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3 common prospecting mistakes (and how to stop doing them)

Tactical Selling

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3 common prospecting mistakes (and how to stop doing them)

In today’s issue, I’m going to share the 3 prospecting mistakes I see when training SDRs, and how to stop doing them.

These mistakes are often the results of poor prospecting habits, and the lack of a clear SDR playbook.

And in most cases, SDR leaders never had a real prospecting routine, so they don’t know how to build one for their teams.

Here are the top 3 mistakes I see when I meet SDRs:

Mistake #1: Not time blocking

Time blocking is the act of putting blockers in your calendar, in order to protect your schedule for key activities.

Most SDRs I meet do not time block because they feel like they have to be constantly available for prospects, colleagues, or managers. This creates a situation where they are constantly switching tasks, they cannot be focused for long enough, and they end up not doing enough of the tasks that will bring them success.

What to do instead?

I recommend every SDR I meet to put at least one daily blocker in their calendar, at the same time every day. If your job’s main focus is to create opportunities, have at least 3 hours of your time protected with blockers.

Below is an example of an efficient time-blocked schedule:

Time block example

Mistake #2: Not having a prospecting routine

A prospecting routine is a key element for success as an SDR. It’s a daily habit that allows you to repeat healthy prospecting tasks. You could compare it with a daily workout session.

Most SDRs make the mistake of not building a routine, because they underestimate the unpredictability of the job in the long run.

They start with a ton of motivation, but it often changes based on the replies they get, their performance, or even the season. Without a system they end up with irregular input, which creates irregular outcomes

 

What to do instead?

Let’s be honest. Prospecting isn’t super fun. It’s a set of repetitive tasks, and doing enough of them plays a huge role in reaching your targets. So in order to prevent your variation of motivation from getting in your way, here’s what I recommend:

  1. Find the time of the day when you’re the most productive (for me it’s early morning)

  2. Put your time blocks at these times (as seen in step 1)

  3. Start with your follow-ups (all prospects that are in active sequences with a follow-up due today)

  4. Find enough prospects to add to your sequence (use this calculator to find out how many you need)

  5. Add them to your sequence (send a connection request, call them, whatever is your first sequence step)

 

Mistake #3: Not tracking their prospecting activities

Finally, a cardinal sin of SDRs is their inability to create a simple tracking system. Without it, they end up missing follow-ups, some meetings fall through the cracks, and all their hard work leads to disappointing results.

Tracking your activity serves a few important purposes:

  • it shows your manager that you are actually putting in the work

  • it frees some brain power for tasks that need it the most

  • it prevents you from worrying about missing your follow-ups

But most SDRs I meet do not track their activities because they don’t have the right tool to do so.

 

What to do instead?

The answer will change depending on your setup.

In most cases, you’ll have a sequencer already available (think SalesLoft, Outreach, Groove, or Hubspot to name a few). If that’s the case, learn how to use the task list feature of your tool. You should be able to create rules to track your activity, and add a reminder to follow-up.

In some cases, you won’t have a sequencer, or you won’t be able to use it properly (looking at you, sales operations and enablement…). If that’s the case, just use a spreadsheet to track your activity, or go check my Notion Prospecting Tracker.

 

In conclusion

Being an SDR is more about building processes and routines than being creative or thinking outside of the box (even if it’s important). If you can’t focus on the basics, you won’t be able to deliver as expected, and you’ll end up hating your job, or getting fired.

On the other end, if you create a good system, you’ll quickly realize booking meetings and creating opportunities is a numbers game, and you’ll make more money, get promoted faster, and have more time to focus on what matters for you.

 

So keep in mind:

  • Protect your schedule with time blocks

  • Create a prospecting routine

  • Track your activity

 

I hope this helps!

P.S. When you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you.
 
  1. Build your outbound prospecting system from scratch here (200+ students)
  2. (NEW!) Write cold messages that get a 38% reply rate and 27% meeting rate here (20+)
  3. Book me 1:1 or for your team here
  4. (NEW!) Sponsor my newsletter & get 3k+ eyeballs on your ad!
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What I learned from the last sales job I ever had

Tactical Selling

Join 3K+ subscribers to Tactical Selling. Every Thursday, you’ll get 1 actionable tip on starting conversations and booking more meetings.

What I learned from the last sales job I ever had

A few years ago, I started a new job as an Account Executive for a fancy tech-startup. At the time, I thought this job would be the ultimate opportunity to grow a market from scratch, build a team, and move my sales career towards management.

I was so wrong.

I ended up quitting after 5 months, with only one deal closed. It was a costly mistake for the company, and it lead to a few key realizations about what I wanted to do with my life.

Here are 4 lessons from the last sales job I ever had:

Lesson #1: When you change jobs, your pipeline resets to zero

When I started this new job, I left a well-paid position, where I was managing a team of Account Executives, while closing my own opportunities. I saw no possibility of progression in this company, which led me to switch jobs.

I completely forgot that switching jobs meant starting with an empty pipeline.

I also realized I was the new kid on the block for my colleagues, and all my previous achievements meant nothing to them.

Lesson #2: Even if you’re promised a ton of inbound leads, you’re on your own

This one will sound familiar if you recently joined a new company. While I was interviewing for the job, I was promised a dedicated SDR working with me, and a ton of inbound leads I would only need to pick and close.

A few weeks into the job and reality kicked in. My SDR (he was amazing) was so good that other AEs started asking to have him book meetings for them too. The sea of inbound leads was non-existent, and my marketing colleagues only knew how to run events, not how to generate leads.

I quickly understood I would need to source my own opportunities, which meant prospecting daily.

This is when I realized that being in sales, you need to prospect on your own. You’ll sometimes get help, but you can only rely on yourself to generate a steady flow of opportunities.

Lesson #3: Founders are often better at raising money than closing deals

During one of my business trips, the founder of the company was in Paris, and he asked to join a couple of customer meetings.

I was very happy to have him on board, (didn’t feel like I had a choice anyways), but I told him it would be challenging for him to communicate as most French customers’s English level was pretty weak.

He told me this wouldn’t be a problem, as he would only stay in the background and listen.

He did exactly that for most meetings, sitting in the meeting room, typing on his computer, oblivious to our conversations.

That was awkward…

But the worse happened when one prospect asked him about why he created the company. He immediately stopped typing on his computer, pulled out his investor deck, and started reciting his VC presentation.

We spent 15 minutes listening to how his company would change the world, how their tech was better than their competitors’, and the grandiose plans they had for the market.

Needless to say, we didn’t close the deal.

Lesson #4: Being product-obsessed is the best way to lose deals to your competition

I remember how obsessed the founding team was about us knowing the product in and out. It was a technical solution, quite well designed, but clearly too complicated to sell without a solution engineer.

The onboarding bootcamp lasted 2 weeks, in which we spent 99% of our time learning the subtleties of the product, why it was so much better than our competitors, and what were the use cases we should sell.

Our management was obsessed with us “conveying the value of the product”, selling the features, and playing catch-up with the competition. I ended-up losing most deals to my competitors (who had a better buy/sales process), and feeling extremely frustrated because I didn’t have the freedom to sell how I wanted to.

To conclude

A few weeks before handing in my resignation, I was in a very bad place. I was disillusioned and felt like I had made a terrible decision. I left at the end of September 2018 to be on my own, and I learned a ton going through this experience.

 

So keep in mind:

  • When you change jobs, your pipeline resets to zero

  • Even if you’re promised a ton of inbound leads, you’re on your own

  • Founders are often better at raising money than closing deals

  • Being product-obsessed is the best way to lose all deals to your competition

 

I hope this helps!

P.S. When you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you.
 
  1. Build your outbound prospecting system from scratch here (200+ students)
  2. (NEW!) Write cold messages that get a 38% reply rate and 27% meeting rate here (20+)
  3. Book me 1:1 or for your team here
  4. (NEW!) Sponsor my newsletter & get 3k+ eyeballs on your ad!
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4 plays to book more meetings

Tactical Selling

Join 3K+ subscribers to Tactical Selling. Every Thursday, you’ll get 1 actionable tip on starting conversations and booking more meetings.

4 plays to book more meetings

In today’s issue, I’m going to share a quick preview of 4 plays I use regularly to book meetings with prospects.

If you can replicate these plays, you will stop getting ignored because you’ll stand out in the LinkedIn message section or the mailbox of your prospects.

Unfortunately, most SDRs don’t try new prospecting plays, and they end up with diminishing reply rates (and booked meetings) as time goes by.

Regularly experimenting with new plays is how you keep your reply rate and meeting rate high.

Without a solid experimentation strategy, a few challenges arise:

Challenge #1: You miss on easy opportunities: you’re not able to collect data on what works now vs what worked in the past.

Challenge #2: You stagnate: your prospecting game doesn’t evolve (when other SDRs’ game does).

Challenge #3: You end up sounding like everyone else: a good approach gets quickly copied, and you lose your competitive advantage.

You can overcome all of these challenges by experimenting with new plays regularly.

Here are 4 plays you can already use:

Play 1: Invite prospects to a roundtable

This play is incredibly efficient at creating relationships with multiple prospects at the same time.

The idea is to plan a 30 minute online event and invite key prospects to join. You build a specific sequence to invite prospects, use other participants’ names to create FOMO, send a pre-event survey, and run the event.

When you’re done, you can reach out to participants to discuss the challenges they have mentioned during the call.

I love this play because I can run it regularly (quarterly), gather prospects and current customers, and collect data on the challenges of key people in the market.

Last time I ran it, I contacted 24 people, I got 10 replies, and I booked 6 prospects in the event.

Play 2: Use a graph to catch their attention

This play is a great way to show your understanding of a prospect’s problem and create a pattern interrupt.

You start by identifying a key problem of your prospect, followed by visual representation of this problem. For example, I used the graph below to represent a common issue with VPs of Sales:

U-shaped pipeline

I wrote a detailed guide about this approach and got the following results:

  • Contacted: 41

  • Replied: 15 (37%)

  • Booked meeting: 11 (73%)

Play 3: Ask them to join a user research call

This play is a great way to create relationships with prospects, understand their problems, and create opportunities to solve them.

First, you need to make sure your ICP matrix is well defined, and again, have a clear understanding of your prospects’ problems.

You can then lead with these problems in your cold outreach, asking prospects if they would be interested in hoping on a quick user research call to learn more about what they are working on.

Jack Lancaster used this approach in the early stages of Spoke.ai and shared his result on my podcast.

Play 4: Play with their website to catch their attention

This play uses the website of your prospects in order to catch their attention. I discovered it thanks to a post of Florin Tatulea and Saad Khan.

It’s a bit of a technical process, so buckle up:

  • Step 1: Go to your prospect’s homepage

  • Step 2: Write a problem-oriented question ({FirstName}, how do avoid {problem}?)

  • Step 3: Open the website editor and change the hero section of the homepage (here’s how I do it)

  • Step 4: Record a prospecting video with the updated website (make sure the GIF preview is moving)

This play is excellent to create a pattern interrupt as it uses a familiar element for the prospect and gets them to wonder how you could change the text on their website.

And these are 4 of my go-to plays when running outbound sequences.

If you’re interested in accessing these plays in details + get a new play every month, then go check my Monthly Prospecting Plays. There are already 6 live, and you’ll get access to a new play every first week of the month.

Cheers,

Thibaut

P.S. When you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you.
 
  1. Build your outbound prospecting system from scratch here (200+ students)
  2. (NEW!) Write cold messages that get a 38% reply rate and 27% meeting rate here (20+)
  3. Book me 1:1 or for your team here
  4. (NEW!) Sponsor my newsletter & get 3k+ eyeballs on your ad!