By Justin “The Machine” Michael
There’s been a Cambrian Explosion of vendors in the SDR-AE Industrial Complex as defined in 2011 by Aaron Ross in the prescient Predictable Revenue. What’s coming next? Greater specialization of SDR roles.
Even in the face of M&A whereas I predict CRM Clouds will gobble up the major Sales Engagement platforms, top SDR organizations will have a dedicated role for Inbound, Outbound, Data, Calling, even Social Selling. Jake Dunlap has called for even greater role specialization to extend the ideas in Predictable Revenue.
That’s actually likely the immediate next phase. In my book TQ, I talk about the dawn of full blown AI automation toward 2022-2025 lopping off the top funnel – SDRs move down-funnel toward Inside Sales, with far more human interaction. Automation and personalization at scale gets so good by this time, it passes the Turing Test. Systems like Orum, ConnectLeader, and ConnectAndSell bring us “life at one thousands dials a day” already which yields 20, even 40 real life interactions as compared to manual cold calling, a dismal 1% connect rate. Holy batwings, Bat Girl!
So how should Sales Dev Leaders think about Tech Stack Integration and better usage? How do you pick tools?
- You need to optimize for quantity and quality. I deeply advocate that you embrace an omni-channel approach. Maxing cold call connect rates with Orum, ConnectAndSell, and ConnectLeader. Maximize your ability to send outbound email with Outreach, SalesLoft, XANT, or Groove. Why is this so important? We are in the age of robocalls. If you enter the fray manually, you’re likely to only connect with 5 prospects out of 100, and in the F1000 that’s likely an executive assistant if you’re lucky. If you personalize or hyper-personalize with email or social touches you’ll be hamfisted at about 20-30 prospects per day doing it right. With Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs), you can make this a staggering 150 sent per day and maintain quality.
- Weaponize your field sales teams with Sales Engagement automation. Remember, in systems like XANT, and GROOVE, touch patterns can be built as flows and plays at lower volume so even the field folks can get into the game to manage their full workflow. For Tier 1 prospects, create the first step as Manual and consider Manual vs. automated touches, so you can add that extra degree of personalization. Tier II and III fully automate. Secret to all personalization according to Jeremey Donovan? It can’t look like a machine could write it. Imagine referencing a webinar at minute 29 and 19 seconds. This specificity and fine grain detail beats all the bots… for now!
- AB test your data platforms. You need to try ZoomInfo (DiscoverOrg), SalesIntel.io, LeadIQ, and Seamless.ai. Get a trial and bake off on all of them. Who’s actually getting you the direct dials and emails you need. For EMEA and APAC make sure to test Cognism and Lusha. In the spirit of integration with your existing stack and results based evaluation, pick 2 or 3 top sales tech stack vendor contenders and engage them in a head to head test. If there’s a photo finish, go with the company that provides better customer service because there can be a bit of heavy lift if you’re small and scrappy implementing / onboarding kit. Bigger startups have dedicated SalesOps and RevOps personnel they can lean on internally.
- Be bold and build the glue with APIs. You know these systems don’t want to talk! It’s a lot like Apple, a walled garden ecosystem of hardware software to own the entire supply chain. Until LinkedIn opens the API (come on Microsoft!) to allow for templatized automation and sequencing, this will be a manual game. Our best bet now is to write Zapier Zaps! – bidirectional API calls between systems. IFTTT – If This Then That, Tray.io, and Workato are other great tools to combine apps. Take all your manual processes like exporting a lead list from LeadIQ and loading it into Outreach and seek to automate it. There’s cool LI automation tech out there right now like Skylead.io and Kennected.io – utilize at your own risk.
- Use AI-chat bots for inbound lead management and routing. Drift is an amazing resource to get front-site visitors engaged with you in real-time or after hours the bot has an if-this-than-that rules engine and even true ML-driven AI-automation to interact autonomously with potential prospects and move them toward your meeting funnel. Just imagine… You can now create dynamic landing pages with interactive AI chat bots breathing new life into them. Conversica “automates email conversations w/ Intelligent AI to qualify them for sales.” There are 3rd parties BPOs that can sit in Drift for you and work front-site on many time zones.
- Consider a 3rd party agency for SDR opportunity generation like CIENCE but pay on performance for results not CPL or meeting gen. The goal is qualified opportunities.
- Make sure you’re leveraging conversational intelligence to coach effectiveness and efficiency remotely. Gong, Chorus, ExecVision, Wingman, Frontspin. The list is endless in this category. Real-time cuing in the future via AI assistants like Outreach Kaia. Sunny Bjerk writes, “Outreach Kaia is a revolutionary real-time Knowledge AI Assistant (Kaia) that helps reps close deals faster by using real-time transcription and analysis to capture key moments during live conversations, and deliver critical sales content exactly when reps need it.”
- Video for email and social is a big deal. Vidyard and BombBomb lead the pack here and integrate well with HubSpot and Salesforce. You should also experiment with Voicemail drops, and native LinkedIn App video drops – just hit the plus sign or the microphone icon from within the LinkedIn Mobile App messaging area to record. It’s got wow factor right now like InMail in the early days.
- Don’t forget Sendoso and contact marketing automation. Sending coffee, swag, drones without the remote control pending a meeting, cake on dry ice, a “shoe to get your foot in the door!” – any stunts with physical stuff in direct mail can have analytics tied to it and fit within CRM. Gong.io did a mailer of lanterns featuring the message, “Sorry to see you go dark” that famously had an 80% response rate. Read Stu Heinecke’s magnum opus on this topic, ‘How To Get A Meeting With Anyone.”
- Exotic messaging platforms are the new pink! I run my life on WhatsApp as I’ve worked for startups in Tel Aviv where adoption is near 100%. Once you’ve moved prospects into the awareness phase of outreach and they are interacting with you positively, be open to moving into direct text, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, even B2B Instagram channels.
- Look, it goes to 11! Bonus for intent data, technolographics, or trigger event data. Use Bombora or Scoops in ZoomInfo (former RainKing feature from acquisition). Understand which accounts are surging on the topic of ‘Hadoop.’ Bombora is now integrated with Outreach.io! Leverage HG Insights for technographic data to see which stacks your prospects are using and qualify by stack pattern recognition. You can even do ‘technographic drops’ into Outreach custom fields! Sales Nav (especially the mobile app) is epic for tracking job changes – set these signals up as weekly email alerts too. CXOs deploy major capital in their first 90 days when they shift roles so job changes remain the most powerful trigger event. Hat tip Tibor shanto and Craig Elias.
The overarching themes here are: Ensure that the tech you’re integrating plays nice with your CRM, the system of record. Your Sales Engagement platform (Outreach, SalesLoft, Groove, XANT) becomes your system of engagement. It must talk to your CRM so governance is a big deal, handling DNC, de-duplication, etc. When you’re selecting tools, evaluate a top list of 2 to 3 in every family. Ensure as you’re building out a stack that you have complimentary technologies but if you’re a hardcore RevOps jockey and wonk (like yours truly!) just buy best of breed in every category, Zap your way to glue them together with APIs and Google sheets, and even paper prototype and work with Dev to fire at API endpoints through a middleware shell. There’s no reason you can’t build DOMO-like overlays on these systems for your company as a Master Dashboard not dissimilar to Minority Report. OK, it might not be 3D with a power glove!
You need to deploy a skunkworks in your company. Always be testing tools. The most exciting tools are companies like Apollo.io or FrontSpin (+dialer!) that are integrating several families of tech together. You have platforms like Adapt.io where the data lives alongside the sequencer creating massive efficiency.
How many times do we stay up all night creating custom excel files only to have them fail on import! Ugh.. Unified Sales Tools are very sexy in concept but dangerous in reality because there is often degradation in data quality. One major edge to a platform like PersistIQ for running outbound, is they’re a bit under the radar of the spam filters as compared to some of the massive power tools for outbound email sending.
Even at high budget, I wrote TQ (access this temporary link to book advance!) as much to be a buyer’s guide as a call to arms for champions of the JARVIS Iron Man Suit to transform and modernize their sales organization for a full blown automation of top funnel cracking in the Roaring 2020’s.
To the technology avoidant and Luddites out there; I get it. I used to get by with just a yellow pad, gmail and my cell phone. That’s never fully going away but if you get 5% better at any of the above tools by raising your technology quotient (TQ) as distinct from IQ and EQ, (your ability as a human to fuse with the machine UI/UX), you will gain a tremendous competitive advantage and enter the realm of Sales Ops / RevOps yourself, remaining in demand at your company, and in your industry.
Managers! How do you increase adoption? It’s easy. Build KPIs around it. What gets measured gets managed, business management luminary Peter Drucker always preached. Sales Managers of the future should frequently pull cadences in 1:1s, review tactics for outbound. How are you personalizing? Which AB tests are you running? Which disruptive new sales tech platforms are you beta testing? Can you imagine? Review the leading indicator sub-KPIs – not just calls and emails per day but analyze social outreach and pre-programmed touch patterns. Be a collaborative architect with your AE and SDR. “Everybody prospects,” as Ryan Buma loves to say.
There are also some fantastic 3rd party resources like RevShoppe that can help with Sales Ops Consulting and copywriting for sales. Grady Booch gave us this classic “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” Get your reps maximizing their 50 outbound InMails a month in Nav. Get a count on video emails per day. Get a beat on text messages sent / flavor for the responses. What’s novel today as a medium, is table stakes tomorrow.
There will be thousands of vendors in the Sales Development Matrix by 2035. Consolidate where you can but invest. According to Lars Nilsson, 15% of high growth startups are investing $1,000 per rep, per month in the modernized sales tech stack. If the ROI is taking a team of 10 SDRs and giving them the output of 100, then this could conceivably go up by 5X. It’s the same argument for investing in sales training. If I move my middle performers to the top and my top performers become 5-10% better, what’s the ROI? Orders of magnitude.
Sales is all about at-bats and the automation of today and the future will be able to programmatically create buying cycles out of thin air. It goes beyond locating the 3% of the market in the buying window to triggering rich buying cycles around the clock on any time zone. Embrace and assimilate all the sales tech tools you can now, master the “mastery of them” and you’ll be unstoppable as AI comes for all our jobs. There still needs to be a human, an analyst, an architect sitting in the seat of the self-driving uber.