AI For Outbound With Mike Farrell
Getting the best customers is all about knowing who they are first and foremost. With the advent of technology, it can be quite easy to do that now. Instead of having to talk to them one by one, you can now use intent data to analyze their behavior and more. Chad Burmeister talks with Mike Farrell, CEO of Green Leads, LLC, about how companies can leverage intent data to drive top-of-funnel pipeline. By using AI for outbound, getting information on what leads are more sales-ready has become more efficient than ever. Tune into this great episode to know more about finding good leads for your business.
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AI For Outbound With Mike Farrell
Mike Farrell, CEO Of Green Leads, LLC, Shares His Insights Into How Companies Can Leverage Intent Data To Drive Top-Of-Funnel Pipeline
How are you?
I'm glad to have you here. I appreciate all your help. We collaborate a lot on market-sizing, what's going on in the industry and what's changed. At the end of the day, how do you drive more meetings and more pipeline for customers? What's that nice banner, Global One-Stop Pipeline Generation?
That's our tagline.We've been around since 2007. We started doing everything the old-fashioned way like cold calling. It started in the lead generation business and doing content syndication in early 2010. That's been evolving and starting to dabble into the intent data business too. We are still doing a lot of content syndication, email marketing, syndicating and content-generating, those MQLs and HQLs but we are starting to move into that intent data market. We're dipping our toe into the water to get started.
Intent data is a new concept. I was at the B2BMX conference in Arizona. It was certainly one of the hot topics on the floor. Being able to track what's going on the internet, which companies are searching, which terms, and then spending your efforts on those companies rather than everyone seems to make a lot of sense because outbound calling can take 20, 30 or 40 dials to talk to someone. If you're going to invest 30 dials and you get someone who's not in your market and doesn't care, then it seems to me that having the intent data can help you have better conversions and lower cost per meeting.
HQL or Highly Qualified Leads are one of our hottest products. That's where we get a chance to get some of the hand raiser information to answer 3 or 4 custom questions. That intelligence is the information that you would get from intent data. That's where you can prioritize those leads and you can find out which ones are going to be better quality. Those are going to be more sales-ready for the BDRs to call. It’s still going to be valuable to make those outbound calls to those better leads.
Correct me if I'm wrong here, Mike, but when we were calling on HQLs at RingCentral, I had a team of 50 people who did inbound calls. We would buy from 6 or 8 different inbound HQL sellers of leads and pay between $50 and $80 a lead or so. What we found most companies did wrong is that they'd get the HQL, they call it once or twice, they’d send an email and then they'd let it sit in MQL land. What we did as a company is we put in an approach that after ten days, when we sent it to the quota-carrying sales team, on day eleven, it went to a team that was driving a lot more dials than the quota-carrying team was and we would see a massive spike in conversions. We started on day 21 then we moved it up to day eleven, I don't know where it stands now. I assume that when your company offers HQLs and the follow-up to the HQLs, you're using best practices for the number of touches after it goes into HQL status.
The freshness of those is key. You’ve got to follow-up on them immediately. There's got to be a sequence to follow up on and get them. You'll get someone on the phone right away then it's going to take other times 5, 6 or 7 touches to get them on the phone.
Before we go too deep into AI and technology, I like the audience to get to know who Mike Farrell is. You're from Boston, I believe. Is that where you were born?
I grew up in Connecticut. I’m a New England guy. I went to school up here in the Boston area, Merrimack College in Andover. I married my high school sweetheart. I have four adult children and I have two brand new grandsons.
What did you major in school?
Business and Marketing.
I thought you did something completely outside of anything that we talked about.
I knew I wanted to be in sales. I went directly into high tech sales. I started in the PC industry, where we were selling software that was on eight-inch floppy disks. That's how far back I go before Microsoft was public.
That's back when it was like 4k on a disc drive. Before you got into the marketing role, what got you excited when you were a kid? I like to understand because you've been a COO, then you're the CEO of a company. Think back to when you were younger. Did you think you might end up as a person that could lead a large team of salespeople? Connect those dots for us.
My dad had his own company, so I knew I wanted to be in sales. I knew that the sales track was high. You’ve got to be a leader in business whether that was in a sales leadership role or an executive. From a business standpoint, I knew that was my goal all along.
It’s good when you have a father figure that shows you the ropes. My dad was a doctor. My brother became a doctor and my brother-in-law is a doctor. My uncle was in sales at Pfizer Pharmaceutical. He was a VP there like my cousin was but they lived more on the East Coast. It was a little harder to get that vision when you're talking about it at the dinner table. The definition of AI for Sales is a broad topic. How do you think of it? I don't need a Wikipedia version definition but what do you think of AI for sales?
I think it more about machine learning. There's so much data out there and the machine can learn from all that data. It's going to be more guided selling and point us, “Where and what should I do next? Who should we talk to next? Who could it be in the buying cycle next?” It's going to point us in the right direction. We all know in sales that there's a lot of time wasted trying to find the good leads and trying to find the buyer that's in a buying mode. We have this philosophical discussion with clients when they say, “I want a BANT lead. A lead that's going to Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline.” I said, “If we find that lead, you're too late. That means if they already have a budget, the need, and the timeline, they already selected and got a proposal from another vendor.
Unless you're a commodity and you're the 80% lower price.
Most software technologies are not going to compete on price. We are in the business who sold up technology companies. You want to find out who's got the challenge and the business pain. You don't want to show up too late for the deal. You want to get there at the right time. That's going to be the machine learning and data crawling. That's where the wind is going to be.
I heard of a company called Motiva AI. It plugs into Eloqua. It will start to listen across all of the campaigns that are going out, and with machine learning, it’ll look at which ones are performing better. Is it a shorter subject line? Maybe the hot topic of the day is included in the subject line or how long is the email? It looks at all those different shapes, sizes and time of day. The cool part is that the AI starts to serve up the recommendations and execute it. A human sits on top of this technology and can look at it. I went to Breckenridge Brewery here in Colorado and they were using AI to mix the hops and the beer.This was when I toured there and I said, “What's that computer over there?” They go, “That's the AI computer that does all the mixing for us.” My little nephew asked the question, “How long did it take for the AI to do it right?” “The first few batches were totally ruined. It didn't work very well.” Now, it's perfect. It's better than what a human could do. There'll be parts of the sales cycle that can be automated. It's going to move up so that, we, as sellers, can move up the food chain, have value conversations, and the computer and the AI can find the right person, even send the right message and then get you on a meeting like this and have a discovery call.It should result in more and better conversations.We've talked a little about this. Are your sales reps using AI at all from a selling capability? What are your thoughts on using it for sales reps?
We're still in the investigating mode, but I think it's early for most sales organizations.
It's like when the internet was coming out is what it feels to me. All of a sudden, everybody has it, models are completely disrupted and changed. If you fast forward the tape years from now, you'll look back and say, “Look at the transformation that we went.” You work with many different organizations, are you seeing a shift? Marketing started owning the SDR role. It shifted largely to sales. I would say it was an 80/20 sales owned SDR/BDR for a lot of years. Do you think with AI and with more technology like this, does that shift the SDR/BDR role back to marketing? Do you think it stays where it is? Where should it reside?
I don't think there's one right answer. It depends on the culture of the company and the competency of the different organizations as to where it should go. It is Switzerland between sales and marketing. It's the recipient of the leads. Sales are the ultimate constituent of the BDR output. In most companies, especially in the SaaS world, the career path for those BDRs is to sales. There's going to be an allegiance to the sales team, sales department, and sales reps from the BDR/SDR themselves, and those relationships will get built.
I've looked at it as wherever the smartest person is. For example, if Mike Farrell worked in your organization and he was in the marketing department then I would make the argument to say, “We should try to have the BDR team report into Mike in the marketing department.” If Mike is in the sales department, then I would say, “I think we should follow the person who understands how to be a data-driven leader,” is my personal perspective about this.
Sales operations, marketing operations and revenue operations are all new areas and functions that are being developed in companies in any significant size. Those are new areas that sometimes the SDR/BDR role might fall into one of those areas. There's a lot of data analytics going on in that space too.
With Green Leads, what's a typical customer come to you for? Do you have a standard program where someone says, “I need twenty leads a month?” What do they normally come to you to help them execute?
There are two different camps. We have the traditional lead generation buyer, MQLs and HQLs. That’s the top and middle of the funnel responsible for the demand generation, so that content syndication fills that top of the funnel. That could be either a monthly reoccurring set-up where they say, “I need 400 of these every single month.” We'll rotate different marketing assets for the different campaigns or they'll set-up a quarterly program. It could be a one-off campaign.
You're flexible. If you're looking for the top of the funnel, especially with the Coronavirus, a lot of conferences are canceled. I've got to believe that's going to leave a gaping hole for a lot of technology companies.
We got a call from a company here in Boston and said, “All our shows are canceled. We're going to have no leads for the BDR team. We got to talk next week.” I said, “Okay, let's do it.” On the appointment side, we have two models. We have the traditional for the more mature companies with a mature product line that is in the adoption cycle. The pay-per-performance appointments want to scale their company and business. They need quantity of appointments. They’re going to do that on a performance basis. We need 20, 30, 50, 100 appointments a month for whatever the scale is for X number of reps. That’s on the performance-basis and cost per appointment. The other model which is for smaller organizations or startups which is the outsourced SDR where they don't have any SDRs. They might have a gap in their SDR program where they can't find enough people. We'll even do halftime SDR for people.
It sounds like we should talk about partnering. If anybody's interested in trying Green Leads and ScaleX in one trial, we'll run a 2 or 3-month pilot where we could help with some of the emailing and you can do all of the callings. I can smell a partnership starting to come to fruition here. Mike, I appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us. I’ll look for more intent data. I would say that Mike is going to come back and talk about 3 or 4 AI for Sales technologies that he's deployed. I'll be looking forward to that conversation. Thank you, Mike.
Chad, it’s good talking to you.
About Mike Farrell
Career Profile: Mike is a proven high growth leader over 30+ years in the IT Channel and BPO-service industries with both start-up and public companies. Direct leadership experience with seven M&A events and tapped to lead integration teams. Experience working at the Board of Directors level.Mike is currently CEO of Green Leads, leading the business growth by focusing on strategic differentiation, customer acquisition and providing a high touch high-quality client experience.Prior to Green Leads, Mike was doing consulting work (still does some) under his own firm – helping B2B companies optimize their digital marketing and help if they want to build an internal SDR team. He spent 15 years as Chief Operating Officer of BAO, in Andover MA. Joined when a start-up and was the driving force behind the growth to a category-leading, 200+ employee, $20M+ Outsourced SDR firm (BPO).Prior to BAO, Mike was SVP of Sales at PC Connection (NASDAQ: CNXN), where he led the transformation to a B2B sales model, doubling revenue to $1.4B in his tenure. At CompuCom Systems (now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Office Depot) Mike was VP of Sales of Public Sector after its acquisition of CIC System where he was VP of Sales, Marketing & Professional Services for the national IT solutions provider. Earlier in his career he held numerous sales leadership positions at CIC and Copley Systems where he was the integration specialist folding in the acquisitions of two firms to create the national footprint.He holds a BS in Business Administration from Merrimack College.He is a member of AA-ISP, past President of the Hopkinton HS Athletic Booster Association, and is on the Board of Bright Spirits Children’s Foundation. He and his wife of 30+ years, Kathleen, live in Massachusetts and have four adult children.