September 18, 2020
Salespeople can be consumed by the thrill of pursuit. A desire to post the highest numbers and book the most meetings - and it’s hard to argue with this. Of course more meetings = more sales. This much is obvious. But it can present us with a problem.
Low conversion rates.
If you’re finding a high drop-off between meetings booked and closed deals, the chances are you’re speaking to the wrong people. This is when a company needs to implement a robust sales strategy - and focus on booking the right sales meetings.
This is the process of lead qualification.
We asked 3 questions:
Of 2 of Cognism’s leading B2B sales reps:
In August, Ash brought 4 years of sales experience to Cognism’s revenue team. He hit the ground running - with multiple SQOs and a Cognism ‘Employee of the Week’ award to show for it.
When it comes to Evie’s ability to book meetings, her record speaks for itself. In just her second month at Cognism, Evie had a target set of 8 SQOs. She identified 21. In doing this, Evie set a precedent for exceeding her targets, and her growth since then has been astronomical.
Scroll down to hear what they had to say! 👇
Ensuring that the leads entering the top of the sales funnel fit your ICP is the easiest way to increase your conversion rate. Your sales reps will have more constructive conversations. This breeds a culture of confidence and success.
Depending on where the leads are coming from, the level of qualification needed varies. However, a good understanding of the ICP should always come from the top.
“Cognism Sales Director, David Bentham, uses data to identify our total addressable market. He then uses this information to build contact lists in Prospector, and distribute them to the sales team. This keeps us all on track - whilst saving us the 2-3 hours salespeople usually spend each day trying to find contact information. For a salesperson this is the golden egg.” - Ash Corlett
Whenever the ICP changes, this should be decided on by the senior sales team, but it should immediately be shared with all revenue staff at the company. The Sales Director navigates the landscape, but it’s the sales and marketing teams who direct the ship.
An account-based approach can also facilitate intelligent lead generation. This is a more flexible way for a salesperson to explore new opportunities without straying outside of the ICP.
“I often take a look at our major customers in Salesforce, and ask myself ‘what makes them a good fit?’ If you can answer that question, then you can start looking at similar companies. You already know the problem your product could solve. This makes it that much easier when you get on the phone.” - Ash Corlett
Evie holds a bespoke sales role within the Cognism team, as the Marketing Development Representative. This means there is more variation in the type of lead she deals with, as a whole range of people will download marketing content. For this reason, more qualification is required.
The first thing Evie does before reaching out is to look up the prospect on LinkedIn.
“You can do a lot of your qualification through LinkedIn. The first things I look for are whether the company size fits our ICP, and whether they operate in a country which fits our ICP. This takes minutes and could save you a lot of time on the phone.” - Evie Crossland
After checking out a prospect on LinkedIn and confirming that they fit our ICP, it’s time to make an effective cold call. The first few questions you ask should help you to understand whether they’d benefit from your offer. Waiting until later to ask these questions will waste your time and theirs.
“As an MDR I already know a bit about the prospect’s interests, as they’ve made a download. Part of the qualification process is already done, but you still need to make sure. Most of the time people like to talk, so I ask the right questions and give them a good idea of what we do. Be honest about your proposal and try to find a real way in which it could help them.” - Evie Crossland
There’s no single right answer for who you should speak to at a company. It depends on the company size, who will benefit from your product and how busy they are at the time. Landing in the right inbox often requires a little SaaS sales investigative work.
If you’re unsure about who to contact within a company, the bottom is a good place to start. There are two main reasons for this:
“Quite often we will start by speaking to a more junior member of staff. You need to use that to your advantage. Learn a bit about the business and then find the decision maker, say to them ‘some of your team have been engaging with our content and I thought I’d introduce myself.’” - Evie Crossland
You can also encourage positive internal conversations.
“Ultimately what you want is for them to get the boss on the call. However, you can still have great success with a less senior member of staff. If you can get them excited about your offer, they’re more likely to have a positive conversation internally. This can be more valuable than any sales call.” - Evie Crossland
Building a relationship with multiple people in a company is known as ‘multi-threading’. Through this process you build hype around your offer by getting multiple people speaking about it.
“Encouraging internal conversations about your product can be more effective than conversations between a salesperson and a buyer. It’s a much more organic way to get a good foothold within an account and it paints your proposition in a positive light.” - Ash Corlett
The downfall of this approach is that managing outbound sales at scale reduces your ability to run a highly customised outreach. If you already know who the best person to contact at a company is, reach out to them individually.
For a numbers-driven salesperson, the SQO is the end goal. Booking a meeting is a victory, but the journey doesn't end there.
Now, the salesperson is presented with an opportunity to go the extra mile. How can they increase the chances of getting the lead to attend the meeting?
Everyone you’ll speak to has a preferred means of communication. Some will prefer an email, whilst others will prefer to exchange voice notes. Cover your bases and use a multi-channel B2B prospecting approach. It massively increases your chances of your message being heard.
“At the start of my process, I always connect on LinkedIn. I’ll send a message to confirm our meeting, and give them an opportunity to send over any questions they have in advance. I’ll also ask a lead what their preferred means of communication is. This shows you care about their preferences and increases your chances of good engagement.” - Ash Corlett
Here's a good statistic about this:
“More than 70% of salespeople who use social media networking in their sales process outperform their peers who don’t.” - Resourceful Selling
A multi-channel approach also helps you to stand out from the crowd. This is very important to Ash.
“We send voice notes, videos, direct mail. This week I sent someone a message on LinkedIn asking 'Why do you wear Sennheisers rather than Bose?' , referring to his LinkedIn picture. We had an interesting conversation and it turned into a pitch. Sending repetitive messages is boring for the salesperson and the lead, I don’t get why people do it!” - Ash Corlett
If you leave a sales call open-ended, the chances of attendance plummet. ‘Always be closing’ might be slightly excessive, but at the end of the call - close it.
“If you call someone and they say 'call me later', put a time in the diary, and send a calendar invite. Also, be assertive! The minute you start sounding desperate, the prospect will turn off. Say to them 'Let’s put in a time for a meeting, when are you free?' Once you’ve done that, ask them 'Have you received the invite? Check your junk'. Do whatever you can to make sure you get it over the line!” - Evie Crossland
If a prospect isn’t gaining anything from your conversations, they’ll lose interest…fast.
“I always imagine the prospect asking 'What’s in it for me?' If I’m unable to answer that question, I might as well give up. Always give them enough information to be excited about your next conversation.” - Ash Corlett
A successful prospect interaction begins with asking open-ended questions. Try to understand the prospect's pain points and offer resolutions.
Another great stat for you:
“69% of buyers said that the one thing they wanted from sales reps was to 'listen to my needs'.” - Hubspot
Every prospect is different, so every sale is different. Make sure that the value you show is relevant and consistent. If you have access to valuable content, send it through. Even if the content isn’t yours, sending over interesting articles and videos shows the prospect that you’re thinking of them.
Every great call should be followed by a great email. After every call, Ash sends over some more information about the tool. Drip feeding the information in this way keeps the prospect intrigued.
“Sending over additional information adds value and reinforces the points you’ve discussed. It also reminds the prospect of what you covered, making the next call much more impactful.” - Ash Corlett
Evie has the advantage of knowing what kind of content the prospect is interested in, as they’ve already downloaded another document.
“I save similar groups of content together so I can send it to the prospect ahead of the next meeting. It shows that I’ve been listening in our conversations, and I’m putting in effort to show them value. This is far more effective than pestering someone for a demo. Be personable, realistic and memorable - make their buying experience a pleasant one.” - Evie Crossland
Many thanks to Ashley Corlett and Evangeline Crossland for their invaluable insights. We hope you enjoyed it! If so, there’s plenty more where that came from.
Cognism has published an entire eBook for B2B sales professionals - B2B Outbound: Building predictable growth.
It’s a complete guide for building and scaling an outbound sales team, including SDR hiring tips, cadence templates, cold calling hacks and lots, lots more! No sales team leader should be without it.
Click 👇 to get the guide!