Inbound vs. outbound sales: What, when and how

We studied the best marketing and sales minds and distilled them to a simple conclusion:

“Every sales strategy can be categorized into two buckets; inbound or outbound, and neither is the better way to sell.”

In fact, both are great and often used together as part of a larger GTM strategy. So, to help you understand inbound and outbound, this post will cover everything from their differences to the pros and cons of each approach. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of which sales strategy is right for your business (and when).

 

What is inbound sales?

Inbound is a sales and marketing strategy focused on attracting customers through helpful and exciting content that draws people toward your product or service. It’s all about providing value to prospects—no strings attached.

Think about the last time you Googled something like, “How to improve SDR pipeline.” You were likely looking for an article, infographic, report or video that would answer your question and give you the guidance you need to quickly get back on your way. (You definitely weren’t looking for a sales pitch.) The same principles are true for inbound sales. 

To support an inbound motion, businesses create content meant to deliver immediate value—agnostic of your product and without selling. The goal is simply to attract and build trust with prospects. The long-term play is to then rely on that genuine trust to build a relationship that eventually turns a prospect into a customer and an advocate.

 

Components of inbound selling

Inbound selling has four key components:

1. Attraction

Before any sale can happen, you need to discover and attract the right audience. Inbound sales relies on content and SEO strategies to draw people in.

2. Engagement

Once you have someone’s attention, you need to engage them further. You can use forms, live chat and email marketing to continue the conversation.

3. Nurture

Inbound sales aims to turn prospects into customers, nurture the relationship and build trust over time. Why not sell right away? Because most people aren’t ready to buy when they first learn about your company and what you can do for them.

4. Close

After you’ve provided value and built a relationship, you can close the sale. You can (and should) use call-to-actions, special offers and free trials to seal the deal.

 

Benefits of inbound sales

Inbound has become very popular over the last several years, and for good reason. It works—and the results are visible.

  1. Increased ROI: Inbound sales is a cost-effective way to sell. It relies on content and digital marketing, which are relatively cheap compared to other marketing, lead gen and nurturing strategies.
  2. Long-term results: With inbound sales, you’re not just focused on making a one-time sale. You’re also focused on building relationships and developing trust, which leads to repeat business and more referrals.
  3. Greater customer insight: Inbound sales gives you a better understanding of your customers and what they’re looking for. You can use this information to improve your product or service and build a stronger bond with your current (and future) customers.
  4. Increased brand awareness: With inbound, you have the potential to reach a broader audience base, which creates wider brand awareness and, most importantly, more leads.
  5. More qualified leads: With inbound sales, you’re attracting prospects who already show interest in what you offer. This means that you’re more likely to close the sale and less likely to waste time on unqualified leads.
  6. Increased customer loyalty: Inbound sales helps you build relationships with your customers, which leads to increased customer loyalty and lifetime value.

Drawbacks of inbound sales

We just listed the pros… but there are also cons. You’ll want to take both into consideration as you determine what’s best for your org.

  1. It takes time to see results: Inbound sales is a long-term strategy that can take months to pan out. This can be frustrating for businesses that need quick sales to stay afloat.
  2. It requires a lot of content: Inbound relies on content to attract and engage customers. This means you need to have a lot of high-quality content to start.
  3. It’s not suitable for all businesses: Inbound sales might not be the best option for businesses that sell low-cost items or those with a minimal target market.
  4. It can be difficult to measure results: Measuring the effects of inbound sales can sometimes be difficult. That’s because there are often many touchpoints between the first contact and the final sale. So, you’ll need to track your inbound efforts to see which strategies are working and which aren’t.
  5. You need to be patient: As we mentioned, inbound sales is a long-term strategy. This means that you need to be patient and prepared for some ups and downs along the way as you measure to see what’s working so you can refine your strategy as you scale.

What is outbound sales?

Outbound sales is the traditional sales strategy where businesses proactively reach out to prospects. It typically involves cold-calling and emailing contacts within your target accounts, and attending trade shows.

The goal of outbound is to find potential customers and turn them into actual customers before those prospects even know or think to look for you. Traditional outbound —which includes a manual process of determining which companies to target—can be taxing. And the stakes are high. Afterall, your competitors are likely out there searching for and pitching the same folks. So, it becomes a race for who can get to them first.

 

Components of outbound sales

There are four key components of outbound sales:

1. Identification

The first step in outbound is building your target account list. As we mentioned, this is often a time-consuming manual process that is often powered by guesswork. Instead, we recommended you build your target account list with a little help from AI.

2. Contact

Once you’ve identified potential targets, the next step is to contact them. This can be done through phone calls, emails or face-to-face meetings.

3. Qualification

The next step is to qualify the potential customer. This is where you determine whether or not they’re a good fit for your product or service. (And, if you use Rev to build your TAL, you’ll have insight into their readiness.)

4. Engagement

The next step is to engage with prospects to sell them your product or service. This can be done through a sales presentation, demo, free trial or other methods.

5. Closing

The final step is to close the sale and get the customer to commit to buying your product or service. This can be done through negotiation, discounts or other methods.

 

Benefits of outbound sales

There are several benefits of outbound sales, which include:

  1. Increased reach: One of the main benefits of outbound sales is that it allows you to reach more prospects; you’re not limited to just your current customer base or website visitors.
  2. Greater flexibility: Outbound sales allows you to be more flexible in your sales approach. With outbound, you can tailor your sales pitch to each customer.
  3. Improved control: Outbound sales gives you more control over the sales process. You control when and how you contact potential customers.
  4. Increased sales: While outbound sales takes more time and effort than inbound, it can lead to more sales. Outbound sales is often considered a “numbers game” because the more people you contact, the more likely you will make a sale.

Drawbacks of outbound sales

And of course, there are drawbacks too. They include:

  1. It’s time-consuming: Sales reps spend time cold calling, sending emails and researching potential leads. This can be very time-consuming and may not always result in a sale. (And, if they’re talking to prospects that don’t match your ICP, they’re wasting their time.)
  2. It can be expensive: Since outbound sales is often very time-consuming, it can also be quite expensive. Companies that engage in outbound sales typically have to pay their sales representatives a high salary and cover the cost of any lead generation tools or software they use.
  3. It can be disruptive: Many people do not appreciate receiving unsolicited phone calls or emails from sales representatives. This can be disruptive and even annoying, which may make it difficult to establish a good rapport with potential customers.
  4. It may not be effective: Despite the time and effort often put into outbound sales, it may not always result in sales. In many cases, potential customers are simply not interested in what is being sold, no matter how hard you try to sell it to them.
  5. It can damage a company’s reputation: If a company’s outbound sales tactics are too aggressive or intrusive, it can damage its reputation. This could lead to fewer people doing business with the company, which would ultimately hurt its bottom line.

When to use inbound vs. outbound

When should you use inbound and when should you use outbound? The answer isn’t always cut and dry, but here are some guiding principles to help you understand when each is most likely to be effective.

1. The type of product or service you’re selling.

If you’re selling a product or service that is high-priced or complex, then you may want to prioritize inbound sales. It allows you to build relationships with potential customers and educate them about your product before trying to sell it to them. In fact, when you invest in inbound for a high-priced product, you’re also creating brand awareness which creates air cover for your outbound teams. And that will help them open doors.

2. The type of customer you’re targeting.

If you’re targeting customers who are already interested in your product or service, then you may want to double down on inbound sales; you can target customers who are already signaling purchase intent. But, if you’re looking to target prospects who may have not yet heard of you—and you want to reach them before they’ve heard of your competitors—outbound is the way to go. Targeting companies that have the characteristics that most resemble your best customers will give you the competitive edge.

3. Your goals and objectives.

Finally, it’s essential to consider your goals and objectives when choosing which, when and how to implement inbound and outbound motions. If your goal is to generate leads and build relationships, then you may need to give your attention to building a stronger inbound motion. However, if your goal is to close deals and make sales, then outbound sales may need your attention. And, as you can tell, both are important parts of the equation—which is why many companies have both.

 

Final thoughts

There are several factors to consider when evaluating inbound and outbound sales. Ultimately, the best option for your business will depend on your specific goals and objectives.

With Rev, you can support your inbound strategy by tapping into our high-quality, AI-powered MQLs and fuel your outbound by building and prioritizing your target list with accounts that have the characteristics you care about most. 

Contact us, and we’ll show you how we use AI and exegraphics to help companies grow predictable pipeline. (We’ll even give you a free list of target accounts that most resemble your best customers.)

Grow and improve pipeline health in economic hard times

Revenue growth is easier during economic boons—just ask anyone from the .com bubble. It’s how companies maintain themselves during economic hard times that defines their sustainability. And more than just maintaining, downturns can actually be revenue growth opportunities for forward-thinking organizations.

 Of course, that’s tricky. Customers (and our own businesses too) no longer have much tolerance for luxury items. Companies get more exact with the ROI they need to see on their purchases. That’s why so many businesses often focus more on protecting their existing revenue base than on acquiring new logos—at the peril of declining growth. 

Expanding revenue during economic hard times requires extreme efficiency. Precision in targeting new prospects—knowing you are focusing your resources on the companies most likely to engage—is essential. (As is maintaining and expanding your current accounts. Read about that in this twin article.)

Moments like these are the time to re-evaluate your ICP so you’re equipping your revenue teams with the best targets for new business. 

 

Exegraphics change the ICP game.

You know how the B2C world developed psychographics to understand customers far more meaningfully than with demographics? The B2B world lacked that same sort of insight, so we at Rev developed exegraphics: in short, pieces of information or characteristics that convey how a company executes its mission.

Examined by the millions, these exegraphics build an AI-driven ICP to draw a clear picture of what makes your best customers your best, in order to improve your aim at new target accounts. 

(Read our in-depth explorations of how exegraphics and aiCPs work.)

These revolutionary tools facilitate B2B sales teams looking to expand in a downturn. Once you’re able to analyze the deep characteristics your best customers share, you can uncover a deep roster of new targets that have those same traits.  

Improve your targeting aim above the funnel.

Above the funnel is where exegraphics and aiCPs get to work. Traditional strategies function more like casting a wide net to see what you catch. With greater targeting focus, you’re using specialized bait to land the right fish. 

What the right fish is for your company depends on… well, on your company. But exegraphics and aiCPs equip your outbound teams to go after the best-fit targets, reducing the time spent on fruitless cold outreach.

These are such effective tools because they go beyond how a company appears (industry, head count, revenue, etc.) to understand how a company behaves.

Let’s say two manufacturing companies create equivalent amounts of output in the same lane. One employs a hundred laborers on the factory line. The other employs five developers to maintain an AI-driven factory. On the outside, they look alike—but if you produce, say, HR solutions, the first company is likely a much better fit. And if you produce AI solutions, the second company is your better prospect.

That’s an oversimplification, but it illustrates how you want to aim your outbound teams at prospects that operate much like your best customers to maximize leads they can convert into sales.

 

Expand into new markets with a SWAT-style strategy.

Tapping into new market segments—particularly if your company is already well-established in its current segments—opens up a world of new potential customers. It’s an aggressive strategy in times when many competitors are more conservatively protecting their existing revenue base.

It appears to be a risky strategy, too. What if you invest marketing resources in a market segment for 12 months only to fall flat?

First off, finding companies in a new segment that have the same “fit” and “ready” characteristics as your best customers minimizes risk and maximizes the potential for gains. It’s the same exegraphic reasoning as above: companies in very different market segments might have very similar internal operations that make them a great candidate for your product or service. 

Analyzing companies for shared characteristics uncovers a deep roster of new-segment targets that behave very similarly to your current best customers. And that primes your revenue team to test out these new best prospects.

Key word there is test. We recommend resisting the urge to over-rotate (and over-invest); instead, we advocate for a SWAT-team approach: lightly staffed with strong expertise, able to pivot and adapt on the fly. Think something like one business development rep, two AEs and light marketing support.

After all, if you’re using the power of exegraphics and aiCPs, you already have rigor in your process: you know you’re sending reps after prospects most likely to bite. You can develop a few good pieces of early messaging and simple collateral to test the market.

Then see what happens. Do you get engagement? Are the reps able to close deals? If not, what needs to happen differently? 

This approach accelerates the information-gathering period and helps you assess, quickly and definitively, whether a new market segment is actually viable. This approach manages to get you answers in 3-6 months, not the more typical 12-18 months needed to determine market fit.

 

Final thoughts: Tighten your strategy, not your belt.

In economic downturns, we often hear (and use) terms like “tightening the belt” or “battening the hatches.” But these ideas don’t have to be restrictive—tightening up can also mean optimizing and calibrating our revenue operations.

Our customers are scrutinizing everything right now: their people, their systems, their processes. We see this at Rev—a higher percentage of our own sales now involve companies’ CFOs, whereas before we could more often close a deal without having to articulate our business case as fully.

So why shouldn’t we scrutinize our own approaches and get much more surgical in the prospects we target? After all, that’s what we’re here to help other companies do, too. There’s less money flowing out there, and it’s flowing less easily, so it’s imperative to get more precise if you want to continue growing and expanding your revenue base—without waiting for times to get good again.

See how you can shore-up your GTM efforts to spark growth during an economic downturn. Contact us and we’ll set you up with a free target account list for the new market segment you’ve been considering.

Your ICP is broken, and here’s why

Ideal customer profiles are a staple of B2B sales strategy. And they make sense: if you can identify the traits that make your best customers your best customers, you can target the same traits in your best prospects.

The problem with ICPs is that they are generally a shallow way to characterize companies. A sales team can put an entire ICP in bullet points on a single slide. That ICP is often a static document, too, not accounting for changes in your best customers or your best prospects.

In essence, a traditional ICP is a stereotype. Sales teams target prospects on five or so traits. The B2C world has moved away from targeting prospects based on how they look, so why do so many B2B companies still target their best-fit customers that way?

The simple answer is that deeper information about companies is harder to take into account. Really, revenue teams need to identify prospects based on the decisions and behaviors of companies—but that data is hard to understand, let alone formulate. So, ICPs remain assumption-based, superficial and limited.

That’s why we at Rev set out to create a new approach to identifying best-fit prospects. Using our AI-based modeling techniques, we developed the aiCP: a dynamic, customizable and in-depth way to profile prospects across market segments.

Let’s look at the power of aiCPs and how they help revenue leaders target the right prospects.

 

aiCPs target look- and act-alikes.

 Traditional ICPs are so brief (and so shallow) because they essentially identify lookalike firmographics: industry, headcount, revenue, recent funding, specific job titles and so on. However, these are not insightful ways to understand how a company actually operates, and therefore how they compare to your best customers.

aiCPs, on the other hand, rely not on firmographics but on exegraphics. 

Exegraphics are pieces of information or characteristics that convey how a company executes its mission—and they are the crux of aiCPs. Just like the B2C world realized psychographics are far more powerful than demographics, Rev’s exegraphics offer the same caliber of insight beyond old-school firmographics for the B2B world.

Our modeling technique looks at everything from company messaging to hiring boards and employee resumes to understand how a company functions, how it changes over time and how it compares to its peers—and it examines millions of data points to build a clear picture of what actually makes your best customers your best. 

(For a more in-depth exploration of exegraphics, read What are exegraphics?)

Then, we build an aiCP from that picture. You get to really know how your best existing customers function, and what they share in common, regardless of topical characteristics. You know how your target market behaves on the inside—not just how it looks, but also how it acts—now that you’ve put more rigor into defining your ideal customers. Therefore, you can get much more precise in how you target new accounts, cutting through the fluff of firmographic lookalikes alone.

 

aiCPs evolve.

Too often, traditional ICPs remain static within a target market. A sales team identifies traits to look for, and then it sticks with them. However, industries and individual companies are constantly changing, and it makes little sense why a sales strategy shouldn’t evolve too.

That’s why we build aiCPs as living sales strategies: they are meant to iterate continuously, and respond both to the market and to your own human input.

 

Dynamic aiCPs

Once you enhance your customer profiles with aiCPs, incorporating change over time is inevitable. After all, your products change, your customers change, the economy changes. Nothing in a sales environment stays the same forever. The dynamic nature of aiCPs takes those changes into account.

  • aiCPs change with each successful sale. The customers you’re selling to today might look different than the ones six months or a year ago. You can push every sale you close back into the aiCP model so that it incorporates the new data points associated with that customer. Refining the aiCP each time a new customer comes on board keeps your seed list relevant and your targeting in sync with your market.
  • aiCPs grow alongside your best customers. Say your organization started off selling strictly to early-stage tech startup companies. You’re still closing those sales today, but your existing customers have stuck with you through their Series B funding and are increasingly becoming successful enterprise companies. By continuously reassessing your aiCP over time, your target profile grows to include other established companies that behave like your best oldest customers in addition to your best new customers.
  • Companies take actions that readjust themselves. Think of those important moments that dictate the course of a company. A new executive hire. A new product launch. Those fundamentally alter the way a company operates, which means they will either become a better or a worse target for your sales team. The dynamic nature of aiCPs capture those changes to reprioritize them for your revenue team.
  • New exegraphics improve the modeling. Exegraphics are not a static tool either. We at Rev are continuously developing new ways of understanding companies. That means each new analysis of your seed list will adjust the Rev Score of each target account and reprioritize them based on the best understanding available—in conjunction with the most recent assessment of thousands of active peer companies.

 

Customizable aiCPs

For all the characteristics of companies that exegraphics capture, they don’t catch your own human understanding of your revenue team, your company and your customers. That’s why aiCPs are customizable, allowing you to weight certain traits and prioritize accordingly.

Rev’s AI model is not a black box: it’s a powerful tool to give you, as a revenue leader, the target list you need. Pairing that utility with your institutional knowledge enables you to create massively effective customer profiles, prioritized according to your understanding of what matters.

Our customers are able to drive their aiCPs. We’ll help you define custom exegraphic lenses. We’ll help you prioritize what’s meaningful or feasible for your revenue team. That can look like just about anything you can imagine—because while we’re passionate about getting you connected with top-quality prospects, you also need to feel passionate about the results.

 

aiCPs open up unexpected market segments, save resources and help you move faster.

Cutting-edge aiCPs offer plenty of advantages over traditional ICPs for revenue teams looking to reach new customers. Yet one of the great strengths of the aiCP model is its ability to identify entirely new market segments for growth-minded organizations.

You can dig deeper into how aiCPs open up new market segments in New ways to identify new market segments. Here, though, are some key insights into how an aiCP drives growth for companies who need to break into new markets.

  • aiCPs do away with assumptions. The exegraphics behind aiCPs are less concerned with what industry a company is in, and more concerned with the interior functions of that company. So when the AI model identifies act-alike companies for your best customers, those often reside in entirely different and unexpected market segments from your typical clients.

 

Without this knowledge, revenue teams looking to breach new segments tend to presume that adjacent markets make for strong prospects. It makes some sense to reason that similar markets will have similar needs, and that this transition will be an easy one. Yet adjacent markets, despite appearing similar, are not always the best prospects. Let’s say your current best customers are auto insurance companies. You might decide to start targeting health insurance companies, while your hypothetical aiCP shows that the financial sector is your strongest addressable market—a pivot you would never make without deep insights into those prospects.

  • aiCPs allow you to breach new markets more affordably. It’s expensive to craft a marketing plan for a new market segment. (One of the appeals of adjacent markets is that the marketing team isn’t building from the ground up.) But with the high-fidelity prioritization offered by aiCPs, you aren’t targeting the TAM from the start. You are taking a strike-team approach: sending in a small handful of sales reps, with basic early-messaging collateral, to make first contact with prospects most likely to bite.
  • aiCPs get you to market faster. That surgical approach to the first prospects gets your team talking to prospects instead of building strategies without on-the-ground knowledge. What kind of engagement is happening? Can your reps close a deal? What needs to shift?

 

The customers you land (and the ones you don’t) can inform both the ever-evolving aiCP and your team’s sales strategy. You’re not stuck waiting for the marketing machine to start turning out materials before you can get started. The precision and high resolution of your aiCP accelerates the info-gathering period and helps you assess, quickly and definitively, whether a new market segment is viable. With this approach, you can manage that in 3-6 months, rather than the more usual 12-18 months to develop a go-to-market program.

The aiCP, in short, keeps your revenue team at the top of their game. Your decisions are driven by data more than generalization. Your targeting is more focused, your likelihood of landing new customers increases. You can accomplish more sales in less time, using less of your resources. And your strategy evolves as you do, keeping your team continuously sharp.

To see how your ICP compares to your aiCP—and get a view of the behavioral characteristics of your best customers—contact us to schedule your free aiCP audit.

B2B sales funnel: Understand and optimize what matters most

A recent Gartner study noted that the B2B purchasing process is complex. While that might not totally take you back, you might be surprised to learn that 77% of B2B buyers reported that their last purchase was complicated. So, let’s take a look at your B2B sales funnel to simplify the buying journey for customers and your sales team. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is a B2B sales funnel?
  • Three B2B sales funnel processes you need to understand
  • The basic stages of a sales funnel
  • How to start above the funnel and solve the first-mile problem
  • Ways to optimize your B2B sales funnel

 

What is a B2B sales funnel?

At its core, a B2B sales funnel is the process businesses use to go from awareness to purchasing a product or service. Sales funnels give you insight into where potential customers are, so you can connect them with the right resources that turn them from prospects to loyal customers.

 

Three B2B sales funnel processes you must understand

The world of B2B sales has nuanced challenges and opportunities, and you need to be aware of them. Your job is to make buying smoother for your prospects. To make it easier, you need to focus on three core areas: B2B buying, selling and marketing.

Buying

According to Gartner, the buying journey can be arduous and full of surprises. When it comes to B2B purchasing decisions, you will likely run into roadblocks because buying is a multi-step process with several layers of approval.

Gartner identifies four main steps to the B2B buying process:

  • Problem identification
  • Solution exploration
  • Requirements building
  • Supplier selection

 

Ultimately, B2B products typically cost thousands of dollars per year. As a result, businesses do not enter into these decisions lightly. You may experience long sales cycles, contract negotiations and other hang-ups while getting a company to sign a contract.

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If your company targets small businesses, the buying process will be simpler. There will likely be only one or two people to impress. On the other hand, enterprise customers require a more complex approach with new processes like RFPs (requests for proposals) or vendor surveys.

 

Selling

How your organization approaches the selling process is critical. You have to address fit, but it needs to be easy for prospects. Most B2B sales processes revolve around the demo. How you pitch your product will vary depending on who you are talking with.

For example, you may give a demo to a lower-level employee, demo to a manager/director and then demo to another executive at the company. Each demo needs to touch on different aspects of the product that appeal to that person. Lower-level employees (often the user) want to know about the bells and whistles that will make their lives easier. Executives (often the buyer) want to know how your product will save time or money.

By understanding the various layers of the selling process, your team will be able to sign more contracts.

 

Marketing

Last, companies must understand the marketing process. What makes a person stop what they are doing to read your article, sign up for your free eBook or subscribe to your mailing list? Marketing is a numbers game requiring you to get in front of as many of the right people—your target audience—as possible.

Marketing has two main functions: paid and organic. Paid advertising can be a great way to prove market value quickly, but it can be challenging to sustain. Organic marketing helps your organization cut marketing costs while getting in front of more people. Organic marketing is best because it’s more sustainable for companies who want to cut expenses, but it does take time to establish. Unless you have name recognition offline, you’ll have to build your online presence from scratch.

 

The basic stages of a sales funnel

There’s no such thing as a “right” B2B sales funnel. Every company can—and should—build theirs in a way that best supports their customers and, ultimately, their business. Some sales funnels are simple and others are complex. But, it’s safe to say that many B2B sales funnels have these basic stages:

 

Awareness

Before a company can find value in your product, they need to know that you exist. Awareness is essential to the funnel because prospects can’t turn into customers without this step.

Awareness is mostly a marketing function, but outbound sales reps might also take on part of this process. Marketing raises awareness by creating relevant content, hosting events and generating press. Outbound sales professionals develop awareness at a much smaller scale through one-on-one conversations with prospects they think will be a good fit.

 

Consideration

After a person becomes aware of your brand, they start to consider what your organization can do for them. Prospects don’t always enter the consideration stage right away. They have to need your product offering first. Consideration happens as prospects are continually introduced to your company. Prospects in the consideration stage may reach out for more detailed information like whitepapers or demos of your product.

 

Intent

Next, buyers start to show intent, which means they do their final research to ensure you are the right company. Prospects might ask for more in-depth demos, pricing information and references for other successful customers. At the end of the intent phase, companies will let you know they are ready to sign a contract.

 

Purchase

Now that a prospect has signed a contract, they have become customers. Many organizations offer a trial period or a money-back guarantee. Customers are testing your service, working with your success team and implementing your solution. Customers in the purchase phase are learning a lot and deciding their next steps.

 

Retention

In an ideal world, you can retain your customers. Creating a loyal customer base is helpful because it allows you to build your revenue sustainably. Customer retention also leads to more business because happy customers tell their friends and colleagues about your company.

 

Solve the first-mile problem in sales—above the funnel

At Rev, we realized there was a fundamental problem in the current B2B sales funnel, and it started at the top. When the wrong leads entered the funnel, every step after was wasted, draining companies of time and resources on leads that wouldn’t budge. Even worse, they were missing five-star opportunities altogether.

By knowing what makes your best customers fit and ready, you can focus your time on the prospects that are most likely to close. Wondering how to identify a customer that’s ready to hear your pitch?

Here’s how some of the best sales and marketing teams use our AI-powered Sales Development Platform to find their next best customer:

 

1. Start with a seed list

First, our stellar customer success team partners with you to compile and enter your seed list in our Sales Development Platform. The seed list is a necessary part of the process because it’s what our AI analyzes and pattern matches against. If you put in poor-fit companies, you’ll receive a target list that looks the same way. To avoid this, we sit down with you to go over your list and make sure it’s filled with the best companies.

Our customers often give us a list of their favorite or best-fit customers. Some of our customers are new or diving into a new market. For those customers, we work to determine who the best-fit customers are in their industry.

 

2. Build an aiCP

Once you’ve entered your seed list, our Sales Development Platform goes to work. It looks at the deep, behavioral characteristics of your customers, what we call exegraphics, and builds you an aiCP (AI-powered ideal customer profile). Unlike a traditional ICP snapshot often rooted in firmographics, the aiCP is dynamic and gives you deep insight into how a company operates.

Our Sales Development platform has data for more than 6 million companies and 500+ exegraphic lenses. This  helps you understand your customers and prospects beyond headcount and headquarters location. When you use Rev’s exegraphics, you get robust information about what makes your seed list unique and valuable.

The exegraphic data you get from Rev would be stellar on its own, but we take it a step further.

 

3. Create a target list your sales team will love

Next, our Sales Development Platform uses the aiCP as a blueprint and looks for other companies that look and act like your best customers. It then builds a prioritized target account list based on the exegraphics you uncover from your seed list. Our platform looks for bullseye companies, or companies that exhibit the patterns and behaviors that show a high propensity to engage..

When you see your target account list, you’ll find more than just bullseye companies. Rev wants you to uncover the gamut of companies that could be a great fit, so we share companies with different layers of fit and readiness. Many of our customers use Rev data across sales and marketing. Sales take the best fit leads, while marketing warms up the colder opportunities.

 

4. Plug your list where you need it most

Sales are already complicated. We don’t want to make your life harder. We have a stellar list of integrations with companies you love, like Salesforce, Hubspot and Marketo. Once you have your list, you’ll easily be able to export the information to software your sales and marketing team members already use.

There’s no need to have your sales and marketing team undergo another training. 

 

5. Rinse and repeat

Before Rev, understanding the ideal customer profile was a huge undertaking. There was so much data that needed to be collected and digested. Humans can only take in so much information. ICPs were often reaffirmed once a year or less, which made them outdated as products and companies developed. There is no reason companies can’t be flexible and agile when it comes to their ideal customer.

One of the best parts about Rev’s aiCP is that it constantly evolves. You can make changes to your company’s aiCP monthly or quarterly. As a result, your sales team can make better decisions, tap into companies that make sense at the moment and close more deals in the process.

 

Five ways to optimize the B2B sales funnel

While the B2B buying process can feel complex, there are specific things you can do to optimize it. Ultimately, your organization must be able to anticipate the needs of your audience. What information does your audience need to feel comfortable spending money on your product/service? By providing those details upfront, you can reduce buying friction.

 

1. Have a clear understanding of your ideal customer

One of the best ways to optimize the B2B sales funnel is to know your ideal customer inside and out. When employees understand the ideal customer, they can think like them. Getting inside your ideal customer’s head leads to better content, well-designed sales outreach and meaningful conversations.

 

2. Help sales and marketing professionals visualize the funnel

It can be challenging to optimize the sales funnel if your team doesn’t understand the value. Sales and marketing leaders must do the work to help their team visualize the B2B sales funnel. Why is it important? How do they contribute to the funnel? What pieces of the funnel does the company need to strengthen? Make using a funnel practical for all of your revenue operations and go-to-market team members.

 

3. Create straightforward, helpful content and collateral to improve lead flow

Content is the backbone of your B2B sales funnel. The content you create can push people through the funnel and make people more likely to purchase your product. Marketing and sales should collaborate to understand what potential prospects need so sales teams can sign deals.

You should use a mix of gated and ungated content to bring new prospects into the funnel. The gated vs. ungated debate has been raging amongst marketers for a while, but gated content does help your company collect more email addresses and MQLs.

 

4. Focus on credibility through reviews and case studies

B2B buyers talk within the niche, and everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses. If you’re going to optimize your sales funnel, start by leveraging your current customers.

It’s vital to leverage review sites like G2 and Capterra. These sites get millions of visitors every year. Your ideal buyers visit sites like this to get a sense of the players in your niche. You want to have a presence on these sites, so team up with your customer success department to drive reviews.

Another way you can boost credibility is by focusing on your case studies. Case studies are an in-depth look at one of your best customers. You can dive deep into their problem and how your product or service solved it. While potential customers realize that these are advertisements for your brand, a well-written case study can make the sales process much easier.

 

5. Look outside of your niche for brand inspiration

Is your brand a leader or a follower? Often companies get stuck in a cycle of being too late to trends because they spend more time following what others do. If you want to optimize your funnel, try something another company outside your niche is doing. For example, you could try some B2C sales strategies or find strategies that work for another B2B niche to see if they might work for your company. 

 

Buying is fairly similar across the board, so it’s okay to do something that’s never been done in your niche before.

 

How is a B2B funnel different from B2C?

Last, let’s wrap up by sharing how B2B funnels differ from B2C funnels. While B2C buyers go through many of the same phases as B2B buyers, the funnel is typically sped up.

Consumers don’t have to spend nearly as much time going through each stage, and the middle stages of the funnel are often condensed. In a B2C purchase, there are typically far fewer hoops to jump through. For most consumer purchases, there is only one buyer, with the exception of larger purchases like a car or a house.

Overall, businesses do much more diligence when purchasing a product or service.

 

It’s time to build a better B2B sales funnel with Rev

At Rev, we’ve spent countless hours building a deeper understanding of the sales funnel. While traditional sales funnels can make revenue, something is missing. Rev helps companies like Oracle go above the funnel by addressing the fit and readiness of potential prospects.

If you’re ready to improve your company’s B2B sales funnel, contact us. We’d be more than happy to show you how our Sales Development Platform works and give you a sample list of targets for the exegraphics you care about most.

​​Why your cold outreach sucks (and what to do about it)

Cold sales outreach catches a bad rap for good reasons. A lot of people don’t enjoy receiving cold calls and sales pitch emails. Plus, a lot of sales reps aren’t particularly genuine about making those connections.

We find that a lot of the advice out there about how to improve your SDR prospecting is obvious at best, demeaning at worst. And, when everyone is following the same advice (like “call just before lunchtime”), you’re lacking any positive differentiator from all the other sales callers out there.

At Rev, we believe there’s a better way to conduct cold outreach. It starts above the funnel in how you build your target lists, the ways you use that information to connect with prospects and how you ease the process for your potential customers.

Let’s look at three of the big reasons your current cold outreach isn’t great—and the solutions to make it better.

 

You’re targeting accurate but superficial lookalikes. 

Your most fruitful approach to cold outreach is to find prospects that mirror your organization’s ideal customer profile. So you take a look at your company’s best existing customers and cultivate a list of ICPs. Then, if you’re like many of us, you basically Google lookalike companies.

It’s not the worst place to start. Think “largest outdoor adventure companies in Denver.” Or “mid-size advertising firms in New York.” You’ll learn about a bunch of companies you’ve never heard of, find their best points-of-contact and get to work reaching out.

But the problem is that these firmographics (e.g. industry, workforce/team size, geography, annual revenue and so on) are not necessarily the telltale indicators of why your best customers are your best customers. Firmographics also don’t demonstrate whether or not a company is ready to buy.

Companies that match in their firmographics can still be misaligned in their attitudes, behaviors and readiness.

 

Solution: Dig beyond firmographics into exegraphics. 

You can improve your cold-call KPIs when you develop a more thorough understanding of who your most likely customers are. It might take you fifty calls to land one meeting going off firmographics. But it will likely take you much fewer calls if you can understand how lookalike companies operate under the hood.

We at Rev call this information exegraphics: pieces of data or characteristics that convey how a company executes its mission. How a company projects itself to the world in its messaging and value propositions, as well as how it acts internally (such as the size of its software development team, the rate of growth of its HR department or its early adoption of new technologies).

Two similar-looking companies, it turns out, can act very differently:

Our Sales Development Platform uses AI to surface exegraphic data on millions of companies, but you could also gather similar data with the help of a dedicated data science team. It might require some excavation of LinkedIn profiles and job boards. It likely calls for some dot-connecting, since very few companies announce their internal operations quite so publicly. (Though sometimes they do!)

In the end, you’ll compile a stronger sense of prospects’ operations and needs before you reach out to them. You’ll have a better sense of if and how your company’s products and offerings can assist them. And you’ll position yourself to make a more relevant and immediate impact upon first (or second, or fifth) contact.

 

In order to reach more prospects, you veer too impersonal.

We get it: cold-calling is often a numbers game. The more contacts you reach out to, the more hits you’ll score. And the ones you miss are no-harm-no-foul.

But what if it’s not a numbers game? What if it’s a quality game more than a quantity game?

Cold outreach has a bad name because of all the times it’s done badly. Generic calls and emails can sound like spam (at best) and frauds (at worst). Some cold-callers might as well say, “Hi, stranger. You don’t know me, but why don’t you let me solve all your problems!”

You are trying to solve their problems. But you don’t have to sound like a stranger, even though you haven’t met yet. And your first cold outreach can still feel warm.

 

Solution: Take a beat to personalize your outreach. 

There’s a reason that every email marketing platform on the planet allows you to insert a contact’s first name: it automatically personalizes the communication, even if everyone knows it’s automated.

You can take this same idea and dial it up to 11. You already have exegraphic data on your target companies. It’s worth the extra effort to connect with your contact person, too.

Sometimes, this works out as a shared personal connection. Maybe you went to the same university: “I saw on LinkedIn that you also attended State. Go Mascot!” Or, perhaps you’ve experienced their work: “I heard you discuss sales strategies on my favorite podcast last month, and it’s changed how I approach new clients.” So long as the information is public knowledge, and your connection genuine, this can take a cold outreach from the “read and ignore later” pile to the “I’ll read what this person has to say” level. (Saying where you found the info can prevent you from sounding weirdly creepy or intrusive.)

Other times, the connection is completely at the company level—“We use your software in our department and have seen increased productivity each month. We love what you’re doing.”

The social selling approach means you can make connections before actually reaching out the first time. You could follow a contact on Twitter if they post commentary or articles relevant to your field; or, your company account might share a helpful post from that company’s blog. Mentioning what you found helpful never hurts in that first contact—“We shared your post on our team Slack and still reference it in our weekly standup.” 

All that said, don’t overdo it. A one-line humanizing statement is usually all you need to personalize your communication; then, get to the point. Also, you can personalize according to the likelihood of that particular relationship paying off. If your contact is in the C-suite or another decision-making role, consider personalizing each of your follow-ups. If, however, they’re a lower-level employee further removed from financial decisions, you can perhaps personalize the initial contact and go with a more automated followup approach.

 

You think your potential customers have their act together.

Guess what? They don’t. They’re just like all too many of us: overwhelmed, stressed and bombarded with information. If they knew they needed your help and had the time to do something about it, they’d be calling you.

It’s also likely that no one person on the customer’s side of things has the ability to take control of addressing the company’s issues. Harvard Business Review identified a jump in the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases from an average of 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2017, and it’s reasonable to presume that number has not gone down in the intervening years.

You’re probably not reaching out cold to 6 or 7 people in a given company (and rightfully so). You’re hoping to make meaningful contact with one representative, who can then advocate for purchasing your solution with the rest of their team—who will, again according to HBR, have “divergence in organizational priorities” that “makes it difficult for buying groups to agree to anything more than ‘move cautiously,’ ‘avoid risk’ and ‘save money.’”

If you believe in the solution you’re selling—and you should—it’s easy to presume that a prospect in need will want to act on that need. After all, standard practice is to let the prospect voice their own problems and connect their own dots with your product or service.

The more information you can give your prospect—the closer you can place those dots—the better convinced they will be, and the better they can convince the rest of their organization! Right?

Not so much.

 

Solution: Make your outreach less responsive and more prescriptive.

When your cold outreach results in a warm connection, it’s tempting to respond to every pain point with how you can help soothe it. Focused communication shows you and your company are active listeners and responsive problem-solvers. You’re offering customized, personalized solutions. That feels helpful!

But too much information and too many choices actually makes things harder on your prospect. By tapping into exegraphic data, you have a much higher chance of offering solutions to problems they don’t even know they have yet.

Nick Toman, Brent Adamson and Cristina Gomez, writing at HBR, evaluated how a responsive sales approach reduced the ease of purchase, whereas a “proactive, prescriptive approach increased purchase ease by 86%.”

You can think of it this way: Offering a prospect a range of options gives them one more set of decisions to make in their already decision-strained lives. Coming into the conversation as a subject matter expert with the confidence and authority to present your prospect with clear, actionable steps establishes you not only as a salesperson, but as an ally. 

We all want someone to take care of our problems for us. You can be that person, or at least the person facilitating it, for your prospect. And it makes the sales decision easy for your contact. You’ve presented both a solution and a roadmap with common obstacles (gleaned in large part from your past customers), including how you’ll help make this solution a reality.

 

Final thoughts: A sale needs to be easy for the customer, not for you.

An easy sale is a holy grail. But it’s not pure happenstance. An easy sale, attained in a repeatable and sustainable way, requires your effort before you ever hit send or dial a number.

Following these solutions, your cold outreach is cold only in the sense that it is unsolicited. You’ve already come to a greater understanding of your contacts’ businesses and their probable needs. You’re already ready to present them not with an opportunity, not with a sales pitch, but with empathy for their problems and a readiness to assist.

The sale should be easy for your prospects—you’re making the effort to connect with them on a personal and/or a company level. You understand how their business operates. And you’re ready to hold their hand throughout the process.

The sale itself might look easy to others. Why shouldn’t it? You’ve just turned a cold call into a human interaction, one that customers are more likely to respond to with a purchase, yes, but also with more satisfaction, less regret and a greater willingness to return to you for other solutions.

Now that definitely doesn’t suck.

What are exegraphics?

Straight up, the B2B world does not get measured and tracked the same as the B2C world. Years ago, consumer sales vendors used to track just demographics. Today, they know a ridiculous amount beyond your age, your gender or your location: the large data attractors (think Amazon or Google) can predict what you’ll want to buy, before you know it yourself.

There is no such thing in the B2B world. No giant data attractor for companies that want to know what other companies need. No way to predict who the most likely, or most ideal, customers for a product or service will be.

So at Rev we decided to construct that information ourselves. A deep picture about companies—what they produce, how they behave, how they work—helps our customers to identify other potential clients much like the way the e-commerce giants can target you as an individual consumer.

Anything you could want to know about a company, we call an exegraphic: a piece of information or a characteristic that conveys how a company executes its mission.

Let’s take a look at what exactly exegraphics are, and how they help companies like yours find more and better prospects, faster.

 

Exegraphics capture how a company projects itself to the world.

Exegraphics require us to look at companies in two major ways. The first is, what does a company say about itself? All companies make promises (both explicit and implicit) to their market about what their goods and services can accomplish, how they conduct themselves, and what stands them apart from their competition.

This external facet captures both functional language and messaging: both what a company says and how it says it. Essentially, our models take in however a business communicates its value to the public. We generally capture this information on company websites and social media platforms, as well as other similar sources.

The difference between collecting firmographics and collecting exegraphics is their depth. Just as B2C companies have moved from demographics to psychographics, B2B needs to shift from firmographics to exegraphics. 

No large or successful B2C company would be satisfied with making decisions based merely on demographics anymore. Psychographics simply tell a better story about where a consumer is positioned. Exegraphics do the same thing for B2B companies: they extend beyond firmographics not only to tell you the industry a company is in, but also to show you how it positions itself—and how they operate—within that industry.

 

Exegraphics puzzle out how a company functions on the inside.

The second major way exegraphics require us to look at a company is, how does it function on the inside? This one is less immediately apparent. Most companies don’t publish how large their legal team is, or how fast their software department is scaling. And these things are not always discernible from external projections.

Think of it like this: two companies can be in the same field, offering competing services. One does it with an army of people, and the other does it with five AI engineers and a bunch of robots. One of these companies might be your ideal candidate, and the other a worthless lead.

Exegraphics get to the difference by looking inside. Our model turns to professional networking sites and similar platforms to build a sense of who works at a company—what are their functions? their responsibilities? their skills? their professional backgrounds? It also looks at job postings to determine what the company is asking for in potential employees.

Whereas the first way exegraphics look at companies focuses on a company’s position in its industry and the value it offers to its market, this one focuses on the functions of people within the company, and how those functions are built, sized and prioritized.

 

Exegraphics figure out these things millions of times to place companies among their peers.

A human being with time and the internet could do that work for a single company. In a day, a team might be able to assemble information for a hundred. But to be of any significant use, you need to do it for the thousands upon thousands of companies in existence. Rev uses a mix of powerful AI technologies to undertake the sense-making by doing what a human would do, millions of times over: read websites, resumes, and job postings to create a clear picture of any characteristic of what a company does and how they do it—then compiling how individual prospects compare to their aggregated peers.

What industry a company is in is a firmographic. So is the fraction of people at that company who are in the legal function. Now, the model looks at the peers—same industry, same basic size—and evaluates if the legal team is about what you’d expect, way bigger or way smaller. And bam! You have an exegraphic that helps you understand that potential customer’s position.

Context matters for any exegraphic. You have to know what peer group you’re comparing to in order for exegraphics to matter. For example, you’d expect a large software team at a software company. But at a dog-walking service, one developer means that company is probably a software giant compared to its peers. Same for other considerations—slow growth in one industry might be massive growth in another. Or, one company scaling when others in its industry are contracting might offer you valuable insights into their behavior.

 

Exegraphics account for change over time.

Comparing peers tells you the relative bench strength of a company in distinct functional areas. Exegraphics can also account for how those strengths have changed and are changing.

Let’s say that you’re selling cloud-based accounting solutions. You’ve identified a bunch of growing prospects. Great—growth is one such exegraphic. Now you can identify the ones whose accounting departments are actually shrinking. These accountants might be overwhelmed; maybe they need new solutions, or maybe it’s hard to hire good accountants in their area and they need something to change.

Now you’ve identified clients who not only fit your audience, but who also have a reasonably demonstrable need for your services.

In this way, you can think of any exegraphic having a characteristic called speed or velocity. How quickly does it change, and in what direction? On an individual level, change is constantly happening. Companies hire and fire people all the time, and workers move between jobs. But looking at groups over time, exegraphics can identify trends within a single company and relate them to shifts across an industry.

Exegraphics can also identify sudden changes. We’ve developed new data sources around funding, for example. Companies that close a round of venture capital have loads more money in the bank overnight. But those kinds of changes don’t happen that often; sudden hiring changes do, however, especially in scaling companies. 

For instance, an emerging Acme Inc. is probably growing their marketing team right now. They’ll have a lot of new hires, and the average tenure will be pretty low. That would be good to know if you wanted to sell them your marketing solution—Acme finally has people who can use this stuff, and marketing is clearly a growing priority for them. And if it’s a priority, they might spend some money to do it right.

That’s the premise and the value of examining change through exegraphics.

 

Exegraphics stack multiple factors to identify top target accounts.

Each single exegraphic can feel pretty powerful to hold. You’ve just identified how many software engineers a whole bunch of companies have. You’ve even identified which ones are growing most rapidly. It’s like magic.

It’s also not a full solution. Individual exegraphics are really handy for getting your first grasp of the concept. But relying on isolated exegraphics will always have limitations. Instead, you want to stack several of them together to get a more multi-dimensional identification of top target accounts.

For starters: not only do you want a team with a need for your product—you want one with the funding to buy what you’re offering.

It turns out humans are really bad at considering multiple factors at once, combining them in a way that makes sense. Humans want to make rules. In or out. Yes or no. What our exegraphic models do instead is weigh the evidence and determine what is worth more points to your query, and what’s worth less, to deliver a more nuanced, inclusive understanding of how companies operate.

 

Exegraphics deliver you companies that look (and act) like your very best customers.

You’ve already got your best customers. The ones you wish every new customer could be like. But you may not know all the reasons why these are your best customers. What are their defining characteristics?

After you feed our Sales Development Platform the Seed List of your very best existing customers, it creates an aiCP (essentially, a lookalike model) to tap into, say, fifty or sixty exegraphic characteristics of those companies and figures out what traits they share. You don’t need to know what the data patterns are—the AI will identify them.

Then the model finds other companies whose combinations of distinctive exegraphics are comparable to your best customers. Essentially, it solves your give-me-more-like-these problem, a million times closer to instantaneously than a human team could manage, and in complex ways that humans simply can’t.

 

Exegraphics let you drive.

Rev’s AI doesn’t think like a human being. It creates and evaluates exegraphics with a points-based system. It also doesn’t make all the final decisions for you: rather, the model translates its points-based system into terms we humans can understand—industries, functions, growth rates, things like that. Once the model finds your lookalikes, you can define and apply lenses to whittle down the prospect list with your own considerations in mind.

To aid in that process, Rev’s exegraphic data and lookalike technology also lets you know which exegraphics are the most defining characteristics of your best-fit accounts. Once you have your list of more-like-these, you can use both exegraphics and traditional firmographics to sort or filter target lists to fit your sales and marketing goals and processes.

Just as an example—perhaps you want to focus on potential customers within a certain region. You can filter the results by geography. Or, you want to see which lookalikes are at a particular size. Easy.

The possibilities really are limitless. If you can dream up something you’d like to know about companies, our tool can take a credible shot at it for you. It’s a unique and valuable offering in the world of B2B commerce, where for too long we’ve been driving in the dark.

Want to see how exegraphics work? Schedule a demo, and we’ll show you our 500+ exegraphic lenses and show you how you can create your own.

12 steps to build and lead a high-performing SDR team

Leading a sales development team is a big undertaking. Many of the folks on your team are likely new to the role and junior in their careers. Their day-to-day is a grind: researching for new prospects that match your ideal customer profile and relentlessly trying to engage them. More often than not, their hard work hits a hard wall—radio silence or direct rejection. Yet, as a team, you’re all responsible for generating leads that support pipeline (and, ultimately, revenue) growth. And, it’s your responsibility to create an environment where they can become a high-performing SDR team.

So, how can you—as a new SDR leader—empower your team to do their best work? You start by building a solid foundation.

 

1. Take the time to understand the SDR team dynamics

Before you make any changes to the SDR team, you need to understand the dynamics. Whether you’ve taken over a team, been promoted to lead or are starting a team from scratch your leadership will change the team’s environment. As a leader, you need to begin the relationship by observing.

Sit down with each SDR  for a candid discussion:

  • What are their favorite parts of the job?
  • Where do they see themselves in one, three or five years?
  • What problems do they notice or want to be addressed?
  • What are their expectations for a new SDR leader?
  • Do they have a prospecting process in place? If so, how does it work?

Once you meet individually, observe a few team meetings to see how they interact with each other. When watching these meetings, stay silent, but don’t let things get out of hand. If you notice any egregious behaviors, step in, but getting a feel for behaviors without intervention is necessary.

Once you get a solid sense of team dynamics, you can start putting a plan in place for the improvements you’d like to make.

 

2. Audit pipeline practices and current strengths

Sales teams know that pipeline is key to success. How SDRs audit, update and organize their pipeline is essential to your ability to lead a high-performing SDR team. When you first enter a leadership role, you must know what you’re working with. Go through your company’s CRM to understand how your team is using it and what the pipeline looks like.

“We all know the old phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ Unfortunately, that tends to not be true in our sales funnel. Garbage in, garbage tends to sit there quarter-after-quarter, with someone saying they might close.”

Jonathan Spier, CEO of Rev

Don’t let inadequate opportunities clog your pipeline. Make sure your team is intimately familiar with your ideal customer profile, knows exactly how to speak to their pain points and is able to identify a prospect that could benefit from your product/service (vs. trying to force fit them).

When you have all this information, it will make it easier to uncover what shape your company’s pipeline is actually in.

 

3. Become a smarketing champion

According to a study by LinkedIn, “90 percent of sales and marketing professionals say the two teams are misaligned in a number of areas spanning strategy, process, content and culture.”

When sales and marketing align at work, it leads to positive outcomes for the business and customers. Sales and marketing leaders must do what they can to be aligned and become smarketing champions.

Solving sales and marketing misalignment isn’t an easy task. You’ll likely need to dig deep to undo years of bickering or personality clashes. It’s vital to center these conversations. Marketing and sales have at least one thing in common: wanting the company to grow and succeed. Start with that positive seed, and work to figure out what else the two teams have in common. You can also schedule regular smarketing alignment meetings, so everyone is on the same page.

For example, you might find that your SDRs need to refresh a few outreach sequences. Connect with your marketing team to get recommendations on assets your team can share and how to speak to them. 

 

4. Implement better quality tech tools

You need the right technology to run a high-performing SDR team. Sales tech can help your organization thrive, and it’s one of the main components of revenue generation.

When implementing better tech, you should:

  • Audit the current technology you use. What’s working? What’s causing your sales team trouble?
  • Think about what your competitors are using. Do they have any tools that make them better salespeople? Are there industry standards you aren’t meeting?
  • Consider your budget. You won’t be able to get every tool on your wishlist. What will make the most impact? What fits within your budget?

 

5. Become adept at being a roadblock remover

SDRs face a lot of roadblocks. They may not know which companies to target or which prospect to contact next. They might also struggle to get a response from the prospects they’re calling and emailing. As an SDR leader, it’s your job to help remove these roadblocks—and that often comes by coaching your team on how to remove the roadblocks as they arise.

In order to remove roadblocks, you need to be aware of them first. Set regular meetings with your team to walk through their process and workflow. You can even review email messages or phone calls together to spot the roadblocks and provide coaching on how to navigate around those barriers the next time.

 

6. Keep an eye on SDR engagement, burnout and happiness

Burnout is common in the sales industry. According to data from UNCrushed, about 67% percent of sales professionals agree that they are feeling the weight of burnout. For SDRs, that number is much higher. Companies must address these issues or risk losing stellar people.

As a leader, you can do several things to address engagement, burnout and happiness:

  • Send out quarterly surveys like Gallup’s Q12 to keep an eye on engagement trends.
  • Encourage and support employees when they take time off to relax and recharge.
  • Ensure that your organization employs the correct number of SDRs, so everyone has a manageable workload.

 

7. Focus on improving SDR onboarding and ongoing training

When you begin your sales leadership journey, you’ll likely need to onboard new team members. Most importantly, you’ll have to ensure that your current team members are learning and growing in the field. Onboarding and ongoing training will help your SDR team advance in their careers.

First, think about your own company onboarding experience. What did you lack? Talk to current team members to see where they want to see improvements. Onboarding a sales team member takes time, but focusing on small improvements makes a big difference.

Ongoing training is a must. The sales industry constantly experiences changes, and you want team members who can handle them. Implement programs like weekly office hours to work through issues together. You can also implement monthly training sessions around objections, cold calling and other sales activities. And, get your team involved. Make it a point to have top-performing SDRs share new tactics and approaches they’re found to be helpful in meeting quota.

 

8. Set realistic goals for your SDRs

When SDR teams miss a goal, it’s common for the missed goal to be tacked onto the next month. While this makes sense from a business perspective, it can be demotivating for SDRs. Eventually, a lofty goal will become even harder to achieve. Most of all, harsh quotas can make it challenging to rethink your sales strategy. Sometimes your employees have to slow down to speed up.

Begin the practice of working on quotas with sales teams. Listen to ensure that you are addressing the issues leading to missed quotas. SDR leaders must balance the needs of the company with the well-being of the SDR team.

 

9. Bring in new and exciting ways to get better leads

SDRs have one primary mission: bring in high-quality leads. If your team is struggling with prospecting—maybe they spend most of their time looking for new prospects and not enough time trying to contact them—they’re not yet running at a high-performing level. Part of your job as an SDR leader is to help them know refine their approach.

AI can work wonders for prospecting. It can tell you what makes your best customers your best, find other companies that look and act like them, and serve you a prioritized list for outreach. No more guesswork. Your team can focus 100% of their time on turning prospects into leads.

 

10. Provide sales feedback consistently

Feedback is essential to sales growth and success. While you don’t want to jump in to save every cold call, providing feedback will ensure your team grows. Feedback isn’t just for the once-a-year performance review. Employees need frequent feedback to refine their skills and stay aligned with the company’s strategy. 

Giving your SDRs feedback helps them see how they can improve, do their jobs better (and easier), and reach their career aspirations. (You know. The ones you asked about when you first joined the team.)

 

11. Encourage camaraderie over competition

Sales can be a competitive career, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you are a B2B company. You shouldn’t run B2B companies like a showroom floor at a car dealership. It’s important to set boundaries and territories, so sales development reps don’t fight over the same prospects.

When companies focus on camaraderie, it makes sales—especially the art of prospecting—a more enjoyable profession. For example, more of your team will be able to take time off because a tight-knit team will step up to offer coverage while that rep is gone.

Camaraderie and friendship is key to a high-performing SDR team, and will take you further than sowing division will.

 

12. Tweak and update compensation to improve motivation

Last but not least, update compensation. Sales teams are the backbone of a business, because without sales your organization doesn’t have revenue. Compensation isn’t just about commission. You can also implement other strategies like bonuses, base salary raises or time-off. Get creative with how you reward your sales development team members.

 

You are on your way to leading a high-performing SDR team

When you first step up to lead an SDR team, it can feel intimidating. Businesses rely on SDRs to build high-quality pipeline. When SDR teams don’t have the right leadership, innovation halts and companies aren’t able to grow. This is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Luckily, there are many best practices you can use to create a high-performing SDR team. Slow down and get to know the team you have. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you help them succeed? By taking time to understand the lay of the land, it becomes easy to speed up and make changes that improve any organization.

AI in sales: How to get started

Sales can be time-intensive, even if you love closing deals. Many aspects of the process can feel mundane, especially the tedious, repetitive tasks that feel like one more obstacle standing between you and your next closed won. But, you also know that those tasks are—more often than not—important to making potential customers happy. You know you can’t skip them, but can you automate or simplify them? Consider AI in sales.

Artificial intelligence has become more and more ingrained into the sales process over the last several years. Innovative sales teams are leaning on AI to improve sales and focus on money-making tasks. If you’re interested in AI in sales, today’s post will walk through how sales teams are using it.

 

AI in sales: 7 ways sales AI can help your team

Artificial intelligence has become a powerful technology for sales teams. You may be wondering what the hype is all about, how other teams are using it and what it can do for your organization. Here’s a small sampling of how AI can strengthen your sales strategy and free your team to focus on what AI in sales does best: building relationships and closing deals.

 

1. Information gathering

Research is an essential part of the sales process. It’s step one, to be exact. Starting a conversation or a demo without doing some initial research on the accounts you’re targeting or the prospects you’re talking to sets sales teams up for failure. After all, your prospects need to know why your product or service would benefit them and meet their specific needs—and your team needs to be able to address that head on.

In a recent report from the Sales Enablement Collective, 38.5% of respondents noted competence in using data and analytics to tailor client interactions as a skills gap that sales needs to address.

AI helps organizations understand who their ideal customer really is. For example, at Rev, we help businesses see beyond firmographics to uncover what makes their best customers their best. Our Sales Development Platform uses AI in sales to surface exegraphics—insights about how companies operate. With these exegraphic insights in hand, your team is set up for more productive (and profitable) conversations.

AI can process more information than humans can. Ultimately, AI can understand and process links that most people would never create. By using AI in sales, you will be able to make sense of the massive amounts of data your organization gets daily.

 

2. Lead generation

Generating consistent leads can be a challenge for many sales teams. Some teams may rely too heavily on inbound marketing leads, prohibiting growth. Marketing works hard to create content and campaigns that generate leads, but some people need a personal touch to convert.

Unfortunately, outbound lead generation can be time consumptive. The personal touch that attracts new leads requires hours of research—and often it ends up being less research and more guesswork. What can a salesperson do to combat these issues? AI in sles for lead generation has become a timesaver for busy salespeople.

Our Sales Development Platform uses the exegraphics from your best customers to create a prioritized target account list of other companies that fit your ICP, so your team always knows who they should reach out to next. 

 

3. Conversation automation

Communication is a necessary part of the sales process. If sales teams have a full plate of prospects, they could send out dozens or hundreds of emails daily. Sales conversations fall into a few categories:

  • Mass sends
  • One-on-one conversations

It can be challenging to automate one-on-one conversations like sales demos, but you can automate mass conversations. For example, sales teams send outbound pitches to gain interest in a product. These outbound pitches don’t need a heavy sales touch to be sent. Instead, you could easily rely on an AI in sales tool to find the correct emails and send timely communication to prospects.

Companies like Conversica, Drift and Exceed help sales teams manage daily conversations.

 

4. Sales prediction

Sales prediction is an essential business function. Teams need to estimate what deals will close and when to ensure they have enough cash to run and grow the business.

Besides predictions for new business, companies also need to understand where there might be opportunities for cross-sells and upsells. Most importantly, sales teams need to catch potential downsells and cancellations. Revenue comes in all shapes and sizes, and we know customer retention plays a massive role in business success.

If you want to start with sales prediction, you can utilize tools like Futurli to get started.

 

5. CRM upkeep

Did you know that some companies have estimated that bad data costs U.S. companies over $3 trillion per year? Whether you’re considering the hours sales professionals spend fixing bad data or the deals lost because of lack of data, it’s easy to see why it’s costly.

One of your sales team’s most helpful resources is your CRM software. Customer relationship management software houses all your data about potential and current customers. Sales team members spend hours in your CRM updating information, taking notes and updating their SDR pipeline.

When information entered into the company CRM is wrong, it impacts sales. For example, something as simple as a wrong name can affect sales performance. Prospects won’t enjoy being called by the wrong name in a sales call or email. If sales teams happen to get into the sales process, having a bad name could result in needing to redo a contract, which could elongate the road to closed-won.

Fortunately, AI in sales is adept at finding and updating information. For example, tools like Collective[i] and Seamless.ai can help salespeople verify and correct sales data in your CRM.

 

6. Calendar management

Sales revolves around meetings. From introductions to demos to contract negotiations, a full calendar means that sales professionals are doing their job. It’s important to note that sales professionals need focus time too. If sales are too focused on current deals, they aren’t prospecting and making connections for future deals. Sales professionals also need time to clean data, create contracts and take internal meetings.

With all of these responsibilities, it’s easy to see how a sales calendar can become a hot mess, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are great AI tools that help sales teams take back control over their calendars.

AI tools like Kronologic can help your team make sense of their calendar, giving them room for prospect conversations and all the other work tasks.

 

7. Lead scoring and prioritization

Last, but not least, AI can help sales teams deal with lead scoring and prioritization. With so many sales tasks, getting started can feel daunting. It’s easy to look at a list of leads or a sales calendar and feel overwhelmed. When companies take lead scoring seriously, sales professionals can focus on the most important leads first.

When you get a list from Rev, we prioritize the list so you can focus on the best potential customers first. 

 

Will AI replace sales?

When discussing AI in sales, one question often arises: Will AI replace sales? The answer is simple, not completely.

There are some aspects of the sales process that AI can work on. Grueling tasks like calendar management and CRM upkeep are easy AI tasks that make sense. Often sales professionals dislike these tasks anyway, so getting help from artificial intelligence is no big deal.

In a more encroaching territory, sales AI can also handle conversations with prospects (to a degree.) You might not want AI having full-on conversations with potential customers, but AI bots can undoubtedly help you automate some frequently asked questions.

Ultimately, sales is a complicated process. Sales professionals have to navigate the gamut of human emotions, from prospects who are happy to see them to those who write nasty responses to their cold outreach campaigns. Artificial intelligence thrives on consistency, so there are some sales jobs that AI can’t do. Instead of considering AI a competitor, salespeople should consider it an ally. AI in sales can tackle some of the repetitive tasks that sales professionals tend to neglect or discard.

 

Key takeaways: What you need to know about AI in sales

Whether sales is trying to gather information about potential customers or take back their calendar, there are artificial intelligence tools your sales team can use. Your sales team may be alarmed by stories that AI will replace them, but AI is just a compliment. AI in sales is there to help make selling easier, not replace the humans who do it.

Overall, it’s essential to gauge your sales team’s interest in AI. Artificial intelligence can have a learning curve, and you want to ensure that your team feels comfortable. Take things slowly. You don’t have to reinvent every aspect of your sales process overnight. Pick one area that could use some investment and help.

With the right time and attention, your sales team will be more efficient by using relevant AI tools. 

Interested in seeing how Rev’s AI-powered Sales Development Platform can help your team? Schedule a demo.

The problem with B2B data (and the solution your team is waiting for)

B2B buying behavior involves multiple stakeholders, evolving buying criteria and an elongated consideration cycle. The sales and marketing tech stack only increases this complexity, so it seems counterintuitive to say B2B companies need another source of data to add to the mix. 

Unless such a source introduces an entirely new way of thinking about prospects—a revolutionary avenue to get your solution in front of new accounts that look and act like your best customers. 

To make the case for a new approach, let’s first look at the B2B data being used today to understand current limitations. 

 

The truth about relationship data

Businesses have relationships with customers and vendors. People have relationships with each other and companies, both as buyers and sellers. People we don’t know but respect influence our behavior, including our buying behavior. What could be more predictive? 

Unfortunately, when it comes to relationship data you might as well be throwing darts, blindfolded. Using relationships for targeting is the fuzziest realm of them all. Where’s the scale?

 

The truth about titles

People are more than their titles. They have varying levels of influence and competence, experience, tenure with their companies and so on. These things matter. Moreover, the meaning of a title depends upon the context—the size of the company, the company’s core activities, the titles of others on the management team.

Additionally, there is no universal standard for what a title means. In the tech sector, “business development” in a title can mean an entry level salesperson qualifying inbound leads and/or prospecting on behalf of other sales people, or it can describe a very senior level executive developing strategic alliances with huge companies. There are many examples like this.

Next, people grant themselves fancy titles to create all manner of perceptions. LinkedIn is famous for this. Self-aggrandizement is a core benefit of a resume database like LinkedIn.

Similarly, banks are notorious for making lots of people a vice president or at least an assistant vice president rather than giving them better compensation. Many companies use this strategy.

As if that weren’t bad enough—and it is—you also have the problem of decay. The dynamics of the marketplace result in people starting new jobs, receiving promotions and being laid off. 

 

The truth about firmographics

Most sales leaders use firmographics (especially employment or revenue) to allocate sales resources and route marketing leads. Sales and marketing rely on this data to identify account based marketing targets. Firmographics as the primary filter eliminate more accounts than all other targeting mechanisms. However, scrutiny of firmographic data from any of the usual suspects in the B2B world reveals much of the information gleaned is out of date and inaccurate.

 

Why firmographics fail

 

1. The self-classification problem

The US government and many data compilers and publishers like LinkedIn ask businesses to self-classify. So do most B2B publishers and social media giants. Unfortunately, those who self-classify have no training to make such assignments. Moreover, companies will often make selections based on how they want others to perceive them. This approach is very common with directories, where additional “lines of business” equate to additional opportunities to sell products or services.

 

2. The innovation problem

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) with its thousand-plus six-digit codes, provides the illusion of accuracy, even for well known companies. Industries like the tech sector create business models more rapidly than government bureaucracies can update the classification systems. The NAICS can’t easily accommodate emerging business models, while dynamic industries like the tech sector are often the most lucrative targets for many companies precisely because of this characteristic of innovation.

 

3. The conflation problem

Those who assign industry codes to a business often confuse what a company does with who they serve. For example, software companies that serve the healthcare industry get classified as healthcare firms rather than as software companies. Of course, it’s useful to know the markets a company serves, but blurring markets served with activity performed is not helpful.

 

4. The line-of-business problem

Even small businesses diversify their lines of business. IT services firms often build software products, for example. Gas stations have fast food restaurants quite frequently. Car washes sell gas, in many cases. Accounting firms provide consulting, configuration, and management of financial systems, offer human resources services, merger and acquisition services and other lines of business. These scenarios are common, as businesses constantly experiment with different models as a means of appealing to customers, getting a larger share of the wallet and responding to competitive pressures and industry regulations.

 

5. The degree problem

In each of these cases, the question is not simply whether a company is part of an industry but rather to what degree. For example, if you find that a company needs to target software companies generating at least $20 million in revenue, what do you do with a $50 million company getting part of its revenue from software? You don’t know if 10% or 95% of the revenue is coming from software rather than another line of business. This problem is widespread in the B2B ecosystem.

 

6. The descriptiveness problem

Despite the seeming granularity of the NAICS system, you can’t distinguish very simple criteria. For example, the code for software publishers, 511210, does not distinguish between firms selling to consumers (like gaming software) and those selling to businesses, or both. You can’t tell the degree to which companies sell products rather than services. You also can’t tell where in the supply chain the revenue comes from. For example, to what degree does the company warehouse and pick, pack and ship its products, use ecommerce, indirect channels, retail outlets, and/or direct sales via field or inside reps? These characteristics are simply unavailable in industry codes. 

 

The truth about intent

To be sure, intent data should be one of many signals marketers use to identify when companies are in-market. Other signals might include a job posting, a leadership change, a round of funding, new legislation, good or bad press, just to name a few.

 

Intent data you already use

If you have a marketing automation platform, like Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, HubSpot or Pardot, then you are probably using intent data. Intent data can include the email opens and clicks of your customers and prospects, the pages your customers visit on your website, the webinars they register for and attend, the e-books they download, their social likes and shares, and similar behavioral activity. You are using this intent data, among other things, as an input to your lead scoring model.

 

Third-party intent data you can buy

Third-party intent data vendors have arrangements with numerous B2B publisher sites to license this same behavioral data on those sites, including page views, email opens, white paper downloads, site search strings and so on. You can select a topic area and get that data at the account/domain level, not the contact level. The basic idea is that, if an account is more active around a topic, chances are they are in-market for the solution. Sounds reasonable, but it’s still a guessing game. An expensive one.

Search data is another type of intent data. Google Ads lets you bid for clicks, one search at a time. The Google Ads advantage is speed and relevance. As soon as someone enters a search string, advertisements can pop up. And those ads are specific to the keywords used in the search.

Unlike third-party intent data vendors, Google tries to tailor the search to the individual typing in the search string. Marketers can try to gain first page ranking through search engine optimization or pay for clicks through Google Ads, Bing Ads or other paid features in search engines.

The weakness of Google Ads in search is that you must bid for top positioning, and it’s pretty expensive, especially when you do the downstream math. Just multiply the cost per click by the small percentage of people who fill out your lead form and multiply that number by the small number of people who convert into a customer. Acquisition costs are hefty. That’s OK if you’re selling a solution with a $100k+ lifetime value. It’s not so great for most B2B scenarios.

 

The problem(s) with intent

Intent data can be a helpful input for inbound marketing efforts, but it still doesn’t tell you the full story or help you with your outbound sales strategies. Here’s what you need to keep in mind. 

 

Problem #1: Bad fit

None of the intent data vendors or the publishers, social media companies or search engine companies want you to ask yourself whether the people and the companies they work for are a good fit for your product or service. Let’s say someone really is in the market for a solution. Does that mean your solution is the right one for that individual? Of course not. If you are marketing an enterprise CRM, for example, and you reach a small business who needs a simple CRM, chances are there is not a good fit between the intent and your solution. In that case, your enterprise CRM sales person will likely waste time talking to that prospect. Worse, the sales person might convince the small business owner to buy the enterprise solution. Before long, you have a very unhappy and possibly unprofitable customer, one who is posting negative comments on social forums and review sites and consuming lots of sales and support time.

 

Problem #2: Decay

Intent data has a short shelf life. If you don’t act on that behavior quickly, you’ll often lose the opportunity to do so.

Google has built a $95B search business by understanding the need for speed. You do a search. You see results in sub-seconds. You don’t come back in a few minutes, a few hours, tomorrow or next week. If that were the case, Google would probably be a small company.

That’s the first big problem with third-party intent data. The lack of immediacy. Do you know what blog posts or articles you read last week? Referencing something a prospect came across a week ago (or longer) is not likely to be effective.

Still, intent data can help you figure out areas of interest so you can be more relevant in future interactions. In theory, intent data can potentially reveal depth of interest, helping you with lead scoring. However, interests change. And fast. 

 

Problem #3: Invisibility of individuals

Unlike Google, intent data vendors don’t tell you who the person or people are who have interest in the topic. Instead, you just know the account has an interest. Now, knowing the account has value, but not nearly the value it would have if you knew who the people were that a topic is engaging. You are left with reaching out to people who may not have expressed the interest at the account.

 

Problem #4: No intention

First, not all content within a topic has predictive value. You’ve probably read about lots of topics and never purchased anything related.

 

Problem #5: No influence or authority

IBM has about 280k employees. Most of them, no matter what they read, have absolutely no influence on any purchase above $5k. The bigger the purchase, the lower the number of people at IBM who get to vote on what IBM buys.

Traditional media, social media, search engines and demand-side platform companies often don’t want you to spend much time thinking about that reality, but you should. You’re paying to reach that audience, regardless of whether they influence the purchase of your product.

 

Problem #6: Late to the party

For many products and services, it’s crucial to talk to the customer early enough to help shape the buying vision. Get in too late, and you are often responding to an RFP your competitor helped craft, one that highlights your weaknesses relative to areas of advantage for your competitor. Obviously, there is intent. You just got there too late.

All these problems with intent data should not give you the idea that intent data has no value. It does, but it is only one type of signal in an ocean of signals that lets you know which companies are in-market and a good fit. It makes sense, then, to use a broad set of signals, not just one.

 

B2B data re-imagined: Using exegraphic data

Data, to be effective in driving sales, must not be a snapshot in time but a network of ever-changing people, ideas and companies. Mere firmographic models are too inaccurate and simplistic.

AI can predict who will buy, their buying capacity and buying longevity, not just who will respond. It can paint you a picture of how your prospect executes their mission: Are they hiring/growing a certain way? Do they have early adopters on their team? What real-time changes does the data reveal? The right data enables identification of your ideal customers above the funnel—before they’ve shown intent. The data you need is called exegraphic data, and it’s your solution to chasing down the wrong leads at the wrong time. 

 

In short, exegraphics make everyone on your team smarter, faster, by providing access to the deep signals that reveal what makes your best customers your best—so you can find others that look and act just like them. An AI-driven B2B marketing system with no complicated tech stack integrations saves time, money and effort moving your customers through your sales funnel.

Make your investment in AI count by using the right data. Get a demo.

10 ways to improve SDR pipeline and productivity

Business growth depends on consistent sales and, even before that, strong SDR pipeline and processes. Companies literally depend on SDRs—often junior members of the sales team—to find, reach out to, qualify and push new leads into the sales funnel so quota-carrying reps can close deals. If SDRs don’t generate high-volume, high-quality leads, companies risk not reaching their goals. So, how much pipeline should your SDR team build and how can they grow a well-balanced pipeline?

 

How much pipeline does an SDR team need to create?

You might be asking, “How much pipeline should an SDR source?” This is challenging because it depends on several factors:

  • Win rate: What percentage of deals do sales reps win?
  • Time-to-close deals: How long does it take (in days/weeks) to close a deal?
  • Pipeline addition requirements: Companies or sales professionals might have different opinions on when to count a prospect in the pipeline. For example, some reps add a company to the pipeline after the first demo.

Many SDR teams aim to secure pipeline of pipeline 3-4x their quota during the month. Your required pipeline may change depending on how effective your sales strategies are.

 

10 tips for improving SDR pipeline

It might be challenging to expand the SDR pipeline, but there are strategic tips you can use to improve the overall health of your SDR pipeline. 

 

1. Provide sales training to simplify SDR pipeline growth

Sales don’t come naturally to everyone. Some of your team may find sales activities like cold calling and follow-up hard to do. Sales training helps SDRs understand every aspect of facilitating purchases.

Sales training is often lost over time. Many of the skills learned from a sales development trainer will fade within a month. We all know the feeling of being motivated by a speaker, and then returning to the real world where implementation is challenging.

Companies must understand that learning is a continuous muscle that sales professionals must stretch to win more deals and fill their pipeline. Instead of investing in large learning opportunities, consider monthly sales training sessions.

 

2. Create content to make sales easier

Sales enablement is crucial to closing more deals and filling a pipeline. Marketing teams are uniquely positioned to create content that can help improve SDR team productivity. Sales and marketing teams must work together to identify sales gaps that companies can address with content.

There are many ideas sales teams can pitch to marketing:

  1. Case studies
  2. Pitch decks
  3. Product one-pagers
  4. On-demand demos
  5. Lead nurturing campaigns
  6. Blog posts
  7. Product reviews
  8. eBooks
  9. Industry surveys
  10. Interviews/podcasts

Once sales teams acquire these resources, share them with prospects. For example, a prospect might enjoy an interesting blog post or industry survey. As potential customers get further down the funnel, they’ll want decision-making content like case studies. While a face-to-face conversation with a prospect is excellent, sending resources can help reengage leads.

 

3. Improve time management with SDRs

Did you know that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor who responds to a prospect first? If you need to build a pipeline of buyers, you can’t afford to be the last organization to the table. Many buyers reach out to a handful of organizations during the purchasing process, so being quick matters.

Time management isn’t about waiting in your inbox 24/7. Instead, sales professionals can use various tactics to work efficiently, like using templated responses and calendar applications to book meetings.

 

4. Get creative with upsells and cross-sells

Would you rather acquire 10 $1,000 customers or 5 $2,000 customers? Acquiring customers can be time-consuming, especially if you don’t upsell or cross-sell.

Upselling and cross-selling isn’t about offering things a customer doesn’t need. Customers can tell when they’ve been deceived. At best, customers down-sell during the next available billing cycle. At worst, they find another vendor they can trust with their business.

Think about the customer’s needs before you offer an upsell or cross-sell. What are they trying to accomplish with your product? How would this upsell help them achieve that goal faster? Do they need the additional products, or can they accomplish their goal with the current package?

If you believe the upsell is valuable, push for it. You might be surprised how much productivity you can generate with upsells. (And if they don’t need it to hit their goals, don’t push it. If you do, you’ll ultimately be contributing to churn.)

 

5. Offer extra incentives for reaching stretch pipeline goals

Companies often set individual pipeline goals for each SDR, but sometimes SDRs go past that number. If SDRs generate more pipeline, they typically have more room for a deal to stall without missing their quota.

One way to encourage extra pipeline is by creating a stretch pipeline goal. If an SDR’s typical pipeline generation needs to be $25,000, you can give out incentives for producing $30,000 in their pipeline that month.

Follow the stretch goal with something fun like a gift certificate for a night out or a gift basket with their favorite things. You can also recognize employees who go above and beyond in the company newsletter or all-hands meeting.

 

6. Use AI to make finding leads easier

Finding new opportunities can be challenging for SDRs. SDRs can sometimes struggle with finding the right organizations to cold call. Unfortunately, it’s easy for a pipeline to dry up if salespeople rely only on inbound leads.

Organizations like Oracle are leaning into AI for lead generation.

For example, at Rev, we help you find new opportunities by looking at the exegraphic data of your best customers. Exegraphics are the deep insights about how a company executes on its mission, things like a company’s sales tactics, strategy and hiring practices. With exegraphics, you can better understand your customers and target others just like them. In fact, with Rev’s Sales Development Platform, you can create a dynamic and prioritized target account list for each of your target segments. The result? A list of companies you can give each SDR  to research and connect with.

AI can be used in several areas of the SDR pipeline. By investing in new AI technologies, you can set your organization and sales development representatives up for success.

 

7. Bring in sales communication tools to connect with leads effectively

Communication is the cornerstone of the sales process. How you respond to potential customer inquiries can make or break the sales process.

One strategy that companies use is listening to sales calls to improve SDR team productivity. By listening to demos, sales professionals can pick up on the most common objections, what prospects have questions about and how they can respond better.

Another option could be investing in asynchronous communication strategies. You might not always be able to get a prospect on the phone. Being able to send an informative video or leave a helpful voicemail can help move the conversation along.

Lastly, you can also use scheduling tools to make it easier for prospective buyers to set up a call. SDRs shouldn’t be proposing times to see what sticks. Using a scheduling tool can make booking sales demos seamless for buyers.

 

8. Clean your CRM regularly to improve productivity

Often, SDRs look at internal resources to generate a pipeline. It’s easy for CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot to become bloated and complex. If your organization has a person in charge of the CRM, ask them to regularly clean the data to ensure that you have valid names, addresses and phone numbers.

Sales professionals can help clean data, too. For instance, you can encourage your sales team to update information if they ever run across a title, name or position  that doesn’t work. Everyone has to do their part to keep data clean and usable.

 

9. Build a team-driven environment between reps

Friendly competition can be great, but it doesn’t always lead to SDR team productivity. There will be moments when community and a team-driven environment work best.

For example, it can be challenging to take time off as an SDR. Often, time off can put SDRs behind on their pipeline quota, making it challenging the team to meet business objectives. Sales can often lead to burnout and turnover, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Your sales team should be working together to support each other. If sales team members can rely on each other to support ongoing deals, everyone can rest easy and take time off when appropriate.

Besides vacation coverage, SDRs can also share the resources and lessons they’ve learned. For instance, SDRs can share cold email templates or strategies that close deals. When one person on the sales team wins, everyone wins.

 

10. Automate tasks to speed up closed-won deals

Last but not least, consider automating tasks to move customers through the funnel quicker.

For example, automate tasks around the handoff from an SDR to an account director or from an account director to customer success. How do you ensure that new customers are checked on? Do you have systems in place to share sales details with customer service representatives? Is the implementation process smooth?

Investing in the handoff to customer success can ensure that customers don’t get hung up in the last stage of the funnel. 

 

Conclusion: Enhance your SDR pipeline with effective sales strategies

Building an effective SDR pipeline is more than adding connections to your SDR’s plate. SDRs build pipelines to have opportunities that close throughout the year. To create a balanced pipeline, contacts have to be in the market and ready to close within a reasonable window. They have to both fit your ideal customer profile and be ready to make the purchase.

By following the strategies outlined above, you’ll create a sales environment where fresh prospects will enter and leave an SDR’s pipeline. After all, sales are about closing the deal.