EPISODE 19: SOCIAL NETWORKING & SALES DEVELOPMENT
Episode 19 Transcript
Greyson: Hello and welcome to The SDRealness Podcast brought to you by Sales Development Revolution, where we talk with practitioners about important topics in the space.
I’m Greyson Fullbright and here with me is my co-host, Alex Ellison.
Alex: Morning Greyson.
Greyson: This season’s theme for the podcast is “See Action, Take Action”, where we’re diving into topics in sales development to try to learn specific tactics from experts who do it every day.
And today, we’re going to be focused on using social media like LinkedIn to grow your network and generate more opportunities for yourself as a frontline rep. Joining us is Thyagi DeLanerolle, who leads business development at Greenlight Consulting and is the author of the book Sales Rise: Upskilling for Beginner Sales. Thank you so much for hopping on with us, Thyagi.
Thyagi: Thanks so much, Greyson and Alex!
Alex: Of course. So Thyagi to kick things off, I really want to dive into what separates the good from the bad when it comes to using social to influence sales.
What are some – you know I’ll sort of let you run with it since you’re the expert here -but what are some of maybe best practices you’re seeing where people are taking advantage of the sort of space that LinkedIn gives them?
And what are some people doing that you’re seeing that maybe falls flat, maybe doesn’t work as well as they think that it is?
Thyagi: Yeah! That’s a really good question. I think… I mean really, what I’m noticing in terms of trends overall in marketing as well as even outreach from a LinkedIn standpoint is the theme around authenticity. I think it’s really important to be authentic and to be yourself.
Obviously, being polite helps, right? I’m a big believer in politeness and respect of people’s time. So in saying that, when I say authentic, I mean really trying to understand who the person that you’re reaching out to.
So what’s interest, like what’s their interest, right? In terms of what’s their particular role. So look at their specific roles, understand what their trigger points are because oftentimes they’ll actually indicate that in their description, in their job descriptions and in their actual overview description. So pick out keywords that you can reference in an intro that will help you kind of build some level of connection with that individual.
I think authenticity also comes down to connection. Like how can you connect, especially when it’s a cold kind of intro? So all those things kind of play into building relationships, even online on LinkedIn.
Alex: Yeah and I think authenticity is… It’s something we’ve talked about before at SD revolution, but it really is the I guess the secret to making it a good piece of personalized or relevant outreaches.
At the end of the day, a lot of prospects out there are going to say, “Oh it’s a sales email. Oh it’s a LinkedIn message from a salesperson. I’ll just ignore it,” and they don’t read it.
Because they can already tell, like from the first sentence like “Oh you’re trying to pitch me something here.”
Thyagi: Yeah, absolutely! One thing that I’m actually going to point out, Alex, because you’re bringing up some really good points. The other thing that I have been extremely vigilant about is keeping my messaging to almost two lines. Two, tops three lines.
I keep it so tight that it almost doesn’t seem like a sales pitch at all, right? Because it’s super crafted and tight. It’s very specific to them, so their role. I will actually say that I’m reaching out specifically to… If they’re, let’s say a Chief Financial Officer, I’ll say I’m reaching out to Chief Financial Officers.
So it’s very specific to their roles and I’ll indicate why I’m reaching out very quickly, very succinctly, and then I just say things like, “I hope to connect.” That’s it! Very polite, very tight.
So that I think because I keep the messaging so short and very specific and relevant, it makes people want to say, “Okay! All right, no problem. Let’s talk!”
Alex: Yes, I like that a lot. And before we move on and sort of dive into your process a little bit, what about the other side of things? What are some obviously practices that you’re not doing, but some of those bad practices that you see out there that maybe most SDRs out there should try and avoid when they’re getting used to using LinkedIn as a prospecting tool?
Thyagi: Yeah. Well, I can tell you even from my own experience, right? I don’t necessarily need to point out other people because I’m not watching over anyone’s shoulders! I really don’t know sometimes what other people do, but I know what I have done as an early-stage outreach individual, like an SDR.
And I remember I used to send out these long emails. Like they were… And they weren’t long, they were just like several bullets, and like this, this and this. It looked like I was trying so hard, right? And therefore, I didn’t get the type of response rate that I am experiencing now.
Now that I’m a little bit older, and certainly I’ve had an opportunity to A/B test. I’m a big believer in A/B testing all my work. So I literally test out different types of messaging. I have this… I use Google Docs, right? And literally, anytime I use a different type of phrasing, I’ll just copy and paste it into that and I’ll kind of A/B test back and forth between different styles. And I can see, I can like actually see how executives are responding, right?
And so I’ve now started to really perfect it. In my current role, for example, at Greenlight Consulting, I have entered into a brand new industry. So for the last 15 years, I have traditionally been in the telecom space and solution selling space, and now I’m in robotic process automation. Completely different!
And it’s more of a software sale and I’m working with vendors and partners. It’s a lot more complicated sales process typically. But that all being said, what I’m noticing is it’s really important to keep your messaging tight.
Understand what industry you’re targeting, learn the industry, and reach out effectively.
Greyson: Yeah, I completely agree and I think this really boils down to what I… and I heard from Morgan J Ingram call “tactical empathy”, which is the ability really to understand that the people you’re talking to are human beings.
You might be able to break it down by persona. You might be able to do a lot of research on the company, but you need to be able to understand and empathize with them and in their situation.
And I think you brought a lot of insights from your perspective as someone who deals with more enterprise-level sales, where it’s more complicated, the executives are definitely different and interact differently with a seller than perhaps an owner of a small business.
And so I think that’s really important to call out. In order to be authentic, you must have your eyes and your ears open and be aware of what the other person is feeling, what their life is like, and be able to have that empathy at least to get the conversation going. You don’t always have to overdo empathy, but you need it at the beginning to really understand how best to reach out to somebody.
I really love that.
Thyagi: You bring up some really good points and I think we got to call out the elephant in the room, right? Which is COVID, right? We’re in the middle of a pandemic here! I know this is going to live on YouTube and other mediums. But right now, we’re dealing with the pandemic and executives oftentimes are dealing with different stressors than they’ve ever been dealing with.
It’s also important for you to do literally two minutes of Google research. Like it doesn’t take that much, right? I literally go on to Google, I type in the company name, I maybe might say annual report because that’s a helpful area, right? And you can see what their priorities are from a company corporate objective standpoint.
I typically even will pull in certain phrases from the report to pull it into an intro, because that shows a level of commitment that this is not just some spam piece of marketing literature, right? That’s coming at you. You’re a real person. You genuinely care to assist in their goals and you’re only here to serve, right? You’re here to understand, and you’re here to serve.
So I think when it comes across like that, most executives they’re very receptive to that.
Greyson: Yeah, exactly. And I think one thing that you have in terms of experience that is unique compared to most sellers is the experience going both into enterprise deals and more kind of like SMB or mid-market deals. And I think you have a broad, kind of like… or sorry, a broad breadth of experience, if that’s the right phrase, in terms of empathizing with different people.
And so I kind of wanted to get into the process part of this interview and really get your thoughts on if an SDR was wanting to start using LinkedIn today, let’s say they already have a list, they already have their targets ready, what does that journey look like on LinkedIn?
Because we all know you’re not guaranteed to get a response on the first touch. Sometimes people it takes multiple touches. So what does that journey look like from your end?
Thyagi: So this is actually something that’s very near and dear to my heart because I really believe that LinkedIn is a fantastic platform. It’s growing leaps and bounds and it’s just continuing to proliferate throughout business. It’s a fantastic medium.
That all being said, I remember when – back in 2008 when I actually joined LinkedIn – I knew it was going to be an important platform, so I started to cultivate my digital brand on that platform.
So the very first thing that I would impart to an SDR that’s kind of starting off in their career is to take time to invest in your brand. So your brand consists of multiple ways. It could be your style of doing things. It could also be, of course, your digital brand, that’s your digital signature on LinkedIn.
And think of it this way, you would take time to build out a resume, right? You would take time to look good for an interview. You’d put on a suit maybe or you’d put on something nice, make sure you’re well prepared. So why wouldn’t you do that also on LinkedIn?
So number one, I would say, is take time to make sure that all the different relevant sections within LinkedIn are filled out. Similar to how a resume would look, you would need to do the same type of exercise on the LinkedIn platform.
The other thing that I would suggest is… So there’s big things like in terms of connection. So even as an SDR, I remember back 10, 15 years ago when I was first starting off, I still had a network. I had people that I was connected to, whether it was professors or whether it was other students or whether it was people that I worked with.
So your immediate boss, they have their own network that they’re connected to. Just by you connecting to them, you now have a second-degree connection to their network, right? So it’s extremely important as you’re starting off to – number one make sure you look good on LinkedIn – Number two, you got to make sure you have as many connections as possible. So every time you meet with someone, connect with them on LinkedIn because then you’re increasing your second-degree connections.
And then third, which I think so many people miss out on, is I have been so vigilant when it comes to recommendations. So any time I interact with clients, anytime I do a great job – which I strive to do each and every time – I make sure after my interaction, let’s say it’s six months after, right? They’ve gotten it installed, they’re all happy, everyone’s happy!
I just politely say to them, “Hey I’m so happy that you had a great experience. Would you mind taking two minutes to write me a LinkedIn recommendation? I’m going to send that request across on LinkedIn,” and more often than not, they’re so happy to do so, right?
So I think that those three key things… That will ultimately help you elevate your brand on LinkedIn so when you are doing cold outreach and people are checking out your profile, you’re coming across as a more credible individual.
Alex: Yeah. And I really like that… I mean, all three points were super important, and all that, but the third one, I think, is a really interesting step that a lot of reps I don’t think are taking.
And it does a couple of things, right? First, it extends that relationship beyond just the sale, right? So you connected with them on LinkedIn, you sold the whole song and dance, and then what happens next? You still have this connection, you’re still connected to their network. So why not take advantage of it?
And recommendations, I think, is an awesome way to take advantage of it, because it’s still great for you, right? It helps your first point. It helps your page look better. And it continues that relationship with that person should they go to another company, should they need an upsell or referral, really like any of those things.
So I don’t know, that’s a great piece of advice that I’m probably going to just start implementing.
Thyagi: Let me throw in a little kicker! And I’m not going to mention the individual’s name, but I sold an individual a very large co-location deal. This was like almost ten years ago, okay? He was so kind to provide me with a nice recommendation.
Now, today, literally a few days ago, I happened to notice that he had a second-tier connection to a VP in SpaceX. I’m trying to get to that account, so if anyone knows anyone at SpaceX… No I’m just joking! So what I’m getting at is literally ten years later, I’m reaching out to the individual who gave me the recommendation, who took the time to say those kind words about me.
And I said, “Hey would you mind helping me with an intro into this individual?” And it’s like you’ve earned it a little bit, right? Like you obviously did a good job – and this was like I said ten years ago, he might be retired, we’ll see – but I did!
So in life, you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? I’m a big believer in that. Go and ask, what’s the worst that can happen, right? Someone says no? It’s fine. You got to ask.
Greyson: Yeah. I think that’s a really good foundation. Because also like recommendations just I think improve win rates overall. You’re helping out your AE if you’re an SDR. You’re helping out your company if you’re involved in closing the deal. Because most of the time, buyers not only go to you and your profile to look at you and figure out what you’re about, but they’re also on a little discovery to figure out what your brand’s about and what you are about.
And if you have customers that are providing recommendations and are willing to talk about you in a great light, that automatically builds rapport and authority and makes them know like “Okay, like this isn’t just some annoying salesperson trying to nitpick at my time. They’ve actually provided good experiences and they have the recommendations to back it up,” so I really love that.
Thyagi: Yes. I would encourage you take a look at my LinkedIn profile. You’ll see Executive Vice Presidents, you’ll see Vice Presidents, you’ll see Presidents of organizations that have commented. You’ll see heads of sales that I’ve worked for that have commented on my performance. And it’s… colleagues.
It’s a smattering of all sorts of different individuals, right? And to your point, Greyson, that’s exactly it. Shows that I’m a real human being, I’m trying to do good work, and I’m trying to make a difference.
Alex: I just looked it up. You have received 31 recommendations on your page, which I probably have two, I’m thinking, and that’s probably above average, so…
Thyagi: Well, I’ve lived a little bit longer than you, so that’s probably why.
Alex: But yeah, I mean that just sort of proves a point and puts a little example on here. That yeah, it’s easy enough to get there. Like you give one that you take too, right? I assume you’ve written some recommendations for these people.
Thyagi: Oh yeah, I’m a big believer in my book, right? Sales Rise. I talk a lot about gratitude. Like I’m a huge believer in showing gratitude to the team because none of the deals that I’ve closed I have ever been done by myself, right? It’s always part of a team effort.
There’s always team involved, whether it’s pre-sales engineering, implementation folks, project management. So many different components go into making for a happy customer. And I’m a big believer if you give gratitude, somehow it’s reciprocated back in many ways.
Greyson: Right! So I do want to get deeper into the process and you mentioned a little bit about kind of the initial message of really keeping it tight, using tactical empathy to really focus on the best way to start that conversation.
But I want to dive into what you do after. So what does your cadence look like when you’re trying to get someone’s attention, you’re in an industry now where not only is it complicated, but I imagine the sales cycles are long, so not everyone wants to pay attention to you at all times.
So what does it look like when you’re trying to follow up and not only stay in touch but be relevant and kind of like on the radar as you go through that journey?
Thyagi: Yeah, that’s a really good point. So one thing that I like to do is… So I scoured YouTube because, you know, I like to figure out what type of things that I can leverage. And one thing that I’ve really started to leverage is videos.
So specific videos. And not some marketing – sorry to say – like marketing-type videos that are two or three minutes in length, but I ended up finding a video that’s a little bit lengthy. It’s close to 20 minutes in length. But the first 10 minutes of the video is of an individual that’s speaking at a conference. He comes across extremely credible and he speaks about what robotic process automation is and he kind of gets into the meat of things in terms of the actual ROI associated with leveraging this type of platform.
And he explains it in a very business tactical way. So I ended up finding this video after several days of research and I use this as part of my helping clients understand and close the gap very quickly in terms of their knowledge base and why they should entertain a conversation.
So this type of tactic has worked out extremely well for me. So I would encourage anyone that’s looking to do similar forms of outreach, if they are able to hook somebody and get them at least connecting with them, as a second piece of collateral, leverage some from a video.
Because I feel like most people, their attention span is very low, including executives, including anyone really like for that matter. We’re all being bombarded all the time with all sorts of things. So the video was really key for me.
So just to give you a heads up, since I started which was about four and a half months ago, I have 24 deals in the hopper, right? Resulting in 1.2 million dollars approximately. It’s actually probably higher in funnel right now. And I’m about to close some deals.
So what I’m getting at is this type of strategy that I’m deploying, it’s working in a net new industry. So I don’t have contacts in this industry. I haven’t been a veteran in this industry. This is a brand spanking new industry and I’m leveraging this type A/B testing and these types of mediums to be able to see, “Okay, what’s working?”
So typically, I’ll do a second outreach maybe about a week after I’ve reached out initially, or even, I mean, it could be a couple of days after. I tend to wait a week. I’ll do a second follow-up to see if I can get them to book a meeting. And even my second outreach is very short. It’s literally two or three lines, at the most three lines. And it’ll give the video. Typically what I’ve noticed is they’ll watch the video and then they’ll be like, “Okay, let’s talk.” So that’s working out well.
So I’ll do about three outreaches. If someone doesn’t connect with me, if they don’t connect with me at all and I really want to get in front of them, I will use other avenues, right? Sales Navigator. So I have a subscription to Sales Navigator, where I’m allowed to get so many InMails a month.
So I’ll use in mail as my last resort. I tend to like to do initial outreach on LinkedIn as just a connection. Like I said, I try to make it relevant so it doesn’t come out completely cold and impersonal and then go from there.
So I hope that that explains some of my how I go about doing things. It’s working.
Alex: Yeah and it also points to the authenticity that we talked about earlier, where this video that you’re sending them, it wasn’t created by you or your company, right? It just exists on YouTube.
So it really is a piece of like thought leadership that has… The only pitch that you’re sending them is those two sentences right after and right before, right? And so then they’re like “Oh this person cares about my time, they sent me something. Oh look, I really appreciate that they sent this to me, I didn’t know something in here.”
Thyagi: Yes! And obviously like I would strongly encourage anyone if they’re in an SDR role and they’re specifically targeting a particular vertical, right? Most times, most companies will have some form of use cases or something that’s relevant to a specific industry.
I would say have that collateral on-hand so that you can also share that collateral easily via LinkedIn. The thing that I love about LinkedIn is unlike email, where you’re not supposed to click on links because you shouldn’t click on links, right? Any old link, even if it says YouTube. You shouldn’t download information because you don’t know what’s going on with email.
On LinkedIn, for some reason, all of that type of stigma, it kind of falls by the wayside. So that’s why I think it’s a little bit more, well, not a little bit, a lot more effective.
Alex: Yeah, that’s interesting. That makes sense though, makes sense to me I guess. I don’t know! Before we wrap up Thyagi, obviously, you’ve given the audience a ton of tips to take and run with from here on.
But do you have any sort of last tips maybe we didn’t touch on or actionable advice or sort of best practices that an SDR could take away from listening to this podcast and start implementing today to get better at social touches?
Thyagi: Yeah. I mean the one other thing that I’m starting to notice is – and I’ve seen this being deployed by other software and service companies – if there is an opportunity for an organization that you work for to do some kind of event, which is a virtual event or something where it’s a little bit meaningful, I find that in your outreach efforts, if you’re not trying to do a hard sales pitch like a hard like, “I want to meet with you for an hour of your time,” but instead, you’re saying something like, “This is an industry event specific to folks like yourself.”
So say, for example, you’re targeting CIOs, right? They’re information officers, they’re folks that are in IT, they have specific technology requirements. If it’s very targeted and vertical-specific, oftentimes if you choose an event, it seems less like in your face and it’s an opportunity for executives to mingle with each other.
Even through the pandemic, even doing a virtual event, even if it’s a Zoom webinar or something or another, right? If you can do a half an hour to an hour of that and do it fun, maybe have a prize or something, something that’ll hook somebody in, I’m finding that those type of strategies are also extremely effective.
And I guess diverting from the fact that you are in sales, you are looking to ultimately get somewhere with the conversation, but you’re doing it in a way where it’s creating value for your audience, right?
Greyson: Yeah, I completely agree. I think really social capital and content is kind of converging for salespeople, where it’s no longer just good enough to say “Hey look at all these blog posts that I’ve written or other people have written.” You actually have to get in there and say like, “Look at me as a person and look at us as a brand and see what we can offer you.”
That’s why I always tend to recommend to SDRs – especially when they’re getting started – to learn how to navigate referrals on both ends early. Because just like you said with events… With events, you’re bringing people together so that they can network, they can build their brand, they can learn, and that’s the same thing that you’re pretty much doing with referrals.
With events, you’re just doing it en mass. And so finding ways to add value while also building your social capital I think is a really important thing, especially when you’re trying to use social.
Thyagi: Yeah, absolutely. No I think that’s bang on, yeah!
Greyson: Awesome. Well, Thyagi, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about social and how to use it in a sales role. Before we wrap up, where can people find out more about Greenlight Consulting and more about your book?
Thyagi: Yes, thanks so much Greyson! So with respect to Greenlight Consulting, you can go on to www greenlightconsulting.com. We’re actually in the midst of doing a hackathon which I’m co-chairing. It’s our first-ever hackathon and it’s specifically with respect to the healthcare vertical.
So we partnered with a UHN, which is University Health Network and Sick Kid’s Hospital, to develop specific problem statements to the industry and help address those problem statements through this hackathon, which I just think it’s cool. I just wanted to say that it’s just a cool thing. I really enjoy working at Greenlight. I think it’s a fantastic organization and I’m so happy to be a part of it.
And with respect to the book Sales Rise, you can find it on Amazon. So you can just type in my name because my name’s pretty unique. Sales Rise might not come up right away, but if you type in “Thyagi” with “Sales Rise”, you’re going to find it.
Greyson: Yeah and for everybody listening, I’ll make sure to include a link to that book in the transcript. So definitely check it out, make sure to give a shout-out to Thyagi and connect with her on LinkedIn because that’s where she lives.
Greyson: Well, thank you so much, Thyagi. This has been Alex and Greyson for The SDRealness Podcast. Until next time SDRs, keep it real!