In September, we hosted our annual virtual event, YOUniverse, and heard from customer journey experts about how to turn impersonal touches into memorable moments. When everyone else is focused on quantity, YOUniverse flipped the script to talk about why the quality of your outreach matters more.
Who better to talk about this shift than Sydney Sloan? Sydney is the CMO at Salesloft, a company helping sellers reach a level of excellence by allowing them to focus on what they do best – selling. As CMO, she knows how marketing teams can empower sellers to deliver moments that build strong customer relationships.
Authenticity in Sales
Sydney is a big Brene Brown fan (and so are we!) and the author’s work has influenced how she thinks about authenticity. Being authentic is about “being real, being empathetic, and trying to make that emotional connection with someone.” But before you can connect with others, you need to start with yourself; bring your whole self to work, vulnerabilities and all. This is the first step in learning how to connect with your customers in all facets of life, and build stronger relationships.
Unfortunately, few would say that salespeople are amongst the most authentic and trusted professionals in the world. There’s a problem with the notion of sincerity in sales.
“We want to create a world where sellers are loved by the buyers they serve. Love is a strong word… and we don’t take it lightly.”
Personalization at All Levels
Balancing personalization and automation is the key to creating an authentic human-to-human connection to fuel your customer relationships. Buyers can tell when they’ve received an email that was intended for the masses, instead of one tailored to your specific needs.
Sydney categorized personalization into three buckets depending on whether you are communicating as one to many, one to few, or one to one.
One to many
This requires the lowest amount of personalization, where you pick up signals about people and customize their experiences with your brand. These signals are provided by ad management solutions and ABM platforms like 6sense, Demandbase, or RollWorks – and through website behavior – like visits to high intent pages, offer conversion, or requesting a demo.
While working on the Adobe Experience Manager product, Sydney learned how to personalize content by paying attention to a website visitor’s cookie settings.
For example, if you looked at Sydney’s cookie settings, you’d see that she’s searched for outdoor activities quite a lot. So, when directed to a landing page for a website that’s targeted to her search behavior, she should see a woman enjoying the outdoors, rather than a man sitting at a desk.
High-level personalization can also be applied to verticals. If you service multiple industries, make sure you don’t show healthcare customer stories to someone who works in the technology industry – show technology customer stories.
This level of personalization works well for your broad total addressable market, but as prospects and accounts move towards the bottom of your funnel, the level of personalization these visitors encounter should be increased.
One to few
There are a lot of great tools out there for curating experiences and personalizing ads for a segment of people. The best way to get a return on your investment is to focus on your target account list, first.
When personalizing online ads, tailor them for different industries, and even for where your prospect is in their buying journey. Then make sure that the experience on your site matches the experience the person saw in your ad copy and collateral.
One to few personalization allows you to spend a little bit more time crafting your message with the information you have about this group of people. This level of personalization should be reserved for your total addressable market who are lower in the funnel or your target accounts who should be given a more VIP experience from the start.
One to one
For your tier one accounts, you really want to put in extra effort, especially with buyers in the later stages of the buying cycle. Salesloft uses Alyce to personalize their communication with thoughtful, personal gifting strategies.
One-to-one experiences can be highly tailored emails, social media messages, direct mail, or even events for a specific account. Last year at YOUniverse, Elle Woulfe detailed the measures her team at InVision to create personal, one-to-one experiences for their top-tier accounts.
The personalization formula
Personalizing is very important early on in your outreach cadence, but can be balanced with more automation once you’ve made your first impressions.
Salesloft has a formula for how to structure this balance – up to 20% personalization in the first 400 characters, usually the first two sentences.
This is where you show what you know about the person you’re contacting. Look up your prospects on LinkedIn and other social media platforms to see if you have mutual connections. And if you use LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you could also export your search results to a CRM for your outreach campaigns. Always connect that research back to the challenges your prospect is facing.
If you don’t have a personal connection, create one! Start engaging with prospects on social media and find out what they care about. Respond to their posts and learn more about them. This is a very authentic way to make the first connection.
When you’re working to create a new connection with a prospect, note that it may take a while to connect these days as the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced customer relationship building.
In talks with Seth Marrs, Principal Analyst at Forrester, Sydney learned that the number of touchpoints needed to start customer relationships has increased from 17 to 27 during COVID. This includes personalized and automated interactions.
Personalization also matters a lot at the end of your outreach cadence. This leaves the middle part of your sequence where you can automate some of the steps, like sending through webinar invitations or directing prospects to ebooks.
Teaching sincerity in sales
This personalization formula is shared internally and externally at Salesloft. To drive home the commitment to sincerity in sales, Sydney recommended limiting the number of emails sent during the day. She said that “hitting send, send, send, without personalization,” turns your company into spam.
Instead, focus on earning the right to keep communicating with your prospects. This is where upfront personalization is effective. No one wants canned content at the very beginning of a customer relationship.
Part of this is identifying which cadences are driving revenue. She encouraged people to take the less is more approach because, “It’s not a volume game, it’s a performance game.” Use your sales engagement platform to A/B test your email cadences and talk tracks for continual improvement.
Increasing conversion rates from 5% to 20%
When companies have no customization in their outreach, it shows. The average conversion rate for outreach with no personalization is around 5%, even though it’s very possible for them to achieve a conversion rate of over 20%. This connects back to why focusing on securing that human connection earlier helps increase your win rate.
Make sure to diversify your outreach through a multi-channel approach. The three most popular channels, according to Sydney, are going to be email, phone calls, and social direct mail. These channels give sellers the best chance of connecting with buyers early in their buying process.
Today’s customers do 70% of their research before they even reach out to a SaaS vendor. Once they come inbound, they’re already well informed. So the earlier you can establish a human connection in the buying process, the better. Salesloft reports that customers reach, on average, a 23% close rate with this method.
Getting to ‘Yes,’ Faster
Making every interaction count is how sales reps can build more successful customer relationships. By looking and listening for your account’s intent signals, SDRs can reach buyers early.
If you’re the first vendor to connect with a prospect, you have a better chance of winning their business. Not only that, but you get to frame their thinking about how to solve their problem. Anyone else that comes after you is now selling defensively.
Sydney said that Salesloft saw 100% sales engagement coverage for their tier one accounts using this strategy.
In other words, 100% of their accounts acted on an offer that the sales team shared with them.
Using Alyce to Create Sales Team Love
Before implementing Alyce, Salesloft used to have their interns go crazy stuffing boxes full of swag to send to prospects. There was one problem though – the prospects didn’t know who the person sending them gifts even was and didn’t want the swag.
With Alyce, Salesloft now offers a “choose your own gift” option with a curated list of virtual swag bags. The prospect can choose the gift they find most valuable, establishing and strengthening a new connection.
Sydney encourages marketing teams to work with their sellers on how to break into key accounts, determine buyer personas, and imagine fun ways to connect with prospects throughout the buying process. She calls this sales love – it’s that extra time to create a moment.
Creating a moment through apology
Mistakes happen and turning a moment of disappointment into a moment of delight can make a huge impact, and secure a customer for life.
During a prospecting play with a large account, Sydney’s sales team messed up; they didn’t show up to the scheduled discovery meeting and this, understandably, upset the customer. But they used this mistake to create a moment. Through researching their buyer, they found out that he was really big into Tae Kwon Do.
“The rep found out which dojo he trained with, called the dojo, and secured for the buyer free training lessons,” said Sydney. What a wonderful way to rebuild a customer relationship.
Want to learn more?
Check out the rest of the YOUniverse sessions and watch the recorded content to learn how fourteen other companies are using Alyce to delight their customers. If that’s not enough, head over to our customer stories hub for more examples of how to deliver moments with personalized gifting.