The Sales Stack by Nolan Clemmons
The ‘Sales Stack’ is a technology collection of tools, services, and platforms geared towards automating sales funnels, enabling sales development representatives, streamlining lead generation, and preserving your team’s most valuable resource: time. These tools are essential towards building a high-velocity sales machine. While there are over 700 tools in the sales technology ecosystem, I have instead simplified the outbound sales process into four distinct layers below.
Our current business landscape requires scalable procedures and new sources for generating qualified leads. By streamlining sales operations and easing the pressure on marketing teams relying upon paid channels, carefully crafted cold outreach campaigns can be the most cost effective customer acquisition channel in the known universe. Besides B2B / SaaS lead generation, this framework can also be used for link building, PR, guest post submissions, etc. I like to think of cold outreach as marketing Taijutsu – no illusions or tricks (as with ninjutsu), but rather pure skill and raw technique. Creating a campaign is a methodical process, and the more effort you put into the details, the better results that you will have.
I’ve broken down the cold outbound lead generation process into 5 easy steps:
1. Prospecting / Sales Intelligence
2. Enrichment / Buyer Insights
3. Outreach / Engagement
4. CRM / Pipeline Management
5. Account Execution (Post-sale & Beyond)
Prospecting & Sales Intelligence
Prospecting lies at the very top of the sales stack. Your goal should be to find a large quantity of high quality prospects. Do not compromise on quality for the sake of volume, however, as there are consequences to emailing invalid email address, for example. You must talk to right people at the right companies in the right industries. There are many websites, directories, and data sources where you can find and harvest prospects’ contact information. All you usually need is a URL, and the other tools can take it from there, in addition to already utilizing available search criteria.
LeadFeeder can tell you which companies are visiting your website based on their IP address by accessing your Google Analytics data. This is very useful if you already have content marketing in place.
LeadCandy provides highly targeted sales leads by analyzing the customers of competitors & complementary products and by leveraging the network of teams to find referral paths to potential leads.
Clearbit is a prospector’s dream come true. With Google sheets integration, you can speed-up the enrichment process later. Clearbit has several products: Prospector (to find individual emails at a certain domain), Discovery (to find business similar to selected domains OR set a search parameter), and Reveal, which turns anonymous web traffic into company profiles.
Hunter is a lower cost alternative to enterprise tools. It previously had a Chrome extension for turning LinkedIn profiles into emails, but that feature has since been discontinued.
FindThatLead fills in the void left after Hunter’s LinkedIn integration was discontinued. It also provides prospecting and email verification.
I recommend that you hire a virtual assistant (VA) to aid you in processes involving B2B prospecting, in addition to using automation tools. There are some aspects to campaigns, such as data polishing, that require human quality assurance checks.
Data Enrichment / Buyer Insights
After you get the list of prospects, you then need to make sure that you have enough data on them so that we can properly sort them out into segments, as there is no one size fits all email template. The spreadsheet must be cleansed and enhanced so that it can be ready for the CRM and future email campaigns. There is no one-size-fits-all message for your product or service, even if it it’s a matter of adjusting campaigns based on geographic location.
Hexa (formerly ProLeads) is the holy grail of social selling ( or ‘Account Based Prospect Development’). You can add prospects to a campaign directly from their LinkedIn profile and group them by accounts/organisations. It also includes a personalization and reference engined based on your network and shared connections. You can craft a template that will automatically include a short blurb explaining how you’re connected to the prospect – it will name drop a few names, and if the prospect knows those people, and if you (of course) know them, then you have the start of a warm conversation.
LinkedIn can be a good resource for prospecting, especially if you are B2B. There are plenty of gmail plugins that can pull data on a given email address next to the compose window that can tell you certain information, which can be quite useful for personalisation.
Outreach / Engagment
This where you will start to see results and measure performance. As I said above, a well-crafted cold email campaign can be invaluable to your firm’s growth, and the above was to help ensure that you make a great first impression, because it is quite difficult to regain credibility once you’ve eroded goodwill with a stranger. There are multiple tools that you can use to send email messages directly to prospects. And no, you can not just use mailchimp or some other generic email service provider!
Most drip email tools use Google Mail’s API to make it seem as though the emails are coming directly from your inbox – not a 3rd party email service provider like Mailchimp. Technically, they are not bulk email, as they are each sent on a one-to-one basis. They use mail merge to insert fields like “FIRST_NAME” into the actual email templates. The tools also include automated follow-ups, as well as the ability to remove those that respond out of the campaign so that they don’t keep getting your emails.
Cold Outreach Email Tools:
Sendbloom has a beautiful, easy to use interface! It has a direct integration with Salesforce, and was designed for enterprise sales teams.
Gmass.co is a cheaper alternative to the above, but less sophisticated.
SalesHandy allows for mail merge with Outlook (Office 365 & Exchange Server).
Mailshake is the latest creation from Sujan Patel, originating from Contentmarketer.io‘s outreach tool. It was first designed for a different type of outreach campaign – link building, where you send out emails to other sites asking if they can please post a link to your website on their page to help with domain authority and SEO. Another use for outreach emails is getting press coverage. So this process can useful for B2C businesses as well, just not for sales.
Be careful to ensure that you remain within the laws of your jurisdiction when sending out campaigns. Check the legal restrictions and abide by the regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM act.
Copywriting: Sending the emails is one thing, but writing the sales email templates is another matter entirely. Copywriting is a never-ending art, but since we’ll be armed with highly detailed prospect data, there are many template combinations that we can use, especially with ProLeads, to add a bit of personalisation to our message. The goal should be to make the message seemed handwritten. The process is akin to sculpting, where you are removing (not adding) information that it is not vital to obtaining a response.
One benefit of cold email outreach is that sometimes the only reason a recipient has replied to your email is if they are genuinely interested (besides being polite), or if they indicate disinterest, which is still a win from the SDR’s standpoint. That does not mean that you should be reckless in how you approach strategic accounts, however. Working your network for introductions can help you move up (or down) to the decision-maker’s level, and even lend some credibility, depending on the relationship.
CRM / Pipeline Management
You must now keep track of where each lead stands – yes or no – and all interactions and communications in between.
‘CRM’ is an acronym that stands for customer relationship management. It’s been around ever since the earlier days of the first business computers (IBM). Teams that are starting off might use a spreadsheet or whiteboard to keep track of customers and clients, however, they run the risk of becoming disorganized and overwhelmed (especially once they start to gain traction). Most CRM’s on the market are essentially advanced database viewers or spreadsheets.
Salesforce is the most popular CRM, but it has a steep learning curve that is usually best suited for enterprise teams. Most tools in the sales ecosystem will be able to integrate with Salesforce because of that – and they are usually quite necessary, as features as simple as logging an email or call within Salesforce require multiple clicks (whereas some of the below do this automatically). This ecosystem (AppExchange), however, allows for the development of advanced plug-ins that may have not survived as standalone products.
Close.io is my favorite sales CRM to manage inside sales. It has native Windows & Mac desktop apps available in addition to its web interface. Close.io is highly customizable, and includes a custom VOIP Phone Number. Calls & emails can be logged automatically. It integrates with Clearbit and other tools, and even has it’s own drip email functionality.
Hubspot has a free CRM, but it’s also a bit clunky.
Base CRM has a good mobile interface.
Here’s what my stack looks like. Pay attention to the layers.Note that there are two main paths: one for prospecting individuals through LinkedIn, and one for targeting qualified accounts.
This is the end of the lead generation funnel, and the beginning of the sales process. Depending on what your product is, how long your sales cycle is, and in what way your organisation or company operates, this could take a few days to months before a deal is closed. Remember, the goal of outbound sales development is to merely elicit a response or action from the prospect, who will become a warm lead – not to close a deal on the first meeting. There will likely be some qualification screening to still be done before the deal is handed off to an account executive, although if you targeted the right people, that might already be taken care of. This is less about technology and more about process management, or how your sales team handles their time.
SaaS sales development and growth hacking have one thing in common: you’re leveraging technology and systems to achieve business objectives and marketing results at a fraction of the traditional cost. You are commanding a robot army to automate manual tasks at scale, so that your human energy can be put into building relationships. There are some more tools within each layer of the stack – it’ll be quite a chore to map out each and every tool in the ecosystem and create a comprehensive chart (perhaps a LUMAscape?). Also note that some platforms will include multiple layers within them, SalesLoft is a good example. Because of this, you may notice certain redundancies for certain features. You can figure this out on your own; it depends on your workflow. Good news is that Zapier can seamlessly connect many of the above layers.
Other Sales & Marketing Automation Resources:
Reply.io’s blog has a catalog with over 450 tools.
What does your team’s sales stack look like? Feel free to add some of your favorite tools or tips below. Thanks for reading!