Episode 148: Navigating Through Challenges – Kendra Lee

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 148: Navigating Through Challenges - Kendra Lee
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As you start to think about what marketing and sales might look like in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s worth considering how you can be more prepared for another similar type of event. We’ve seen that the world can change overnight, and that often means changing your message, strategy, and even the channels that you use to communicate with your contacts.

Kendra Lee is the founder and President of KLA Group out of Denver. Today, she joins the podcast to talk about the habits, workflows, tools, and other things that you can do on a daily basis that would prepare you for some event like this.

Episode Highlights:

  • What type of work Kendra does with clients
  • Why the work that Kendra does is important
  • Leveraging the different technologies and channels available to you when you need to shift your message
  • How the personas change when the message or channel changes
  • What to do when you lose a channel or it becomes less effective
  • Thinking strategically about the conversations that you need to have
  • Involvement in the nurture sequence side of things
  • Supporting sales reps
  • Kendra’s favorite spots in the bottom of the funnel
  • Kendra’s upcoming goals


KLA Group


Marylou: Hey, everybody. It’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest is Kendra Lee of the KLA Group. I’ve followed Kendra, has it been 20 years? Could that be right, Kendra?

Kendra: It absolutely could be.

Marylou: It could be, okay. I remember when I first signed up, I had a project management company called Telegenik. My first newsletter came from you on that email address so that’s a long time ago.

Kendra is the founder and President of KLA Group out of Denver and she’s a great resource if you need any type of sales and lead generation, or training, and specializing top of funnel mostly, prospecting. I’ll let her talk more about all of that but she’s a great resource.

As I said, I’ve had her newsletter. She does a weekly tip and bi-monthly newsletter that gets on her list. There are such great tips in those, especially if you’re into anything to do with business development you definitely want to follow Kendra. Welcome to the podcast today, Kendra.

Kendra: Thank you and what a lovely introduction. That was really nice, thank you.

Marylou: My pleasure. I’m a fan. 

Kendra: I know that we go back 20 years though.

Marylou: I know. If you’re listening to this, we were talking about maybe post-COVID which is a 2020 event that we’re all going through. We were talking about should this podcast be geared towards that, but I wasn’t sure if we’re going to be out of the woods by the time this airs or not.

What I asked Kendra to talk about are those habits, workflows, or those types of tools and things that you can do on a daily basis that would prepare you for something like this, an event like this. We were talking about even if your CEO or Director of Sales comes tomorrow and says, “Hey, we’re going to now focus on this vertical,” so you have to pivot over that way to the right instead of where you had been. The lane you’re in yesterday is no longer the lane. 

We’re experiencing that and the beauty of this, as Kendra was saying, is the business doesn’t really change because if you have the sales conversation, the skills, the habit, the workflow down then you can take any type of punches that come your way. Kendra, let’s start by demonstrating to the folks that are listening to the types of work that you have been doing with clients and why that work is so important in terms of reputable, consistent delivery.

Kendra: We work on two sides with clients. One is with the sales team on their prospecting and the other is with the marketing side. I’m running the lead generation activity that drives a portion of the lead sales team that wants to follow-up on. Both of those activities do prepare you for having to pivot because if you already have, let’s say on the marketing side, a consistent communication method that you’re using, then it’s a matter of changing your message. 

That’s what we had to do in the last month for all the clients whose lead gen we’re managing. We’ve had to go and switch what we’re talking about, but we already had the people who we’re talking to, we already know what our business is. We’re just shifting how we’re talking about it. Then, you look at the sales side and the same thing is true for […].

If you’re already prospecting and you have a prospecting discipline, then it’s just a matter of saying, “Okay, how do I push up my approach to whatever this new lane (as you called it) maybe?” But we’re still doing all the same things. We’re just switching what we’re talking about, really.

Marylou: Right. But with this particular event, for some of us, one of our main channels (i.e., for some people the telephone) has been significantly reduced in terms of results. Are you saying that not only do we have our sales message, our method, or your contacting, but is there also this leveraging the different technologies and pulling the different levers when you start to see something like what we’re experiencing now where some people are scrambling but because some people have covered both sides of the umbrella, like you with marketing and lead gen, and then there’s prospecting, so there’s leads coming in, but there’s also outbound prospecting going out, is it a matter of balancing the different channels? How does that work?

Kendra: Yeah, I think it’s a matter of using the different channels that are available to you. I am a firm believer that you have to pick up the phone so I never say, “Don’t use the phone.” Now, will our success be the same? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on who our target market is and how they have handled having to move to a new environment, in this case working from home. So, transferring their phone […] will get them. 

Still, what we want to do then is say, “Okay, if I can’t reach them by phone, what other ways could I get them?” We know we can get them by email. We’ve seen this surged in people who are using LinkedIn. I had one rep who said, “Ma’am, we need to be doing lots more on LinkedIn because I know I have my LinkedIn open and when I get bored that’s where I go.” Knowing as we do, when we’re trying to scope out how to reach a prospect, knowing what the prospect might be using and paying attention to right now. Using other channels like email, like LinkedIn, what about video and sending a video email. That’s another way. 

If you and your database have cell phone numbers and the people that you are targeting are the types that you should text. You’re not going to call their cell, you could text. There are definitely different approaches and I look at it as we have to put on our creative hats and say, “Well, if we couldn’t have normally reached somebody by the phone, what would we have done?” We might as well drop by. We still would have tried email. We might have tried LinkedIn. We just have to start thinking more broadly about how we could potentially reach out. 

A fun tidbit for you because reps (in many cases) are spinning, trying to figure out, “Well, you took away my primary way of reaching people, now what do I do?” We actually wrote up 60 different ways that you could prospect remotely because people were just stuck. I think when you have to pivot, it’s stepping back, putting your creative hat on, and saying, “Wait a minute. It’s fundamental. This is still prospecting and lead gen. How else might I reach somebody?”

Marylou: That’s a great point. The other thing is I’m curious when you set up clients and you’re working on getting the campaign—for lack of a better word—together. Would these ideas about these channels come up as you’re defining the personas, the people with whom the audience that you’re going to be having these conversations with, is in part of that talking about how they consume information? In this case, that’s going to switch when one thing gets taken away which is not going to the office anymore. 

You’re kind of covered there too because I would imagine that you have this checklist about who’s the audience? How do they consume information? Where do they like to hangout? What types of challenges are they experiencing that we can solve for them? There’s a whole checklist you go through in the form of a bio persona or a prospect persona that would have that channel information on it as well, correct?

Kendra: Absolutely. You have identified who is the target persona, a little bit of background about them, and what is the best way to reach them. The things they care about may shift, so it depends on why you’ve been asked to pivot. We’ll use COVID-19 is an example. Everybody in the world was asked to pivot, but we see pivoting happening all the time. Think about compliance. All of a sudden, a government entity comes out with a whole new set of requirements and if your target market has to achieve those, all of a sudden, what that persona cares about have shifted because of the new compliance regulation.

Marylou: Right, and the most recent one is GDPR in Europe. It limited our ability to send emails unless they opt-in. Websites had to let them know that they have cookies and all of that good stuff.

Kendra: Exactly, and all companies in Europe actually had to respond to that. If you have anything at all to do with GDPR from the business perspective and after you were calling people about it, it gave you a whole nother topic to talk about, and then you just apply that to the persona and why they would care about it.

Marylou: Right. In events like this, when we are losing or we have a channel that is not as effective, is it customary that you amp up other channels, or do you typically keep the touches similar? What are you finding when we have these types of events?

Kendra: We have something that we call a Bloodhound Follow-up Strategy. You can access prospects and it follows that rule that we’ve all heard that it’s going to take a minimum of nine attempts to reach someone and it uses the combination of approaches to reach a prospect over a 31-day period. When we stepped back to look at everything being shifted, we can’t necessarily reach people as easily through the phone. How does that change our approach?

The number of touches did not change. The frequency of touching did not change because we’re still trying to reach people, so we still want to have a valuable conversation and ideally, we still want to sell something although the way we approach it is going to be softer right at the moment. Our frequency and number of touches did not shift. What shifted is what we were using, the approaches. 

The phone is still in every one of them because you can still reach some people. To your point, with GDPR, either we’re going to get them through something like LinkedIn or hopefully we were able to access them through email prior to the way we have their permission. Otherwise, now we’re trying to attract them through things like search engine marketing So, the phone is still there. Email is there. We increased LinkedIn, so we changed up how we were using different strategies and at which time but kept the number of touches and the frequency.

Marylou: We did something very similar. As you know I’m on hiatus for a couple of years here working with one client, which has been a blast. What we’re doing is we’re leveraging the technology that we have to only schedule phone calls for those people who have engaged with our email content or our social content. If we then click through, for example, some type of URL, paper, or downloadable something, then that’s ticked in the software to say, “Hey, this person has engaged. I’m going to put them in your calling queue for you now.”

Usually, what we used to do is touch, too, will be a phone call for all of the people that are members of our sequence or whatever we’re doing, and now, we don’t need to reach all 100. What we’ll do is only talk to those people who have engaged, which brought that 90-some odd number down to something like 40, which is much more manageable. It’s probably smarter to do anyway, so it’s forced us to really think about strategically how to have these conversations, when to have these conversations. The other thing, the beauty of that is we pick up where the content asset left off. If we know they watch a webinar, we pick up right from there in our next conversation with them.

Kendra: Exactly right. Those we refer to as marketing-qualified leads. They have engaged with you in another manner, social or your web content as you said and now we know what they’re interested in. It can have a different level of conversation with them. Now we’re calling to find out, well are they interested in just finding out about it? Or are they interested and actually do something about that topic? 

Marylou: Yes. It’s just a beautiful thing to think about. It’s a warmer conversation, so from a psychological mindset point-of-view, you’re already beyond the cold process and are taking off where the prospect is in his mind. Where he’s at in his mind is where we start the conversation. It’s a more synergistic way of having conversations with prospects.

It’s funny. It’s great that this has happened in so many ways because we have had to think about the implication of what this means for revenue, for goals, for opportunities that we’re trying to generate, for appointments that we’re trying to set.  It really opened up a wonderful brainstorming among (at least) my team and came up with some great things to do. Some fun work from home. Campaigns to get end-users activated and joining in the conversation. I think a lot of is the cultural thing of we’re stuck in our house now and we still crave the connection in some fashion. It’s been a really great experience in so many ways.

Kendra: One thing I would share, think about is when we are watching what prospects are clicking on or paying attention to in social—Twitter is an example—if somebody has clicked through, let’s say you’ve written a fabulous blog post, you posted it on Twitter, they click through, and you can see that, know that when you call, they may or may not remember your name. 

The advantage that you have is that that person you know cares about a specific topic and it’s not as critical that they remember that it was you they clicked through and from Twitter as much as you know the topic that was interesting to them. You can still have that conversation. In LinkedIn, if they read it, I think there’s a greater chance they’ll remember your name because LinkedIn doesn’t move at the pace of Twitter. 

I just want to make that point because a lot of reps, when they follow up on leads that come from what we would call campaigns, are expecting that the prospect will remember them, the company, what they read. If you think about how quickly you read things, they may not remember exactly who wrote it or where it came from. The key takeaway is going back to the personas, now you know what to talk with them about or what you want to reach them about, whichever method you are using.

To your point, it’s much more targeted when we do that and we have a higher likelihood of reaching them. […] confident when we call that it doesn’t throw us off if they don’t remember our name. 

Marylou: Exactly. That’s great advice. I have a question about the fact that you help the sales team with prospecting and you help the marketing side with lead gen. When you create that MQL, are you also watching it flow through the pipeline to an opportunity, or do you ever engage again when that lead is getting too close but didn’t close and it needs to come back in for nurture? Or are you focused mostly on the funnel generating the MQL and do not normally get involved with the nurture sequence side of things?

Kendra: We get involved with the nurture sequence as well and we look at it as there are different actions that you need to take, depending on where a prospect (what I say) falls out of.

Marylou: Yeah, leaks out.

Kendra: Right. If it leaks out, where that is, is how you want to attempt to get them to re-engage again. We look at the top of the funnel and then we do want to see it go away through to close. There are so many exciting things you can do, Marylou, to keep prospects engaged even when they’re fully engaged with a sales rep. There are some exciting things that you can do to get that prospect even more interested or see more value even beyond what the rep is doing. It’s pretty exciting with all the different ways that you can use to lead generation strategies of today.

Marylou: I think that you hit the nail in the head. That’s the one area where I’m sure people sitting in the audience are thinking, “Once I’m in getting to close where they turn off my lead gen process, I don’t really think about nurture,” but we have data that shows that someone could come through the pipelines three, four, five times before they make that buying decision. If you let them go and don’t nurture, you are just taking money and throwing it out the window. 

Kendra: Exactly. Why would you not support your sales team just because it became an opportunity and it’s now in the sales rep hands? Why would you not nurture that prospect while they’re in the sales pipeline? Why would you not have them come to your webinars or send them interesting content while the sales rep is talking to them?

Marylou: Right. Truth be told, how many of your clients have actually taken it to that level and used that as a strategy. For every ten clients, how many actually do that?

Kendra: I would say one-tenth because they don’t see the value. We actually had a client turn it off and we said to him, “Do you realize how many prospects you have in your pipeline going through this?” His comment was, “I don’t like that it’s telling me I need to call people at a certain time.”

Marylou: Spoken like a true account executive.

Kendra: Like, “Oh my gosh. Your contact is engaged and all these things, and now it pops up that it’s time for you to call. How much warmer do you want someone to be?” We find only those companies that are operationally mature in their sales process are the ones that see the true value of using campaigns during the actual sales process. Focus at the top of the funnel, Marylou. All they want to do is get more leads, “Get me more leads. Get me more leads,” instead of, “Wait a minute, we got the lead. We did all that hard work. How about we win the lead?”

Marylou: Yes, and the numbers are staggering. I’ve been tracking this because this is what I do. We’ve increased the close rates from the standard and sometimes doubled and tripled the close rates when we institute a nurturing program at the bottom of the funnel.

Think about this. Our lead gen is a rocket ship and we can still turn it on to produce 2x if we want. If we (a) produce more quality opportunities to our top of funnel lead gen, and (b) increase the close rates and our bottom of our funnel lead gen, what does that tell you? Revenue, revenue, revenue.

Kendra: Growth, growth, growth. Yup. Margin, margin, margin even.

Marylou: I know. We have the tools in place to do this nurturing, people. It’s there. We use it at the top of a funnel. Why would we not try this? Do you have favorite spots in the bottom of the funnel? I know there are a million methodologies of getting to close, but are there certain spots where you can see the value of not only close rates but velocity? Pipeline velocity, things close faster. Is there a favorite spot that you like to start clients with?

Kendra: Yes. Prior to the proposal. They are not receiving the proposal yet. You start to nurture them and really get them excited before you give them the proposal. Another favorite spot is after the proposal especially if you’re in a competitive situation. You stay in front of them because oftentimes, once you deliver the proposal, a prospect may say, “I got two other companies that I’m talking to,” or, “We need to think about it,” or, “We have to go to the board.” or, “We’ve heard them all.” Then the rep often will sit back and say, “Well, okay,” and wait.

There’s silence until the rep reaches out and says, “Hey, have you had that board meeting?” or, “Did you guys get together?” Before the proposal to create the excitement and then after the proposal to stay in front of them are the two that we see will make a difference.

Marylou: That’s great advice. I love the example of the math of if I have a $100 opportunity and two people close two of them, $100 each. Two types of hundred are $200. If I increase the close rate to four, then now I just doubled my take home. But if I do that plus focus on lead gen on top of the funnel and put 100 more people in, and increase the close rates, then the math is just so easy to see. It cost us nothing because we’ve already put in the engine to do this automated or personalized, but this consistent touch, this consistent rhythm, and all we need to do are build playlists prior to the proposal and after the proposal. We build another little playlist that gets them engaged. Now they’re really into understanding more about the product.

It’s even easier to put that content together because usually marketing has a ton of content for that level of awareness and they usually have content available up the top of the funnel because we’re trying to build a sense of urgency and make people aware that we’re out there. It boggles the mind, but I’m glad that you’re on top of that, Kendra.

Kendra: Yes, we are. It’s an interesting conversation with clients so that they can understand what that real value is because they’re so focused on the lead generation.

Marylou: Yeah, I totally get it and my wish for all of you listening right now is that the lightbulb has gone on and that you really look at this as an additional way to love your clients. Love your prospects. Get them to love you. Get them to trust you more.

This hand-holding during the cycle is an indicator of how well they’re going to be taking care of when they’re a client of yours. This is also building loyalty. It’s building lifetime value. The softer benefits of doing these types of campaigns mid and bottom of funnels. I’m glad you’re focused on that. We don’t write about it very often, either. Do you write and talk to people about it a lot, Kendra?

Kendra: I talk with people about it frequently. I don’t write about it. 

Marylou: I haven’t read a lot about it either because we are focused on prospecting and we are focused on getting to close, but not the rhythm to close and that work ethic or habit. I don’t even know how to describe it, but we’re the follow-up engines at the top of the funnel. We are taking that follow up engine mentality, but just oozing it with value as we touch into the getting to close part of the funnel. Why not? Let’s do it. I’d love that.

Kendra: I do.

Marylou: What […] for you now? What are your goals coming up once we get out of the abyss of staying at home?

Kendra: For us, it’s exciting to see how our clients are shifting some of their solutions, so helping them get that message out as they are shifting and allowing them to continue it to be successful so that’s part of the lead generation side. Then at the sales side, a big piece that we’re doing is linking what happens with the marketing qualified lead when it goes to sales and why it is not closing. 

We’re taking a deeper look at what is hindering a sales rep from closing a higher percentage of the leads from a […] perspective and we’re starting to link before we even do their lead generation, where they may have challenges within the sales team when a lead is passed. So, it’s not just, here’s the lead, go call it. That’s partly what I’m explaining before about how reps will have a separate expectation when they get that lead and they may handle it differently because they feel like, “Oh, a person should know me. So they should take my call.”

What we’re starting to do is before that lead ever passes, look at the sales team and say, “Are they ready?” and if they’re not, what needs to be fixed in the process? or the systems? or the skills themselves? That’s where we’re headed.

Marylou: We have similar goals. We’re really trying to understand recycled leads, closed, lost leads, or leakage at the top of the funnel. If we don’t reach the people that came in, we’re looking at those workflows and see if maybe we should change the channels around. The delivery, message, and lesson here is that we’re constantly measuring and testing, and constantly iterating and making this thing better. It’s never a ‘set it and forget it.’

That’s why it’s nice to hear that there are people like Kendra’s group out there to help us not only hone the message, but also the process of the message, and the delivery of the message so that we can continually eke out percent improvement over the long haul because yield which is the conversion rate, lag which is the cycle time, and the average deal size are what makes things predictable and that’s what we’re trying to do here, is build market share in some cases or product share. If you’re working with the base, but that formula is the formula we’re striving for. 

Kendra, thank you so much for your time today. How is the best way that people can reach you? Where do we go to find you?

Kendra: Through our website is the best way. We have all of our resources as well so klagroup.com. Content goes through there.

Marylou: All right and I will make sure on your page that I will put all these links and that there’s a ton of information out there folks on Kendra on the internet. Just type her name and prospecting and you got it.

Kendra: There you go.

Marylou: Thanks again. I very much appreciate your time.

Kendra: Thank you for having me.