5 Reasons you suck at sales and 1 way to fix it

While being a truly kickass quota-crushing salesperson is no easy feat, it turns out that you can actually seriously level up your skills, results, and, yes, commission check by avoiding a few common pitfalls. 

Because I so frequently play the role of the sales team's marketer, I often serve as sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and friend to vent to for sales reps struggling to get to that next level. 

So this week on A Better Growth Coaching, I'm joined by my good friends and partners of SDRemote, Niko and Anthony Hughes, to help shed some light on how anyone tasked with closing deals can make a big leap forward. And they know what they're talking about. 

Niko is a straight up sales development expert, having now sourced hundreds (if not thousands) of closed/won deals for dozens of SaaS companies. And Anthony is a bonafide sales guru with $20m+ of revenue to his name. 

In short, they know their stuff.

In this webinar, Anthony and Niko shared their insights, experiences, and actionable advice to start moving the needle and propelling your sales.

A few gems of genius from Niko and Anthony: 

  • How to prepare a good foundation through a positive mindset
  • The 4 things you should never assume about your buyer
  • How to qualify your buyer
  • How to create and define your sales process 

Watch the video, read the transcript, and get in touch with Niko or Anthony to get the coaching you need to drastically improve your sales experience and start meeting your quotas. 



If it's easier, feel free to skim through the transcript of our conversation: 

Kasey Jones: Here we are. Okay. Hi everybody. I'm Kasey Jones of A Better Jones and welcome to another Better Growth coaching session. I have my two pals, my partners Niko and Anthony Hughes, or Anthony and Niko Hughes, depending upon who is directing me. We're going to talk all about sales. 

Before we kick things off, I want Anthony and Niko to share a little bit about their backgrounds and why they know so much about sales. Also, before we actually start, everybody who's on, introduce yourselves in chat. This is going to be a totally interactive session, so share your questions, share your feedback, share your thoughts, and we will make sure that we're answering your questions as we go through all of this.

So Anthony, why don't you kick things off. Tell us about you and your background, and why you don't suck at sales.

Anthony Hughes: Cool. Thanks. Hi everybody. Ely, what's up man. Sorry, I owe you some stuff still. It's your fault because you haven't been peppering Niko and I've been following up. No, anyways, I'll get you some stuff. My name's Anthony Hughes. I think I'm actually the only person that I know that actually loves selling for a living. I actually dream about this stuff. [laughter] 

My background is interesting, it's taking an interesting turn. Super quick, I have an undergraduate degree in Biblical studies with a minor in Greek, and I was a megachurch pastor for a lot of years. Then I became an atheist, so that is a story. If you want to take me out to beers and learn a little bit more about that.  

Kasey Jones: I'll attest to that. It's a very good story. 

Anthony Hughes: Yeah. So it's not to make any statements. Something I learned pretty quickly.. [laughter]  Something I learned pretty quickly when talking to 6,000-7,000 people on a weekly basis was the way in which you tell stories will lead people to the desired path. 

So I just took my training from my former career and brought that into the sales world, and it seems to be working. That's why Niko and I started this company, to help other sellers and founders grow revenue. Great storytelling and by great process methodology. We'll get into that pretty quickly here.  Niko's also my little brother so there you go. [laughter]

Kasey Jones: He's not that little though, I've got to be honest. Niko is the silent ninja foil to Anthony's boisterous gregarious self. I think Niko's really picked the right environment to be on this call because it's really reflecting that. He's looking really mysterious and sort of dark like you're not really sure where he's coming from. It's a phone booth. Who the hell are you? Tell us about yourself. 

Kasey Jones: Okay, while we're waiting for Niko to get back on I'd also love to hear from everybody that's already logged on. What is your experience with sales? One of the big questions that I had for everybody is where do you find yourself getting stuck in the sales process? Are you really struggling to get that first meeting? Is no one following up after that first meeting? Are you getting ghosted once you send a proposal? Share some of that insight in the chat window because that's always really, really helpful for us to understand where we can dive in and help. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah so I'm Anthony's little brother, that's number one.  I got started in digital marketing with Portland Tech Companies, I studied Marketing Advertising in school and made a quick transition to sales because I liked not necessarily having a quota but I liked having direct goals to reach out to, versus, in my opinion, marketing has a little more room for creativity but not as much in the numbers. I'm kind of analytical, probably should have been an engineer but somehow got into the marketing and sales world.

So I run our sales team at SDRemote and I've done sales development in different positions at companies here in Portland. Yeah, that's pretty much it. I like numbers, I like the science aspect of what sales is, and inside sales has been where I've focused on in the last few years. 

Kasey Jones: Awesome. Okay so let's kick things off content wise. The shape of this whole conversation is that because you two work with so many clients and you're seeing first hand what's working and what isn't. This whole webinar started because they were sharing insight with me about the fact that they see a few really, really common pitfalls for salespeople. So let's kick this off, you guys narrowed it down to five really big ones. What would you say first and foremost is the biggest error that you see sales folks making? 

Anthony Hughes: Number one, we have based on the title, not just you, but at times the three of us suck at sales as well. [laughter] The one way that we try to fix it, so that's the premise of today's chat. The first reason that we identified was our mindset going into sales. That is not to be mistaken with "Change your mindset and you'll be better!" There's actual methodology behind preparing a good mindset for beginning a sale. Niko do you want to dive into mindset for a few minutes? I know you had some great points on that. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah. What we mean by mindset is a lot of people focus, whether your a seller or account executive or a lot of our clients were selling with technical co-founders who are taking over the sales efforts for their new startup. Maybe they're an engineer that built an awesome product and now they're in a CEO role where they're having to get their first 10 clients. A lot of the mindset issues we see is people are too focused on getting their revenue goals or focusing on winning over a client. Maybe you need ten new clients to raise another round. They're focused on their personal goals versus solving the problems of their prospects. They're focused on " What do I need to get out of this call to win this business, or get this new client, or get a paycheck?" Versus how can I solve this problem? 

If you go into a call or go into a meeting, or whatever it is, even coffee with an investor, if you go  into that with how can I benefit versus how can I add value you're setting up the whole process of the sales interaction on a negative foot. That's what I was thinking when we brought up mindset is going to the conversations that you're having, or sending those emails with the mindset of "How can I add value? How can I solve this problem that I think this person has?" Versus I need to close this deal to buy a new car or something like that. [laughter]

Kasey Jones: I'm curious too about this, because what it instantly made me think of is what I see often when founders are selling. Not even just founders, anybody that's new to sales. You have a call and because you're so excited about the potential deal, somebody says something nice in a call and immediately they're like "I'm going to close this and it's going to be huge!" And it winds up setting you on this roller coaster, an emotional roller coaster with the sales, where you get really, really, really excited and I don't know, that prospect never gets back to you and it's devastating. And there's this huge up and down. Would you say that this more customer centric mindset also helps mitigate some of that emotional tumultuousness? 

Anthony Hughes: Yeah. We'll get into the process in step number four. But one thing that happenes all the time, especially I you're not hitting your number, right? Elephant in the room, most people don't hit their number. I talk to people all day long that say "Holy shit. We're doing really really well." But the data says 85% of  people don't hit their number. And so someone's lying, it's probably not the data. One of the reasons for that is a lot of people, myself included, get tunnel vision. Right, so what Kasey was alluding to of, you get someone on the phone, they talk you up really really well and then they're like "Oh yeah this is great, this is the best thing I've seen all year." And you just automatically think that that person is going to be a buyer when you just traded kind remarks essentially. 

What we want to avoid with a proper mindset is not getting so focused on one or two deals when you have ten or twelve or fifteen deals to go after. Essentially we don't want to get bogged down with the one that gives us attention because the money's made of the ones that are being hard to get.

 I would say when we start with the pay, which we'll get to this in process, when we come from a buyer specific centrality of our sales process, then it alleviates the tunnel vision in which we get from just trying to go after one deal that says they want to buy from us. 

Kasey Jones: Yeah. What are a couple of really practical ways that someone who is used to focusing on their numbers on their quota, on their results, can shift that mindset and better focus on delivering value to these prospects? 

Niko Hughes: Yeah. I would say that's the answer that we're going to gather throughout this conversation. But I would say if you have a good understanding of your metrics per se, of where you need to be throughout each week, throughout each month of the quarter, overall, each quarter of the year. If  you know how many meetings you need to have, how many opportunities need to be created, how many deals need to close, all those different things, if you have a good understanding and you're checking off boxes like I said, ten meetings this week, if 30% of those turn into opportunities and 10% of those close I'll hit my quota. 

So if you have a good understanding of the metrics and you numbers there's less gray area so to speak of "I need this deal to close. If I don't close this specific deal then I'm not going to hit my quota." Those types of things. Having a good foundation of where you need to be will then make each step of the process more clear, and take stress away from each step of the process. 

Anthony Hughes: That's good. Niko's giving away our punchline. Let's keep on with the reasons why we all suck at sales and then we can come back. [laughter]

Niko Hughes: Okay. What's number two on your list? 

Anthony Hughes: Number two is assumptions. When we enter really any conversation in our life with presupposition. If we have this assumption of why we're talking to this person, or why they're on the phone with us the faster we can get rid of assumptions of why people are on the phone talking to us about our soft core solution, we will actually become better listeners with the prospects that we have on the phone. 

Niko or Kasey, do you have an example of a bad assumption that people will make when they come onto a sales call? Or when they're giving a sales call or demo? 

Kasey Jones: So I think a really big one is assuming that because someone has a certain title that they either are or are not the decision maker. I think this happens a lot, especially early on. And especially if you're still at  an early stage company and you haven't really hit product market fit, making assumptions as to who your buyer is, and who is your decision maker can get you in trouble really quickly I think. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah and I agree. On top of that, assuming just because this prospect is similar to your other clients that they have the same need, or that they're looking for the same solution as the  last conversation you had with the last person that bought your software service. Obviously you need to make some hypothesis and assumptions based on their persona, but if you go into the sales call with too much knowledge, so to speak, or pushing too much of what you think they're pain is, then you might deviate them from the solution that they're trying to solve. Versus if you go into the conversation with an open mind obviously you have some thoughts on how you can help them, but if you just ask them "what are you looking for?" Those types of open ended questions then they might start speaking to you why they wanted to get on the phone in the first place. And start giving you the answers that you need to then sell to them or find out that solution that your software service has. 

Kasey Jones: I think that's super super helpful. And Yoni was asking "How do you get a prospect actually talking about themselves in a cold  call?" Because I think it's a little bit easier to ask those sort of open ended questions when someone has agreed to take a call with you. But when you've kind of cornered them and you've gotten them on a cold call, are there any tricks to getting them to really open up and start talking about themselves and their situation? 

Anthony Hughes: Niko would probably be better at answering that since he's the outbound sales death guru. Guru's been stuck up at minds lately. But Niko, do you have any quick tips on that? 

Niko Hughes: Yeah. I think from an outbound perspective, if you're making cold calls, that's when you do have some persona based assumptions. I think the best way to get someone to start talking is to, not to move on to number three but,  to qualify them out as quickly as possible. What I like to do when I make cold calls is just asking someone.. You're interrupting the pattern of their day so if they do answer they're obviously working on something else and you don't want to take time away from their day to day tasks. I always like to ask if it's a good time to chat. If they say yes that means you have a certain amount of time to gain interest from them. 

If I'm selling data visualization  software to a VP of marketing I just ask "Is this something that you're trying to solve at _____ company." If they say yes then you can have a conversation. You can set up the next demo, or ask for more time. I ask them if they're free to chat, if they say yes then chat. If they say no then ask if it's okay to follow up via email because they're busy. So those types of things. Giving yourself as a seller options to have next steps, whether that's talking right then and there or setting up a time to have a longer conversation. 

Anthony Hughes: I'll say to wrap up assumptions and moving into qualification..Real quick though Julia, can you expand on what you're meaning about BANT? Because I want to circle back and talk about BANT a little bit at the end. 

Kasey Jones: I think what she's saying is never make an assumption about anything associated with  BANT, right? Don't assume that they have budget because they're a certain sized company. Don't assume that they have authority because they have a certain title, those kinds of things. I think that is a really good framework. BANT is a well known acronym anyway, it's this great reminder of "Hey I need to check in on each of these things and verify." And I think it goes one to you don't want to make assumptions about those but that's also how you qualify, right? 

Anthony Hughes: Yeah. We'll get into that, actually into qualification. Thanks for that. I'm a BANT subscriber but I use it as a framework instead of a methodology. So I do want to get into that at the end a little bit. But real quick, to wrap up assumptions, we should not prescribe an assumed solution to an assumed . That's what I think. Julia is honing in on right there, is we should have this presupposition of what we want to sell to people. We want to come with an open mind, have a real conversation, and then work to reverse engineer from there.

Number three, qualification. Most people are terrible at qualification. Niko actually railed on me the other day because I  got someone in through the pipeline. That was not a deal. So Niko, qualification, go. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah, that's what I think. There's two aspects of this. You should be always qualifying people both as buyers and non buyers. So whether you're an SDR or you're managing an SDR team, you should be teaching your sales development reps on to get people out of their funnel as quickly as possible. Because then if they  send someone down the pipeline that's not a good buyer, they're going to waste their own time, their teams time. They're going to be creating opportunities that aren't realistic. 

so it's okay to move onto someone if you know that they're not a buyer. If they end up needing the software or service later on most likely they'll come back. So it's okay to move on quickly. As far as down the funnel, whether it's on a discovery call or a demo, knowing your qualification and vetting process, knowing who needs your software service and what those benchmarks are. If someone doesn't fit in to that process in that framework it's okay to move on. A part of being a seller is being efficient with your time. Focusing on your A-list accounts, make sure that you win those and pushing people out who aren't buyers, and then spending less time on someone who if you win their business its great but you don't need their business per se. 

Kasey Jones: Yeah. In my experience every sales team I've ever worked with, the number one rep is the one that is most ruthless about qualifying out. And they are the ones that very quickly will say "I don't think you're a very good fit for us." And try to kick a prospect to the curb. And oftentimes the prospect tries to fight their way back in and prove that they are worth the time and the  effort, and it makes the deal close faster. It makes them more likely to buy..sign onto a larger deal, but it also means that that sales person isn't wasting their time on deals that just aren't really going to close. 

But I'm curious Niko, from your perspective.. and I know that you've had recent conversations that are pretty relevant to this, how do you as if you're a sales development leader, how do you incentivize your sales development team to qualify out bad opportunities? Because often their compensation is tied to just getting the meeting no matter what. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah. A tactic that I have talked to a few leaders in Portland about lately is empowering the AE to pretty much deny a meeting if it doesn't fit their framework as a buyer. Which means that the SDR is not going to get paid for a meeting that doesn't actually deserve to be on someones calendar. A few tactics that are pretty common are having a portion of commission for the SDR based on deals closed, so they get a smaller commission on closed deals. They get a per meet meeting rate and a percentage of close. That's a tactic that ties meetings to actually business. Not just activities or meetings set, meetings held. Those are two options. 

Kasey Jones: I think that goes to something that I've been thinking about a ton lately as a marketer is you need to think about.. everybody has two customers right? So for marketing, and sales development is the same way,  I think of, yeah. I've got my companies buyer as my customer but my customer is really my sales team. For an SDR your primary customer is the AE that you are supporting. I think that can be tough because AE's really differ and a new really hungry AE is like "I will take any meeting, I do not care." But a more seasoned one is going to be a lot pickier, and so it can be challenging. But you have to really think about who you serve and how you can structure the work that you do so that you're delivering value to them. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah. If you're an SDR and you think that the meetings you're setting are solid then make a case. Prepare that call or give your AE as much information as necessary to make that conversation worthwhile. As they get on a call they're teed up to close. Anthony is more of a frontline seller. What are some qualifying tips on the demos or discovery calls that you have? 

Anthony Hughes: This is going to touch on the first conversation, maybe circling back a little bit to the cold calling, but now it's a little bit warmer because it's been warmed up. About 80% of your deal is made or broken on that discovery call. Which is why I alluded to the fact that I use BANT as a framework.  When I get off that discovery call, I want to know who has the authority. I want to know who has the budget, when they want to move and if there's a perceived need. Right? This is going to circle back to assumptions for a minute as well. 

A lot of people get.. they just shut off when someone says "Oh yeah, we don't have the money." Or "We don't need this." If you assume  that if they're taking 30 minutes or an hour out of their day to talk to you about a certain solution that you're selling, you can assume that they have a need.  Having that in the back of your mind of "Okay. I know they told me that 'I don't have money, or this isn't something we're really looking for" If they took an hour out of their day to talk to you most likely someone told them to either A) Talk to somebody that solves this problem  for us, or they are looking for a solution to solve a problem they have. 

So you make these assumptions going into your call, and then influence it with BANT. Saying "Hey, Mr Prospect, Mrs Prospect, tell me a little bit about what you guys are currently doing for xyz in your company." Then be quiet. Don't talk. Listening is the most important thing. Sales people love to talk the entire time. Case and point, I love to talk. The person who talks the most loses. When you can not talk so much and listen and take notes and be a great responder to the questions and pain they're trying to solve for, then your deals are going to start loosening up and moving forward. So to recap, qualifying on the discovery call, most of the time is going to make or break a deal and or tell you if you have a deal when you get off the phone, to follow up. Which leads into number four, process. 

After we get off the discovery call how many of you this month talked to a prospect and then forgot to respond to them? A week went by and you didn't respond. I want to know like "Yes. That totally happened." 

Kasey Jones: I'll raise my hand. 

Anthony Hughes: Literally did that like three times. Your competitors are slipping in when that happens. No, I'm not saying disco call, discovery call--

Kasey Jones: I think Eli is messing with you Anthony. [laughter]

Anthony Hughes: Four times this week. That's good. We do the discovery call, we don't say anything for a couple weeks, competitors slip in. Now all of a sudden we have four competitors that we're working with. The massive, massive important thing of why most people lose deals after.. They could do a phenomenal discovery call. So Niko, explain that process a little bit. 

Niko Hughes: There's some methodology out there that you know, subscribe to.. We're going to do the subtle plug of one of our clients deal point  because the problem they're solving right here is helping sellers with that process. So making sure that the buyer and the seller know what the next steps are after the call so there's clarity on is it a meeting? Does the seller need to follow up at a certain time? Does the buyer need to loop in their boss or the technical side if it's a more technical piece of software. So creating and establishing  next steps from that demo is important. Making sure that as a sell you're enabling your buyer with all the information they need, whether that's just a proposal or white papers, customer references. Knowing what you need to give your seller after that discovery call to move on to the next step or demo. 

Also someone mentioned they have trouble with prospects ghosting after the proposal stage. That is the sign of a killer of deals in the sales world. So having a clear process whether it's automation, your using tools like sales locker outreach to follow up with potential buyers. You send them a proposal and you put them in a cadence to follow up if you don't hear from them. Those types of things to make sure that as a  seller you're doing everything you can to win that business. If you have those steps in place then you can stress less about your job, because you have a clear framework. 

Kasey Jones: I am curious because I totally agree with you when it comes to process and having a defined way of looking at this. If you don't have a process at all how do you define that first process of what is going to be the right fit for your business and your prospects, and your product. 

Anthony Hughes: Can I answer the ghosted on the proposals real quick? 

Kasey Jones: Totally. Totally. 

Anthony Hughes: Because this happened to all three of us in the past two weeks and it happens to.. We had Wendy [00:31:24] all of us. What I would suggest, [00:31:30] send a proposal ten minutes before your call. This is a technique that I use, okay? I'm doing my discovery call or we do our demo or whatever we're doing. Say my price point's ten grand. Ten grand a year for my software. On the discovery call or demo, if you do them together that's great, if you don't that's cool too. But what I do is I say "Hey prospect." Because they always ask "How much is this going to cost us?" 

"I'll have to run the numbers a little bit more so I'll follow up with a proposal when we schedule that call. It typically costs $9,000 to $11,000 a year, give or take a few grand in either direction." That's going to tell me two things. One, they will either be like "Whoa. That's so expensive." And then you can ask "Really? Okay, interesting. What were you thinking something like this would cost?" Because then you're going to get a nice price point to where the market is searching for something like this. 

So "Hey it's going to cost about $9,000 to $10,000, $11,000 give or take a little bit. I have to run the numbers after our call."  "Oh my goodness. That's so expensive." Or they'll be like "Oh. Alright." Then you follow up and say "Is that about what you were expecting?" "Yeah that's about, maybe a little bit more expensive but yeah. We're in the same ballpark." I will put the proposal together for you, send it over your way for you to review 20-30 minutes before our proposal review conversation. Then we'll work towards closing that deal and moving towards the next step. 

That I feel like the reason why people ghost on the proposal stage is because of sticker shock, of the price tag. And or they don't understand the services in which you're offering. The more we can alleviate that with an immediate reaction on the phone like "Oh my goodness that's so expensive." Or "Yeah, that's good." Then we're going to be able to talk through what they were expecting to pay for something like that. I hope that maybe helps a little bit. Anything to add? 

Kasey Jones: The one thing I would say is I completely agree with you and that's a genius idea, which I am now going to start employing [00:34:00] of sending the proposal right before an already scheduled call. But I think in my experience it's people ghost when I haven't done a really good job of making sure that we're totally on the same page. I haven't done as good of a job qualifying as I need to. Oftentimes it's like I send over a proposal where I've come up with an idea in the mean time but I haven't actually covered it with them. That's the wrong time to bring in a new element to the conversation. I agree, it's either sticker shock or it's just confusion.

Typically when people see that they just engage. One of the things I was going to say earlier when you were talking about process and following up. People don't buy no matter how brilliant you think you product or your service is. I guarantee there's a bunch of other companies that basically do the exact same thing. They don't buy because what you do is truly groundbreaking and unique. They buy because of the customer experience. If the customer experience is I don't really listen, or I ghost you for three weeks and then I follow up, or I send over things without explaining them or whatever. People are just going to start to remove themselves from the conversation and it's not going to continue. 

Anthony Hughes: Yeah. Completely agree with that. Wendy,  maybe you and I could set up a chat to talk through. Most of us go sit on 80% of our stuff. We're losing 20%-30% of business. That's going to be a really good year. What I'd like to know is, are you getting ghosted on every proposal that you send? And when you're doing your trial close I'm curious on what the reactions are to that rough price. Then maybe we can dive in with a  little bit more from there. 

Kasey Jones: Well I did think it was really interesting, I was listening to John Bares podcast last week, which is also one I highly recommend, but he was mentioning that ghosting is so common that he tells all of his sales teams that he works with that they should add a deal stage to their pipeline tracking and software that is ghosted. Because you don't want to just have one lingering and sitting out there because it ruins your time to close numbers. But you also don't want it counted as a closed loss because they haven't told you no, they just stopped engaging. How do you put them in their own category and then create a totally separate process for how you follow up with them, which I think is really really helpful. 

It looked like Julia is doing the same thing and I can see Julia with you, I know you have a really long sales cycle and I bet that that's particularly valuable because it can be tough to tell when it's just part of the long sales cycle, and when they've just stopped responding. Tracking those things can really help. 

Niko Hughes: Yeah. To add one thing, just throwing it out there, I think potentially not creating mutually agreed upon next steps, after that proposal sent out or after that last call, might affect. At least I've experienced this, if the buyer and I aren't on the same page or what happens after the last touch, leaves more wiggle room for people finding another solution or not hearing back. But if you can agree up on you know, we're going to get on the phone again next Wednesday, then you might have more success not losing someone. 

Anthony Hughes:  Yeah. Good point. 

Kasey Jones: Yeah. I think steps are huge at every point, right? 

Anthony Hughes: Definitely. That's why sales is so fun, right? It is a challenge every single time we talk to a new person. Let's move on. We have one more point of reasons why we're terrible at sales, and then hopefully one way to fix it. Wendy I'll send you a link in a message here after this call. I'd love to  set up a time to chat. 

Okay. Number five. WE all do it. We know we do it. Shooting from the hip. "Oh man. Five minutes before I call I didn't even research this customer." That does two things. One, that doesn't inform you about who you're talking to. Secondly you get back into muscle memory, and what happens when you trigger muscle memory is you know the four key differentiators of your software but you know nothing else about how to solve the pain of the customer. So Mr. Process guy, how do you not shoot from the hip? 

Niko Hughes: I like this one because Anthony and I grew up wrestling, we wrestled in college. One thing that our coaches drilled into our head was doing as much as you can before you step on the mat, or go out to competition to prepare yourself so that  you have a good foundation, you're in shape, you're ready to go, your technique's solid. So when you get into that hard situation what you revert back to when the times are tough is muscle memory. As this relates to sales if you know who your buyer is, what their company does, you do the research that you need to do so you understand them, whatever objections they throw at you, if you have that open ended conversation to start the discovery call of why [ did you come knocking on our door, why did you choose to have this conversation. Whatever they come up with if you know them as a buyer, their company, and then you also know all the facets of your own company, your services, your software, and you're prepared to take that conversation anywhere it needs to go.

If you're too busy to do the research to get on a phone call with someone then you're setting yourself up for failure. Then you're reverting back to bad habits which might lead the conversation down a negative path. So that's my thoughts on shooting from the hip. Do as much preparation as you can before the call to make that conversation a winning conversation. 

Kasey Jones: What's your advice for how you do that preparation? Because I think that's where a lot of reps struggle, is they quickly look at LinkedIn and nothing else. So what else would you do? 

Niko Hughes: If you're an individual contributor, if you're an SDR doing a discovery call, or if you're an AE who is on a demo, working with your sales director, sales manager as a team build solid buyer personas and battle cards, objection handling tips so that you have information to prepare you for whatever comes at you. That might be a team effort, you need to sit down with your guys to work on. But as far as doing some pre call research, a lot of things you can find online. You can spend some time looking at their Linkedin, looking at how they talk about themselves on Twitter, doing just some research on using tools like Datanyze or other things that are available. Siftery to figure out what other technologies that they use so you know what their tech sack is, how they're building things out, and how your fits in there. 

Kasey Jones: The one caveat I will give to this is [00:42:00] I think all of the research you can do from a professional standpoint is critical. I've seen a couple of reps get into trouble, and I think this is especially true when your prospect is a woman, because a lot of women have more security concerns. Don't bring up personal things.

So if you find their Facebook page don't mention the family vacation they went on a couple weeks ago, or really personal things.  If it's on their LinkedIn great, but if you find their Facebook or Instagram I probably wouldn't mention that on a call because that can come across as creepy. I actually know a woman who was in the midst of a deal and a sales rep mentioned a bunch of things about pics from her family vacation. And she was horrified and refused to work with that person. So tread lightly there. 

Anthony Hughes: I would say anything that you can.. You take this information and all of this data that you're inputting into your sales call, but there has to be a level of processing that to make it relatable, right? 

Kasey Jones: Yeah, good point. 

Anthony Hughes: You're talking to a human on the other side of that phone, or the other side of that speed chat. I might try to make a human connection, right? For example if I'm trying to sell to Wendy, just because I'm on her LinkedIn, I'd just probably start off the call with. You went to school for biomedical engineering, how the heck did you get into sales?" [laughter] But bringing that human connection into the sales process, that's what you can't do when you don't do any research. You can't do that. I'll just get on this call and wing it. 

Look. We are people [laughter] selling to people. Right? People love connection. They love to be able to talk openly "This is what I'm trying to sell for."  "Oh man that's cool. Maybe we can help, I don't know but maybe." 

And this is another thing as well that I have found success with, is "Hey look, we don't do that but one of my competitors does." Maybe we aren't even friends, I'll just make an intro for you because for one that opens up reciprocity, right? Like I did something for you so maybe five years from now when you're thinking about a new company or you have to solve for something that we do, maybe you can  like "Hey you did this for me based on my problem, let me give back to you." So reciprocity a little bit. And just when you're open have a real relationship, real conversation with your prospect. You can't do that stuff when you shoot from the hip. 

Kasey Jones: It comes back around always, the giving first model. I'm a big advocate for this on the marketing side, and you'll see this all the time, where companies don't want to give out free information because they think that people won't engage with them if they give too much away. No no no, that builds trust and it builds a relationship and then people want to come back.  I think there's a huge downfall where when things aren't going well teams seem to think "Oh, I just need a smarter software tool. Or I need to employ the craziest growth hack." Or whatever. No, you just need to actually be more of a human. That's usually the thing that is going to get you to that next level. 

Anthony Hughes: Yeah. I want to hit on a couple things. Yoni, sorry if I say your name wrong, but he's brought up a couple questions on [00:46:00] how much research we recommend per prospect, and how much time to spend on. Also before he mentioned quality of outreach versus quantity. 

One thing I like to recommend, and our methodology that we use with our.. [laughter] nice. With our clients, we break things down into tiers. So we have A list accounts that we go after, B lists, and C lists. So A lists, we'll spend a good amount of time researching them whether that's 25 logos we want to win this quarter or this year. We'll do more personalization there, spend a couple minutes sending out that email, spend some time trying to figure out a nice personalized gift to send them, handwritten letters. As you move down to the B list, we're doing more persona based personalization. So you know, these types of things resonate with VPs of digital,  so we're not spending that much time per individual. 

We also like to use trigger based calling, so not spending 8 hours a day making a hundred phone calls but spending more time making ten phone calls that are relevant. Spend a couple minutes researching that individual before getting on the phone. Then C lists are those types of logos that if you make money from them then great but it's not going to change your business if  you win their business. I don't like to personalize each touch because I think that a lot of people don't open up emails anyways, or they're not going to answer the phone. So if you spend ten minutes crafting the best email in the world and someone's out of office then you wasted 10 minutes of your life. So be more tactical on the big picture. Doing a lot of persona based sales development and then narrowing down and focusing your time on key accounts. 

Kasey Jones:  Okay super helpful. Oh, do you have more on this point? 

Anthony Hughes: No. I was just looking at the time, we got a nice point. 

Kasey Jones: I know. We got a good meaty sum up point, right? So what's the one thing that any sales person, anyone trying to close a deal can do to get to that next level, to fix the suck? 

Anthony Hughes: The way which I think, this might be a little interesting at first but we'll digest it, you have to know your numbers. You just have to. Think about those five points that we just went through. If we can increase the productivity in each one of those categories, 1% or 2% each points, how much more top line revenue will we grow this year? Right? For example, Niko just talked about sales depth a little bit. 

Say we need to hit a hundred new clients this year to make our number as a company. We've separated those into A, B, and C lists. Now the A list, if there's a fine line between creepy and hyper personalized, we want to toe that line. Because we want to get a meeting with them, because we've done the research,  we know that they are buy cycle right now for this. We might send them a personalized gift in the mail. If we send 30 personalized gifts in the mail we know statistically 70% of them will respond to us and then 25% to 30% of them will be buyers. 

We've got to  those numbers a little bit, so then we start from the top.This is what the data tells us, if we have a thousand prospects 50% of them reply to us, 20%  of them meet with us, 10% close. We need to incrementally increased those 5 categories to get that close number up to 14%, 15%, 16%. So knowing your numbers is critical to not sucking at sales. You're still going to suck, but [laughter] No, Niko do you have anything else to add to that? 

Kasey Jones: How it relates to you, lets say an account executive, if you need to close a million dollars this quarter to you that might look like, based on your software, that might look like ten deals. If you have a certain percentage of close rate then you need 50 opportunities. To get 50 opportunities then you need a hundred meetings. 

If you know those steps then if you can make your discovery call better by going in with a strong mindset, having open ended questions lets say increase your.. and [00:51:00] by a couple percentage points the conversion between a discovery call and a demo. If you do a little bit more research, do a little bit better job of qualifying out bad buyers so that you only focus on the good deals, then you can increase your conversion from demo to opportunity. If you establish better next steps then you can increase opportunity to close a little bit more. 

It takes a little bit less stress of yourself as a seller if you know each day [00:51:30] you're getting another meeting, you're getting another demo, you're moving someone to proposal. And you know exactly that each step down to the process of what you need to hit to then get your overall number. So internally that's helped us out in past roles with our customers. We try to help them to find each step in their process and how to hit those numbers and then increase the percentages on each stage. 

Kasey Jones: I think that's super super helpful. [00:52:00] The other thing I will mention is that it does take some time to figure out what all those numbers are. It requires a consistent check in. I think one of the things that's been really really interesting, I would say in the last maybe year or two, is I'm starting to see more sales teams and especially more marketing teams taking a lean startup or agile approach to process. Almost create [00:52:30] your minimum viable process, right? Nail that and start to make tweaks and see what happens. That way you're not recreating the wheel every time, and you can make these small adjustments and see how they affect close rates or even conversion rates, to opportunities. 

Niko, I know you apply that same methodology when it comes to sales development, doing a slight tweak in messaging and seeing which message gets more opens, which gets more responses. Those kinds of things. I'd really encourage from a sales perspective to take that same approach of being really numbers driven and being willing to make these slight adjustments and watching what happens. Because that's how you can tweak things without a huge risk and without a big time commitment. 

Anthony Hughes:  I'll say onto that point as well, be open minded about the numbers. What I mean by that is when I'm talking to prospects specifically, I just love cold calling. Cold calling has it's place. Most of the time cold calling shows the lowest response rates. So don't be locked in because you've always done it that way. Prospecting on social  might give you better replies. Don't be closed minded on methodology. Another example, BANT. You know what, if BANT's working do it. If Challenger is working, do It. If Sandler is working, do that. There's a ton of them. Then test it all. Test Challenger, test BANT, test Sandler, see which one's working better and go with that one. Then split test that. 

So knowing even the numbers, not from a closed one perspective or a revenue-generating perspective, but from the methodology which you employ as well is going to be a significant uptake into productivity. 

Kasey Jones: Yeah. That's a really great point. Okay. We've only got five minutes left. Is there anything else, any other big  negative wisdom that you want to drop on this audience? Or folks that are attending, do you have any additional questions about how you can get to that next level, or ways to enact these tips and tricks that Niko and Anthony are mentioning? 

Number one tip for turning cold leads into meetings? 

Anthony Hughes: Call them again. [laughter] 

Kasey Jones: Dude's a straight up genius. 

Anthony Hughes: Yeah. 

Kasey Jones: Oh and by the way, I will say that we actually haven't announced this yet, but we are about to create a new community for people that are tasked with turning cold leads into meetings. Whether you're a founder selling yourself, a sales development rep, we are about to launch a community that is aimed to help, and we're on a mission to deliver way better content and educational material to people in your position. I don't mean to delay you actually getting an answer now but I will just say we'll have an even bigger answer and something that's more helpful coming up in the future. So Yoni, I will add you to that list so you get notified when that goes live.

Anthony Hughes: Real quick also, Yoni more specific to you,  reviving those cold leads, test. Test what works. I've been working with one of our customers, clients right now and they have a ton of cold leads. Like 25, 000. 30,000 or something like that. What I did, I just took a hundred people and said "Hey, if you sing up today or sign up this week, we'll send you a free Echo Dot in the mail." I don't know, I'm just trying it to see what happened. This person had an HR from a 200 person company reach back out and was like "Putting this in the budget this week." [laughter] 

That's a couple thousand dollar a month deal

Kasey Jones: That's awesome. 

Anthony Hughes: Just try things, right? Don't be afraid to.. I want to toe the line, I used to work for an ethics and compliance company between bribery and incentivizing. Use your own discretion there. But throwing incentives into the process is not a bad idea if it's done right and executed correctly. Yoni what I would say is see which ones you actually want to work with, and say "Hey man, I'll send you an iPad." Or "Hey gal, I'll send you an iPad." If you can sign by next week or whatever.Just see what happens. What's the deal worth to you I think is a good question to ask yourself as well. [laughter] Perfect. 

Niko Hughes: I was going to help you. Being creative is okay. So Ryan O'Hara from Lead IQ on a podcast a little bit ago, he said that he chose ten prospects that he wanted to win their business from and sent them, I forget what movie, but a corny movie from the '90s, not relevant to business at all, and then just followed up a few days later with an email and said "Hey, did you watch the movie I sent?" Some people laughed, some people thought it was stupid but he got a couple meetings from that, and it probably cost him $10 to send a DVD somewhere. 

You can also do that with handwritten letters. Statistics show that ,sometimes they're not accurate, but that I think it's like 10% of any outreach.. or you get a 10x return on any other outreach if you send a handwritten letter. So if you reach out to a VP of marketing with a handwritten note, they're going to read your email ten times likelier than if you didn't reach out with that handwritten letter. So just trying things out and seeing what works is my best bet, advice. 

Kasey Jones: Awesome. I think that was super helpful. Hope you all learned a few things. We will send out the video with a transcript so that you can catch up on.. You know, read through sections that you thought were helpful, and if you have any additional questions come hit us up on LinkedIn. Respond to my message when I send out the video and we'd love to just continue the conversation. Thanks guys. 

Anthony Hughes: Bye everybody. Happy Selling. Yes let's go grab coffee Julia, anytime. 

Kasey Jones: Yes, let's do that. 

Anthony Hughes: Cool, see you guys. Bye bye.