The core responsibility of business development is to generate a pipeline of new business opportunities. For teams looking to close new customers, this work is indispensable.
As the G2 Investor Solutions team geared up to take its product to market, it simultaneously ramped up its demand generation efforts. As part of that, the team needed to develop a motion for outbound prospecting in order to generate a pipeline. As the first business development representative (BDR) to join this business unit, I was in charge of creating a process that was both scalable and repeatable.
Using an iterative approach involving numerous experiments and many lessons learned, I successfully created this process from scratch and generated a predictable pipeline for the team.
By executing targeted and structured email campaigns, I educated investor prospects on the power of G2 data, delivered content that illustrated what pain point they can solve with our tool, and explained why it was in their best interest to take a meeting. As a result, the broader landscape of investors has begun taking notice of G2 Investor Solutions and flocked to the platform in order to gain a competitive edge.
Whether it’s your first time prospecting or you’re a seasoned vet, it’s helpful to have a plan of attack. Read on to discover some best practices and proven strategies to help get you on your way.
Sourcing and prioritizing accounts
In many situations, you might find that your existing account list is incomplete or has too much noise for it to be helpful. Your account list is possibly missing key firmographic information, like employee size or recent fundraising. Or you might have to start from scratch with no account list at all.
Using the tips below, you can develop a strategy for maintaining an accurate and reliable account list.
Avenues for sourcing accounts
In order to scale a business development motion, it’s important that your list of accounts includes prospects within your ideal audience. The tips below will help you source accounts that will be receptive to your outreach and have a need for your product.
- Recurring alerts: Properly leveraging popular tools like Crunchbase and Google is foundational to creating a process. To implement these alerts, it’s necessary to first isolate a few drivers: the industry you’re targeting, employee count of prospects, last funding date, and any others that are important to your search. With this information, you can set up recurring alerts from these tools, so that you receive a fresh batch to your inbox as frequently as you like.
- Subscribing to newsletters: Regardless of what industry you’re targeting, there’s likely a newsletter tailored precisely to your area of interest. By subscribing to newsletters, you can be kept abreast of shifting market dynamics and of new entrants to the space, which will allow you to not only source new accounts but also spark ideas for content generation as part of your outreach.
Mechanisms for prioritizing accounts
Not all accounts are made equal, and different prospects will be at different stages of their buyer journey. Prioritizing accounts and delivering timely outreach will give you a significant advantage and drive higher response rates. Using the mechanisms below, you can identify accounts you should be prioritizing.
- Using current events as triggers: Typically, the more personalized the outreach is, the higher the conversation rate is. To that end, a powerful lever to pay attention to is the level of personalization (and the building blocks required to reach that level). By referencing current events and industry trends, you can prioritize accounts that recently had major announcements or significant events. This way, you can ensure that every prospect you contact will receive outreach that is tailored to them, which in turn will make your communications more impactful and improve metrics.
Including highly relevant and personalized content in the copy to catch the reader’s attention.
- Social media presence: Put simply, this technique aims to prioritize accounts based on their social media presence. Companies with active profiles across LinkedIn, Twitter, and their own blogs are typically (though not always) indicative of companies with ambitious growth plans, which may have larger budgets for their software stack.
Personalization of subject line, from an email sent to a prospect based on their Twitter activity.
Creating impactful content for outreach
Depending on the industry you’re targeting, your audience will likely resonate with distinct channels differently. As you develop your prospecting motion, it’ll be important to conduct experiments and fine-tune your approach based on your findings and the signals you’re seeing from your audience.
In this section, we’ll explore how to create content that resonates with your audience, as well as concrete steps you can take to conduct experiments and iterate on your approach.
Put yourself in the shoes of your audience for a second, and answer the following question: “Why should I even open this email, let alone finish reading it? What is this sender trying to say, and why should I give them my attention?”
By working backward from that starting point, it’s helpful to have a set of criteria that you want to check off when contacting your prospects.
Customization vs. personalization
Every email you send should be customized for the recipient. At the minimum, their name and company name should be tailored to them specifically. Beyond that, it’s also important to personalize your content and include material that allows the recipient to gain valuable insights from your email, and intrigues them enough to request more information.
Above all, a lynchpin of a successful email campaign is relevance. Simply put, a highly personalized email will not produce any results if it’s not relevant.
Tip: Tools you can leverage to personalize your emails include LinkedIn, company website, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
Subject line best practices
Avoid emojis, capital letters, and 4+ word lines. Instead, incorporate all lowercase letters, a neutral tone, and be relevant but vague. In sum, the subject line should help your recipient answer the question, “Why should I even open this email?”
With the advent of sales intelligence tools, like Groove, Gong, and Amplemarket, comes a host of features that are conducive to optimizing your outreach efforts. Of those features, one that is especially powerful is the A/B test.
With this approach, it’s possible to test the impact of minor tweaks in your content, and evolve your material as a result. Some common experiments that were effective in my process were A/B testing for subject line length, wording and positioning of my call to action, and overall length of the email.
Pro tips for success
Regardless of whether you’re the first BDR in your team to establish this process, or whether you have cross-functional support from your marketing and enablement teams, one thing is certain: creating a prospecting motion from scratch is going to require elbow grease and creativity. These tips will help you unlock your maximum potential and do more with less.
In my case, I decided to get ahead by contacting peers across the industry to gather their suggestions. I inquired into what kind of outreach they currently receive, and what separates the good ones from the bad ones.
Furthermore, it’s important to understand your audience, so I took these opportunities to ask my contacts what pain points exactly they would most strongly like solved. I then used this research to inform my process.
After all, if you’re going after a certain audience, why not take the time to understand them?
Moreover, a central theme I anchored on throughout my journey was to not reinvent any wheels. Although I was the first person doing prospecting for this specific group, I wasn’t the first one doing prospecting as a whole. So I decided to learn from the experts and enrolled in sales courses on LinkedIn Learning and the Sales Impact Academy.
I also attended webinars hosted by thought leaders in the space (pro tip: they’re all over the internet, and often have free sessions. One of my favorites is Josh Braun.) Then, it’s pivotal to adapt the learnings to your nuanced use cases and to experiment, which will allow you to continuously evolve and improve your results.
Reach in and reach out
Building anything for the first time is difficult and comes with challenges. There will be imperfect inputs and tons of ambiguity. At times, your goalposts will be shifting and you’ll be left scrambling to adjust to new criteria.
But, by developing a strong playbook that is constantly evolving by nature and customizable by design, it will be possible to build a business development engine that is scalable and built to last.
Once you get those prospects, you want to hold onto them. Learn more about how customer retention marketing keeps your current customers happy and engaged.