Episode 112

podcast photo thumbnail
1x
-15
+60

00:00

00:00

Ryan O’Donnell is a midwest kid who moved to NYC after college and landed a job on Wall Street making 500 calls a day. He hated it, followed a passion for tech, and ended up joining a company early that eventually sold to Yahoo for $850M. He grew a business unit from $0 – $20M and left Yahoo to startup.

Fast forward 3 meandering years trying to generate sales and Ryan decided to build a product to speed up the time to revenue for any business selling a product or service B2B called Sellhack. He’s successfully running this company today, helping his clients get in front of the right prospects faster and with a better close rate than they’d been doing on their own. He’s a father of 3, husband, and hobbyist prepper, and he’s in relentless pursuit of scratch golf.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why sales is all about automation and efficiency
  • Using data to take the guesswork out of the prospect search
  • Crafting compelling emails to prospects based on what you know about their competition (that you already work with)
  • Figuring out how many prospects you need to capture every week at the top of your sales funnel in order to get the number of new leads you need at the bottom of the funnel
  • SellHack’s algorithm for verifying the email address of a person who you might just know their name and company
  • Replyify: a tool specifically devised for sending out cold email campaigns and building a sales process to contact prospects in other ways
  • Strategies for crafting an email that works for cold selling B2B products and services
  • How and when to ask to schedule time with a prospect
  • Tiering your offerings and basing communication with prospects based on the tier
  • Using the ideas from this podcast not only inside your agency, but also with your clients

The Golden Nugget:

“Use data to target prospects that have the highest likelihood to convert.” – Ryan O'Donnell Click To Tweet

 

Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!

Itunes Logo          Stitcher button

Ways to contact Ryan O’Donnell:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast, presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. And today we are going to talk sales. Let me tell you a little bit about our guest and then we are going to jump right into the conversation. So Ryan O’Donnell is a guy who grew up in the Midwest, moved to New York City after college, and like all of us, needed to pay the rent. And so, landed a job on Wall Street, making 500 calls a day. Quickly realized that he hated it but had a big passion for technology. So he ended up joining a company early, which eventually sold to Yahoo. He then stayed there for a while and grew a business unit up to about $20 million and then left Yahoo to get involved in the startup.

So fast forward, a few years of him doing that, and now he runs two companies. Well, a company that has two products, SellHack and Replyify, both that are built to help people drive sales into their organization. We’re going to talk about that. He is also a father of three, a husband, a hobbyist prepper, which means that if there is any sort of natural disaster, Ryan’s house is where you should head. And apparently he has a little bit of time left because he is in a relentless pursuit of scratch golf. So Ryan, welcome to the podcast.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Drew, thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Drew McLellan:

So it sounds like your first sales job left a pretty bad taste in your mouth, which I think is where a lot of agency owners are today. The idea of sales, even the S word gives them a little bit of sweat on their upper lip.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Different kinds of sales. That was a different kind of sale. I look at sales as… for me, I enjoy talking to people, and I love what I do, and I hope the folks who were here listening are going to hear some of that come through. I might get heated at some points and I’ll try to keep the expletives as limited as possible. I love what I do. I look at sales as… Sales, it’s another conversation and I love talking to people and helping them out. And I think the biggest thing with my first gig on Wall Street is it was sales, but there was no process around it, right? And there was so much wasted time preparing for the sale and writing out lead cards and researching people and trying to talk my way around a gatekeeper, that… T

here was no process around it and it was just beating your head against the wall, and it was a numbers game. And ultimately what I’m in today is all about efficiency and automation with the sales process and taking some of the things that I learned to create a great disdain for, and 10, 15 years later, created software that I would’ve killed to have had back then.

Drew McLellan:

So when I hear you talk about sales automation and efficiency, and I think about sales and the relationship that you’re trying to create, help me connect the dots between those two.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Right. So sales activities, right? There’s a starting point. And you wouldn’t even believe how many people get the starting point wrong, right? And the starting point is figuring out who to go after, right? Who to target? Who is a likely prospect? For sales and for outbound sales, and specifically if you’re an agency owner or if you’re in business development, working at an agency and on your head is this requirement that you need more clients, right? You need to go figure out how to find them. And one of the biggest mistakes that people make right off the bat is they work off of assumptions and they don’t work off of data, right? So when we consult with clients or just when I have a conversation with a new client or a new prospect, and they say, “Okay, I want to build a prospect list. I want to do this. I want to do that,” I ask them, I say, “Well, who are you going after? What do your segments look like? What do your prospect segments look like?”

And then I get this generic answer. And I say, “All right. Here’s your exercise. Go and look at your current clients if you have them. If you don’t have clients in your new business, go and look at your competitors clients, right? And I want you to pick 10 clients, right? I want you to pick 10 people who signed the deal with you, that you work with, that you reached out to, and then go and research them, right? And I want you to figure out what are the unique characteristics about each, right? Are they in a specific location? Do they have a specific title? Have they been at the company for a certain period of time? Does their agency have a particular focus? Or do they do something and can you find density, right? Can you find that out of those 10 clients, there are four of them, are managing directors based in London, working in technology at companies with less than 50 employees and have some sort of web application,” right?

I just constructed my first prospect search right there. And I took all the guesswork out of it. That’s the first place to start with regards to having a focus and wrapping a process around that, right? The automation part, or… That’s the first steps and then you need to go and find them, and then you need to contact them, and then you need to follow up with them, and then you need to work them through your pipeline, however that’s designed. A lot of different touch points, but having that foundation of going after the right person and using data to be able to target the prospects that have the highest likelihood to convert, that’s rule number one, that’s where you start before you start automating a process that’s going to keep that pipeline full.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. In our vernacular, I talk about that as creating like a sweet spot client filter. So what are the commonalities of your best clients that if you could duplicate those clients, what would the duplicate look like? What would the clone look like? And how do you go after that? And for most agencies, I think one of the challenges is, for them, it’s a numbers game, but it’s a different kind of numbers game. The reality is for most agencies today, onboarding more than, I’m going to be generous, a half a dozen good size clients in a year would cripple their agencies. So they don’t need 20,000 new clients, but they have to start with a big number of that cloned prospect to get to three or four clients who are ready to sign on the dotted line and give them money because the agency sales cycle is so long.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Fair point. And for the agency clients that we have in particular, who are using both of our tools to sell, you have to think about it. This is a broad strokes comment. There’s folks listening here who are going to be from large global agencies and work with Fortune 100 clients. And there might be folks listening who, it’s a five person agency and they’re focused on digital and SEO and that. You’ve got to think about, even after you find these people and you start to reach out to them, how do you make your message stand apart?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Right. So starting with that point of looking at your existing clients. When you start that outreach and start to talk to folks, you can use that. You’re creative people by default, right? If you’re working at an agency, I’m going to skew towards believing that you were fundamentally more creative than the average bear, right?

Drew McLellan:

You certainly understand messaging, right? Absolutely.

Ryan O’Donnell:

And you understand the power of persuasive copy, right? And psychological motivators, right? Those are strengths that should be used to your advantage, right? So when you’re actually writing your email because you figured out your target prospect segment and you’re able to find people who look like your existing clients, you can then play off of psychological motivators like fear, like competition, right? You can reference the fact that you’re working with companies like their competitors, and you can set yourself apart from the 15 emails I get every day that most of them get automatically routed into my spam or promotions folder because they’re coming from some random Gmail account offering me first page ranking on Google and SEO services and this and that.

So you’re competing with a lot of noise out there if you are a digital agency. And I’m using that as example here, right? But you can play to your strengths where some of these more generic offers that they’re coming from bucket shops, right? They’re coming from companies who do this as a factory, not necessarily taking your approach, which might be more of a hands-on relationship, get into the company and then extend out, helping them build out marketing related activities across multiple channels, right? So play to your advantage.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. So I know one of the things where you have a depth of expertise is speeding up the process. And for a lot of agency owners, part of what makes sales so onerous to them is that it just takes so long. So talk to us a little bit about what are some of the tactics or tricks or methodologies for A, getting more consistent in sales, because I think that’s part of what speeds it up, but B, what are some things to do that can escalate the process as best it can be escalated? Part of it is, just that’s the reality of the buying cycle.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Right. So depending on how many much net new business you need to do to hit your numbers, right? It could be six new clients for the year that could be… Six clients could be for clients too many, depending on the complexity of the deals you’re doing.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Ryan O’Donnell:

It could be six clients a month that you need. So depending who’s listening, there’s different ways to interpret what I’m getting into here. And this is a funnel, right? And I’m sure you’ve all drawn funnels on a whiteboard in a client presentation and talking about how you’re going to go after broad and then work people through this funnel that’s going to trickle out into new business for your clients’ clients, right? So it’s that funnel. You need to have an understanding in terms of how many new prospects you need to initiate into the top of your funnel that over time are going to produce a repeatable number of qualified leads and qualified next steps, whether that’s an in-person meeting or an online demo, but you need to figure that number out. If you don’t have that number, you can start with the broad numbers. You can say, “Okay, I need to find 50 new contacts a week in my sweet spot and I need to initiate my sales process or my campaign targeting these 50 people.”

You let that bake for a couple of weeks, very experimental. So applying the scientific method, start 50 and then pay attention to what happens. Of those 50, how many shakeout into whatever your desired action is? Meeting demo so on and so forth, right? And if you don’t have enough qualified meetings coming out of it, dial it up. If you have too many and you can’t manage it, dial it back. But it’s getting to the point where you have a process in place and then you feed the beast. It’s rinse and repeat. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, you continue adding the number of new prospects to the top of your funnel that you need to produce the number of leads or demos on the backside. And I can get into the weeds here on what the pipeline looks like and what automation is.

Drew McLellan:

Well, one of the things that I know your tool works on. So a lot of people will say, “Okay, so I’ve identified the companies or I might’ve gone on LinkedIn, and I might’ve figured out who the CMO is, but how do I track them down and how do I get in front of them?” And that’s one of the things that your tool helps with, right? Is the list building and the whole idea of verifying emails, right?

Ryan O’Donnell:

Right. So, SellHack at its core, what we’ve developed over the last four years has been an algorithm, a decisioning tree, which takes at its core, an input value of a contact’s first name, last name and company, at the very least. We can take that and run that through our algorithm and produce an email address with a confidence score as to the likelihood of that email actually being correct, right? And we have a 12 step verification process. Essentially what we’re doing is… And I’m sure most of the folks who are listening here have gone out, and at some point in their lives, and probably some point in the recent future, have come across someone that they would like to contact, and they don’t know how to contact them because they’re not connected on LinkedIn, so they can’t send an InMail, they can’t see the person’s email address, but on LinkedIn, most of the emails in the contact section, you’ll get like [email protected], right?

And if you saw my personal inbox, your sales message to me is lost, right? Amongst receipts for Amazon and everything else. So you need their corporate email. If you’re going to do a business transaction and you want to reach out to someone about doing business with them, you need a corporate email. Corporate emails are not readily available on the internet, right? So you need a way to deduce them. What we found and really how we got into this is, our last couple of companies that go, “I’ve been doing startups for a while,” sales was the bottleneck, and I would spend two hours a day searching online, finding people, and then trying to get their email address and it was just such a waste of time. So we built SellHack. Its version one was email verification and that’s what we did. So if you have a name in the company, we will help to produce an email address for you in seconds.

Drew McLellan:

Seems like that would be a huge time-saver for an agency that’s building out a list, especially if they are looking at a regional, national, or international basis. And especially if they’re in a niche, right? If I’m in the construction industry, so I’m looking for CMOs of construction-related companies, they’re going to be scattered all over and pretty good-sized companies.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Sure. And you can go in and hunt for those people. You can go to their websites, you can go to industry associations, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. Also consider, I guess, pro tip number one is, there are likely conferences for these people.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Okay? Whether or not you go to the conference and present, a lot of these conferences have attendee lists, right? You get an attendee list if you do a $500 sponsorship, you’ll get a list, or you can pay six grand to get the contact info included with that. With SellHack, if you have a list, you can upload it to us and we’ll get you the contact information, right? For a lot less time and a lot less money. And so, there are a lot of different ways of getting to that same end point of you have a person, or you have a group of people, whether it’s five or 5000, and you need their contact info to make an initial outreach. That’s where SellHack comes into play.

Drew McLellan:

There’s so much more than I want to ask you. And before we get into all of that, we need to take a quick break, and then we’ll be right back. One of my favorite parts of AMI are our live workshops. I love to teach, I love to spend two days immersed in a topic with either agency leaders, agency owners, or AEs in our AE bootcamps. But most of all, I love sharing what I’ve learned from other agencies from 30 years in the business and all the best practices that we teach. If you have some interest in those workshops, they range from everything from money matters, which is all about your financial health of your agency, to best management practices of agency owners, to new business, to AE bootcamps, and a plethora of other topics. Go check out the list and the schedule at agencymanagementinstitute.com/livetraining. Okay, let’s get back to the show.

So one of the things I suspect the listeners are thinking right now is all of that fine and good, but I make a lot of sales through referrals and face-to-face meetings and all of that. Can I really sell high-end B2B services through email? And what has been your experience and what have you observed, or in your own case, done around that topic?

Ryan O’Donnell:

Right. I make a lot of money off of referrals as well, right? I love referrals. Referrals are great. But a referral to look at your business and fully rely on referrals, maybe you’re happy with that, but you’re missing an opportunity. And I’d challenge anyone listening to this, you’re likely preaching to your clients a multi-channel strategy, right? To impact your brand reach or your total conversion. And in order to do that, you need to be on social, and you need to have a content strategy, you need to be doing this and be doing that, right? So practice what you preach.

Drew McLellan:

Well, my issue with referrals, I’m like you, I love referrals, and they’re good for our business, but they also force you to work with whoever walks in the door, right? So what I want agencies to do is have a more robust new business or biz dev program so that they can evaluate the referrals based on the value they bring to the agency and also what value the agency can bring to that referral. Because every referral isn’t a good referral, isn’t a great client. And so it allows us to be more genuine in who we work with, and it allows us to only cherry pick the clients that we can really knock it out of the park for. But it’s hard to have that discipline without other businesses coming in the door through other methodologies.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Right. And in sales, one of the most effective tactics that I learned early on and still practices today. In fact, I did this this morning, right before our call. I walked away from a deal. I said, “No, we’re not a good fit,” right? “With all due respect I don’t think this relationship is going to work out. I don’t think your expectations and my ability to deliver are aligned and we respectfully need to pass,” right? So if you’re relying on referrals and you’re finding that a lot of those conversations are happening and they’re all from referrals, having an outbound strategy in place is going to help you be able to say no more often and not take on a piece of business that’s not a great fit because you have that leverage, because you’ve gone out and you’ve built up a pipeline of the best potential clients that you can work with, and you just took back control over your sales process and your ability to execute on the deal with the new client, right?

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. So given all of that is true, and I agree with you, I think it is. So these are not people who are selling stuff for a buck or 10 bucks. How does a high-end big price tag, PTB business really use email as efficiently and effectively as possible to drive sales?

Ryan O’Donnell:

So email is one channel, and I’ll tangent and then answer your question as I go through this. So the most effective sellers that we see… So SellHack is used for building prospect lists and getting contact information. We have another platform that we run called Replyify, R-E-P-L-Y-I-F-Y.com. Replyify is cold email automation, right? That’s how we describe it. I’m sure you’ve all used tools like MailChimp, for example, to send out your newsletters, or your client’s newsletters, or tee up a campaign. Those systems in particular are built for… MailChimp wants to work with United Airlines to send out their weekly last minute deals newsletter. They don’t necessarily want your 15 cold emails to people who’ve never heard from you, right? And I won’t go into the weeds on why, but it’s explicit in their terms of service, they block that.

So we built Replyify specifically for sending out cold email campaigns, and very much the same way that you would structure a marketing automation campaign, right? You’re going to pre-write your templates and you’re going to use custom inserts or variables to be able to customize those templates. Hi, first name, saw you worked at company name. I work with clients like competitor one, competitor two, competitor three, right? The system just fills in all this information based on the data that you feed it, and then we send out email one on day one, and then you might schedule your campaign to say, “Okay, wait two days, and then send out email two to anyone who hasn’t replied email one. Wait five days, send out email three to anyone who hasn’t replied to email one or two,” right? And just keep following the sequence that you create.

What we’ve built into that, and coming back directly to your question, you could rely on email. And in the next couple of minutes, we’ll talk about effective emails and effective communication via email. But email is one channel. The most effective people that we see… Within our tool, when you create a campaign, you can schedule non-email related task at specific time intervals, right? So you can say, on day five, give me a reminder to engage with the person on Twitter, right? Or set a customer reminder on day 21 if I haven’t heard back from them to send them something. You work at an agency, get creative, right? Send a little [crosstalk 00:23:09]-

Drew McLellan:

So in other words, Replyify will allow me to build out an entire sales process, not just [pen 00:23:17] emails?

Ryan O’Donnell:

Yes. With Replyify, you are replicating your sales pipeline. And if you’re sitting here and you’re wondering what a sales pipeline is, or you just don’t have one, you rely on writing emails one at a time and then putting a reminder in your calendar to follow up with the person five days from now, if they haven’t replied apply, Replyify is going to schedule your emails, but then you fold in… It’s flexible. You fold in whatever your other sales related activities are, whether it’s a phone call or [inaudible 00:23:51] a social selling activity, sending a postcard or a box of chocolates, dropping by the office, you can create your campaign however you want. With the fundamental purpose of what we built, there’s an automation component, right?

But then, one of the biggest challenges that folks who sell have, and no one wants to admit it, especially to our bosses that we forget to follow up [crosstalk 00:24:18] too often and we drop the ball, and we let deals go cold, and then when we finally remember to follow up with it, right? We’re either too embarrassed that the person didn’t respond to our first email and we don’t want to expose ourselves to potential rejection that we send one email, then back into a corner and move on and forget about it. Or we let a deal go cold and we’re embarrassed that we didn’t follow up with a person two months tap into me, right?

Drew McLellan:

So we assume there’s been too much time. So we let it go. Yeah. I just read a study and I think these statistics have held true for many years that basically somebody is about ready to buy after the eighth or ninth touch point and most salespeople stop after three or four. So again, if you don’t have a system, or a process, or a tool like this, to keep reminding you to keep staying in touch, there’s a lot of deals that you’re halfway down the road with that you drop the ball.

Ryan O’Donnell:

Exactly. And if you’re using a CRM or relying on… in my opinion, I think CRMs can be valuable for organizations especially because it instills a process, but I see way too many companies where the CRM is basically designed for the sales manager or the VP of sales to keep tabs on their team and to be able to report up the chain for the board, for the president, on numbers for forecasting, right? They’re not necessarily built to help a sales person just do their job, right? And their job is to continue to follow up until the person says, no, right? Or until you’ve communicated your message to them and not drop the ball, right?

Not forget to do an activity because you’re lazy, or you forgot, or you had to take the kids to the dentist and life gets in the way of our sales too often, right? So we built a system specifically to help, whether you’re in B2B software sales, or if you’re in business development at your agency, or you own an agency and you just need some more clients, we built the flexible system to help keep you on track, keep the deals moving forward, automate what we can and remind you when it’s time to do something. And then it’s on you to actually do it.

Drew McLellan:

So on the B2B side, I’m sure you’ve seen some colossal mistakes and some great successes. So what are some best practices for email in terms of, “I’m selling a big ticket B2B item,” or service, or an ongoing relationship? What are some best practices for using the tool effectively? I think we got to one, which is, obviously, it’s not just email, it’s got to be a multimedia and some of those are analog and some of those are digital, what are some effective ways you’ve seen people use email to open the door?

Ryan O’Donnell:

So I’m biased because I’ve ingrained some of these tactics into my everyday, right? But pay attention to your inbox. What got you to open an email from a random person? Right? I have a Google spreadsheet that is… I think there’s like 350 subject lines in there, right? Anytime I open an email or I like a subject… And then I think I opened the email because I liked the subject line, right? It peaked my curiosity, got my attention. I make a note of it, right? I’ll borrow it or refer to it in the future if it fits into a campaign of mine. So pay attention to what gets you to respond, right? And then once you actually open the email, pay attention to the emails that you’re deleting right away, or the emails that you’re actually reading and potentially taking action on.

And what you’ll start to see and what I bet you’ll start to see is that the emails that you’re taking action on are short, right? Are three to five sentences and have an… I don’t care if you’re selling a $10 million software installation, or you’re pitching for a big line of business, right? From a consumer goods company. You’re going to take over their multi-billion dollar business, when you’re reaching out via email, there needs to be a really simple call to action, right? So three to five sentences, short and sweet with a low risk for the recipient of low-risk call to action, right? Everyone here listening knows what a call to action is, right? You tell your clients all the time about it, right? So don’t ask for something that’s going to require commitment greater than what the prospect is likely to say, “Okay,” right? “I can commit to that,” right? Don’t tell them to sign up for a year.

Drew McLellan:

You mean that I shouldn’t tell you that I’m going to call you on Tuesday to schedule an appointment to come and see you?

Ryan O’Donnell:

You could say that. You can say that but there are different ways of saying that, right? So one example. So when I do cold emails and I dog food my own tech, which means I’m in the weeds every day, building lists and dropping people in the campaigns, targeted prospects, targeted campaigns, I’ll typically… It’s a mix of give and take, right? So in a campaign, let’s say I have 10 emails scheduled to go out over 60 days, right? There’s a mix of give and take in there. So I’m going to give some things to you, and I’m going to take some things from you, and taking is a request for your time, giving is, I’m going to share with you something interesting. I’m going to share a white paper, I’m going to share an example of some work we did.

I mean, I’m going to give you some things, I’m going to take some things. Those things I take are going to be a request for your time or a meeting. So I might sign an email off. Again, really simple call to action. Here’s one example email. “Hey Bill. I was doing some research online and your name came up as someone similar to one of my existing clients Bob Fritz,” or, “I found you through Bob Fritz,” for example, okay? And I write in there like, “We work with companies like X and Y and Z too,” and then your value propositio