473-WORD INTRODUCTION for the First :28 Seconds:

When sales teams get big enough, it gets to a point where it becomes necessary to implement a 2-Stage Sales Operation with SDRs handling top of the funnel activities which frees the Account Execs up to focus on the middle to bottom of the funnel activities.

You know this already, so here’s the BIG PROBLEM that I help organizations solve:

Old school sales tactics are out – especially with the rise of digital marketing. With how much information we all have access to, potential clients can actually research and familiarize themselves with your company’s products and services BEFORE they ever make (or agree to take) a call.

And of course they can also look up your competitors and your online reviews, so realistically, a good portion of their buying journey is completed before they ever actually speak with you, and no one likes being “sold” to, but everyone loves to buy – especially when it comes to things that they actually need.

Humans just have this internal desire to feel like they make decisions on their own with no external pressure – especially from sales people – so everyone seems to go into Initial Interactions in heightened, emotional states of mind where they’re overly skeptical and hyper-critical, which means they’re actively looking for reasons to not trust you.

They talk a little tougher because it’s easy to hide behind screens and phones, and old school sales tactics send off the exact type of signals that cause them to go dark and seek options elsewhere – and that’s just one side of the coin for this problem. The other side is how the humans from the solution provider actually communicate, so realistically, they could be applying zero sales pressure yet still cause potential clients to go dark by communicating poorly.

I mean, think about it: how do you feel when you need help with something so bad that you’re doing Google searches and filling out requests to be contacted and then you get on the phone with someone who sounds like a novice? You’ll quickly check out and seek options elsewhere. On the other hand, get on the phone with someone who sounds like an expert and you’ll happily move to the next step in the process.

So in short, Initial Interactions are in fact high-stakes encounters, and if you know how to systematically OPEN in a way that puts the organization in the leadership position, you won’t have to rely on traditional sales tactics when it comes time to close, and this book lays out the framework for how to do it every time.

Do it just right and it sets your account execs up for massive success. Do it wrong and it chops their legs out from under them before they have even a chance to step onto the field.

AND REALISTICALLY: IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

Here’s the BIG PROBLEM that I solve:

(I have an Intro Call this week with a Sales Director from an organization who asked for my help, and I’m preparing my talking points):

So, I’m sure you’re wondering … like, what do I do? Why are we on the phone?

Well, since I’ve spent time with Casey and time with Pete already, I figured I’d give you the “cliff notes” version.

When sales teams get big enough, it gets to a point where it becomes necessary to implement a 2-stage sales operation with SDRs handling top of the funnel activities, qualification calls, prospecting, etc., which frees the Account Execs up to focus on the middle to bottom of the funnel activities, discovery calls, preparing and presenting proposals, closing deals, etc.

And from what I’ve gathered from speaking with Casey and Pete, you guys are well-passed that point as you’re going live with an SDR team next month.

So the big problem: I’ve seen this at several organizations that I’ve worked at now, large and small, in different industries, and it’s, I think …

Incredibly easy to get right, and in your guys’ case, you won’t need to trial and error it for a year or two to get it right because you’re on the phone with me, and I have the blueprints for how to do this the right way.

Here’s the long and short of it:

Old school sales tactics are out – especially with the rise of digital marketing. With how much access to information we all have, it makes it to where potential clients can actually research and familiarize themselves with a company’s products and services BEFORE they ever agree to take a phone call.

You know this. And of course they can also look up your competitors and online reviews and realistically, a good portion of the buying journey is completed before potential clients ever actually speak with a human from your organization.

No one likes being “sold” to, but everyone loves to buy – especially when it comes to things that they actually need. They just like to feel like they made the decision to move forward on their own with no external pressure, especially from sales people.

So everyone goes into initial interactions in heightened, emotional states of mind where they’re skeptical and hyper-critical, where they’re just looking for reasons to not trust the solution provider. They talk a little tougher because it’s easy to hide behind screens and phones, and old school sales tactics send off the exact type of signals that set off alarms that cause them to go dark and seek options elsewhere, and that’s just one side of the coin for this problem.

The other side is how the humans from the solution provider actually communicate, how they speak.

They could actually be applying zero sales pressure but still cause leads to go dark by being poor communicators.

I mean, think about it: how do you feel when you need help with something so bad that you’re doing google searches and filling out requests to be contacted and then you get on the phone with someone who sounds like a novice? You’ll quickly check out and seek options elsewhere!

Or, if you get on the phone with a human from the solution provider and this person sounds like an expert, then you’ll happily move to the next step in the process.

Initial interactions are, in fact, high stakes encounters, and if you know how to OPEN the sale in a way that puts the organization in the leadership position in the relationship, you won’t have to rely on traditional, sales techniques when it comes time to close.

And I have the blueprints for how to open the sale like this every time, and it all starts with how the SDRs communicate with potential clients.

Do it just right and it sets the account execs up for massive success.

Do it wrong? It chops the account execs’ legs out from under them before they have a chance to step onto the field.

And realistically? It’s one or the other.

the Reasoning for my “Hybrid” SDR Incentive Plan

Most Incentive Plans that I’ve seen for SDRs typically promote quantity over quality (and manipulation).

I’ve seen:

  • Low base pay with no incentive plan, so nobody cares
  • Low base pay plus $3 per lead, which promotes manipulation
  • Low base pay with ranges, like:
    • 20 – 25 Qualified leads per month = $250
    • 26 – 35 Qualified Leads per month = $500
    • 36+ Qualified Leads per month = $750

These plans were not data-driven and created a hornet’s nest of bad behavior at the top of the organizations’ sales funnels by promoting bad behaviors.

The reps I inherited on this team would get a lead in, send a “Qualifying Email,” wait two days, then call if there was no response. They would get responses to emails, though, and they’d consider them to be “Qualified Leads.”

I remember one of the reps, Rebekah, playing on her iPad all day, watching TV shows, and she’d tell me how she: “Qualified 14 leads today.”

Then the sales managers, like Marcia, told me how: “Your team sends us all these Leads and they never even answer the phone, so what’s the point of even having this team?!”

Christine told me how: “We have a great product and closing rates are fantastic when we get it in front of the right people, but the breakdown has always been actually getting in front of them to present.”

(We was talking about converting website visitors into actual sales opportunities).

We fixed it with this incentive plan. I got rid of the reps I inherited, completely broke down and revamped the top of the funnel strategy, hired new team members and provided the training and guidance, and I rewrote the incentive plan so that it promotes and incentivizes the best top of the funnel Stage 1 behaviors for the organization.

I know it’s aggressive as far as potential dollar amount per lead, but it’s data-driven, so it makes it possible for leadership to run a report like this:

There have been 1204 Qualified Leads that my team has processed so far this year, but if you wanted to check on them, where would you even begin?

I would start with:

  • A+ Leads (500+ Clients) = 157 of them.
  • A grade Leads (200 – 499 Clients) = 156 of them.
  • B Grade (10 – 199) = 764 of them.

 

  • Out of 157 A+ Leads, how many were NBO versus EXP / REN?
    • 123 NBO
    • 34 EXP / REN

 

  • How many Successful Handoffs have we had all across the board?
  • 381 / 1204 = 31.6% (WHAT THE FFF, right?!)

I introduced “Lead Grading” to [COMPANY], and having access to these insights (even though not fully-grasped onto across the board yet, it seems), is what data-driven sales organizations are doing. Data tracking like this is a gold mine when used right. We can make decisions based on fact and not solely on gut-feelings.

This also makes it possible for us to “put our finger on the pulse” and see how the business unit is operating across Stage 1 / Stage 2 (Pre-sale Relationship).

Stage 1 is locked in here, but Stage 2 is still a bit of black hole.

When locked in all across the board, the organization will have a higher level of accountability and alignment not just from top-down but from side-to-side, too. It all starts with Stage 1, though, which is where I’ve seen a lot of organizations “miss the mark.”

This incentive plan “gamifies” it for my team.

By putting a higher potential value on leads, it motivates them to not let anything slip through the cracks, which is why our Website Visitor > MQL conversion rates are outstanding (32% in July).

They don’t know a Lead’s Grade until they get them on the phone and ask the right questions, and they have to follow and execute on our communication strategies. If they don’t? Then I can take away the Quality Bonus. 99.9% of the time though, they understand the reasoning of our frameworks and execute flawlessly.

The amount available to earn for incentive per month is higher than normal, but it’s minimal compared to what the organization is making on the returns by having a team like this in place.

It also heads off the normal behavioral-type issues you see with SDR-type teams because they have the opportunity to earn enough to at least take their jobs seriously. If the original incentive plan was still in place, I wouldn’t be able to retain quality employees because they’d just work here and go through the motions while proactively looking for employment elsewhere.

A Certain Level of … Confidence

I think there’s a certain level of confidence that can only be achieved by being as prepared as possible. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference, says:

“In times of crisis, we don’t rise to the occasion … we fall to our highest level of preparation.”

That’s quite profound (and quote-worthy). Think about how when we’re put on the spot about anything, we get nervous; we can’t help it. When you’re put on the spot, even with something that you’re a subject matter expert on, but find yourself struggling to come up with the right words for the moment? You SOUND like you’re struggling to come up with the words, and this UNDERMINES your credibility.

Nervousness in your voice registers subconsciously in the Dog part of the person that you’re communicating with’s brain and it sets off alarms, like:

This person is nervous … therefore something must be wrong …”

I think that a key to success when it comes to effectively communicating about anything is to reduce as many variables as possible (like the pegs on the Plinko board). Think about the confidence, and fearlessness, that comes across when you don’t have to think about what you’re going to say next, especially when you’re calling out to a potential client for the first time.

If they answer and you’re not prepared to speak? You stumble through your intro, trying to come up with something intelligent to say, and it undermines your efforts from that point forward because you allowed that :30 second bomb to detonate. Jordan Belfort takes it a step further and says that you have FOUR SECONDS to come across as these three crucial things:

  • You’re SHARP
  • ENTHUSIASTIC
  • and an EXPERT

FOUR SECONDS!” he says. “That’s it! If you don’t come across as these three things in the first four seconds? You’re done!”

I know that “four seconds” can seem a bit extreme, but seriously: what’s the alternative? Let’s say you DON’T come across as those three things in the first four seconds. What happens? You set off alarms, the other person instinctively labels you as a novice, and the bomb blows up and causes the other person to not really listen or take you seriously from that point forward (the bomb is probably a bit more extreme than Jordan’s :04 Seconds, but that’s okay).

 

*Get a copy of this book at: https://www.amazon.com/First-Advanced-Communication-CRUSHING-Interactions/dp/109993303X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1565112234&sr=8-1

Two Stage Sales Operation

After a while, when a sales organization’s workload gets high enough, it makes sense to implement a two-stage sales operation. The sales development reps handle the initial interactions (top of the funnel activities) during stage one, and the account executives handle the discovery calls, presenting demos and closing deals (mid to bottom of the funnel activities) during stage two.

This makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons, but it’s not exactly a “quick fix” as it opens a can of worms for an even bigger problem: a two-stage sales operation that doesn’t have alignment from team-to-team with how they communicate (and hand leads off) helps to create the Black Hole of Digital Marketing.

In most cases, no one will intentionally sabotage his organization’s efforts to sell, but here’s a few examples of this bigger problem in action:

  • If the SDR provides in-depth explanations about features and benefits, it’s too much information, and too fast, for this point in the relationship.
  • If the SDR asks all the questions the AE normally would ask and then when the AE speaks with the lead, she runs through the same questions, it’s irritating for the potential clients.
  • If the SDR gathers high-level qualification information, logs it in the CRM but the AE skips over it and opens the discovery call with: “… So, what’s got us on the phone today?” potential clients’ll have to repeat themselves and try to remember what they said already.

Stage two should pick up where stage one left off. If your potential clients have to start all over with explaining themselves, it’s annoying and it sets of threat alarms (like these people aren’t sharp, therefore I better explore some other options).

Years ago, when I was on sales-side receiving leads from an SDR team, there was nothing worse than when I’d get a potential client on the phone, start asking some questions, and then sense the frustration because he was already asked the same types of questions. Now he has to repeat himself and try to remember what he said in the first place because there was no alignment from stage one to stage two.

Or I’d go to start explaining something, and he’s like: “Yeah, the other guy already told me about that …” and then I’d find out that what was said was inaccurate. Now I’m facing the uphill battle of trying to smooth things over, but in a lot of cases, leads in cases like this would just go dark.

It’s very, very important to have a clear communication framework in place for how stage one and stage two should go because this will help your organization to really provide what potential clients really want:

AN AS PAINLESS & HASSLE-FREE-AS-POSSIBLE PURCHASING EXPERIENCE

I was in a meeting a couple weeks ago (with another company), and their SDRs asked me why I don’t care for warm transfers. They told me how if they have a potential client on the phone who wants to speak with a sales rep, then they want to get them over to them ASAP. Of course I heard them out, and I understand the reasoning behind that, but after the meeting, it made me really think about how and why I do things the way I do.

Here are a few big reasons – I believe that:

  • a control measure for communicating effectively is to reduce as many variables from the situation as possible
  • accomplishing any task while using the least amount of force is good for everyone involved
  • well planned-out, orchestrated, optimized experience at the beginning of a potential relationship gives consistency & predictability to how the relationship forms
  • a solid communication framework is something you can train others on and replicate all across the board
  • it’s chaotic to do things differently every time, and the chaos is amplified when there are multiple team members doing things differently

If an organization’s initial interactions with potential clients ARE NOT controlled and well-orchestrated, then it can literally undermine the organization’s efforts to sell. On the other hand, if they ARE controlled and well-orchestrated, then it’s mutually beneficial for everyone involved.

ATTN: Digital Marketing Agency Owners

Alright … you run a digital marketing agency. You have clients from all over the business spectrum, i.e. small businesses, enterprise level and maybe even a few fortune 500 companies. You have a steady book of business and your clients pay you a range of anywhere from a few hundred bucks to thousands per month, and even though they all have different products and services, they all have this one thing in common:

They pay you to help them get their websites ranking high enough to be found when people search for keywords associated with their products and services.

You’re an expert when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and you know what you’re doing. You even specialize a bit in CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization), so you’ve got your clients’ sites organized in a way that compels visitors to click through and submit direct requests to be contacted (or even pick up the phone and call in directly).

Digital Marketing - Human Interaction

At this point, your job is done, but let me run something past you:

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say your clients get 100 direct website inquiries per month because of your efforts. But after several months, they’re only converting 2 or 3 per month into sales. How long will this go on before they pull the plug and jump to a different agency?

In a situation like this, your client isn’t necessarily going to audit their internal sales process – they’re going to blame the source, like:

We pay you all this money per month, but the leads we get from your campaigns convert at such a low percentage that we’re just gonna try working with another agencyso we’d like to cancel our contract.”

Meanwhile, what if they got the same amount of leads from your campaigns, 100 per month, but they’re converting closer to 40 or so into sales on a regular basis?

a good example of why you should discuss budgets early on

So, you know how I mentioned how it creates a massive, uphill battle if you ask about budgets upfront on an initial call? Well, it’s even worse if you completely avoid it altogether. Long story short, my wife and I recently had a pool built. It’s awesome!

We went through the purchasing process with four different pool builders. We wanted to check out five, but one of them had an absolutely terrible first call with my wife and she did not invite the person to schedule an onsite visit to take measurements to draw up plans.

Anyways, not one of them asked about budgets on interaction one (the call to follow-up on our request to be contacted) or on interaction two (the onsite visit at the house).

Randomly, I fed budget information to one of them on interaction two, like:

  • “I know having a pool built can range in cost, and from what I can tell, they typically start around $20-something thousand … now, I don’t mind paying a little more for an upgraded cleaning system because I want this to be as low-maintenance as possible. My wife and I both work … a lot … so we’re on the go and just want to relax when we get home, so … the range that we’re looking to spend is somewhere around $25- to $30-thousand or so. Do you think we can get what we want within that range?”
  • “Yeah, I think so …” said the sales guy, Colton. “With what you’re looking to do, you’re looking closer to $30K, but I think we can make that happen.”

When we showed up for interaction three, the proposal presentation at the office with Colton (who handled first contact to close like a pro!), he walked us through the design and the price was just right: $29K-something. Everything was good; my wife and I felt good about everything and the plan made sense and it was exactly what we were looking for.

Now, the other pool companies: no budgets were discussed during the initial interactions, and when we showed up for the proposals at the offices, the plans they presented were great and everything looked good and they were designed well and exactly what we were looking for, but they all priced themselves out of the job – by a lot!

At $37K, $39K, and $42K, there was absolutely nothing any one of them could say that would convince my wife and I to go with them. And realistically speaking: the designs were all essentially the same, except one had a pool light that I could control with my phone and change the colors on (which neither of us cared about).

So, the pool is built, we swim almost daily, everything is awesome, BUT … I have to ask:

What if we fed the budget information to a different pool builder instead of Colton and his company? Would he have shot way high and found himself with an impossible deal to win during the third interaction?

Who knows, really, but I believe you get the point of why I’m sharing this story about discussing budgets earlier on in the process.

When you think about it, you have to realize that there’s a cost to getting to the point of going over a proposal with your potential clients. The cost of lead acquisition; the cost of processing the lead and moving the potential client to the different stages in your sales cycle; and plus, the opportunity cost. When you work with a lead who is never going to close, it takes time away that you could be spending with potential clients that you actually have a shot at doing business with.

The First :28 Seconds – Modern (and primitive) Revenue Operations

Here’s the business problem that all this helps to solve: for a lot of organizations, marketing generates leads, passes them to sales, and for a lot of them, no one really knows what happens. Some of them will go on to purchase, yes, but for a rather large percentage of them, no one really knows what happens, and this means that there’s a ton of revenue being left on the table out there.

It’s kind of neat how all this morphed. I don’t like the idea of calling it “Sales Training” because anything with “sales” in it seems to carry a negative connotation. I didn’t really like calling it “Communications Training,” either, as that seems really vague, like “Communications for what? Different roles require different styles of communication.” I get that.

So, after tons of research and experience at different organizations and spending time on both sides of the marketing and sales fence, and a good handful of successful meetings and training sessions (and a few not-so successful), I have finally narrowed it all down to what this actually is: “Revenue Operations.”

Yes, I know that too can be a bit vague, like: “Oh, here’s the latest business buzzwords that make it possible to call something that’s geared towards sales training something other than ‘sales training’ …”

But seriously, this really is an end-to-end strategy that provides a solid, research-based (and empathy-based) framework for communicating with your business’s clients all the way from 1st contact through renewal. What’s different about this strategy is that it focuses on moments that matter from the buyer’s perspective and really helping your client-facing team members be as prepared as possible to really deliver and capitalize on those moments, all the way from marketing to sales to account management and support.

Chris Voss was the nation’s top FBI International Hostage Negotiator for many years, and he says that: “In times of crisis, we don’t rise to the occasion … we fall to our highest level of preparation.” I know “crisis” sounds a bit extreme here, but after retirement, he went on to form the Black Swan Group and does business consulting where they teach FBI Negotiation Tactics in business applications.

It’s pretty cool stuff, but fact: there are tons of resources out there regarding sales and marketing and business and communications and leadership and account management and so on and so on and so on …

From what I’ve seen, it all seems to be fragmented and silo’d in different books and websites and videos and Ted Talks and YouTube videos, but then again … it’s probably pretty much impossible to provide a single resource that covers the communicative aspects of all the elements of the customer life-cycle in much detail …

That being said, I’m doing it. I see a business need for this that transcends products or industries and even whether or not an organization is business-to-consumer or business-to-business.

I am creating resources on this that are focused on the communicative aspects that provide a more holistic, end-to-end framework on how to implement this in your business, and by doing so, your business will capture more revenue throughout the lifecycle of your customers by providing objectively better experience at each interaction.

But books can really only tell so much, so I’m also developing digital courses on all of this, too. It’s pretty exciting and I know it’s a lot, but it will be relatively easy to digest and I promise it’ll make tons of sense. Enjoy!

 

PS: I said “Modern (and primitive) Revenue Operations” in the title because everything I’m developing is geared for modern, relevant applications, but the root of everything I’m presenting is based in neuroscience, which means that it’s designed to go in-line with how the human brain, because of our evolutionary hardwiring, prefers to receive and process information. Thanks!