My days are ruled by a lot of things:
Meetings with my marketers. Meetings with sales. Meetings with our senior leadership team. Webinars. Pipeline. Forecasting. Reporting. Ensuring my kids don’t burn the house down. And, of course, MarTech.
MarTech rules my world.
That means every morning and all day long my email inbox is filled with sales reps trying to sell me some new piece of software.
90% of those emails go straight in the trash. 10% are opened. Then most of those get deleted.
But then there’s the rare few…The 1% that catches my eye and may even provoke a response.
Hey there, it’s Kate ?
I run demand generation here at Drift.
And I’m here to talk about two things: why 99% of cold emails to demand generation leaders fail and what it takes to be the 1% that don’t.
But, before that, you need to answer one thing: What keeps people like me up at night?
Now, repeat after me: Generating ? Leads ? Is ? Not ? Enough.
Even generating “high-quality” leads is not enough.
Leads don’t magically turn into pipeline. And pipeline doesn’t automatically equal closed business.
As the VP of Demand Generation, I’m a frequent target persona for a lot of businesses. But my title doesn’t encompass about 50% of the things I deal with every day. A large percentage of salespeople who reach out to me only focus on one part of that story. They oversimplify the problem, and then offer little more than a bandaid to stop the bleeding.
When doing cold outreach, persona research is everything. To help, I’ve laid out all the things that keep me up at night:
- Will I hit my pipeline target?
- Can I create quick wins to get me to our numbers faster?
- Am I effectively measuring across various channels and programs, identifying intent, analyzing the buyer journey, scoring leads?
- Are our campaigns impacting the sales process in a meaningful way?
- Are we generating ICP leads within our target accounts?
Oversimplifying my work isn’t the only problem I have with a lot of today’s sales outreach. The other issue is that they oversimplify me. They use a generic – borderline robotic – approach to outreach. They treat me less like a person, and more like a ✅ in their sales process.
So, here’s the inside scoop: Below I’ve laid out the dos and don’ts of nailing outreach with a VP of demand generation like me. But these also apply to a lot of other high-level personas, so keep reading ?
Don’t: Ask Me To Get On A Discovery Call
I hate discovery calls. Yes, hate.
For two reasons:
- They’re full of sales jargon: You wouldn’t call me an “MQL” in an email, so why use another internal term in your sales process to describe a very simple concept: having a conversation with me. Using this language is a red flag that I’m interacting with an inexperienced rep, and that I’d need to give a lot more than I’d get from taking the call.
- Generic discovery calls suck: Below is a quote from Medallia’s CMO Sophie Chesters. It hits the nail on the head: Generic discovery calls are a waste of my time. They require me to sit through a history lesson of the potential vendor and then offer up all of the research they should be doing themselves. It’s lazy selling.
“A bad sales experience is a one-hour meeting where I learn about their company and they ask me to share my problems. I simply do not do that. They need to do their research, not ask me to do it…I just want to know how it’s going to work for me. Salespeople that know my business and my problem and can clearly articulate how they’ll solve it with an example of someone in a similar position who has had success with the solution, will often win.”
Do: Ask Questions
Questions are okay! I encourage all of our BDRs to have some type of question in almost every email they send.
Because questions provoke a response. And what is a response? It’s the start of a conversation. Even if you’re not looking for extra information, asking a question means you might get a reply.
Here’s an example of a perfect sign-off from our account rep Haylee:
There’s a lot to love about this email, but the sign off is what stands out to me. “Can I share a mockup of Drift on your website?”
Even if you don’t have a similar model to Drift, this is great. Here’s everything that’s working for me:
- She customized & made it personal
She took the time to research and identify a possible pain point I’m experiencing. More than this, she included a video of her face. I got to know that Haylee is indeed a person, that cares about who I am as a person. More human, less feeling like a lead in a database…At Drift, reps like Haylee have seen a TON of success by incorporating video, GIFs and other personal elements in their emails. When I reached out to her to see just how big a difference, I was floored:
- She offers instant value
Haylee ultimately makes a promise at the end of this email: If you reply, I’d love to show you exactly what I did here and exactly how I’ll do it for you. That’s value right there. Sign me up.
Don’t: Sell My Problem Short
Occasionally, I’ll share emails I get from reps with our sales team here at Drift. Some are examples that I really like, but others are prefaced with a “DON’T DO THIS” message.
In a recent email I shared, a rep started out strong (Note: I’m not interested in shaming anyone, so I won’t share any key details from the email.):
Need More Leads and Pipeline?
We generate leads inexpensively and quickly for tech companies like X, Y, Z.
Right now we have a special promotion….
If you’re interested, let’s jump on a discovery call…As a thank you for your time, you’ll receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card, or I’ll donate to charity of your choice.”
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
The first line they used was “Need more Leads & Pipeline?”
You’ve got my attention. Because, yeah, those things are great.
But the email misses the mark after that. Earlier I mentioned how a lot of cold outreach will oversimplify my problems. The rep doesn’t show enough value after the initial question.
They try to compensate by name-dropping a few tech companies, but none of them are similar to Drift. They also don’t mention a single result for the companies they DO mention. How many more ICP leads did you generate for these companies? How did that impact conversions?
Basically, they sell my problems, my role, and my time short. If they had added one more personalized layer here, even 1 to 2 sentences along the lines of “Kate, I see that right now you’re using PPC and organic growth to generate leads. What if I told you…” – that would have made a difference.
Do: Personalize. Personalize. Personalize.
About 75% of the emails I receive don’t personalize anything outside of a name token.
But the higher in title you go, the more important a personalized touch becomes. It’s all about breaking through the noise!
Without personalization, you’ll rarely get the attention of someone like me.
And I’m not saying you need to throw away your templates. But I think templates have made selling a bit lazy. Instead, use templates to scale your outreach, but leave room to customize and personalize them to the individual. You’ll get a lot more out of 20 highly-customized templates vs. 50 generic email sends.
Before you say “Well Kate, that just isn’t scalable”: Stop ?
You know your value prop, and you know the problem you’re solving for. Why not use those as your templates?
The below email is another great one from the Drift team:
Here’s what’s working:
- Haylee clearly did her research and identified a possible pain point
- She used the present tense
- She asked questions, provided value and offered links to relevant case studies
- And she only customized with a screenshot, a name token, and the company’s name
You can’t tell me that having your BDRs spend 20 more minutes a day creating more personalized templates isn’t worth booking 2x more meetings per month. It’s a no-brainer.
Don’t: Go Over One Of My Marketers Heads To Get To Me
As a VP, I have a great team to scale our demand generation efforts. So, they also get their fair share of cold outreach emails. Maybe even duplicate outreach.
This is more commonplace with the dawn of account-based marketing. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen cold outreach via ABM backfire in a big way. And it has nothing to do with ABM itself, and everything to do with the person driving behind the wheel.
I trust my team to do their vendor research. If they find that it isn’t a good fit, and communicate this clearly to the vendor, I expect case-closed.
But some companies forget that there are people – not personas – behind target accounts. And people on the same team tend to talk to each other.
Nothing angers me more than when I have someone go around me or go around my team after a clear “NO.” That’s not what ABM is about. ABM is about bringing in the key decision-makers early with personalized and targeted messaging.
So what’s the right way to bring more people into the discussion?
There are a few. But I really like Kahlil’s approach here ?
Kahlil did his research and introduces a major pain point Drift can help with. He then gives Nate the opportunity to “be the champion.” This is so good on a number of levels:
- Nate is the hero of the story: Not Drift, Nate. How can Nate help his team generate more meetings? What has his team already discussed and what else can he bring to the table?
- It shows Drift as more than a vendor: We don’t want our customers to think of us as another vendor. We want them to think of us as a partner. Here, Kahlil doesn’t say that “Drift is the solution.” Instead, he says “Nate has the solution.” And we’re offering to help brainstorm how to take his solution and put it into action.
I’m the first to acknowledge that wires get crossed during outreach. But as long as you make a conscious effort to treat people like people – not leads – I guarantee you’ll see better results.
So, What’s Next?
If you want to break through the noise at the VP level, you need to put in the legwork:
- Show me that you’ve done the work to understand me, my pain, and the tactics to help solve them.
- Make me the hero ? Show me how your solution is more than a temporary bandage. How are you making my work easier and my company more successful in the long-term?
- Ask me questions to provoke a response!
- Don’t be afraid to go off-script. LinkedIn has become a critical sales tool for outreach, especially for higher-level cold outreach. You can use the same templates, just customize for the channel.