The purpose of the data provided to SDRs and AEs is to help them prepare for the first call with a person within a buying center. The secondary purpose is help SDRs further connect the dots of potential buying centers within an organization. Whether that’s one center or twenty, the SDR must assist in gathering this data, going beyond what Marketing can reasonably provide through tracking and enrichment.
Once Marketing determines a Person, Account, or Buying Team may be ready for an initial Sales outreach, we send the record over to an SDR. The usual process is an Email Alert or maybe a CRM Task. Then the SDR clicks into the Record (a “read” lead) to prepare for the call.
Back in the day, just 10 years ago, I had very little information about most of my leads. LinkedIn had not yet reached a saturation point and cross-channel data was far more difficult to obtain for B2B. Thus, I would contact my leads to learn more about what their needs were and schedule a meeting if possible.
The information given, of course, varied. Inbound emails might just say “Contact me about X.” Sometimes they were more specific about “I need GDP forecast data on the 30 top countries.” Regardless, I viewed it as my job to learn more about why they needed the information so I could direct them to the right product. My process included:
- Is the email address corporate or personal? (Indicated commitment and possible priority)
- Look up company’s website.
- Open Hoover’s to learn about company hierarchy and setup if needed; verify key data to see if this was a real person or entity.
- Think a bit about the person’s role and why they might need my services.
- Do this as quickly as possible before my competitors call the person back.
I became a top salesperson for consulting because I asked about needs and knew what was off the shelf and what was not. I took the time to leverage tools like Hoover’s to connect dots and see which buying centers existed in a firm. Were the buyers in my territory, or another salesperson’s? Were there two or three potential groups or people who would be interested?
So if you’re an SDR who thinks your job is to ask only for a meeting with your AE, you are doing yourself, your firm, and the prospect a disservice.
Today, marketing operations and sales operations can deliver huge amounts of behavior and demographic information on a Person or Account. Lead to Account matching is increasingly automated. Theoretically, the SDR or AE should be freed from mundane data entry to focus on understanding the person and buying team. The SDR and AE should be able to prepare deeply for any call.
Yet, this isn’t what I see happening.
Today, if I were in sales, I might have all sorts of signals to sort through:
- MQL – someone said this lead met a minimum threshold indicating a call may be likely to have a meaningful discussion.
- Lead Score – way to sort today’s MQLs from high to low.
- Enriched demographics – titles, address, industry, likely correct address and direct dial. (no extra research!).
- Behaviors – might see recent website visits, clicked emails, sent emails, form fills, etc. With omni-channel tools I might see other sites they are using.
- Enriched Signals – I might also know more about their company’s funding situation, new leases, news, latest leadership changes, hierarchies, connected records we already know about.
- LinkedIn – direct URL or view into profile without leaving my browser tab. Who is this person? What’s their experience? Are they senior? Junior? Do they write/speak about these topics? Do they know people in common?
- Product Interest – either from Trial, direct request, pages viewed.
Despite all this data, I still get feedback from Sales that
- It’s not accurate
- They didn’t close
- They aren’t ready
- They didn’t want to talk
- Not enough detail to call
So is more information necessarily better? Are salespeople that overworked they can’t read the records in front of them?
- Read the information on the record.
- Look at the behavioral history, whether that’s campaign, etc…
- Think hard. What is the lead looking at? Is there a pattern? What line of questioning or conversation would make sense?
- Never call and say “So I saw you downloaded our whitepaper on…” It’s creepy, off-putting, and doesn’t get the conversation going in the right direction.
Here’s my advice for reading the behavior and demographic information as a salesperson:
|Information||How to Use it|
|Emails Sent||SDRs ask for this, yet how does this help? I’m not sure. But, at a minimum, you can tell quickly if Marketing has done outreach or invited the person to something. As an SDR, I usually want to see if another rep had a past conversation and what it was about.|
|Emails Clicked||A possible indicator of interest. If it’s a Product email, that may be more meaningful than a generic solution whitepaper. After scanning this information, I would take a note of topics the Lead seemed interested in. remember, no one likes to get a call where the intro line is “So, I see you clicked on a few of our emails…”|
|Search Phrases||Search will tend to reflect the most recent concerns of the Lead. If this data is available, it may be very helpful to frame the questions you plan to ask and what to consider offering during a call.|
|Whitepaper/Video Forms||Form Fills are strong indicators of interest in the topic area. Again, I’m looking for a pattern in the possible topics to discuss and which questions to ask a Lead.|
|Event Registration||Showing up to a webinar or live in person event is a big time investment, so a Registration is interesting. If the Event is soon, then weaving the Event topic into a conversation is a great method. Certainly this could be a way to start a conversation such as “I’m calling to confirm your attendance and to help if you need directions, etc…” I personally would avoid the “I’m calling before the event to see if you had questions about our product.” Because it’s better to do that in person and they haven’t yet been persuaded by the live event.|
|Event Attendance (or not)||More helpful is Attendance. Of course, if they did show up, then Sales had a chance to do a live interaction which is more powerful. As a follow up note, this information helps us prioritize the Lead over others.|
|Papers viewed||Whitepapers are typically about solution areas or topics. Martech abounds with How To styles and dubiously constructed surveys. Again, use Papers as a way to prepare good questions and topical paths to speed up the conversation. Don’t say “Hey, I saw you downloaded Paper X, do you have questions?” I hang up on any rep who says this by Phone or Email.|
|Website Pages Viewed||Ditto.|
|Social Engagement||In spite of the idea of Social Selling, the reality is most Sales reps aren’t on social other than to glean data from LinkedIn. Super reps are on there, discussing Sales as well as their solution area in a helpful way. Leads may be on Social to monitor or to share. If Social information is availale, it’s a good way to learn more about the Person and recent interests. [Link to ways to engage].|
|Social Profiles||Helpful for preparing for the call.|
|Title||The MQL should only send you good Titles. Helpful to verify.|
|Role or Level||Ditto.
Know whom you’re speaking with. Conversations with junior staff will be different than Executives.
|Firm/Org Name||Do you know this firm? Is it in your territory? Is it already a customer in another department?|
|Location||In your territory? Is it a cross-territory effort? Did another location buy but now you have to sell this location?|
|Direct Dial (or not)||A missing direct dial is not a reason to Recycle a Lead. Do additional research or just call the main line. Most phone trees or Operators will get you to the right person or department. I seriously disdain any SDR who believes they deserve a direct dial every time.|
|Email Address||Is the email a corp address or generic? If generic, is the rest of the profile accurate enough for this to be a real person?
Sometimes, regional or international divisions use variations, so are you familiar with the domain and does it match the Firm?
|Marketing Permissions||SDRs need to be familiar with the local regulations on Calling and Emailing Leads with “promotional” messages. If the Lead hasn’t explicitly requested contact, many countries allow fines against the company. Notifying Sales about permissions should be part of the Lead Pane, along with Training. But if someone is an MQL and they are not permissioned, then other channels must be used.|
|Lead Scoring||Whether predictive or indicative, SDRs should understand the Score and how to use it to prioritize today’s calls. Simple systems just say “high Score means call first.” Others might be more nuanced, where the Score indicates likelihood to do a Meeting or make the Salesperson money.|
|Email responses||If you are able to post Email responses to the Lead’s record, that’s a great way to help an SDR contextualize the conversation.|
|Inbound Form/Free Trial||Usually an instant MQL if the Lead meets basic ICP details. Which product did they request? Is there a message? Have they used the trial yet? It should be very easy for an SDR to start a conversation with a direct request or free trial. Very important to ask good questions and to skip BS on this type of call.|
|Existing Relationships||Lead to Account Matching and a simple search can help an SDR see if the firm already buys in another region or department. While not always needed, this is one manual area that SDRs simply ignore at their peril. Invariably Marketing will message a different department only for the SDR to realize they are already a customer. Then the SDR and Client complain about poor workflows – “I’m already a Customer” or “They are already with Joe in Atlanta, why did you waste my time with this?”
True enough…but a few moments with the CRM and a search might have told you that too.
Goal of the SDR on a Phone Call
As Stephan Schiffman says, the only goal of a Cold Call is to Make an Appointment. Ideally, that Appointment includes a basic agenda and the people on the call have a clearer idea of the meeting’s purpose.
Preparing for the Call
This involved asking a series of questions, which ideally are on a sheet where you can write some notes. Other than the obvious ones above, it helps a lot to research the Organization itself. Do you understand the history of the firm? What is their business model? What might the person actually care about?
Pretty sure we’ve all read business books where someone takes credit for a brilliant deal that was helped by a simple insightful question.
Preparing Good Questions
- SPIN Selling and other questioning tools.
- Can only come from preparation and understanding the business, industry, and person.
- Active research helps you understand more than getting spoon fed. Use the basics as a jumping off point.
- Data is not the terrain – sales still has to find out the real skinny on what’s happening inside the Account.
When should an SDR Recycle a Lead or Account?
Recycled leads are never what a marketer wants to see, but it does happen. Does Sales enjoy it? Hard to say. Sometimes I wonder if Sales treats high volume leads like candidates for a job – any indication the candidate (or lead) isn’t right is an excuse to send them away. Salespeople often “just know” a Lead isn’t going to buy, or isn’t qualified. In MOPS, it’s important to listen to that data and intuition to operationalize it, not just debunk it. At the same time, sales should take seriously that any MQL has a reason for being that way and to make a real effort to contact the person in an appropriate way.
A person (lead) may not be ready for a real conversation, however, within an Account, there could be 30 people related to your solution area. Spend some time connecting the dots with relationship tools, questions, and behaviors. Several people sniffing around your website indicates something is happening at that Account. An SDR or BDR should pay attention to these signals across multiple people.
Recycling or Downgrading an Account generally shouldn’t happen until there’s a hard “no” from the Buying Team, whether they deferred action, stuck with the status quo, or purchased a competitor. And the “no” just means taking that Account off the focus list for 6 months.