With so much uncertainty still hanging over organizations worldwide, many sales teams and leaders are starved for good conversations and expertise on ways to handle the constantly changing business environment we now find ourselves in. That’s why we were thrilled to host a three-episode webinar series last month focusing on how sales organizations can prepare their back to market strategies during the second half of 2020.
Our CEO Jake Dunlap spoke with a group of great guests, discussing a variety of topics ranging from LinkedIn content in the modern outbound sales sequence to upcoming changes to hiring talent in sales organizations. And we’re pleased to share an in-depth summary of the insights shared in each episode below.
Back-to-Market Strategy Episode 1
Building and Rescaling Your Back to Market Strategy
Jake Dunlap kicked off the webinar series with an overview of how sales teams and organizations should build a back to market strategy in the new business environment that emerged with the pandemic. He began with a simple question.
What will Covid-19 teach us that we need to apply going forward?
We had an all-time economy, and yet organizations had no plan for hard times. While no one could have predicted a black swan event like Covid-19, it still exposed systemic problems across B2B industries. As Jake put it, everyone should have been asking, “What happens if our market tightens?”
Right now, sales teams treat everyone as a buyer, constantly marketing to ideal customer profiles. But there’s no contingency plan to effectively and efficiently narrow quality clients and quality of message.
Sales teams place clients in 3 buckets: those ready to buy, those in the middle who need the right value proposition, and those who aren’t ready and require a long-term nurture program. Sales professionals need more sophisticated plays to spend time where it is best spent, not on every potential client. “We can’t afford to treat every play as generic anymore,” Jake said.
The core of this outreach has been email because we can measure and easily track. But everyone does it now. Its effectiveness is on the decline. It’s not just about email anymore. “Send All” is clearly not working.
LinkedIn, meanwhile, is the 16th most visited website in the United States. It’s the place where your buyers are looking. The audience is growing and increasingly active.
Related Content: How to Write a LinkedIn Post
The new outbound strategy, according to Jake, is frontloading LinkedIn by building relationship capital to increase the likelihood of a positive reply, before moving forward with calls and emails. Sales Navigator is essential to adding more buyers to your lists and quickly expand and connect with ideal prospects in a territory. Created content is then seen by those buyers.
Many people still believe posting on LinkedIn is egotistical and bragging. But in reality, it is a networking event that is 24/7. And a post on LinkedIn is a 5-minute speaking spot every day to your curated audience at that networking event. Individuals then become the face and voice of companies. Prospects view sales reps as thought leaders that they want to meet with as a result.
Right now the sales team mindset is focused on micro-adjustments because sales operations staff is understaffed. Many companies are spending $10,000s – $100,000s on a performance agency. Many spend nothing right now to optimize salespeople. The future of sales is constant optimization with a growth mindset; one that uses data to rapidly iterate best practices of what works and what doesn’t.
Q: What recommendations do you have for marketing teams that are doing things that are not working?
A: You don’t need marketing to run plays or make content on LinkedIn. You don’t need company permission to take collateral and teach your sales teams to adapt it to their own network.
Q: Any insight on selling a commodity in a crowded space?
A: You’ve got to find a niche and understand your competition. Stand out with educational content.
Q: What tools are best to listen to prospect activity?
A: Predictive algorithms cannot take into account Covid-19, so it’s not bad to be manual right now. Following trends for the next several months will be more effective and accurate.
Pro Tip — If you want a good read on the theory of constraints, Jake recommends checking out The Goal.
Back-to-Market Strategy Episode 2
How Will Marketing, Sales, & Talent Scale in 2020 – The New Normal
The next episode in our Back to Market Strategy series dealt with not only scaling in a post-Covid world, but also a discussion of the future of work in a more digital and remote environment. Jake brought on Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, and Joe Mullings, CEO of The Mullings Group, both of who put out expert content around marketing and talent.
They began by examining the data. The average full-time tenure is currently 4 years and declining, while contract tenure is 2 years and climbing. Age groups also matter: If you are above 45 years old, you’ve been at your job 10 years, if you’re below 28, you switch jobs every 3 years.
The workforce coming in is clearly changing jobs quickly. Most employees can’t count on a college degree carrying them through. Technology is advancing, resulting in high turnover. Roles continue to change, and it’s difficult for organizations to stay in front of the changes. Those full-time employees in sales are then asked to do too much, so they can’t do proper performance analysis.
Yet on-demand talent is rising for specialty roles. Change occurs at the fringes, and in fact, because many organizations don’t know how to hire full-time employment for emerging roles, they hire the hired gun. Most new candidates have a skill that they don’t need to be full time for. They can even work with multiple companies instead of just one. And many companies will be forced to consider outside people coming in to support sales teams since full-time employees can’t be specialists in everything.
Currently, sales organizations and revenue operations are not run as performance organizations. They act retroactively on their data when it’s too late to utilize the insight they provide. As a result, Jake and company acknowledged that a demand generation mentality must become the new mentality. Rapid acceleration of technology is a disruption and dislocation, changing the ways of doing marketing and business.
The panels also discussed the Venture Capitalist mindset. Most organizations want people to be in the office 24/7, 365 days, reducing the sample size of potential candidates to those with availability, who can commute, and have a good enough skill set to get hired. As Joe argued, “You can’t win a championship with that mentality.”
In reality, venture capital can exit quicker and reduce burn with a more agile and less attached outside team. The main misconception is that outside non-full-time people you bring in are not aligned with the business, only with their profit. Organizations have to branch out to find the right talent and not presume their effectiveness on outdated notions. Sometimes organizations don’t need a specialized role forever. What they do need is agility.
On the flip side, there still is a need for full-time roles, and those, according to the panel, should go to those responsible for architecting the company, such as VPs. The board and CEO must ensure they hire for security and an ecosystem that allows talent to come in and flourish. Functionally, every leader should be permanent, but also accept a permeable skill set that seamlessly enters and exits the organization.
Q: What are the hard and soft trends that have to happen? What additional disruptors do you foresee?
A: (Chris) Over time, people who are good at creating demand programs will make more than sales representatives. The way people buy things has changed and it’s an opportunity for new talent. From 2012-2020, most things have changed but executives have not acknowledged it. It will come to B2B. Distribution changed in B2C, disruptive point in distribution for B2B is the salesperson. Fewer outbound sales, more inbound, that is how buyers are changing.
A: (Joe) The sales function will never go away, but the talent profile will change. Everything is P2P, person to person, it is a soul that makes a decision, not an organization. If you provide evidence to get them to make a decision, you will succeed. You must champion this mindset all the way through. Competitive advantages have been leveled by the pandemic, so those who can upskill their sales will crush organizations that will try to fight the changes that have occurred.
A: (Jake) The future we will get to is specialized. One person can’t have every skill, so organizations will have a team that knows each skill specifically. So you must upskill yourself. Find organizations that will invest in you, but you need to invest in yourself as an expert. Raise your IQ and creative thinking, and your expertise. Not only that, but sales fundamentals are not being taught in onboarding. So you must update your EQ and sales skills or you will become obsolete, though cognitive intelligence must always be tied to conscientiousness.
In the end, both Joe and Chris find solace in knowing the old guard will retire, while new talent can eventually be built up and upon. Covid-19 exposed the executive suite, and the new mindset, where sales performance optimization will outcompete the old school playbooks and mentalities.
Back-to-Market Strategy Episode 3
Generate New Business (& Have Fun!) by Switching Your Outbound to 50% LinkedIn
In our final episode, Jake spoke with Matt Cross, outbound sales and business development leader at Verint, and Adam Fee, account director in B2B sales at Juniper Square, two sellers that we helped to formalize their LinkedIn content and audience development strategies.
These experienced LinkedIn content creators discussed how to use the platform to identify prospects, collect a list of leads, and create posts that convert them into buyers. All three also shared their personal tactical strategies on the platform, which we summarized below. If you are a sales rep or leader, this conversation is for you!
Jake’s Tactical Strategy
- Build a list in Sales Navigator
- Look at people who follow your LinkedIn company page and connect with that group of people
- Who’s changed their job in 90 days and connect
- Check out people who have posted in the last 30 days and comment on their posts
- Then segment, come back and comment on another post a few days later
- Then you look for new connections from those 1st-degree connections
- After 2 comments, send a DM, and you’ve built a strong relationship with that connection
- Consistency is key, so post every day
- Original content gets the most play, but giving even simple content is important to staying relevant and vocal on a large platform
- Repurpose company content and put your own spin on it
- Use conversations that have been had with customers for content, it will connect with audiences that have the same questions
- It can be scary to create content, but if people come to your profile and see no content, you will be disappointed by the results
- The kiss of death is sharing a link in the post
- Early morning is a good time to post
Matt’s Tactical Strategy
- Start your day off with LinkedIn — It’s a prospecting period!
- Find out what people are posting
- Set time aside to write posts in the morning
- Research what trends are emerging in your industry
- Curate a specialized feed of content and people through LinkedIn
- Keep your newsfeed relevant with the proper hashtags
- Draw from posts with lots of engagement that are relevant to your audience
- Follow people you would love to be connected with and engaging with their content
- Use Sales Navigator to filter ideal connections quickly
- Most of your competition does not go beyond the search bar, if you do, you will jump ahead
- Save your searches
- Understand what you do and what you can do for your prospects
- When you do understand their problems, you can have meaningful conversations
- Open to learning more is crucial, and always add something relevant
- Soft asks really work
- No call to action in your post, comment or message? Simply ask if there is interest in learning more
- Be unique, not cliche — It’s communication 101
- You have to be authentic when you start conversing with your prospect
Adam’s Tactical Strategy
- Decide how you communicate with your audience
- Use pathos to play to people’s emotions, logos to appeal to their logic and reason, and ethos to speak to credibility and clout
- Don’t be afraid to mix up your content with all of these types of content
- You need company content for variety, but don’t be a boring pundit, only showcasing your company’s updates
- Pitch in your post, but not the DMs, those are ideally the light ask after people have become comfortable with your content
- Imagine your content as speaking to one person, one prospect
- Stop asking for what you want, it can become cliche quickly
Q: What’s a good ratio of types of content to post?
A: Focus on text, because it gets the best engagement through LinkedIn’s algorithm. Video is not as prominent if you aren’t comfortable with it. But always make sure the headline draws the audience in immediately.
Q: What’s a good volume of posts?
A: Three times a day is great. You’ll start seeing engagement rapidly.
Q: Does quality of content win over quantity?
A: It’s both. You need that quantity of posts as well as good enough quality. Don’t spend time on one perfect post when you can have several decent posts all getting eyes from your audience. Though if you’re just starting, once a day, even if it’s a simple post, is the way to go until you ramp up.
Pro Tip — LinkedIn will change the algorithm, so if you’re just learning something and it changes, you’re in trouble. Don’t just pander to the algorithm. As long as you always create content that connects with your audience, you will thrive on the platform.
Don’t wait! Posting to LinkedIn takes time to learn, so just do it and begin.
That’s quite a lot of insight to process.
If you have your own questions or would like more information on any of the topics that were discussed, don’t hesitate to reach out!