Author: Sean O'Shaughnessey

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

Some Advice On How To Not Suck At Meetings

Some Advice On How To Not Suck At Meetings

Meetings for salespeople are common…and terrible.

Salespeople have a staggering amount of meetings to attend, both internally and externally.

When they’re not checking in with their managers or picking up tips from their coaches, they’re presenting to prospects or visiting with customers. With all that time tied up in meetings, it’s critical that each runs as smoothly as possible.

In a perfect world, every meeting would have a well-defined agenda and result in clear and actionable takeaways. But as anyone who’s been in any sort of meeting knows, this isn’t the case. As the following infographic from SalesCrunch shows, the sad truth for salespeople is that meetings can be more of a time suck than hours well spent.

When a weekly sales meeting is broken down into the associated cost per attendee, the average check-in can boast a price tag of $350 per hour. And the number climbs as the level of seniority rises — a senior management meeting costs a whopping $1100 per hour. This price skyrockets if you divide the combined quotas in the meeting divided by 2,000 (the number of working hours in a day) times the length of the meeting.

For example, if you have six people in the meeting and they they have a combined quota of 10 million dollars, that is $5,000 per hour! With that cost in mind, let’s agree that meetings with salespeople better not suck!

The following infographic comes from Visually.

Header Photo by StartupStockPhotos (Pixabay)

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself

You are about to send the proposal. You want to get your team’s perspective on your offer. This team may be your technical pre-sales, your manager, your manager’s manager, your finance guy, your implementation team, etc. Many people can give you insight into the proposal for your account. Each person on your team will help you with trade-offs to make your proposal more attractive to the prospect. Their suggestions will be valuable.

You should learn from them and adapt their opinions to your strategy. But you may want to say, “No thank you” to many of the suggestions. Every suggestion that is something like, “We should add X to the proposal to sweeten the deal.” Or maybe, “We should discount this service.” These are probably inappropriate suggestions.

Your team should focus their suggestions on things that tie back to statements of concern or goals by the prospect. It shouldn’t be about adding items or discount.

Whenever you are trying to fine-tune a proposal, and you discount or bundle things together that are not standard in your product line, you are negotiating with yourself. You are trying to anticipate an objection from the prospect and react to that objection in advance of the conversation. This is “negotiating with yourself” instead of with the prospect. You will always lose a negotiation with yourself.

Please understand, I am not saying that discounts are not appropriate for a given customer. There are many reasons to offer a discount:

  • Your list price is significantly higher than the street price.
  • The customer has already offered something in return for a discount such as a reference call or presentation at a user meeting.
  • You know that you are at a product or company disadvantage and you need to offset that technical disadvantage with a lower price to achieve parity with the benefits offered.

Negotiations are always a give-and-take between two parties. Whenever there is a request for a concession, the other party needs to ask for something in return. This cannot be possible if you are negotiating with yourself – what are you going to ask for and then offer in return if it is just you negotiating? By definition, you are going to give and not get anything in return if you are negotiating with yourself. It is a lose/lose proposition rather than a win/win proposition.

Of course, the objection to this is that you may be in a situation where the proposal has to be delivered, and there will be no negotiations. These are real situations, and they are painful to lose, but you need to eliminate them from your pipeline. How can you have a great relationship with an account that has such a closed relationship with vendors? Nearly every time this is the case, you have not developed a long-term trusting relationship with that prospect. You were probably late to the deal. You are probably acting like a Hunter or a Farmer and definitely not like a Trapper. In other words, you are probably going to lose a considerable percentage of these deals especially if you have a fierce competitor that is working the account like a Gatherer or a Trapper. If you don’t understand these terms, you need to read my book, Eliminate Your Competition as it will help you plan to be successful. You need to build a pipeline of deals that will allow you to win and not be challenged by losing propositions where the prospect doesn’t value you. My book will help you develop that pipeline.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition 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.

Header Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
Salespeople Should Stop Making These 11 Social Media Mistakes

Salespeople Should Stop Making These 11 Social Media Mistakes

There is no question that salespeople need a positive impression on social media. You can save the Facebook account for friends and family arguments and fun posts, but your LinkedIn account and your Twitter account need to be professional.

Remember, every sale is composed of three things that you are selling:

  1. Your product (and your product is probably not better than your competitor’s product).
  2. Your company (and your company’s reputation is probably not better than your competitor’s reputation).
  3. YOU!

So if the first two things probably tie with your competitor, the real thing that you sell every day is YOU. You are the difference maker in the sales process. You influence the sale every time that you interact with the prospect. The goal of social media is to affect the deal even when you are not in the prospect’s office.

If you want to understand more about how selling YOU is the most crucial part of what you sell, you can reach out to me, and we can discuss. You also may want to purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition 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.

Social media is a great tool. It isn’t the entire sale, but it can be a definite difference maker in selling the third and most significant part of what you sell – YOU! So you cannot screw up your social presence. You need to make it work for you. Hootsuite is a great tool that I use, and they regularly advise on using social media. My article here was inspired by their original post. Here are eleven social media mistakes that all salespeople need to avoid:

  1. Overusing hashtags – stop at one or two and make sure they are relevant to what you are saying.
  2. Jumping on every trend – You look foolish when jumping on the buzz-bandwagon for a hot topic, rather than being relevant. Instead, you need to add value, not noise.
  3. Oversharing – You look silly, phony, and pretentious when sharing pics of your breakfast. Remember that your brand is a public figure. Sure, be entertaining, witty, and bold as long as you’re professional, useful, and savvy about what you post for your intended audience.
  4. Not responding to your audience – Social media is about being social (hence the term). When a friend says something to you at a party or when they see you at the grocery store, you don’t just walk by them, do you? You interact with them. Do the same with social media.
  5. Automating thank-you responses. – It is no very easy to hit a button on LinkedIn to say Thank You. Guess what – everyone on LinkedIn knows that you just hit a button. Don’t do it. Type a quick couple of honest words. It takes maybe a minute longer than the quick button and is 1000% more valuable.
  6. Posting for posting’s sake – if you have nothing to say that day, then don’t say anything. Be relevant, not a pest.
  7. Posting rather than talking – It is vital to evolve your social presence to speak to your followers. Don’t just put up a link to an article, explain why it is essential to read. I slightly break this rule for posting to Twitter for items that you wrote, that is okay. But, if you found a great article on WSJ or Forbes or some other business-oriented channel, explain why you are putting it on to your social channel.
  8. Worry less about the number of followers (corollary: Don’t buy likes or followers): It doesn’t do you any good. You need to have a relationship with those that matter to your career. False likes and false followers don’t matter. You won’t make more commission because you have 1,000 false followers!
  9. Don’t post about sex, politics, or religion unless it is to your friends and family on Facebook. Even then, remember it is part of you, and your future employer will read it. If you don’t want your next boss to read it on Facebook, then don’t put it out.
  10. Don’t share only other’s stuff – you need to offer your commentary about the world and your business.
  11. Stop auto-posting the same message. It is okay to repeat a post once or twice separated by a couple of days. These are streams of information, and your followers may easily miss a single post. However, the limit is three duplicates, and they each need to be at least 18-36 hours between posts (or longer). BTW, Hootsuite is an excellent tool for managing this.
Header Photo by juaniraola
13 Simple Steps To Put Together A Killer Presentation

13 Simple Steps To Put Together A Killer Presentation

For many people, it doesn’t get more daunting than to give a presentation. As a professional salesperson though, you don’t have a choice – presenting is part of your life. You need to get really good at it if you want your income to increase.

The best way to overcome anxiety is to have complete faith in your message. If you are confident that you have great, easily digestible content that is structured in a way to hold the attention of your audience, you are bound to deliver a great presentation.

 

How to Put Together a Killer Presentation in 13 Simple Steps