Using Social Data to Find Customers

by Max Altschuler

max altschuler, sales hacker

This podcast session featuring Max Altschuler and Jamie Shanks delves deep into how to use social data at every stage of your sales funnel. At a time where data is cheaper than ever it makes sence for companies to use the available social data to leverage their sales and marketing efforts. Creating ideal customer profiles through social networks including Linkedin or Twitter or using tools such as FollowerWonk mean companies have a more holistic view of their customer.

Webinar Transcript

Jamie Shanks: I'm sitting here with Max Altschuler. He is the CEO of Sales Hacker. I have on my Feebee account a couple top of the funnel SDR blogs that are must-reads: TOPO, Yourselves, Predictable Revenue, Trish Bertuzzi's Bridge Group information. I find for SDRs, this is the best top of the funnel information that you can get. So Max, welcome to the Social Selling Summit. Really happy to have you on board. We want to make this fun and dynamic. Let's pick your brain. I want to know how SDRs are maximizing leads and opportunities. I wrote down a couple questions for you. Do you mind if I fire them off to you?

Max: Yeah. Go for it. Yeah, happy to be here. I really love what you guys are doing with the Social Selling Summit, obviously with what you guys are doing at Sales for Life, and everybody you just named are people I've been following for a long time in sales development. We are... a lot of our community is curated from people who are actually doing it, and in the front lines everyday. So the content's really relevant and we definitely look up to some of those people as well with the content that they've been putting out. So I'm glad you were able to get them in on this.

Jamie: For me, what I find you provide more than anybody else is actual hacks, to-dos, tactical best practices. It's not fluffy. It's not a wish-has. What I love is I read it and then I forward it to our SDR and I say, "Implement it."

Max: Perfect.

Jamie: It's pretty simple. 

Max: That's what we made it for.

Jamie: Here's question number one. Question number one: What is your Ideal Customer Profile? You like the acronym ICP, but what is your Ideal Customer Profile? Why is that so important?

Max: Yeah, so it's interesting. Right now, especially in social, data is cheaper and more accessible than ever before. So you're finding that you can figure out more information on the internet and use that to figure out who your Ideal Customer Profile is, who your potential buyer is. You can almost pre-qualify people these days based on certain things that you can find on the internet that is either really cheap, or in a lot of cases when using social, free.

So if you are looking for your Ideal Customer Profile in your certain industry, you can almost refine it to a point where you can look back on maybe your past buyers and look at certain ways that maybe you went through their org chart and you said, "Okay, well here's a Fortune 500 company. Here's how we mapped their organization, and here are all the different people we spoke to and when." You can go back now to, maybe you're working on another Fortune 500 company and say, "Okay, well, here's how the org chart was for a company the same size. Maybe we can use that information and find our Ideal Customer Profile, not only the type of company that's going to buy from us, but the individual buyer, the decision makers at those companies."

You can go in and use that information and get that information from LinkedIn, from Twitter. It's very easy for you to find the exact same title at Company A to Company B using LinkedIn. Then, taking it a step further, you can go out and find your actual companies that might make sense for you, based on the types of organizational structures that they have. And that's just one way of figuring out your Ideal Customer Profile, kind of pre-qualifying your leads before you even start contacting them.

I hear people that are...I think I saw on Twitter the other day somebody was like, "Does anybody have a list of the top 10,000 SaaS companies," or something like that. You just know that that person is going to go out and destroy that list.

And it's like, "Dude. First of all, you're wasting your time and money. You can go build a really highly targeted list using free resources or even very cheap resources pretty quickly. But even more, you're wasting your time because not all of those leads are pre-qualified. So your actual qualification process, even when you do get on the phone with that person, is now you're wasting time on the phone with someone who's never going to buy in the first place, and you could have pre-qualified them. You could have found that they were a target in your wheelhouse, your Ideal Customer Profile, and gone in and pre-qualified them. Instead of a list of the top 10,000 SaaS companies, you now have a list of maybe 1,000 companies or even less, but that are pre-qualified."

So when you go into your sales process, you spend a lot less time doing Bant or Annum or any of these other strategies to figure out if they have the budget or if the timing's right or if the need is there, because you can find all that information widely available on the web through, almost all through social these days, whether it's on Twitter or whether it's on LinkedIn or whatnot, whether they're posting about recent funding or anything like that. You can find that information and pre-qualify them without having to run through a Bant Analysis or any of that other stuff.

Jamie: So I guess a major tip you'd have for leaders then, is if you're a sales ops leader, if you're an enablement leader, you need to be ripping apart your CRM to determine, basically breaking down your wins and breaking down your losses and saying, "Okay, about our wins, this year, we need to know the buyer persona down pat."

And then what you're saying is you're even drilling further. Like as an example, our buyer persona: 35% are sales leaders, another 35-40% are VPs of Marketing. But then you drill down and you say, "Okay, based on a certain customer size or geographic location, or industry, it's not always the VP of Sales. It might be a director or this or a different organization that would need to have to be a more extreme level, like the Chief Commercial Officer." So you're drilling down even within a buyer persona to say, "Based on this type of lead, this is who you go after."

Max: Yeah, and it really comes down to even segmenting lists as far down as you can. You want to find a couple common denominators across the board. So those common denominators could be anything from company size to industry to geographic location to maybe the round of funding that they raised if they're private. There's a lot of different things that you can hit on. Obviously, there's a lot of free sources on the internet. If you want to find information on private companies, there's...Crunchbase is a free resource. You can dig up tons of information there. LinkedIn. There's almost nothing that you can't find on LinkedIn these days if you want to know things about a certain company. 

If you know things about one company and there's another company that has a lot of the same common denominators, you can almost say, "Okay, well, they're running in a very similar way." You can look at the executives that came from past companies and how they ran things at those companies, and then infer that the organization or the structure of the buying process is going to be similar from that company to this company. So there's a lot of information that you can find that's out there, that's public, that's free. That's why we're in such a really, an amazing time for sales people right now, because people are finally building for sales people. Investors are putting money into tools for sales people and data is cheaper, more accessible and more actionable than ever before for sales people. We can use it however we want. The more creative we get with it...That's what Sales Hacker was built on, getting creative with all these resources.

It's not even just about creating your Ideal Customer Profile with this information, but it's about then reaching out to them with this information. The more common denominators you can find, the more you can reach out to people and really hit on things that are relevant to them in that outreach. Whether that's in a scalable way where you are a territory-less or low ACV sales rep and you need to hit a lot of people, you need to be pounding the pavement and hitting a lot more people at a higher rate. Or you're a high ACV, you have a territory and you need to be like a much higher touch contact. Either way, whichever way you're contacting people, one's kind of like the start-up way as well, the low ACV, kind of high-velocity one, but either way, you're using the same tactics and the same information to reach out. One's just a little more high touch than the other.

Finding these common denominators and figuring out your Ideal Customer Profile and getting these people pre-qualified before you reach out, allows you to create a fuller front-end of your process and leveraging all this data that's available to you through all these different channels.

Social is a really strong one, but there are tons beyond that. Like I said, Crunchbase, depends what industry you are in, but if you're targeting restaurants, there's Yelp. If you're targeting actors, there's IMDB. There's databases of all this stuff that you can easily sort through, whether it's manually yourself, manually through a virtual assistant or through some kind of web scraper or some really cheap services that are out there like the Datanyzes and SalesLofts and companies like that, Clearbit that can help you sort through the data easier for a lot less than it would cost you to buy a list that might be old or dated or had been bought by a lot of other people who are pounding those leads.

Jamie: Yeah, let's actually drill down to that, because you talked about data a couple times, so let's apply it in the context of social data. Give us some tactical examples of how you would be, in your own world, how you're gathering information and then how you're leveraging that information to have meaningful, insightful conversations.

Max: Yeah, there's a lot of different ways and some are kind of hackier than others. I'd say one of my favorite kind of social hacks that we've done in the past, is a lot of people on LinkedIn don't really pay attention to their security settings, and so they allow people to see who they connected with. So if you actually add your connections, so add your competitor's sales reps as connections and they're not wise enough to know that, then you can see who they're connecting with and basically say, "Okay, they're doing a deal with or they're working with this guy."

I helped a company out one time doing this and their competitor connected with someone at the right, again, Ideal Customer Profile from DocuSign. I was like, "Okay, this is pretty clear that they're working with this person." Now, you can get this data and get this information free. You're playing by the rules. They just didn't notice, change their privacy settings and now you have this information that your competitor that sells, like, pretty identical product to you, is working with this company now.

There are ways that you can use social in other interesting ways like figuring out tone of the person that you're trying to reach out to. You're following someone on Twitter, gathering information about what they're interested in and what their passions are or things, triggers that you can reach out for, whether they're employee-focused or company-focused. There are all sorts of different things that pop up through Twitter, but one of the things that people don't recognize is you can understand a person's tone and how they like to interact with others by listening to them on Twitter.

So if you listen to...So the Senior Vice President of Sales from GuideSpark, his name is Shep Maher. He'd be a great guy to work for if you're a young hustler, you want to get into sales, but he's a very kind of casual...comes at you from a friend side of things right off the bat. If you can derive from his Twitter that he's a very casual guy, maybe when you reach out to him, you use that information and you make your message more casual compared to somebody that you reach out to that's maybe a worldwide VP of Sales at a Fortune 500 company, who is a little more in the old school mindset of the "Hi"s and "Dear"s and "Sincerely" type stuff that might be a little more rigid. You can use Twitter to figure out how you should approach something. 

In sales, you kind of want to get into the friendzone quicker, as quick as you can. You want to create that rapport with that person and really be, understand how they...Be socially aware. Understand how they interact with their friends. Understand how they want to interact with people. You can use social to do those types of things. Again, it's all about just collecting that data and making it actionable. Having this information available to you, it's free. Just understanding how to take that free information and then use it in your sales process. 

So a lot of different things you can do, that are outside of just the normal things that I think a lot of people already know or have been talked about, which is how to use social to engage and interact with people, retweeting and DMing and favoriting and all that kind of stuff. There's so much information on that out there, but I think there's another layer to it afterwards that you can get really creative with these days. How do you make this data actionable?

Jamie: There was another one of the sessions in the Social Selling Summit is around triggers. His name is Craig Elias. He provides all the best practices around triggers. For yourself, for your business, for people that you deal with, what are triggers that you most look for? Maybe we could share some best practices here. I want to know if you can describe one trigger for yourself, what is it? What do you always like to look for?

Max: For private companies, definitely funding announcements. For individuals, definitely job changes or promotions. Those are probably the biggest ones that you can capitalize on. New people buy new things. So if somebody has a job change or a promotion, number one, congratulating them is obviously a great way to start building rapport. Number two, you can guarantee that they're going to be looking for maybe new products or something, a new initiative, something to start putting their stamp on the job, especially if they're exceptional employees.

That's another thing, again, when you reach out to them. That's a great way to reach out. Challenge them. "Clearly, you're really good at your job, so this is going to be interesting to you." They are just stepping into this new role. Why not reach out to them because of it? And again, congratulating them is a great way to build that rapport. And so when you're selling to someone in general, especially when selling SaaS, you're selling to the individual, then the employee, then the company. So reaching out and congratulating them is hitting the employee part or hitting that individual part in that employee. You're saying, "Okay, you're a person. Congratulations." You're stroking their ego. Then, maybe saying, "Buying this new piece of software is going to put you on the map or whatnot, so check this out." So that's the individual, making them a hero within the company. "And then here's how it's going to be beneficial to your company." So individual, employee, company would be the routing for that.

Jamie: Yeah, I was going to say for us, there's no question that the digital fingerprints or the digital consumption story of a buyer is the biggest leading indicator for us. I mean, we're in the world of digital selling.

Max: Yeah.

Jamie: So for us, we're leveraging some tools between ClearSlide and HubSpot's Sidekick. We're able to see that consumption story from the very beginning, from the first subscription all the way until they're a customer. With enough data, you can start seeing patterns. And as you said, if you understand your ideal buyer persona, or ideal customer, all of a sudden you can start seeing these patterns of a certain amount of consumption should be happening at certain stages. That for us is our litmus test. But no, that's fantastic on the triggers.

Fourth question: How do you reach out once you have these triggers? Let's get tactical here. What are some of the best practices and approaches and differentiators that you like to use? Now that you have data in your pocket, what are you going to do with it?

Max: Yeah, so again, the first thing you want to do before you even reach out is segment your lists and you want to segment them based on those lowest common denominators that you found. Again, if you're reaching out to a list of people and they have three to five things in common, it's going to be a lot easier for you to personalize those messages to that group of people.

But do it very quickly. Do it at scale. Do it in a way where it's like, "Okay, I have a list of 50 people that are in this industry, that are all VPs." Same title, VP of Sales or something like that. "They're in this location. Maybe they're all from Boston," or something like that. Maybe the Patriots just won the Superbowl and you're using some kind of line in the beginning of your email that's like, "Hey, by the way, congrats on your big win," or something like that. If you find that this list is segmented the right way, you can build personalized outreach at scale. You can do it in a higher velocity manner. And I'm not saying that you should be still spraying and praying. But, you're not. 

In that case, you are building these lists that are pre-qualified. You're segmenting them down so that you have a couple common denominators, like things that they have in common, and then you're sending them emails that are personalized to a point. Obviously, if you can figure out even the same...maybe segment your list that has the same problem that you're solving. Then that area of the email can be the same for all of them. And then if you can segment your list so that it's the same couple common denominators on the personal side, you can have that line the same for all those emails. And maybe now that's...

Jamie: We call that batching. That's it. 

Max: Yeah.

Jamie: It's just batching. Yeah.

Max: Yeah, exactly. And it's batching. And maybe your batch gets dwindled down to 10 or 20 leads, instead of sending an email to 100, but that's fine because you just did that in a scalable manner. You sent 10 or 20 people a really personalized email that's perfect for what they're looking for, instead of sending it 1 at a time. So you're still doing a lot more're being a lot more efficient than you might have been in the past.

There's a point that you can get to where you can teach a team of virtual assistants in the Philippines to do a lot of this for you. There's technology out there like Cadence, HubSpot, Outreach, Tied Up, Yesler, all these companies that allow you to do this email tracking and templating. You have to be somewhat manual on that and you have to do all this other stuff first, but there's a lot of ways for you to make it a more efficient process out of this outreach now. It doesn't have to be...It can be a mix of things. While you're sending 10 or 20 emails, you can also be on LinkedIn and Twitter engaging with those people, instead of the time that you would have been spending to send 1-off emails 1 at a time, when you can put the same information, the same personalized information in 10 to 20 at a time. And that's what it's all about, segmenting those lists, finding those triggers and putting it all together.

Jamie: One of the ways that we like to segment the list is we actually,it's called the Sphere of Influence, so essentially at the center of the Sphere of Influence is a customer success story. So we'll place that in the center, and we segment the list based on the people that used to work with that customer and/or the people or companies that compete with that customer. So you'll create a list, and the story will be around the Sphere of Influence. It's a story that people would care about because they either worked there or they compete against them. And that way, your batching is concentrating on a customer story and then we move from customer story to customer story.

So last question. We have 60 seconds on this question and then we'll do a wrap up. I want to know any last hacks. I've got a list of some other hacks that you and I were talking about, but a plug for a hack would be great that you could give an SDR right now and an SDR manager or leader that they could implement immediately.

Max: Yeah, so we went over the Frienemies one before. We went over using tone on Twitter. I think probably one of my other favorite ones is I have a virtual assistant that does this for me, but there's actually a product out there called SearchQuant. It's a little expensive. I just use a VA for it. But I go out and I have them go on my account and they view a lot of profiles. They view profiles of people that are targets of ours, and it gets people viewing yours back. Maybe you weren't on the radar before, but a lot of people go in and look to see who viewed their profile, and then they'll go back and click on those people. Now, you're on their radar. Now they went to your page.

Jamie: Like callbacks? Yeah.

Max: Yeah, and your name is now, and your face, they saw it once. There's that whole advertising, media world where their saying was "It takes seven touches for a person to know your name, know your logo, know your brand." Well, seven interactions. There you go. There's a first one, maybe even a second one, because they saw it on the list and now they click on it and they see it again on the page. So get in front of them. It's a great way to do it. There's Mechanical Turk. There's VAs on oDesk that are 3 something an hour, $3.50 an hour or whatever that are fantastic. All they really need to do is go click on a bunch of profiles that are, again, in your Ideal Customer Profile, of course. There's lists and lists of those. That's a great way to just get on people's radar. It's cheap and it's easy and again, using the data that's available to you to get in front of people.

Jamie: So you have an event in November in San Francisco, world-class event on sales technology, best practices for SDRs. Give us a little plug for your event. I think this is going to be a must-do if you're anywhere around the valley. Let's hear about it.

Max: Yeah, we're talking about data and efficiency for sales people. And right now, again, we're in an incredible era in sales where not only is data cheaper, more accessible and more actionable than ever before, but there are people building for sales people. They're some really interesting things going on. There's guys who used to come out of Stanford Engineering School, studying natural language processing and building and going to work for Goldman Sachs or pharmaceuticals, are now building natural language processing products for sales people. It's incredible. 

So this era is all about efficiency. It is just as important as when the phone or email was invented for sales people I think, because it's really taking companies to the next level, taking sales teams to the next level. We wanted to create an event that's the intersection between enterprise, software and sales. So we're bringing sales people together and bringing all the vendors together that are building for sales people. We want to create an environment where from the content, you'll learn how some of the biggest and best companies and fastest growing companies are leveraging technology in the sales process, and what different areas they're doing that in.

Then, as an attendee, you can go down to the Expo and you'll find all the different buckets of the sales process, all the products that you can basically implement into your process to create your, what we call a Sales Stack. And Sales Stack is the name of the event. That's your stack of software that you use as a sales team that takes you through the process.

Jamie: Well, that is fantastic, Max. I greatly appreciate your time today. Unbelievable insights! Looking forward to seeing you in November. Everybody, please, connect with Max on LinkedIn and Twitter if you want greater information and insights around SDR best practices. Take care, my friend.

Max: Yeah, thanks for having me, man. Yeah, definitely, anytime.

Jamie: Thanks a lot.