Ali Powell is a senior account executive at HubSpot. When she brings on a new customer, there’s a 99% chance that they’re going to love the software and become a huge fan of the brand. Seasoned sales exec or not, that’s a very impressive statistic.
So, what’s her secret for finding the leads that turn into the best customers?
She goes out of her way not to sell HubSpot to every prospect that crosses her path.
Yes, you read that right. Powell won’t sell to just any prospect that comes her way. And for good reason: HubSpot, like so many other successful SaaS companies, has developed a set of ideal customer profiles that give the sales team a blueprint for finding more of the right leads.
Armed with this knowledge, it simply doesn’t make sense to try to sell to accounts without the same characteristics.
This account-based approach to selling has worked so well for Powell–and HubSpot–that she teaches other members of the sales team to do the same. But in order for the approach to be successful, it’s important that sales orgs focus on early sales activities and stop trying to sell to everyone.
How to Find and Sell to the Right Prospects
If Powell’s not selling HubSpot to everyone, what does she use to find the right accounts? Data. In fact, it’s the most important tool in her sales process.
“I care about one thing, and one thing alone: Bringing on high quality customers who will be happy [with HubSpot] for a really long time,” she states.
To find those high quality customers, Powell relies on ideal customer profiles, company data, and asking the right questions to learn how–and if–HubSpot can help a prospect.
With a sales territory that covers all of Silicon Valley, data is also crucial for helping Powell find the right accounts to prospect and sell to in a sea of ever-changing start-ups. Powell’s preferred data sources include Google Alerts for as-it-happens updates and Mattermark for information that helps her find more of her best customers, like a company’s rate of growth, headcount, and financing information.
“Spend your time where it counts,” Powell advises. Look at the verticals, company sizes, and business growth stage you’ve had success with in the past and create a list of prospects to go after. These are the people your product helps and are worth your investment of time and resources.
“If you go after anyone in your database or any lead that gets rotated to you in your CRM, you might get meetings with low quality potential fits for your product. You might end up wasting your time on bad fits when you could be meeting with high quality, potentially better fits,” Powell advises.
So what does she look for?
“I look for business growth because I sell marketing software. There are certain things in the data that signal to me that a company is ready for a conversation about HubSpot,” Powell explains.
The Right Conversations at the Right Time
Once Powell has evaluated a prospect’s fit, the next step is finding the right time to reach out. This doesn’t just mean booking a meeting. It means using data to find out where a company is at in their growth trajectory, and pinging them when they’re ripe for a conversation.
“I need a reason to contact someone at a company–they raised a round, or they just hired a ton of new people,” Powell says. When you know what’s relevant to your target, it’s much easier to find a topic, start a conversation, and get a positive response.
For example, if Powell sees that a company just raised a round and has job postings for three new marketers, she knows the odds are in her favor that they’d be receptive to talking about HubSpot’s marketing platform. Sales teams can apply Powell’s approach if they take the time to research the account they’re going to work.
The 3 Rules of Prospect Engagement
If it’s time to reach out to a prospect that seems like a good fit, sales people need to observe these three rules:
- Don’t batch and blast. When it’s time to communicate with prospects, do yourself a favor and leverage the data you have access to. Segment email recipients or other outreach activities by a meaningful variable, like company size, industry, or how fast their company is growing.
- Show what you know. People are busy. They get a ton of communications about products they’ll never buy or services they’ll never use. After you’ve taken the time to research, use your findings to personalize your message with news or information that’s relevant and timely.“Tell them exactly why you’re reaching out. Tell them that you’ve spent time researching their company and explain how you can help right away,” Powell advises.
- Listen. And then listen some more. It should go without saying that conversations with prospects should be about them, not your product or service. Early stage conversations are all about earning the right to continue working a prospect–not an opportunity to hit them with a hard sell.
Improvements to Prospecting Yield High Returns
For SaaS companies, optimization to the early stage of the sales funnel–prospecting and lead qualification–have the biggest payoff because they influence key SaaS metrics like cost to acquire a customer (CAC) and payback period. That’s why Powell’s data-centric approach to prospecting makes sense. It’s also proof that when you stop trying to sell your product to everyone, your business gets exactly what it needs: more of the right prospects and customers.
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