How to Personalize at Scale

How to Personalize at Scale

October 17, 2019

Sara Howshar

The sales development industry has two camps when it comes to personalization:

One camp believes personalization is a terrific idea, but is impossible to scale and so don’t implement the process in their sales development teams. Also, what sales leaders are confident that their up-and-coming sales development reps (SDRs) know the product or industry well enough to ad-lib in a consistent way with prospects by email or phone?

The second camp believes that personalization is essential, as mass sales blasts (aka “carpet bombs”) are great in terms of volume but don’t really work with their prospects anymore.

This camp believes prospects also crave personalization. That they need to know the reps pitching them understand — and have the product to address — their day-to-day needs.

No matter what camp you’re in, Becc Holland, Head of Sales Development for Chorus.ai, has some tried-and-true tips for delivering a personalized flavor when pitching to prospects — and helping reps do it in a scalable and consistent way. She thoroughly outlines these strategies in a recent episode of our webinar series “Flip the Script” and starts by unpacking the four “-graphic principles” for personalization.

The first three principles are used fairly frequently by the sales development industry, according to Becc. She breaks them down like this:

Demographic. This is probably the most straightforward principle. It involves personalizing a message to a prospect based on that person’s age, gender, education or profession. For example, is the prospect an accountant?

Technographic. You can make sure the prospect is the right buyer for you and personalize a pitch to them by analyzing their technology integration stack. Do they have sales engagement, marketing vendors or marketing automation?

Firmagraphic. You can also segment buyers in terms of company statistics. How big is their company? What industry are they in? What kind of funding do they have? What kind of product sophistication do they have internally?

Becc says she didn’t think those three commonly used principles could capture every opportunity. So, she introduced a fourth principle, which is not yet widely used in the industry: psychographic.

Employing the psychographic principle when crafting a pitch involves finding answers to key questions such as:

  • What does my prospect believe?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What do they have certain opinions about or attitudes towards?
  • And can I use these opinions or attitudes to personalize my message?

“My theory is that, if you introduce the psychographic principle when you reach out to a prospect, you are going to get a much higher response rate because you are talking about something they are typically very passionate about,” says Becc.

If you opt to use psychographic personalization, where should you look for the material to develop the psychographic premise for your pitch? Becc suggests tapping any one of the following five premise buckets, which can easily be found within a prospect’s LinkedIn profile.

Bucket #1 — Self-Authored Content #

This is probably the most responsive bucket and includes any online post authored by a prospect or webinar they conduct, says Becc. “When you take the trouble to write something or do a webinar and put it out into the tech wild, you are doing so because you want people to engage with it,” she explains. “So, if we talk to our prospects about content they’ve authored, we’re very likely to get a response.”

In fact, Becc says she has seen a 90% response rate or higher from very senior executives when engaging with self-authored content.

“The prospect realizes there is no way I’m mass-blasting them if I’m teasing out some piece of content that they created,” Becc explains.

Bucket #2 — Engaged Content #

This bucket sees a slightly lower response rate than Bucket #1 but can still be quite high, Becc says. You are still engaging with the prospect, and they are clearly interested in the topic. But you’re talking about content that they liked, shared or commented on, instead of created.

Bucket #3 — Self-Attributed Traits #

“This is probably my favorite bucket,” says Becc, “because it involves people talking about what they do well.” For example, she points out, sometimes people will personalize their LinkedIn profile headline with a self-attributed trait, like “bad-ass scaler of teams” or “thrives in a high-paced environment.” Or, perhaps their company line talks about their achievements rather than what the company does.

“This type of personalization can have really heavy trigger rates and lead to great organic communication between you and the prospect,” says Becc. “That’s because your prospect is communicating about what’s most important to them, and most importantly, what they excel at.”

Bucket #4 — Junk Drawer #

If you can’t find anything to use for personalization from the first three buckets, you may turn up something in the so-called “junk drawer” of the prospect’s LinkedIn profile. This includes the individual’s hobbies, schools they attended, and any other interests or groups they mention in their profile.

However, if you go rooting through the junk drawer, don’t just pick out random junk. Otherwise, you could risk having your personalization attempt fall flat. “If you are going to personalize to me by addressing my love for pizza, you’d better be prepared to justify to me how your company or product relates to pizza,” Becc says.

Bucket #5 — The Prospect’s Company #

If the junk drawer doesn’t deliver, Becc suggests trawling the LinkedIn profile of the prospect’s company for relevant merger and acquisition news, blogs, hiring updates, or website messaging. Be very detailed and selective when using this information, however, so you don’t end up sending a message with a mass-blast feel, Becc advises.

So, for example, if you reference the fact that the prospect’s company is growing, Becc says your message might start off like this: “Hi Shawn, I noticed that Chorus.ai grew 73% over the last six months and just added 17 new team members … ”

Personalizing the Communication #

Once you center on the premise bucket that you want to draw from for your message, how do you then work the information you gather into effective communication (email or phone) that convinces the prospect to take a meeting? And how can you create an approach that can be used consistently across the sales team? Becc says it’s easier than you might think.

First, let’s look at email, which Becc says should be three lines (and no more than four!):

The first line of the email should be the premise or reason for the outreach. It should be the longest line of your email.

The second line should constitute the body of the email, and should be of medium length. This line should describe the value proposition you offer, and how your product can address and ease your prospect’s specific, day-to-day pain.

The last line is the call to action (CTA). Short and sweet, this line asks for one shot to unpack how VPs of Sales use your product to drive quota attainment on their teams.

Cold calls should also follow a simple structure, according to Becc. After asking how a prospect is, Becc says she launches into her postbound or outbound personalized premise (such as referencing an article authored by the prospect). Then, she transitions by using the phrase “ … but more importantly … ” before delivering the outbound premise. She then transitions out with: “... so, I’m curious to know if you’ve come across Chorus.ai before?”

And if the prospect hasn’t heard of the company before? “Then I slap them with a good, old-fashioned, upfront contract,” says Becc. The four elements of this contract, she says, are:

  • A commitment
  • An agenda
  • An outcome
  • A consent

“So, if I tell my prospect what I’m going to do and then ask them for consent, and they agree to it, they can’t be mad when I pitch,” Becc explains.

Here’s what the upfront contract looks like:

[Commitment] If you give me the next 30 seconds to give you [agenda] the best dog-and-pony show on who Chorus.ai is and why I thought we might be a good fit for you and your team over at ACME [outcome], at the end of the 30 seconds, YOU tell ME if we should continue the conversation. [consent] Fair?”

This is all rote structure, says Becc. “But if the prospect says, ‘Yes, go ahead,’ then this is where I again personalize my pitch by going back to the premise tailored to the buyer persona and pain points,” she explains.

Now, how do you personalize at scale? #

Scaling the personalization process is where most companies typically struggle because they simply don’t know where to start. “In sales development, the goal is to set high-quality appointments in volume,” Becc says.“But how we are going about it isn’t getting us to our goal.”

The key, Becc says, is not more Google sheets. It is taking the time to build in those carefully researched premises to the custom fields in Outreach or your sales engagement program. It’s quick and easy.

“By building information, some of it automated, into the custom fields, it makes researching prospects so much easier,” Becc says. She continues, “SDRs seldom get prospects on the first call, so if you have to call two, three or four times, information from prior calls bubbles up on your screen in Outreach, giving you background and context for the call and material you can use to personalize the next call.”

Becc adds, “I know personalization matters, but I want my reps to share the same vision. So, instead of asking them to try personalization, I opt them out unless they fill in some of those fields. People might think I’m crazy, but I don’t just request quality. I require it. So, if the reps don’t fill out those fields, their prospects are deactivated from Outreach. I want them to really know their buyer before they are allowed to pitch them.”

When reps are ready to pitch, Becc says a “shell sequence,” which dictates a sales cadence but also provides the flexibility to personalize messages within the template to deliver outbound premises, can be helpful. She advises using a set cadence over a period of about 21 days, with outbound communication that’s more aggressive on the back end, rather than the front. “If I’m aggressive on the front end and lighter on the back end, it tells my prospects that if they wait long enough, I’ll go away,” she says.

With that strategy in mind, Becc recommends structuring the cadence like this:

  • Day 1: email
  • Day 7: outbound call
  • Day 9: follow-up call, followed by an email
  • Days 15, 16, 17, 18 ... (until the prospect responds): call outreach

Personalization, and following a set cadence, make for hard work for reps. But Becc says the investment in time and effort is well worth it.

“This is a more exhausting method and my teams show it, but we have a real team mentality now,” says Becc. “Personalization has helped 4X their results overnight. The team feels they are in the driver’s seat for the first time in their careers.”