Recently, Bloobirds hosted a roundtable offering advice for prospecting from home from the Sales Operations, SDR, and SDR Manager perspectives. Check out how the three different roles deal with daily challenges while working from home, and what tips they’ve learned along the way.
Amy Ingraham – Host | Content Manager at Bloobirds
Tom Andrews – Panelist | Revenue Operations Manager at PassFort
Seb Sanders – Panelist | Senior SDR at Bloobirds
Marc Gassó – Panelist | Director of Marketing and Outbound at Bloobirds
Below, is the full transcript from Bloobirds’ webinar on prospecting from home. Keep reading or check out the full video here.
Amy: Alright guys, so thanks to everybody for joining us today those of you that are here. It looks like we are ready to get started. I’m Amy, the Content Manager here at Bloobirds and I’m happy to be here today with Marc Gasso, Bloobirds Director of Marketing. We also have Seb Sanders with a fresh new haircut! He’s our senior SDR here at Bloobirds. And then of course we’re happy to have Tom, Revenue Operations Manager at PassFort. How’s it going?
Tom: Oh, great. Yeah nice to be here.
Amy: So let’s start off on a positive note here. So essentially, what has been working for you guys with your SDRs prospecting from home and let’s get some best practices right off the bat. What about you, Marc? What do you think?
Marc: Well, I would say there are a few best practices. I would say about trying to keep like from the SDR Manager point of view, something we see that works a lot is getting our prospecting team to do other things. Like especially when working from home it’s easy to feel unmotivated. So something that we see working very well is getting our SDRs to do other stuff, especially creating content. Like at the end of the day, the SDRs spend their whole day going through LinkedIn bios, their prospects, handling rejection. So they’re the best ones to create good and relevant content for the company. So this is one of the best practices that we’ve seen working very well.
Seb: Yeah and following on from that, as an SDR I’ve been using a high content-based approach. We’ve got Amy and the content team making some awesome material. And I found that you know providing that value in these difficult times for everyone has been something that you know, I’ve been able to have conversations and build on those. And if nothing else at least we’re ready when they are. When this all blows over.
Seb: And also, as a best practice more on like a motivational personal level for me is that I would spend a lot of my time actually planning out my day, followed by like a really intense power hour of calling. Having as many conversations as I can. And we all know that there was a little bit lower than normal but doing that, and then just completely disconnecting with like a game of FIFA or something. You know just going hard on calls, then just taking a complete step back and relaxing. That kind of went well for me in terms of you know, trying to keep myself going and surviving.
Amy: Well that sounds like something I’m sure other SDRs can get behind. And what about you Tom?
Tom: We’ve tried to be really conscious of the facts, you know, it’s probably not the best time for a lot of companies to be buying. So we’ve kind of changed our focus more to having valuable conversations. So our SDRs have much like you guys said have been using content quite heavily, creating content, and really just trying to build their knowledge of the industry and their Network across LinkedIn. We seen the kind of best responses and best interaction on LinkedIn, especially.
Amy: Yeah, absolutely. What about turning it around? What about the biggest challenge that you faced some from from having your SDRs at home?
Tom: Yeah, the biggest challenge has definitely been you know, I’m always really conscious of our data quality and the data in our CRM being as correct as possible. But more than ever before, people are relying on that data being correct. You can’t necessarily phone through a gatekeeper ring and get someone’s number. It’s harder than normal because you can’t just connect to someone so having correct email addresses, potentially direct dials, and as much as possible mobile numbers, if you can get them has been something I’ve been working on.
Tom: And I’ve probably spent a lot more time like in the data than I normally would instead of just getting loads of data and scraping data, I’m now actually looking through it and being like, okay this looks like really good data guys, let’s try using this. So the challenge has been you know, 90% correct data is no longer really good enough. I need to be getting much closer to a hundred which is very challenging with even with all the tools on the market.
Amy: Yeah challenging in office or at home I would imagine, too. Seb what about you what’s been a challenge as an SDR?
Seb: I feel like most SDRs will agree with me on this, in that the challenges for me has been above all else in motivation and being able to just keep plugging away. Obviously, where you know, these are a kind of unprecedented few months. And I guess this challenge is more related to COVID rather than working from home, but the two go hand in hand – just dealing with the amount of no’s. And the general kind of… I felt like there was a not a bad feeling but a lot of people were just not up for talking.
Seb: And beforehand they would have been because now there’s a lot more on their plate and there’s a whole load of different stuff going on and you know, some people are in crisis, budget freezes, etc. And you know, you get a cold call and obviously you don’t want that cold call, and we had to deal with that. And so that was my main issue, motivating myself and and you know being in like a team, you know, and trying to keep up with all the activity.
Amy: Marc what about you as an SDR Manager?
Marc: I would say it’s like keeping the activity high, but also at the same time that leads to a second challenge which is that you don’t want your team to feel controlled. Like you don’t want them to feel like you are constantly checking on them to make sure that they’re working. Because at least at the end of the day, you know that they are. So you don’t want them to make them feel controlled, but at the same time, you also want to increase the the amount of activity, especially when it comes to prospecting, right? You want your team to keep calling, you on your team to emails, sending connections. So it’s a huge challenge that I think we’ve had here is how do we keep the activity without making our team feel controlled.
Amy: Yeah, so kind of going after that. Let’s talk about SDR activity levels. And because it’s the one thing that we can control right like the bigger volume of calls that we’re putting out better like the more high-quality emails that we’re sending out the more chances. What you guys have seen in terms of activity levels? So Tom, let’s start with you.
Tom: So I think that was definitely a dip in activity at first as people kind of got used to working from home. But we’ve seen it go back up recently and the dip didn’t last too long. What’s changed however, I think is the reply rates and the conversion rates. So even like our highest volume team members have been struggling to really connect to people and get through and when they do, it’s a different kind of conversation that they’re generally having. We’ve also seen different channels respond differently. So, you know calling is less successful for us than it was pre-COVID. Emails also less successful – and LinkedIn more successful.
Tom: And we’ve now really doubled down on, you know, following Google Alerts of all the accounts in our SDRs callbooks and account lists. And really trying to understand their own context and the news to be more targeted than I think we’ve ever been. Since we’ve gone with this like, very, very personalized approach and kind of built out our Playbook to better support that really personalized approach, we’ve definitely seen our reply rates and conversion rates going back up. Because it’s become contextual – it’s cutting through the noise that’s out there. I personally have received more emails than the last four months than ever before. It almost feels like there’s more in my inbox even though I’m less likely to be engaging with it right now.
Amy: So you’re actually having your SDRs set up Google alerts for their prospects when they’re mentioned?
Tom: That’s exactly yeah, and lead lists and account lists in Sales Navigator. So that you know, whatever’s happening in the companies we can be either empathetic to that if they’re making layoffs. Or we can be at least conscious of it. There’s a couple of companies as well that are booming. We work with a lot of financial services firms and some of them who are able to provide support and access during this period have been doing really well. And that’s also an important level of context that you don’t really get unless you’re on top of company specific news.
Amy: Yeah, it’s a good point. What about your Marc? What have you seen here at Bloobirds?
Marc: Yeah, I would say that of course it’s not easy to ask your team to keep the same level of activity, especially during these times. But something that, at least for us, is working is just taking the pressure off them. Now it’s not about “We need to reach the same meetings or opportunities that we are getting a few months ago.” Now it’s more about understanding the market. So we need to keep calling to understand what’s working. We need to be calling to understand if that industry is actually very affected. Maybe we need to make a switch and pivot to another industry.
Marc: So instead of like putting that pressure on the SDR team and be like, “Yeah, we need to get the same amount of meetings and make the same amount of calls”, something that I think it’s been working is just letting them know that it’s not that much now about getting results – is more about understanding what’s going on. Understanding what’s going to be the next move. Which also makes them part of the strategy. I have always thought prospecting is one of the most important roles in a SaaS company – and I think this is proof of that. So this is been working for us.
Amy: Yes, instead of putting like the pressure on them to just keep dialing, it’s getting them involved.
Marc: Yeah, exactly. Because I think it’s the fastest way to learn what’s going on, what’s working, what’s not. That messaging is also resonating with the prospects or not. So yeah, make them part of the strategy.
Amy: So Seb I don’t want you to feel left out, so got a question for you. So we had somebody ask what tools that a SDRs can use to ensure the quality of the contact information that they’re getting. So how are you doing that?
Seb: So I guess there’s a couple of ways of coming at this question. Firstly how I get the numbers or the contact information in general and then verifying it. Specifically with direct dials, there’s a whole lot of tools out there that we’ve used at Bloobirds. And I’ve always been a fan of RocketReach, above all of those. Because I mean we use Lusha as well, but RocketReach for me has always been kind of “Old Faithful” for me, for direct dials at least. Pretty good for emails as well. And then for me really the only way of me verifying that that contact data is right, is by giving them a call, you know, and just seeing who’s on the other end of the line. I mean, it doesn’t hurt at all and that way, you know, you might get lucky.
Seb: And then for emails and also using it like a, you know, when the traditional tools like the ones I mentioned fail me, then doing a bit of a guessing and using Mail Checker. Or one of these classic kind of email checking softwares just to check if it’s an active email. Also, you know, the classic, I’m sure everyone uses MailHunter as well. Just using these tools and making sure that you’re trying everything, you know. I mean a lot of companies have quite a generic email address format and MailHunter helps you with that. So, you know, then you can try guessing and checking in the verifier. Yeah, that’s kind of my process when it comes to getting numbers. Or getting the contact information and then going to check it.
Amy: Yeah, I think that’s really helpful and super specific. So in terms of quality, not in terms of quality of actual contact info, but measuring quality and quantity of team performance. Marc, how are you doing that with your team being at home?
Marc: Well, I mean I’m not trying to sell here but we use Bloobirds and this is the prospecting tool that we use, obviously. But yeah, I think this is actually very important. So something if we used to check on a weekly basis the best calls, the calls that didn’t convert. Currently, we probably do this every two days. So this is really something that we have changed, listening to the calls, especially to the ones that are not converting. That’s something that we do all the time.
Marc: I’m sure you can do this with many tools, but something that I do in Bloobirds is I go to the calls that didn’t convert, of companies that were super target. So that I’m trying to understand what’s not working. Like that company, was super Target, a triple A company, and we made a call – we didn’t convert them. I just want to know what happened. So if I used to do this on a weekly basis now, we’re doing this every two days. And this is super helpful. Of course, it’s super time-consuming. But at the same time, it’s probably the best way to learn what’s going on. Of course asking your team is definitely a really good way, but also hearing it for yourself. What are they saying, their objections, and everything has been super helpful.
Amy: And Tom from the sales Ops perspective, what about you?
Tom: You know, I think this really is where it comes down to tools and integrations. And all the systems speaking to each other, as it were. Like as much as you can get a holistic view of everything that’s happening, get that all in your CRM and keep everyone on the same page the better you can monitor, you know different email styles. And how well they’re replied to. But one thing that we’ve seen a lot of success to that’s easy for anyone setup is just a slack Channel where the SDRs will say, “Hey, I’ve been sending this email. It seems to be getting good responses.” And then kind of like constantly best practice sharing.
Tom: We used to do it weekly and now it’s just an always-on approach. We’ve definitely seen that being a really good way to figure out what’s resonating because it’s been changing so quickly over the last few months. So having that kind of right in front of everyone seems to have made quite a big difference and probably more than any of the small changes I’ve made to any of the tooling.
Amy: So kind of piggybacking on that. We got a lot of questions pre-webinar from everybody out there about contactability. It’s something that in theory, it seems like it should be easier to get people on the phone since they’re working from home. Maybe they’re not as busy – but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So Seb, we actually got a question from Gloria that I think is perfect for you. She wants some SDR pro-tips on contactability.
Seb: Tom actually already mentioned the fact that LinkedIn, has kind of become like the fall-back for everyone. People aren’t answering their phones, but they’re always on LinkedIn. The great thing about LinkedIn is you can see when they’re active, you can see a lot of their activity, and you can see when they’ve seen your message. It’s great and you can push when you need, and not push and take a step back, when you need to take a step back. So for me LinkedI has been a source of high contactability. Although I will also say that for me cold calling is not dead.
Seb: Actually, the last week, or the last couple of weeks of full lockdown, at least here in Spain, they started to get a lot better for me on the phone. And you know, we’ve talked about the shift in focus. Not necessarily selling or looking for that meeting on the call. But having a conversation, learning about that company, learning about what their current situation is. And like I said before, being ready when they are.
Seb: So, and another thing I will add is you, and Tom also mentioned – you’re getting more emails in your inbox than ever. I have been experimenting with a slightly longer cadence and sending a lot more content-based emails. So I’m not necessarily asking for anything in the email. I’m just getting the name out there and providing some value. We’ve got a great some great content and it’s been really nice to be able to just share that and begin the conversation. Because maybe in three months this company is gonna revive, and then be interested in what Bloobirds has to say. So I guess I’ve been experimenting with that as well. And for me things are certainly getting a lot better now and you know, I had some good constructive conversations.
Amy: Yeah, and you still crush it with cold calling. We also got a couple specific questions about Gatekeepers. So what’s the deal when you can only get the main office phone number? The receptionists aren’t gonna give you a mobile phone number to get them at home – What’s the plan?
Seb: The classic gatekeeper question. I heard a little trick, which I think is a good one for SDRs to take away. For me, it’s definitely had some success, more success than just going to the gatekeeper especially. You know, when we’re working from home, and they can’t even transfer you across. Although I think in a lot of cases they’re just telling you they can’t transfer you across, I’m pretty sure they can. They have some sort of contingency plan for this to happen.
Seb: But a sneaky little trick that I’ve been trying throughout the last few months, is calling people around the other person. If you’re trying to speak to a certain ICP, there will obviously be other people in there in the department close to them. And whether you’re completely honest about it “I’m looking to speak to this person” or you’re a little bit more sneaky about “Oh, sorry I thought this was, so and so’s number, don’t suppose you could forward me to them?”
Seb: Or you know going for HR. I mean HR is a department in the company that is slightly less trained than Gatekeepers. And they know everyone in the company. So if you’re looking for another sales manager somewhere, and you can’t find the number anywhere perhaps, you know, give HR a ring. And see if they can you know inadvertently at least give you an email. I mean, it’s something that’s you know, it doesn’t work all the time. But it’s certainly helped me out in terms of just getting at least a few conversations with the relevant people.
Marc: And chatbots.
Seb: Yeah, the chatbots I mean. And Marc you know, you’re a dirty SDR. (laughs)
Marc: But if you try with chatbots, in general with marketing, they’re the ones behind the chatbot. And I wouldn’t say that like the marketing people are nicer than Gatekeepers. But maybe you can give it a go with them, and see if you can get transferred from the chatbot. Or these at least getting the number or name, sometimes you don’t even have the name. Sometimes you’re just trying to prospect a company, you don’t even know who’s the decision-maker. And the gatekeeper doesn’t even want to tell you who’s the one in charge of that.
Seb: My chatbot experience revolves around me having gone to the website of the company that I was prospecting. And as if by magic the name of the ICP that I wanted to speak to popped up in the right saying “Hey, can I help?” And you know, I couldn’t help myself. I’m not sure about that but HR, HR for me.
Amy: Good tips. So Tom, what have you got?
Tom: So on the contactability question, one thing I’d just add is that timeliness is more important than ever. A lot of people now they’re working from home, aren’t going to be doing like a classic nine-to-five anymore or anything. I know a lot of people at work, especially a lot of my peers in Rev Ops ,have kind of been working when there’s work to do. Which could be at any time of day and so really looking at when people are replying to you. Or when they’re picking up the phone. And keeping a record of that in their contact record in your CRM is actually a really good way of them being to consistently access someone.
Tom: Like I’m much easier to get a hold of in the afternoon than in the morning when I’ve got something like three different standups. Because that’s how our team’s now staying in touch. And then the best advice on Gatekeepers, or any email or LinkedIn, or even phone call, that works really well on me and I didn’t realize for a few months and then realized I always reply to it – it’s just saying sort of “If you’re not the right person for me to be speaking to, who is?” And it just reminds me when I when I say like, “Hey, sorry this doesn’t fall within my remit of buying, but get in touch with this person.” I’m without even meaning to, giving out names and email addresses. So if you’ve never tried that.
Seb: It’s funny that you mention the time thing, because I mean that’s something else I’ve been trying to do. I don’t have a list of when people are answering the phone. But I often try 10 to 15 minutes before lunch break because working from home has inspired a few early absences. Actually honestly, it’s been a fairly successful tactic actually just catching someone at you know, 1:50.
Amy: Let’s touch on the importance of communication because it’s definitely a struggle right now when working from home. Tom again, we got a good question from Gautam before the webinar. He wanted to know about best practices for sharing data and info between teams, what do you think?
Tom: Yes, so this was probably my main focus for the first two months of lockdown. And was essentially trying to move from the idea of sharing data to having globally accessible data centers of excellence. So I was very active in building different dashboards, reports, and different views of the data. So anyone can access the data at any point in time. I think what every company needs to start looking at is, I mean, it’s a bit of a buzz word, but the democratization of data, like making it accessible to everyone. There are so many different things, different teams, and people with different skillsets will then do with that data. I think half the battle in getting everyone on the same page and breaking down those silos – is just making sure you can all see the same data.
Tom: And so instead of marketing having one view of the number, sales having another one, and finance having yet another one. I think this is where Revenue Operations, sales operations, really needs to step up and take control of the numbers and put them in front of Everyone. I’m no longer there every time someone needs the numbers to give narrative on it. So it’s really challenged me to build very clear dashboards. Very clear access to all the right data, that kind of has that narrative built-in. So anyone, whether or not they are experienced with reading and analyzing data can just look at it and get the data they need. And then they know where I am if they’ve got questions. But I might be taking an early lunch break, so you never know.
Amy: What about you Marc, do you have any thoughts on that?
Marc: To be honest, I really agree with everything that you said Tom. I actually have a question for you Tom though. But since you are the expert around technology. Which is what will be the perfect set of tools during these times, working from home? I know Slack is definitely one of them or something similar? But is there any other tool?
Tom: I’d say like the number one thing I would look for in any system is integration. And obviously what you need to integrate with is very dependent on your CRM. Salesforce is my CRM of preference. I always choose it and always move companies over to it. But to have that perfect tech stack these days, is not really to do with the tools in isolation. It’s to do with how they all work together and talk to each other. And the ideal tech stack is one where it doesn’t matter which view of the world you take.
Tom: Whether you’re in a sales engagement tool, you’re in a marketing tool, you’re in a sales tool, you’re in a data tool, that you are accessing the same base layer of information. And I’d say ultimately you’re going to need a sales engagement tool, you’re going to need marketing automation, and you’re going to need CRM to collect it all together. Then if you can build a data layer on top of it, with one of the big visualization tools, that’s always really useful. Because it will give you an additional layer of context over what most of those other tools provid.
Tom: And once you really learn how to use this tool like looker or Tableau, it does just give you a whole different layer of context to access – because you can suddenly compare all your numbers to each other. And you can take the time of day someone answers a call and look at the deal size you end up with. You might find a pattern there that you never would have without these massive number-crunching analytics platforms.
Marc: Yeah, actually, I recently read about something. It’s not about how cool a platform is, but about how well it integrates with your with your current stack. It was from Winning By Design, and I mean I couldn’t agree more actually. If a tool’s perfect, but it doesn’t integrate with your current tech stack, you probably won’t change your whole stack just to use it. So yeah Integrations. I agree with you. It’s definitely one of the most important aspects when looking for new tools.
Amy: We’re almost out of time here. But let’s end on a good note. Something that’s kind of been a struggle for SDRs working from home is the loss of the vibe, right? The startup vibe, team spirit, competitiveness, motivation. So in terms of SDR team dynamics, what’s been motivating you guys? What’s been key for motivating each of you?
Seb: We do some pretty cool stuff at Bloobirds amongst the SDRs. We have some cool gamification, we use Spinify to, you know, make things fun. We have like leaderboards and some cool little prizes for things like best call. Or the person who sticks most of the Cadence. As well as The “Cadence Slayer” and the “Big Kahuna” for the best performance of the week. But also something that we implemented in the middle of the whole lockdown period were these venting sessions. Which essentially were half-hour chats just us SDRs, no one else from the company. No one else allowed.
Seb: And we just, we went to town on everything that had been annoying us or I don’t know. You know, the whole process and calling from home. And you know the motivation issues. And so we all just you know, sat there and just vented and that was really cool. You know, because you felt like you’re in the same boat with these people. You’re speaking to people, your teammates, who are experiencing the same frustrations as you. And it felt good, you know, just to get a bit of that off our chest. So that was certainly a new thing. It wasn’t something we ever did before COVID and working from home. So yeah, I guess they helped.
Marc: Yeah, I agree. I would say I know it’s hard but sometimes, I like trying to keep the same dynamics that we used to have before lockdown. It’s something that it’s been working. Of course, we didn’t do that in the first two or three weeks. But at some point we were like, okay, this is gonna this probably gonna last a few more weeks. Maybe a few more months. So let’s try to adapt to situations try to keep the same dynamics.
Marc: And also we had something else that I personally liked, which was this coffee chat with our CEO on a weekly basis. So I think in order to be like super transparent, in order to explain how the company is doing. Are we doing really great or Are we doing bad? To be transparent. I think it was nice for the whole team to know how things were going and how the company was doing.
Amy: What about you Tom?
Tom: We have also been doing that kind of like coffee chats with the CEO. That’s really helped. I’ve I mean, I’ve always sort of had an open-door policy. But my Slack’s been more open than ever before and I’m very quick at replying. But I think the big one for me is just thinking about how you can translate the things that made your culture unique into things that are also accessible from home. I used to work at a company that was 30% virtual and it was something they did very well.
Tom: So if you know, there’s free beers or something in the office on a Friday think about sending people working from home a beer on a Friday. Or giving them credit through something like Deliveroo to them to get something that they want as a bit of a treat. I’ve heard of that happening quite a lot was as well. And as companies adapt to the “new normal” as everyone is calling it, it’s how you create differentiation through a virtual culture, not just company culture.
Want to put faces to the text? Check out the full video of the webinar.
Want to keep reading? Check out more concrete sales tips and articles.