Drought-Proofing Your Prospecting Process

A Scenic Picture of Shrubbery in a Desert Environment with Mountains in the Background and Dark Clouds in the Sky

Congrats! You’ve had one, two, maybe even three fantastic quarters. Serving up qualified leads left and right for your Account Executive/Field team. Absolutely. Crushing. It.

Enjoy it. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that this string of your success is going to be short-lived. Especially if you believe that you’re going to enjoy this kind of “quota crushing” performance forever on strictly “net-new”, cold leads. You won’t. The well WILL dry up.

First, let’s back up a bit. You’re probably thinking “what does THIS guy know?….I’ve been on a HOT streak for six months!”. I’m only here for one purpose – to help you avoid the same mistakes I made as an Enterprise SDR. A bit of background on myself – I’ve spent 12 years in sales – the last six focused strictly on inside sales and sales development work. I’ve made ALL the mistakes you can possibly make.

I have been on such a hot streak in my career that I was contemplating taking the fourth quarter off (just kidding) – and been hit in the head by what I (now) affectionately call “the inevitable drought”. Through that failure – I’ve also discovered how to survive those droughts. Now, I help teams crack the code on outbound every single day! Now, for some brutal truth:

No matter how fantastically well you’ve been performing as an SDR – if you’re relying solely on your ability to convert freezing cold leads into meetings – you WILL be left with an empty pipeline eventually. You will hit a slump. A few factors play into this reality. For most – your total addressable market is only SO big. Do you really believe that your entire TAM is “ready to take a meeting” at the precise moment you’ve decided to call them or email them? That’s simply not the case. Never will be.

Success in sales development is largely based on timing as well. The brutal truth is that no matter how great of an SDR you are, for a large percentage of your TAM, it’s just not the right time to talk for a million different reasons (that you’re probably familiar with hearing at this point!). So this is the reality you have to deal with. That means you need to start planning for survival during these inevitable droughts. This is about insulating your prospecting process from seasonality, pandemics, and economic downturns.

Nothing new here – but there are other types of leads out there other than the freezing cold (or “net-new”) ones SDR’s love chasing down. In fact – the best SDR’s have a favorite type of lead. Let’s call these the “jackpot” leads. Too often, we find these jackpot leads by accident. You know the ones I’m talking about. Picture the scene. You book a meeting, pull up the lead on LinkedIn, and as you scroll down, you see it. JACKPOT! This individual worked at a client of yours six months ago and is now in a new role.

Is there a better lead in the world? Chances are they accepted your meeting because they at least recognized your company name. You’re already off to a better start than you are with a lead who has no idea who you are or what you do. Of all the different types of leads you can get the attention of, the lead that has experience with your company at a past employer is one of the best.

Here are some stats (from our top of funnel work with clients across industries) on why:

  • We’re seeing 50-75% open rates targeting these people.
  • We’re seeing 30-50% click-through rates.
  • We’re seeing 5-10X meeting rates.

So, how can YOU – the SDR – go find these “jackpot” leads instead of waiting for them to possibly come to you? There are a few different ways to do this, but let’s focus in and get tactical about how to do this on LinkedIn.

To get this going, you’ll need the following:

  • Sales Navigator license
  • Current list of companies you work with
  • Past clients you’ve had over the last 3-5 yrs

Below is a screenshot example of how to set up your SalesNav. In this example, Salesforce is an existing client and our company sells sales training software. Note- we are trying to track down anyone who has worked at Salesforce in the past (not now), that has a sales leadership title, based in the US/Canada, and currently works at a company with more than 200 employees.

You’ll set up a Sales Navigator that looks like the following:

A Screenshot of the LinkedIn Sales Navigator Lead Search Screen with Arrows Pointing Out Total Results, Past vs Current Roles, Titles to Search, People Recently Changing Jobs, and An Example of When a Person Left Their Last Company

This is a quick way to get a large set of leads to start sorting through, but stopping with this group won’t leave you with a list of jackpot leads. A few things to think about as you comb through this list, searching for the right folks to reach out to right now:

When did your customer leave? If your customer (Ex: Salesforce) left in 2001 it’s definitely not as relevant as if they left in the past couple of years. Probably not a jackpot lead.

Decide how far back to look. To avoid reaching out to company alumni from ten years ago – set parameters on how far back you want to look. I recommend going back at least three years but for some businesses, it may make sense to go back further.

Niche and nuance. Determine a smaller set of titles/roles within your ICP, then create a boolean search with all those different title variations. LinkedIn will leave some out if you aren’t specific.

What you’re left with is a list of some of the best types of leads any SDR could ask for. You can reach out to them in a more engaging way, knowing that you aren’t fighting the normal battle against complete obscurity. Building a process around finding these leads and creating specific messaging and outreach cadences for them is a MASSIVE step in surviving those inevitable droughts we all face as SDRs.

Take it from an SDR that wasn’t prepared – developing a process around hitting the “jackpot” with these leads is a must for consistent success in sales development.
If you are looking for a step-by-step guide on how to execute this on your own check out our post here.

The best part about this process and approach? You can scale the heck out of it. At OutboundView, we have a solution called PastView to help teams scale these efforts. If you need help scaling, contact us and we can discuss further.