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Since COVID-19 has been at large and the world in quarantine, selling face-to-face has come to a complete stop. For those businesses who have refused to recognize that we are in a digital age and that at some point in time they would have to either be on-board and adapt, or be eaten up and dissolved, the time is now. You’re either in or you’re out.
Renowned business entities such as Cardone Enterprises (Grant Cardone), VaynerMedia (Gary Vaynerchuk), SalesRoads (David Kreiger) and others have shifted to virtual sales appointments to help keep their business thriving (and profitable).
Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, among others, allows for sales meetings to continue and appointments with prospects to still continue even while working from home. Otherwise, what’s the point of waking up each day?
While cash might be an issue for some companies, that isn’t the only factor that determines whether your company’s infrastructure is strong enough to survive.
Just last week, I spoke with a representative of Cardone Enterprises, which, through its licensing program is able to capitalize off the 10X trademark. But it’s more than just a phone call for a sales pitch. It’s about getting that prospective client’s attention through personalized marketing and videos. And you better believe I had my own personalized 10X video message thanking me for my time and the excitement ahead of our following sales call.
The average startup can accelerate its own V-shaped recovery by doing what Cardone Enterprises does: Split salespeople into two specialized teams: Sales development representatives (SDRs) and account executives (AEs).
The SDR’s sole focus is on cold calling and proactive prospecting. Their goal is to book highly qualified business-to-business appointments for the AE’s with prospects who are interested in their product or service.
This specialization can reduce costs and allow each sales person to do what they do best, leading to a rapid acceleration of pipeline and closed deals. In addition, many startups will outsource their sales development tasks to a company that specializes in B2B appointment setting. This move will allow them to be able to focus on working with the AE’s to close deals while the appointments and new opportunities are booked for them.
After my call with Cardone Enterprises, I decided to look more into how specialization in sales and outsourcing the top of the funnel prospecting to a B2B appointment setting company can be a key sales move to help start-ups with their own V-shaped recovery. Here is what I found from my research.
First, specialization and focus translate into results, especially when companies need to generate sales results quickly. Prospecting is difficult and takes special talents and a certain mindset. Companies that enable the type of sales representative who thrives in this environment to focus on booking highly qualified B2B appointments for their AEs find that more of a sales pipeline is built more quickly.
Second, having account executives do their own prospecting can be the most expensive way for companies to generate new leads and appointments. These are often some of the highest-paid executives in a company and to have them cold calling and dialing to speak to just a few prospects a day is not the best use of a company’s resources during this time. Instead by specializing the role to a sales development representative—whose only job is to cold call and set appointments—companies are better allocating their budget while making each sales representative focus on what she does best.
Shortly after my call with Cardone Enterprises, I spoke with SalesRoads CEO and founder, David Kreiger, who—running the largest B2B appointment setting firm that’s picked up clients from Shell, Revel, Microsoft, and Sharp—shared how a more nimble approach around sales prospecting can “make or break” any company’s recovery.
But what caught my interest with SalesRoads is how it stands out from many other organizations in the industry. The company’s experience and skill of its appointment setting representatives, with over 14 years of sales experience specifically.
“This is their career and they love the hunter role and their responsibility for cold calling into prospective customers in order to book highly qualified appointments and accelerate our client’s sales. In addition, we partner with our clients to become their outsourced inside sales team. We take over all aspects of the appointment setting role including training, coaching, and motivating the reps while also developing, implementing and iterating the appointment setting strategy. Many other outsourced organizations do not take this type of hands-on role in the sales development process for their clients.”
Over the past decade, virtual B2B sales, according to Kreiger, is really “inside sales”—a concept that has been rapidly growing in its importance and quota allocation—in comparison to the traditional “outside sales” model.
Take the CRM tool Hubspot, for example. In 2019, Hubspot looked at the 5.7 million sales professionals in the U.S. and reported that of that figure, 45.5% represent inside sales professionals while 52.8% are outside sales.
“This parity would have been unheard of just a few years ago,” Kreiger explained to me. “We have seen this trend because it is both more cost-effective to engage prospects in a virtual environment versus driving or even flying to see them.”
Kreiger added that with tools such as Zoom and LinkedIn, we are able to prospect and sell as well, if not better in an inside sales environment. “Prospects are very busy and are often more willing to meet with someone virtually than face-to-face because it is a more efficient meeting.”
Despite what many believe about outsourcing sales, there are many “statements” that are just plain wrong.
Many outsourced companies try to book as many appointments as possible without looking at the real metric that will translate into a company’s success, closed sales.
“We, of course, look to generate a high quantity of meetings,” Kreiger explains, “however, we also want those meetings to be qualified so that the sales rep has a high likelihood of closing the sale. For instance, for our client Kuebix we booked 966 meetings. In speaking about those meetings the CEO of Kuebix said ‘Hiring SalesRoads enabled us to exceed our conversion goals for paid users and attract the interest of major corporate clients. Salesroads has become an integral part of our go-to-market strategy.’"
But how has the global pandemic that is COVID-19 predicated the need for companies to stand out in the market? The obvious answer is of course shifting the organizational infrastructure to a digital framework that brings clients and customers into a world filled with endless possibilities and resources.
Yet for a company that has been in existence for over thirteen years, with very little marketing, the best marketing technique, ironically in today’s digital age, continues to be through referrals and word-of-mouth.
“When I founded SalesRoads thirteen years ago, I started the company as a 100% remote sales organization. At that point, many people questioned why I was creating a virtual sales organization. They thought it would be difficult to manage and train sales people without them being in the office. But through the remote sales model, I was able to recruit the best salespeople wherever they lived while creating virtual processes to facilitate training, management and motivation of the team. These two things allowed us to create a great service for our clients propelling our organization twice to the Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing privately held companies.”
Today, it’s very easy to launch a start-up and even easier to fail. So, what are three things, according to Kreiger that most startups are doing wrong in a sales environment?
#1—Don’t Rely On Your Founders Network for Your Initial Clients
The first thing that many early-stage startup companies are doing wrong is relying on the founders’ relationships to many of their initial clients. While it’s acceptable to capitalize off these clients, startups, however, often mistake this for sales success. Startups, especially at their inception, must create a replicable proactive prospecting process that will serve as their engine of growth as they work to scale the company.
#2—Recruiting Candidates Out of College to Be Your Appointment Setters is a Mistake
The next mistake startups should caution against is recruiting young students out of college to be their SDRs or appointment setters. Appointment setting is very tough and many of these individuals will not want to do this work. Those that do it well often then want to be promoted to an account executive very quickly.
Instead, it’s strategic to recruit individuals who want to be SDRs and would like to make their career in appointment-setting. That way you don’t have the tremendous attrition that you see when recruiting young college graduates to be your SDRs.
#3—Don’t Forget to (Actually) Sell
Startups need to remember that though your product is important, nothing sells itself. Make sure to invest early in your sales team. Not only will they propel your revenue but also they are on the front lines speaking to your target customers. These conversations will generate early market feedback allowing you to iterate your product based upon the needs of your prospect and the problems that they need solved.
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