The holy grail for any SDR, Account Manager, or VP of Sales has to be the ability to create predictability in their sales pipeline. We’re talking about a level of predictability that allows them to control the flow of leads into their pipeline by understanding which activities to perform and to tweak based on the company’s needs. For many, this is just a pipedream and they counter their inability to control their pipeline predictability with a flurry of frenzied activity.
This frantic behavior can produce some results, creating a false sense of predictability for many sales teams. This is why we see so many sales teams scrambling to hit their quota by running outbound campaigns that create more problems than they produce solid results. They end up pouring their hard earned budgets or their time down the drain, only to repeat the process month after month.
There is a better way to run outbound campaigns. Campaigns that give the sales teams control over their pipeline, save them time and deliver on revenue targets. These campaigns are complex in nature and often require a shift in mindset to be run successfully, BUT being able to understand which knobs to turn and processes to tweak to deliver consistent results is well worth the effort. And as always, Fuel to Fly is here to guide you through the process to become a master of your pipeline.
What is true pipeline predictability?
When most sales teams think of predictability they think of a consistent flow of meetings or demos from qualified leads. They can estimate based on historical data that they will get “x” amount of these month on month. The problem with this is that they have no control over how these leads are coming in. They can’t tell you which activities are working and which are not. They can’t ramp up or down on certain campaigns based on company needs and they certainly can’t tell you how to optimize for better results. This is not true predictability, this is just throwing things against a wall to see what sticks.
True predictability is about control. Do you know what you are doing to produce the results you are getting? If you need to ramp up or down, do you know which buttons to press and which dials to turn to achieve predictable results? For example, if your sales target changes, or your team grows or you need to double down on a seasonal sales period have you learnt enough about your processes to meet these new demands, or are you just hoping that more activity will bring more results.
True predictability is what you should be aiming for and this requires a lot of care and hard work up front to learn and understand the mechanisms that produce the right results. This comes from having a data centered approach to your campaigns – testing, iterating and categorizing until you understand what truly moves the needle. This empowers you to be agile in the market, proactively seeking and delivering consistent results based on your company’s needs.
Things that don’t work
Most sales teams understand the basics of cold outreach. They, or their marketing team, can identify their target customer persona, prospect large lists of leads that fit their persona’s criteria, craft some generic messaging, hit send and hope for the best. This is known as a spray and pray approach or a launch it and leave it approach to cold outbound. It’s alarming how many sales teams still use this approach month after month. It seeks a very wide, generic audience with a generalized message that is bound to elicit some responses and replies. So it becomes a volume game, where teams increase the size of the list to increase the number of leads they get.
It’s like spending a day fishing, there are plenty of fish in the sea, and if you spend enough time out on the water you are bound to catch something. But this is not what sales should be like. You want to be able to get in your boat, go to your tried and tested fishing spot and reel in fish all day long. The key words in our fishing analogy are tried and tested.
This is where most sales teams go wrong with their cold outreach. They don’t put in the work to test, iterate, learn and refine their campaigns. They are too quick to load up the next prospect list and hit send. What they don’t realize is that the keys to their success lie in the data from the previous campaigns that they so easily discard. Real success comes from learning what works and what doesn’t and having the patience to get enough data that converts into predictability. AB Testing different messages, intro lines and calls to action. Looking at replies and categorizing them to learn which messages are resonating with which personas. Testing different sending environments and volumes and only scaling up on prospects that are showing interest.
It’s not an easy process as there are so many variables to consider, it requires patience and iteration to get right, so it’s understandable why so many sales teams opt for the easy, but less effective, route. To go back to our fishing analogy, it’s often best when planning a fishing trip to go along with a seasoned captain who knows the waters, what bait to use and where the fish are to make your expedition more enjoyable and to catch the right fish.
What you should be doing
The key to success in cold outbound campaigns is an iterative approach to hypothesis testing. You want to be consistently proving or disproving your assumptions and steering your campaigns closer and closer towards success with each successful validation. This can only be achieved in a data centric campaign environment. You need to be collecting data on all the variables in your hypothesis and using the data to make the appropriate decisions to refine your campaign.
You want to be testing different personas, different sending environments, industries and titles with the aim of refining the “who” and the “how” of your campaigns. It is also a good idea to test whether a campaign is more effective as a multidimensional campaign or whether a multi-channel approach would work best.
Next you want to be AB testing your intro line, body copy and calls to action to see what messaging is resonating with your prospects. This answers the question of “what” you are sending to your prospects. Remembering that the goal is to refine towards the best options and that sometimes means revisiting aspects of a losing test.
Then you need to categorize your replies. This will give you an idea of who is showing interest in your messaging and enable you to determine the best way to reach them. This will also help you scale your future campaigns appropriately.
Be careful to monitor your reply times closely as you are 21 times more likely to close a deal if you reply within the first 5 minutes of receiving the response. This also means that you need to monitor your capacity to be able to reply within these recommended guidelines. This could mean controlling the number of leads per week and ensuring you have enough SDRs to meet your campaigns output. This is another reason why having the ability to control your pipeline’s predictability is so important.
There are so many things to consider when running cold outbound successfully and being able to create predictability in your sales pipeline. We have only just touched on some of the key factors that enable us to run successful campaigns for our clients. If you want to learn how to tweak your outbound strategy to create predictability in your pipeline we would strongly recommend partnering with an agency or external team who have the capacity and the experience to monitor and refine each element of your campaign to produce the desired outcomes. Fuel to Fly can empower you to do what you do best and sell your product or service, while we take care of the complexities of running cold outbound campaigns and creating controllable predictability in your team’s pipeline.