- Annand Sharma
🧪 Sales Science
If you have been tracking your customer data and have it organized in a database or CRM it’s time to put that data to use. From our Q&A discussion with Krista Todd, the CMO of NortonLifeLock, we learned about defining your “ideal customer profile” or ICP. Who are your best customers? What do they need? How does your product solve a pain point for them? How do they make purchase decisions? You have to ask yourself these questions because we want to find more customers like those customers. And once we find them, we want to send targeted messages directly to them.
While there are many claimed software solutions for this, an ideal solution is by definition a bit of a judgment call. That’s why in our last post we highlighted how important it is to use a software tool for your customer data. The tool enables you to create your own view of your current customers in order to build that ICP.
For starters, make sure to define your ICP into terms that you can plug into prospecting and research tools. These tools have powerful search options to help you refine by job title, location, company size, and industry. If you can build a robust profile, tools like ZoomInfo and LinkedIn Sales Navigator are probably the easiest to get started with.
If you’re doing wide searches ZoomInfo claims to have the largest, and most up to date, database of contacts. LinkedIn Sales Navigator can complement ZoomInfo with its own database of contacts, advanced search features, and messaging capabilities. Finally, if your customers are easily found using SIC or NAICS codes, D&B probably has the best legacy coverage.
Each of these tools will allow you to export, in bulk, the contact information for the individuals you are trying to reach. Remember, you could have many potential buyers in one organization. Consider exporting multiple contacts for each organization so you can deliver your message to multiple touch points.
Now that you have a pipeline full of prospects, there’s no reason to worry about hiring an army of sales reps to call them. Returning readers may note there’s a theme in our posts. Software to the rescue. So let’s get to work.
It's all about the messages
The work we’re talking about is defining and refining your message. There’s online courses, books, heck even degrees for advertising and marketing. While we can’t help you come up with your message in a blog post, we can help you understand how to get that message out to the prospects you just found.
The fastest way to get that message out is email. We all wake up to half a dozen spam emails or more. That’s partly because email is the perfect way to send a message. You can reach out to a large number of contacts at once and attempt to engage them in a 1:1 conversation, measure the results, and try again.
To be clear, email is not the end all be all. Effective prospecting today has to be “omnichannel.” Software tools can help you keep track of your contacts, actions, and results on all of these “channels.” Side note, a channel is any medium to contact the customer. Think phone call, website, or even snail mail. Your sales strategy should include all channels you think can be effective in reaching your potential customer.
There’s a whole menagerie of sales automation tools, marketing platforms, etc available to help automate and measure all of this. These tools operate in terms of “sequences” that you will put your prospects through. These sequences let you define specific steps. These steps are usually emails and follow up emails, but you can set yourself tasks to follow up with a phone call, or other types of outreach.
Before you go shopping, please note that most CRMs have email marketing tools built in already. Salesforce, Hubspot, SugarCRM, and Monday for example all have automated email tools as part of their offering. If your CRM is an Excel spreadsheet or AirTable, fear not, there are very powerful sales tools for you too. This is where tools like Outreach or Mailchimp will come in handy. These companies may have started life as “mailing list tools,” but they are a great foray into your CRM journey as well.
For the email steps, you should define a custom message for each step in the sequence. These emails will all come from you, or someone at your business, and when prospects reply it will go directly into your inbox. Don’t forget to define other steps such as a phone call or LinkedIn message as part of those sequences.
Out of the box, all of these tools will measure if emails are being sent, opened, and of course replied to. Measurements means data. Data means we can compare. Comparisons means we can experiment…
Once you’ve gotten your sales prospecting engine running, you want to tune it to peak performance. There are so many possible ways to go about that tuning process that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Enter testing. Specifically A/B testing.
The idea of an A/B test is to split off part of your audience and push them through a different sequence than the main audience. How that sequence differs is up to you. An easy first experiment is testing an alternate subject line for your first email. Another popular option could be to test a different message for your second email in the sequence. The possibilities are endless, but remember to stick to one measurable difference. Make sure it’s not too small like different punctuation or a smiley face.
In order to run experiments you need to have an idea of your baseline performance as well as a “big enough” audience. Your baseline performance metrics will include things like email open rates, click through rates, referral traffic to your website, etc. Please don’t just hop onto Google and find out what other companies are getting for email open rates. It’s different for every company, every industry, etc. That publicly available data can be helpful, directional guidance, but don’t hold yourself to impossible standards.
In terms of your sales prospects, when we say “big enough” there’s a few ways to interpret that. The nerdy route is to say “statistically significant” which will depend on your potential market size. Another way to look at it, is your prospect list evergreen? Can you continuously identify new customers at the top of the sales funnel? If there’s a constant flow, there is probably a “big enough” audience.
With those prerequisites out of the way, let’s run our first test. Identify something you want to “split” your audience on. For example, look at your audience by company size. Let’s say you have 300 prospects who work at companies with 50-100 employees. Take some percentage of those (no more than half) and put that audience into a different sequence than the others.
Since it’s all software, you will be able to send emails and measure results in real time. Who isn’t addicted to real time updates? It’s going to be hard, but unless something catastrophic happens, you should avoid making changes early on. Be patient. Let the experiment run.
After running the experiment, study the data. You’re looking to find if the experiment caused prospects to respond differently. If they did, you need to dig deeper and find out how. Were they opening more emails? Were they calling you back? Were they responding? If the responses were good, bring that change into your main sequence. And if the results told you this experiment was bad, cross that idea off the list! In either case, it’s time to set up the next experiment.
Unless a prospect specifically unsubscribes or replies poorly, you should keep them in your email sequences. The idea is to keep trying to reach the customer in different ways. That could mean finding a new contact at the company, or reaching them with a different message, or on a different platform altogether. You could try to mix a phone call or LinkedIn message in there for a change. Don’t give up. It’s important to be patient and not be too excited, or dismayed, with early results. Oftentimes it may take 5-7 messages before you get to a conversation.
With a few tests under your belt take a step back and see what you learned. Think about how you can improve the actual process of running these A/B tests.Work on a list of ideas you want to test for future A/B tests. Go one step further back and look at the prospects. If you’re having lots of new conversations, that’s great. But if those conversations aren’t leading to sales, you might be talking to the wrong people at those companies. Go back to your ICP definition, make the necessary adjustments, find new contacts, and put them through your sales engine.
We’ve talked about building and revving your business engine. This prospecting and marketing machine is a very important part of that engine. Most importantly remember the goal of this is to turn a prospect into a customer. Whether that means they schedule a meeting, they visit your website, they download your sales brochure, make sure that is clear in every conversation you have with the prospect.
You may try different tools to find those prospects or even different modes of messaging, for example social or search ads instead of email. This process of measuring, running experiments, and learning applies to all digital marketing. Developing, caring, and feeding this funnel will be key to growing your business.