JP Werlin: Hi there. Welcome to our next episode of Digging In. Digging In is the video series where we reach out to sales leaders in the field and try to get some take-home value for you to implement in your business tomorrow. Today we invite Joyce Juntunen, who is the Head of Sales at Market Leader, to share with us some of her thoughts on outbound sales. Joyce, thanks for joining us.
Joyce Juntunen: Thanks for having me.
JP: Cool. Well, we’re excited you could join us. Can you tell us a little bit about Market Leader? I know they do marketing for real estate professionals. Can you tell us a little more?
Joyce: Yeah. So, my team reaches out directly to real estate professionals and we sell websites, CRM, and leads to them. But right before Market Leader, I just was at a business called Bizible, which does marketing attribution (SAS) for marketing professionals, so I will probably be talking a little bit about both today.
JP: Awesome. Well, I am excited to dig into both and no pun intended or maybe pun intended, but our goal here at Digging In is to get into the trenches with sales leaders, so imagine you talking to yourself as a sales leader in some other organization, it could be a similar or different industry, and what are those key learnings we can help them be better at their role wherever they may be.
So, outbound sales. I learned a lot over the years being in the sales world the difference between outbound and inbound. What does outbound sales mean for you?
Joyce: For me, it means not relying on marketing to drive inbound leads to me. And inbound is great, but as a sales professional and as a sales leader, I cannot really count on the volume or the quality of the leads I am going to get, right? So, the only thing I can control is my outbound activity and my team's activity, and that is the only way I know I am going to be able to make my plan.
JP: Got it. So, kind of taking your destiny into your own hands.
Joyce: That's right.
JP: Awesome. So, at Bizible, you and I talked offline. At Bizible, you built the team.
Joyce: Yeah, so when I got to Bizible about a year and a half ago, we had two account executives and we had two what we called sales development reps (SRDs). They were responsible for handling all inbound leads, and then turning those into appointments for the account executive. And what we did last year is we built that to a team of about eight account executives, three SRDS to handle a bigger volume of leads, and we had ten people doing outbound calling. So, that was a huge success.
JP: Wow. So, eight, three, and ten, which puts a total headcount around 21.
Joyce: Yeah, and I promoted somebody to be a manager too, so we had a manager for the appointment setting team, both inbound and outbound.
JP: Got it. And the appointment setting team was the SDRs.
Joyce: Right, and then just for ease of use, we called the outbound BDRs, so business development reps, just so I don't get confused between the two.
JP: So, that was the division of labor. SDR, BDR, and the eight were just straight account executives.
Joyce: Right. So, they are the ones that do everything from the initial appointment discovery, all the way to closed one transaction.
JP: Got it. And so, the three SDRs sat in front of the account executives (AEs) and served them up meetings or schedule appointments.
Joyce: Yes, both groups did. So, by the end of the year, we had broken into territories, and so we, as a startup, were really interested in aggressive growth, and so we had a ratio of one account executive to one outbound prospector in a territory. Territories were quite large, and then the three inbound prospectors just handled inbound lead volume and those were distributed by territory.
JP: By territory. Got it. And what was the process for outbound? Obviously you are selling to real estate professionals. They want to be found, so you can create a lead list. Were you buying lists or were the outbound folks prospecting online?
Joyce: Yeah, so at Bizible, we were selling to marketing professionals. Very different from Market Leader, and I do want to talk about both because there are so many. Well, there are so many different types of businesses. At Market Leader, the account executives do the full sales cycle, and that is because it is a much shorter sales cycle. And so, if we were to try to set an appointment and then have the person show up again in a few days, a lot of times that person won't show up. So, it is a lot easier to just kind of set the appointment and talk to them right now, and they do the full sales cycle.At Bizible, the outbound prospectors’ process was literally working from a list of named accounts that we had provided for them and then them finding the people that they needed to talk to, so the personas that my marketing team had identified, and then using a combination of emailing, phone calling, and social selling to engage those prospects where they wanted to be engaged and talk to them about their problems and how we might be a solution, do a little bit of qualifying, and then setting the appointment. Once the point is set, then there's a whole process they go through as far as setting out a Gmail invite with screen share information, and then they confirm it. They call them the day before and so forth, putting notes in the CRM to make sure the appointment happens.
JP: Ah, interesting. I got ahead of myself. Right. So, growing the Bizible team was a different sell. That was maybe a longer sales cycle. More B2B.
Joyce: Yeah, that is more of a true B2B sale. Sales cycle was approximately 80 days, and you are selling to three to five stakeholders, so very different from a real estate professional who is the decision maker and they're going to use their credit card. So, much more transactional.
JP: Yeah. And so, digging into the B2B side of things for a minute, that was the eight AEs, three SDRs, and ten outbound callers. Did you build the AEs and the SDRs first, and then the outbound team?
Joyce: It kind of happened simultaneously. We started with one outbound in January, added one in February, added one in March, and then by then we started cooking. We figured it out, and then we just started hiring. We started hiring BDRs one and two at a time because they are relatively low cost, but very high impact to the business, and it is so necessary that we set those appointments. Without those appointments we have got no business.
JP: Yeah. Now, I want to look at the comment you said about we knew we were cooking. How did you know? Where did you get to that level of confidence with your sales process, with your close ratios, and with the economics to know that it was time to really blow this thing out?
Joyce: Yeah, so that is such a good question because it is always hard to know, especially when you're talking about a three-month sales cycle and you're thinking gosh, I cannot wait until three months to figure out if I am on the right track or not. So, we did a lot of iteration, a lot of AB testing of messages. So, we started with just a basic cadence that I wrote. So, okay, day one we are going to do this. Day two we are going to do that, and so on and so forth. The emails, and then it is a matter of okay, here, focus on this list. Hit this list. Make the phone calls. Send the emails.
And then let’s see who's opening the emails. Let's see who's replying. Let's get on the phones. We recorded every conversation, and then ultimately the AEs are the ones that, once the appointment happens, are responsible for making sure that it is qualified and then converting that into an opportunity in our world. So, then it is really anecdotal feedback from them. How good is this appointment? Is it better than an inbound appointment? How long do you think it's going to take to close this person? Are they qualified? Who else do we need to reach out to you?
And then the AE is responsible for going out and finding more of those stakeholders. Engaging more people in the business.
JP: Got it. So, it did come down to a leap of faith, but you built up your confidence by both. It sounds like both quantitative and qualitative, right?
Joyce: Yes, for sure. So, I had set a goal that I wanted to have. Initially I wanted the outbound prospectors to set 20 appointments per month, knowing that not everybody is going to show up. Not everybody is going to be qualified. And at the beginning, because we really did not know who was buying from us, we had just introduced new products and services. We had moved up market, so we really just did not know who was going to buy from us.
So, we had the personas, etc., so what we did is I just said all right, we are going to just get appointments and we're going to do very basic qualification. And in that world, it was: does this company use Sales Force? That is the most basic qualifications we had to have. As far as the size of the company, their revenue, what products they sold, and what industry they were in was immaterial at that point, and so I just wanted to get that muscle memory going and get some wins under their belt and say yes, I've accomplished this.
And so, my comp plan reflected that as well. At the beginning, it was all about how many appointments are you setting and how many of them show up, and we’re going to accept all of them, so we can get a baseline. As the process progressed throughout the year and now we have the volume, then we really started looking at getting deeper into qualification and how many of these are really good opportunities.
JP: Right, so quantity first. Then quality.
Joyce: Yes, muscle memory.
JP: Yeah. And so, how many contacts would a rep have to make in order to get 20 appointments per month?
Joyce: That is a good question. So, Bizible was an interesting world because marketing professionals often do not have phones, so our own marketing team, there was one phone on the desk of our Director of Marketing and nobody else had a phone. So, we had to do a lot of social selling, so a lot of LinkedIn and a lot of Twitter. A lot of joining conversations. So, there was a lot of quiet work going on. A lot of emailing and tweeting, and so forth. So, what I figured out the formula for success, if you will, was to make approximately 40 dials per day and then the accompanying other behaviors, so sending the emails, etc.
And that was very, very successful. Those people that were able to kind of push themselves to make those dials were the ones who were leading the team and setting 15 to 20 appointments that were actually showing up.
JP: Yeah, and so you saw a direct correlation between the daily activity, both calls and other channels kind of surrounding the person, the target with both direct and tertiary sort of outreach. And then, if you are doing 40 per day, it was pretty easy to hit the 15 or 20 per month, and they were setup comp-wise to be successful.
Joyce: Absolutely. So, towards the end of the year, once we said okay, now we have made some good sales of our new products and services, we really sat down and did an analysis of who was buying from us. And we used a couple tools to do that. We used a tool called Datanize, where we piped in a lot of information about each company. So, their size, employee size, revenue, were they funded, and different technologies that they were using since our product was a fairly tech product. And then we looked for correlations. Once we did that, we figured out okay, here is the center, the bull’s-eye, the A’s, then the B’s, then the C’s, then the D’s, and we went in and we graded every single account and lead that we had, and then that really helped them focus on just A’s.
We had plenty of A’s to call, and the other piece to that, that I would say really helped us get successful was the AB testing of messaging. So, we start with a basic cadence and we just say okay, is this going to work. It is based on best practices that anybody can find on the Internet for B2B email marketing, but it was really about the messaging and trying this message versus that. We were focused on the personas as well, like sat down and mapped out. We had four personas and we said what are these people's problems and how does our product potentially solve those, and then we want to really focus on all of our messaging. Short and sweet, but is focused on that.
And so, we had different email cadences, if you will, for different personas, and we had some that were based on industry.
JP: Got it. And so, how long did it take you to come up with the personas? Was there a lot of debate in those four personas or was it pretty clear?
Joyce: For us, it was pretty clear. We did have an aha moment early in the year, where we realized that if a company had a marketing operations person, that they were much more likely to be interested in our product, and so that was a big breakthrough for us, and that was a combination of working with marketing and sales together and our customer success team. Really kind of, again, digging in and saying well, is this a commonality between all of our customers, and we found that 90-something percent of them did have somebody in that role, and that just helped us get to those A+ companies.
JP: And were the internal conversations around the personas? Would you guys refer to them internally, like did they have names and locations?
Joyce: Oh yeah. So, lucky for us, we had a pretty stellar marketing department, even for a small company, and they were able to help us identify them. They had posters that had kind of the name for the person. A picture. Bullets on what their problems were. Bullets on how they would use our product and bullets on what their responsibilities are in their organization, so we could understand the day-to-day pain that they might be experiencing. So, that was up in the office. It was on the walls, and when we did training with the sales team, we were always talking in terms of those personas.
One of the exercises I did with everybody was to sit down and say I want you to write a first person narrative. Pick two of these personas and write a first person narrative about their day. So, I am so and so and so. This is my thing. This is what drives me crazy. This is what keeps me up at night. And people said that was really, really helpful because if you cannot get in the mind of that prospect, everything you say is just really hollow.
JP: Yeah, so we are kind of working backwards. So, from 15 to 20 appointments per month, back to 40 dials or contacts, outreaches per day, to four personas, right? I am kind of getting this formula that I am seeing. I am a numbers guy. I like scalable, repeatable process. So, four personas. 40 dials per day. 20 appointments per month.
Joyce: Yeah, and you are not necessarily contacting all of those all four personas. It is based on the company and who can you find. Early on, and I think this is a lot of startups and small companies, is you are just talking to anybody who will talk to you. And most of the time that is going to be the person that is going to be ultimately the user of your product, but they may not be the decision maker or the person who signs the checks. And so, at the beginning, we were talking to a lot of just media managers and by the end, as we matured, we felt confident enough to go and talk to the Director of Demand Gen.
And so, there was a little bit of a graduation process of where we gained confidence. Because we had been able to test these messages, we knew that we had hit on the right problems.
JP: Interesting. So, you mentioned testing was critical to the success too on the outbound emails. What parts did you test? Did you test subject and body? Did you test send from? Can you walk through some of your testing?
Joyce: Yeah, absolutely. So, the first thing we tested was subject lines. One of the things that we found was if you put the “RE:.” We tried that. That did not really do much for us, but the thing that really made a huge impact was putting the person's first name in the subject line as well. For example, JP, do we have a chance or would it make sense to talk, JP? So, we tested it with or without the first name in the subject line. We found that with it performed much better.
So, that was one of the tests. We also tested the length and the content in the body of the emails, personalizing those as much as we could. So, most emailing programs that you might have, you can insert a company name. This requires of course very big diligence on making sure that the record that you are working from has all the right information and it is capitalized. We do not have unknown or something as the first name. So, you have to be really careful, but the more personalized you can get with this messaging, the more effective it is, and we saw just a huge engagement rate, and we measured that by looking at opens and replies.
Obviously the replies are much more relevant. Now, the reply could be no or I hate you. We hope not, but that means that we engaged them enough that they were willing to look at the note. And then we reviewed that every month with the whole team. So, we would sit down and we would say okay, which ones of these are performing better, and then we would make changes as needed.
JP: That makes a ton of sense. So, there are kind of two sides when we get to outbound and inbound. Did you test different messages for a cold versus a warm lead, say, or if I was doing prospecting versus somebody who had already expressed interest?
Joyce: Yes, so for the inbound team, they had their own set of what we call sequences, so just a series of emails. And most of the leads that we got of course were content driven, and so we had specific sequences for each content piece. But keeping in mind that when you are calling on somebody who has downloaded piece of content, the old way is to say hi, did you get this copy of this content. Did you read it yet? And of course they do not. They do not remember it. They have not, and that is not really relevant. Why does someone download a piece of content? It is because they are interested in something in the subject matter.
So, if they have downloaded something about Google AdWords and how to make that more effective, we have to assume that (A) they probably have to deal with their AdWords account or they are supervising somebody who does and they are probably not getting the results that they want, and so that is the connection for us that we have to draw. That is what we should be talking about. Not did you get it. Did you read it? Can we talk about it? Can I answer questions for you?
JP: That is interesting. So, you get into the content of it, not the object itself. Fascinating. Cool.
Joyce: Well, and here, special note. Your outbound and inbound prospectors need to be reading all this content. It takes a lot of time. They need to be at least skimming it, or if you are lucky, you have a sales leader or a marketing leader who will condense it for you, summarize it, provide you a little update, like hey, we are dropping this kit today. We are dropping this white paper. This is what it is about. Here are the three bullets. Here is how it is going to affect our different personas. Here is what you should be talking about. And ideally that is a combination of sales and marketing.
JP: Right, because I think it goes back to that thing you said earlier about it is hollow. The interaction is hollow or contrived, and my experience is people sniff that out.
Joyce: Oh, absolutely. So quick. And everyone wants to feel like they are the expert, and so that is the other piece to it. One of the challenges of hiring people off the street and putting them in an outbound prospecting situation is they do not know the product really well and depending on how technical your product is, they are going to feel at a disadvantage. And so, our training process was really only about a week before we had them on the phones, and they know enough to be dangerous, and then you have to just keep at it. You have to keep training them. they need to keep listening to other people's calls.
One of the most effective training tools that got our team to be successful at outbound prospecting was my first three guys that I hired in January, February, and March went into a conference room together with a little spider phone between the three of them and they would just pass the phone around and make a dial. So, everybody had a laptop and they would make a dial, and if somebody answered, they would talk and the other two would be silent. And in this way, they were able to really iterate very quickly what is the top track. How do we answer these questions? What kind of rebuttals are we going to get? What type of initial resistance will we get? How do we overcome that?
They have a whiteboard. They can help each other. They can put each other on mute. And in my world, in the world of Bizible, because people do not have a phone on their desk, they are not getting a lot of at bats. They are not having five, six, or seven conversations per day. They are having five, six, or seven conversations per week. And so, if you cannot give them some sort of tool like that so that they can quickly figure it out, you are going to have weeks where they are just miserable because they are not talking to anybody.
JP: Right. And that was just the three of them. You were not in there. Management was not in there.
Joyce: No, but I would tell you that every Friday. That was my cadence. I had an hour where I went in and I made calls now. Now, it was a small organization and I did not have a manager in between us, but I would recommend all sales leaders, at least the people that are directly supervising people making these calls, should make it their practice to make some calls. Maybe it is not once per week, although I think that is not that much to do, but it was pretty fun. You get in there. I would just pick a couple. Either I would do some inbound leads and I would do some outbound prospecting, and it is not perfect. I would mess up. I would get off the phone and I would do my own critique. Gosh, I should have done this. You know when he said this. I should have said that. But my team loved it.
They loved it, and they would get all excited and they would be ready to jump on the phones.
JP: Joyce is coming today!
Joyce: They loved it. They thought I was awesome. Most of the time I just got lucky and people would answer.
JP: It is really cool. That is something I am taking away today for sure, is that self-coaching. Three in a row. Passing the phone and making calls. And the same is on sports teams. The metal sharpens metal and they get better. It is not negative peer pressure. It is positive peer pressure contributing to the team it sounds like.
Joyce: Oh, absolutely, and they would. It was a very positive environment. And when you when you first start any job where you are required to call people, those first handful of dials are the most stressful and scary. Your heart is beating a million miles a minute and you think everybody is listening to you, and so it was a really good tool because as we started growing the teams, my senior reps would go and they would every day at any minute there was somebody in the room, making phone calls, and they would just send a note to the team lead slack as a team and say hey, I am going to be in this conference room, making calls. Everyone, come in and join. Whether inbound or outbound, AE or BDR, come in and we can make some calls together. And I loved it. It was one of the things that made the team so close.
JP: That is one thing I struggle with here. Do you find sales preps like to make their calls on the floor or do they like the privacy of going to a room? A conference room you mentioned. What was your experience?
Joyce: Yeah, and so this is where it really varies and contrast with Market Leader. So, Market Leader, because it is full sale cycle and it is a shorter cycle, about 30 days, everybody has to make calls, and they are making more like 80 dials per day. Now a little less than when I first started in the industry. Gosh, it was 13 years ago. You had to. You were making 80 to 100 dials per day. Now it is more like 60, but you are cold calling and you are doing your follow up, and there is no place to go. You cannot put 60 people in conference rooms all the time. But in a small environment where there are 13 total, it works. And I just got over it.
I mean I wanted it to be a little more buzzier in the office, but at the end of the day, if the calls get done and the appointments get set and the sales get made, I am okay with it. And it is part of my job to make sure that I am present in those conference rooms occasionally so that I know what is going on and I can help. So, I guess some things have changed.
JP: Yeah, you are right. And I think what really is interesting and compelling is the mediums and the number of mediums and the modes in which salespeople can and do sell today have changed, and you are right. In the old days, ten years ago old days, there was a phone on every desk and people would pick it up and you might get lucky. Right?
JP: Where it is a little bit more removed, and so the conversations per week I think no matter what industry you are in has definitely gone down and you have to make the conversations count.
Joyce: Yeah. So, some pretty amazing things happened at Bizible. One, I saw some appointments set entirely on Twitter. That really surprised me. But when I think about it, it does not really surprise me. It is marketing professionals and they are very interested in social media. They spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and Twitter, especially if they are dealing with the media side of their own business. So, I guess it is not that shocking and it just kind of reinforces for me you have got to meet people where they want to be met and you have got to talk to them in the medium that they want to be talked to, and you are right. They do not have a phone, so we have got to get creative.
One of our most creative cadences, if you will, or sequences used lyrics from Adele’s song Hello as the subject line. So, it was just hello from the other side.
JP: Is it me you are looking for? Yeah.
Joyce: It was so successful. We got so many people replying because marketing professionals area also looking for clever ways to market, so it just really fit in there. On the real estate side, it is always about what is in it for them. What can I help them with? Picturing a real estate professional sitting in their home office, they do not know what they are supposed to be doing. They are running a business and they do not know how. Everybody in their office is their competitor. They are not interested in helping them. Their broker is too busy because there are 80 agents on the roster.
So, again, it is how do we reach out to that person and throw them a lifeline and say hey, I know it is tough out there. How do you make a name for yourself? That is what we do. That is what we help you do. I want to talk to you about how I can help you grow your business, and be sincere about it. So, phone really works for them because they are on their cell phones all day.
JP: Huh, interesting. So, meeting the audience where they are. And knowing where they hang out too, right?
Joyce: And then you have got to join the conversation. This is the thing that takes a little time. So, you can use tools like Tweet Deck, and you can setup alerts, etc., so that when people are having conversations about whatever it is that you are doing - in our case, it was marketing attribution. So, any time people are talking about analysis, attribution, a few different buzz words, you can kind of know oh, hey, somebody is talking about this and you can kind of join in, but the key here is you cannot be selling. You have to be joining in and providing knowledge, and then the goal is to get them to ask you oh, well, what does Bizible do, and that would happen all the time.
But you have got to build that up over time. You have to contribute to the community. You have got to be blogging. You have got to be posting. You have got to be sharing thought leadership, etc. So, that is a little more advanced.
JP: It sounds like just be present and do not expect the sale at the outset. And it is kind of like an Aikido move, where you use the other person’s energy almost against themselves ultimately to help them be a better marketer, but instead of the old sales way of a frontal assault - I am going to sell you now -, challenger sale or that whole genre of selling, now it is provide thought leadership and provide expertise to the point where they ask you for the sale.
Joyce: Yeah. How do you know so much? What do you do? What does your company do? Hey, I am interested in that. And yeah, we know you are interested in that because are talking about it online. So, I would say that takes a little bit more sophistication that your reps that you hire off the street who do not know your product is going to take them some time, but we had senior reps that would kind of teach them how to do it. We had a little training on social selling, and it was multipart, and I had with my senior reps that would do that. And it was all about the do's and don'ts, and he had real examples of things where he had said the wrong thing and screwed it up and where he had the right thing. He would just copy and paste it as examples.
So, you do not have to have all the training out of the box. You just have to start developing it as you go along, but you have to keep training them over, and over, and over again, especially if you are bringing in one to two new people every single month.
JP: Yeah, that is a lot. And so, as you build the outbound team, what should I think about? So, let’s say in my role, I am thinking of building an outbound team. What is your advice to me?
Joyce: Yeah. So, I would say a couple things. One: know exactly who you want to go after. This is something that I learned through trial and error, but every other company. I would talk to other operations or sales leaders about how are they doing outbound and what I learned from them was that the more targeted you are about who you are going after, making sure these are the right companies or the right people, the better it is going to be because you will not spin your wheels as much.
Really think about what do you need to do to qualify. What are the most important qualification questions? So, what are your personals? All that stuff. What is the real pain and problems that your prospects are facing that your problem solves? So, having that all at the beginning. Then you have got to hire the right people. I think depending on your company, you can get really lucky. At Bizible, we were really lucky because we are a startup. We are in Martech. Right now Martech is very buzzy. We were covered in Geek Wire and Tech Crunch, and so people would find us and just go to our website and find the job postings.
And the other piece to it is depending on whether or not you are separating out the prospecting from the selling - in the Bizible case, we did -, understand why would somebody want that job, because they want to be an account executive. And so, a huge piece of our success at Bizible in bringing in top talent for outbound prospecting was creating a pathway for that outbound prospector to become an account executive.
Joyce: I had it documented. Just here is what you should be doing. Here are all the extra things you need to be doing that is going to show me you are getting ready for this opportunity.
JP: And if I came in as an SDR or appointment setter, kind of the one who tees up the ball for the AEs to hit. This is kind of that Aaron Ross, Predictable Revenue model if you have not read the book.
JP: And it sounds like you have, but for our viewers, if you have not, this really articulates this model really, really well in that you should not have the account executive (AE) doing the prospecting. (A) They are not good at it, (B) they do not like it, and (C) it is not the best use of their time for points one and two.
JP: So, as an SDR, that is a hard job. We are pretty upfront here and we say hey, this is going to test you. This is going to push your limits. And I like to set expectations as well and have that pathway, but if I am coming in as an SDR in that environment, how long would I expect assuming I do fairly well to be at the SDR level? How long would I bet there?
Joyce: We say one year, and could be less or could be more. And the key is you have to promote someone eventually and we did, and so the very first person that we hired for outbound prospecting was promoted approximately 13 months later. One of the two initial SDRs that were there in the business was promoted at about the 14 or 15-month mark, so he was the first one to be promoted. He was already there. And we promoted the second guy that I hired as outbound to manage the team. So, there was definitely advancement opportunity. There was another person on the team who ended up moving to account management and had a book of business and kind of did that on-boarding and up-sell.
So, I mean you do not just do it for anybody, but you want to make sure that you actually show them that you are going to do it and that there is the path, and then it is going to take a year. Expect a year. Could be longer. Could be less. The limiter is the needs of the business and you. This is not a give me. Not everyone on this team will be promoted into an AE position because, frankly, they may not really understand what it takes to do it, but if that is something that you really want and I know you say you do, then here are the things that I want to see and I am not going to be coming to you and saying did you do this, did you do this, and did you do this. You need to show me that you are doing it and you need to be satisfactorily setting appointments.
JP: Yeah, and everything had to go in the CRM, right?
Joyce: Everything. Every conversation. Every email has to go in the CRM.
JP: No choice.
Joyce: No, and here is the sad truth about it. You are going to have to write up some rules of engagement, especially if you do not have territories, if you have just one big world. People are going to step on each other. Salespeople are inherently competitive and it sucks, but you are going to have to create rules. Put them in writing. Get them in front of everybody. Coach them, train them, and make it available, and then you have to live by those rules.
JP: And you are the educator as the sales leader.
Joyce: Yeah, it sucks.
JP: Yeah, but that is why I love salespeople, because I am a competitive person. They are competitive. I think in the right environment with the right culture and obviously the right leadership, it is a good recipe.
Joyce: Yeah, I mean and then look at your comp plan. Like I said, at the beginning, our comp plan was based solely on how many opportunities are created from appointments that you have set.
JP: How many opportunities? Okay, so what would be my base?
Joyce: So, the base for my inbound reps, so handled only inbound leads was 35. Base for outbound prospectors was 40.
Joyce: They have to go dine people to call. They have to go find those personas. We had tools for them to do that, to find people’s email addresses and phone numbers, etc., but it is a harder job. They are not warm leads.
JP: So, if I am dealing with warm, I get less. And we are in Seattle, so wherever you are in the world, you could adjust accordingly.
JP: 35K internally annually. 40K U.S. We have viewers all over the world, so 40K U.S.
Joyce: Plus commission.
JP: And yeah, let’s talk about the variable piece. So, they would be comped on opportunities scheduled or completed?
Joyce: Opportunities created. So, the account executive (AE) is the one that determines ultimately if they are qualified.
Joyce: So, you have to be careful because there tends to be a little bit of where the account executive wants to reward the SDR or the BDR to get paid, so they will accept the lead even if it is not really qualified. So, this is something that as time went on we got a little more strict about they have to meet this criteria.
JP: Right, it cannot be your cousin Joe down in Atlanta.
JP: So, it is a sales accepted lead would be the commissionable event.
Joyce: Exactly. And we did not have any problems with people trying to do something fraudulent, but what we did end up with because initially we are talking to anybody and everybody was the account executives were accepting almost one hundred percent of the leads that showed up. And so, then I would, as their manager, say well, when are we going to close this deal. What is going on with this? And many of them just we would never speak to again. So, once we got better at setting the appointments, we got a little more strict about what is a sales accepted lead. It is not just they are using Sales Force, but they are also doing this and we have done that. And again, you are creating that matrix. What does it look like to move these people through the process?
And the other thing that we did is we simultaneously changed the comp plan to make it richer for the better opportunities. So, what I meant by that is we put less emphasis on the volume of appointments set or volume of sales accepted leads and we gave them a percentage of the commission when something closed.
JP: Got it, on top.
JP: A kicker for the close.
Joyce: We gave them one percent of the annual revenue for the deal.
JP: For the SDR.
Joyce: Yes. So, this is for outbound only. Inbound, those leads cost a lot of money, because marketing is spending money to get them. Inbound. If you have a mixture of outbound and inbound, meaning you have the same person handling inbound and outbound, there has been a lot of debate about it. I have sat on message boards about it. I think the general consensus is that is a bad idea, and I will tell you why. Because nobody really likes to cold call, even people where cold calling is one hundred percent of their job. And what I have found is that one of the first things that people want to do when they get the outbound job is they go and they find old inbound leads and they call them.
Now, that is not a bad thing. That is fine as long as they have already been through the inbound process and they are essentially what we call recycled. We never reached them. That is fine if they are part of your target accounts, but I do not want people calling D grade accounts just because there was an inbound lead on it a year ago.
JP: Got it.
Joyce: That is not valid. So, it is really about focusing those people on the A accounts. Inbound is inbound, and those guys get paid differently. And there is also a lower bar for them to get into the business. They have less experience typically than a person I am hiring for outbound who typically has done some sort of outbound calling before.
JP: Right, and just the be clear, the inbound and outbound would feed to the same pool of AEs.
Joyce: Correct, by territory.
JP: By territory. And so, the last piece of the puzzle is: how much did you pay per opportunity created?
Joyce: Well, the most recent comp plan I paid either 25 dollars or 50 dollars. This is for outbound based on the volume. So, if they did achieve I think it was 15 SALs in a month, all of them were paid at 50 dollars. Anything under 15 for the month, all of them were paid 25 dollars for simplicity.
JP: You said SALs, which is the acronym for sales accepted leads.
Joyce: Correct. And then anything that closed, they received one percent of the annual revenue.
JP: 40K Base, 25 or 50 bucks per sell, and one percent of closed business.
Joyce: Yeah, and so the OTE is about 50 for that job. OTE for the SDR, so the people handling inbound was about 42 to 43, and their jobs a little more straightforward. They were handling everything from live chat on online chat, which are great leads. You get somebody on your site, on your pricing page, asking questions, so they were great at getting them.
JP: Did you use Olarch or Live?
Joyce: Used Snap Engage, yeah. And great. It automatically created a lead for us, which was awesome. And then they handle all inbound leads. What is great is that the next logical question comes up, which is what tools. When do you automate? Do you do it at the beginning? Do you do it after you are having success? I think it depends on the tool. Do you get a dialer? Well, we did not have a dialer. At a place like Market Leader, a dialer makes sense, where you need to make 60, 70, or 80 calls per day. You may not feel that a dialer is appropriate, but a way to deliver emails in a sequence automatically. You may want to invest in that right away.
We used a tool called Outreach.io. They are also a Seattle company. There is also Sale Soft Cadence, which also can do the same thing. There are some other companies out there, but they are less good at creating those sequences and then being able to do the AB testing with the click of a mouse. So, I recommend those, but by using those tools, my inbound reps were able to handle hundreds of leads per month each.
JP: They were doing it efficiently, right?
Joyce: Yes, but without that tool, they could not. They could do no more than say 120 each. So, we would have eight hundred leads that would come in, in a month, and that could be handled by three people.
Joyce: And very, very effectively because the emails are going out automatically. We had done some jerry rigging as far as follow-up updates, etc., so they knew exactly when to call. The emails are going out. All they have to do is make phone calls. That is all they have to do, and then if somebody replies, it shuts off the emails. So, that I would definitely recommend. Thinking about if outbound and inbound prospecting is really integral to your business, you should invest in it early. It will save you a lot of heartache and it will help you.
JP: Right. You will grow faster, right?
Joyce: Yes. Dialer is later.
JP: Yeah, interesting.
Joyce: CRM, yes. You have to have that. Get a CRM.
JP: That is the price of admission, right?
JP: Into the sales world, although I still find a lot of organizations running office spreadsheets.
Joyce: I find organizations that are 15 years old running off spreadsheets and it blows my mind, and then they cannot figure out why they are not getting the kind of business they want and why their salespeople do not want to work there.
Joyce: It is like well, because you will not invest in them.
JP: Time to join 1999.
Joyce: Yes, just a little bit.
JP: Awesome. And so, I just want to finish out. The inbound person. They have got 35K base. Do they get the same variable comp on a SAL?
Joyce: No. So, theirs would start at ten dollars, and there was kind of three tiers. It was ten, 20, and 40.
JP: Right, justification being the customer acquisition cost.
Joyce: Yeah, absolutely. And there is some of my own bias in there, which is I have done the job and it is a lot easier to handle inbound leads. I do not want to say it is not hard because of course it is hard, but it is a lot easier to set that appointment when someone is raising their hand and expressing interest.
JP: I think everyone would agree if someone has raised their hand, they are by definition warmer. They have a higher likelihood to close.
Joyce: Absolutely, and those are the deals that close faster, etc. So, we did not pay a percentage of the transaction to inbound, but we did other things for them. There was bonuses for them to get on a weekly basis, so we did more fun things that were more transactional and quick for them than waiting five months to see if a deal closed.
JP: If I applied to Bizible and worked for you and Aaron, would I be starting outbound or starting inbound? Was there any cross-pollination or career path between BDR and SDR? I know I want to get to AE. That is where the money is. That is the prize ring, but would you start them at outbound first, use that as a Hogwarts’s sorting hat, take the experts and move them straight to AE or vice versa, or no cross-pollination?
Joyce: It really depended. It depended on (A) what position I had open, because I had some people that were just like I just really want to work here. I know I am kind of overqualified. I am willing to do inbound or outbound money. Right now for me the salary is not as important as getting a leg in. So, sometimes I had people who would take an SDR job that were a little overqualified. I think that is a bad move. I think those people will be restless and unhappy. Ideally you can come in as an SDR, you can come in as a BDR, and you would go straight to AE or Account Manager or customer success depending on are you a hunter or are you a gatherer, and both are sales positions.
And so, I did have one person who came in as an SDR. He moved to BDR and then he moved to account manager. And then I had one person go straight from SDR to AE, and I have had a couple people go from BDR to AE.
Joyce: And that was my intention from the beginning, which was to create a bench system where I would bring people in who had a little bit of sales experience, who were very, very hungry, who were the right personality, who were really smart, who wanted to be in Martech sales, who wanted to sell SAAS, but just they could not make the leap where they had work before, etc., and put them into these roles. The hardest part about training somebody off the street if you have a technical product is learning all the ins and outs of the product.
So, having the ability to come in and work for a year without the pressure of a “revenue quota,” what a luxury. I get it that you are not making as much money, but you get to come in. You learn the ropes. You learn to dos. You learn the don'ts. Al you have got to do is set the appointments, which is great experience anyways, and then, by the time you get moved into AE, boom, you are ready to go. So, that was great.
JP: So, last area that I want to dig into that you just brought up was quotas. Talk to me a little bit. Did the SDR, BDR, and AEs have quotas? Were those enforced?
Joyce: Yeah, so for SDRs and BDRs, they had different quotas. The SDRs. I expect them to set more appointments. I mean based on the volume of lead. When we first started, I think they were only maybe getting about five percent conversion from lead to appointment, and we were looking at okay, contact percentage. We looked at the whole funnel. So, how many of the leads do we actually make contact with, and then, out of that, how many do we actually set an appointment with, and then out of the appointment, how many become an actual SAL. Show up and become an SAL, and then ultimately how many of those are we winning. How many are we closing?
And we made, first of all, getting that email program going. Huge stride in just being able to reach people. Our contact rate went up by like 60 percent. It was crazy.
Joyce: Because they just could not get to everybody and they had to think too much. When they would pull up the record, they would have to go okay, now what did I send them before. How many phone calls have I made? This was a big nightmare and they were not getting to everybody in a timely fashion. So, just getting them on the right cadence, getting them that tool worked wonders.
And then, when we were a little looser on the qualifying, they were setting a lot more appointments. They could set and get 40 SALs in a month, and that was kind of the highest tier. Well, over time, as we got pickier, a couple things we realized. On inbound leads, most of the leads we were getting were D companies. They were too small. Too big. This. That. Whatever. So, sure, we will talk to them. We will talk to everybody, but they are probably not going to buy from us based on who is actually buying the product when we look at all of the factors.
Outbound, we have a lot more control over that. Do not call anybody who is not an A. Do not call anybody who is not a B. Period, unless it is a referral. And so, we saw the volume of SALs go down over time for inbound, so we had to make adjustments to their comp plan.
Now, that said, my expectation by the time I left was minimum expectation for SDR: you need to have 20 SALs per month. That is just a minimum. I mean they are getting hundreds of leads each. They should be able to set those.
JP: Were you ending that by three months? When would you show me the door if I was not hitting that?
Joyce: Yeah, so what we did, and I think I would give this advice to any leader, especially if you have a long sales cycles, so depending on the group that you are going after is really sit down and say what are realistic expectations for the first month. First partial month. What are realistic expectations for their first full month, second full month, and third full month? In my mind, an SDR and BDR should be ramped up within three months.
And then what I did is I created a little matrix that just said okay, it was learning, productivity, and results. So, what should they be able to learn and know in that first partial month? What should they be able to do as far as the actual dials or emailing? And then what should their results be? And you have kind of a good column and you have a best column. So, here are my minimum expectations and then here is what a rock star looks like, and then you have got to show that to that person. And so, after each month, it is like okay, here is where you are. Great job. You are a rock start. Now next month here is the expectation. Here is good and here is awesome.
And if they are not hitting it, even in month one or month two, that should be a huge red flag, and then it is a conversation about is this the right fit. Are you getting what you need? What is holding you back? Tell me what you need because if we do not see this correct, you cannot stay.
JP: Got it. So, to recap, learning, productivity, and results.
Joyce: That is my own little recipe for inside sales, but maybe there is another category.
JP: Love it. Good and awesome. That is a very neat way to put it.
Joyce: Yeah, there was also bad, but I did not show them the bad. The bad was for me to remind myself if it is this bad, huge red flag. And I think the other thing is we have to not be afraid to let people go if it is not the right fit, for whatever reason, whether it is a personality thing, a behavioral thing, or it is results, even if we like the person.
JP: Agreed. Those are the hardest decisions in business, and ultimately what I have learned is that it is just better for both parties.
JP: Because the energy is there. It is probably not positive. Both sides feel it. It is unspoken. Everyone is going along to get along. So, yeah, parting ways when the time is right is important.
Well, Joyce, I have learned a ton. you have been extremely helpful to me and I know our viewers will sincerely appreciate it. I am anticipating we might get a few requests for your matrix.
JP: So, I might hit you up for that, but Joyce Juntunen, Head of Sales at Market Leader. Loved the conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time, and I am just very thankful and grateful that you spent an hour with us today. Thank you.
Joyce: Well, thanks for having me. It was my pleasure. Just yeah, let me know if anybody wants a copy of either the development plan from BDR to AE or my performance report Matrix. I am happy to provide that and you can just customize it to your business.
JP: Awesome. Joyce, you are awesome. Glad we connected and I look forward to keeping in touch.
Joyce: See you later.