Stop “Just Following Up,” Start Getting Real Answers


We’ve all gotten that email, shit we’ve all sent that email, yup, I’ve definitely sent that email. You know…..“Hi Name, I’m just following up.” It’s a perfectly logical thing to say, because you’re well… “Just following up.” What is the origin of this email? I’m guessing it dates back to the early 90’s when email communication really started to ramp up in the sales world. At least if it was born in the 90’s, I can picture an account exec in hammer pants, a no fear t-shirt and killer fanny pack hitting send on that “just following up” email thinking it was just pure gold baby!. Maybe “just following up” was conceived simply because the nature of the email is called a “follow up email” and everyone took it to literally.

Writing super bangin’ email copy has become more important than ever in sales. That is bad news for many organizations who don’t treat pre-opportunity and pipeline email copy as a competitive advantage.  Cold calling is not dead in SaaS, I’m really sick of that article that resurfaces every few weeks on Linkedin.  But it is hard to get a hold of prospects on the phone these days with the dial by name directory’s almost every company is starting to implement, especially small to mid market SaaS and tech company’s. With the rise of intelligent outbound prospecting tools like Datanyze & Clearbit paired with outbound sales email tools like Persist IQ, Salesloft and Outreach you can more easily identify and message cold prospects than I ever could’ve imagined even 2 years ago.

Great email copy should be a proprietary advantage over your competitors during all touch points in the sales cycle. Think about it, how many emails happen during the lifecycle of a deal with a ACV of even say $5K? How about $25K? The higher the ACV, typically the more touch points with more contacts within an account. We’re talking minimally 10-20 email touch points and I’ve closed deals at $30K -$40K that required well over 40 prospect facing emails (not including your internal emails about advancing the deal to the dev, support, c, or marketing team). Now think about this…….what if you beat the competing account executive in every one of those emails? I’ve personally beat and have helped my team beat competitors in head to head battles, I truly believe email copy played a pivotal role in those wins. Every word mattered, words matter, I believe that, do you?

Entirely controlling the buyer timeline isn’t possible. It is however absolutely possible to control as much of the time line as possible with world class email copy and follow up tactics. It drives getting real answers, holds prospects accountable and ultimately, it’s your job to manage and push the boundaries of the buyer journey timeline.  If you ever lose a deal for holding a prospect accountable to a timeline and expressing extreme confidence that your solution will have a significant impact. That prospect was likely a pretender. You’ll win more business than you lose over the month, quarter or year I promise you (when executed well).

Typically, the context of the “Just following up,” email is the prospect hasn’t executed the next action you naively believed was going to happen exactly as it played out in your mind.  That delinquent next action could be many things…..

  • the prospect hasn’t responded to a request for a next step
  • the prospect didn’t show up to the demo or discovery call
  • the prospect didn’t show up to the post demo next steps call
  • or even worse than the above, you didn’t have them accept an invite for a next steps call on the prior call (critical mistake) and now your in early deal purgatory
  • the prospect has failed to answer a critical question, stalling your next step
  • the prospect has missed an agreed upon deadline
  • the prospect hasn’t produced key deliverables to you
  • the prospect hasn’t given you an update on their internal conversations around the solution or pricing / budget
  • the prospect hasn’t executed the panda doc contract (@jaredfuller?)
  • the prospect hasn’t made payment against terms (gulp)

There are many unique follow up scenarios that require ninja like linguistics, politicking, psychological hannibal lectering and situational analysis. BTW, who wins super bowls???Teams that excel at situational football, teams that execute in the moment and have practiced this scenario and prepared for it . I’m going to go there and say each “follow up” scenario truly is a snowflake and should be treated as such. Let’s go a level deeper into why “just following up” isn’t effective…

Why “Just Following Up” Isn’t Effective

  • it doesn’t induce any real action, it’s a free pass for prospects to ignore you
  • general questions get one of two things from a prospect (1) crickets or (2) general answers that leave you even more in the hole
  • you’re not basing follow up on the useful data (hopefully) collected during the sales journey, huge mistake
  • when your prospect knows via your questions and statements you’ve been listening and are clearly on point. It’s much harder for them to go crickets
  • any sales person in the world can write “just following up”, literally. Be better than that, stand out in a sales journey. People buy from people, don’t be a snooze fest, be a fun and challenging fest!
  • you aren’t holding the prospect accountable to the historically communicated next step and hence the timeline
  • you aren’t getting to the “why” of the stalled deal communication
  • you aren’t placing any true urgency
  • you aren’t providing a strong pivot point for deal communication
  • you can’t explain to your sales leader why this deal is stuck, that is never good in a pipeline meeting (definitely not good in my pipeline meetings)
  • it shows you can’t advance deals at a high level, good luck getting that Sr. Account Exec or other promotion…

I love follow up emails, I like to be bold with them, I still love the thrill of the hunt even in a routine follow up.  I want the prospect to know they aren’t executing the timeline and next steps we’ve agreed upon together. I  want them to know that if the timeline has changed, that is 100% okay , but I’m going to need a real answer as to why. I want them to know I’ve been listening to everything they’ve been saying about the timeline, but their actions say otherwise. Direct, specific, action inducing, hard to ignore follow up is what I am talking about. There are all stages of follow up across the sales cycle from getting that first discovery call booked, all the way to getting that Panda Doc signed and payment submitted right @JaredFuller 😉 ?

The art in a sexy follow up email born between the realms of assertive yet accommodating. It’s showing you’re a formidable adversary when you need to be, you listen to the critical info, while empathetic at the same time. It’s a mind set, let’s get you in that mind set. You can easily argue that when a prospect reads your follow up email, they should feel bested but certainly not bitter. Step one is to reframe how you think about follow up emails. They’re a weapon, they can separate you from the competition, they can be the difference maker, let them be!

Think About High Performing Follow Up Emails Like This Instead

  • The timeline you’re pushing is what you and the prospect agreed upon, so what’s changed? Why shouldn’t they be held accountable?
  • Every day they aren’t solving the prescribed pain with your medicine, they’re either losing money, time, efficiency, market share, leads, customers, data, or whatever the cost is. It’s real, if you’ve done your job, you can quantify it and keep it front and center during the entire sales cycle, especially during the “crickets” cycle!
  • Pushing a timeline with some polished ferocity helps you identify pretenders pretty quick, it’s a great de-qualification tactic. Which means can go “on to the next one” just like the Jiga Man says
  • It keeps your oppty pipeline lean and mean, less “I haven’t heard back” conversations with the old boss-a-rooney, god knows we don’t want to hear those words
  • It gives you confidence in your % likely to close reporting, that your boss will love, especially when those deals actually close – it shows your instincts and projections are spot on
  • No real buyer will ever give you the Heisman for asking concise follow up questions based upon information they provided to you
  • Getting real answers allows you to pivot follow up for real buyers and get more in alignment with the realistic timeline
  • The timeline a prospect quotes you during that first demo is almost never the real timeline, it’s always naively optimistic
  • Things happen, it’s okay, priorities shift for people every day, but don’t be blind to the why or you have no funnel optics
  • If you’re writing a follow up email, they likely didn’t respond to your last email, you need answers, fast or the trail gets colder and colder…

Keys to Highly Converting & Action Inducing Follow Up Emails 

  • ask short direct questions that result in short direct answers
  • have an empathetic tone when it makes sense, nobody likes an a-hole
  • leverage key  prospect provided data that puts it on them
  • keep it short, 100 words or less
  • don’t use the word assume, it comes off as pompous AF  in email, us the word “anticipate” instead, much more thoughtful
  • send it to yourself, pull it up on your phone – what was your first reaction?
  • remind them a status update takes all of 30 seconds to fire off
  • give the sentiment of “We” when you can, it promotes togetherness while still getting to the heart of the issue
  • when requesting a next connection point, give a specific time or date, ask for forgiveness later. it can better to send the invite and work the details out later, use your gut on this
  • get to the point first, finish with pleasantries during sign off
  • maybe most importantly, always schedule a next step and ask the prospect to accept the invite

Okay we’re pushing 2,000 words so I’ll get to the sexy sexy. Here are some suggested alternatives to the “I’m just following up,” themed email. As a disclaimer, different messages are clearly for different stages of the deal cycle.

“Just Following Up” Email Copy For Real Answers 

  • Is {Company Name} moving forward with {solution}?
  • Today can you update me on where {company} is at with a yes or no to move forward with {Solution}?
  • During our product demonstration, we identified implementing {X} solution in Q(1/2/3) was a priority. I want to support you in executing against that, so I’m sending over a calendar invite for {Day, Time} to get us back on track. If that doesn’t work, please provide 2 times that work for you this week
  • I anticipate the original timeline we collaborated on was optimistic (it happens). Likely 1 of 3 things happened. (1) Your still interested, but priorities shifted (2) The original timeline of {X} weeks is changing to {Y} weeks  (3) You’ve ruled {solution} out as an option for {Company Name}. No answer is the wrong answer, which is it?
  • Is {Company’s} goal is to have {solution} implemented by {date}? That is exactly {x} weeks from today, successful on-boarding for similar use cases does require {y} weeks to ramp. If we don’t cross finish line together today, we’ll likely fall short of that goal. Can we get this done by end of day today?
  • I only push next steps when I know with 100% certainty {solution} can have a significant impact on {y objectives}. You’ve shared with me that {share}, every day/week we wait is likey costing you {X Units} of {Measurement}. Can you talk tomorrow at 3pm?
  • We haven’t collaborated since I provided the critical answers to the questions you requested for {Company} to further evaluate {solution}. Did the answers I provided create hesitation within your team about taking a next step?
  •  Have you talked with {co-worker name} yet? That was your identified next step,  I can start an email thread with the 3 of us this afternoon to kick things off. Can you please provide her email please so we can collaborate?
  • Today can you find 30 seconds to hit me with the reality on where we’re at?  I can guide the appropriate next step and get re-aligned with your timeline from there.
  • What was your boss’s feedback on pricing? I know owning this  investment puts pressure on you, I can invite for a value vs. price demo between the 3 of us.
  • It seems we’ve stalled, I’m placing an invite on your calendar for 2pm Thursday, talk to you then, look forward to getting back on track together
  • I’m anticipating you likely ruled out a Q2 implementation as we’re 30 days out, is the first 30 days of Q3 the new timeline?

The goal here isn’t for me to write every single follow up email for every deal stage situation, although that would be a killer chronicle to write. Rather, I hope you take pause and think about hitting send on that next email. What is the account exec on the other end of this deal writing right now? Is this my best work? Am I getting real answers? Am I holding my prospect accountable? Is my solution truly right for them? Am I asking the right questions? What answers to what questions would give me the advantage in winning this deal today?

I don’t like to force action, I like to educate and let smart people make the best decision they can. There is an animal inside all of us, dig deeper, reach within, push your comfort zone and always……“Recognize, Feed & Grow the Animal Within.” 

Kyle Hale

How I Filled My Key Hires Pipeline With “A” Candidates in 3 Days Without Spending A Cent

Transitioning into my new role as COO at Bite Squad. I believe with 100% conviction that selecting the right key team members and forming a killer team will determine the success of the organization. I knew the profile attributes of the key hires we needed for the following roles (Director of Marketing Automation, Paid Media Manager, Lead Designer & Sales Ops Specialist). I believe the role of leaders in an organization wether there is a Chief in front of your title or not is  level folks is spending a portion of your time doing cold outbound recruiting yourself. For a few reasons….

(1) It keeps you close to the local talent market and maintains a sharp recruiting sword

(2) You get a feel for cold outbound recruiting funnel metrics (# of messages, # of responses, sentiment of responses and of course my favorite, closed-won baby!)

(3) If you want top talent, you have to go take it, it’s not sitting around browsing (most of the time, not always true). Reaching out as a leader in the organization will have an impact on response and conversion rates for key hires

(4) Top talent should want to work with you; you need to prove you can close top talent.

(5) The more top talent you interact with, the wider your network will organically reach. Diligent hands bring wealth, a wealth of talent!

So, I called upon my inner tiger and developed a “BA” cold outbound linkedin sales navigator recruiting campaign. Here is how I did it, the tools, the tactics, the copy, what I learned and the results. I’ll use the Director of Marketing Automation role as the focus of this article.

Set Yourself Up For Success

(1) Understand your candidate profile options: I had two profiles in mind.

Profile (A) is a candidate with 4-7 years of automation experience, hopefully with both B2B and some B2C chops with experience in managing a team of 1-5 people.

Profile (B) was that rising star, maybe only 2-3 years of automation experience but wicked raw talent, coachable and hungry. I really love developing raw talent so I have zero problem pulling the trigger for the right candidate under profile B.

(2)  A Job description that goes beyond: I noticed that company’s often start their job description about why they are the best place to work, basically a jersey point if we’re being honest. This is backwards to me, start with the impact the candidate will have on the business, then tease the tale of the tape on your org and why it’s an exciting opportunity. Have really strong bullets on all the key tasks, goals and results you’re looking for the role to own. Make it clear you can’t grow the business and hit your goals without this A player. Make it clear they could be the person to walk in on day ONE having an impact that is absolute to the organization. People want to have an impact, they want to fully deploy their skill set. The want a seat at the table, to be heard, to be challenged. Remember as well, in cold outbound email copy, emails that start talking about who you are and what your solution does NEVER get responded to. Why should a job description be any different? Your trying to sell somebody on something (an idea, an opportunity) who has likely never heard of you. Put the candidate first, PERIOD.

(3) Target the right candidates: I used Linkedin Sales Navigator and filtered for folks with marketing automation listed in their title and or skills, in the Greater Minneapolis / St. Paul area. I browsed the results, used tags to flag “candidate” so later I could easily find those folks and start my messaging. I selected 20 candidates, I believed if I selected 20 candidates, I’d find my A player. If I couldn’t close 1 of 20, something was wrong with my profiling, my copy or my closing skills or all of it! $HIT!

(4) The right message: I developed a very competitive thirst for high converting and persuasive cold outbound email copy the last two years at Leadpages and Drip writing our cold outbound email email copy. I wanted to use those same tactics in my recruiting messages. Short, impactful, lead towards a vision, make it about the candidate primarily and the business secondary. I made it clear to the candidate that I know what I’m looking for and I hand selected them personally, that the role at this stage was an invite only opportunity.  Then I did a quick blurb on the business and then I created some scarcity. I let them know if they were interested, I would send the job description and that it wasn’t posted anywhere. This asked for a small commitment from them, which was key in identifying if the were game to throw down. I found that people were generally happy in their roles, but there is almost always something that they’re wishing was different, even if they end up turning down the role eventually.

(5) Track Your Funnel: I built an excel spreadsheet with drop downs for (stage of the funnel, likely salary expectations, candidate rank etc). I tracked it obsessively, it was great to have this visual representation of where I stood in the funnel.

(6) Make it Easy for A Talent to Speak with You: cater to their current situation, what times work for them, drive the calendar invites, always call them and make sure they understand next steps and always ensure they are comfortable with the process.

(7) Interview Guides: you want to put all talent through a very similar process or you can’t properly measure them against one another to identify your top candidates. What are the 2-3 non negotiable skills to execute this job. What questions can you ask to surface those skill sets. Bite Squad had never hired for any of these roles, so there was no interview guide. Don’t ever wing interviews, be prepared, know non negotiable skills important to the role, know what profile of candidate is right for the stage the business is at and build your interview guide off that. At all cost build a solid interview guide, stay up late to get it done or come in early, it will pay off when you specifically point to why candidate A vs. candidate B is a better fit for the role. Also, when candidates see structured interviews with challenging questions, it also helps sell them on you and the company.

(8) Have a interview partner: these key hires were mostly going to be living in marketing with Craig our VP of marketing. Craig and I had just started working together and this was a fabulous opportunity for he and I to develop trust, learn each others strengths and weakness and be a support network for each other to make the right decision for the business. Depending on the role, one of us typically took interview #1 while the other took interview #2, sometimes we did a team interview when it made sense. We always downloaded after each interview, compared notes and came to decisions together. It was an invaluable process. I learned from Craig and he learned form me, great team effort, thanks Craig!

What I Learned

(1) Damnit I love recruiting: the thrill of the hunt, the funnel metrics, getting closer and closer to that right hire that will elevate your business. It’s very energizing to recruit and close talent you hand selected. It also makes you very dialed in to making the right hire and ensuring they have all the support they need to be successful once they start. Basically what I am saying is #Ownership.

(2) I love people: a business is it’s people, I had so many enjoyable conversations even with candidates who ended up not being the right fit for us or vice versa. Really so many great and talented people in Minneapolis. Thank you to everyone I had the opportunity to learn about and swap stories with.

(3) Referrals, Referrals, Referrals: even if a candidate was not the right fit, I found them referring people in their network they thought would be a good fit for the role or a different role we had open. How cool is that?! The lesson…….treat people with respect no matter what, thank everyone for their time, wish them well, compliment them on where you believe they’re talented and wish them well on their journey….ALWAYS. Everyone is trying to be happy, make an impact, take care of their families and have some fun along the way. Never forget that, neva eva eva.

(4) Recruiting Process Feedback: if you ask people, they will give you honest feedback on your recruiting tactics, messaging etc. Don’t be afraid to ask, if a good candidate turns you down for a next step, create a safe environment for them to tell you why. Make it clear you want to learn and not make any mistakes that may deter top talent like them in the future. Sometimes it comes to timing or fit and sometimes you made a mistake and didn’t realize it. You can learn from everyone, never forget that.

(5) My Recruiting Funnel Metrics Were Strong: I messaged 20 people, got 12 responses, 9 were positive, 6 resulted in good candidates, 3 resulted in strong candidates, I got 3 referrals from candidates and as for hires, well we’re very close to that final data point 😉

(6) It’s a Rollercoaster: candidates you thought were perfect will sometimes turn you down, you’ll change your mind, second guess yourself, wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and everything in between. Roll with the punches, fall in love with the journey. Be grateful, be kind, don’t take yourself to seriously and have some fun along the way.

(7) Always Keep the Cost of the Wrong Hire in Mind: hiring the wrong person has several consequences not just for you and the org, but for the candidate to. Don’t play with peoples lives, make the best decision possible. When you hire the right person, you typically know within 30-45 days. They build momentum, start delivering results, have an impact. The average hire who won’t end up having a major impact can be much harder to detect in that first 30-45 days. They aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong, your thinking, “oh they’re just ramping up.” Before you know it, it’s 4-6 months in and at that point, your doing performance counseling trying to manage them up or out of the business. 9-12 months hit, your hire isn’t happy, your not happy and your back to square one, actually square zero, you just lost a year didn’t you.

Listen it’s always hard to know until the candidate starts but you can mitigate the risk with thoughtful candidate profiling, the right interview guide, a consistent interview process and a strong partner to make decisions with along the journey. 3-5 years from now when I look back on what we accomplished. I want to talk about the major pivot point that shot us to the moon. The people, how they impacted the business, how they impacted me, how I impacted them. No individual is great without the team and the team isn’t great without the individual. We did it together and it all started with some cold outbound linkedin recruiting………..

So go find your A talent, don’t wait for them to submit a resume. Be creative, be fierce, be lovable, be challenging, be empathetic, be curious. Let your recruiting process be the secret proprietary weapon your competitors can’t touch, but above all else…………….Identify, Feed & Grow the Animal Within. 

kyle hale

Hey Sales Rep, Please Quit Telling Me My Question is a Great Question.


I’ve noticed a trend the last few years in inside sales, it’s slowly been eating away at my ear drums and it’s finally worked it’s way into my nerves. It happens on demo’s all across the world every day, if only Zoom, and Uber Conference could use AI to count the # of times an Account Ex responds to a pretty basic question with the phrase “That’s a Great Question!” Let’s all put a stop to it together, I’m not here to be negative. My hope is to give Account Executives a different way to approach answers to prospects questions during the sales journey that will elevate their game. I can promise you making this one modification will improve your discovery calls, demos and pipeline conversations. The most important part of the sales process is asking the right questions, the more actionable data you have, the more likely you are to close any deal.

Let’s talk about why “That’s a Great Question”  isn’t the optimal response to a prospects question.

  1. It isn’t genuine: not every question is a great question, sometimes it’s a really basic question about an integration, how analytics tracking works, or a specific feature. It’s not about a question being a great question. It’s about why the answer is important to the prospect. Or sometimes it’s about knowing what impact the answer will have on the prospect and your chances of getting the deal. Dig a level deeper with them and you’ll find some golden nuggets of data that will be actionable later on I promise. Which leads to our net bullet
  2. It doesn’t dig deeper: the prospect just shared something with you that was important enough to ask. It’s an opportunity for you to find out why the answer to this question is important to them or what context it actually has. Perhaps the competitor you don’t know your battling against can provide the right answer to this question. You’ll never know if you don’t find out.
  3. You’re not listening: when “That’s a Great Question” becomes a habit, you stop listening to the prospect. You simply waiting for your turn to serve up your bland, vanilla can’d response. When your not listening, you can’t make crucial pivots during conversations to take as much control of the sales process as you can.
  4. It does’t strengthen the prospect relationship: providing a positive affirmation that any account exec could provide doesn’t help you win the relationship battle against your competitor. Giving a prospect a unique buying journey with a consultative approach is what strengthens the fibers between the account exec and the prospect.

So one thing I always do when I present a problem, is to also present a solution. I always start by asking questions before I try to solve the problem. So what would be better than this response? What questions can I ask to expand upon the prospects question that will give me an advantage over my competition in the sales battle. Here are some thoughts around different question categories and what I would want to know to give me the leg up against my competition in a SaaS deal battle.

  • Product Feature Questions: here the prospect is likely measuring your feature set against an existing solution or the other one they are considering adopting. I want to know if they currently use this feature, if the feature is mission critical, what competitive tools they are also evaluating and why this feature is important. What does this feature impact for the end user or your company? Does it impact ease of use, revenue, segmentation, etc? Also remember on feature sets, it doesn’t always matter if you have the exact some feature as a competitive tool, but often times it is important if you can get the prospect the same result that feature produces. Sometimes if a feature isn’t a first class citizen in your product, it doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish it with a workaround the prospect is comfortable with.
  • Integration Questions: ah, the every growing tech stack, there’s a software now for every stage of every funnel of the customer lifecycle isn’t there? This is a very common pain point during a sales journey. If a prospect is asking if you integrate with a specific technology you want to find out the following; are they currently using this software, are they open to a similar solution, or if you can find a creative way to integrate with their tech stack with a too like or
  • Pricing Questions: pricing is one of my favorite conversations, it’s really an opportunity to shine as an Account Exec and here is why. The prospect has so much of the power right now. By the time the prospects gets to you they’ve taken in product and pricing data on you and your competitors, so they are prepared to try to leverage that. What they aren’t prepared for is how you handle pricing objections, that should be a proprietary strength for each Account Exec in order to take bake as much of the power back as she or he can. When you start fielding pricing questions, here is what you want to know. What pricing levers are they currently metered on and how do they feel about it. What the current satisfaction is with their existing tool you are hoping to replace is. If they perceive your tool as a low, mid or high cost option. Based upon their reactions during your demo’s, how do they view your solutions price to value ratio. You want to be prepared with the 1-3 key results your product will deliver to your prospects business that your competitors can’t and the impact it will have on their business. Remember pricing isn’t only about the number, it’s about the value associated with the number. Always bring the prospect back to value by asking good questions to help them surface the price to value ration.

Ok, I’d love to do a bunch more categories of questions but I don’t have time. With our thoughts from above in mind, here is how we can replace “That’s a Great Question” for once and for all and get more valuable data from our prospects to match the right solution to their desired result.


Responses to Replace “That’s a Great Question.”

  • Product Feature Questions Response: 
    • We do have that feature, do you currently use this feature with your existing tool?
    • What result does this feature currently drive for you?
    • In your own words, why is this feature mission critical for your team?
    • Did (competitor) tell you we don’t have this feature?
    • We don’t have that feature actually, what impact does that have on your evaluation of our solution?
    • This isn’t a feature directly in our UI, but you can accomplish the result that feature provides, are you open to looking at a work around with me?
    • We don’t have that specific feature, can you tell me the result you are hoping the feature produces for you? Maybe I can find a different way to accomplish the same result.
  • Integration Question Responses:
    • Is this a tool you are currently using?
    • We do integrate with this tool, does your existing solution integrate with it as well?
    • What actionable process does this integration allow you to execute on?
    • We don’t integrate with that tool directly, but we do integrate through a third party are you open looking at that with me?
    • From a results stand point, where is it important to you that we directly integrate with this tool?
    • I know that (competitive tool) doesn’t integrate with this tool either, is it safe to assume this is a nice to have vs. a must have for you and your team?
  • Pricing Question Responses: 
    • I’m happy to talk about pricing, have you been to our pricing page yet? If so, what is your general sense for how our pricing works?
    • Did you seek out our solution because you perceived us as a strong price to value ratio option in our space? Ok, great and based on all the pricing data you have, do you perceive us as a high, mid or low cost to value ratio solution?
    • Sure, let’s talk about pricing, since your coming off of a much more expensive tool, I assume your aware not only are we going to deliver you more value than your current tool, but that we will be a bit lower in cost as well?
    • Sure lets talk about pricing, I’d like to call something out though, keep in mind although we are more expensive than (competitor) they aren’t solving your problems in these key areas and we are (list areas).
    • Let’s talk about pricing, I agree it’s time, let me ask you this though, outside of you, who is all involved in the pricing discussion internally over at (company name)?
    • I agree that we are a more expensive solution than your used to, let’s talk about how we can have some flexibility with one another and both walk away happy.
    • I understand you’re coming off a solution that is less expensive and I really appreciate that I have the opportunity to have this discussion with you. Let me say this though, the reason your coming off your existing solution is because it’s not delivering the key results you shared with me during this journey.
    • Sure let’s talk pricing, in order for me to provide the most flexibility and accurate information, can you tell me if you historically prefer monthly or annual contracts?

Okay, so I hope that helps eradicate those 4 terrible words we have all let so eloquently stumble out of our mouths for years. If I were to ask you if you enjoyed this post, would you now say…… “That’s a Great Question.” Damn, I sure hope not….or I failed 😉

Have fun, give your prospects a unique buying journey, crush deals and remember always……………..   identify,  feed and grow the animal within. 

kyle hale






A VP of Sales Blueprint to $100K in Sales Pipeline Sponsoring SaaS Conferences

I dedicate this post to my small but fierce team, thank you Adam & Alexandra.
I dedicate this post to my small but fierce team, thank you Adam & Alexandra.

If you sponsor SaaS conferences, you know it’s expensive. Sponsored booths start at $15K and run into the hundreds of thousands for “megastructure death star booths” only the enterprise of enterprises can afford. Plus travel, lodging, food and swag costs add up. A well engineered operational  blueprint edges your competition, provides your team with operational efficiency in a chaotic environment and optimizes lead generation. Here is how my team maximized ROI on our sponsorship spend and created $100,000 in post conference demo pipeline to work in our predictable revenue system.

In the last 2 years I’ve sponsored several enterprise SaaS conferences, (Hubspot’s Inbound, Salesforce Dreamforce & Marketo’s User Conference). Through success and failure sponsoring different conferences, I’ve arrived at this blueprint which was implemented by my team at Hubspot’s Inbound 2016 show. From a results standpoint, it was our most successful show from a lead generation and converted sales stand point. Let’s review some key results from the conference and then dive into the plan.

Inbound Conference 2016 Key Results 

  • Demo’s Booked: 41 on the calendar over the next 21 days
  • Demo Pipeline: $97,908 (41 demos @ $2,388 min ACV)
  • Other Leads: 10 (likely to schedule a demo, but couldn’t on the spot)
  • Other Leads Pipeline: $23,880 (10 leads @ $2,388 ACV)
  • Total Conference Pipeline : $121,788
  • Market Awareness:  Over 10,000 attendees interacting & seeing our brand
  • Team Building: hitting our goals, succeeding as a team, team dinners etc

Understanding Conference Attendee Psychology 

Understanding conference attendee psychology drives the quality of your visual assets, booth traffic and ultimately the number of sales opportunities you’ll capture. I became a “self proclaimed” expert in conference attendee psychology between the years of 2012 and 2014. I built a $5,000,000 flash sales site from scratch with zero retail, wholesale or ecommerce experience. I attended the top product wholesale trade-shows, searching for high demand products to offer our 500,000 subscribers. This was really valuable experience, I learned the perspective of the attendee walking show floors with hundreds of vendors fighting for my attention. As I shifted my career over to software and started sponsoring conferences, I observed the same attendee psychology seemed to apply. 

To keep it simple; attendees don’t want to make eye contact or talk with you if they don’t have to. They don’t want to be forced into a conversation, they want to identify interest in your product or service from a safe distance. Scanning your demo video, signage and persuasive copy like a cyborg. They quickly compute a minimum viable interest level within 5 seconds. Most important to the attendee is they determine interest prior to locking eyes with one of your eager team members. I call this phenomenon, “5 or Die.” If you’ve created impactful visuals, attendees who fit your target buyer profile will drop their guard, walk up and say, “tell me what you guys do.” Now it’s about qualifying, getting the demo conversion and moving on to the next. Kind of like speed dating 😉 

Ok, so if your new to sponsoring SaaS conferences, or never considered how the psychology of the attendee should drive booth operations. We’ve set the tone and laid some ground work. Now let’s move onto the 3 phases of creating $100,000 in sales pipeline sponsoring a SaaS conference. 

PHASE 1: Pre-Conference Operational Checklist

Conference Promo: your not the only sponsor, competitive and non-competitive sponsors are courting the same attendees. In the next 3 months, attendee’s can only adopt a few solutions, be one of them. Your conference special should be “an offer they can’t refuse.” Put a strict deadline on the the promo, don’t make it any less than 15 days, but no longer than 60 either (unless you have a really long sales cycle). 95% of buyers can’t buy on site, more important is a qualifying trigger making the attendee eligible for your promo. In SaaS, the best qualifying trigger is to schedule a demo. If the attendee schedules a demo and buys within the deadline, they get the conference special.

Conference Promo Landing Page: your promo needs a landing page clearly explaining the promo. Link the CTA buttons on the landing page to your checkout page. This page provides urgency and can process the transaction when it’s time to buy. I’d suggest using Leadpages to build this page. One bonus note, when we show this page, we tell prospects we built this page in 20 minutes using Leadpages and they love it. If you can incorporate your product into the sales process, do it. Check out our conference promo landing page HERE.

Video Assets: Now it’s time to create your video with the “5 or die” theory in mind. Your video will pre-qualify prospects in their own mind if done well. You need strong visual product functions with persuasive copy that speaks to your target buyer profile. When writing video headline copy, consider who are you are selling to and how you solve their pain. Your video’s goal is to captivate the right people as they approach your booth, not to do a whole demo. You’re team is on standby with laptops for mini-demos. I suggest a 60 second video playing at double speed for a 30 second clip. Here is how we call out our target audience with copy and video.

Code Free Drag & Drop Landing Pages Marketing Teams Build & Test in Minutes.”

Pitch Script: Your video and copy have done their magic, attendee’s will make eye contact and say “tell me what you guys do?” The mistake many sponsors make, is giving a 30-60 second pitch that doesn’t include asking questions leading to your solution. It’s okay to start with a quick high level explanation. For example, at the Leadpages booth, we say “Leadpages is a code free drag & drag landing page builder for marketing teams” Then we go right into qualifying questions that help educate while leading to our solution. This makes the interaction much more efficient as you’re explaining what you do by asking the attendee questions vs. a long explanation and then asking questions. Remember the best sales people don’t talk a lot, they ask questions, shut up, listen and pivot responses.

Qualifying Discovery Questions Script: You’re quick n’ dirty high level pitch has the attendee engaged. High volume traffic comes in waves, you need to be efficient as possible in qualifying leads.  You do this with very direct questions, the answers to which help educate the prospect and qualify or de-qualify them along the way (within 30-60 seconds). You know the primary buyer attributes of your product, this drives your line of questioning.  Some of your questions should also serve as “de-qualifiers.” For example, if your product doesn’t integrate with a specific CRM or automation tool, when you ask the question “what CRM are you using?” That question serves a dual purpose. Scripts are especially important if you’ve brought staff from multiple departments, they all interact with the market differently. Which means they will naturally speak to attendees differently and likely not have experience in qualification. Sales is used to controlling and qualify a conversation in 1-1 fashion, other departments aren’t.

Marketers for example interact with the market in a one to many fashion via digital content and campaigns. Support is used to solving functionality issues and defusing situations. If you don’t coach everyone on how to qualify a lead, you’ll miss a ton of opportunities. Your qualifying questions need to be scripted, the script gets team members confident with the questions. Once they are comfortable, they’ll add their own individuality to the talk track. Another vital piece to this script is the primary differences between your product and your competitors. Competitive questions will happen on minimally 50%-75% of your interactions, as your likely trying to replace their current solution. Knowing your products competitive advantages or disadvantages will make or break attendees interest level while preventing  the scheduling of unqualified demos.

“Ask for the Demo” Script: via your discovery questions, you’ll easily identify if the attendee is a good fit for your product. They also likely divulged key nuggets of pain they have which your solution solves. Now it’s time to encourage a demo and get your team closer towards your lead generation goal. Remember, what qualifies attendees for your conference promo is scheduling the demo. So you make the ask and it sounds something like this. “It sounds like you have a need for Leadpages, do you have interest in scheduling a demo? This qualifies you for our conference promo which is……….” Most attendees say yes, but don’t realize you mean schedule the demo right then. This part can be awkward if you let it be, but you simply pull out your smart phone, where you have the mobile version of the demo sign up form ready to go. Once you tell them the demo can be next week or the week after, everything smooths over. One key note here, the team member should fill out the demo registration form, controlling the close of the demo scheduled conversion. Plus the attendee is carrying a ton of crap during conferences, cater to their needs.

Demo Submission form: You’ll need each team member to have access to your account executive’s demo schedule links. These will show all available times AE’s have for demo’s and once you click through the date and find a time, you simply input the name, email and phone number of the prospect and Violla! Make sure you have your confirmation email set up so the attendee gets it right away and also have your demo reminders set up for the day prior and day off the demo. We use calendly for our demo scheduling tool. It has a nice UX and the mobile version looks great.

CRM Flow: your leads that have booked demo’s need to flow into your CRM, we use Salesforce. Set up your demo capture form to auto route leads into a campaign in your CRM. These leads shouldn’t receive opportunity status yet, you still need to earn that status for each lead. Also let’s not bloat your opportunity pipeline with these leads yet . Next build a dashboard to review your trade show leads and how they are progressing. Or if you set the lead source to the trade show name, you can also just pull all opportunities related to that lead source. If you have flawless visibility into your show leads; you’ll have a higher close rate and generate more revenue. As a VP or sales manager; you want to control the urgency of this pipeline, after all, your responsible for ROI back on the thousands of dollars you just spent to be a sponsor.

Follow up Email Sequence: you have all your assets completed to draw in an attendee, pitch them, qualify them, schedule their demo and track them in your CRM. Here is the next hurdle you will deal with, even the most engaged leads run the risk of going cold between demo scheduled and the actual demo date. Also, they have met a lot of people at the conference. You need a nice non invasive drip sequence to stay top of mind. You can have these pre-written as templates and then it’s just plug and play when you get back to HQ. You can also track engagement with this content through your outbound email system, we use salesloft. Here is what I suggest for a follow up cadence.

  • Email #1: 2-3 business days after the conference ends. This email is quick trip down memory lane. Review what was discussed at your booth, what date and time their demo is scheduled for and they scheduled to qualify for the conference promo. Also include a picture of your team working the booth to make a visual connection.
  • Email #2: 2-3 business days after email #1, provide a case study or some relevant piece of content as some light reading. From here on out, they will get their demo reminder notifications. If there is a few weeks period until their demo, you may want to add 1-2 more emails in here but don’t over do it.

Pre-Conference Outbound Email Campaign: If you have any way of reaching the attendees 2-3 days before the show, send an email that peaks their interest in stopping by your booth, but don’t make it all about you. Make the beginning of your email about the prospect, inquire if they have the pain that your product solves. If you are entering your second year or more of sponsoring this show; ensure you do a campaign for any leads that didn’t close the prior year. Ask them to swing by and get some branded swag, learn about new product updates and catch up. Don’t mention your show special; sell them at the booth, keep it light, then you can work it in person.  If you are attending a user conference as Inbound is; you can also use datanyze or your past outbound email history to email all hubspot users and let them know you’ll be at the show and provide some insight into product updates etc. You can even try to set up appointments with these targets. We scheduled 2-3 appointments before the show even started it’s called setting the tone baby!

Swag: attendees love swag, be creative, stand out and have fun with it. Be conscious of the environment, don’t over order, but do consider upcoming shows you have and order appropriately. It breaks my heart when shows wind down and you see left over swag that could fill a bottomless landfill.  I have 3 theory’s on swag.

  • Swag Theory 1: the walking billboard theory, give swag away people want to wear while they are at the show. Examples would be branded plastic wayfarer’s, branded knitted stocking caps, headbands or whatever else is trending in pop culture.
  • Swag Theory 2: VIP reserve, really cool swag for key opportunities only for attendees who schedule a demo or if they show up for the demo, mail it to them later on. I’m talking bad ass hoodies, umbrellas, higher quality beanies or t-shirts etc. 
  • Swag Theory 3: functional swag, stuff people will actually use every day, mints, breath-spray, chapstick, notepads, if you do pens make them higher quality pens. People like functional and they’ll see your logo frequently, top of mind, top of funnel.

Set Measurable Goals: if it’s your first year; set an attainable yet firm goal for your team on demo’s booked. If it’s your second year (+) you better be improving your process from year #1, definitely raise expectations on goals by 20%-50%. This year we set a goal of 40 qualified demos scheduled, it was slightly lofty, but we hustled and hit 41 demos. I was so proud of the team and it’s so fun to achieve things together. Clear goals will set the tone, keep the team competitive and drive the best result possible. You can also set a closed business / net new customer adds goal. Keep in mind some demo’s set won’t show and some won’t be as qualified as you thought. If you can close 20%-30% of your show leads within 90 days. That’s acceptable. 

Phase II: Showtime

The Good News: you’ve done the heavy lifting. You’re video loop speaks to attendees from afar, drawing them in to your engineered web of excellence. Your mini pitch and qualifying questions are efficient, the team understands competitive advantages and disadvantages. Your show promo script and demo scheduling forms are ready, plus you have a drip sequence in place to keep leads warm after they leave the bosom of your booth. Strong preparation will always pay off, now it’s showtime. 

Systems Check: find your booth, get laptops connected to wifi, make sure your AV units are working, your video loop works, pass a test lead through your demo scheduler form and ensure you get the proper notifications. I also suggesting starting a slack room specifically for the conference, put all your digital assets in here for easy access to all team members. (promo landing page, demo forms, video link etc).

Floor Plan: understand where your booth is located vs. your competitors, I also encourage introducing yourself to your competitors, friends close enemy’s closer. See if they’re doing anything operationally that will put you at a disadvantage, react accordingly. Identify the quickest routes through the conference hall, where food is located, restrooms etc. I also like to walk the whole sponsor hall and identify any trends, potential partners you can bring back to business development and or any softwares you want to learn more about. Check out what swag sponsors have out there, any good ideas you can steal for future shows etc. Introduce yourself to your neighboring sponsors, ask them how they are set up operationally. See if they thought of something you didn’t, optimize immediately.

Team Schedule: This is a long week; the inbound show for example is basically 8am – 8pm everyday. I suggest the following scheduling considerations (1) Stagger mornings: the first hour of the morning is always crickets. Have a different team member take morning shift every morning and stagger people in. But never sacrifice lead opportunities. (2) Lunch: if possible give folks 30 minutes to an hour of lunch time. They can catch up on emails, stretch, eat and recalibrate. (3)Workout: I believe in keeping a disciplined fitness routine when traveling. Provide a rotating hour for working out during downtimes. (4) High Volume Traffic: everyone needs to know the likely high volume times where it’s all hands on deck.

Friendly Competition: set up friendly competition on the number of qualified demo’s booked. Us sales people take a lot of pride in being on top, it raises all around performance.  Every time you book a demo and their aren’t prospects around, definitely gloat to your team mates 😉

Charming Neutral Traffic: I don’t believe in being overly aggressive in initializing conversations. Your video, branding and display should be enough to at least draw a long look. However, I do believe engaging with what I call “neutral traffic.” These are folks showing a minimal interest level via eye contact and body language. For neutral zoners, I suggest starting off with a an ice breaker over a hard pitch. Be observant, maybe they have a cool necklace or phone case. Be genuine, complimentary or simply ask them what the most actionable takeaway at the show has been thus far?

Scheduling Demo’s: via your qualifying script, you can now easily identify solid prospects. Time to pitch your show promo and get the demo scheduled. Your team members have your calendly links pulled up on mobile. A few important notes here. (1) Don’t schedule any demos for the first 2-3 days of the following week, your show rate will be less than 25% – learned this one the hard way. (2) Cater to the prospects schedule, not yours. (3) You maybe talking to international prospects, have a timezone converter on hand. (4) Once a date and time is identified, fill out the form for the attendee, when the fields are complete, show the attendee to verify accuracy. (5) Ensure they get the demo schedule confirmation email right away. (6) Summarize by scheduling the demo they qualify for the show promo and you look forward to talking to them.

Recap Daily Results: review your results through the day and always recap the days final tally. How are you trending against your goal, what do you project for tomorrow? Also discuss any market or conversation trends you saw, you are guaranteed to find common traits and trends to capitalize on. Your having hundreds of conversations, that’s important data, don’t keep it a secret, share and optimize in real time. 

Look for Optimization: maybe your sponsoring neighbors are doing something you didn’t think about, ask them about it, if they aren’t your competitors they’ll share it with you. Neighboring booths have an unspoken bond of brother and sisterhood. Implement optimizations on the fly every day. 

Engage Other Sponsors: talk to other sponsors, especially if your counterpart title is at the show. I spent about 30 minutes talking with Jared Fuller, VP of sales at Panda Doc. He had some really great insights into channel partnerships. I’ve never built a channel partnership before. Being that Panda Doc is a point solution and Leadpages is a point solution as well, I feel I have some actionable takeaways to discover that could open up a new revenue channel. It was also cool to talk to someone who writes all of the outbound cold email email copy for his team. Keep your mind open, ask questions, you aren’t the best at everything.

Celebrate Nightly: your team is working their ass off, on their feet for 12 hours, being persuasive, listening intensely, thinking creatively, having fun, getting rejected frequently if they’re doing their job. Show your team you appreciate them, take them out for yummy num-numz and tasty libations. But never sacrifice the results of the show for your own agenda, have fun, but don’t cross the line, if you look and feel like shit, nobody wants to schedule a demo with you and you’re failing your team too, not cool, man, not cool.


Phase 3: Post Conference 

Back at HQ: the team is back at home base, share fun memories of the week, talk about everyones deliverables. Ensure your show pipeline dashboards are set up and you have everything you need. Share your newly learned market insights and results with the right stakeholders in your organization. 

Demo Show Rate: demo’s scheduled at the conference will have up to a 30% lower shower rate than your routine demo’s. You’ve done what you can to keep leads warm until their demo with your follow up sequence. For folks that don’t show, you need to get them rescheduled or de-qualify them.

Demo, Qualify, Close: from here on out, the opportunities go through your normal sales process. The big difference being that most of these poppy’s will need to close before the promo deadline. I found that the first batch of low hanging fruit closes within 60 days, from there they kind of trickle in slowly. Review results with your team daily, provide urgency to get the ROI on these oppty’s.

Continue to Measure Against Your Goals: you hit your demo scheduled goal during the show, now you need to hit your converted sales goals. I suggest minimally set a goal of 25%-30% opportunity conversion in annual contract value within 90 days.

I hope you enjoyed this blueprint and it helps you crush your next trade show. A really special thank you to my team, you guys are really amazing people and very talented. Without you, I’m just a punk 😉 I’ll do a follow up post around at the 60 day mark and let you know where we stand on our converted opportunity goal.