Category: How They Sell

How Audience Ops Sells

This is the second post in our “How They Sell” series. In this series, we take a deep look at how different B2B companies perform outbound sales.

Audience Ops is a done-for-you content marketing service. It offers packages that plan, write, and send content marketing for your business. Packages include audience research, content calendars, email marketing automation, blog articles, and more. Audience Ops is run by Brian Casel, who also cohosts the Bootstrapped Web Podcast.

The Early Days

When Brian started experimenting with outbound sales, he started where most people start— his personal Gmail account. Brian’s first outbound experiment consisted of manually sending 20 canned emails to people he thought would be interested in Audience Ops. In that early experiment, Brian got a good response from one person. That person turned into a very good lead.

Over time, Brian learned and tweaked their sales process to become better and more efficient.

How They Sell Now

Here are the basic steps Audience Ops takes in their sales process:

1.) Determine the Ideal Customer Profile

According to Brian, “Audience Ops works best with B2B online software businesses”. The problem Audience Ops wants to solve is helping businesses publish more content on their blog.

The ideal customer profile consists of the following characteristics:

– Sells products to businesses

– Is online software (typically saas)

– Engages in content marketing (has a blog)

– Ideal Position is CEO or founder

Comments on The Ideal Customer Profile: This is a great customer profile. This narrows the ideal customer into a very specific industry and then gives two characteristics of the companies targeted in that industry – having a blog and being B2B.  Whether a company sells online software can be hard to determine automatically, but if you are able to put a system in place that identifies SaaS companies, you will have a highly targeted list of prospects.

2.) Find Leads

Now that we have a firm grasp on what Audience Ops looks for in a prospect, let’s take a look at how they find these people.

Brian uses a combination of Wikipedia and Capterra to find prospects. I think finding leads from Capterra can provide a lot more value than Wikipedia, so I’m going to focus on leads from Capterra in the rest of this section.

Capterra is a tool built for businesses to help find the software that will solve specific business problems. For example, if you are looking to solve a project management problem at work, you would search for “Project Management Tools” on Capterra, and it would provide you a list of project management tools.

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Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that Brian uses a virtual assistant to perform this manual section of his work. I’ll discuss various uses for virtual assistants in a future post, but I wanted to make sure you realize Brian isn’t actually doing this research himself, although he probably did when he first started.

On Capterra, there are several categories that contain companies that fit Brian’s Ideal Customer Profile. For example, if he searches “Project Management Tools” or “Customer Relationship Management”, the companies that appear would consistently be ideal targets.

Brian gives his virtual assistant of list of these categories to search for on Capterra. His virtual assistant uses these search terms to create a spreadsheet of companies that he should find leads for.

The second part of the research involves finding the right contacts at these companies. To find this data, Brian’s VA will look for the name of the CEO or founder on the company’s about page, on Crunchbase, or on LinkedIn.

At this point, the spreadsheet will contain four columns—company name, company domain name, first name of contact, and last name of contact.

They are almost ready to contact the prospects at this point, but there’s only one problem—there’s no contact information!

To solve this problem, Brian has his virtual assistant load the spreadsheet into LeadFuze. Leadfuze allows you to upload CSV files into their system, and will attempt to find the email addresses for the contacts in the spreadsheet. It usually finds about 30% of contact emails.

This is an ongoing process – not a one time researching activity. The ongoing process involves finding a couple hundred working contact email addresses every week or two so there is a continuous funnel of new prospects to reach out to.

3.) Contact Leads

Now that we have a list of prospects and email addresses, it’s time to reach out.

Brian uses QuickMail to send the emails. Quickmail offers the ability to create email sequences to send to prospects.

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He sends three emails total, with a period of three days in between each email that is sent. QuickMail ensures that, if a prospect replies to Brian’s email, the sequence won’t send any additional emails to that person. The reply email goes directly to Brian’s inbox, where he has the ability to continue the conversation is a more intimate, one on one way in order to close the sale.

QuickMail also has a feature (also used by Audience Ops) that syncs up with Google Sheets. Audience Ops has a system in place where, every day, QuickMail will grab the top ten emails from that spreadsheet, and will start the sequence. As long as this automation is on, the virtual assistant can continue filling up the spreadsheet, and QuickMail will send out ten emails every morning (this will go on indefinitely).

Brian set up a separate domain to send emails from QuickMail—this stops his actual domain as getting dinged as spam.

In his emails, Brian doesn’t ask to jump on a consultation call to sell his product. He phrases his emails as more of a question looking for a response. Many of his calls to action say something like, “Do you feel like you’re publishing enough content on your blog?”

Brian’s emails typically also say something like, “I’d love to share a few ideas for what you can do at your company that works with our clients.” The idea here is that he’s offering valuable information to prospects if they follow up with him—giving them one additional incentive to reply.

4.) The Close

Audience Ops is not cheap. the plans start at $950. There is also no ability to checkout on the website. This makes me think there is a fairly high need to convert traffic and they may or may not take credit cards.

This is How Audience Ops Sells

If you compare this post to the previous post about Boston Startups Guide, you can see this method is a little more sophisticated. There are more formal processes – they use email sequences, and they even outsource some of the more manual tasks in the sales process.

Resources Mentioned In This Post

Want your company featured? 

Send me an email (bob@curtact.com) if you want your sales process featured on the blog.

The Sales Process at Boston Startups Guide

This is the first post in our series of how companies sell. In this series, we will take a deep look at the tactics, tools, and techniques companies use in their sales process.

In this first post, we will take a look at a sales process at the simple end of the spectrum.

Jay Neely is a good friend of mine and runs Boston Startups Guide — a site for the local tech community offering resources like a directory of startups in Boston, categorized by industry, business model, and if they’re hiring.

The main revenue source for Jay’s website is the job board for Boston startups. Jay’s website gets a ton of traffic from people interested in Boston startups. Many of those people are looking at startups in the area because they are job hunting – it only made sense that Jay would attempt to monetize this website by creating a job board.

For a job board to work, you need two things: 1.) people looking for jobs and 2.) companies who pay you for job listings.

And that’s where the sales process starts. Jay needs to find startups in Boston who will pay for their openings listed on his job board.

Here is how Jay sells today.

1.) Finding an Ideal Customer Profile

Finding your ideal customer is the first part of any sales process. Part of the equation for Jay was simple – he was looking for a certain size company (“a startup”) in a certain region (“Boston”). Although this made it easy for Jay, there was still work to be done.

Jay needed to answer a few more questions in order to find his ideal customer profile. He needed to find out which startups were likely to pay to post jobs on job boards and he needed to know which people to contact at those companies.

Jay performed competitive analysis of which startups post job openings on LinkedIn. One thing he quickly noticed is that a company with many open positions is much more likely to pay LinkedIn to use their job boards. Jay used this insight to target companies with at least 5 currently open positions.

Through trial and error, Jay also found which people at a company he should contact. Jay sent emails to the people he thought he should send emails to. After sending numerous emails, Jay determined which people he should reach out to based on the replies that led to the most sales.

Jay eventually decided on a “tiered” approach. Jay has three job titles that he looks for in companies. First, he first looks for the director of recruiting. If he can’t find a director of recruiting, he looks for a head of HR. And if he couldn’t find the head of HR, he looks for the CEO.

 

2.) Finding Leads

Now that Jay knows exactly who he is looking for, it should be fairly easy for him to find companies that fit the profile.

Since Jay is on a tight budget with this project, he is not able to pay for contact lists, so he needs to find this data on his own.

The great part is that Jay’s website, BostonStartupsGuide.com already contains most of the startups in Boston. The challenge for Jay is to now find which companies are hiring at least 5 people, if they use similar job boards, and who to contact at these companies.

The resources that Jay used to find this data was LinkedIn and the company’s website (careers page specifically).

Jay manually put in the work to research how many open jobs the company currently has (from their website), if they pay for the LinkedIn job board, and who the correct person to contact is (from LinkedIn).

He compiled this data in a Google Doc.

Jay also needed to find contact information for those leads. I believe he used Rapportive to reverse engineer email addresses.

3.) Contacting Leads

This is where Jay struggled. Jay is not a salesman. If I were to categorize Jay, I would think of him as a social media consultant, an intellectual deep thinker, or a techie, but salesman is not a term I would use to describe Jay. Jay was originally put off by sending cold emails because he didn’t want to “spam anybody”. At first, Jay was sending as little as 2 emails a week – and they were only to people who he knew. Jay got a quick win and found two customers for his job board in the first few weeks – it was awesome!

It took a few conversations with Jay to get him to start sending more emails. I told Jay that if he genuinely thought he had a useful search that could help people, he was doing a service to the world by telling these companies about it.

In terms of email tracking, keeps it simple and sends emails directly from his Gmail account. He does use “Hubspot Sales Free” Chrome Extension to track email opens and clicks.

Jay uses a very personalized touch when sending email. He takes a large amount of time and care to research and craft a very personalized email each time to emails a prospect.

4.) Closing the Sale

The close isn’t particularly hard for Jay. His job board is a relatively low price point ($59, $99, $199 – not thousands or millions of dollars) and he usually gets a quick yes or no after a short email exchange.

Jay accepts payment on his website through Paypal. Usually, no additional person from the company is needed for purchase approval during this sales process.

This is how BostonStartupsGuide.com Sells

As you can see, this is not the most complex sales process. Jay doesn’t use many third party tools except for Google Docs. However, his sales process is well thought out and he does a great job targeting prospects and taking the time to craft highly personalized emails.


Commentary on Jay’s Sales Process

Let’s recap what Jay’s Ideal Customer Profile is:

-Is considered a “startup”

-Company is based on Boston

-Hiring at least 5 people currently

-Head of Recruiting > Head of HR > CEO

-Do They already pay for job boards?

This is great! Jay knows exactly who is Ideal Customer Profile is and having a narrowly defined list of what to look for should really help Jay find the prospects he needs to get in touch with.

Finding Leads

This was a tedious task for Jay, but he needs to do the leg work here up front. He needs to understand the nuances of what to look for. Over time, he may consider using a virtual assistant for this task.

I love that Jay uses his own website data. This gives him a unique competitive advantage when contacting startups. He takes time to compile his data and has data about many of these companies that other sales organizations wish they had.

Contacting Leads

I think the personal touch Jay uses to contact leads is great. Its a great quality because it forces Jay to do a lot of research for every email he sends and it allows him to spend time crafting a few quality emails at a time.

I think Jay needs to improve the quantity of emails he sends. He can still do this with the amount of time he puts into prospect research. He needs to make sending cold emails more of a priority each day.


 

Tools Jay Uses: 

LinkedIn

Hubspot for Sales (Free Edition)

Boston Startups Guide

 


 

One Final Thought 

Jay is at the very early stages of his sales journey. The tools that he uses will evolve. The amount of emails he sends will evolve. The phrases he uses in his emails will evolve. He’s still at a very manual stage.

 

Want your company featured? 

Send me an email (bob@curtact.com) if you want your sales process featured on the blog.

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