When leads are qualified properly, less time is wasted on people not likely to buy from you, so you can hone in on the ones who are.
I met up with Collin Stewart from Predictable Revenue recently and we discussed different qualifying methodologies including, BANT, MEDDIC and variations of them.
Something we were both surprised about is how many sales reps have no idea want BANT or MEDDIC even stand for. They don’t understand the concept of qualifying leads. What ends up happening is they think their pipeline is full of great opportunities, only to be surprised at the end of the month when nothing closes.
By fully understanding different qualifying criteria, reps become clearer around what it takes to progress a sale and what it takes to get more qualified leads. This is something we’ll be covering in our upcoming SOCO Selling Workshop.
Tom: Good to have you here, man. Why don’t we just jump right in? When we talk about helping companies build outbound sales teams, let’s just kind of go back a little bit. What the heck is an outbound sales team?
Colin:You people call them inside sales teams. People call them prospectors. People call them cold callers. Really, in my eyes, it’s anybody that’s taking a cold or a lukewarm contact and they’re reaching out to try and establish a connection.
Tom: Awesome. These are the kinds of people that are booking meetings. Some people call them SDR’s, BDR’s, Whatever you want to call them. So, Sales Development Rep, Business Development Rep. For sure. When we’re talking outbound – so that we all get it. There’s outbound and inbound. Inbound, some might say that’s arguably easier, right? These are inbound inquiries and then you’re responding to those inquiries and basically just qualifying them and seeing if you can pass them on to an AE or an Account Executive to close, right?
Colin: Yup. But outbound is, hey, they don’t know us form atom and we’re going after these people cold. up.
Tom: That takes a special kind of person, but also a special kind of process. Am I right?
Collin: A 100%
Tom: Now that we’re all in the same page about what an outbound sales team is, why is outbound even important?
Collin: I’ll point to sort of two kind of differences if we think about the difference between inbound and outbound. With inbound – like we do a lot of inbound and a lot of outbound. I know we’re kind of thought of as a company that’s sort of only about outbound. We’re not like dogmatic about it or we’re only outbound. I think for every business, you want to make sure that you’re pursuing every potential customer acquisition channel that’s going to make sense for your business. We’re not super dogmatic about ‘it has to be outbound.’
Tom: I’m OK if you’re dogmatic about that. That’s just my thing. For me, I like specialisation, so I think that’s OK.
Collin: I’m all about specialisation, but really at the end of the day, Predictable Revenue spell growth in helping companies grow. However you want to do that, whatever is going to make sense for your market, for your audience, for your team, that’s what’s going to be best for you.
Collin: When I think about the difference between inbound and outbound, on the inbound side, there tends to be — if you think about sort of two sides to the funnel. At the top of the funnel, there’s motivation. Somebody clicked on a link they can be in your site. There was enough pain inside them that they’re like, “Hey, I’m going to fill out this form and I’m going to have a sales…”
Tom: For some to add a list or a trigger event, right? There’s a reason why they opt it in. There’s a reason why they downloaded that PDF or whatever.
Collin: Exactly. On the bottom side of that funnel, they’re not always qualified. If you’re an inbound rep, you’re typically working to say, “There’s motivation here. They want to do something. Are we the right company for them to do something with?” That’s sort of the advantage and disadvantage of inbound. Love inbound in terms of strategically, which is easier. I think they’re both hard. I think from sitting in the seat of both an inbound and an outbound rep, Inbound is definitely easier. Building the whole system and all the infrastructure to support inbound, it’s hard to say. We do both here and they’re both equally hard.
Tom: That’s interesting that you say that, Collin, and I love that and I agree 110% because a lot of people have this assumption that inbound, super easy. Outbound, holy… Can I say *bleep*?
Collin: Yeah. I think you can say *bleep*.
Tom: I think we can and we can just edit them out.
Collin: The mics are equipped.
Tom: Right on. Cool. It’s like they go, “Oh my God, outbound is so hard” because you have to come up with prospect list, you go after them, they might not be interested, etc., etc. They go, “Oh, inbound is so easy because these are inquiries that just came in.”But you mentioned something critical, Collin, which is the qualification piece and they’re not all qualified or has certain levels of qualification. For some of you out there listening, and I know when we’re doing sales training, this is a big thing for people that actually qualifying leads properly because most people, when they approach us, they go, “Hey, can you help us increase our closing rate?” or “We’re struggling with putting deals over the line.” I, “OK, well, we can talk about closing, but maybe you’re trying to close deals that just aren’t well-qualified to begin with.”
Collin: 100% because part of it is about the source. Part of this is about the execution on that lead. We’ve got an awesome sales rep right now and its close rate dipped. We were looking at it and we’re like, “There’s no way that he’s now half good of a closer as he used to be.
Tom: What happened?
Collin: What happened is we were looking at, “Let’s look at the lead quality, let’s look at all the different sources.” We found this one source that we’d spent a bunch of money in, had never turned into a close. We were like, “Is this Pete’s fault? Should we fire Pete because we decided to pursue this lead source that just turned out not to be…
Tom: It’s like we can’t fire Pete for telling him to walk West to see a sunrise.
Collin: Exactly. It’s a combination of factors. It’s never as simple as, “Oh, it’s a couple of closing tactics and this is going to sort of make or break.”
Tom: Before we go – and this is awesome because I love… We got about half an hour on this, but I could do this for like four hours.
Collin: We could be here all day.
Tom: I love this. We can peel the layers of the onion because we talk about qualifying. For those of you listening, this could be Prospecting 101. How do you qualify effectively? Do you have a criteria or framework that you use for qualification that you can maybe share with our listeners?
Collin: For sure. It’s one of those things. You can use BANT, you can use MEDDIC. This is a much deeper conversation on getting into forecasting and what your sales stages look like. The only thing I’ll say because we could go into a whole other episode about that. Pick the things that are most critical for your business to see a deal moving forward. Make sure that your sales stages actually makes sense. We brought in our new sales manager three, four months ago now, and he’s doing a great job. He came from a great company. Super highly recommended. We were having a conversation about – I heard him say a couple of things where I’m like, “Oh, he doesn’t sound super confident in the forecast,” and we we’re using MEDDIC. We had somebody on my podcast. She taught us about how to forecast within 1% and she’s doing a half billion dollars.
Tom: Yeah, from Zendesk. Actually, they’re one of our customers in APAC.
Collin: Right. Great company. Jaimie Buss. It was an amazing episode.
Tom: Love that one.
Collin: I went and I took that and I internalise that.
Tom: In fact, she modified it from MEDDIC to MEDDPICC.
Tom: You play around. Some has MEDDIC with one C, some had them with two C’s.
Collin: Exactly. You got to personalise it to yourself.
Collin: I notice that he had… When I hear him, he said, “Oh, well, so and so thinks they’re going to close this. So and so thinks they’re going to close that.” I’m like, this doesn’t sound like a guy who’s confident that we’re going to close this and here’s why. When I sat down and had a conversation, it turned out that the issue was he wasn’t following – he was following MEDDIC and we’ve got the MEDDIC built into our Salesforce, so you can see the MEDDIC score. He was just looking at the MEDDIC score and saying, “OK, well, the rep have a strong MEDDIC score.” But it’s not just about the MEDDIC score. It’s the dance. It’s the dance of the qualification – your qualification criteria and your sales stages. I think the magic with Jaimie that I realised on the podcast – I don’t know if you can see my face, just my soul is getting destroyed when it comes to – I’m realising I’ve never used sales stages properly. She talked about having a customer verifiable outcome to move from one stage to the next.
Collin: The customer verifiable outcome plus the subjective qualification framework.
Tom: Let’s just pause this because, you see, Collin and I, we’re speaking the same language, right? But not everybody listening is going to, “Customer verifiable outcome. What does that mean?” Let’s break it down. Rather than – I scheduled a qualifying call. They scheduled a qualifying call. They booked the time in my calendar, for example. Rather than I sent them a brochure, they confirm that they went through the brochure. Or they introduced me to someone or they did this, they did that. It’s not the behaviour of the sales rep exclusively, it’s the behaviour of that prospect, or the customer. What did they do?
Tom: Those give you more clues as to where they are in terms of their decision-making process or favourability.
Collin: I think ours are like customer showed up to the first call. Customer showed up to the discovery call. Customer brought the – all the correct stakeholders to the follow up call. Then, we have one sort of subjective one and that’s the rep can clearly articulate why do nothing is off the table.
Collin: That’s the bar. For me, if you’ve got a high MEDDIC score that you can defend and you can clearly articulate why do nothing is off the table, that’s an opportunity that’s going to close.
Tom: And in a moment, we’re going to breakdown what MEDDIC is in terms of the acronym. I love that thing that you were talking about, Collin, about do nothing is not an option. Do nothing is off the table. What does that mean? You know it’s this buyer identified pain. The buyer’s like we have to do something. Now, it may not be with you…
Tom: …but we have to do something. Well, why is that? Well, if we don’t do X, Y will happen. It’s basically like old school. It’s asking like a consequence question. What will happen if you don’t make this change? What will happen if you don’t change to this new technology, etc., etc.? If that pain is strong enough and they’re like, “We absolutely have to do something,” Well, then, you know this is really qualified.
Tom: But if they’re like, “Well, to be honest with you, Collin, if we don’t do it, won’t be the end of the world. It’s kind of a nice to have, but not a need to have. Well, then, obviously, that MEDDIC score is going to go down.
Collin: 100%. Or the MEDDIC score might stay the same, but you’re never going to get past that certain stage with the customer, where the rep can clearly articulate that ‘do nothing is off the table.’
Tom: Yeah, because — the I in MEDDIC is Identify pain. If they haven’t identified the pain and, I guess, we have to be subjective as to how painful the pain is.
Collin: That’s the dance on the MEDDIC side. There’s the identified pain which is like this is the quality of the pain. This is the qualitative metric.
Tom: Right. This is how much we’re losing every month by not doing this or this, right?
Collin: Yeah. It’s the way that the buyer would describe the pain.
And then there’s the Metric which is the qualitative side of things.
Tom: So that’s the M in MEDDIC, it’s Metrics.
Collin: Exactly. Really, it’s those two economic buyer that are sort of the most three that are– The three that are most important. When I’m doing sort of qualification call with my reps to make sure they’re following the process and to see if a deal is actually where we think it is, it’s those three. It’s Metric. Do you understand the impact that this is going to have on their business, the identified pain? Can you really articulate what it is? And then the economic buyer. Have we had a conversation with the economic buyer? If you’ve got those three and the fourth one is you can articulate why ‘do nothing’ is off the table whether it’s with us or not, it’s like, “I know this company is going to do something, now we just got to work on making sure we went in.”
Tom: This is a solid, real opportunity.
Collin: Exactly. As oppose to fairy dust where it’s like I’ve looked at my pipelines before my entire life and I’m like “I don’t know.” It’s a big old shrug. And you’ve got four casting software and you can do this, and you can do the math, and you can…
Tom: But it’s so subjective, right? Sales reps, we’re awesome. We’re so great.
Collin: We’re the best.
Tom: We’re the best. We’re smiling. We think we’re great. We’re super optimistic and that’s beautiful because we need that optimism, but often it’s kind of like a false hope because we’re just like, “Look at my pipeline,” and you’re just like, “Yeah, it’s looking pretty good.”
Collin: Even as a rep, you have these roles because of coloured glasses about, “Oh, yeah, I feel like it’s gonna close and here’s why.”
But it was implementing this methodology, the structure or the formalising of the process that helped me step away from like, “Oh my God, I think it’s gonna close,” and then gave me the right set of questions, not just to ask my reps but to ask myself. I think that was the most important piece
Tom: It keep us honest. We’ve done that in our CRM as well. We’ve got these questions and steps within the stages. It’s just check boxes.
Tom: Have you done this? Have they done that? Only until all those check boxes are ticked, do we now move that from a new opportunity to a working opportunity, from working to closing, that kind of thing.
Tom: We’ve got the Metrics, we’ve got Economic buyer. The first D is kind of the Decision-making process. Do we understand the decision-making process? The other D, if I’m not wrong, was…
Collin: Decision criteria.
Tom: The Decision criteria. Do we know what is the criteria with which they will make that decision? Do we fit that criteria? Even better, have we maybe help that prospect frame the criteria.
Tom: That’s like gold.
Collin: That’s one of those that reps sort of – not struggle with, but they weren’t doing previously. Because it’s an awkward question – It can be an awkward question to ask, “So, what’s important to you?” But at the same time, it’s obviously one of those most important pieces. We’re having that conversation, but when you have it in your CRM system that says, “Hey, you need to be able to articulate to your sales manager after this call what’s most important.” You’re gonna ask those questions a little bit differently and that’s gonna have a huge impact on your sales process.
Tom: I love that, Collin. I remember listening to one of the guests on your podcast who said something like – it’s probably from Lessonly.
Tom: If you can explain your customer’s pain better than they can. If you can explain their problem, their challenges better than they can, now you’re walking and rolling. I love that. That’s cool right, right? So, then you got MEDD… The P was the –
Tom: The paperwork. The paperwork process. You have to be set up as an approved vendor. Is there any NDA’s you have to sign? Just kind of get your paperwork in order. The I was Identified pain. C was kind of the Competitors, like what’s the competitive landscape? Who else are you up against? And then the second C was the Champion.
Tom: Do you have an internal champion lobbying for you, advocating for you within that client organization? You got that. That’s awesome. So, you guys use MEDDPICC. My understanding was typically MEDDPICC is kind of for like bigger deals with very long buying process. A long, complicated cycle, right?
Tom: But for many of our listeners out there, if you’re a small business owner and you’re dealing with like SME’s or SMB’s, or your an insurance agent, for example, listening. You might use like BANT as a basic framework.
Tom: Are you constantly amazed at how few sales reps even know what we’re talking about when we say BANT?
Collin: Yeah. There aren’t too many sales classes or courses in university. If you’re hiring right out of university,
where are they gonna learn that?
Tom: BANT is just Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline and very few people ask prospects those questions. It doesn’t have to be in that order. Everyone gets all messed up. “Tom, should I ask about budget right away?” I’m like, “It’s just a nice acronym that you can phonetically say.” But you kind of figure it out.Do they have a budget? What is it? Have they bought before similar expenditure or what are they looking at, etc. Authority. Are you dealing with somewhat decision-making authority? Is there that buyer identified need or pain? And then what’s the timeframe that they’re looking at?
Tom: Do more qualifying. Collin, we went on a big segue there.
Collin: For sure.
Tom: But we needed to do that…
Tom: …I think, for listeners to get “OK,” because when we talk about, make sure that these outbound – you have a qualified people what is qualification look like.
Collin: Exactly. To bring us back to where we start at the beginning with inbound, you’re motivated at the top. In your sales process, you have to do more qualification. I like to think with outbound is you get a chance to prequalify in making sure that you’re going after companies that are the right size. You can actually build out your ideal customer profile. Tom: Love that.
Collin: At the top of outbound, they’re pre-qualified. I can’t say pre-qualified, but they’re more qualified because –
Tom: You can almost say – we hear these terms like MQL and SQL. A marketing qualified lead versus a sales qualified lead. That MQL, the Marketing Qualified Lead could be kind of that ICP, the Ideal Customer Profile we’re talking about.
Collin: Yeah. It’s one way to look at it. And so they’re qualified on the top and then you have to work for motivation. It’s the inverse of on the inbound side. It’s not the one that’s better. With inbound, you can definitely generate a whole lot of velocity and it’s something that can scale really well. With outbound, it’s just another tactic. But the best part of outbound is that it lets you choose the companies that you’re going after. Whereas inbound – There are things you can do to try and influence companies to push companies into your funnel, but with outbound, you can just start that conversation.
Tom: I love that. How many of you out there, listeners, have had these inbound inquiries, and you get all excited, but, of course, when you look at the job role or title of the person who made the inquiry, it’s an admin assistant and you’re just like – so right there, I don’t have the A. I don’t have the authority.
Tom: I’m dealing with a gatekeeper right out of the blocks. But I guess what you’re saying, Collin, is with outbound, you’re just like, “Screw that person.”
Collin: You go to the top.
Tom: Go to the top. I’m gonna target certain companies and certain roles within that company.
Tom: Beautiful. I love that.
Collin: One of my favourite things from Predictable Revenue – because I didn’t write the book. I’d built another company and then we ended up merging. I remember reading the book and thinking, “I’ve been prospecting wrong my entire life.” The best part was, one is the specialisation of sales roles. The core idea is that salespeople shouldn’t prospect. What I mean by that is closers should close, account managers should manage accounts, and prospectors should prospect. But it’s three different roles, it’s not one role.
Tom: So, moving away from that multistage sales rep that everyone’s looking for that. Can you do everything?
Collin: Are you a Swiss Army knife?
Tom: And what’s funny is like so many sales leaders we talked to haven’t even kind of consciously made that distinction or decision. They’re just like, “I need a salesperson,” and you’re like, “OK.” But you know that sales is a very layered nuanced thing, right? So, you kind of have to coach them around that.
Collin: We see quite a bit when companies have that attitude of we need to sell more so just add more salespeople. You’re like, “Well, think about it this way.” Let’s assume all of your reps work out which, chances are, not happening. But let’s assume they’re all working out just for the sake of the conversation here. So, they start off their first year as a prospector because they have no book of business, you’re not generating any leads for them. They’ve got to go hunt their own food. You spend your first year getting good at prospecting. Then – and it’s not as straightforward as this. Then you spend your next year closing. Now you’ve built yourself a fairly large pipeline.
Tom: Now you’re presenting, you’re doing capitals, you’re closing.
Collin: The first year, you’re probably not on quota, Second year, you’re probably on quota. Maybe you’re starting to like hit some accelerators. And then the third year, because there’s no differentiation between closing, a lot of companies will have the same comp of – will pay the same comp if you close the business versus if you renew the business.
Tom: Gee, I wonder which one I’m gonna focus on. Collin: Right? Of course. It’s way easier to sell to a customer who you’ve already sold to. Tom: Totally.
Collin: What you end up having is the guys that actually make it, the guys and gals that actually make it, are your great prospectors, your great closers, and then they end up managing accounts. Which means you’re basically stacking called a million-dollar reps. If you want to grow another million, you need to stack — You need another one of those and it’s gonna take sort of three years to get there. And there’s all the risk factors and what percentage of your reps are going to be one of those million-dollar reps. Chances are it’s not one. Chances are it’s not 50%. Looking at organisations, hard to say, but it’s definitely not going to be a one-to-one mapping where you just hire one salesperson and they’re gonna make it all the way through that cycle. What I loved about Predictable Revenues, it sort of pulled those three pieces apart and it said, “OK, well, let’s get these prospectors and let’s build a team that’s just really great at generating that type of funnel. At booking that first meeting and then passing it off to the closers. And then let’s build a separate team and the only thing that they’re responsible for is closing business. That’s where I live. That’s my jam. And then once they’ve closed them…
Tom: I love those calls. I love those meetings. I love it.
Collin: It’s the dance. It’s great. Then, once you’ve closed it, you hand it off to the account management team, and these are people that are better at the long-term relationships. It’s still a sales role, but it’s more of a relationship manager. More of a farmer than, say, a hunter.
Tom: It’s a, “Hey, just checking in.” It’s a time for renewal, a refresher. It’s a lot easier and softer. I mean we’ve got customers – I could literally get my phone right now and drop them a WhatsApp message – OK, I’m gonna do this after the podcast. Literally drop them a WhatsApp message and be like, “Is this a good time for a refresher?”
Tom: I can guarantee, guaranteed 50% will come back, “That’s a great idea, Tom.” I’m coaching myself on this podcast here because it’s so easy. That could be even done in training sessions with other customers.
Collin: Your partner’s like, “Get your damn phone out right now, Tom.”
Tom: I know, right? Like to show them how easy it is. And I’ve done it and have book business on my phone with repeat customers. That’s easy. But then you need those customers though to actually get the repeat business which is why you need to fill that pipeline. I think to that question, Collin, we’re talking about – and then we’re gonna move on, but I want to make sure everyone gets it. There’s a couple of reasons why outbound is so important. One, you’ve got to fill that pipeline. It’s so important because you can also kind of pre-qualify to a sense. At least that MQL, the Marketing Qualified Lead. In our company — maybe you’ve experienced this as well. I mean when we talk about what’s scalable and what’s not, well, look, it’s pretty hard to scale inbound because that’s like market response. That’s kind of like, did an inquiry come in? Now, you can up your marketing and kind of pump out some content and put your little opt-in forms. Of course, you’re probably gonna get some uptake, but really what’s the quickest way. If you call and say, “Let’s go out. Here’s a list of a hundred people. Go out to these folks on LinkedIn.” You can predict, hence Predictable Revenue, based on your numbers. How many opportunities you’ll have and how many you could close.
Collin: For guys like us, there’s more insight into that pipeline. I’m sure there’s a marketer, or two, or many that are listening in on the podcast going, “You idiots don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Tom: We’d like to hear from you.
Collin: “With marketing, all you got to do is like X, Y and Z.” I know those people exist and I can guarantee, I am not one of those people. Tom: Because we just pissed off a few people?
Collin: No. I just think we’re…
Tom: Do we now have haters?
Collin: …recognising our ignorance.
Tom: I was hoping we had haters because that means we made it.
Collin: …those guys. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
Tom: I’m not a troll. Actually, I had a troll. Anyway, that’s a whole other story.
Collin: Like the colourful little hair…
Collin: The thing you rub its belly.
Tom: So, outbound. We’re projecting the Kool-Aid. We love it. We dig it. It’s a great way to kind of keep that pipeline full with opportunities that you want. That’d be great. Now, Collin… what are some of those competencies or key things that we need to look at or is there like a framework, for lack of a better term,
Collin: For sure. Tom: …around building an outbound sales team? Collin: Good transition. It’s almost like we planned this, Tom. This is amazing. You’re totally right. We talked about, with outbound, the advantages you can prequalify. This is the crux of it. There’s four things that you really have to do well and they all kind of… they’re all multipliers. But there’s two that sort of multiply to zero, if you don’t get them right, and that’s market and messaging. So, the four are market, messaging, channels, and tactics. I’ll give you a quick sort of a little bit into each of them and then we can kind of dive deeper.
Tom: Cool. It’s market, messaging, channels, and tactics. We need these four things. Each is a multiplier, but some of them can multiply to zero if you’re not doing it right.
Collin: If you think about the market… It’s not just having a big market. It’s not just being able to to say, “Oh, I know a couple of customers.” This is having a verifiable and documented way of actually putting the people who are most likely to turn into customers onto a list. I’m not just thinking about the list criteria, I’m thinking about the whole process, and the logic that goes in behind it. If we have the best messaging, if we have the best channels and we have the best tactics. We’re on all the channels, we’re really strong on the tactics, but we’re pointing our – we’re trying to sell SOCO Selling, so LinkedIn services. Not services, but LinkedIn coaching to farmers in Nebraska. This is gonna multiply to zero. There aren’t too many corn huskers that are gonna be looking for –
Tom: Not that we know of. That’s our new blue ocean strategy.
Collin: It’s a great niche. It’s a bit corny.
Tom: Oh! That is… For those of you who don’t know, Collin is a fairly new dad and… Yeah, that was a dad joke.
Collin: 100%. Multiple layers, too.
Tom: Yeah. OK. So, we’re gonna peel away… We’re gonna edit all of that out. It might be in an outtake, blooper thing. Our iTunes score heads just dropped and our trolls have gone up. That multiplied to zero really fast.
Collin: You’re welcome.
Tom: Can we dive a little bit deeper into market because I think like – To me, some of these things – and I hate to say it but people listening need to get this. To me it’s common sense, but it’s not common practice, right? You need to go after the right people. What are some examples of like market fit and how do we find that? What does that look like?
Collin: I’m thinking about one customer that we sort of just went through this with and they initially said, “OK, we’re selling to law firms.” “OK, great. I can build a list of all the law firms in North America. No problem.” And then when they said, “OK, well, maybe it’s –“ because they’re looking at a certain size of company – a certain size of customer for their service. We said, “OK, well, maybe it’s the certain types. Maybe there’s law firms that do certain types of work,” and so we looked in and we said, “OK, well, can we see if there are different categories of law firms
within the list providers?” We tried a bunch of those. The results were sort of lukewarm at best. When we really dug into it, like what made an excellent customer for them was the use case which was they did this certain – they ran a certain type of legal process on a regular basis. The company that they sell to could actually – like their customers could be large or small, but what really mattered was filing a large number of these specific types of cases. Tom: Gotcha! For those of you who – you’re hearing that and you’re scratching your head, it sounds like – what do I want to say? I’m gonna over generalise here, but it’s a distinction between demographics and psychographics. It’s a demonstration between the type of business versus the business they conduct and how they run that business, right?
Collin: Yeah. Exactly.
Tom: What they do in that business and the volume, the scope of work, etc.
Collin: And being able to find a really strong signal for that didn’t exist in any of the traditional databases. And so we did some thinking. We said, “OK, well…” I want to say it was actually to credit to them. It’s one of the reps who said, “Oh, well, it’s this number of…” If it’s this number of cases they’re filing, that’s all public data, so you can go to the court websites. What we ended up doing is going and looking at all the court websites and said, OK, basically do account and if a company files X number of cases in a certain period of time, add them to the list.
Tom: Oh, that’s nice.
Collin: And so that –
Tom: That’s behaviour, right?
Collin: Exactly. Its behaviour. It’s how they use the service. And so that correlation – I can’t even tell you what the multiplier was because you’d be multiplying by zero. Assuming you got one from the other method, it was like a hundred X of a differentiator. Market is not just your market, it’s how you define it, and it’s how you actually plan to reach it. Tom: It sounds like market is a combination of the demographics, the organisational profile, size, industry, headcount, but then diving deeper into behaviour values, tactics, approach, like what they do, right?
Collin: Exactly. It depends on what’s relevant.
Tom: I know, for example, like in our case, we would look at, OK, we go after organisations based in a certain locations with geographic and then a certain title of person, but then even diving deeper into maybe it’s a sales leader or a sales director that’s been in that role for less than three months. Because there are things that that person deals with that are different from what a director of sales who’s been in that role for 15 years has to deal with. So then you can tailor your messaging which, I think, is the next thing that Collin’s probably gonna jump into
Collin: Absolutely. When I say messaging, I’m not just talking about your email.or your cold call script, or the sales scripts that your reps use, or what your marketing team puts on your website. What I’m talking about is that core messaging. Like you and I are having a conversation. Tom, what is SOCO Selling do?
Tom: The long short of it is we help sales teams around Asia-Pacific, and globally, optimize their sales performance.
Collin: SOCO helps optimise sales performance.
Collin: You’re not gonna put that in an email alone and just say, “Hey, we help SOCO.
Tom: Right, because they need context, right?
Collin: Exactly. When I say messaging, I mean that core messaging.
Tom: So, things like, “Hey, Director of Sales. Congrats on your new position. I understand you’ve been there for about three months. In our experience, most Directors of Sales who’ve been in that role for less than a year typically struggle with inheriting a sales team of people who either have never been trained or are learning it on the job or have forgotten everything that they learned.”
Tom: “That’s why…”
Collin: Exactly. Basically, what you described is like this is sort of the husk to go back to our earlier analogy.
Tom: Oh my gosh!
Collin: I’m really working here. That’s the wrapper and it’s really there to set the context and deliver that core messaging. All that husk belongs, I think of that in tactics. But really there’s the dance that happens between market and messaging and this is super critical because if you’re going after if you’re going after companies in, say, APAC versus companies in North America, you’re changing one variable. If you think about it’s a link in the chain, you’re changing a link, so it’s gonna be a different chain. Every time you’re changing a link,you need to re-update and you need to –
Tom: I love that.
Collin: Because it’s the two working combination. The market you set the context. If you think about it this way – the way I think about it, there’s a targeting hypothesis that you have, there’s a need hypothesis you have, and there’s a message hypothesis you have. It’s really the three – the dance of the three of those. It can’t just be, “OK, it’s this market, and go write some messaging.” It’s like what is our hypothesis about the market? Then, who do we think they are based on what we know in the past.
Tom: I love what you’re saying, Collin, about hypothesis. It’s really taking a scientific approach to prospecting.
Tom: It’s saying “OK, a hypothesis. It’s my thesis, it’s my theory which I need to now prove or disprove, but let’s try to do that one variable at a time.” Right?
Collin: Exactly. Breaking it down into those three pieces – we could go deeper and if we had our product manager – or Chief Product Officer here, he could go super deep into jobs to be done theory and all this and sort of how you break down that chain. If it’s interesting, I’ve got a couple of doc’s that we can share afterwards. Just about if you want to go a little bit deeper into all the elements of the chain and how you really build one of those.But the most important piece here is that market and messaging – this is not something that you can steal or copy from somebody else. This is something that you have to work your way towards and has to be tested. It has to be validated.
Tom: OK. My friends out there, listeners, pay close attention to what Collin just said. Please don’t hop on Google and search for 10 best cold-calling scripts.And don’t just use them verbatim. Don’t use them as is because you need to formulate your own hypothesis based on your specific market and you can make sure that your messaging is tweaked to address that.
Collin: 100%.One of the things that we see a lot of sales teams really struggling with is we’re not learning. We hired some people. They tried some things and it didn’t work. OK, “Well, why didn’t it work?” “Oh, well, it was this. It was that.” It’s like there’s no documented systematise learning that you can point to that says, “Well, we tried this. We followed this process, and this was the result.” We thought, “Here’s our hypothesis. Here’s how we tested it. And this is what actually happened. That’s one of the biggest mistakes that we see a lot of companies make. I know we’re two guys sitting on a podcast here. I wish I could truly communicate how much failure in wasted time and resources and capital that has gone into us figuring this out. We’ve been doing this for six years helping other companies build sales teams Building sales teams for ourselves, building sales teams for other companies. This took us years to sort of figure out.
Tom: Fine tuning and tweaking, experimenting.
Collin: Yeah, 100%, and realising that it’s really that combination of those three hypotheses that you absolutely have to nail. Channels and tactics, those are things that you can copy from – You can listen to podcast like this and you can get an understanding of what are other channels that people are using. Obviously, these two guys are big fans of outbound, big fans of LinkedIn. I’m sure there are other podcasts that are going to tell you about all the things about how to nail inbound, how to nail conferences, how to nail all these other things. But it’s the channels and the tactics, you can copy those from podcasts. I think the core idea that I want to get across is market messaging are the single most important things that you need to develop yourself and you need to have a proven process for testing and iterating your way to them. The best way you can do that is you can break it down: targeting hypothesis, need hypothesis, and then messaging hypothesis. The need hypothesis is just what do we feel – so for this market, what do we feel like is the critical pain, all that medic stuff. What do we feel like is the pain – what’s the responsibility of the individual? What’s their goal? What’s their KPI? What’s the friction getting in the way of them? And then the messaging hypothesis ties the need to how our product solves that need.
Tom: OK. Oh, I love that. So, you’re helping customers. I mean this is a big thing that you’re doing is… these folks want more customers and they’re focusing on, “OK, how do we do outbound better?” Are you noticing like a pattern? Have you seen something? What companies tend to struggle with around the market piece? Are there different kinds of customers that kind of approach you with like one or two different issues?
Collin: I’d say a lot of the companies that actually come to us they say, “Hey, we want more meetings. We want to grow faster…”
Tom: We magically want more meetings.
Collin: Exactly. We want more meetings that are gonna turn into our best possible customers. What we notice is beginning of this year is that we actually have two different cohorts of customers. We have customers that wanted us to help them figure out how to sell to.
Tom: So, to figure out who to sell to.
Tom: That’s a huge thing. So, they have a product. They have a service and like, “Collin, can you help us figure out who’s a good fit for us?”
Collin: And then we had customers that said, “Hey, listen. We know who we want to talk to. We know who it is that we need to talk to and we want to figure out what is the best path to them.” I think the interesting thing that we learned earlier this year was that the majority of our customers thought that they were in this second group. They thought they knew who the right customers were. And then we went and we run some campaigns for them and we’d book meetings for those people.
Tom: You tested that hypothesis.
Collin: Exactly. We would go through and we book meetings for these individuals and then nothing would close. It’s like, well, if you truly knew who the right people were and we booked meetings for them and your salespeople are competent – which we’re gonna assume they are, then you would have closed business. When you back out of it, you actually made us realise that there were more of our customers that were in the ‘we need you to help us figure out who to sell to’ cohort. Even if they thought that they were in — they were layered down the journey. That’s the sort of number one place where I think – where we see companies tripping up is thinking that they’re too far ahead and that they know –
Tom: “We got this handled, Collin.”
Collin: Yeah. We know who to sell to. We closed a bunch of business. We have some case studies.
Tom: “Just hop on the phone, send out some LinkedIn invites, and book us some calls.
Collin: Exactly. It’s this list. It’s that list. It’s like, “OK…”
Tom: But what I love Collin is that you… you and your team are at a level of professionalism where you don’t just assume that they’ve done that work. Because a lot of people just take the money and say, “Sure. Let’s run a campaign and Bob’s your uncle. Just pay us when we’re done.” But you’re just like, “Well, wait a minute. Let’s challenge that a bit and just kind of confirm that, “Yes, you have found your ideal customer profile and let’s make sure that the messaging is appropriate and then we’ll go after them on the appropriate channel with the right messaging.
Collin: 100%. We started our life as that company. I can’t claim that we’ve been this way since the dawn of time.
Tom: This is like trial and error. You figured it out.
Collin: We’re very iterative company and we’re at every step of the way. We’re trying to figure it out and learn. I think the additional pressure that’s on us is my co-founder wrote the book and so people come to us, expecting us to be experts. So much has changed since that book has come out and so we’ve had to build into our culture a way of continuing to iterate and learn.
Tom: Are there any plans for like a Predictable Revenue 2.0 or revisit it kind of like an e-myth revisited.
Collin: Yeah, it’s certainly been something we talked about. One of the things that we wanted to do to sort of fill the gap was the Predictable Revenue podcast
Tom: Yeah, that’s always relevant.
Collin: …which you were on. We had a great episode talking about LinkedIn. If you’re thinking about that as a channel, I definitely recommend looking up Tom’s episode.It was the best one that we’ve had on when we’re talking about LinkedIn.
Tom: Happy to hear that.
Collin: So, big shout out to Tom.
Tom: How did that endorsement check go? Did it clear?
Collin: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: Good. Thanks. Keep it up.
Collin: I’m gonna need another one after this though.
Tom: Yeah, man.
Collin: Yeah. I’m working you. It was our way of sort of staying fresh. The other thing that we’re doing that I think is a little bit more relevant than another book – another book might be coming down the pipeline – is the Outbound Labs series that we started on YouTube where, basically, I’ve talked about experimentation. We’ve built the culture of experimentation into Predictable Revenue and so every month we’re testing 10 to 20 different hypotheses. So we’re running all these tests and then in this very room, I get who’s head of the Outbound Labs program. She’s working with all the strategists who are actually running these experiments. We come up here and we share, “Here’s what worked. Here’s what didn’t work.”
Tom: Love that! My question, I probably should have framed it better because I said, “When’s the next book coming out?” It’s 2019, it’s 2020, right? We’re not talking about – it doesn’t have to be a book, but it’s sort of like are we always keeping it fresh and updated and relevant for today? For sure, the short answer is, “Absolutely.” Outbound Labs, Predictable Revenue podcast. You’re always getting the fresh new stuff which, I think, is so critical because a lot of people are gonna pick up a book, whatever book it is. And a lot of the stuff, the iconic books, the staples of sales are like from the 90s or the early 2000s. The fundamentals of sales haven’t changed, but the way that you approach prospects has changed which is kind of like the channels. We get people asking, “What’s the right channel to use?” and sort of like, “Well, kind of depends on a few things.”
Collin: And it’s constantly evolving. If you look 10 years ago, you could send a bunch of emails and get a ton of responses. Right now, you really have to up your game because there are tons of tools out there that allow STRs And in some organisations, the STRs are sending more email than the marketing team.
Tom: Yes, for sure. I mean in our case that’s true. Our marketing team will send out maybe one EDM a month, let’s say. That’s like a value email or – oh, it’s four?I’m way wrong. I’m way out. I’m the sales guy, not the marketing. But we send out four EDMs a month. Once a week, we’re sending out something and it’s typically kind of that value, value, value, and then an ask type thing. But, of course, if you’re in sales, you’re dropping people emails every couple of days. If you got kind of a short cadence or a short sequence and you’re just like, “I want to go through these leads within nine days. I’m gonna hit them up pretty fast.” For me, when we talk about channels, it’s kind of like a multi medium approach, isn’t it? It’s not like we only do LinkedIn exclusively. We might do an initial outreach there and then follow up with WhatsApp, SMS, phone call, email, whatever we have. Collin: Grindr. ???. Tom: You know what, we actually just did our first TikTok.
Collin: No way.
Tom: We did our first TikTok and it’s actually one of our sons. He’s now a TikTok celebrity. It’s like you just never know where your prospects can be. I think you have to kind of decide how much energy and time do we want to invest in certain channels or platforms but things are changing all the time, aren’t they?
Tom: Yeah. OK. Cool. You want to touch on tactics or is that sort of –
Collin: The way I look at tactics, very briefly, it’s your team. It’s the processes that drive your team and the tooling. So, it’s the people, it’s the process, and the technology. Those three things. Within that is all the blog posts that you’re reading and continually trying to update yourselves. Like within the playbook is like your cold call scripts, your email templates, etc.
Tom: It’s kind of the execution, the process.
Tom: If you were to look at kind of market messaging channels and tactics, it’s kind of like – as a sales guy, I’m always picturing a funnel.
Collin: It’s a funnel, for sure.
Tom: I can’t help it. It’s like a funnel and like what’s the most important, largest part of that funnel. It’s freaking top of funnel. That’s the market.How do you come up with tactics or like, “Hey, let’s do something on TikTok.” You’re like, “Slow down, big fella. Why don’t we start with the market. Make sure we got the ICP down and clarity of that and then the message.” And then it starts to filter down to channels and then the specific tactics.
Collin: 100%. The way I look at it is it starts with the why and it filters down to the how.
Tom: Love that. OK, cool, I think we’re gonna wrap up. We’ve really gone deep into a lot of this. You can feel free – get in touch with Collin. We’ll share his details in a minute. Is there one thing, Collin, just to kind of sum up this episode here. If there’s one message you could share with these like sales leaders, small business owners, sales reps that would really help them up their game around outbound, what would that be?
Collin: I would say the one thing that we’ve noticed that’s been the most helpful to our customers has been the fact that market messaging are something that you need to continuously test and iterate internally. Channels and tactics can be copied and they all need to be updated on a continuous basis. This is not a set and forget thing. You can’t just say, “Let’s build me some outbound, let’s sprinkle some magic SDR sauce on it, and then it’s good to go forever. Market messaging, your customers change, the market changes, the competitive landscape changes. Your market and messaging are something you’re always going to need to be continuously testing, iterating, and improving.
Tom: Got you.
Collin: Same with channels and tactics, but think of that as your channels and where you’re going to do these things is gonna to change and then how you’re executing on them is always gonna be changing. But I would say they all change. They sort of change less up at the top and more frequently down at the bottom, but they’re always in need of continuous iteration.
Tom: I love that, Collin. It’s almost like you have to revisit the strategy on a regular basis, but that’s gonna remain similar — It’s gonna be less…
Collin: It’s probably not changing daily.
Tom: It’s not changing daily, but the channels and tactics, particularly the tactics or something, that could change a bit more frequently.
Tom: OK, got that. We’re gonna end off today’s podcast in a similar way that Collin likes to end some of his podcast.
Tom: We’re gonna put him on the other side here. How do you get people to reply to your emails?
Collin: I like to use a short and to the point subject line. And then in the messaging that I’m going for, usually – it’s one single easy to answer question. I’m usually not going for the – I’m not going for the kill right away. I’m not going for the meeting. I’m looking for is this email relevant? That’s really what I’m trying to qualify for when I’m trying to open up a conversation because I want to make sure if I’m gonna invest my time as a sales rep, I want to make sure that I’m investing my time on the right individuals. So, I want to give everybody the opportunity to say, “Hey, no, I’m not the right person” right out of the gate so that I don’t spend all this time and effort.
Tom: So, short and sweet and it’s almost qualifying, it’s not presenting.
Tom: I think a lot of people out there and I get these emails all the time. It’s a PDF. It’s like I didn’t ask for any of this.
Collin: I’ve definitely been the rep that sent 17-page PDF, totally custom to the images off the website, research, bios. I spent like days on it. You send it off.
Tom: …the right guy.
Collin: Or even worse, no response.
Tom: That’s true.
Collin: Did it even make it through to them? Did they get it?
Tom: So, it sounds like being clear about the objective of that email which is to get a response.
Tom: Love that. OK, cool. If someone’s brush you off on a cold call or they’re just like, “Dude, I’m not having this.” How do you handle that? What do you do?
Collin: I think of the brush off as sort of two different – there’s two different kinds of brush offs. There’s just trying to get you
off the phone and for me – I kick boxed a little bit. That’s the lean in, the duck and weave.
Tom: He just did a duck and weave here, folks.
Collin: They’re gonna throw the “I’m busy,” you’re like “I’ll be really quick.” You acknowledge that, hey, they said something, but you’re just gonna keep going. And if they’re really trying to just get you off the phone, be like, “Hey, listen, I clearly called you at the wrong time. I’m clearly doing a bad job here. Can you give me some advice on how I could’ve done a better job next time? That’s how you get through the like ‘I’m just trying to get you off the phone.’ If you want to get deep into the qualification into like – if they’re really trying to grill you in the objection handling, really the goal is to get them talking and get them sharing as much as you can. You’re trying to engage whatever part of their brain it is that’s actually thinking critically.
Tom: Not that reptilian brain like fight or flight or freeze, where it’s just like…
Collin: Well, because, I think, we’re interrupting people in their day. What we’re trying to do – when I answer a cold call, I’m trying to avoid contact switching. I’m in the middle of a task – because context switching is gonna cost me 50 minutes productivity, so I’m gonna answer. I’m trying to stay in the zone of whatever it is on that screen and I’m just gonna say, “Yup. Yeah. No, I’m busy,” etc., etc. I’m not even paying attention to what they say. I’m hearing them and I’m reacting, but I’m not engaging.
Tom: You’re not in the headspace.
Collin: Exactly. Once you’ve done the duck and weave and you’ve got their sort of permission or you have 30 seconds on the phone, then it’s like, how do I engage that part of their brain that it’s actually gonna get them talking to me.
Tom: Maybe that’s where the messaging comes in.
Collin: Yeah, for sure.
Tom: OK, cool. Last one here. What do you do – you’re self-calling and also for the team, when you really need to push hard at the end of the quarter. It’s like we run out of days before you hit quota, it’s like you’re running out of time here.
Collin: The thing that I like to have is sort of line of sight on the end of the quarter and have a good idea of sort of where I’m at pipeline wise and what I’m gonna need to do. So, I’m not waiting to the end of the days. I know ahead of time if we’re gonna be tight. There’s inbound, there’s outbound, and then there’s kind of mid-bound which is like people that you’ve engaged with, maybe people that showed up to a webinar, maybe people that were leads from last year. People you’ve already engaged with, they’ve come to you. You’ve had a conversation, but it’s these little pockets of gold. For me, there’s the mid-bound, stuff like that, that have been to a webinar old leads, but there’s also my absolute favourite, our closed lost nurture. I don’t closed lost anything unless they tell me *bleep* Unless they’re like, “If you call me again, I’m gonna murder your whole family.” And then I’m like, you know what…
Tom: That’s when you get the hint.
Collin: I’ll talk to him in 2020.
Collin: I really want there to be absolutely, there’s no way we’re ever doing business. As an Account Exec, I’m closed lost nurturing and I’m putting in next steps. So, here’s the thing, here’s where we got – here’s where we ran into issues. Here’s the reason why we lost that deal. Let’s follow up in six months. And I’m trying to make that call whenever I closed lost an opportunity.
Tom: So, you go after them in that and you’re like, “Hey, is this a good time for us to revisit this conversation?”
Collin: Exactly, because you don’t have to rebuild the whole relationship. You’re starting from halfway. And chances are, context has changed, maybe people have changed, maybe priorities have changed. So, that’s the little pockets of gold that I like to look for.
Tom: That’s awesome, Collin. That’s gold. You can find Collin on LinkedIn. You can find him, Collin Stewart, is his handle on LinkedIn. Collin with two L’s. You can check out the Predictable Revenue Podcast on your favourite podcast platform and maybe check out Outbound Labs?
Tom: Yeah? https://predictablerevenue.com/outbound-labs
Collin: You betcha.
Tom: Cool. Alright. Thanks, Collin.
Collin: Thanks, Tom.
Tom: Take care, guys.
- Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.
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