Month: May 2019

LinkedIn Best Practices

LinkedIn Best Practices

LinkedIn offers a multitude of benefits for businesses. To start, it has 3x higher visitor-to-lead conversion rate than Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, half of the members say they’re more likely to purchase from companies when they engage with them on LinkedIn.

How to Get the Most Out of LinkedIn #infographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Don’t Send Role-based Emails

Don’t Send Role-based Emails

Nearly all great prospecting salespeople send out emails to potential prospects. I even teach some of these tactics in my book Eliminate Your Competition.

However, no respectable salesperson should ever send a blind email to a role-based email address. It is fraught with potential repercussions and almost guaranteed to fail. It is simply not worth it.

What is a role-based email?

As the name says, role-based email accounts are associated with a particular role like sales, editor, admin, etc. A role-based email account is not associated with one single person, but with a group of peoples or a department. Role-based email accounts start with admin@, editor@, sales@, inquiry @, etc.

Downsides of role-based emails

As a role-based email account is associated with a group of people or a department, it is harder to show explicit permission of each recipient. Explicit permission is required by email marketing laws and best practices.

You are more likely to put yourself on a black list if you send role-based emails. Various blacklist services like Spamhaus treats marketing emails sent to role-based email accounts as spam. Because such role-based email accounts are either harvested or used without the explicit permission of recipients.

Role-based email account not only increases the risk of spam complaints but also pulls down the overall engagement rates of your marketing campaigns. The majority of the email service providers like MailChimp maintains a suppression list of role-based email accounts meaning emails will not be sent to such email accounts for maintaining email deliverability rates and protecting senders reputation.

A better way

If you must send blind emails to people, don’t send it to a role. Instead send that email to a person. You should follow the suggestions I put into an earlier post to find the email address of real people at your prospect and send that individual a personalized email.

One of the best tools that I have seen is Hunter. I first learned of Hunter from Emanuel Carpenter and his book Brain Dump: 167 Tips & Tricks from a Six-Figure Sales Prospecting Legend. You should read that book if you want to develop great skills for prospecting.

Carpenter, E.R. Brain Dump: 167 Tips & Tricks from a Six-Figure Sales Prospecting Legend (Kindle Locations 617-622). Forest Wade Press. Kindle Edition. (content reformatted to make it easier to read on this site)

Photo by buggolo

Inbound vs. Outbound: Which Approach is Best for Your Global Go-To-Market Organization?

Inbound vs. Outbound: Which Approach is Best for Your Global Go-To-Market Organization?

My long-time friend, Craig Witt, recently posted the following article on Medium. He gave me permission to put it here on my site.

Most sales leaders agree that the goal of a Go-To-Market organization is to use predictable and precise approaches to engage the right decision makers in the companies they’re trying to convert.

But what is the most reliable way to find, engage and prove value to those decision makers? In debates among sales execs, two sales strategies usually wind up in the boxing ring to duke it out. In one corner: Inbound. In the other: Outbound.

These days, many sales leaders champion inbound sales strategies. The approach has its advantages, especially for offerings that appeal to wide audiences, have short sales cycles and low price points. When you need only a few touchpoints to illustrate your value and persuade a prospect to buy, inbound really shines.

But for organizations with longer sales cycles that offer high-value solutions — where the right prospect is more important than just any prospect — an outbound GTM strategy is the way to go. Here’s why.

The Shortcomings of Inbound

Outbound sales strategies deliver a level of control to the sales process that inbound can’t provide. At its simplest, an effective outbound strategy:

  • Leverages data-driven insights
  • Serves personalized outreach and content to specific personas at specific companies
  • These target companies match the sales organization’s Ideal Customer Profile
  • Rigorous processes ensure personas receive engagement and world-class content that addresses their unique concerns

While inbound enables brands to become practically omnipresent throughout a prospect’s online experience — thanks to their marketing departments’ retargeting ads, social posts and keyword-rich blog posts — their sales teams basically tread water until the prospect fills out a contact form.

The week-to-week quantity of inbound leads can fluctuate wildly, too. There’s very little predictability to when (or how many) prospects respond to an inbound organization’s content. This quickly clouds a leader’s visibility to accurately forecast the status of deals. Ultimately, a GTM team throws a lot of branded content into the wild and hopes that someone, anyone, responds.

Lead quality usually suffers as a result. When you’re casting a wide net for prospects across many channels, you can’t guarantee the quality of the fish that are dragged into your boat. Inbound leads may be from industries or markets you have no intention of serving.

Other inbound leads may simply not be a good fit for your business. Your solution may not fit their actual needs, or they may be unwilling to pay for your offering because they don’t understand its value.

And even if you do convert these disparate prospects into customers, you’ll likely face another challenge down the road. If you seek to improve your solution by soliciting their feedback, you may find yourself making changes that are informed by customers who probably don’t fit your ICP. Trying to serve customers whose needs are different from your ICP’s can dilute your solution’s value to the prospects you actually want to convert. This can sabotage your ability to scale the business.

Predictable Results Require Precise Control

With outbound, you fully control the list of prospects and personas your reps will target. You build an effective way to engage them. Once that’s in place, you can start providing them value immediately.

When properly implemented, this process is far more nuanced, direct and efficient than inbound. But closing the right deals for your organization requires research, vision and precision. Remember, you want to:

  • Sell to certain companies, not all of them
  • Engage specific personas, not everyone
  • Craft messaging that addresses a prospect’s precise concerns, not vague challenges
  • Provide valuable content that’s personalized for them

Outbound empowers you to individualize your content and outreach in granular ways: by role, company, industry and more. This personalization throughout the buyer’s journey culminates into much higher close rates.

You’ll also have much more visibility and confidence in your pipeline. Unlike the continuous uncertainty surrounding inbound’s lead quantity and quality, outbound helps you better predict the deals you’ll close in a given month or quarter.

This transparency also helps with staffing. If your outbound approach is refined, accurate and effective, you’ll always know when to hire more reps to scale your GTM organization.

Tips for Taking your Outbound Efforts Global

If your global GTM organization is considering a pivot to an outbound sales strategy, here are some next-step best practices to keep in mind:

Don’t Be Everything to Everybody: Develop your ICP and target your outreach only to companies and contacts that fit that criteria. Stay focused. Remember, when you try sell to everyone, you often don’t sell well to anyone.

Hold Your Nerve: Be willing to invest in your outbound efforts, and be patient. Successfully making the switch to outbound can take time — both to demonstrate financial return, and for your GTM team to acquire the right mindset, skills and resources.

Talk the Talk: If your GTM organization is targeting prospects in international markets, make sure your website and other key content is localized for their preferred languages. This ensures your digital channels can be highly tailored, authentic and relevant for global audiences.

Consider Localizing Your Business Approach: Also tailor your approach for the unique expectations of international buyers. Business customs vary from market to market. British marketers may be more technically savvy than their American counterparts, for instance. European B2B CMOs may have wildly different concerns than Asian CMOs. Confidently navigating these waters demands research and cultural fluency.

Conclusion

Outbound sales strategies empower you to exercise more control and creativity over the sales process. You’ll be able to proactively engage the right prospects, and deliver ongoing value with relevant, world-class content.

While the approach requires resources and a longer time to operationalize, the results are worth it. Remember, the ultimate goal of a GTM organization is to use predictable and precise approaches to engage the right decision-makers.

For low-velocity sales organizations, outbound is the best way to build credibility among prospects, and help you get, keep and grow your customer base and market share.

Don’t stop learning when you are in a software startup

Don’t stop learning when you are in a software startup

This is the first post in a new series of thoughts on selling software as a startup titled “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup”. It first appeared on the Agile Stacks website where I am the Chief Revenue Officer.

My postings on this topic won’t be on a guaranteed schedule but will be the random thoughts as the Chief Revenue Officer for a young company selling enterprise infrastructure software. This first post will be to give a little bit of background on myself, but more importantly, to offer some advice to salespeople that are just beginning their career in business-to-business or enterprise sales.

The software sales industry has evolved dramatically since I first started selling software. In the mid-80s, software was primarily written to add value to hardware. Most of the computers in those days could heat a room (or a building) and had the processing power that was less than the phone in your pocket. The real commission money came from selling the hardware, and the software was almost always a giveaway as part of the deal. Back then, a cloud was a visible mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere, typically high above the ground that blocked the sun and sometimes dropped rain to ruin your golf game.

My alma mater is Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where I graduated with a bachelors of science in mechanical engineering. Most of the time that I was a student I knew that I was going to be a lousy engineer. I love science and physics yet I despise the redundancy of a 9-to-5 office job that many young engineers experience. My tenure as an engineer was over before I walked off the graduation stage with my degree. I had accepted a position as a Sales Engineer with The Allen-Bradley Company of Milwaukee WI.

In all of the jobs over the years, accepting a position with Allen-Bradley (A-B) was probably the best career decision that I ever made. A-B had just been bought by Rockwell and would eventually change its name to Rockwell Automation. At the time though, A-B was investing heavily in college engineers to become salespeople – they wanted smart, raw talent that they could mold. I moved to the company headquarters in Milwaukee, WI and began an 11-month sales training program under the wise mentorship of the A-B sales experts.

Nearly every sales trainer explains that everyone sells. They give examples of selling from the youngest child trying to get a piece of candy to adults convincing a spouse for a new set of golf clubs. This is true, but unfortunately just because everyone sells, very few people do it really well. The sales profession is one of the hardest professions in the world, and enterprise sales is among the hardest of all types of sales positions. Going through an 11-month training program probably cut 5 years off of my on-the-job training.

Few companies today can make the incredible investment that A-B made in me. I wish I could return this favor by doing the same to college graduates, but unfortunately, it is a different world. In that 11 month program, I learned many skills that I still use today. For myself and many others, this was our masters degree in sales. Here are some of the timeless skills that today make a better salesperson:

  • How to plan a sales call so that everyone on my team knew how to succeed
  • How to explain the benefits of a product rather than just its features
  • How to understand a prospect’s business
  • How to build a relationship with a customer to make it a win/win relationship
  • How to manage the entire business with a customer, not just the next deal
  • How to effectively team sell to a customer
  • How to deliver a presentation that it is motivating
  • How to write effective letters
  • How to negotiate and close a deal

Allen-Bradley put me through classes, seminars, and practice sessions for months. I was tested weekly to affirm that the information and techniques stuck. I made joint calls with seasoned salespeople having decades of experience. These were the masters, and I was excited to be along for the ride. Eventually, I made sales calls. The masters watched. Their feedback was foundational to my growth. A lesson I took away – find a great mentor and never let them go.

In addition, Allen-Bradly was patient. This built a strong foundation to be the best salesperson that I could be. Teaching that continuous learning and continuous improvement creates more future opportunity is a value I cherish today. I pass this knowledge to you – my sales peers. You need to master the craft in the profession that you have chosen. Embrace the process of learning and improvement.

It is often cited that you need 10 years of doing something to be an expert. I am sure this is true, but I have seen salespeople that have decades of experience and still are not experts in their craft. I theorize that this is because they are not continually learning and continuously striving to improve.

While I am unable to train a group of young and eager college graduates for a year, I can pass on my experiences and learnings. That is my goal for this blog series. I am hopeful that it will be helpful to salespeople of all ages, new managers trying to learn how to motivate others, and entrepreneurs trying to start the next great software company. I hope that you will subscribe to the feed of this series so that I can help you sell more software and offer benefits to your customers.

While reading this series, I hope you gain some insight into the above bullet points and I hope that you learn a little about what it takes to start an enterprise software company from scratch.

If you like this series, you may also want to read my book on sales, Eliminate Your Competition. You may purchase my book from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

You should also subscribe to the series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup” on the Agile Stacks website.

Header image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay