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Leveraging Sales Leads to Make Life Easier with Kerry Cunningham {Hey Salespeople Podcast}

August 8, 2019

As a salesperson, you know the importance of leads, but have you thought of all the ways to leverage those leads to make your life easier?

Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations and Demand Generation at Forrester, Kerry Cunningham brings a unique marketing perspective to this episode of the Hey Salespeople podcast and shares actionable advice about how marketing and sales can work together to make sure no lead is left behind. 

Jeremey and Kerry discuss everything from inbound leads and account-based marketing to the advantage that a sales rep exuding calm confidence has. 

kerry cunningham podcast

Listen to this episode for answers to questions like:

  • Why should you have a best friend at work?
  • How are false negative leads like a terminal disease? 
  • What are the four principles of account-centric teleprospecting? 
  • How do you start a conversation with an inbound lead?
  • What is Kerry’s secret to feeling more comfortable selling?

Listen here, and keep reading for some of the highlights from this episode below.

False Leads

Jeremey: False negative and false positive leads are both costly things. The false negative is rejecting a viable prospect at the top of the funnel. The false positive is allowing non-viable prospects through the screen.

Kerry: That’s right, and they’re not equivalent in my mind. Allowing a false positive through is not good. That’s what salespeople will complain about a lot and it shows up in poor lead conversion rates and all of that. So definitely not good. We don’t want to have those kinds of leads up the system. But I think of false positives as a disease that’s treatable with medication. You can improve and live a nice life.

False negatives, on the other hand, are a terminal disease that you can cure. If you don’t take action on it, it’s going to kill you. False negatives mean that there’s revenue to be had, but you’re not going to have it. Your competitors are. That’s not a sustainable business model. Getting that balance right is important.

I think you’re paying the utmost level of attention to people who come to your website and say, ‘I’m interested – have somebody call me,’ is very important. I would still run that through the filter of: ‘Is that person who wants to have a conversation with you? Do they work in a company that could actually buy your stuff? ‘

I’ve got four principles for account-centric teleprospecting, and that’s the first one. It’s the only reason to ever call somebody or ever email somebody is that somebody works in a company that could buy something from you, and is capable of implementing the thing that you buy. If they aren’t, then they’re not worth spending time on. If they are, then there are a few of the other principles that we could talk about apply to them.

Four Principles of Tele-Prospecting

Kerry: Number one is if that person is worth calling. If the lead is worth calling, it’s because they’re in a viable account for you.

The second is that if they’re in a viable account for you, chances are they’re not the only person who’s going to be involved in that buying process. They’re not the only person you’re going to have to sell to, as an organization. You should know what that looks like. What is that buying group or buying committee in your prospects? What do your customers look like? Is it two people? Or is it five people? Is it six people? Do you have multiple buyer personas that you’re consciously attracting to your website that you have content for etc?

That’s a really important thing to understand. Because if we just decided that we’re only calling this guy because he works in a company that we care about, we know that this person isn’t going to be working alone if they’re going to buy something from us.

Then the third principle is if you know that it’s an account you care about and you have this signal that there’s something going on there, does it make any sense to just try one person and give up? My third principle is, no, it doesn’t. It probably results in a lot of false negatives.

We wouldn’t necessarily go down the list and try everybody in the company until you find somebody who’s going to talk to you. There should be at least a couple of different buyer personas, types of people inside that organization, that can help you understand whether they’re in the market for the kind of thing you sell and whether you’re going to get to compete for that business. Leaving after trying just one is probably is not the right thing.

You can always use some prioritization to decide how much effort you apply. That’s the fourth principle. For any given account, there’s an optimal range of effort that you should apply. It’s not one or two calls, and it’s not unlimited. For high-value accounts, where somebody just come to your website and said, ‘contact me,’ if they don’t pick up the phone after three attempts, you’re not going to stop.  You’re also going to try to find somebody else to talk to.

For lower value account, probably going to do the same thing. Maybe you’re not going to apply as much effort before you take a no response. If you have signals in the form of inbound leads, or even just web traffic, the approach can’t be to follow up on the like a lead like any other lead. It has to be, ‘we need to understand what’s happening in that account, are they going to buy something like what we sell? Do we get to compete for that business?’

Calm Confidence

Jeremey: What do you look for in a successful tone for a telesalesperson?

Kerry: Confident but not cocky. You have to sound like you know what you’re doing and you belong in the conversation you’re having. If you don’t know the people that you’re calling – especially if you’re an SDR  calling VP of Engineering or something – you have to talk to them about their business. 

It’s not like you’re going to know more than they do, but you have to feel like you belong in that conversation, and that you serve a purpose there. That purpose is to connect that person’s business issues with your solutions. You’re not going to solve the problems for them in that conversation, but you’ve got to step into that conversation saying, ‘I’ve got something to offer you. That thing I have to offer you is not something you’re going to buy today, but we’re going to find out whether our solutions might be a fit for your business problems.’

That’s the approach that we take. I would say to our reps, ‘you’re the doctor who walks into the examination room, and you’ve got a job to do. By the end of this 92nd conversation, you need to understand what the issues are.’

Jeremey: Quite interestingly, some of the best sellers I’ve seen are people who have a moderate pace, not a fast pace, that tend to talk on the softer side. To me, moderate and soft conveys calm confidence. If you just throw a smile on top of that softer, more moderate tone, then you get calm confidence. You can fake it till you make it on that.

Kerry: Yep, I think that’s absolutely true for somebody in an SDR role. Especially when you’re early in your career. You have this tremendous opportunity to talk to people you would never otherwise get to talk to. You have that chance in this job, and a chance to learn continually.

The way you do that is by getting into conversations with these folks if you’re curious and you really want to know what is the situation inside that company.

“Do you have a business problem that we solve? What does that look like? Let’s figure out whether our solution could offer important value to your company.”

If that’s your approach, you can have that calm confidence. If your approach is, ‘I’m hoping that you’re going to like the thing that I say’ … I don’t know how you could possibly be calm and confident.

If you can be curious, you can get those objections that were there all the time out of the way. If you continually get battered over the head with the same thing, it’s going to have an impact on your wellbeing. When somebody answers the phone and you get an objection, deal with it. Address it. Don’t hope it goes away – it’s not going to go away.

Say, ‘look it sounds like I caught you at a really bad time,’ or, ‘am I the 35th salesperson who’s called you today?’ Whatever it is that allows you to say, ‘I belong here, I recognize that you weren’t expecting my call and you may have other things to do. Totally fine.’

Deal with the reality of it. When we think we’re going to turn every prospect into a buyer, when we attach our life’s worth to whether this conversation goes well, you can get pretty far off-kilter. If you’re curious and if you just think about those things that are going to come up all the time and just try to get them out on the table and get them over with, then you can have that calm confidence.

THERE’S A LOT MORE AFTER THIS! Listen to the full podcast for more on leveraging leads

If you have a passion for the art and the science of sales, are looking to further your career, or just want to hear some great, practical tips, ‘Hey Salespeople’ is the podcast for you. Subscribe so you can follow along as Jeremey interviews the brightest minds in modern sales to bring you immediately actionable advice. Listen and subscribe here.