Engaging 'Dream Customers' in a whole new way - Heather R. Morgan
How do you capture the attention of someone you’ve never met in a way that encourages them to respond? Starting conversations with people we don’t know is the most difficult and the most crucial part of building a successful pipeline, but too many companies see dismal response rates to their cold email templates. Today’s guest holds the secret to creating copy that speaks to the desires, fears, and personalities of your customers to engage them in a whole new way. Heather R. Morgan is the Founder and CEO of Salesfolk, a company that helps salespeople create compelling cold emails that lead to three times the responses from customers. Heather began her career as an economist working internationally before entering the business development field.
- How Heather Morgan went from sending letters to her favorite children’s book authors to becoming the CEO of Salesfolk
- Preparing for the cold email: doing research on the audience
- Heather’s tricks for writing a personal email to someone you don’t know
- Getting into the mind of your audience & finding the “Dream Customer”
- Crafting a focused email: sequencing and targeting every customer
- The five levels of awareness
- Keeping the element of mystery while being direct
Resources: Love Heather’s method to cold emailing? Sign up for the Salesfolk Cold Email Mastery Course or contact Salesfolk about consulting. Connect with Heather on LinkedIn, Tweet to her @HeatherReyhan, or send her an email directly: email@example.com
Marylou: Hey everybody, it’s Marylou Tyler. You guys are going to love this session. On the session with me today is Heather R. Morgan. She is a former economist and a CEO and Founder of a company in The Bay Area called Sales Folk. The reason why you are going to love this conversation is because Heather has really spent a lot of time in figuring out the formula, the code, whatever you want to call it in starting conversations with people we don’t know and doing it in a way that gets people to act quickly, predictably, and consistently. She has a background that is going to be very helpful for you as you start crafting your emails, as you start thinking about the types of scripts and voicemails that you want to leave. Her methodology, her framework, her systems are a must study in order to be able to generate sales qualified leads and even take it further into the pipeline if you’re an account executive who actually closes business. Her particular methodology is something that you’re going to want to study and really master. Without further adieu, Heather, welcome. Heather: Hi, Marylou. Thank you for that sparkling intro there. I’m very happy to be on the podcast today and share a little bit about cold email best practices and what you can do to improve your emails. Marylou: Perfect. The first thing I want to know is what got you interested in—this is very difficult, it’s a very difficult mastery really. It comes down to starting conversations with people we don’t know is a very difficult part of the pipeline. What got you interested in this and where have you taken it? Heather: That’s a great question. My story is a little bit unusual, it’s not the story that oh, I got into sales or anything like that. I liked writing for a very long time and reading. I sent my first cold email which was really a letter when I was about four years old to my favorite author Robert Quackenbush in New York. He responded with a few autographed books and a letter back a few months later. Since then, I had this idea that you should just reach out and start conversations with people. In the beginning, a lot of them were people like my favorite authors of children’s books. Then, it started to be famous CEOs and different people that I was interested in meeting and just having a conversation with. For me, it was really something that came from a love of writing. It was just something that I did. I would do it also when I would move to a new country because I lived in seven different countries. When I moved to Hong Kong and I didn’t really know many people, I would make a list of different interesting people to me off of LinkedIn or different groups and just start cold emailing them or different interesting companies. I think it really did originally come from, and it still does come from a genuine place of just wanting to start a conversation with someone. I think that’s what makes my approach different than a lot of other salespeople because although we work with sales companies, sales organizations, it didn’t start as a sales thing. It started as I want to start conversations and have intelligent conversations that add value and build rapport. That’s where it started. It wasn’t until I worked basically doing business development with a Silicon Valley company a little over three years ago, maybe four. Now that I really started to do cold outreach for my company. I actually didn’t know that that was a thing. To give some back then, I guess I didn’t really know what I was doing with that job to be honest. It was in the games industry, mobile games. I don’t know if you play games, I don’t. Here I am just came back from Cairo, I was an economist. No background in tech, sales, or anything. I was supposed to start conversations that seems to be gaming companies and I don’t play games or know anything about it. I’m just thinking okay, what do you do? The only thing I could think to do which was just build a couple CSV feeds of 100 or so contents each and start reaching out to people. Within two or three weeks, I had a 68% response rate from people like the founder of Guitar Hero. I didn’t even know that was a good response rate, I thought it was okay. To be honest, I was just like okay, cool, people are responding. It wasn’t until my boss because he started getting all these medians with these crazy cool people. He started asking me okay, what are you doing? Are you getting intros? How are you talking to these people, how are you meeting them? I said I don’t know, I’m just emailing them. I don’t have any connections, I’m just reaching out. He was blown away. He started to brag about it and then next thing I know I have half a dozen companies, 500 startups which we were at at the time trying to approach me. That’s sort of when I started doing some freelance work for them. Marylou: Wow, that’s a great story. What I liked was the fact that you had—this is for people who are listening who think they need to have a roll of decks of names or relationships already pre-built in order to start conversations. You came into a field where you really had no background, you had no connections, but through your words and through the way you wrote your emails you were able to get people excited and get people to actually lean into their computer thinking wow, how does she do that. I would really like to know more. That is a formula that everybody on this phone call wants to know more about how you went about that. Can you put that into a framework, is there a system for that? Heather: I think there definitely is. We’re at a point now where I really don’t write many of our customers cold emails. I’ll write a few of them just to stay sharp each month. We have way too much to man at this point for me to still be writing cold emails because that doesn’t spill. What I had to do about six months into starting my own company, we reached a point where I realized to scale I had to reverse engineer my processes. What I did was basically look at what I was doing and what wasn’t working and mapped everything out into operations, documents, to train people. I iterated on that a lot. What I think it really comes down to at the core is thinking about your audience first. I know a lot of people say this but I don’t think enough salespeople think carefully enough about their audience. You really need to spend time before you write a single email thinking about your audience and doing research. That doesn’t mean the Basho or whatever method, researching every single person. What we’re looking at today with sales, I’m sure you know, you need velocity. Rather than researching everyone, you just find your audience or your buyer persona and you say okay, we’re looking at VP Sales, software companies of a certain size and location. And then, you would take a sample of ten or so contacts and research them, looking at their LinkedIn profiles, Twitter, anything else you can find to think of keywords, KPIs they care about, pain points, all this things. Once you have in your head and hopefully some notes on paper an idea of who your audience is, then you can start writing. If you don’t do that, you won’t be able to add value. I think it’s really all about adding value to your customer and being relevant to them. Marylou: Let me stop you there because a lot of—what size companies do you currently hang your head in? Is it startup, mid-market? Heather: We’re definitely moving more up-market. In the early days, we worked with all kinds of companies. We have a course for startups that are a little more early staged to sort of self serve themselves and educate themselves. I’d say we’re probably working with at least Series B startups all the way to enterprise companies now. Marylou: Alright. The reason why I stopped you was because you mentioned the term buyer persona. In the larger companies, typically those personas are crafted by the marketing team. Are you saying that you recommend a sales person doing his or her own or are they taking marketing and building on them or is what marketing does good enough? Heather: I definitely don’t think generally what marketing does is good enough in most organizations based on what we see from our clients. Whether you’re making an official document or just spending ten minutes to get your head in the game, I think every salesperson should be doing it. The trick to writing really good cold emails, whether you’re writing them to one person or a thousand, is having them sound personal and relevant. I like to actually try to write for one person on my head. Even if I’m not going to just write that email for one person, even if it’s just going to be a template that goes to a large number of people, I need to have someone in my head to do that. I guess if you already know all the people in the industry and you can just imagine that you know everything, maybe you don’t need to do that. Almost every time I look at a LinkedIn profile, I can think of a new keyword or something to include. It doesn’t take much time but to just browse LinkedIn or even their Twitter and see what things they’re talking about, what kind of content are they sharing right now. Not that you’re necessarily going to bring that up, but just sort of know what’s on their mind helps you think of better ideas for emails, even if you’re not going to include them exactly. It just sort of gets you focused on writing better. Marylou: This sounds like it’s a somewhat manual process, it’s doing research. Are there tools that you think could help people? Heather: Honestly, I don’t think it’s a tool thing. I think—there’s a ton of tools out there. Simply just doing a quick LinkedIn search can really help. You can take people that are already on your list, say you’re a salesperson and you’re given a list of prospect problems. You can definitely take a dozen random names from that list and look at some of them. It really doesn’t take you more than ten to twenty minutes to look for thirty seconds or a minute on a LinkedIn profile. Like I said, you’re not doing this for everyone. Enriching data for personalization is a totally different thing. Now, there’s tools to do that where you can scrape, where you can have Upwork workers doing that for you for $3 an hour in the Philippines. This isn’t really so much for individual emails. It could be if you just have twenty targeted accounts that you’re assigned to, maybe if your market is very small and you want to spend some time researching, it’s really more about simply having your head in the game focused on your audience. Technology can’t really do that for you, your mind has to be really thinking about who are those people. Even looking at job descriptions can be really good. I’ll often look at when we’re doing a persona I don’t know as well a few job descriptions to see the KPIs. If I’m trying to maybe write a campaign for a CIS and I don’t know a lot about them, I might look at a few job descriptions on Glass Door or LinkedIn just to see what their responsibilities are. Marketing might have that and looking at that document might be good, but I think a lot of times you just have to get that inside your head for writing those emails. Marylou: For you sales managers listening who have said over and over again marketing generates buyer personas, you’re hearing from Heather directly that you still need to supplement that with your own personalized research. If you’re working with larger companies that are publicly held, you can go into their 10K and all those forums that are published on Edgar that give their annual reports where they’re talking about what initiatives they’re trying to solve, what challenges they have to overcome. You’re reading the language directly from the people within the firm who you’re trying to target. It really does fall into sales as one of the things you guys have to do to prepare for writing and crafting good emails, would you say so Heather? Heather: Absolutely. I think you brought up some great points that made me think a little bit. I’ve never done acting but I know that actors try to get into the minds of the people that are supposed to portray. With sales, I think it’s similar. You have to try to get into the minds of your customers. It’s great to interview the people that you’re talking to or know this people and that helped you have the stronger grounds but I think it’s actually huge to be able to read their writing at least for me and I think for everyone on the subconscious level. That starts to allow you to emulate the tone that you need to write in. As you read a LinkedIn profile, it’s not just keywords. You’re getting a sense of the tone, how do these people write, how do they describe themselves. One of the richest places to look is on the recommendations they’ve given and received because that’s somewhere where they’re really going to show what kind of person they are in terms of how they describe others and what they value as well as what others value in them. Marylou: Heather, do you recommend certain—I don’t want to pitch and haul you into the process step—you mentioned keywords, you mentioned what I call sentiment which is getting the feel. Are there other sort of levers that you look for and pull and write down on your piece of paper besides those two? Heather: Yeah, I think those are all good. I’m also especially looking for benefits and pain points because those sort of become the basis of your emails. To go another step further, once you have this information, you need to write emails. If you’re writing emails which we found statistically speaking which we found the optimal number of emails for you to send in order to get your maximum possible response rate, 1/3 of responses will usually come from emails five through eight based on what we’ve seen. Those emails need to be tightly focused and not redundant. When we do our campaign for our clients, we’re not only doing eight emails, we’re usually doing multiple variants and multiple personas. Next thing you know, you have 16, 32, 34 emails you’re writing. How do you keep that organized? How do you get enough ideas and not be redundant? I think it’s important to sort of brainstorm and write your ideas down before you write an email. If you’re doing your research and you’re taking notes in a document, it’s really easy to look back at it and say okay, what are my benefits and pain points from my research, what will my emails become? For every benefit of your product, there’s a corresponding pain point. As we’re thinking about how to write our emails, we can think of it two different ways. We can think of it as a spectrum between positive and value add and negative fear driven pain, or we could also think of it as very high level all the way down to very specific cases of how they consult a pain point or different use case for the product. I think about it in that way and then that’s how I plan all my emails. It’s very important that your emails themselves are very focused. When I think of other problems, I see a lot actually, I see two problems. The first being people try to shove too much into one email. I was on a two hour consultation call today where probably the first 20 or 30 minutes of it I had to explain to the client why they can’t just try to shove five benefits into an email. They said but that’s one benefit and I said okay yeah, but what are we focusing on? The reason for that is basically if we try to do too many things, nothing works very well. With that in mind, we delude our message. If it’s too long, people just don’t read it because it’s rambling. Unless the benefits are like peanut butter and jelly, people should just focus on one thing per email but they have eight emails to overall share their messages, if that makes sense. Marylou: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. The other thing I wanted to ask you is I’m a firm believer—we’re talking about the cold queue. We’re reaching out to people, we are retargeting them, and I subscribed to Eugene Schwartz’s Five Levels of Awareness. Can you touch on a little bit not only the benefits but how you write emails based on whether the person is completely unaware of what you have to offer versus as I explain to my clients, you look in the fridge at night, you’re hungry but you don’t know what you want. You’re aware of a problem but you don’t know a good solution. Heather: I haven’t read that book but I’m definitely interested to check it out. Is this sort of like crossing the case and how aware customers are of their pain points? Is that— Marylou: It definitely was written for—think of the 1960s advertising where they’re introducing all these new products for people, like why do I need that? There’s five levels, I’ll briefly explain them. There’s the unaware level, awareness of the problem, awareness of the problem and potential solutions, awareness of the solution and the vendors, and then there’s complete awareness, they know the vendors, they know they want to short list, they’re very interested and they have a sense of urgency. Usually in bound people filing out a form, doing a search, those are interested people but there are three levels before that that we in our world starting conversation with people we don’t know have to worry about. Heather: Definitely. That’s a great point. Before I would even think of that which is a great question. We actually had a conversation very similar to this with one of our writers the other day. I think it shows that people are being very thoughtful and that’s a good thing. I think there’s a couple things going on. In the context of cold email, I like to try and imagine all the situations that a customer might be in and basically the range of situations and what would be the most ideal customer for me. For example if I am in recruiting and I’m trying to get customers, say I’m just having a list of customers and I don’t know anything about their job postings or anything like that, I don’t know if I’m blind to those which companies I’m reaching out to are going to be needing recruiters for hiring, or some of them might already have recruiters, some of them might not, some of them might not even be hiring. Until I have signals like well, they just raised another round of funding or I see they already have a bunch of job postings or whatever. I don’t know unless they have those indicators. The more you can have those indicators, the more I think you can pinpoint the states of awareness and sort of target your emails to that. I think it’s not always plausible because you don’t know who in your audience—it might very well and usually is a range of mildly aware to quite aware or vice versa. No one even knows what this is, this is a new category. Even not even aware, the product teams, how aware are they of them. Often times it is a range, and when it is we’ll think about who is my ideal customer, who’s my dream customer. Not dream as in what’s the dream logo but who would need me the most, my service, my product? Those are what I call the low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruit are the emails, probably the first one, two, maybe three emails you write should be targeting. After that, the low hanging fruit are probably added to your campaign. If you’re thinking logically, by about email three, the people who aren’t very interested in your emails or totally not interested, never want you to talk to them again have probably responded. Then after that, you have people who are either just not that responsive or might be on the fence and maybe they’re busy and you don’t know if by email four any of those people have read your emails at all yet or if they’ve been reading every single one. You do with analytics, but when you start your campaign, when you actually write those emails, you don’t know there could be people who email six is the first email they read. As you’re writing them, you need to also have every email stand alone but you need to have your sequence become increasingly direct and have more things to deal with skeptics who are less aware people. To get back to your question, your first few emails should be for the people who are most likely to be more aware. I’m not sure if awareness is awareness of the pain point or an awareness of your product, but people who are in severe need and have a lot of interest. After that, you need to sort of take the challenge your sale approach a bit more and have more and more evidence. Not to say that those other emails don’t have the same elements of the challenge your sale but they’re going to have more and more directness, more and more explanations, more and more reasons that would help overcome doubt. Also, different use cases of the product for the people that are less likely to be aware of the pain point. It’s kind of an interesting question you asked. I guess I’ve not really thought about it that way. I’ve taught of these things but they’re not necessarily the underlying things I think about. I think usually more about who is the best customer and who could be in my audience and how do I find a way to get those people really quickly and then vary my email campaigns so that I can try to test as many things as possible and attract a range of people as much as I can. Marylou: I think you’ve answered it. I’m coming from a process background so everything of mine is formulaic. I consider you more the creative with ROI in mind but I’m definitely process. I’m looking at the raw data to tell me behaviorally what people are doing and when they act. Eugene Schwartz’s Level of Awareness document which was written a very long time ago maps perfectly for cold queue, for the cold sequence in that he’s saying that every hundred people, your first thirty mail’s probably reaching three to ten, somewhere in that range. The second and third may get up to thirty more people saying I know I don’t want this like you said before. But then you’ve got 67-ish, depending on that seven of people who still need to be sold, that this is something that’s a value, this is something they should be putting on their urgency list or bumping up and bubbling up to the top. You answered my question in that what you’re saying is low hanging fruit first, get the people who are recognizing there’s a problem, recognizing there’s solutions out there, didn’t realize the sense of urgency but you have now shared that with them so that they’re like holy crap, I really need to do something about this. I really need to respond to this email. Get those guys first and then the rest you’re going to nurture along with specificity around endorsements and testimonials and specifics about the results that you get so that people start thinking wow, I never would’ve thought of it that way. Heather: Yeah, and I think probably almost every email we write has some element of social proof. I think of it—I actually think of it very quantitatively, almost like a store in terms of how strong or weak or positive or negative something is. You could have something that’s a score five which might be the extreme value add or you could have a score of negative five which could be an extreme fear of loss or something more neutral like a zero. Usually, you don’t want to start your campaign with something really negative. It depends, there are some situations you might so actually want to go with something that’s positive but a little more neutral and intriguing that has an element of mystery to try and just get the people who would have that relevant problem to be interested in a way that they’re also just intrigued to respond to you. Those people are done by email two or three and so you just have to become much more direct with your approach. I think even the directness is part of what changes as you go through that campaign. I like to often alternate between—if something is a strong fear of loss email, then you have something more value add. You don’t want it to be too negative. Marylou: Okay, very good. I kept you longer. I want you to share with the audience how—this topic can go on forever. To me, this is the missing link, this is what the book Predictable Revenue really never talked about but is very important. You’ve taken it to a level that I think your response rates probably blow away anything that most people are experiencing. I’m sure people in the audience are wanting to know how the heck do they get a hold of you, Heather? Heather: Absolutely. A few ways, one you can always tweet at me at @HeatherReyhan. Also, you can visit the Sales Folk Website, salesfolk.com and fill out a consultation request form or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Marylou: You mentioned that you do have a student, your course. Can you elaborate a little bit about that? Heather: Yeah. The course is somewhat new, something I wanted to do for a long time, made it a few months ago. Basically, I tried to distill a lot of the information that we give our clients and the questions I hear people asking over and over, how do you write good subject lines that get opened, how do you build social proof, how do you structure a tech campaign and so forth. I tried to just basically create content to share others because I only have 24 hours in a day. That’s what it is. So far, we have 14 lessons. We’re adding a new one until further notice every other week. It really already covers a lot of the main topics that people already asked. Marylou: If you’re a do it yourselfer and want to get started. A lot of my clients are like that, they want to dig in first and then realize very quickly that it could be a little bit overwhelming and daunting. Now, they have your contact information so they can get a hold of you. I really recommend if you’re serious about generating predictable amount of sales qualified leads that you have a consult with Heather because she will set you on the right direction for sure and jumpstart you from where you are now. For many of the people listening who don’t think lead generation works in cold situations, it doesn’t work because you haven’t done this homework of figuring out who the ideal targets are, how you have those conversations, and in what order like we were talking about, how many of those emails should be done per persona, all of this is covered in Heather’s courses. And then of course for those of you who want to jumpstart, give her a call directly. Heather, thank you so much for your time. I very much appreciate it. I could talk to you forever. Heather: I know. It’s so great to catch up with you. Thanks for having me, Marylou. Marylou: Will talk to you later. Heather: Okay, bye.