As an Executive Coach and Consultant, Bryan Franklin has helped multiple businesses pass the one billion mark in revenue. His newest venture, OutboundWorks, is the marriage of the traditional SDR role and the future of sales — Artificial Intelligence, or as Bryan calls it, Augmented Intelligence. In this episode we’re talking all about using automated tools in the sales process: How to implement them, how they’ll affect relationships with prospects, and what it means for the future of sales.
- Bryan Franklin’s background and coaching track record
- What is Outbound Works?
- The future of selling: Augmented Intelligence and account-based selling
- Automating good habits
- Where does Bryan Franklin sit in the pipeline?
- Bryan’s process for Implementing an automated tool
- Will automation replace outsourcing?
- The future of automation and the phone
- Does automation mean the end of human relationships?
- Working with marketing
- Bryan’s ideal client profiles
- Connect with Bryan Franklin by visiting his website, sending him a message on Linkedin, or by following him on Twitter
Marylou: Tell me about you.
Bryan: Sure. I recently started Outbound Works with co-founders Travis Wallis and Ben Sardella. What I was doing for 17 years before that was as a mentor, and a coach, and leadership advisor to CEOs in Silicon Valley. I’ve helped startups reach a billion dollars by leading their management teams and coaching their CEOs.
Marylou: Did you say one billion? Just so people who hear this…
Bryan: Yeah, one billion.
Marylou: Oh my gosh! Okay.
Bryan: I worked with the management team at LinkedIn and I was coaching Reed and the boys. From a time they were about 200 or 300 employees up to their IPO, up to the point that Jeff came on board and took it the rest of the way, the glory.
I can’t mention all of the company names because of NDA but I can say VIVA, that’s another one that I worked with the management team there. I got to see the uniform movie of what happens when you fail in an enterprise at that pace, right? It gives me the acts of a play, what are the different acts of the play and what is needed from the leadership in each act. That’s very, very distinct and the needs of a 50 person company are very different than the needs of a 500 person company, which are very different than the needs of a 5,000 person company.
It’s fun to observe what are the things that stay in common, what are the things that are true no matter what you’re doing, and what are the things that are truly unique to that specific scenario. I’ve been a student to that for 17 years. I’ve really been, at the back of my mind the entire time, looking for the right team and the right opportunity, the right moment in time, I feel like I watched because I started coaching at Silicon Valley in 2000, the dot bomb.
Marylou: Yup, I lived in San Francisco at the time. So yes, I remember that.
Bryan: I remember my daily commute from San Francisco down to Silicon Valley got about five minutes shorter every week because of the layoffs. I kept being early on all my meetings.
Marylou: Yeah, that’s scary.
Bryan: Yeah. Those were those times. I saw search come and go, I saw social come and go. Meaning the huge revolutionary shifts in business consciousness and the next one I saw coming, I said I’m going to get on this one, I’m not going to see this come and go. That for me is the marriage between AI as an Augmented Intelligence is not beneficial but an Augmented Intelligence in combination with the topic you know so well, revenue account based sales, account based everything.
I see these two coming together and just being a radical shift in how the enterprise discovers its new opportunities. We built Outbound Works to push the envelope on that shift and to help the company do it.
Marylou: The name of the company is Outbound Works, is that correct?
Bryan: That’s right. Yup. Outbound Works.
Marylou: And what is your relationship with them now? Are you the CEO? What are you doing with them?
Bryan: I am. I am the CEO.
Bryan: I am the CEO of Outbound Works. I have two co-founders, really lucky to track them. Sardella who was also the co-founder of Datanyze, and he recently left Datanyze and then we started talking. I had actually worked with him at Datanyze as a mentor and we started talking about what we saw coming next and what we wanted to do. We said the exact same thing, we said, hey let’s do it together. And then since then we have to have attracted Curtis who was the founder of P Consulting and had some really great sales consulting in the enterprise space. I think we’re ten employees now. We’re growing.
Marylou: Tell me now, we hear the term AI. Being an engineer, I love all this stuff because it’s just very interesting to me to see how machines, as they learn and get smarter and smarter, we’re seeing it right now in our top of funnel in the follow up sequences and leveraging automation for that, but tell me your unique slant. What got you so excited about this marriage of Artificial Intelligence, or as you’re calling Augmented Intelligence, with account based selling or what we used to call in the old fashioned days strategic selling, large account selling, whatever. What specifically is it that is getting you to jump out of bed every morning?
Bryan: I think what has me attracted to it and what has me excited now are slightly different. I think what has me attracted to it is the realization that most of the responsibilities of that first initial SDR or the BDR, that rep who’s prospecting, most of someone who’s doing that today, most of that will be completely automated within five years. We want to be the company that perfects doing it well and then over time it places that role with automation which should be exciting to people in that role because it brings them up to do much higher value, strategic selling with much higher value accounts.
Marylou: It should be very exciting for the person, the sales rep, 48% of my audience who are listening to this podcast do all roles. They still are prospecting, they’re selling and a lot of them are still servicing, so they are going to say yay to this.
Bryan: That’s what woke me up and got me attracted to I want to get into this and be one of the companies that’s making this happen. And then the closer I got to it, the more I realize that it’s shocking that even today, most of what would make a company successful is simply the bread and butter, simply doing the fundamental.
If I were the basketball coach, it would be let’s practice gravelling, let’s practice rebounds, let’s make sure that we actually follow up with people, that one word, drafting them, we’re drafting them personally. We have now a three tier personalization in every message. Every message has a unique aspect to it which relates to the industry and unique message which is for that company only and the unique message which is for that person only. As we begin to learn how to automate that personalization through applying it to all the vast opportunities, the data providers that can provide an immense amount of data about the company, they prospect that data with a little bit of automation, you get a really personalized message that people respond to, they respond to that message in a timely way and you start to get involved.
I think a lot of the business you can do in the short term, in the first year, it’s just automating good habit which an AI scientist would tell you is not AI, although an AI scientist 100 years ago will tell you that it is. A calculator came out, calculator was AI. And now it’s not, it’s computational.
I think one thing that’s fascinating about AI is the closer you get to it, it’s a repeating horizon. We really understand how some things work, very few things that are labeled AI when you get under the hood really have any kind of intelligent machine learning. I think there is a place for learning in the future, there is definitely some good things happening and predictive or you can take a list of accounts that you’ve been successful, particularly that you have a large amount of data in your enterprise company, you can look to those accounts and you can do machine learning on that, so that you pick identifiers out that you as a human might not have seen but which are statistically relevant, and then apply those identifiers to a large account and then start to get an idea of who you should be talking to. I think that there is a 5%, 10%, 15% incremental gain by applying tech things like that.
But most people are not in a place where they can take advantage of that, most companies, even companies that have household brand names, you could get a 40% list just by making sure that reps actually return emails and stuff like that. What we’re focusing on is hygiene first, technology second, automation third.
Marylou: Okay. Let’s talk about that, and are you starting with the business developer or SDR, BDR, AR role or are you focusing on the account executive once you have a qualified op? Where are you focusing your efforts in terms if I would look positionally in the pipeline? Where are you sitting?
Bryan: We are playing the role of the SDR, BDR. We are developing opportunities and booking appointments for our customers, for their AEs or for their founders, if they’re smaller customers.
Marylou: Would you share walking through some workflow? Here’s where I’m really interested in this because one of the biggest issues for us is always the list. It’s the quality of the list, it’s do we have the right people on the list? Do we have the right companies on the list? Walk me through how this would look if we were to implement something like this where the SDR role is the automated tool. Where does it start?
Bryan: It starts with the customer’s best guess about what their ideal customer profile would be with their ICP, as we call it.
Marylou: That’s left over from Predictable Revenue.
Bryan: Exactly. I love the term because it’s super despective and people respond to it.
With that ICP, generally, people answer that question with what they would like it to be, to not what it is. Where we start is let’s actually look at the product’s history filled with those and we look at two things. We look at the number of customers that became [00:12:43] and then the sale cycle, the two most important things for me when we’re looking at past results. We want shorter cycles and the people who became referenceable the easiest, that require the least effort to have the most effect.
Again, one way of thinking about it is we’re optimizing for the most value that is actually conveyed to their customers and we identify that as the ICPs. And then there is an overlay where that’s the present phase, maybe there’s a strategic element where we’re wanting to move up market or we’re wanting to expand geographies or just promote strategic layer which can’t be seen simply by analyzing the past. That does not always reflect the future. We juggle those two and it’s a mix of math and final build insights when we’re consulting.
And then once we arrived at what we believe is the ICP, we start running a little test to find the right entry point on those accounts. We might have four-five guesses about who we should be contacting and we will pick a small number of accounts and split test is it better to go into the CEO and refer down to the buyer or is it better to get straight to the end user and get referred up to the buyer, is it a flake through finance, and it really depends of course on the product and for the service and what’s going on there.
We split the entry point from there. And then once we have a good idea of who’s responding, then we assemble the contact data, the lookalike account data, the what I call the personalization data which would be all of the data that’s going to be used to have that additional personal touch. For example, hey I noticed that my CEO used to work for LinkedIn and your CEO used to work at LinkedIn in this period of time. That’s the kind of paragraph that you can automate once you have that reference data, what I call the personalization data. Or I noticed you have an interest in XYZ, [00:14:55], The Warriors just won the championship here. If you reference that, you’re more likely to get an open.
Once you have the ICP and you collected the account data and then you collected some personalization data under the account that you built, you build messaging and it’s just test and repeat. All we do is fix away multi varied tests every week, so there is two different messaging strategies that come up, three different areas out of these and we see which of those six is popping out that week and then continually address that week by week.
If you have a pool account of let’s say 1,000 or 2,000 accounts, we would expect to be getting at least 20 opportunities willing to have a meeting on the phone every month. 5 every week, 20 a month. That puts us in the top quartile of SDR performance in the country. Based on the research that I have done, the average is around eight a month. Therefore if you’re paying less than a full time SDR for a service, that’s the profit at a high level, I’ve left out some of the secret sauce but you get the basic idea.
Marylou: First that came to my mind is, is this a replacement for outsourcing? A lot of firms, because they don’t want to necessarily make the FTE of getting someone in house to train, to do all of the ramp for this role, they outsource thinking that that’s going to give them some relief. You’re saying we won’t talk pricing but you’re saying similar to an FTE and outsourcers are going to be a multiple of that. Is that part of your thinking that those folks who do outsource some of the SDR roles thinking that they’re going to offload that workflow because they can hire people who have the habit of follow up? This is sounding like a nice replacement for that.
Bryan: Yeah. I think outsource companies have the right promise but the wrong traffic to deliver it to. I love that promise and I think we’ve gone fairly deep in some partnerships with some of those outsource companies. I have actually consulted with some of those industry meeting, outsource companies, visited their floors, trained their people and those outsourcing company tend to work for about 5% of their customers. Every 100 customers, they can actually deliver what they promised 20 times. That’s why they had the reputation that they have, right? And it’s just the product would been the right time or the messaging was okay but they don’t tend to have that ongoing consultative intelligence to figure out if something’s not on track, why is that, and how to correct it.
When we first started the company, Travis and I, imagined that we would be creating a sales consulting company and then we quickly realized that if we build technology to actually do the work, then we can spread our consulting with them across many, many, many more accounts right when it’s needed. Instead of taking a whole day workshop that figure out the answer to a question, we can [00:19:08] app which has all the data to see exactly where the problem is, make the correction, and have the implementation automated so that a single consultant can manage 50 accounts. They’re basically outperforming on average 15 full time SDRs to one person. Just to what we have now, my goal is to make that number by the end of the year 500, and then in five years 5000. It’s a combination of human intelligence, organic intelligence than AI. You can’t run it completely on its own but at that, it’s close enough.
Marylou: I’m thinking of top of funnel and I’m coming from a telephony background. A lot of times when we’re missing our mark with conversion rates for the email engine, we supplement with phone. What we do with the phone primarily is we map into the organization looking for those highly influential contacts who can help us get into our targeted prospect, whoever that persona is, that person that we really want to have some type of conversion with, as an SDR, before we hand it off to the account executive or before we set up, if you’re selling more complex sales, the stakeholder meeting. How does this integrate with the use of the phone, does it replace it in your mind? What do you think in there?
Bryan: Yes, that’s a great question. What we’ve noticed is that if you separate accounts into the early adopters, the early majority and everybody else, phone works really well for the everybody else category. People at the early adopter account don’t tend to answer their phones, even the influencers. It’s much easier for me to get a response through a LinkedIn message or a social message or by tagging them on Twitter or Instagram. It’s much easier for me to get their attention through a different channel than by trying to call them. I think a [00:21:25] to this would be an SMS message. Reaching them on their phone but through a text message.
Marylou: Through text, right?
Bryan: Yes. It’s actually the market that’s deriving the move away from the telephone, not the providers, not us. There are some accounts that we’re running now that are targeting that late [00:21:51], their customers are not the early adopters, it’s not the [00:21:54] of technology at the time. It was pipes and nails and things like that. We actually had exclusive contracts for them and basically the same thing, instead of split testing, messaging or email works better than calls. All the calls are recorded, transcribed, we had the same technology working that way. But that’s a minority, really a minority and it’s only if you know that your customers are not more of a technophobic, slower to adopt spectrum.
I think that in the next few years, we’re going to see a math that moves away from business on the telephone. I think companies that have relied on that for an extra level of trust, the ones that are going to win, are going to institute highly targeted web available, it’s like mobile web available resources that give business insights to the telephone rep.
For example, instead of a telephone where you call the CMO and say, “Hey Fred, I know we played golf but can you have your guy look at this thing?” I think we’ll send a text message to Fred that says, “We’ve identified the gap in your number one metric and you could close this quarter, click here to see how.” You click it and you’ll see graphs which are relative to that company’s specific performance in the marketplace, all of which could be automatically generated. Now, they’ve got actual meaningful business insight in their hands, just one click, let me pass this on to the right decision maker, now you’re going to get a response to that email. I think we can move in that direction but I think who’s driving that is the customer and their desire to move that business that way.
Marylou: Is this method of communication focused primarily in Silicon Valley West Coast? I live in Iowa and I cannot tell you how many coffee invitations I still get to this day for face to face, get-to-know-you type of meeting. Are there pockets that are going to be resisted that you see or is this a way we can off load the mundane habitual type of follow up and supplement rather than replace the preferred method of contact which in some cases is still face to face.
Bryan: I think that technology will never replace relationship. We’re actually in business for the relationships and actually the most rewarding aspect isn’t the financial win, it’s helping someone, the feeling that you’ve done that. I do think though that most of the ways we connect now are overly mundane tasks. The more those are automated, I think there’s still another word to have that coffee invitation but I hope that the content of what you talk about together is deeper, is more insightful, is more meaningful to you. You don’t have to talk about the just let me get your business, let me show you what we can do or let me run through the features because all of that is handled in a very automated fashion. But then we can just talk to like, hey, I’m just curious to know what scared you? Or what has you the most excited right now? These kinds of questions can lead to strategic insights in business that I just don’t think are possible using other techniques.
It allows us to have higher quality connections and I don’t think we’ll ever have less of that because that’s the reason in the first place.
Marylou: I love the idea, I love the concept of meaningful and also I love the concept of automating those types of tasks that are repetitive in nature, that are helpful in getting you to the desired goal of that in person, belly to belly we used to call it in the old days, that ability. And we’re craving that, we have a lot of technology available for us. I had a class recently I taught where I did a survey at the end of the class and said what would you like me to improve? And almost everybody said we want to see more of you, your face, instead of the screen cast and I thought that is interesting. It wasn’t the material, it’s the connection.
This Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Intelligence, I like that term actually better because people are afraid of AI so to speak, that the machines are going to run the world. I love the way you soften that with your term but I think if we can take those repetitive tasks that we all have to do and resulting in a richness of our database and our ability to have those meaningful conversations, that sounds like a win-win to me.
Bryan: I think that the first role, [00:27:35] BD SDR. Our metric when we can create an opportunity is still either a face to face meeting for exactly the reason mentioned. But I think that meeting is going to get moved later and later in the sales cycle overtime, I can imagine a future where sales reps only ever talk to customers who have already purchased. The first call is, hey, I just committed an end, now can you be my strategic partner in figuring out how to get the most out of the product that we just bought, can you help me plan out? They become almost the customer success department and had a larger and larger head count and the sales department now supports that function instead of trying to “win business” for most accounts. We’re a decade or more from that reality, but I could see that coming.
Marylou: Let me ask you, the SDR role is starting conversations with people we don’t know but they’re typically targeted accounts, so we have to remember and worry about five levels of awareness. The bottom layer is that they’re still unaware, they don’t know what to search for, they don’t know if they have a problem, it still exists in this day and age, until you become aware of something, you really don’t know how to properly… My kids are always telling me, mom you don’t know how to search properly. What does that mean? Anyway, I get that a lot, there is this level of awareness of how is marketing perceiving what you’re doing with your company now? Are they excited about the fact that you’re going to help them bubble up awareness or what?
Bryan: I have to say I’m biased by the customers we have which means the people at the company that agreed to work with us. In our customers, marketing is really excited because I think the marketing role is often torn between direct response results like speaking of the measured on a per lead basis.
Marylou: Yeah. The man to man.
Bryan: Yeah, like the man gen on one hand and then brands on the other. Those two masters often can feel to the marketer competing with each other. The choice that is positive for the man gen is a negative brand choice and vice versa. They get a little nervous when they hear that we’re going to be sending messages out but we give them a chance to approve everything and then once they see how human they are, ironically speaking, they get real comfortable after seeing a few and then they get excited. 1/3 out of the fear that their dear customer is going to get some robotic message that they’re going to hey, once they realize that’s not happening, then they absolutely love what they’re doing because it allows them to focus more on supporting with brand messages to being the key call to action that we tested out.
If we’re focusing on a particular pain point, and that’s the one that’s really working then that’s feedback to marketing. Okay, we can actually produce some marketing which hide that pain point to a larger benefit so that we get the customer thinking about a long term journey instead of just a transaction. That’s actually been inspiring for the marketing counterpart all for that reason.
Marylou: Plus, coming from a process point of view and loving the tracking and metrics, because the conversation is automated, that means the tracking of the conversation points that resonated to shorten the lag in the pipeline, there’s a natural feedback loop back to marketing so that they, like Lego blocks, can know which pain point is resonating, at what point in the pipeline does it seem to resonate faster. Let’s frontend our marketing speaker conversations with the challenges of this particular pain point so that people bubble up faster. This sounds great because a lot of times what I’m fighting for is to get SDRs to comply to just wrapping up a call or wrapping up what happened in the conversation or what they clicked on. We have that information from email but sometimes it gets lost when the SDRs are sending out personalized emails, we don’t necessarily know what template they used, what the pain point that resonated in that template was, so that feedback can go to marketing so they can organize the cadence, the dance, the rhythm of that conversation.
Bryan: That’s exactly right. I think in the coming months you’re going to see Outbound Works more as a top former of products and less as a service. What they’ll see is that dashboard with all of that information for the sales leader, for the CEO, for marketing, even for the board with customizable views where they just have all the information they want at their fingertips, it allows them to make higher quality decisions.
To me, if a product doesn’t allow you to make higher quality decisions, it’s not doing its job. That’s where we focus on.
Marylou: I want to be respectful of our audience. We’ve gone over my usual time allotment. Bryan, let’s end the call here, we can go forever but let’s end the call here and why don’t you share with us how we can get a hold of you, how we can start consuming some of this wonderful information and determine if this is something that we want to supplement for our business models as we move forward into 2018 and beyond.
Bryan: Absolutely. The best place is to go to outboundworks.com, no funny spellings, it’s all one word, no dashes or anything else just outboundworks.com. Go there and you’ll be able to contact us using the contact form. We will track your every move from that point forward.
We’d love to have a conversation with you, we’re growing fast but we’re still at the size that “I’m happy to do” strategy calls to customers who have a particular challenge around implementing something. I just had a call this morning in fact where I recommended that he is not ready for our service but I solved his problem on the phone. We can all be doing this right, so wherever you’re at, go ahead and reach out and I’m happy to talk to you or you can talk to one of my co-founders.
Marylou: I’ll be sure to put all your information in the show notes for everyone who’s driving right now saying I can’t write that down or I won’t remember that. I’ll make sure that’s there. Do you want to leave us with an ideal client profile that you think right now, where you’re set up right now today with your company that would be a good fit for you?
Bryan: Yeah. There are two that we’re absolutely knocking out of the park. One is your B2B, your lifetime value for your product is above $10,000 and you have fairly strong inbound and you’re just thinking about creating an outbound organization, so you’re thinking about hiring SDRs. We’d love to talk to you and really save you a lot of time and headache and money in that process.
The second is maybe you got recently acquired by a larger organization and you have a centralized sale team that you’re trying to get their attention for your little products. You’re product number 17,093 on their price list but you have an earn out or you make sure that your product is selling, we love helping you to just become the favorite [00:35:40] of the centralized sales team by having more introductions to them using your budget to having satisfaction from centralized sales.
Bryan: We’re doing really well with those guys.
Marylou: That also includes, for those of you who I’ve seen a lot lately is that, again, the stronger inbound typically means, not always, the smaller accounts. SMB and you’re trying to move in market, enterprise level which means that you need to pull it all together and get a little bit better with your sales conversations because the sales cycle has now been a little bit extended. If you’re thinking of moving into those different tiers, it sounds like Bryan would be a perfect person to run some of your thoughts through and see if he can help you there. Strong inbound can mean that you’re strong inbound on the lower end and you’re trying to move into midmarket or up from there which there’s a ton of companies that I’ve talked to just in the last six months who are trying to figure that out.
Bryan: It can also mean an inappropriate confidence in your sales process.
Marylou: I love that.
Bryan: Maybe I can help you as well with some of that.
Marylou: Very good. Bryan, thank you so much! This is a very intriguing topic. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about it and I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise with us today. Thank you.
Bryan: It was my pleasure. I absolutely love it. Thank you.