Over the past few months, part of my job at Gradient Works has been prospecting new leads for the company. When I first started out at Gradient Works I wrote about a few things I learned after the first week of my internship. Since then I have learned so much more, especially about prospecting.
Not only have I gained so many new skills, I have also learned a lot about sales and marketing motions. For example, I had no idea prospecting existed before my internship. I didn't know that a private beta existed, or really realize that marketing went very far beyond what you see in public about a company or product. Like me, a potential customer may not realize all of the work that goes into selling a product. For example, even finding a prospect that may be interested in your product can be a long process.
In the past five weeks alone, I have scored and evaluated nearly 400 companies to see if they fit our ideal customer profile (ICP). Basically, we have certain criteria to identify the types of customers who would/should most benefit from using our product. After identifying these potentially high quality prospects, we can take the next step with that business in our sales process.
Prospecting was a bit nerve-wracking when I first started scoring these companies. I was nervous that I would do it wrong or include something that should have been excluded and vice versa. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I want every single company I score to fit our ICP matrix. This has led me to spend a lot of extra time searching and searching to try to get as many companies as possible to meet our standard.
One of the most important things I've come to realize after scoring so many companies in a short period of time is that not every company is a fit, and it’s okay to just move on. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. There's no need to devote a ton of time to find something that just isn't there because there are a lot of other companies that may be a better fit.
Behind the scenes
As I previously mentioned, not many people may realize just how much work is involved in sales and marketing for a company. Many customers have no idea what happened behind the magic curtain to get that product in front of them.
On the other hand, those of us behind the curtain see everything. We see what goes into deciding who to market to and, more importantly, how to do it. You find out what works best for contacting a potential client and then execute that strategy over and over.
Because Gradient Works is so new, we have to find completely new leads. These potential customers should be companies, and we’ve had to continuously refine our search criteria to find the right fit. For example, we know companies who will need our product need to have a certain level of growth momentum, so our first search focused on companies that had recently raised a Series B fundraising round. While this criteria may have provided us a big list of companies, it also brought in every type of business. More than 25% of these companies had very little relevance to our product. However, this experience allowed us to refine our search to a set of more specific industries, and since then we have had much higher scores with new accounts.
The prospecting process
The overall process of prospecting is actually fairly quick and easy. I go to a company’s website and try to find as many things as I can that show that this company profile is a good fit for us. Here’s a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.
- Finding companies
- Everyone has to start somewhere. We start with finding businesses that could be a potential fit by looking up one major thing that applies to our scoring sheet. For example, our product will only be a fit for companies of a certain size, so we generate a list of companies with a certain number of employees. After we generate that list of companies, we are able to begin the more detailed process of scoring.
- Scoring accounts
- After compiling a list of companies I go in and begin the research process. I start by looking up the company on LinkedIn to get some general information about them, such as recent funding or if they are hiring. From there I visit their website to see if they have the criteria we are looking for. Sometimes this can be a long process because every website is different, so what I’m looking for may not be in the same place as a previous website. For example, a company’s pricing page may be in the menu bar, at the bottom of the home page, or embedded on a product page.
- Sometimes there’s very little information on a website, making it difficult to see if a company would be a good fit for us. In that case, I generally move on to the next account.
- Creating accounts
- At Gradient Works we like to focus on account based marketing. We sell a B2B product, and that means we’re selling to an entire team or company. ABM is a great way to keep all of our contacts or leads organized under one account so we can focus on selling to an entire company. These accounts are entered into Salesforce, which has been a fantastic tool to use during this process. Having no prior experience or knowledge about Salesforce, I was worried it would take me a while to get the hang of it, but it’s surprisingly much more straightforward than I anticipated. It seems complicated, but once you get the hang of it it can be really simple.
- Finding contacts
- Within those accounts, we need individuals leads to reach out to. We generally find these using the LinkedIn People page on the company's profile, however, we have started using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to create lead lists and keep up with what our prospects are up to.
- One thing that has been a bit of a challenge in finding contacts is sometimes a company doesn't have the exact person that we are looking for. There may be similar roles, but without the title we typically look for, it can be difficult to find out who we should enter into Salesforce. Another issue that occasionally comes up is contact information. For example, sometimes people change jobs but the email address we have on file will not be from their current position. Finding the right contact information can be a bit of a struggle.
The length of this process has allowed me to develop a greater appreciation for a product and everything that the sales and marketing departments have done to get it to where it is. (The same thing goes for the engineers that have created the product in the first place. You guys rock.)
Overall, making your product known to potential customers, especially when you're a new company, is a lot of work. I'm thankful to be a part of this incredible process, and I'm excited to see the next steps for Gradient Works!