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Webinar recap: 15 B2B outbound questions - answered!

November 28, 2019

On Tuesday 19th November, we hosted our third live broadcast of 2019: B2B Outbound: How to build a high-performing sales team. Featuring Nazma Qurban, CRO at Cognism and Collin Waldrip, Sales Development Manager at SalesLoft, it was a detailed investigation into how to build a B2B outbound engine, fully optimised for B2B lead generation and growth.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to answer many of the audience questions that were put to us. In this article, we’ve collated 15 of the best questions we received during the webinar broadcast - and provided answers, courtesy of Cognism’s Sales Team Manager, David Bentham!

So, if you listened in to the webinar and asked us a question, hopefully you’ll find what you’re looking for below!

1 - What resources can you suggest to help me define SDR skillsets, metrics and compensation models?

The Cognism blog is growing into a fantastic resource for SDR-related content. In particular, I can recommend the following five blogs:


2 - How can you detect in an interview if someone is actually passionate about a long-term career in sales?

Any candidate can say that they’re passionate about a sales career, but the trick is to find out why. If, for example, a candidate says in a sales interview, “I’m motivated by money” or “I’m motivated by competition” (which are phrases I hear a lot!) then you have to dig deeper into what drives that motivation.

Why is the candidate motivated by a career in sales? Is it something in their life? Have they set themselves a “life goal” that they think a sales career will help them to achieve? Always ask the candidate for the reason behind the passion - and if you’re not 100% satisfied or convinced by the answer, don’t hire them!

3 - Do you set parameters for the type of prospects that SDRs can go after? Also, are your SDRs commissioned on size?

We don’t commission on size at Cognism. The reason for this is that we work with a huge range of customers from startups to enterprise. There is no typical deal size at Cognism!

In terms of parameters, we follow the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) model. We decide as a team what our ICP is and then focus our energies on targeting prospects that match. Our ICP tells us what to include in our pipeline and what to exclude - there are certain types of industries and certain company sizes that we don’t target.

Another thing we do is give each SDR a specific industry to target (e.g.: marketing, recruitment, IT). We’ve found this to be a very useful system, as it means that every SDR quickly becomes a specialist in that industry.

4 - Can you provide examples of SDR interview questions?

Cognism recently published an excellent blog on this subject! You’ll find it here:

10 questions to ask  when hiring an SDR

5 - Re: compensating on SQLs - do you find that you get “fake SQLs” as the AEs are doing the SDRs a favour? If so, what have you done to counteract this? If not, how have you prevented this? 

We’ve never encountered this problem at Cognism. Our criteria for SQLs is very robust and we’ve put in place a self-regulating system across the sales team.

How does it work? Our AEs are judged on the conversion from SQL to closed-won. Our SDRs are able to review any meetings that happen. If an SDR has a question mark about an SQL, we allow them to raise it.

6 - How do you handle/resolve the bad blood that can be created between the AE team and the SDR team? One job’s revenue depends on the approval of the other. This can cause friction.

We’re very fortunate that we don’t have this problem at Cognism! Every AE that works here started off by doing the SDR role. So all our AEs understand the daily battles that the SDR has to fight.

At Cognism, we promote an inclusive, collaborative and celebratory working culture - my CRO Nazma has written an article on this topic:

cognism motivating millennials

7 - I work in a sales team at a SaaS company. Do you have any advice to help me build a predictable sales model?

My CRO Nazma talked about this during the webinar. She explained the capacity model for B2B sales, which works like this:

  • If in one month your revenue target is $32k and your average deal size is $1k, then you need 32 closed-won deals.
  • Based on a 25% conversion rate, you then need to create 97 opportunities in that month.
  • So, in order to hit your target of 97 opportunities, you need to have 7.5 SDRs working on outbound sales activity (cold calling, email outreach etc.).

The capacity model works because it’s predictable. You start with your ultimate sales strategy goal (the revenue you want to create) and then work backwards, to the point where you can calculate the number of SDRs required to hit that target.

8 - What advice can you give me for creating a Sales Playbook for my team?

We spend a lot of time working on our Sales Playbook at Cognism. My advice is to split the playbook into sections and give each section to a specialist member of your team. This way, the playbook will be created much quicker than if you just had one person working on it - and the content will be sharper.

Remember that your Sales Playbook should be an ever-evolving document. You have to keep updating it as your team grows and your processes change. Include the playbook in your weekly team meetings. Ask your colleagues if they’ve noticed any sections that could be improved or rewritten.

9 - As you both seem to be doing the same thing, when should a client use Cognism or SalesLoft? What are the key differences?

Cognism is a B2B data platform, containing 400 million business profiles and 10 million companies. We also provide an automated email cadencing function.

SalesLoft is an advanced sequencing platform, including email, phone dialler and social media coverage.

We’ve recently launched a direct integration between the two platforms, in order to create a seamless experience for our joint clients.

10 - What’s your sequence cycle like at Cognism?

The typical Cognism cadence runs over a full month. It includes a mixture of phone, email and social touchpoints. As always in B2B outbound, persistence pays off!

We vary our cadences depending on the type of prospect we target. For some examples of this, please check out these two blogs:

  1. How to build a winning cadence for CEOs
  2. How to build a winning cadence for sales leaders

11 - Are your cold calls at Cognism really “cold”? Do you have no contact with your prospects prior to making a call?

Cold calls at Cognism are handled exclusively by our SDR team. The leads they work with are completely cold, sourced from our own data asset according to our ICP.

We’ve recently created Marketing Development Representative (MDR) roles. They action marketing leads who have previously engaged with the company through content downloads, form completions, attended our events etc.

Curious about the MDR function? Our colleague Bradley Davies explains more about this role over on YouTube!

12 - Do your SDRs use cold call scripts?

We give our SDRs the basic structure of a good cold call, but we ask them to come up with their own scripts.

Why do we do this? Because every salesperson is different and we want all our SDRs to sound authentic on the phone. There’s nothing more guaranteed to make a prospect say “no” than a robotic-sounding SDR!

We’ve written a guide to B2B cold calling scripts - please see here:

The ultimate cold calling script for B2B sales V1 FINAL-01

13 - What’s the best size for a sales team at a new startup? Do you recommend hiring one or two SDRs?

Cognism started with one person in a 360 sales role. Once we had the capacity, we hired two SDRs to make outbound calls and launch email campaigns.

The number of SDRs you need in your sales team will vary from company to company. Use the capacity modelling system, as explained above, to work out the exact number you need.

Right now, at Cognism, we have 1.5 SDRs per AE.

14 - What is the best approach to expand sales into a new international market?

The only advice we can give is to try it and see if it works! We have recently expanded into the USA. Think of it as starting up all over again. Once you find success, double down on it.

15 - What tips can you give me for asking successful opening questions?

Always make sure your cold call opening questions are personalised and relevant. Go back to your ICP and consult it thoroughly. Think about the prospect’s pain points. How does your product solve them?

Use open-ended questions, not closed-ended questions! Those are questions that don’t require a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Your cold calls will become much more successful if you keep the conversation going. Open-ended questions are a great way of doing that. They make the prospect talk more and reveal information about their business challenges.

One thing that’s been successful for SDRs here at Cognism is to use humour. Don’t be afraid to make the prospect laugh! It’s a good tactic for getting the prospect to relax and feel better about giving you their time.

Listen to our webinar

If you missed our B2B Outbound webinar or you want to remind yourself of it, the slides are available here:

Access the slides

If you’d like to see more resources to optimise your B2B outreach, check out our Sales Academy page for more insightful content:

B2B Outbound Sales Academy