Episode 239

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There’s always been a great debate among agency owners – does cold email work as a new business strategy. Many will argue that given SPAM filters and the volume of email that everyone gets, it’s impossible to break through and actually get the attention of someone in the C-suite. My guest Jeff Winters proves that belief wrong for his clients every day. But will it work for your agency?

Jeff created a company called Sapper, a service that works with agency owners and brand leaders to help them with their outbound email marketing and sales efforts. Understanding his methodology means you can do this at home—or you can hire a company like Sapper to do it for you.

In this episode, Jeff gave us the scripts, the timing cadence and how you can measure the results. Ours may be an industry that typically does not boast a lot of success from cold calling, but Jeff has many agencies on his roster that are doing things differently and experiencing great success. I picked Jeff’s brain to find out exactly what they are doing so you can do it too.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Owners | A new tool to add to your agency’s sales strategy with Jeff Winters

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How Sapper was founded and what they do
  • How to master outbound email marketing
  • How agencies perform using Sapper’s sales methodology
  • Different tactics you can use for macro, micro, and nano tiered clients
  • How to approach frequency of communication
  • What to do when somebody actually responds to your outbound marketing
  • How to rethink your sales strategy in a time of crisis

The Golden Nuggets:

“Relevancy is pain solved. What's the pain? And how are you solving it?” @winters_jeffrey Click To Tweet “Whatever your strategy, you have to relay something to your prospect so they know this isn't a computer, otherwise it looks like automation and they're out.” @winters_jeffrey Click To Tweet “One of the challenges for agencies is that there's nothing we can offer to create a false sense of urgency. Our clients need us or they don’t. They’re ready to buy or they’re not.” @winters_jeffrey Click To Tweet “If I am reaching out to you and I feel that I have value to share, it is my obligation to reach out to you until you say yes or no.” @winters_jeffrey Click To Tweet “What you're trying to do for your customer acquisition engine is get to a place where you can turn up top-of-funnel activities and know exactly how many prospects you will get.” @winters_jeffrey Click To Tweet

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Ways to contact Jeff Winters

Additional Resources:

Speaker 1:

[Music playing 00:00:04 If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too. Welcome to Agency Management Institutes Build A Better Agency podcast, presented by white label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down the road sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McClellan.]

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Welcome, glad that you are making the time to do this. I know that for many of you, this is a time of great uncertainty and worry. If you’re listening to this real time, we are right in the middle of the Coronavirus storm here in the States. I know many of you across the world are also facing your own work from home situations and things like that. Know that I’m thinking about you, know that we are trying to create assets to be helpful for you. If you are not getting the newsletter every week, now it’d be a great time to shoot me an email and make sure we get you on the list, because we are producing videos and other things, tools that can be helpful.

Please do not be shy about asking. We are here to help you, and we are here to make sure that every agency gets through the storm and into the calm waters, so stick with us, stick close, and let me know if we can be helpful. This week’s podcast episode is about selling, and I know that for many of you you’re thinking, this isn’t the time to sell, nobody’s buying right now. That may very well be true for this temporary season, but, keep in mind that this is temporary. One of the things I’m hoping you’re doing with this window of time when clients aren’t as demanding, and other things aren’t pressing on your time, is that you are at least spending a little bit of time thinking about how do we come out of this? How do we come out of this storm?

Our ship is now in calm water. How do we gear up? How do we get wind in our sails? How do we build up and replace the income that we’ve lost as quickly as possible? That’s why I thought that our guest today was a great choice. Jeff Winters created a company called Sapper, and Sapper is a service that works with agencies and brands to help them with their outbound email marketing and sales efforts. There are a lot of people out there who will say to an agency that they can help them get appointments, and that is absolutely what Jeff’s company does as well. But what I want to talk to him about is the methodology, because they boast some very impressive numbers. Their goal is to exceed their client’s spend by a multiplier factor. That’s pretty significant.

When I met Jeff and I started talking to him on the phone, I was like, “Well, how do you do it? What’s the methodology?” Thinking that whether you engage a company like Jeff’s, or you do it on your own, you understanding the recipe that they use. The model that they’ve built their success on, means that you can do this at home for yourself, or if you want to, you can reach out to Jeff and his company or someone else to do this for you. We’re going to talk about outbound sales, but really what we’re going to talk about is what does that look like, and what does success look like and how do you measure it, and what are those emails and phone calls look like? How does success happen when we are an industry that really does not often boast a lot of success from cold calls?

Jeff has a lot of agencies on his roster, on his client roster, and they’re doing some things that are different than what I suspect many of you are doing. My goal for today is to pick Jeff’s brain and to find out exactly what they’re doing, so you could do it at home. All right, let’s get to it. Jeff, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Jeff Winters:

Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Drew McLellan:

Give everybody a little bit of a background on the company, and what you do, and who you serve before we dig into the conversation.

Jeff Winters:

Sure. I’ll tell you a little story about the company founding. I started Sapper Consulting about six and a half years ago. I’ll take you back to my job right before I started the company, I was hired as basically the chief revenue officer at this SAS company. I was 25 or 26 years old, and I thought that CEO of this company had found me out of relative obscurity and seen all the potential that my mother always told me that I had. I take this job and I’m all excited. On the first day I figure out a few things. I figure out that the product wasn’t exactly done, that I was going to be selling. Two, it had never officially been sold to anybody for money, and three I was supposed to sell it to primarily chief human resources officers at fortune 1000 companies.

Drew McLellan:

Piece of cake.

Jeff Winters:

Too easy, right?

Drew McLellan:

It’s like you’re stealing their money.

Jeff Winters:

Why aren’t you still there, Jeff? I can’t get a hold of anybody for months. Nobody’s assistant will take my call. Until finally I start waking up at two or three in the morning and sending out what I thought were funny emails, and this was no automation, if you can believe it. During this time I get 170 meetings. I’m flying around the country to Google, and Amazon, Netflix, and every meeting’s going the same way. They’re going, “Jeff, thanks for coming. Excited to see you. How in the world did you get this meeting? Like we got your email, we got a chuckle, but folks like us just don’t meet with folks like you, that don’t have customers.”

After that happened 150 times I quit, and I started Sapper, because I thought I’d get meetings for anybody with anybody. Fast forward, six and a half years, what we do is really simple. We help our clients get amazing sales meetings that end up in closed deals, at a really high rate. We’re doing it on behalf of about 600 customers, representing brands as big as AT&T, and GE, and Salesforce, but also as small as one to two person consulting shops. Of course in that mix are a whole lot of agencies and a whole lot of agency clients. That’s our business.

Drew McLellan:

I think everybody has an origin story where your back is against the wall and you got to figure it out. I think that’s one of the things that I love about entrepreneurs, is that we don’t get stuck in place, we pivot, and it sounds that’s what you did.

Jeff Winters:

We did at the time, and necessity breeds invention, is that the saying?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Winters:

No, even that, the invention was funny emails in my mind.

Drew McLellan:

I know you work with a bunch of agencies, and there are a lot of companies out there that offer outbound agency sales services to varying degrees of success. How is the work you do different, and what about it do you think makes it work?

Jeff Winters:

I think it’s two questions with one answer. Over the last six and a half years, we’ve gathered this treasure trove of data. Billions of data points on how our emails land, sliced and diced by who the buyer is. For example, we know how the receptivity of an email to a VP of marketing, or a chief marketing officer at any varying degree of company size or revenue level. What we’ve done is we’ve taken that data, and we’ve put it into this tool called Reggie.

What Reggie does is enables you to go into our system, or our team would go into our system and say, “Hey, this agency wants to target CMOs at manufacturing companies doing more than 50 million in sales.” It will ask you a few questions about your value prop and your specifics, and your tone of voice, and your point of view on the world, and then it’ll immediately spit out 10 emails customized to what we would call that buyer persona. No one has that, and we do, and it gives us a great advantage in terms of our ability to go out to buyers and give us the highest degree of likelihood that they’re going to respond, and respond positively.

Drew McLellan:

I’m assuming that’s some machine learning or AI that is spitting out those emails, right?

Jeff Winters:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Can you give me an example of what would the content of one of those emails be?

Jeff Winters:

I think this gets into a really key point that I want to drive home for listeners today, around content and just a really key tactical thing that everyone should know and think about when they’re writing outbound messages. That is this differentiator of being casual and relevant, but not striving too hard to be personalized. Casual and relevant, but not striving too hard to be personalized. This is a little bit of a contrarian view, but our emails, our best practice, the best emails, the best performing email campaigns from an outbound standpoint are achieving two things. One they’re immediately informing the reader that this is not a computer sending out a zillion emails at a time, and number two, they’re introducing this very concrete pain solve. What’s the pain and how do we solve it?

Let me give you a very specific example of what I mean here. Something to the effect of at the beginning of your email, “Hey, Jeff, bouncing back from meeting to meeting today, but wanted to shoot over a quick note before I got into my next one. Hey, Jeff just popped onto an airplane. We’re about to take off, but I wanted to shoot over a note before we did.” Those kinds of little phrases, and I want to emphasize this, underscore it with your listeners. Those kinds of little phrases are the ticket, because that, and it has to be real. It has to be authentic. Whatever you’re doing, you have to relay that to your prospect, so they know this isn’t a computer. Otherwise it looks like automation and they’re out.

If I can share something, “Hey, just right before I go pick up the kids.” Anything like that, that I can share is a must. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. That’s the number one key I want to share with your listeners. Make sure you’ve got one of those casual phrases in the beginning of your email. The second thing I want to share is relevancy. All of the emails that Reggie will spit out will have that casual phrase and also have relevancy. Relevancy is pain solve. What’s the pain, how are you solving it? What I’d recommend for listeners very tactically, is find a decision maker or a buyer that meets that criteria in real life, and ask them. You only have to find a couple, but if you can start to get to pain solve, not what you think pain solve is, or what the actual pain solve is, you’ll be in a whole lot better shape. Two key takeaways here, number one, casual at the opening, make sure readers know you’re not a computer, and number two, have a real pain solve informed by an actual buyer.

Drew McLellan:

How long is that email typically?

Jeff Winters:

It depends on the buyer of course, and one way to slice and dice this in terms of thinking about the world is based on a very simple, like a disc profile. For your listeners just profile, I’m sure many are aware, it’s a personality tests, a Myers-Briggs type, where you can understand people at a deeper level. If you have somebody who’s a high D like I am, who wants bullet points, and straight to it, and facts, and data, then that’s what we deliver. But if you have another individual who’s maybe a high seat, who’s looking for a little more case study, social proof, needs to be a little more rigid in terms of how they approach the world and take in information in a very good way, then you might be a little bit longer. It all depends on the buyer.

Drew McLellan:

We just had an episode not too long ago with a gentleman who was talking about the crystal Chrome extension, and applying the disc to LinkedIn profiles. We just have been talking about that. If my listeners are listening in the order in the recent past. When you say it’s successful, what does that translate to in terms of percentages, and just help me understand, and then I want to dig into the methodology, but if somebody hires you to do the work that you’re talking about, what are the success metrics and what do they look like?

Jeff Winters:

Our business is one, it’s probably that I know is very similar to our agency friends who are listening today, which is, you’ve got two different kinds of outcomes. You’ve got product outcomes and you’ve got success outcomes. Product outcome for us is number of meetings. If you are a customer of ours, you sign up that we’re going to get you a certain number of meetings, and whether or not we hit that, speaks to whether or not we’ve achieved our product outcome. But then there’s this success outcome, and we all know this too well. It’s the idea that if we drive you 100 meetings and you close no deals, then we have not achieved our success outcome. It’s really a two step. It’s we want to achieve our product outcome, which is totally within our control, but then we want to help our customers.

I think agencies all agree with me here, we want to help them achieve their success outcomes because ultimately whether or not we get retained or fired, comes down to the success outcomes at some point. We want to make sure the meetings are of such high quality, that the opportunity to achieve success outcomes goes up, the probability increases. Those are the metrics we think about with our clients. At the end of the day, the ultimate outcome is a measure of ROI. Three times your spend, three and a half times your spend. What’s your ROI on your spend with Sapper?

Drew McLellan:

What I’m asking you is, how often do you hit it?

Jeff Winters:

It’s a great question. We last year generated $36 million in sales on behalf of our clients, and that represented a 3.6 times ROI across our client population. We generated 3.6 times as much money for our clients as they paid us. We feel really good about that, as you would expect.

Drew McLellan:

I would expect that you would. I’m curious, how do agencies perform? Then this is my last question specifically about your business, and then I want to have you help me break down your process for agencies that want to do this themselves. How do your agency clients perform versus your brand clients?

Jeff Winters:

It depends to tell you the truth, but our agency clients on average perform very similar to our average client. I’ll share that the agency clients who are really dialed in on their niche, or their differentiator, perform really well. That’s the key for us. If your agency has a space in the world where you are great, and you can tell the story about why, it makes our job a whole lot easier. I’m sure all your agency listeners are thinking the same thing of what’s our sustainable, durable, competitive advantage, what’s our differentiator. Then how do we exploit that in a positive way in the marketplace? When we have agency clients who know that, and where their customers know that, and where they’ve got data to show that their differentiator is real and impactful for their clients, we can be really successful.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I’m sure my listeners are tired of me preaching the whole niche thing, but it is the way of agency sales in the future, is you have to look different from everybody else.

Jeff Winters:

It’s exactly right. You and I didn’t prep this, so we’re not in coordination here, but we see the same. Where you have a niche, where you have specialty, where you have expertise, where you have differentiation, that’s where you’re going to see more and more success. Not that you can’t, if you don’t. But it certainly helps a whole lot if you do.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. If people are saying, this sounds great, but dang it, I want to do it myself. Let’s talk about how they think about their list, and how they approach their list. I know you have this tiered program or tiered idea of how you approach your prospects. Can you walk us through that?

Jeff Winters:

Sure. I’m going to even pull it back for one second and talk a little higher level and then get right into the tier. The first thing I would suggest in a very tactical way, is to set up your customer acquisition funnel, set it up, use the metaphor of an engine. The idea is how much gas do I need to put into that engine in order to get whatever amount of performance out of the backside of that engine. Think about it that way, and separate that engine into different compartments, so you can start to dial in on what knobs you need to twist in which areas in order to achieve success. Because at the end of the day, what you’re trying to do for your customer acquisition engine, is you’re trying to get to a place like your end state. What you’re seeking to achieve is a place where you can turn up top of funnel activities, how many prospects do I reach out to? You know exactly how many customers you’re going to get at the end of your funnel.

You’re trying to get that dialed in. That is the goal. That’s the first step on this journey is mapping out your engine, and knowing how many prospects convert to how many meetings, convert to how many proposals, convert to how many new customers, and get that so dialed in. Once we have that and we start to, and doesn’t have to be perfect. Start with good, but get it mapped out in that way, so you know, all I got to do is tweak the amount of prospects we’re reaching out to, and I know exactly how many customers I’m going to have after my sales cycle is complete. Once we have that, let’s get into the account model of how we’d go about executing a outbound strategy. The first thing I’d recommend to the listeners is dividing your prospects into three tiers. You’ve got tier one, tier two and tier three. I’ve come up with very creative names for this.

Drew McLellan:

Very nicely done.

Jeff Winters:

As a marketer myself, I take great pride in those things. So tier one, tier two and tier three. The key here is that we’re going to treat these prospects from a resource standpoint, very different. Tier one prospects are our top priority prospects. They are right in the bulls eye of our ideal customer. It’s the right size. It’s the right industry. It’s the right geography. It’s within our niche. These are perfect customers. Then take it down to tier three customers who would benefit greatly from our services, but not exactly precise. Then you’ve got tier two somewhere in the middle. What we want to do is we want to treat these prospects very differently from a resource allocation perspective. For example, an outcome-

Drew McLellan:

Hang on a sec, Jeff. I am going to predict that you are about to describe what at AMI, we call the macro micro and nano funnel. I’m putting that out there before you speak it, but the way you’re setting it up, I believe you are exactly about to teach what we teach, but with the specificity of, with the specifics, that’s how I’m going to just change the word.

Jeff Winters:

Specific, specificity, it’s all the same, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Of your expertise and the way you’re seeing it from your model. All right, now go ahead. We’re going to divide these tiers.

Jeff Winters:

If you’re trying to make me feel better about my tier one, tier two, tier three naming convention, it’s not working.

Drew McLellan:

I promise I am not, but you’re welcome to use the macro micro and nano, if you would like in the future.

Jeff Winters:

Let’s talk through nano micro and macro with the tactics. Nano, center of the bullseye. We want to treat these prospects very differently from a resource allocation standpoint in our outbound work. Some tactics that you’ll use in this nano, for these nano prospects, will include more expensive, more time consuming tactics. You will have a sequence that includes tactics like email, you’ll include call, you may include handwritten letter, you may include gift, you may include more personalized voicemail. These are things that you’re going to use. Linkedin message, LinkedIn voicemail. These are things that are a little more time-consuming, but this is a bucket of tactics that you’ll use with your nano bucket of prospects. These are folks where you want to be spending time and money.

Now, let’s go to micro, or my tier two in my world. These are individuals where you’re going to want to scale down resources, but still give a very personalized touch. There, you’re going to want to continue to use tactics like email, like foam, like social outreach, and potentially handwritten letter or LinkedIn voicemail. Those are tactics here. In tier three or in macro, we’re going to want to move to almost full automation. Here you’re thinking almost entirely email only sequences, maybe mixing in some calls. We’ve got this continuum of nano, micro and macro, whereby you’ve got resource intensive prospecting for nano, and then full automation for macro. Then here’s what people miss. The idea here isn’t that nano, micro and macro prospects stay in those buckets forever.

You take your nano prospects, you run them through a sequence. Typically it’s 45 to 90 days of this resource intensive prospect. Then you take that group, you let them cool off for a period of time, call it 60 or 90 days, and then you can put them into the macro sequence fully automated, or you could put them into the micro sequence. You’re constantly rotating these buckets of prospects through these different sequence types. Typically we’ll see the macro prospects pretty much remain in a macro fully automated, or micro semi-automated sequence, but you’ll often see these micro prospects move into a very resource intensive nano prospecting sequence. That’s the key tactic that often people overlook.

Drew McLellan:

I’m curious, what are you seeing for timing of sales cycle? Just for those of you that are listening to this, whether you’re listening to it the week we publish it, or you’re listening to it a year later, Jeff and I are actually recording this on March 19th, 2020, so the world, and certainly the US is eyeball deep into the COVID-19 situation. I want to ask you prior to COVID-19, what were you seeing as the sales cycle length for your agency clients? Then we’ll eventually talk about COVID-19 stuff too, but for now, universally, what have you been seeing as the length of time from first email to sign purchase authorization?

Jeff Winters:

First of all, you brought up COVID-19, and I just want to say, I know we’re all thinking it, but this is a humanitarian crisis for second and third, way, way, way before any business implication, and that we’re thinking about those that have been effected, those that are sick, and anyone who’s been affected by this virus. Make sure we say it. As we move on to much less serious matters of business, I’ll share that of course the variable that all this depends on is project size. If you’re talking and I break it into 30K and below, and 30K to 100K, and 100K up, so look in the 100K up bucket, if you’re dealing with enterprise, we all know the hurdles of enterprise. But you’re typically looking at six to 18 months post-call. That’s what we see.

For 30 to 100K, typically again, there are always edge [inaudible 00:25:39] emergent need, but those can be between 90 days and a year. Then for deals that are 30K or less, I’ll give you an example. We are 30K or less deal. Our sales cycle is two weeks. It is not uncommon to have that short sales cycle anywhere two weeks to 90 days for SMB. 30K or less deals. That’s how we see it in the marketplace. We do our best to track it. Your agency owners are going to know better, but generally speaking, those are the buckets and how they break out based on our visibility.

Drew McLellan:

From your perspective, agencies hit those same numbers?

Jeff Winters:

Yeah. That’s what I’m giving you. From my perspective, look, the biggest variants bucket are the 100K plus, because 100K plus can go to many millions of dollars.

Drew McLellan:

It’s decided by committee and it’s go up to the CEO, and all that stuff.

Jeff Winters:

Sub 30K and 30 to 100, the 30 to 100, if you’re 90 days to 180 days or 220 days, somewhere in there is pretty typical what we see.

Drew McLellan:

If I was going through your system, what’s the frequency of the emails or the touches. Whether I’m at what you call tier one, which is getting the emails, the gifts, the calls, the handwritten note, all of that down to the tier three, what’s the frequency of contact?

Jeff Winters:

There’s great research on this. Just read a study, 200 million analyzed outbound sequences, and the data suggests the following. You’re going to have more activity upfront, and significantly less activity as the sequence draws out. It might be a 45 day sequence, but you’re going to front end load a lot of the touches, and there’s really great data to support that if you do what they call a double tap, a phone call and an email on the same day, three times in your high touch nano sequences, you’re going to drive significantly better results, than if you spread those touches out. Typically, you’re going to look to a 15 touch sequence inside of 45 days. It’ll be more front end loaded, and you’ll have three of those days where you’re having two touches in one day. ‘Double tap.’

Drew McLellan:

For the more automated only, so the ones where maybe you’re not doing a lot of phone calls, then what is best practice around that volume?

Jeff Winters:

Really good question. Here’s what we recommend. We’re recommending an automated only email sequence of eight to 10 touches, and we are recommending that over 45 days, and we also recommend the touches remain clustered across the first six, and then spread out eight, nine and 10. That’s best practice, it’s what we do.

Drew McLellan:

I want to take a quick break, but when we come back, I want to talk about what you do, what happens when somebody actually writes back. Now, do they go out of the automation sequence, and now you’re actually having real emails. I also want to talk a little bit more about the content of the emails that you recommend, but  let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back. Hey guys, sorry to interrupt the show, but I wanted to tell you about an opportunity that we have created for you, that I hope you’re going to be excited about. As many of you may know, Stephen Westner and I just finished and published our book called Sell With Authority.