Gabe Larsen of XANT Reveals 5 Steps to Selling Smarter

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Podcast: Digital Conversations with Billy Bateman

Guest: Gabe Larsen– Gabe’s path to success started in 2005, when he spent two years managing InsideSales.com’s four-person sales team. Accenture in San Francisco was Gabe’s next stop, where he worked as a business analyst on the CalPERS project, the nation’s largest public pension fund with assets totaling $214 billion. Next, he worked for Goldman Sachs for two years as an equity derivative specialist. Gabe oversaw derivative activity on the London and Hong Kong exchanges for 75 U.S hedge funds, managing $750 million to $30 billion under assets. Realizing his passion and skill in the science of sales, Gabe left Goldman Sachs in 2009 to work as an enterprise salesman and strategy consultant for research-based, global performance-management company Gallup, Inc. Gabe worked for four years in Gallup’s offices around the world—making stops in Nebraska, Saudi Arabia; and United Arab Emirates before returning to the U.S.

Gabe is now the VP of marketing and oversees all of InsideSales.com’s marketing strategies as well as being the host of the popular Sales Secrets podcast.

Overview: Our guest Gabe Larsen VP of growth at XANT, shares 5 topics to consider when maximizing customer engagement. He also discusses the 8 types of media and trends in success for engaging customers.

Reference:

Host: All right, everyone, welcome to the show today. Today we are lucky to have the man, the myth, the legend. Gabe Larson, V.P. of Growth at Xant joining us. Gabe, thanks for coming on.

Gabe: Wow, that is not an introduction, man? That is, that’s very fitting. I appreciate that. I did.

Host: Humble, as always. As always, Gabe. I love it. I’m really excited to have you on. I’ve been following your stuff for a while. Been able to work with you a little bit. And I think we’re gonna have a great conversation today. But before we get into it. Can you just tell people a little bit about yourself and then about Xant.

Gabe: Yeah, totally. So yeah Gabe Larson. I’m a vice president of growth over here at Xant, formerly insidesales.com. I like to use the title of growth just because that allows me to have people not know what I do. Then I can tell them. So I run our marketing team and our business development team. And I really kind of focus more in on the pipeline area. But, you know, Xant here for six years and previous to that, I spent some time as a consult with a company called Gallop, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. So, cited me in the tech space, but mostly excited to talk about engagement and how people are interacting with each other.

Host: Yeah, man. You know, I’ve been following you for a while. You’ve done a lot of research around cadence and channels within that cadence for for sales engagement. And first, I just want to ask you, what are the trends you’re seeing for people that are being successful, engaging customers?

Gabe: You know, a couple of things. Probably. Number one is for a long time, sales people have been focused on quantity. Now they’re thinking more about quality. And I’d probably, you know, we could dive into some other things. But I want to spend just a second on here because this, you know, idea of just unwanted, untargeted, you know, unabashed spamming type of outreach is starting to slow down.

It’s companies start to use words like personalization as they start to use words like prioritization, thinking more about, you know, what they should say rather than just kind of throwing things out the side. Probably say that that’s number one or one big trend. The second is that we’ll get into this. It’s this multi-channel or omni channel approach to engagement. It’s just as you look out in the market.

Companies have been dedicated to tech tools and communication methods that they’re comfortable with. And that’s obviously led by the phone, voicemail and e-mail. That world is just it’s not dying. It’s just changing. You know, a lot of people don’t want to answer the phone. But truthfully, a lot of people don’t listen to voicemail. And truthfully, a lot of people don’t check their LinkedIn.

And so what we’re finding is that the buyer needs to be engaged with where the buyer wants to be engaged with. And so companies are finding that the hard way. They’ve got people who love the phone, they love e-mail, and they’re not getting the rates they want. And as soon as they start to change and more and find where the buyer is, they’re starting to have more success. So I’d say number two is probably on that omni channel approach. So those would be kind of two maybe interesting ones I think are out there.

Host: Okay. I definitely agree with you on the quality over quantity, especially with we do with the bots. The more personalized you can get with it, you have to have a balance between not being creepy and trying to say, Hey, John, when you haven’t even had a conversation with John yet. But personalization definitely is a pay some dividends for you. So with the multi channel approach, whether what you’re seeing is the best channels that people are starting to utilize now

Gabe: Yeah. You know, this one is interesting because with this kind of trend of omni channel, you’re starting to see something that it’s just a little more of attention and focus on. How should we engage with our prospects? Is I was kind of saying before we were just thinking what channel? And then before a lot of times people were doing things like cold calling where there wasn’t as much thought really put in to how should I be thinking about really engaging with this person.

So I almost feel like with this omni channel trend, there is just a remaking of how should I reach out or prospect to a company. One of the things I’ve found is we’ve kind of taken this acronym of P L A Y and S like PLAYS and people are just being a little more strategic about the P stands for Purpose and L stands for Lists and A stands for Assets and Y stands for Yield or what you’re measuring the S stands for Sequence and you just you’re finding that people are being a lot more strategic in the way that they reach out.

So when it comes to this omni channel approach, I think it’s probably important to just start and say when you’re thinking about engaging with your prospects, there’s actually five things you need to be thinking about to really maximize that engagement. I just want to hit this high level billy that we cut it down into the channels that just think it’s a good foundational setting. So it’s the number of attempts to do so, do I do one, two, three, four, five, six, seven? Do I do 50? It’s the media.

What we were talking about, it’s the pattern and the media you use. So do I just go phone? Do I use voicemail, email, social? What most people don’t realize that inside sales has been tracking. Is there is 8, but this is certainly debated in the space. But 8 communication methods that you can as a salesperson engage or interact with your prospect. I think it’s a let’s see if I can do it off kind of the top my head.

Host: Let’s see.

Gabe: Now that I’ve said it might be seven, let’s see, phone, voicemail, emails. social, direct mail or text, video and chat. I think that was eight. Now there’s a little bit of a debate because video is often embedded in email or it’s used in text messaging. And so some people like to make that one. Chat is often more of an inbound versus kind of an outbound. So sometimes people could try to put that in a corner.

But all in all, we’re finding sales development reps insights that they’re interacting through about eight communication channels currently that are all in a digital format. So that second pillar is media, right? So number one, you’ve got attempts. How many times am I going to try to touch somebody? Number two is what media my going to use?

Am I going to use, you know, three phone calls, and two emails or how do I kind of think about that? The next one is duration. That’s kind of start to finish. So do I do this for six months? Do I do this for one week? How long do I go? The next is spacing the time between activities. Probably in our data set, the thing that’s missed the most that people don’t really think about is a lot of best practices about how the distance of time that you should wait in order to kind of hit your prospects.

So, do I call Monday one then wait till Monday two. Or I call Monday one and then call the afternoon of day one. And then lastly, that pillar is content. That’s what you’re gonna say in your message. And this is kind of the cherry on top, right? What do you say in the email or in the voicemail or in the text message, the words you use of the verbal cues you take. So that’s a little higher level.

But when you when you think about engaging, think attempts, media duration, spacing and content. So that’s how I kind of coach people, Billy, when they’re meeting with people to do it the right way. But to your point today, we kind of want to dive in that pillar of media, which is, you know, what are some of these different channels and how we seen people use them. But before I do that comments on that any question?

Host: Yeah. So, I know one thing that it seems like everybody there’s always the debate if hey, I called them yesterday. Do I call him again today? Do I send him an email? Do I send him a text on that duration? Or was the duration and the spacing? Yes. I want to. Let’s double click on both of those. What do you think is the best practice on spacing? And duration like when do I? When does a sales rep give up on a on a lead? You don’t like it’s just never going to happen.

Gabe: Yes, interesting because we actually went out and asked the market what they believe is best practice on duration and it came back about 30 days. So most sales reps, when you say, hey, how long should your call it your prospect strategy or play your katydids with a prospect? How long should that last? Our data about a thousand companies said people believe it should be about 30 or that’s where they think they are.

Interestingly, found that’s not optimal. We found on an outbound cadence. It’s more up to say excuse me, up to eight days. And on an inbound it goes just a little bit longer, up to about 10. Surprising for a lot of people. They’re like, why? How can that be? That’s very short. That then translates into optimal spacing of about 1 to 2 days max between touches because our data sets on attempts.

You know, you should be a under ten from a total attempt standpoint. And I’m using a little bit around numbers here if people want more data on this. You know, they can have me up on LinkedIn to get specifics or by industry, etc. But I just say that because when I show this to people, they’re like, wow, you know, the difference between what people believe is best practice versus what the data is fairly different.

So on the attempts, you know, people said, I believe, you know, I do 15 and I think that’s optimal 15/16. We found that up to 10 is actually optimal, that people on average are doing about 3 to 4. There’s just this disparity of what I believe is good. What I do, what is actually good. So, the takeaway on the duration and you can tell Billy, I like to kind of go, I’m all over the place. So, I got all these numbers that I had. I got to get them out. You know.

Host: That’s that’s why we had you on. We love the data.

Gabe: But how did that duration and spacing most people when they hear kind of what I just said, that eight days and then, you know, 1 to 2 spacing, they feel like it’s too short. What we found from our data science team is best practice plays, or best practice kind of cadences or whatever you want to call this kind of in your vocabulary.

It’s better done hitting somebody fairly hard. You know, you hit it will get over a couple of weeks with multiple touches. Then you actually pull back and you go into recycle mode. So, you’ll wait, you know, two weeks up to about 60 days. So, in some cases, 90 depending on your sales model. And then you’ll hit it with another play for a couple weeks and then you’ll pull back and then you’ll hit them again. So rather than doing what marketing does, which is nurture someone for six months. What we found best practice for sales is a get kind of tight play with certain messaging pullback, recycle then bring them bring about. So anyway.

Host: Interesting, it kind of makes sense when you think about it. You know, hit them really hard. They’ve expressed some interest. See if you know, then pull back if you don’t get anything. And try again later on until they tell you to get lost. Yeah. Yeah.

Gabe: Well, and the other thing is, because they’re a targeted account in most often in cases. Right. It’s like you can’t really be done with it. You try somebody, it doesn’t work, then you maybe try somebody else or you try some different messaging. So the target account concept I think fits again as well.

Host: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense for a target account. So before we go now, we’ve spent all of our time talking durations and spacing. Let’s talk into media now.

Gabe: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I think on the media fronts, the big thing I think to just start with is just to reiterate what we talked about. Right. Number one is you are looking at 8’s you’ve got about eight communication methods that you can play with. Now, we know that most dominant in usage is phone and email, really neck and neck. Think of them almost no different.

We saw in 2017 when we did the data, it was the average cadence had about 4.6. This is from what people believe they did, by the way. The average cadence had about 4.6 phone calls and 4.6 e-mails, when we redid the survey in 2019, phone had 4.5 and email went to 4.9. So I think that is true. You have seen it tick up slightly in email, but they definitely dominate.

However, you’re starting to see some other things pop in here, right? Some that you didn’t see normally like direct mail or social is still playing a significant role. And then truthfully, both text and chat kind of popped up almost, you know chat kind of it almost feels like it came out of nowhere, Billy. But we from our data, the average sales development rep, if they do one chat, you know, basically 0.6 per port, per interaction with the customer, per interaction with the prospects. First and foremost, a communication methods that I think you need to be thinking about.

Second point I think you need to be thinking about is more is better. So don’t kind of think that certain industries don’t fall. I talked to a guy who, you know, their only sell into the trucking industry and load behold, those guys only pick up the phone. Perfectly fine in high tech sales. Linked-In has a lot of success. So not that this is you need a peanut butter, spread this for everybody.

But generally speaking, more is better. Our data says if you are able to use three-plus communication methods, you actually can increase your ability to have conversations with somebody by basically a 4 X number. So I’d kind of start with probably, you know, a couple of those points, but start thinking about the different communication methods, the aid of of don’t fall in love with one and know that three or more is going to get you your optimal conversation rate.

Host: So what was that again, three communication methods. What did it increase your contact rate by again?

Gabe: Yeah, it’s a four. It’s a 4x increase.

Host: 4x increase. Okay. And that’s big time. So I want to double click on to chat just a little bit and talk about your own experience because I know you over at Xant, you guys have been using chat for over a year now. And what have you seen, how it affect your own sales process?

Gabe: Yeah. You know, the thing that was probably most interesting for me, that kind of tipped me off to chat originally and I’ll maybe get into some specifics was we did a state of sales development report and I’ve thrown out a couple of metrics from it. Others that last year and largest study of its kind, you know, 12000+ companies, I can’t remember the exact number.

But we asked them, you know, which tools are you adopting in your kind of sales development stack or for your sales development team? And no surprise, you know, you had kind of CRM on top. You had social number two, data number three. And it got kind of interesting. You know, we basically saw this emergence of phone and email coming together with sales engagement of, you know, which is more of the place that Xant plays in. And then, you know, I was surprised because you had this this chat thing pop up there.

And I remember thinking chat like, well, you know, if you look at the previous year, it was it at the very bottom, but it was certainly buried deeper. And people were kind of explaining it in the survey as a column with some of the terms. I love that it was like, oh, like foundational technology stack for sales development teams included like these five tools against CRM, social, data engagement and then chat.

So I think truthfully, that’s probably what tipped the saw or tipped me off because so many companies are starting to think about us like, oh my goodness, we shipwright jump on this bandwagon and figure out what’s going on. So, that was kind of my intro to it. And then what happened with me, Billy? And you know, this story well is I think I kind of tried to jump on the bandwagon. We interviewed both kind of drifted intercom at the time. And I don’t mean to use names, but I’ll stop after.

Host: Go ahead.

Gabe: We ended up going with one of them. And there was a couple things I found interesting. One was when I rolled out the chat program, I rolled it out into marketing and we didn’t initially throw it to the BDRs. You know, in hindsight, should we been more aggressive potentially? Number two was I found very quickly that like many tools, it doesn’t do its thing by itself.

It’s you know, you don’t usually just you can’t really, like, throw the chat bot on your Web page or hand it to a BDR and kind of let it do its thing that doesn’t really exist. Like you have to work with it, like you do CRM, like you do an engagement tool. You know, in your engagement tool, you have to build [inaudible] days or you have to build cases or sequences for the audience. Chat’s very much like that.

It’s not kind of a self-propelled engine. Number three is, you know, I wanted to find something that could kind of do this. And they almost sound like they’re opposing ideas but enable and eliminate BDRs. I know that maybe sounds a little odd, but of a truthfulness. You know, it’s it’s a heavier cost of sale to have a lot of sales development reps and inbound in particular when the inbound lead comes in.

It’s a fairly light lift for a sales development rep, but it’s a heavier cost of sale, not incredibly. But it you know, it adds to the margin. So we had just debated, you know, if there’s a way to eliminate some of that heavy lift of inbound on the SDR. And run it through chat bot where the chat bot can automatically interact with the person on their time, schedule something that works for them, bypass the sales welman rep and then toss it directly to the account executive.

We would just become more efficient. Right. Again, I don’t want to eliminate SDRs. I just want to see if we could get a little more efficient. While you know, at the same time, enabling live chat for other BTRs, you know, to kind of play that role of maybe talking with people who are interacting or do want to have more of a live interaction. So that maybe sound a little confusing, but we’re trying to find that balance of elimination enablement. So those were three things in figuring out the chat was kind of important starting down that journey. Those were three things I kind of noticed fairly quickly.

Host: Okay man, it is interesting that balance like, hey, we want to enable the SDR’s, but then maybe eliminate some of them or just not need to add more headcount. I think the combination of a bot with something like chat does it pretty well, actually. But like you said, you can’t just like throw it on the Web site and expect it do its thing without working at it as well.

Gabe: Yeah. Yeah. And I do think those are probably common misconceptions. Couple of those I just chat up there. Is it going to eliminate my sales development team. It’s at this point, you know, the answer to both those is, no, you can’t just sit there and know it’s not, you know, eliminate sales development anytime soon. I mean, you could argue that sales engagement going to eliminate, you know, sales development sometime soon with the A.I. stuff. I just don’t see that happening in the next, you know, handful of years.

Host: No, I don’t either. I think really like the use of any bot is where it’s most effective is you use that bot to just engage people and then connect them to your sales team, whether it’s an SDR and so that they can get their answers from a real human.

Gabe: That’s right. That’s right. So, I think it’s a good balance there.

Host: Awesome Gabe. Well, thanks for the insights. Appreciate you taking a few minutes. If people want to get a hold of you and learn more about sales, cadence and engagement, where can they find you?

Gabe: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I most probably most active on LinkedIn. You can catch me there. Gabe Larson with Sands and would love to continue the conversation and dialogue around any questions you might have around engaging optimally with your prospects.

Host: Awesome, Gabe. Thanks again. And we’ll chat later.

Gabe: Okay. Thanks, Billy. Take care.

Host: You too.

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