Sales Stack '15 Video Recap: Strategies and Tactics to Power the Top of the Funnel in 2016

Editor’s Note: Covering one of the most critical areas for any sales organization are five stellar thought leaders in moderator John Barrows of, Ralph Barsi of ServiceNow, Bill Binch of Marketo, Lesley Young of Box, and Andrea Austin of InsideView.



If it’s possible for one of our panels at Sales Stack 2015 to have been too jam-packed with actionable, revenue-multiplying advice, this one is it. All sales organizations of all shapes and sizes will find something new in this powerful exchange to take away and immediately implement into their business. As the title suggests, this isn’t just about adding to the top of the funnel, but actually powering it and creating real top-of-the-funnel velocity that drives conversions to new levels.

How do you align sales and marketing so that they’re not bumping into each other?

Andrea Austin: The way to approach it is the message, the messenger, and the context. You have to understand what is it you’re trying to say and be very simple and clean and help de-clutter that message. Be very crisp and concise. For the messenger, SDR and AE being really connected and working on a joint account strategy and trusting each other. Then your marketing strategy. The link of marketing and making sure that they’re aware of what the tactics are at a campaign level, at an account level. It allows you to provide context.

If you’re just approaching and spamming, it’s going to fall flat, you’re going to get that sub 10% response rate. But if you’re actually approaching them with context that’s in their business, you can have a meaningful outreach. 

John Barrows Sales Stack Panel

Moderator John Barrows: There’s two things we’ve got to keep in mind when we’re reaching out to people. One is you’ve got to have a reason for your call, and two is you’ve got to be adding value in some way, shape, or form. If you’re not adding value it’s literally not even worth making a phone call or sending an email. You’re doing more harm to your brand than good.

This is why I’m on a personal crusade myself, I’m trying to get two phrases out of the sales language: Touching base and checking in–the two most meaningless phrases in sales. Everybody do me a favor, every time you make a phone call or tell a rep to make a phone call, tell them all to start the conversation off with this simple phrase which is “The reason for my call is…” Because if your reps can’t finish that sentence they shouldn’t be making the phone call.

[Tweet “Every time you make a phone call, start the conversation off with ‘The reason for my call is…'”]

Historically, marketing has been about attracting whereas sales has been about pursuing. How has that changed?

Ralph Barsi15-20 years ago I was an SDR and we had green bar paper with names and numbers on it and I would just go through call by call by call running through the same iteration of questions for every call, and I had zero information on the people I was reaching out to. Today I don’t think we have an excuse. There’s way too much information available on the people we want to do business with and serve.

There’s a fundamental difference between the pursuit of a prospect and attracting a prospect. And one is, you’re thinking about yourself versus thinking about them. So I think the more salespeople today can face outward and start focusing on the world of our prospects or even the world of the candidates that we want to hire on our team, or leaders we want to bring into our company, the better and the more advantages we’ll have.

Bill Binch: Back stage before we came out you asked me, ‘Is technology and marketing automation going to kill off the SDR?’ I’d venture a guess that a lot of the folks here are from companies that sell considered purchase products. Which means it’s a product where I actually have to have someone come and understand a little bit about my business , my business flows, understand how I go to market, things like that. I think there’s always a role for that SDR or that sales rep when you have that considered purchase or you have something that’s bought over time and there’s a learning process that has to happen.

Moderator John Barrows: Be the filter because there’s so much noise out there. Everyone talks about being the industry expert but there was a report that said the vast majority of executives consider the expertise of the seller prior to making a decision. If you are known as a thought leader in your industry, you’re 5x more likely to get the business than if you’re not. I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’re all going to become thought leaders overnight, but we can start moving in that direction. And I think the idea is kind of filtering the information and reading to benefit yourself and educate yourself and then sharing it.

[Tweet “Be the filter because there’s so much noise out there. @JohnMBarrows”]

Lesley, you did some analysis about the percentage of time reps were taking prior to even making a call?

Lesley Young: 20% of a business development reps time was spent doing the research to get on the phone or to send an email. We have a sales efficiency project to reduce the cost of sales oriented around how do we surface the information for connecting so that reps aren’t spending so much time trying to pull it all into one place. That equated to about $5 million of spend just doing those exercises before they ever got on the phone.

It’s really not about how many dials you make these days, it’s about the conversation you have. And getting to that conversation was what we were trying to do but we weren’t doing it in the most efficient way. So this year’s been about how do we apply technology and how can we use the data and deliver it to the person who needs to make the phone call. What’s great about that is those folks then become very creative about the way they’re approaching the person they’re pursuing because they have so much more to use than they’ve ever had before.

[Tweet “It’s not about how many dials you make, it’s about the conversation you have. @aaustin94965”]

Ralph Barsi: Otherwise I think it’s a big risk when you call into an enterprise size account and you’ve got a primary contact you’ve been trying to reach and that person finally picks up the phone and you’ve not been researching them and their company and leveraging the insights and the triggers that are available, you’re screwed. 

How do you coach your reps to be relevant?

Bill Binch: I think it’s about use cases. At Marketo we hire a lot of fairly young folks and grow them to hopefully become sales experts, but we sell a marketing product. So they’re not marketing experts, and it’s really incumbent upon the company to teach them how to speak marketing. I have to get in there and share a use case that we help our customers solve.

If I can do that and go to the right person for that type of technology and get them to say “Yeah this person understands what I’m going through.” So we think that use case selling is the forefront of how to teach people that aren’t experts to sell by arming them with use cases.

Top of the Funnel Panel at Sales Stack 2015

Moderator John Barrows: That’s the number one competitive differentiator. It’s the one thing that your competitors can’t say that they have. They can all say they do the same stuff as us but what they can’t say is “We drove these type of results for these companies”, and then find the profile of the person that that fits. Never say, “I can help you.” Rather, “I don’t know if I can help you, but I’ve helped other people like you.”

[Tweet “Use cases are the #1 competitive differentiator. @JohnMBarrows”]

How do we teach reps to be able to tell the customer story?

Lesley Young: Our corporate pitch isn’t a pitch, it’s “What have we done for other companies that are like yours that might be relevant to you.” And it’s so important for those new employees who may be early on in their sales careers to understand the value of a story.

Plus, it’s so much easier to internalize a story that speaks to you. It’s what happens in business. It’s not “This particular feature or function that’ll make you more productive.” It really has to do with “How did this change a particular business that’s relevant to you.” 

Top of the Funnel Sales Stack 2015 Panel

Andrea Austin: In every story, there should be a villain and a hero, and you need to make the customer the hero. And if your story is about you as the hero as a technology provider or a seller, that’s not the right story.

[Tweet “In every story, there’s a villain and a hero. You need to make the customer the hero. @aaustin94965”]

What are some of the key metrics you look at for the top of the funnel?

Bill Binch: Depends on the size of the organization. As a startup, you’re just looking at volume. You want at-bats. It’s all about quantity at that point. If you’re an SDR or a sales rep, I don’t care if it’s good or bad or what it is, I just want to talk to it. Quantity, if you’re a small company, is king. As you evolve and grow, it shifts to the quality side.

At Marketo, we measure what the ASP of a deal at the time an opportunity is created. Most people measure the ASP at closing. But if we can have an idea when you’re creating an opportunity of “This is what they’re looking at and this is what size package it is” I can start doing a conversion at the creation of the deal as well as at the close of a deal. What I can do is start comparing over time is start comparing over time and see for example, “We created a lot of deals that were really big but the closing price was much smaller.” And I can start having a quality discussion about what the marketing side of the house is creating for us.

Ralph Barsi: For us, we sell to enterprise so we’re really focused on quality versus at-bats. What we don’t want to see is funnel constipation. You don’t want to just dump everything into the top of the funnel and have it just sit there forever. We’re tracking funnel velocity all the time.

[Tweet “We track funnel velocity all the time. What we don’t want to see is funnel constipation. @rbarsi”]

One thing everybody here should be doing?

Ralph Barsi: Start thinking about others versus yourself. If you’re calling into Kansas City, congratulate them on the Royals on just winning the World Series. Think about them.

Bill Binch: We think of the ABCs of marketing. You have to market and reach out to your potential buyer A. As individuals. B. Based on what they do and their behavior. C. Continuously over time. D. Direct it towards an outcome. E. Everywhere that they are. Every device. Every location that they are.

Lesley Young: Relevance, context, and curiosity. Relevance for what’s the conversation you’re having and who are you talking to. Context, make sure that you’ve done the homework and the context in which you’re speaking are the things going on in their industry. And curiosity: When you’re hiring, you can’t get the other two if the person you’re hiring isn’t curious about business.

Andrea Austin: Partnership with marketing is essential to be successful. We can do all that we can to push deals through the pipeline but we need those deals and sometimes it does come from the awareness that’s out there, otherwise it’s all about the pursuit and the pursuit is hard. That “Smarketing” relationship is vital. 

Dan is an alumnus of Fulbright Malaysia and the Content Man at

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