Episode 97: The Importance of Automated Systems – Matt Benati

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 97: The Importance of Automated Systems - Matt Benati
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My guest today is Matt Benati, the CEO, and co-founder of LeadGnome. As salespeople, we tend to focus on the perfect pitch, the hottest leads, and the smartest marketing strategies. With all this noise and bustle we forget that there is an existing client base that needs just as much attention as a new client. The best way to keep the lines of communication open with an existing client is to use automated systems.

LeadGnome is an automated email system that collects data from email replies. The information it provides allows companies to clean out contact lists and remind clients of changing contact information. Matt gives us an in-the-trenches look at automated systems. He also shares why he started LeadGnome and why automation is an important component of  the future of sales.

Episode highlights:

  • How LeadGnome came to be.
  • How automated messages help a business keep clients informed.
  • The useful information automated messages provide.
  • Automation’s role in bringing marketing and sales together.
  • Building an influence map and how automation makes that easier.
  • The service LeadGnome provides to their clients.
  • When to implement an automated system in your business.



Matt Benati’s email


Marylou: Hey everybody, it’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest is Matt Benati. He’s the CEO and co-founder of LeadGnome. For those of you who haven’t heard of that company, this is a great story. Why? Because it’s a part of the sales process that we talked about way back when but we never really talked about how to do it, how to keep on top of it, and how to be disciplined at it.

Well Matt will tell you his story of what happened to him and how this all came about with his company. But it was all about the fact that there was a need out there that he was trying to solve a problem and looked high and low to find solutions, and realized that, “Wait, I’m just going to build it myself.”

Welcome Matt to the podcast today. I can’t wait to hear your story.

Matt: Thanks Marylou, I appreciate it. It’s great to be on the show.

Marylou: We talked a little offline about how this all got started. Could you please help the audience understand what happened to you in that moment and what got you on this path. Then talk a little bit about this technology because it’s not really a part of the stack that we discuss very often, if at all. Is that true?

Matt: Yeah that’s very true, it’s very true. The first book, the first Predictable Revenue that you and Aaron worked on, actually had a paragraph or two on this subject, and the subject is all about how to leverage reply emails. I did auto responses or autoresponders that come back at us every time we send out emails.

The first book was talking about sales now actually sending out emails to have a multiple sort of pronged approach to selling. It’s not just all about calls. Certainly marketers understand sending emails as well. I was leading marketing teams at the time where sort of that ‘aha’ moment came. It was a small marketing team and we had a small sales team. We were trying to really work some magic there and I was leveraging every guerrilla tactic I could find. It turns out that the information that comes back in these replies is just highly relevant and actionable for the sales team that I was supporting and the LDR team that I was driving.

Basically, I looked around for something that could take away the manual pain. Any of you who’ve tried to go in and look at the replies and then cut and paste the information into Salesforce or what have you, that’s really painful. I was willing to pay people if I could find somebody that would automate this process, and there just wasn’t anything out there. That’s why I started the company because I needed it, my own teams, and I knew others needed it as well. That’s how we got started.

Marylou: I remember in 2011 when we were doing this. There was a manual process. We called it OOO, out-of-office, and when we got the reply in from the email engine–this is sales–we would go into Salesforce and we actually had a task activity type called OOO. We would then simply cut and paste the body of the email into the comment area as tracking.

Whether or not they develop new contact records from the fact that it referenced within the email who to contact, what their role was and how they helped this person who was out-of-office with telephone numbers that were usually direct lines, with all these thrown into the beautiful comments area that was impossible to parse out. I totally can relate to what you’re saying.

Tell us about this power of this intelligence that are now at our fingertips and what are some sample use cases or why would we want to implement something like this in our sales process, in our workflows. The second question to that is how does marketing figure into this mix now?

Matt: Let’s take a couple of examples. Let’s take the example of the typical out-of-office. That’s the one everybody knows they’re coming in for the most part and for the most part we skip right over them. We get this OOO, this out-of-office email and it says something like,” Hey it’s Matt. I’m out of the office until Monday. While I’m gone contact Sally. If it’s important or urgent, here’s my cell phone number.”

One of the things to remember is most of these auto responses they don’t have signatures. All of them meet, if you will, all of the intelligence is in the body, and that’s really important. It’s tricky to get that, and that’s one of the specialties of LeadGnome. It’s an AI engine in the background.

But look at this data, all of this great information about Matt. We know when he’s coming back. We can automate setting up tasks rather than putting everything in that comment field. We can literally now, because we have automation, create tasks for the lead or contact owner–whoever is engaging with Matt–to call Matt on Tuesday. Give him a day to clean up from being out of the office either at a conference or vacation, let his Monday be free but call him on Tuesday. Our connect rates go up. Timing is everything. We know this as sales people.

The other thing is we have a phone number to call now. We might not have his number. Maybe we had the office number, maybe we have his direct line, but now we have a cell phone number. That’s great information for us and we have a net new contact Sally. Sally is somebody that Matt trusts to take care of things while he’s gone. This is often a lieutenant. When I was leading the marketing department, I would often either hand it off to my CMO—person above me—or my direct report that owned significant chunks of the operation for me. And to me these are meaningful people not only to the organization, but technically within the opportunity that you are trying to nurture and move forward to a close. The information is something as simple as your common out-of-office email or autoresponse, just really, really important stuff.

Let’s take one like a left-the-company response which are becoming more and more popular these days. You may or may not have seen these but companies now want to be transparent, want to be proactive, and want to provide people that are engaging with them with information so that the business continues and thrives, and part of that is if somebody leaves the company.

We all know these databases out there and the lists, they’re all looking for trigger events, one of which is when somebody starts a new company and, generally speaking, we know about those things because a B-level or a C-level person has joined a new company and a press release goes out. That’s great for sort of that upper echelon of the workforce but all the way through the ranks of an organization are our buyers, not always the C-level person, unless the company emails go right through the organization. It could be manager, it could be director, it could be a B- or C-level person, but there’s a lot more breadth there.

What could this tell us? Well, a left-the-company email might look like, “We wanted to let you know that Matt’s no longer with the company. Going forward please contact Sally. Here is her information.” This is great from a tactical perspective certainly, and maybe some marketing thoughts in here. Matt’s not going to be there so we should take them off the distribution/email list, and we should add Sally to that list now.

From a sales perspective, this is one of those incredible opportunities that folks like Craig Elias actually trained hundreds of people a year to work, and Steve Richard who runs ExecVision with part of Vorsight, etc. talks about this in a, what does he call it, his phrase is, “Old client, new company.”

As sales people we know the best people to sell to are the people we sold to in the past and if this person who left the company was somebody you sold to, you want to go find them where they went. With automation, we can do those kinds of things now. The rate at which we would win that deal—because first of all we know about it before any of the competition, and this person was a previous customer—Gartner and folks like Craig Elias put this at 74% win rate if you’re first in.

This is incredible. This is really powerful stuff and very strategic from the sales cycle here. We’re getting some really great information.

Marylou: I did a module for one of my online classes on referral systems and how to automate that. One of the options was what I call social mining which is to take, in our case, client data for people who have left the company and look at their loyalty scores. If we’re in a larger company and do net promoter surveys which is on the scale of 0-10, 10 being best, which would refer as blah-blah-blah-blah. To capture that NPS score and overlay it with what you’re talking about, it’s a slam dunk to find a loyal person who was a client of ours who is now located at another company. It can’t get any better than that.

Matt: Exactly. That’s why not only automating, if you will, the identification of this information, but then making sure it goes into the systems where we can marry the knowledge of somebody left with the NPS data, right now the workflow is tremendously powerful. This is what all this big data stuff is about. We have the power to leverage it now. I get very excited about this because I see it in action everyday with my customers and I use it in the trenches. Very, very powerful for us.

Let me give you another example, there’s a tactical piece and a strategic piece, and then we can talk about some other stuff as well. We often will get an auto response that sounds something like, “As of April 15th, we just want to let you know that my email address is changing from matt@smalfish.com to matt@bigfish.com. Please update your records accordingly.” That’s great and the tactical piece of this is we should go update that record. Now when we send emails, they’re still getting to Matt.

But if we think about it from a strategic perspective, something significant has happened because, I’d like to say to the right of the @ sign, the email domain has changed. That means one of two things is happening. Either there’s a rebranding of that or there’s an M&A event. Both are significant touchpoints for us as sales people. We’re either going to go in and protect our territory because opportunities could just sort of disappear on us or current customers could. But there’s also opportunities to sell in here and make a small opportunity into a big opportunity.

There are lots of ways we can leverage the information that’s coming at us if we only take some time to look at these replies—and I know that’s really hard to do manually because I’ve done it—but with automation, it makes it so simple. It makes it really easy for us.

Marylou: You mentioned that as again, we were talking about marketing’s role in this. It’s sounding like when you’re putting in something like this, that connection between marketing and sales become stronger. Have you seen that as well that there’s a lot more cooperation now between the two entities?

Matt: I have and this is really what was part of my ‘aha’ moment. I was running a small marketing department and the sales team was driving that account. We heard about account-based marketing, account-based everything concepts. I think some marketing teams have been doing this for years. Certainly sales people have been doing this forever. We’re going to choose some accounts we think are the right ones to go after for certain characteristics, and we’re going to try and penetrate those accounts and find out if there’s an opportunity and then work that opportunity.

Marketing has been more of a blunt instrument. It’s hard for marketers to figure out how to broaden, deepen our knowledge within the accounts but with replied emails, we’re able to do that quite handedly. If I’m sending any emails to support my sales team, if I get in and out of office I’m going to find people in and around that opportunity. It’s like find a left-the-company, if I find all these kinds, if I get a human response from a marketing campaign, I’m going to get more and more information, and these pieces of information—whether they’re cellphone numbers, whether they’re net new contacts, or whether they’re insights about somebody’s title has changed, they just got a promotion, or they moved jobs or what have you—all of that is significantly more relevant than an opportunistic inbound type of lead, or an MQL which, as marketers we’re trying to do our best about scoring, but here is an opportunity where we can provide information within the target accounts.

I’ll tell you, sales loves that. That’s music to our ears and when marketing can provide that, we’re absolutely going to become more close. We’re going to start to align better, we’re going to work on accounts together, and I just think that this is a source of data that provides us as a joint operation, smarketing some people talk about it, with more fuel, more intelligence that allows us to accelerate those deals.

Marylou: Most definitely. I’m hearing a number of different things that just benefits implementing something like this. Obviously, the pipeline’s going to grow. Sounds like we can beef up our referral engines on the I’m moving companies emails that that’s going to increase the velocity and the close rates as well because we’re not dealing with unknown entities on some of these records. We’re actually looking at people that we’ve had business with in the past. I’m also hearing that you’re cleansing the database. Yay.

Matt: We are. […] allows us to know at the very least whether somebody’s there or not, but more importantly maybe they have a new title, maybe whatever. There’s all this great information that comes at us and we can keep that database up-to-date.

Marylou: Yes, so the email deliverability, there’s so many things that impact a cleansed database. I think you guys know enough to know that the cleaner the better, the more quality that’s in there.

The other thing I heard was that the reps may not have to do a lot of data entry on certain things or am I dreaming when I say that?

Matt: You’re 100% correct. We can integrate with Salesforce and HubSpot and all these other CRMs and marketing automation systems like Marketo and Eloqua, etc., and that alleviates all of the data entry. They’re just really, really powerful.

By the way, we also clean up the sales person’s mailbox. We get this stuff back, it’s sitting in our inbox and we trip over it. We’ll clean up that noise, we’ll tuck it away neatly somewhere else for you. That’s really powerful because now all of the engagements, the back-and-forth email that are most important on a day-to-day basis for the sales folks are sitting in your inbox without the distraction, without the noise of an auto response because we’ve taken cared of that for you and pushed the data into the appropriate system for you, that you can action on it at the appropriate time. Then we move that off to the side into say, a reply folder or if you want a segment to that, a left-the-company folder, to get specific. We can move that out of the way and now there’s much more clarity around your inbox.

Marylou: Yeah. The other thing I really like about this is in chapter three of Predictable Prospecting, we talked about an influence map. The influence map has the main decision-maker in the center of the bullseye, so to speak. The next level out is that direct influencer and the next level out from that are indirect influencers.

Just based on what we were talking about before with the reply emails out of the office, you’re starting to build that map so that you can go in right away and start calling people. If your tone is, “Matt said to contact you about this issue,” and you’re talking to the person he said to contact, you have that level of authority that they’re going to probably give you a lot more information if you put those folks in your calling queue while Matt is out, and start mapping in and finding out more intel about what are their initiatives at the company, what the challenges are, get some more feedback so that when Matt does come back your sales argument has become all that more stronger. I really like that.

Matt: Absolutely. That’s exactly right and what we’re doing with these kinds of responses is providing more and more folks in and around the opportunity. I think it’s Gartner again this time but others have done the same study, serious decisions and others around the number of people it takes to close a deal. It’s by consensus. We need to influence many more people. It’s not just a one-and-done kind of deal for most of us. Getting to these people and engaging with them, building rapport, sharing the ideas, and influencing really helps.

Marylou: Right, and there’s this big thing, research, research, research. Well this is the best intel to get is by having these discussions with the influencers around that bullseye. You’re going to get their language, the way they describe the problem, you’re going to be able to hear the tonality of their voice and figure out how severe the problem is. You can get so much more out of the conversation with lieutenants than trying to research everything on the internet. This is really great.

Let’s talk numbers because here I am solo and I probably would kill myself trying to do these manually, but at what point does this become a viable solution for companies? Is there a magic number or is it based on transaction volume, how many records? How do you decide or how do you help people plan for putting something like this in, this type of engine?

Matt: Great question. I don’t know if there’s a magic number. I think everybody has different tolerance for the amount of pain they’re willing to go through manually, and frankly, the amount of time. These systems certainly are far cheaper than going in and doing it ourselves just because we’re expensive resources. We’re supposed to be selling, not looking for data and then doing the data entry.

With today’s inside sales, SDR, LDR type of teams that are using many of these new cadence systems out there like Yesware, Outreach, and SalesLoft, those systems are designed to have emails going out—whatever the frequency is for you—but every other day, mixing with calls and so on. Our time is being driven I think even to smaller free periods because we have all of this automation helping but it’s also creating a lot more on the feedback that we’re not able to handle.

In my experience, even if we’re just getting a few a day or a few a week, people don’t have time and if we miss some of this information that’s timely, like an out-of-office—because you want to know about that and you want to know who the person referred you to so you can take advantage of it in that window while they’re out, right after the best time to do it—timing is everything. If you get to it in a week, you kind of lost that opportunity to engage the new contact.

So there’s a lot of factors but if you’re getting a couple a day and that’s too many for you to look at, then you should be turning to automation. The price point for this kind of stuff is really cheap. Most sales people aren’t sending more than 2500 emails a month even with the automation, and that’s $10 a month. It’s nothing. Nothing. You get all that benefit, and it’s just so economical and powerful that I think today’s capabilities with staff services like LeadGnome just drive the price point so far down and alleviate the pain and provide such great insight that I think the equation is fairly simple.

Marylou: Indeed. I know some people are thinking out there like I was thinking when I started studying your company and said, “Are people getting smart in their out-of-office replies and they’re not necessarily giving out a lot of information anymore?” Some people are just saying, “I’ll be back in the office XYZ,” and they don’t give you an alternative. What are you seeing though is the culture of—especially maybe the larger companies—to provide more information to people. Is it role-specific? Is it across the board? That people are helpful with their out-of-office or are you seeing people be very brief and not giving away the farm, so to speak, because of systems like these. Is there any fear of that?

Matt: I don’t believe there is. I never buy into that. We’ve heard email is dead, we’ve heard that for years now. Email’s actually growing and we’ve heard worries about, well, people aren’t putting information into out-of-office. People are putting enormous amounts of information into out-of-office and depending on your vertical and the type of person you’re trying to engage with, because they’re trying to engage on the way back sometimes.

I leverage my out-of-office to provide somebody with a piece of collateral, an offering that says, “Hey, take a look at this because I think you can have some use out of it, and when I get back to the office we can chat about it,” kind of thing.

There’s certainly some verticals that are probably more restrictive than others but in general, companies are actually trying to be more proactive and more transparent about things in order for business to provide a new level of engagement. This is part of ABM and part of that whole notion, which is we want to truly engage.

Left-the-company emails are on the rise. Why? Because companies don’t want to miss out on certain aspects of business. If somebody leaves—particularly if they were customer-facing or public-facing type of organization—they don’t want folks that have been interacting to find that out when there’s a hard bounce six months down the road. For six months, there’s a left-the-company thing to prep everybody and so that important deals aren’t missed or contracts. Even in the legal departments and the financial departments of organizations, these are very common these days.

I actually don’t see it as a concern for most companies. I see it going sort of the other direction where companies are trying to provide people that they interact with as much information as possible, including spam blockers. There are these things out there—we’ve probably all seen them—where you sent an email in, and you get this somewhat intimidating email back says, I’m paraphrasing, “I don’t know you. I’m not going to deliver the email to the person you want it to go to until you click on this link,” which is a CAPTCHA or something on the other side. It’s a manual process.

They’re trying to protect their people. They should be. They don’t want just stuff coming in that is noise to their employees. But here’s an opportunity and you’re going to miss it if you’re not looking at replies. This is an opportunity for you to do something very simple, a one-click thing, and now your email will get to its intended recipient. What could be easier and more powerful for us? Otherwise we’re blocked. Otherwise we’re completely blocked.

Marylou: Yup. So Matt we are getting close to out of time here. This has been a great discussion. I’m sure people are leaning in to listening to you. How would we continue learning about this and exploring this reply technology and intelligence and insights? What’s the best way for us to continue that discussion with you or your team?

Matt: I’ve got quite a few avenues. Anyone can just send me an email matt@leadgnome.com, visit the site, give me a call, my information is all up there. Check out the site. There’s lots of great information on our website.

If you want to demo, real simple demo, we can show you the power of what we’re doing and we provide a free, no credit card, nothing, 30-day trial, so you can actually see the power of what’s going on. If you like it, great. If it’s not for you, then really, you haven’t lost anything. It’s just very simple to get up and running. Literally, our customers are up and running in two minutes.

Marylou: Wow. Okay and I’ll put all the links for those of you who are driving, listening to this, I’ll put all the links on Matt’s page, of the site. I will say that, for those of you who are statistics-driven like I am and love numbers, there’s a lot of great numbers there to support the sales argument, if you will or specificity around how this stuff really is going to help you, especially if you’re in selling trying to get into that next stage in the pipeline and fill your funnel. I can’t imagine what this must look like in the summer months and Christmas time when everybody’s out running around or ski week in February when you’re in California.

Matt: Exactly.

Marylou: I can just imagine that. I remember when I was in sales the two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s was gold for me to be selling because of that very thing. I would look for those types of notifications coming in for next of report, to find who in the hierarchy. And because I approached the responses such that, “Well, it says right here in the email that we are to contact you and you are to help us,” when you put it like that and phrase it like that, they’re more apt to give you more information as to what’s going on. I took quite a lot of advantage of that while I was selling large systems back in the day.

I think this is a great opportunity for you guys to look at a game-changer really with the reply emails that we never really talk about. When I started looking at this, I’m like, “You know, we talked about this very briefly in a manual fashion and let it go,” and that was in 2011, nothing since.

This is great. Thank you so much, Matt, for coming on the show and best of luck to you. I think this is going to be a great asset for a lot of companies.

Matt: Thank you very much I really appreciate it and if anybody has questions let me know. I’m always eager to talk about this.

Marylou: Yeah, you sound very passionate about it, so that’s cool. All right, make sure I’ll put all those links on there for everybody. Give Matt a call and he actually has on the website that you could type in your question to him so he’s fully loaded with all the nice tools to help you reach out and connect.

Thanks again, Matt.

Matt: All right, take care.