The sales industry has changed in so many ways since I first started. Salespeople are no longer the gatekeepers of product knowledge or pricing. This is now mostly available online for free. And as a consequence, prospects are usually much further down the sales funnel before they engage with sales teams. You just need to go to G2Crowd or Siftery to find data on any company.
Along with social networks, the accessibility of big data for prospecting, the explosion in content creation, the rise in inside sales teams and the continued division of sales roles, there has also been an ever growing range of sales tools from CRMs to email outreach platforms.
Just to be clear, when we’re talking about email outreach, or sales automation, we’re not talking about CRM automation. We’re talking about sales automation for the purposes of prospecting: e-mail, contact information, and email automation sequencing.
Most salespeople think sales automation is about cold outreach. You don’t always have to start cold! It’s about welcoming new clients onboard with sequences of messages about your product or feature. It’s about asking product management for feedback from your customers, and sending them a sequence of messaging to get that feedback. It’s about taking an inbound lead and engaging them in a sequence of messaging. It’s about following up with sales calls to keep consistent messaging about a product or service.
Common Mistakes of Sales Automation Prospecting
The most common mistakes fall into one or more of three areas: cadence structure, list development and email messaging.
With cadence structure, or email sequences, many sales teams just don’t send enough emails to each prospect. Many will stop after one or two emails or they don’t take actions based on prospects activity. They should be sending at least four, and maybe five to six unique emails to maximize positive reply rates. And if they’re not, they’re just leaving business on the table for a more persistent competitor.
Then, with list development, not enough companies are developing detailed ideal customer profiles and buyer personas first, and then building detailed prospect lists that match these. And that could and often should mean more than a single prospect within an organisation. There’s still too much reliance by many on generic, dated lists.
Now, with email messaging, too many companies are either relying on copying generic email templates or they’re creating their own email messaging campaigns, but they’re either too long, don’t offer unique value or have to big, or too many call to actions. Which is even worse, most of them do not A/B test their email campaigns to improve current results.
How Can Sales Teams Fix These Problems?
Implement a email outreach sales development strategy that provides full automation and reporting so you can take action.
Develop detailed ideal customer profiles and buyer personas and build custom data lists based on these.
Ensure each prospect is sent at least five unique emails in a series over a set period and follow up and personalize based on actions.
Create short, unique and valuable email messages with small and singular call to actions.
In short, develop more of an account based sales development approach. This highly strategic approach will often include the development of multiple buyer personas within a single organisation, before custom data lists are built around each of these buyer personas.
The Role of Social Selling
Social selling plays a huge role in the development of B2B sales teams sales automation processes. I’ve no doubt that sales teams who combine email outreach with adding value to their prospects’ business lives first, via social media, see the best responses and create the best opportunities.
Obviously, there’s many different social channels and ways to engage and give value to prospects, so let’s just consider the use of one here today and compare it with a sales development scenario that doesn’t combine email outreach with social selling.
So first, let’s consider a sales development strategy that sends a well written and relevant sequence of cold emails to a well researched, highly targeted list of prospects - they’re going to see some pretty good results.
Compare that with a sales development strategy that does all this [above]. But before, the prospector has already shared a membership on a relevant LinkedIn group with the prospect. Because of this, the prospect has seen useful curated 3rd party content that has been shared by the prospector on the group. Now, the prospect sends a connection request that notes the shared group, and next, once connected, sends an InMail with a PDF of a relevant customer case study, with no other agenda than a “I thought you might find this interesting.”
Below is the first communication between my Co-founder and myself. Oleg was building a product, which was still undefined. This is the message that got us talking and ultimately building Reply together.
If this is done over the right timeframe, with the right insights, the positive response rates will go through the roof! That’s just one example of how sales teams can use social selling in the prospecting process.
Sales automation presents a huge opportunity for sales teams to scale their success. But if teams fail to build buyer personas and research their prospects, they risk getting lost in the rest of the noise. Lack of personalization in messaging and confusion in process can impair sales team's’ progress. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in a unified platform taking completely automating your sales process.