Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Since our blog post "14 SDR Leaders You Should Be Following On LinkedIn" we've been tracking down some of those on the list for a chat and to understand what we might learn from them as successful Sales Development leaders.
Jan's living proof of the value that can be earned from social selling and he's been super successful at cultivating his own personal brand on LinkedIn. Find out how he does it and what advice he has for other sales reps in the interview transcript below, or watch the full video.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks or follow us on LinkedIn as we expand our talks to other SDR leaders.
Here's the transcript in full:
Hey Jan, super excited to have you on, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what Albacross do.
Thanks so much for having me.
I'm team lead of Albacross’s outbound team and I lead 5 to 7 people right now doing classic outbound. What we are passionate about is the whole field of intent data so, at a high level, knowing when a customer is ready to buy and helping marketing and revenue leaders with their funnel.
Selling is so challenging these days with so many things going on and so many companies to go after, I guess intent data helps people filter for the more likely people along that line.
Yeah exactly, if you listen to the Chris Walker's of this world, the industry right now is really moving away from gating content. That was interesting a couple of years ago but now people buy so much more through educating themselves at the start of their journey, and that's where we come in, we help SDR teams, and especially marketers, to know what amount of money to spend on what accounts, and the likelihood that they will bring them in.
So yeah, I like cold outreach and we use our own product ourselves because it's way nicer if you know that prospects are actually looking for a solution right now, you can actually create meaning.
One of the themes we want to touch on today is prospecting and personalization but before we come to that I think your journey has been really interesting starting a year and a half ago at Albacross as an SDR to now managing a team.
Talk to me about that journey.
Yeah you know it's pretty classic for reps nowadays to hear that nobody wants to actually be in sales before they start at sales and that was the same for me.
I got my MBA from a management school and then you think okay you should go into consulting as that's what all young people do nowadays, but I had a lot of friends in the SaaS industry and they all said give consulting a shot but don't forget to apply for a SaaS company.
So I was doing my parallel processes of consultancy and SaaS interviews when I got a job offer from Salesforce in Dublin and I went to the office and the floor was buzzing so I really fell in love with that.
But then the pandemic hit and I wasn't ready to move out there because of family and friends, and to cap things off I went to the consultancy but never started the job - I got fired directly, first in/first out, ending up with nothing!
So I just applied for an internship and started from the ground up with a low salary, low commission, low whatever. And now I'm super obsessed with learning at this stage in my career and just want to learn as much as possible.
Yeah I think many people like you often start in sales because you already have credit card debt or student loans or something!
So when you started, how often were you using LinkedIn, were you posting on it or was it kind news to you with like five connections?
Oh, I think I had just like three posts before about my graduation and one about looking for a job.
I knew that it was a platform that could be powerful once I came into the SaaS industry and I got a lot of learning from it since we're a small start up and we didn't have too much onboarding materials - so I just read everything on LinkedIn and sort of self-educated myself.
One guy that stood out to me was Kyle Coleman who has an onboarding guide for being a good rep.
So I used all of that, literally copy pasting what he did, and it helped me be successful - at one point I remember I booked a meeting with a C-Suite and the entire boardroom within a day, with a cold email.
I was like, I need to share this, this is so good, like probably someone else could use that idea.
So I started sharing these ideas and I enjoy the process of writing, enjoy documenting, and really like to help other people.
That's how I started to post by myself.
There's two things that are interesting there. One is you self-onboarded yourself and the other is you used LinkedIn for that through other people's content - I think this is a post-pandemic thing, right?
Yeah, although of course I had great onboarding from my company I have to point that out (Becca you've done a fantastic job!) but you have all those influencers that were sharing good content and I just started to pick out and implement stuff by myself and share with the team and see if it works. Because not everything is applicable, right, you have to always have this critical lens reading an article, and say, does this apply to me? How can I use it? How do I adapt this?
And I really started to see an effect, I hit my quota, so why don't I share what worked for me in turn.
I think pre-pandemic you would have had an office, there'd be other SDRs, other sales people in there and you could hear them making cold calls and discuss how they book meetings etc, but all of that's removed from you.
I was lucky that I was in Sweden, so we could still sometimes go to the office but still, curiosity is one of the key traits of successful SDRs right, you always want to learn more, you sort of get addicted to tips and tricks.
What would be interesting now is trying to understand your prospecting journey. Once you've gone into a new role, working backwards from booking a cold meeting what's your process?
So from our existing clients we have an idea of which accounts can be successful with us.
We have a predefined target account list of criteria they need to have.
And then I work in the DACH markets so I know that networking is pretty powerful so a good one is to go to LinkedIn find a key decision maker champion that you know and look for all his connections within your ICP, for example, I know you, Gautam, we have a connection probably know that you are connected to a lot of other CEOs so I will speak to all of the other CEOs because I know that you could be a good match.
I did this once and it was very successful. Really being picky about the ones that you can actually help and saying no to those accounts that might be interesting but you know won't be successful with your product.
That's a really cool tip that a lot of people don't use enough is going through other people's connections that you're connected with on LinkedIn.
If you take five minutes then suddenly you’ve got yourself a brand new lead list and know who's gonna be an appropriate fit. And then you qualify out. It's easy for new SDRs to think I'm just gonna go after every single one of these but you're wasting 80% of your time because some of them are just not going to be a good fit.
Exactly. We recently implemented MEDPICC qualification, that's super important. The best reps are the best qualifiers.
I always try to think about which accounts we can actually help with and then explore this network effect.
I think that's the most important piece, selecting the right accounts and selecting the right people.
But once you’ve found those people, what forms of outreach do you use? Gmail, cold calling, LinkedIn social selling, do you change it per prospect, do you have a formula?
I mean if I had a golden formula, I wouldn't be sitting here! Right now it's all about the multi channel approach, you have to use all the channels that you have available.
We use email, we use personalized videos, we use the phone and we use LinkedIn as sort of the major three channels right now. There’s even new channels we have yet to get to such as gifting and we're always exploring new stuff. I think that's really important
Then being specific on how we want to work and being time efficient we follow the “5-by-5-by-5” rule: you take five minutes to find five key bits of information about the account and the persona and then spend five minutes on writing a really cool killer email
And once you've done that 5-by-5-by-5 you will never need to go back because you know that they're hiring, what their job descriptions are, their traffic, their tool stack - you have enough to create value.
I love that, easy to remember as well. The key point there is you don't need to spend hours researching to do it right.
So those key bits of information you look for in the 5 minutes all help with personalization, what other things do you look for on the persona before you reach out to them?
You also know how to reach that persona in the first place and there are two different approaches to this.
You can go bottom-up and speak to someone more junior in order to get some information and then use this person to get an intro to speak to the CMO, for example.
Another cool approach is to go top-down and call as high up as you can. For example, calling the board to get an intro to the CEO to in turn speak to the CMO. That's very effective as well.
The general point is really to get an understanding of the account and get an understanding of whose talkative, e.g. if they had just changed jobs then that’s golden, because they're on a new mission and probably need to fix something. Or perhaps they’re known for implementing change.
After this we can go into more detail and look at personalization triggers. For example, hobbies - I always have this formula in mind that a hobby is connected to a personality trait and a trait is connected towards your work, and so that means that all this can be connected to our value props.
If you're an avid runner you like to push boundaries, and as a salesman you know that pushing boundaries means overachieving quota, so how are you making sure that you are over achieving a quota in your job?
RIght, if you find a trigger such as someone changing roles you can take it to that next level - they've probably been brought into it because there's a challenge or current problem.
It can be quite straightforward to find people's interests and hobbies and relate that back to the role.
Exactly, it's also scalable in that sense but you need to go in with the right mindset because the segue is hard to learn, right?
Yeah it’s something that takes time and practice, especially for new SDRs. Just appreciate that you'll probably suck at it for the first 2-3 months before you start getting good and it becomes a lot easier!
Now that you’re running a team, what metrics are you looking at that you feel are important past number of activities?
It's very important to know “your number”. As a rep you need to know how many touch points you need to make to book an appointment. Is it 50, 60, 100, or 400 etc?
You need to know how much to put in to hit quota.
So all our reps know, okay my golden number is X, and I can then circle back to them and dig into things if they’re not hitting it.
After that, calls: there needs to be a certain amount of calls you need to make to hit targets. There's nothing more successful than a rep that can handle the phone.
I remember seeing a stat that something like 50% of all meetings are still booked over the phone.
It's more for us!
I also remember having my first sales call... It's slightly scary, especially if you're in the office and everyone's everyone's listening. You're embarrassed if you screw up or if someone is rude to you and hangs up.
Do you have any advice for people like who are starting to cold call?
Yeah I'm the same really, you just have to get used to it, like the saying “it’s like eating a frog”: you have to do the most annoying thing early in the morning.
The best advice is to have perspective on it. Don't take it personally and reflect back on things. We're still in a post pandemic situation, I still have a job, I can still work, that's pretty cool.
The SDR role is tough but it sets you up for whatever you want to do afterwards, whether it's customer success, AE, or becoming CEO one day.
I start my morning with reflection like, okay, you know, it's super stressful, but it's cool to be stressed because I can be stressed, and then you get another idea on how to approach things.
Yeah, sales is tough. Cold calling, rejection, 90% of the time doing manual tasks, you're typically only booking one meeting every two, three days or whatever it is. So disconnecting and perspective is really important.
What are the other things that you see the best SDRs doing across LinkedIn right now, what are some of the top traits?
Interesting, I ask this question to every person that I've been interviewing and there are five things that really stick out.
The first one is curiosity.
You need to be super curious. You can't train to show interest in someone else because that will come across as fake. It has to be within you, you either have it or you don't.
Second is you have to be tenacious. You have to deal with rejection and not settle on being 90% great but how to be 98% great etc.
The third one is passion.
If you're not passionate about the role or about the product that you sell then people hear that. If you're not smiling when you cold call they can hear that too.
Another one is “no excuses”.
The best reps out there, no matter how stressed they are or how much they have to do, they have a no-excuse policy: I'm gonna hit my quota this summer no matter what.
And lastly, especially in a startup environment: optimism.
If someone is coming into the office with a big smile versus grumpy on a Monday morning it makes all the difference.
“No excuses”: I had an old boss who used to say “excuses or results - pick one!”
And it's true, you’re only accountable for your own activity. Your results don't even have to always be there as there are going to be some weeks or months you don't hit target, right? That just happens. But you should be looking for that consistency and optimism.
I also love that cold call with a smile. Because people hear it. I know a lot of people stand up whilst making cold calls because it projects their voice a lot more.
When it comes to curiosity I've seen the difference between high performing and low performing sales people - the high performing will be naturally inquisitive. They're asking questions because they're interested in it for themselves and not just because of the job.
On the flip side, not necessarily in your organization, what are the common mistakes people are making these days.
First one is not showing your research.
If you’re hiding behind a template then prospects are like why should I even open this?
It goes back to adding value - you need to add enough value and show enough expertise that I'm willing to take a call. Now I get prospected and it's really fun because I'm sitting on the other side of the boat now and people go into the call speaking only about themselves and I'm like, man, I don't care about you!
You have to make it about the prospect and you have to earn a prospect’s interest with value.
If someone’s active on LinkedIn and you're not looking at what they’re doing then you didn't do proper research, or you haven't shown it.
We have a channel where we share examples with each other and ask what would you have improved with that message if it didn't resonate. Sharing anonymously in our slack is also good for that.
I agree, it comes back to that 5x5x5 you mentioned, if you carry out basic research on the account and the prospect you should have enough good information.
There's this saying WIIFM, What’s In It For Me - if you're engaging with a prospect you've got to think what's in it for them, why would they listen to this call?
If you're not thinking about the prospect you've immediately failed.
It's super hard, right?
Because you know your product inside and out and you're a sales person... you want to speak about it, but you have to understand that they don't want to hear about it yet!
Final question, I know one big thing that you do which is huge is how active you are on LinkedIn and regularly posting engaging content.
For a new SDR it’s quite intimidating to start posting as you're putting yourself out there. LinkedIn is changing to what it used to be, it's becoming much more about sharing and you're incredibly active and great at this.
What advice would you give to SDRs to get started with that process?
I spoke to Devon Reed, head of content at Gong, about this. First thing you have to understand is that you imagine a lot of people will see your posts but the reality is they won't to start with. Most content is not even clicked upon.
So get over that fear you have in the beginning thinking that if I start to share now the entire world will see it because they just won’t. This is a big blocker that you have to get out of your head.
The second piece of advice is to share things that have two things in common with you: experience and expertise. Maybe there is a situation that you have solved for or mastered, for example how did I book that call? If you booked it in a specific way then it's something you should be sharing and in my opinion.
Then the third one is consistency.
I have a goal to post at least once a week and I'm doing this for myself. I want to share one personal experience or one piece of success every week and that's my motivation.
Yeah don't get caught up in what you share and share personal experiences or what you believe is useful for your persona, and do it consistently.
I think on the second point it’s aso for yourself, you know, I'm not necessarily selling to SDRs this is just what I’m experienced at.
I want to add genuine value to my network. If I would be selling to CTOs I would share the same stuff, but it's about yourself as a brand, or as a person, you want to add genuine value and that's where I have value. Possibly SDRs in the company that I am prospecting to I'm adding value for, maybe I win some internal champions there that could help, right?
But you have to get rid of the thought that once you start posting then meetings with your key persona with flowing hair comes flying in, even if that might be the dream scenario.
I hadn't even thought that, having been of the mindset you should be sharing content that's only relevant to your persona but actually it’s a really good point that you should be sharing experiences you're an expert in. As this is your day job that you're spending 40, 50 hours per week doing.
That's the way I'm thinking about it, and you can also share a relevant article in between for your key persona then it will come across as more knowledgeable, but if you start to give tips to a CEO then they will be like, man, you're 25, what do you know about this?!
I was looking through some of your posts and one had something like 200,000 views? And that was one related to your experience, so it shows that this is what people are interested in.
Yeah they decide if it's interesting or not, and the posts that I share are things like how I booked a meeting, overcame an objection, increased my open rate, or find success in the SDR world.
Amazing, thank you so much Jan! Appreciate your time and thank you for speaking to us.
My pleasure, I hope that was helpful and if not, at least we both had fun!