SME Productivity: A Simple Guide to leverage Tech and build a Repeatable Sales Engine
We are once again in unique times. In the short term, we need to deal with COVID-19, to put up a good medical and economic response.
This will have a trickle-down effect across the different spectrums in the economy. From consumer behaviours to avoid places of congregation, to projects being cancelled from tapered down financial projections, to companies cutting costs to protect the bottom line, to the government putting up a supportive fiscal stance.
The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. Through antifragility, when positioned correctly, stressors make people, company, processes stronger.
In the longer term, we see many structural changes. One of which we are privy to is tech displaced unemployment, and subsequently, rising income inequality.
The once iron rice bowl jobs are not so iron cladded after all. We see less of lifetime job security today. Business disruptions come and go so quickly, companies need to stay competitive, and one of the ways to do so is to maintain the most productive workforce possible and this comes at the cost of the less equipped. Also, a way to run a productive workforce is to leverage technology i.e. Marketing Tech, give employees the right tools to >1x their output.
Remote working helps to increase operational cost-efficiency
The evolution of remote working (quote) happened slowly, and then all at once. Many companies are experiencing remote working for the first time, and many of the practices will be here to stay, as companies and employees realize the benefits.
From a business perspective, the benefits of running a remote, distributed workforce are aplenty. You can save on fixed overheads (rent). This is a big cost item for many companies. Use the savings on unnecessary rent and pay better employee benefits. I agree that for certain professional service industries, having a primely located, the well-renovated office is important for servicing clients - so there is no way to go about it. Software companies are prime business models to go remote, because, there are no hardware/capital-goods.
By having formal remote hiring practices in place, one can hire for the most cost-efficient talent globally. (Yes, MTI Singapore, I also understand the civic consciousness hire locally at the same time #smilyface#).
To build best-practice remote working processes in your company, GitLab is a good company to follow. They are known to be the world's largest all-remote company and they have open-sourced their employee's handbook here - https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/. Also refer to the new guide by Toptal - https://www.toptal.com/remote-work-playbook
A key consideration to note about remote working is that it is not the ability to work from home, but the ability to work asynchronously. You can batch process your work items and be easily interrupted, as compared to you working in an office and having someone shouting over your shoulder every now and then. No single task should ever be urgent. Replies should only be made after thoughtful thinking, there is little pressure to reply in real-time. All business processes should be documented clearly, made very transparent and there should be little second-guessing. Business KPIs should be put on a dashboard for performance evaluation and coaching, at both the micro (staff) level and macro-level (company), so everyone is aligned.
Software and Technology allows for greater productivity leverage
Essentially, when we think deeper, all non-creative tasks can be automated. Creative tasks would be nurturing real relationships and building the processes themselves.
For example, for today's white-collar worker, a good >50% of the time is spent on writing and pushing around emails. There are many tools today to help make this process easier, faster, better, or more accuately.
Singapore Budget 2020 has asked for companies to increase productivity by embracing technology, as in recent years. There is the incentive to invest in an upfront effort to build processes that repeat and scales, and automate out the time-wasting, repeated work after.
An HR example - Instead of doing manual onboarding of employees individually, write detailed process (technical and business) guides for them to refer to, and keep them update for the next employee.
Primer to implement Marketing Tech into your SME business today
Marketing Tech and Advertising Tech have both been intriguing, the more I dive deeper into it. Essentially, it is how tech companies track user data and to monetise the data, or resell the data to be monetised by another party.
Most of these revolve around leaving tracking cookies on the browser or tracking the device fingerprint as it moves around sites. If you are not paying for the product, you are the product (to the preying companies who want to capture your data and then ad attention). Sometimes, it is better off paying a fair sum to use the SaaS, get rid of the ads and most importantly, get access to the customer service.
How the user's Sales & Marketing Lifecycle can be augmented with technology
We will map the user's lifecycle journey, from the top of the funnel to the end of the user's life cycle, and how each of the stages can be augmented and made better with technology.
We as a company, Rocketship Pte. Ltd., have deployed most of the SaaS tools which we will share with you. You can see this from the chatbots and newsletter campaigns.
For the perspective of the Sales Team, the lifecycle of a user goes like this - (1) Pre-sales, (2) Sales, (3) Post-sales and (4) Customer Retention. You will soon notice most of the MarTech is focused on the Pre-sales segment because the prospecting stage requires more engagement then the retention stage.
1) Social Media
What you want to do is to have a united platform to post and manage user interactions. The key social media site Rocketship Pte. Ltd. is running on are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. These are in fact the standard ones for most businesses. I don't really expect leads to come in from these channels, but rather to put up a 'brand voice' out there. One thing I dislike from using a platform to post is that the resulting post comes with Post Via Platform, I rather have this not appear. As a result, most of the posts are posted using the native platforms manually. It doesn't require too much time if done right.
- Zoho Social: https://www.zoho.com/social/
- Hootsuite: https://hootsuite.com/
- Buffer: https://buffer.com/
2) Email Campaign + Forms
Running an optimized email campaign is the bread and butter for most startup today. Emails can be done very effectively, or very ineffectively. Sending an email is almost free and you can usually get your message out for a pinpointed target audience. Compared to pay-per-click Google Ads where a typically popular SaaS related keyword can cost between $5 to $20 per click. Running good email campaigns may come with technical learning curves, like figuring out SPF / DKIM domain verification, best practices to ensure healthy IP reputation etc. Also, don't send email blindly, try to send it with a CRM so you have awareness of the user's response to your email - most important is your email opened?
- Zoho Campaign: https://www.zoho.com/campaigns/
- SendGrid: https://sendgrid.com/
- MailJet: https://www.mailjet.com/
3) Page Optimization and Page Tracking
This is used to understand how the user behaves on your website. How actions they perform, and what stages do they break off from your website. It is also useful to run personalization campaigns i.e. you can set a customised landing page of your use, based off the information you know of the user.
The example of information you can glimpse off your visitor data can be:
- Current Url
- Referral URL
- Query Parameter
- Visitor Type
- Device Type
- Operating System
- Day of Week
- Hour of the Day
- Mobile OS
- JS Variable
- Visitor Activity
The weather feature is intriguing. So basically, you can triangulate your user's location from the IP address and determine what product you want to show the user i.e. show winter coat when temperatures are low.
We can also run A/B testing experiments to what UI elements will trigger the user to perform a conversion action. Also, session recording and heatmaps, to see part of your website are hot spots for user eyeballs.
- Zoho PageSense: https://www.zoho.com/pagesense/
- Optimizely: https://www.optimizely.com/
- AB Tasty: https://www.abtasty.com/
- Hotjar: https://www.hotjar.com/
- Google Analytics: https://analytics.google.com/
- Facebook Pixel: https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/facebook-ads-pixel
Live chat for customer support, you can connect this with CRM, you can track how users interact with your sites. Also, you can connect your chatbots with AI scripts to generate pre-programmed replies to user inputs.
- Zoho Sales IQ: https://www.zoho.com/salesiq/
- Intercom: https://www.intercom.com/
- Tidio: https://www.tidio.com/
The CRM will be your key workhorse for Sales Productivity. You track each user interactions. You can use the CRM to reach them across channels (telephone, email, chat, social) and log the info in the CRM, to be shared across your team. You can also set notifications when the user interacts in a defined manner. Over time, you may start to see predictable patterns use this to optimize your outbound campigns.
- Zoho CRM: https://www.zoho.com/crm/
- Salesforce: https://www.salesforce.com/
- HubSpot: https://www.hubspot.com/
Going forward, in a penless & paperless world, business agreements are done via e-signatures. Documents can be easily archived, search and shared around in virtual file folders and not physical drawers like before. There are many players in this space and they all seem to do a fine job.
- Zoho Sign: https://www.zoho.com/sign/
- DocuSign: https://www.docusign.com/
- HelloSign: https://www.hellosign.com/
Video conferencing replaces the physical meeting in the remote working universe. The new generation of video conferencing software allows for automated meeting reminders, recording and polling features.
- Zoom: https://zoom.us/
- Google Hangouts: https://hangouts.google.com/
- Zoho Meeting: https://www.zoho.com/meeting/
Collect and manage subscription plans.
- Stripe: https://stripe.com/
You need to communicate effectively within your company with good tracking and apps integration. Also, maintain the conversion across platforms as you move around i.e. desktop to mobile.
- Slack: https://slack.com/
Track your company's health and keep your accounting organized for filing and fundraising.
Emails and invoices often get lost in translation when so many things are going on. Integrate an invoicing tool with your CRM and set automated invoicing when the time comes.
- Zoho Invoice: https://www.zoho.com/invoice/
3) Help desk
When your number of users start to skyrocket and chats/emails are unable to catch up with the enquire volume, use a ticketing system. Triage customer enquires, assign them to support staff and track the customer service render.
4/4 Continued engagement
Engage with Email + Social Media
How to go about building a repeatable, scalable Sales Engine
As business managers, we need to build processes that ultimately work by themselves, with or without our intervention, and not attribute the success of a sales channel to luck, or getting lucky from networking. Ideally, we should define and document each role so clearly that staff can be hired, fit into and trained to perform effectively in the roles.
Side note: Back in finance, instead of making discretionary picks that are in a way, still, a gamble to the randomness of the day and getting flustered all over. I rather much-preferred building first principled strategies with an edge that gives you the confidence and calmness to account for various probabilistic outcomes and to put you in a better place than before, and have the wisdom to know when to turn on and off the knobs.
Spend more than proportionate effort to build processes that can compound and run themselves. Also, some lines which I have heard over the years, aim not to be a one-trick pony, aim not to be a one-hit-wonder, but have a framework that works.
Old Sales Techniques vs New Sales Techniques
Old techniques have traditionally been referred to as cold calling or sending generic marketing materials. The old salesman hustle. In reality, buyers are often sick of being sold to, and channels that feel solicitous now naturally becomes a turn-off. The new generation of Sales Technology coupled with new processes take out the guesswork and make the sales process more science and an art. This also makes tracking easier for better accountability for marketing spend.
Inbound Lead Generation Methods
Here is a map of effective inbound marketing methods which we can run today. These techniques require a time investment, they don't happen overnight. Do lesser things, but do the lesser things better.
- Free tools/ trials
- Email and lead nurturing - the most important marketing technique, establish your expertise, build trusts with your audience, promote your product
- Webinars - teach something, not sell
- Pay per click marketing - the more sophisticated your product in, the more trust-building and education required, SEO + blogging is more useful for sophisticated buyers
- Affiliate Marketing
- Social media - Puts a human face to the company, but does not immediately drive traffic
Inbound marketing is only one half of the lead generation method, the other half is done through outbound engagement, which is effectively email hunting and prospecting. This is essentially what Email Discovery Tool is built around for, and to be the best platform to perform outbound email work.
When you go about being your Sales Engine, you first identify and place your staff in the 4 core sales role
- Sales Development Rep (SDR)
- Market Response Rep (MDR)
- Account Executive
- Account Manager
Outbound leads will be generated by SDR, inbound leads will be managed and filtered by MDR. Qualified leads from these 2 pipes will be passed onto the (more highly paid) Account Executive to engage and convert. The Account Manager will focus on following up with the user and ensure customer success.
SDRs are the ones who do lead generation, outreach and email hunting. MDR are the ones who process inbound leads from webinars, SEOs, word of mouth and qualify them. Typically, 1 SDR can support 2-5 Account Executive. Separate and run your SDR and MDR teams as specialized teams.
Once the roles are defined, the typical Sales Workflow will include:
1) Prepare and define the ideal target profile, consider the likelihood of winning vs the revenue potential.
2) Add leads into your CRM. This is usually done through buying marketing / emailing lists (this can be expensive, inaccurate and with outdated information, expect around 30% of the list contact to bounce). Or you can use Email Discovery Tool itself (self-plug). You can get emails of pinpointed targets, anywhere in the world, and get the most updated, verified information. Although it's hard work compared to buying off-the-shelf list, you can much better targetting, than just a spray list.
For every full-time SDR, aim to send around 50 emails per day, alongside the mapping calls necessary. I always get asked and told often, how to deal with people that do not respond positively to the email. That may be attributed to the email templates to being not authentic enough, or the emails landing in spam folder rather than the inbox (check your emailing IP reputation). Always use your authentic voice for the messaging, don't fall into the trap of copying and pasting stock templates.
If your email campaign is done right, you should receive a response rate of 10%, be it a positive, negative or neutral response. Also, some industry tips are to send it before 9 am or after 5 pm, so your email does not get lost in the flurry of daily business transactional emails. Avoid Monday (email catch up day from the accumulated weekend if any), or Friday (people just want to go straight to the bar, or back to the family and TGIF).
When you get an email response, there are only 2 actionables for you to follow. You either:
- Ask for a redirect - who is the next best person to contact, or
- Ask when is best to set up a discussion, for you to find a fit between your product and the target company. If you receive a negative reply, don't be discouraged. It the No does not come from a decision-maker, or from the CEO, the No does not matter. Also, if you receive a No, are you able to handle the objection and rectify it, or did the person say No out of confusion. The rule of thumb is to keep following up (politely) until you get a firm No from a decision-maker.
If you receive a positive reply, your next step will be to get onto call conservation. From there, you sell the dream, help create a vision of a solution that connects your prospect's business issue to your solution.
Set up demos and appointments next. Face to face interaction is crucial in building trust, as you to get to sense the body language and voice of voice, to sense out more information than just textual communication, or communicating behind a video screen. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic of which clients limit external vendor visits and frowning against the physical handshake, be flexible.
As resources permits, build a dashboard to track each individual sales staff person, track how the person is lining up against the given KPIs. Also, give regards to the quality of the leads generated i.e. don't just attribute credit to the SDR after the SDR has passed off the lead to the Account Executive. Let the AE hop on a call with the prospect to double qualify the lead, before giving the SDR the credit. As a manager, use the dashboard to evaluate performance and come in as coach as needed.
Final cold Emailing Tricks in engaging prospects
1) Always try to call/email high, go above your target and get referred down. It's often easier to engage when the boss has given the green light for the VP to explore your product more.
2) Don't be pushy in the way you approach, adopt a mindset of finding out if your product can be a fit for the company.
3) Keep your emails short and succinct. Make your call to action obvious, it can be a question or an ask. If the prospect clams to be not interested, ask why. Ideally, you should keep going until you get a hard No.
Good luck in navigating the current economic environment, both short term challenges and long term structural changes. I also wish you luck in building a repeatable Engine in your respective roles and domains, so you know, you can have more time for the fun stuff.