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How to Find a Mentor and Take Your Sales Career to the Next Level
A successful sales career is more than hitting quota. Learn how to find an informal sales mentor and hone the skills you need to succeed.
The goal of every sales or account development rep — or any account executive charged with booking their own sales meeting — is to set up better meetings, and more of them. This is why, without the proper training in segmentation and personalization, reps often cling tightly to the “spray and pray” approach. After all, sales development can sometimes feel like a numbers game.
Send more emails. Book more meetings.
But when this is our primary strategy, we quickly learn that it’s not a very effective one. We run out of leads way too fast, and we’re a whole lot more likely to receive silence (or worse, anger) in return.
Think of it this way, sales is like dating. Sure, if you randomly approach 100 people at a bar and throw out cheesy one-liners, you might get a couple to laugh and give you their number. But you have no guarantees that either of you are well-matched or will be genuinely happy spending time together.
Nope, it’s better to learn something about your prospective date and create a personal connection based on mutual interest and compatibility.
Effective salespeople do the same thing. They take the time to learn about the prospect, deliver value from the jump, and create a relationship founded on trust, value, and mutual benefit.
Luckily, marketers everywhere are learning that they can do more to help sales teams connect with the buyers of their dreams. The days of marketing efforts being either disconnected from genuine pipeline results, or impossible to track and incorporate into a sales strategy, are rapidly fading into the past. Suddenly, there is a whole host of opportunity for inbound marketing insights to uncover real advantages for sales teams.
At the same time that marketing has made big advancements in their strategies, sales development reps everywhere have awoken to the power of personalization. They finally see that segmentation and personalization generate results — hence the immense power and popularity of Outreach. And so, SDRs are on the hunt for research about each individual prospect, so they can spark a connection and build a relationship.
But this kind of research can be tough to conduct at scale. Reps struggle to conduct meaningful research on each and every prospective buyer and incorporate those findings into their messaging, let alone do that in a way that wasn’t immensely time consuming and organizationally challenging.
Sounds like there's an opportunity for sales and marketing to come together and help each other.
It turns out, the insights uncovered by inbound marketing provide the exact research sales needs to deliver value to prospects right out of the gate. Plus, there are all kinds of ways to automate and scale this process.
Keep in mind, there are a number of ways you can take advantage of the work marketing is doing. The first step is simply starting to be more aware of the insights that inbound marketing can provide — looking at what blog posts a lead is reading, what content they've downloaded, and more. But the ideal is that you find ways to work together with marketing, integrating your strategy to maximize the impact of both of your work and deliver outsized results.
Sales + Marketing team work makes the dream work, folks!
One of the best ways a salesperson can connect with a prospect is by explaining how they can help solve pain points or achieve goals. Of course, this strategy requires that you know their pain points or goals in the first place! Sure, you might be able to make a reasonable guess based on industry trends or public company information. But whatever guess you make is likely to be generic, a little vague, and easily surmised by your competition.
If the prospect has been reading content on your marketing site, downloading ebooks, or attending webinars, you've got a whole lot more insight into exactly what that prospect cares about. If they're reading a how-to article, or downloading a guide to solving a particular problem, then you know that's probably an issue they're facing. If they share content via LinkedIn or Twitter, you can be sure they think the issue is important enough that their network cares too.
If you have insight into what your prospect is reading or sharing, then you know what they care about and you immediately have an opportunity to connect, engage, or build value.
Action tip: Take a look at your CRM and make sure it’s integrated with your marketing team's tools so you can see what they've read, where they've clicked, and how they've shared. When you follow up or reach out, don’t simply state that you know what they’ve been doing on the site - creepy! Instead, mention the pain point and offer another piece of content that covers the same topic or ask them a question about how they manage the issue in their role.
For example: “Do your sales reps find it difficult to diffuse objections? I noticed you may have an interest in best practices for cold calling and I wanted to check in to see how we can help.”
There's been ample research over the last 3-5 years to prove that by the time a prospect is willing to talk to sales, they're already well down the buyer's journey. Buyers today complete a ton of research on their own, reviewing the various options in the market, reading product reviews, downloading whitepapers, and a whole lot more. This trend puts salespeople in a tough position. It's hard to have influence on a buyer's product evaluation process, and knowing when to reach out or how to engage is tricky.
Information that comes from marketing analytics, however, can help a salesperson understand exactly where in the buying process a prospect might be and what information would be most valuable at that stage. If a prospect is only viewing blog posts or downloading top-of-funnel lead magnets, you know it's not time to go in for the hard sell. Early in the funnel, sending educational materials, answering questions, or even better, delivering value outside of your product, can help walk your prospect down their journey, building a relationship as their partner, before the formal sales process even begins.
If, on the other hand, you notice a prospect is deep in the product evaluation phase — starting a free trial, reading product comparison guides, or attending highly product-specific webinars — you'll feel confident sending over in-depth case studies or scheduling a demo to discuss how you can solve their problems specifically.
Action tip: Spend some time with your marketing team to learn more about their understanding of the buyer's journey and the full lead to customer funnel. Together you can strategize how you can amplify the effectiveness of their current sequence and ways you two can test new processes to transform leads into happy customers.
At first glance, this point might seem redundant. After all, I've already mentioned how you can use these insights to deliver value and build a relationship, or how sales can use marketing's results to improve their own outcomes, but what I mean here requires sales and marketing working together from the start.
One of the most effective ways for the sales team to turn marketing efforts into legitimate, qualified pipeline is by working hand-in-hand with sales and using lead generation content, webinars, or events to create campaigns that convert into a ton of sales opportunities. The next time your marketing team is strategizing an upcoming marketing campaign, I urge the sales team to volunteer to help them get more out of it.
Instead of only promoting content to your existing lead list, sales can send invitations or offers to net-new prospects, crafting highly personal messages that have nothing to do with your product, and everything to do with delivering value, offering education, and inspiring engagement. On the lead generation form — to download the content piece or register for the event — include a custom field that lets leads ask a question, share a challenge, or name their goal associated with the topic. Your prospect will feel like your team cares about their experience and insight, and you'll have the perfect context for starting a conversation afterward.
Once the event concludes or they've had time to read the ebook, sales or sales development can follow up, mention the information they submitted and offer to answer the question or explain how you solved a similar problem or achieved a similar goal for a customer. Those leads will be substantially more likely to jump at the chance to speak directly with you, share their pain points, and discuss opportunities to work together.
Plus, marketing now has ample buyer research and can turn those questions into the next five blog posts, solve those challenges in the next big content piece, or incorporate those goals into website copy.
Action tip: Watch Outreach.io's recent conversation with Linkedin about how to create a culture of collaboration between Sales and Marketing. Then sit down with your marketing team and offer to help them make their next campaign even more successful. The key here is to stress the genuine mutual benefit of collaboration and that this could be the first of many integrated campaigns, making the whole lot of you look like rockstars.
Like I mentioned before, sales is a little like dating — particularly those first couple of months when seeing someone new. If all you do is think, talk, and act for yourself, your date will get bored, roll their eyes, and move right along. The best new love interests are the ones that take the time to learn about you, ask questions about your life, remember your best friend's name, listen to your stories, and empathize with your struggles.
They aren't the ones that stalk and use information about you to make you feel creeped out, suffocated, or just plain annoyed.
Uncover information that makes it easier to deliver value, make a connection, and be a trusted advisor for your customers.
Your marketing team is like your dating guru! They do a phenomenal job at tracking heaps of information about every lead. Pay attention! Get curious about your prospects and use the insights you discover to build a genuine relationship. Your efforts will emphasize why sales is more than just a numbers game, and why both you and your buyers deserve more than spray and pray.
Kasey Jones, Growth Strategist and co-founder of RevDev.io, a collective of Revenue Development advisors to B2B companies ready to grow.