Sales is hard. We’ve been doing it (across multiple pivots) since we launched out of Antler in 2021. Our philosophy has been to sell first, build later, so that we don’t waste time building something nobody will buy.
Over this time, there were a few things about sales that really bugged us, in particular the prospecting process (finding potential fit customers, and reaching out to them).
Our challenges with prospecting
- 😡 There are too many competing best practices out there for running a sales process, as early stage founders we didn’t know what approach to prioritise
- 😡 Existing tools to discover and scrape our target audience (Sales Navigator, Apollo) contain a lot of noise in their database, that requires lots of manual effor t to clean (precious time that scales with the size of the list)
- 😡 New and advanced solutions on the market such as Ocean.io are out of reach for the majority of SMBs in the B2B space because of high costs and annualised pricing
These problems bugged us so much that we decided to build a start-up to fix them. But we knew our experiences would differ from the real world, and we really wanted to understand other people’s experiences in the prospecting space — do they align to ours? What challenges have they faced when they prospect? So we decided to talk to over 70 people across 3 core personas that we assumed would feel the pain of prospecting most acutely — Early stage founders at B2B Saas start-ups (people like ourselves), Lead generation agencies (who sell prospecting as a service), and sales people at B2B Saas start-ups (who need to execute on their servicable markets). Over the course of 3 weeks we built up a picture of a typical sales process and challenges faced for each of these personas.
What we learned about prospecting at growth-stage B2B saas companies
- We spoke to 20 sales people, compromising a mixture of SDRs, BDRs and Account Executives at B2B Saas start-ups that are scaling for growth
- 70% had a sales team of 10 or less, 30% had a sales team of more than 11 people, across multiple roles
- 90% were executing their sales through an account-based sales strategy (sourcing key accounts and then reaching out to multiple prospects within those)
- 90% were also using a multi-channel, multi-cadence approach to outreach
- On average, sales people were targeting 10 qualified meetings booked a month, this was generally deemed an industry best practice
- Sales people are spending 50% of their time manually researching accounts and leads to pre-qualify them prior to reaching out, this involves looking for “signals” on an account or prospect level that would indicate that they may suffer from the problem their start-up is trying to solve — something we call “proxy pain”, e.g. do they have integrations? How ubiquitous are those integrations? Is something missing?
- Inbound isn’t working as well outbound because marketing is failing to take ICP and buyer persona details into consideration as part of assigning MQLs, the result is that sales have to spend addiitonal time and effort to filter out non-target prospects, before jumping into pre-qualification desk research
- Outreach has become heavily-saturated, with the average buyer being reached out to 3.4 times a month, driven by the explosion of cheap tools like Apollo.io. As a result, sales people are increasing utilisation of prospects through multi-channel outreach, focusing on establishing “relationships” through slower sales cycles, and relying less on email and more on LinkedIn and cold calling
- Firmographic filters on tools like Sales Navigator and Apollo are generally more accurate if boolean search function is used in combination with filters, most of you had standardised search criteria on these tools to capture accounts/leads
- Sales people generally had a lot of flexibility in how to execute their prospecting and outreach within the given channels of their company, every one of you had a unique process and also mentioned that you execute differently than others in your team (e.g. focusing on prospecting new accounts, versus converting closed accounts)
What is Noki?
Noki is an AI sales qualification tool — we turn your newly prospected accounts into qualified opportunities, using machine learning to automatically filter for companies that match your qualification criteria