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Effective B2B Sales Development in a Work from Home world (S1, Ep8)

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Over the last year, we’ve all got used to working from home, but this doesn’t mean it’s been business as usual for everyone. In the world of B2B Sales Development, BDRs / SDRs have encountered a new challenge: how do you continue selling effectively when face-to-face meetings are off the table and prospects are difficult or even impossible to reach because they too are working from home? Join us as Brad Fijac and Theo Tsiavis from MarketOne Australia team up with Enrico to explain how they have successfully addressed this challenge, to introduce the concept of Tele 2.0, and to look at whether the world of B2B Sales has been changed for ever by the pandemic.

Transcript:

Enrico Brosio (00:12):
Hello, and welcome to a new episode of Funnelocity, the B2B podcast that aims to bring you honest talk around real strategies that can help you build a high-performance sales and marketing funnel. I’m Enrico, President of market one and your host. For today’s episode, we’re getting to grips with a challenge that has affected businesses everywhere around the world over this past year, and as usual, we’re looking at it through a B2B lens. How do you continue selling effectively when face-to-face meetings are off the table and prospects are impossible to reach because they’re all working from home? To look into this topic in more detail and hopefully provide our listeners with some insights and how our own sales development teams have been addressing it, I’m delighted to welcome Brad Fijac and Theo Tsiavis from MarketOne’s office in sunny Australia.

So Brad, with 20 years of demand gen and IT sector experience has been working at MarketOne for 12 years, starting off in London, where he managed largely European-focused projects before relocating to Melbourne to lead the team there, driving successful engagement engagements across the APAC region. Brad is now regional VP and is working with a number of our key clients to maximize results in APAC. Welcome to the podcast, Brad.

Brad Fijac (01:30):
Thanks for having me, I’m excited to have a chat .

Enrico (01:34):
And Theo, also based in Melbourne leads our regional strategy and consulting team with extensive experience in sales and marketing, both client side and with MarketOne. Theo works across our client base to design integrated programs with a heavy focus on ABM, that help our clients hit their pipeline targets. Welcome to Funnelocity Theo.

Theo Tsiavis (02:00):
Thanks Enrico. Great to be here.

Enrico (02:03):
Right guys. So let’s start with the obvious question: what new challenges has this pandemic brought about? Brad, let’s start with you.

Brad (02:09):
Yeah. Thanks Enrico. And I think it’s no secret, obviously that there’s been a significant impact across the globe due to COVID. APAC region has certainly not been immune to the global impact, in the pandemic. And obviously it’s brought about its own set of unique challenges, similar to Europe with a lot of language complexities and different marketing tactics in different regions. I think initially, as I said, across the globe, there was an initial panic, where marketers certainly were asking, what is the tactic? What is the strategy? How do we re-engage, what do we, how do we reassess our programs moving forward? And I think obviously from a sales perspective, there was an initial panic where budgets were put on hold and some freezes put in place. So the larger deals that were on the table for a lot of our clients got put on hold or canceled altogether until there was some sort of clarity around how the pandemic was going to play out.

I think from a marketing perspective, the most obvious one was trade shows and face to face events, which are the staple of most of the marketing tactics that are deployed across our clients, across the globe, across the region as a lead generating engine as such, obviously had to come grinding to a halt and it’s become more of a virtual presence. So there was a big scramble to figure that out. And how do they move forward with that? And of course, some of these were done pretty well as a couple of our clients transitioned to the virtual world pretty well. Some of them were pretty awkward to be honest – they didn’t quite hit the nail on the head as it were, and didn’t quite struck a chord with some of the customer base. So there was a short, sharp learning curve around this, and I think it’s really changed up how marketers in the region are looking at how do they address in the target, their audiences moving forward?

Theo (04:01):
Yeah, definitely. I might just add to that, that I think as an agency, we’re working with clients in the region, we’re definitely feeling sort of marketing pain points today. What we’re seeing almost universally across our client base is that MQLs are no longer the metric to hit for marketers. What I mean by this is if you look at a pre-pandemic pre-COVID world, impressions, clicks, form fills were all fantastic. And now It’s kind of seen as a win for marketing to generate that engagement with target accounts. But what we’re seeing now is that marketers are being held for hard pipeline targets, and it’s no longer just attributed pipeline or sort of marketing contributed pipeline. It’s an actual closed/won deal.

So when we’re having conversations in the region, it’s how do I get quality leads? How do I get leads that are going to convert, turned into opportunities for my sales team and then close into won deals considering the current environment? We’re kind of at the stage where we’ve had to accept face-to-face meetings aren’t coming back anytime soon, even in limited quantity. You know, with trade shows, as Brad mentioned are gone, tele conversations are harder than ever because everyone is working from home. So, with all of our clients in the region, now we’re working to navigate this kind of landscape, this environment, to maximize the opportunities that they do have, with their marketing programs.

Enrico (05:30):
So you both laid out really well what the challenges are, faced by B2B marketers, certainly not just in your region, but globally. Brad, where did you guys focus initially and in what areas?

Brad (05:46):
Yeah, so I think initially the first portion of the first kind of step we took with a lot of our clients was ensuring that they have accurate data to be able to make sure they can still engage with their market audience. I think a big part of this, the companies quickly realized that actually, yes, we have known contacts, but actually we don’t have all their relevant contact information. So as Theo alluded to, reaching out to prospects, from a cold calling perspective, we don’t have their mobile phone number because they’re no longer in the office became a very, very challenging exercise. And if you don’t have marketing opt-in to try and drive digital engagement again, that becomes a very difficult process. So, a lot of the initial phase, we really worked with a lot of clients on figuring out how can we help them create and build an accurate database. Any marketing activity without obviously a good database, is hard to execute, and now more than ever, data is king, and being able to obviously reach out to your prospects and your contacts, again, it was very hard to execute and the prospects obviously were suddenly no longer reachable through the traditional methods. So, we definitely saw email engagement rates coming up, with the prospects who were opted in, but if we didn’t have opt-ins, prospects were out of reach, and that dried up the funnel. So it obviously had a widespread impact on the marketing activities across the region, but also definitely had an increase in sales metrics as well.

Theo (07:18):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I mean, to make things worse and sort of compounding the issue is the fact that, along with the difficulty of engaging the audiences, the difficulty of connecting with the right stakeholders, is the massive uncertainty in the market due to the pandemic. So, what we were seeing kind of across the board, in terms of the campaigns that we’re running, is that the BANT criteria has fundamentally changed, the decision-making process within organizations has changed. So, if you think about what happened initially when the pandemic hit budgets were frozen, timelines were basically put on hold indefinitely, while our organizations tried to figure out, you know, where this is going, where the globe is going with a pandemic and how, what business is going to start to look like again. So, looking at, you know, driving engagement, getting contacts into the funnel is one challenge, but then the whole BANT criteria has changed.

So, the mandate for BANT from sales has needed to change with them. So, if you think about the traditional model, there needs to be a secured budget, secured, approved budget. It needs to be the right stakeholder with the authority to make a purchase decision that has to have a business need or pain point they’re trying to address. And it has to be a security in timeline, typically from our customer base, it’s that sort of three-to-six-month window, that they’re looking for, that’s what sales accepts. So we’ve so gotten to the point where we’re working with marketers and we’re working with sales to help navigate this new environment and the decision making process is now far longer. So with three months leads it’s much harder to get the contributors and the buying groups and the buying behaviors in those accounts. Also, the approval process is more complex, more people need to be involved. So, if you’re thinking from an ABM or T1 targeted account perspective, it’s much more challenging, and this impacts how we go to market across the board from a nurture play to telemarketing to digital engagement.

Enrico (09:31):
Right, so I guess in summary, we can say that there was a need to rethink data strategy and the BANT date. And, I guess, Brad, are you seeing any other trends out there?

Brad (09:44):
Yeah, I think there’s definitely been in the wave of the pandemic, a few research papers that have come out and published on several different topics. I can refer directly to, there’s a paper that came out from the Australian marketing Institute recently, called Orchestrated, which called out the fact that 67% of the marketers who actually responded to the paper, to the research felt that the pandemic was directly relating to them missing their goals for 2020. And this again highlighted the top three areas that the market in the ANZ region felt that needed still needed to be addressed in the current state, which was towards the end of 2020, where there was still uncertainty in the region. And now moving into 2021, which was around how do we grow and measure our brand awareness and health? How do we generate and nurture more leads? And then lastly is how do we deal with the lasting impact of COVID?

So there’s still a lot of anxiety, it seems in the marketplace right now, where the marketers aren’t sure just yet on what’s the best step forward for their marketing tactics. But one of the interesting pieces that jumped out and we’ve had a bit of experience with was in one of the research papers pieces it focused on how, yes, marketing automation is still the cornerstone of the MarTech stack, however, 12% of the responders to that paper also mentioned that they looked at investing in sales engagement or outreach platforms. This is interesting because it’s obviously apparent that throughout the pandemic and throughout 2020 outbound calling on its own just, hasn’t been cutting the mustard. Engagement rates are lower than ever. We’re still getting leads, but they’re fewer and harder to come by. As Theo pointed out, then sales cycles are taking longer. So, it’s really a whole suite of strategies that are gonna come together to create this kind of new world of telemarketing as a component of the, the wider marketing function.

So, this is about sales engagement platforms we’ll need, I think, a lot more focus moving forward, and I expect to see that there will be a significant investment in this space moving into 20, 21 and beyond. And I know for a fact that we trialed a couple of these platforms with some of our key customers during the pandemic, and especially during lockdowns in 2020, and to be honest, the results speak for themselves. We are big advocates of this type of technology, and we think that moving into a new world as it were of telemarketing utilizing the sales engagement platforms that are out there are only going to help drive the telemarketing component of the lead generating component of marketing forward into the post pandemic kind of world.

Enrico (12:41):
So, Brad, I really like what you’re what you’re calling out here. And I want to dig into this, this concept of a sales engagement or outreach platform in more detail. But, but first I want to just ask Theo, what are some of the things that we’re doing in the region to help clients, I guess, pivot and develop better engagement programs in this environment.

Theo (13:04):
So, I think you might say we’re kind of going back to the fundamentals, and just relooking at how we approach it. You know, conversations over the last decade have been around big data and how there’s so much information out there and organizations need to know how to use it, how to track it and how to keep on top of it, and that day you could say has come now, where we’re seeing the data accuracy, the records in customer databases, both contact and firmographic information, are key. So, what we’re doing to support our clients is obviously ensuring their database is clean and ready to be used from a contact firmographic level, we’re also developing data plans. So, if they’re moving towards, you know, targeting a few core key accounts versus batch and blast into the market, what is the database that they need to support that, what are the fields and the insights they need to drive the content, and then we look at how we start to capture it. We’ve always, you know, focused on our core lead generation services. Now we’ve gone into how do we look at the buyer journey and that decision making process that’s been extended out. So, we’re looking at engagement programs that are longer tail now, you know, a four to six week campaign might not necessarily cut it, because your chance of finding somebody ready to buy, is far slimmer. And then it’s kind of around creating content, that addresses this new environment, and the new business priorities.

So, if you think about uncertainty in the market, organizations might be hesitant to make investments with a new technology or new brand they’re unfamiliar with, or haven’t operated with before, they might be uncertain in making any kind of technology investments, that they can’t see direct ROI off the back of, so we’re creating content that addresses the typical concerns with seeing this sort of new normal that we might call it.

Enrico (15:14):
I mean, I’m intrigued by this new buyer journey and the impact that has on clients, across account-based marketing programs. So we’ll definitely cycle back through that in just a second Theo, but first Brad, I wanted to ask you about our customers: what are we hearing from them? You know, what’s working and what’s not okay?

Brad (15:34):
Yeah. Great question. And I think, as I mentioned at the start, like there was an initial panic from some of our customers who realized that the sales teams were all of a sudden having to quickly backfill pipeline and their pipelines were drying up because all of the leads that they were banking on coming through from their trade shows and events, et cetera, were not going to be there. And this caused obviously the organizations to restructure, to refocus priorities, obviously to add stricter targets to what they’re looking for, and the panic also caused by the need to backfill pre-COVID pipeline and align to the kind of short-term full BANT leads that they were sort of trying to capture, which we know are harder than ever to find, marketers obviously were expected to look for the quickest way to fill that gap in the marketing funnel. And primarily results revolved around tactics like purchasing data lists or content syndication and the heavy emphasis on the cold calling or the tele prospecting approach – anything where they could reach as many contacts as possible and try and drive as much engagement as possible, when they don’t necessarily have a suitable marketable database to use, so capturing new data.

As you can imagine, obviously a lot of these challenges caused by the pandemic like frozen budgets and blown out timelines resulted in a lot of budgets being burnt, and targets being missed. So, a lot of trial and error on certain tactics, specifically with things like purchasing lists, and then doing some cold calling into them. And they, obviously these tactics had varying degrees of success, but largely they’ll just never compete on a conversion with a more sophisticated integrated program that we’re more used to running, that uses digital engagement to drive contacts to the telemarketing team, to have a more tele qualification type approach. This obviously always helps sew the funnel with more meaningful leads, which is what we tried to do for a lot of our clients. Again, this kind of sentiment was echoed through the research paper that I mentioned before where the top five marketing investments that are planned for 2021 are still focusing around content development, web and SEO, digital advertising, and online events. And again, I believe that this approach will bring a lot of these elements together rather than running them individually. A siloed, quick-win type play is going to be ultimately what’s going to fill the pipeline for a lot of our customers and hopefully win out in the end.

Enrico (18:13):
So, it sounds like B2B sales and marketing teams really need to focus more on the long game, and buying cold lists certainly was never a good idea, and in the face of a pandemic where buyers are working from home, it’s really a non-starter. So, Theo, what kind of approaches would you advise in thie climate, this kind of environment?

Theo (18:36):
Yeah, there’s so much to consider right now and sort of just taking a generic campaign and going to market with a generic message is never gonna work. We see it happen so often where, you know, they’re going with the same content, the same messaging, that our clients always went to market with, and the engagement just isn’t there. So, if we take a page from our ABM playbook, we start to work with our clients to think about the customer decision-making process. So if, for example, the IT decision-maker is who you’re going after, who does he or she need to go to, to get buy-in from the rest of the organization? Do they need to set up a proof of concept? Do they need to prove back ROI? What kind of budgets and where do the budgets come from, who can influence the decision in terms of what technology they go to?

So, we’re looking at not the individual, but is the decision making process handled by that one person, or is there a committee or a buying group within that organization? So, where we start off is to look at your audience: who is it you need to communicate to aside from who you want to communicate to? So, if it is a buying group in the target account, what’s the makeup of it? If you’re targeting a set of Tier 1 organizations, you should start to understand what their organization structure looks like and who you need to be speaking to. Who influences the buying decision, who approves the budget, who’s going to be in charge with implementing your solution, and engaging them all? So, on top of that, we look at it from an organization level. What are their business imperatives? What are they trying to drive?

So, we talked about uncertainty. What does that mean? Does that mean minimizing investment in new marketing technology? If so, then it’s going to be very hard for you to sell a new solution into that account. So, we need to deeply understand where the organization is going after. Otherwise, you’re quickly going to start burning marketing dollars. Then once we’ve kind of aligned in terms of the strategy, the who we’re going to communicate to in the accounts that we’re going after, we work with the clients to look at what kind of data do they have available? Do they have contact information? Do they have firmographic information? What level of insight do we have to drive segmentation and personalized content into those accounts? Because like I said, the batch and blast, the generic messaging, going out in a market like this, where nobody’s making purchase decisions, isn’t going to get you anywhere fast.

We also start to look at what kind of campaigns do our clients have in market today? How can we leverage those to amplify the plays we’re trying to drive to connect with sales, to connect with the right stakeholders in those organizations, and then we take that down a level and we look at what are your campaigns performing like today? Are your benchmarks good? Do you have great engagement with the target accounts? How are your open rates and clicks? What does your funnel look like end to end? Is sales converting, marketing, qualified leads? So, there’s a pretty comprehensive process to really create an in-depth program, that’s going to drive success in the current environment. From here, we always recommend integrated ABM. It’s very difficult to rely on one or two channels to drive all of your results. Very often we’re working with clients who just want to do telemarketing programs, specifically cold calling, and as you can imagine, they’re super challenging right now. So, we’re looking at how do we engage the contacts that we now understand, because we’ve mapped it out through as many channels as possible to bring them into our ecosystem, so we can sell whatever solution we’re trying to pitch to them.

Beyond all of that is, who, when, how we’re going to engage accounts in the pandemic landscape – we’re still facing the challenge I mentioned earlier – connectivity. So, even if you can get someone to open and read an email, getting them to pick up a phone is extremely challenging, especially when you think about in APAC, how diverse every single country is in the region. I’ll call out, uh, Japan, Korea, greater China, where people typically don’t use mobile phones for business. So, if you don’t have a mobile phone number and people are working from home, it’s next to impossible to reach them, if you’re reliant on that one channel to reach the audience that you’re going after. So, to try and address this, we’re introducing a number of tools and capabilities to our callers and to sales teams to give them greater opportunity – as many chances as they can and as many channels to reach the audiences that they’re trying to reach. We’re calling this Tele 2.0, so it’s pretty exciting.

Enrico (23:46):
It sounds intriguing. Let’s unpack this a bit further. Maybe Brad, could you speak a bit more about this Tele 2.0 concept?

Brad (23:58):
Yeah. Exciting concept. So, Tele 2.0 is essentially in a nutshell referring to the utilization of platforms and tools at the disposal of the sales teams today. This includes platforms such as Outreach and Salesloft, as examples of platforms where prospecting and lead qualification can be done by multiple channels as Theo pointed out. These could obviously include the traditional telemarketing calling, outbound calling, but it should also include items like email and LinkedIn InMail, and it includes sophisticated chats and chat bots for proactive and reactive chat, to engage prospects when they’re there’s enough in flight, on the websites and engaging straight away. All, all of this is meant to help maximize the engagement with the prospects and obviously ultimately drive opportunities. The ability to create qualified leads is much higher through this channel because we have multiple channels, multiple tactics for reaching out to the same prospect, rather than just relying on one channel as Theo pointed out.

Again, the AMI research paper that came out as I referred to earlier on, mentioned about 94% of the respondents said they all utilize LinkedIn for their digital marketing activity, but don’t have tactics in place to leverage from a sales activity. So again, if we’re marketing and using this plethora of data from a marketing perspective, why aren’t we tapping into this? Why are we ignoring it from a lead qualification, from a program perspective? Let’s provide tools that enable BDR reps and sales reps to use this platform to engage with these contacts. In fact, we’ve trialed with a number of clients across the region, and most recently with a large multinational IT service provider, where we did a tele demand generation program, and we leveraged some of this technology and we’ve used multiple channels for trying to engage with prospects. What we found was in all honesty, we were able to generate close to half a million dollars in pipeline without connecting with prospects over the phone, through the telemarketing team. So traditional telemarketing teams were engaged and upskilled in how to utilize the technology, where they could utilize templates of emails, they could go out to the prospects, could use templated engagement tools through the likes of InMail, et cetera, to make contact with prospects. And we managed to reach prospects who were not reachable over the phone in the APAC region. Yet we were able to connect with them through the other nonverbal communications tactics and managed to convert into opportunities.

Again, there was an article published on Impact Plus recently, which is a newsworthy website, where there was a quote that kind of resonated with me, which said “to survive and thrive over the long-term, organizations may have to fundamentally reinvent the way they B2B Salesforce interacts with their customers. The traditional ways of selling appear to be giving away to innovative approaches that will alter the way we communicate and do business, perhaps for the better.” And I think that sums up exactly where we’re going with this Tele 2.0.

Enrico (27:21):
I’m really struck by the example you gave earlier, where we actually ran a tele demand gen program and generated half a million of pipeline where there was actually no tele involved. It was all digital. And I guess in some ways, Tele 2.0 sounds like it’s a misnomer, as it’s really more about omni-channel, it’s about engaging with a prospect, the buyer, through other means than just the phone or mobile, right. So it’s the sequences that you were referring to, whether it’s email, in mail chat, digital, but essentially it’s a digital engagement, our digital prospecting method, that a sales development representative would use, so super powerful, and plays very well to the times. And I guess I want to now pivot back to Theo. You touched upon earlier the concepts of ABM and integrated programs. Could you dig into that deeper as well?

Theo (28:24):
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Over the duration of this podcast, we’ve talked about the challenges in the market and the types of programs that we’re running for our customers, but it is a very challenging environment. Marketing in general right now is hard, and ABM specifically is even harder. If you asked a hundred different clients that we worked with, how they define ABM, you’d get a hundred different answers. Fundamentally there’s a specific set of accounts, and you’re trying to get leads into them. The business environment is super complex right now – it’s super challenging to reach your audiences, so if we were to sort of, just at a bird’s eye view, what we’d recommend, it’s really drill down and understand the decision-making process in the accounts that you’re going after. It’s mapping that buyer journey and the decision-making process, and then ensuring we have as many channels as possible from sales, from the telemarketing perspective to reach those contacts in those conversations to have, you know, the relevant conversations at the right times.

And I mean, there’s a research paper released by AMI that, that highlights that over 50% of responders wanted to implement a solution like this. There’s huge appetite for organizations to be running integrated ABM programs, to be empowering their sales teams with great leads and channels to reach their customers. So, they could be smashing pipeline targets, but in that same research paper, only 6% of responders actually said they’re seeing good ROI from their programs, which takes us back to important data is and how important leveraging these channels are, so every engagement that you have with your customers is the right engagement at the right time. And when we talk about integrated programs, when we talk about omni-channel ABM, it’s leveraging as many channels as you can, to engage your audience and move them through that decision making process. We talked about their buying journey being hugely complex and the decision making process harder than ever within organizations, but if you can identify who you should be speaking to, and what message your marketing tactics can focus on, you can move the entire committee or buying group throughout the decision-making process, so then when you do generate a lead with that IT decision maker, sales has all of the information they need, and the account is primed to have a conversation

Enrico (31:12):
Wow, so we’ve covered quite a bit of ground here, talked a lot about the impact of the pandemic on the way sales and marketing teams have to rethink not just the customer journey, but how they’re gonna engage with prospects and buyers. And I guess I want to ask you both what you think the learnings are from this, and where’s this going? In other words, are we redefining the way B2B marketing, sales and marketing is going to market, or once the pandemic is over, do we feel like it’s going to go back to kind of business as usual? Maybe Brad, you could start.

Brad (31:51):
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think like myself, a lot of the business leaders in the region are also looking for ways to add more flexible working arrangements, right, for their teams. Most of us had to very quickly figure out how to enable our teams to work from home and ensure limited loss of productivity, et cetera., and I think it’s true that we will continue with those types of, styles of programs. However, for me, in marketing specifically, I think in my honest view, the traditional form of outbound tele qualification style programs that we used to run in 2019 and previous and pre COVID, that’s probably going to make way for the more Tele 2.0 style projects, where there’s going to be multichannel style tactics for engaging with prospects, which means the agency-based BDR will need to change shape slightly as well from the traditional telemarketing style of programs as well. I think there’s always going to be a need to supplement, obviously sales activity with other demand gen tactics, and whilst technical qualification is an expensive form of marketing, it’s still the best way to gather intel and move prospects down the funnel quickly. So, I don’t think it’s going to go away. I just think how we approach it is going to fundamentally change beyond, and it will stay changed and continue to evolve, moving to the post pandemic world.

Theo (33:18):
I might just add to that, that, you know, just to call out, there’s no silver bullet, there’s no magic pill for marketing. Marketing and sales teams are having a harder time than ever to fill their pipeline, the pressure is on for both sides of the party to deliver quality and to deliver conversions, organizations need to start thinking about that complex change decision-making process. Sales needs to start to look at engaging longer tail leads and marketing needs to start to build out programs over the longer period of time, specifically nurture capability. And then, obviously, as we’ve reiterated a number of times, we need to give sales as many opportunities as we can to speak to their prospects.

Enrico (34:09):
In listening to you both summarize the learnings, the words of Winston Churchill come to mind, which is “never waste a good crisis.” And for many, it seems that this pandemic has forced us to rethink our approach to sales development. I guess the good news is that we seem to have to found a new way that is actually better and more effective for all parties, whether that be the brands that are trying to engage with their buyers or the buyers themselves. So many thanks, Brad and Theo for a really insightful discussion.

Theo (34:43):
Great. Happy to be here.

Brad (34:47):
Thanks for having us.

Enrico (34:49):
Fantastic. To find out more about MarketOne and our approach to sales development, and to listen to more episodes of this podcast, please visit www.marketone.com/funnelocity.