Viewpoint / CXO of the Future

Building & Qualifying the Top of the Funnel

Takeaways from TJ Macke & Matt Millen of Sapper Consulting

Prospecting and sourcing quality sales opportunities has become more difficult every year – more noise, more competition, more cost. That said if companies do crack the code on prospecting and discovery, they possess the keys to dynamic future growth.

In 2020 this challenge accelerated dramatically with the impacts of COVID – now EVERYONE is an inside salesman. We got together with TJ Macke and Matt Millen of Sapper Consulting to discuss how to build effective outbound prospecting campaigns and how to efficiently convert those resulting sales meetings into real sales opportunities.

So what has been happening in 2020?

  • Over 50% of reps missed their number
  • 92% of companies forecasted deals that never came in
  • It took 15 touches to get a response
  • It took 7 “no”s to get a “yes”
  • Prospecting is still surveyed as the hardest part of a rep’s job

The key to consistent growth is predictability (understanding what works and what doesn’t, leaning on indicators that are leading), scalability (need a layered, tiered and augmented system) and accountability (everyone understands their role and numbers), and in order to attain these three goals, the pipeline is extremely relevant.

First off, teams should be considering their 3 Fields of Play – The Game, The Practice Field, and the Locker Room. Most teams wake up and jump right into the game – but the challenge there is that you may not be ready. There are other fields that should be considered first. The practice field allows teams to spend time practicing what they are going to play: role playing, objections, or running through the meeting. Then there is the locker room: this is where you can build your culture and your attitude towards the business. The locker room determines how you practice, and how you practice is how you play.

So how can you talk to your team off the field, about your GTM motion? TJ and Matt break this down into a short acronym called SAM (Story, Activity, Mindset), which they consider the 3 major underpinnings of the GTM motion.

  • Story – What is your message? Do your reps know what to say when an actual engagement happens and are they prepared to leave a great voicemail to drive re-engagement? Do they have the story down? Is that story about your customers (vs. about you)? Does it match the COVID-19 world?
  • Activity – Sales teams are doing a million different activities every day, but what is the conversion for each activity? Are you doing the right things during the day to get the right results and conversion?
  • Mindset – What is our attitude towards our work and GTM motion? Your attitude should be that you are saving the world (e.g. “Thank god you called, I need this!”). The attitude and mindset of people who rep the brand should not be sheepish about this – they are not interrupters, they are gamechangers. Also, gamify things – have fun while doing your work.

Once a broader understanding of the team’s message is understood by reps, it’s time to narrow things down in terms of how teams are prospecting. Consider the 3 “P”s of prospecting: Persona, Pain, and Personalization.

  • Persona – Do you really understand who are you talking to? How do you target them? How do you know them? What does their world look like? What groups do they hang in? How can you be a part of their world rather than making them come to yours?
  • Pain – It’s so important to be something that people need, and not just want. Re-think your positioning around this – especially when CFOs in many industries are looking to cut “nice to haves”
  • Personalization – It’s important to stay balanced on this and put in the right effort for the return you’re getting back. A rep can spend an hour personalizing a cold outreach email, but if they never reply, that was effort wasted. A couple things have changed here during COVID-19 – people are more receptive to taking phone calls now, there is a certain hunger to social interaction that people aren’t getting. What has become tougher is the aggregation of the buyers’ table. Great teams right now are sharpening their saw, have the persona nailed down, and are crisp on the pain point

Prospecting best practices

  • Lead from the front – Don’t just tell your team to prospect more, prospect with your team
  • Do the hard work
  • Schedule time to prospect – Block the appropriate number of hours on your calendar: what gets calendared gets done. Everything seems more urgent than prospecting, you have to get it calendared
  • Measurement/leaderboards
  • Build your list with mix – Mix it up with cold outreach, people you spoke to a year ago, or, who you lost a deal with. When you mix the list up with your reps, they stay sharp
  • Role play – Have fun with this and do it often. You don’t want to practice on your customers. Whether you’re doing it directly or setting up accountability partners on your team, it should be a part of your routine
    • Role play can vary, but the goal should be replaying specific circumstances with specific people to work on refining the conversation: this could range from role playing major deals, to board meetings, to demos. Sit down as a team and work on how to deal with things in a great way
  • Play outside the lines – Get creative today in terms of how you’re building rapport, or participate in other creative activities like 5 dials after 5 o’clock
  • Gamify/Fun – Have fun, celebrate the prospecting wins, number of first meetings, number of opportunities, etc. Put bounties on deals that AEs self generate and close
  • Tactics for relevancy
    • Leverage referrals, intros, and existing relationships – Use your customers, your VCs, everyone you do business with. Ask for a referral, use your network for intros
    • Triggers – Pay attention to things going on in your prospects or industry you sell to – this can create an immediate need to start the conversation and be a great way to generate rapport relevancy and credibility right out of the gate
    • Job changes – Follow your coaches, follow who you do business with, follow your blockers. Stay connected to people through job changes and use them to drive new business, protect business, etc.
    • “Call Me When” – Make sure you’re capturing requests from prospects and customers, and reaching back out to people later in the product lifecycle• The 3 “T”s of Discovery?

So where does discovery come into play? This can happen at different points, depending on your sales motion. TJ & Matt came up with the 3 ”T”s – components, that while may not be exactly universal, are close enough and recognizable: Team, Tech, and Track. These 3 points help increase the likelihood of attaching an engine to a deal as opposed to an anchor.

  • Team – Tell me about your team.
    • Who is responsible for X?
    • How does your team work within your company?
    • How do you work within the org?
    • What you are thinking: Are you talking to the right people?
  • Technology – Tell me about the tech you use.
    • How do you get the job done today?
    • What tools do you use that matter to you?
    • Where are your gaps? What is slow and painful for you today?
    • What does success and measurement look like?
    • What you are thinking: How sophisticated are they?
  • Tracking – Tell me about the metrics you focus on.
    • How successfully are you achieving your most important goal?
    • What do you track to know that?
    • Pain and contrast is essential
    • Not everyone has a tidy answer to this, or some people will give you a generic answer “I’m doing fine, I’m on track” – what do you track to know that though? Pipeline being tracked by revenue booked is a bad answer, for example, as it’s a lagging indicator – this gives you an opening
    • What you are thinking: How much pain and awareness do they have?

Common Mistakes to Avoid Throughout the Process

  1. SWDDAM (“Shit We Don’t Do Anymore”) – It’s important not to fit uses cases to the wrong customer profile, customers won’t adopt well, which will lead to low utilization and churn-out. Its good discipline to get alignment between sales and success. Everyone needs to agree on use cases that work, and disagree on use cases that don’t
  2. Being slow to disqualify – Reps are under a lot of pressure; they have big eyes. GTM orgs need to have really good criteria on what the right business looks like, and people need to invest their time on those kinds of businesses
  3. Not knowing what is working – It’s important to understand why people are failing (Are people doing the right things but failing? Are they doing the wrong things and failing?)
  4. Not standardizing best practices – Take best practices from your best reps, and standardize across the team. Make the best things the things that everyone does. After standardizing, experiment
  5. Reps without contextual experience – You need to hire reps who sell to the persona you sell to. They need to understand the buyers’ table, the pain, and the process. A big part of scaling is hiring – you need a track record of winning, and selling to the persona you want to sell to
  6. Funnels shouldn’t look like a pyramid, they should look like a T. Don’t waste time on bad deals. Figure out why you lose, so you can figure out what you need in order to win. Come up with a win sheet – your rep needs to qualify deals along the points on the win sheet

Post-COVID Focus Areas

  • Closing the Gap
    • Practice your plan and plan your practice – More time and attention is given to deals post-COVID. You need to make sure that you’re practicing the right elements. All deals are being treated like enterprise deals
    • Bring the right gear at the right time – Don’t overpack your pack, bring only what you need
    • Invest in expertise to help you go fast – Invest in advisors, consultants, and people who have seen things and can call out new areas of opportunity. Hire the right talent who have seen and been places before and who can navigate in real time. It’s not just speed of decisions, but opportunity cost speed
  • People are fatiguing on webinars – so what are people doing that is new?
    • Can you speak highly relevantly? People are still going to webinars that are very specific to what they are working on right now. If it’s relevant enough, they will make time – but they won’t make time for nice-to-haves. The more relevant you can be, the more material you can continue to produce – the subject matter just needs to be tight
    • Create credibility around your relevancy – Invite other panelists to chime in, pull in useful secondary sources
    • People are finding creative ways to make webinars more fun, theming things, sending wine to people’s houses in advance, including some marketing genius like comics, etc.

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