find phone numbers for. We started in that direction and there’s a long way to go.

Marylou: Long way to go, it’s tough and I think going back to the olden days when I started 30 years ago doing lead generation, all we have is phone numbers and we had direct mail. We didn’t have the internet yet. So we had the same issue trying to find a direct dial is really tough. We got a lot of 800 numbers, front desk numbers. But at some point, people are going to have to wake up and realize that email is not going to be the way to conduct business if we don’t have verified email addresses or permission to use. So a lot of the spamming that’s currently happening is going to go away very quickly. Those tools that have a phone number portion or at least try to get that piece of it to help with the sequence that you put together is going to be a real plus. So tell me about a typical client who would use Prospect.io. What are the characteristics of an ideal client for you guys?

Iulian: So it’s typically other SaaS companies. So they’re selling digital services, digital products. I think we would get our best to companies between let’s say three and something like 20 or 25 sales people, smaller sales organizations and then when it comes to profiles indeed, the best performing customers have SDR team already. So even if it’s a small sales team, they started implementing the specialized sales roles, so that’s important.

In terms of industries, most of our customers are based in the US. I think something like 60% US and Canada and then we serve the biggest markets here in Europe as well, the UK, Germany, France that’s pretty much in a nutshell. I wanted to come back to what you said earlier about using phone calls and using a multi-panel approach, indeed I see that a lot.

Our most successful customers, they’re also into social selling as well. I see that more and more as a trend especially after GDPR came into practice. Our successful customers are using LinkedIn. So sending invites, sending connection request before sending the first cold email. They’re using mutual connections that you might have on LinkedIn. You reference all of that when you try to get in touch with someone and after that, you send the cold emailing.

Typically, the reaction is much better. So I also saw that you had a couple of other people talking about social selling on your podcast. I think that’s really valuable information. If you use that in conjunction with phone calls, in conjunction with some new hot things that I see like embedding videos, small personalized videos in your old sequences, that works better. You need to use a lot of different tactics. It doesn’t just work with cold emails or cold phone calls anymore I’d say.

Marylou: I love that you’re saying this because yes, the more blended and the more different the sequence is in terms of the rhythm and the cadence of that sequence as well as the channels that you’re using for that Outreach is really important. We’ve got a couple of small tests here with video and actually found that it increased improvement. And you mentioned emails too somewhere in the beginning of this talk and what we discovered is that if you put the video on email number one, you don’t get as big of a response rate as if you move it to two or three. Two worked the best for us.

I got personally a 40% response rate for an invite to a workshop that I was doing. Now granted it’s not selling something other than the invite to the workshop, but it was really great to see that the video performed so well. Now tell me Iulian, on the customer success site. Obviously with this blended approach, there’s a lot of confusion over these types of things like when do I email, when do I use the phone, how many touches should I get, should I blend in social. Is part of your work in customer success looking at helping your clients try different things, test different things since you have the analytics in place, are you encouraging them to utilize your services from a customer success point of view to make sure that they are constantly learning about the differences in sequences in cadences, is that part of the work that you’re doing there?

Iulian: Yeah, absolutely. So it depends because we have different types of customers from solopreneurs, from the people who have just a startup idea of a product that’s already live on the market let’s say. They do sales on a constant basis. So then in that case, I just go into more general stuff. I try to show them how to set up a process and hopefully, they would afford to hire their first sales person soon enough so they have some consistency in that direction.

I’m also talking to more mature organizations where there is a sales development team in place that did have a very good process. In that case, we just bring some different approaches, different ideas. So it really depends on a customer-to-customer basis. But one cool thing that we try to do is we have this blog that Forster started just over a year ago. There’s a lot of information. Whenever you have some interesting experiences with customers, we try to write a case study and there’s also a sales course, cold email course that Forster started and that’s a free resource for our users.

So basically when I see that there’s someone who just needs basic information or trying to just start with their sales process using our tool, I basically refer them to the blog called cold email course and that helps a lot. In some other cases where the team are already more advanced, then of course we try to provide more value at it or more advanced knowledge there.

Marylou: That’s great. Now, let’s go to the analytics side of things. Are you aggregating the data from your clients that you can then give them an idea of the flow and the rhythm of the cadence as well? I’m just curious if since you’re offering a solution that’s Cloud based that’s correct, right? It’s a cloud based solution. So you’re collecting all these data points along the way of looking at response rates, open rates, click through rates, are you producing any type of documentation to give us a jumpstart? I realize it’s kind of hard to do that because we’re not usually segmenting it by industry but I’m just curious if you have been starting to collect that to give us an overall picture of when is the best time to call, the best time to email, the best time to do social based on the results that you’re finding.

Forster: Actually we do segment by industry.

Marylou: Good, even better.

Forster: Just to where the sense of where they stand compared to the rest of their industry. The more customers we get, the more accurate we can be in that area. We do get everything. I made a blog post a few months ago where I kind of am getting the data and figured out some best times to write and some—I mean how many emails you should send. But in the end it always comes down to customer-to-customer. It always differs, it depends on your sales cycle on its length and on the frequency of the various touch points you have.

I really don’t like to say, okay, you should email at that moment you should send me emails and not more or your subject line should be that many characters long. It always depends. I do the data because I was just interested in looking into it to see if I could just see some trends and I thought it was interesting for our customers and everyone interested to look at them. So I just published the results but I still said don’t take that into account too much or don’t apply blindly to see if it makes sense to you, if you find yourself in that.

What’s more interesting in terms of analytics is for every campaign you can see how many email opens, how many responses and click throughs. You can see it for every email and so you can have a sense of how you generally performed on the first email, how you generally performed on the second one and you can start various campaigns and actually compare the results from one campaign to another.

Iulian: Yeah and then I just wanted to add that what’s also interesting in the product and I would say a fresh feature is that especially for the people who are just getting started with sales prospecting. You look at your data, so we look at the results for each campaign and then we compare it to the average. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see some tips. So if we see for instance that, I don’t know, let’s say the average open rate is something like 45% or 50% and we see you’re way below that. You’re at 30%, you would see some tips included in the tool.

We try to help people. In the results of a each campaign, you have some things that would guide you along. If we see that you have a high bounce rate, there are some settings you can do. If we see that you just use one or two steps in your campaign then we’d tell you, “Our most successful customers have between three and five emails.” We like to use technology and the data that we have to work on that. It’s still in the beginning, it’s still in the initial phase but I think it’s a good start for a lot of people who are just starting with this. These tips are quite useful.

Marylou: To your point Forster, I agree. Data can be dangerous because if people are lazy, they’re going to follow the data that you presented as the gospel. That is not the point here. The point here is the fact that you are reporting on certain indexes, certain metrics that we need to be aware of. Yes, we’re going to have our own baseline, our own benchmarks but if we’re not savvy to know what is important to track or what is important to look at, then it’s a big waste of time for us because we’re just not looking at the right data to make actionable decisions. So I do love the fact that you’ve posted the results. But yes, I mean world out there, do not think that these are the results for you these are just the results of the data that happens to be in the data set that they’re aggregating.

But it’s really cool to see which different things from an awareness perspective that you may want to try in your own business. If you’re coming at this as a newbie, it’s overwhelming to try to figure out where do I begin? Where do I start? I think that’s what these data sets are good for and the analytics behind it is giving you some kind of guidelines as to the journey. what’s the success path overall not that I’m going to follow it because it may be different for me and I need to recognize that it’s different for me but look at this, they have data points that I can at least aspire to.

Forster: When I saw the data, I tried to interpret it. This is what it looks like and this is what it looks like for customers because of this random reason. For example why long subject lines might work is because yeah it’s long but if you get specific, your emails will get opened. I was surprised to see that very short subject lines and very long subject lines have the best results and that one’s between 30 and 45 characters.

It was important for me to say, hey, it’s very short and very long words because very short catches the eye quickly and very long works because it’s very specific. But it doesn’t mean that you should not have a mid side subject line, it just means that as always, relevance is everything. I think that if you’re a newbie, it can help you make sense of it and you can get something out of it even if you’re not going to use the data as a guide. You can use the interpretation that comes from it.

Marylou: You could use the logic from it and then the big overarching concept here people is test. Testing is going to help you more than anything else and apply the simple statistically relevant sampling theories. Don’t just do two records and say it didn’t work. You got to do a certain amount of records and there are distributions that tell us how many records will give us a confidence rate.

I’ve posted from direct mail those confidence rate numbers over and over again so you just have to make sure that you reach that sampling in order to decide, “Yup, this works.” Or “No, that was not working for us at all.”

Forster: Yeah, I would totally recommend our customers use certain techniques on various smaller groups so they can find what works best for them in their market. Then go for bigger groups of prospects. I would like to say test and then invest.

Marylou: There you go. I am with you on that and I go as low as 30 records in case you guys are wondering out there in the world. It’s called the Z Distribution. It’s just looking at a smaller data set, the margin of error is going to be wider so think of a bell curve but have it stretched out. That’s the margin of error. But still, 30 records is doable for a lot of people. Actually when I teach class, my students have to bring 30 records with them to class that they’re going to test while we’re working through the concepts of predictable prospecting.

They have to actually work live records and 30 is the number. So just so you know, it can get as low as that and then as high as in the thousands but as you guys said, test on a smaller sample and then invest in the larger sample once you’ve validated the smaller sampling size is giving you the acceptable margin of error that you’re looking for. Some people like to go 90%, some 95%, some less, it’s totally up to you in your industry.

Forster: Yeah, absolutely. We have some customers who have campaigns where they reach out to a few thousand of prospect at the same time. In that case, testing on smaller audiences can save you a lot of hassle and a lot of disappointment.

Marylou: Indeed. Well, we’re kind of running out of time so I wanted to make sure that the audience knows that we’ll put the blog information. It sounds like there’s some great information in there to get started. So if you’re thinking of pulling the trigger on this type of Outreach tool, recommend it. just think about when you start getting into this, let’s just do the simple math, you have eight touches, eight to 10 touches you decide you’re going to use in a campaign. If you have to keep track of all that manually, it’s like spinning plates at a carnival. You need your hand, your head, your toes trying to figure out where your members are in that sequence. And remember, it’s not just one membership going from one to eight as far as touches. You start with email number one for your first group of members and then the next week, you’re going to probably start a new group of members with email number one.

So now you have to remember two groups and then three groups and then four groups. so automation in using these tools is the way to go for follow up, to be consistent and also as they were saying, you can analyze anything about the email itself whether they’re getting opened, your click through rates on the assets, the content assets that you’re using to convince people to advance to a conversation with you and then of course the response rates of whether or not people are replying to your emails. Thank you both so much for attending today. It’s so great that you’re able to contact us from all the way from Brussels. By the way truffles in Brussels if any of you are foodies, the best ever. Wonderful, thanks again guys.

Forster: Thank you.

Iulian: Have a great day.