Prospecting has come a long way from cold calling: It should be strategic, thoughtful, helpful, and almost always a warm connection.
What is warm? Warm is when you know there’s a good reason why you need to reach out to your prospect, it's for their benefit that you're getting in touch, and you know why they’re likely to need your solution now.
You own your pipeline. For strategic account leaders (SALs), prospecting should be a part of your regular sales activities. This means blocking dedicated time on your calendar to plan, strategize with your team, and reach out to your top prospects every single week. After all, if you don’t have a pipeline, you don’t have a business. And as the CEO of your territory or area, you need to dedicate time to your future business as much as your current business to reach your target.
It takes a team effort to achieve results. The SAL owns the customer relationship, but all team members can and should participate in strategy, planning, and execution. SALs should work closely with their sales development reps (SDRs), channel account manager, and also sync with their Field Marketing team member.
Team is external, too. Think about the technology partners that can help you scale your approach. Engage with these partners, identify the right entry point, and present GitLab jointly with the partner to your customer. Exercise the muscle of engaging early and working with partners to identify new customers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about Prospecting at GitLab:
Good prospecting feels like a conversation. Cookie-cutter copy blocks, technical jargon, and generic language don’t get results. Custom, tailored, and specific messages do. This takes a lot more work, but the ROI is worth it and you should factor additional time to plan, strategize, and write into your approach. A lot of the tools included in this toolkit are designed to help you do this efficiently.
You need to earn the attention of your customer or prospect. It’s not guaranteed. If you don’t know why they should be talking to you over anyone else in the world - then you need to refine both your message and your target list. After all, they do not owe you a response or a message back, it is earned. A great way to earn the attention of your prospect is to know more about their strategic technology initiatives or partnerships. It shows you've done your research and elevates your conversation to alignment with something the business has prioritized and budgeted for.
You’re the expert on GitLab, they’re the expert on their business. You know what they say about assumptions? It’s important to keep in mind that no one knows your customer’s business better than they do. It’s your job to keep them in the loop on what solutions we offer that could help them be more effective now or down the line - but don’t assume it’s what’s best for them. In every prospecting call or message, it should be clear that you’re offering to advise them, not tell them what’s best for them.
Start from your territory plan. This exercise should be your source of information on where you’re prioritizing your time and what activities you and your team think will be most effective. It's also where you've set your pipeline generation target.
How to determine your target? A general rule of thumb is to plan to create 3.5x your target in pipeline and then work backwards to determine what value you need to deliver every quarter and every month. As you measure your success, you’ll learn whether that’s too high or too low based on how you implement your strategy and the results you deliver.
Working backwards from your target, you'll be able to calculate how many accounts and opportunities you need to be successful. When looking at your target list, make sure you have a mix of those who are likely to buy now and those who may take a year or longer. Strategic partnerships take time so you need to diversify both your list and your outreach.
Work with your Sales Development team member to:
Use data to support your assumptions:
Next, plan your approach and sequence with your team. Have regular pipeline generation reviews and meetings (whether async or live) with your sales development team members and wider team to get input and advice on your approach.
Work with your Sales Development team member to:
Work with partners: Work with your Channel Account Manager (CAM), talk to your peers, or use the Partner Directory to identify if there is a partner that supports specific accounts and can provide insight into target contacts or stakeholders.
Work with Field Marketing: Learn what events are currently scheduled in your region and view the name of your aligned field marketer.
Use the Pipeline Generation Toolkit for Enterprise SALs to get started on prospecting.
Remember to triple-check your messages before you send them to prospects and customers. Getting details about them and their company wrong is cited in the State of Sales 2021 report as one of the top deal-breakers in the eyes of buyers.
Teams at GitLab find success when they dedicate time to prospecting and customer-centric activity. Whether you're meeting with a prospect, a partner, or with growth customers, setting up an Outbound day to focus on bringing customer's value can boost your results and let your team members know not to schedule or pre-book internal meetings during your dedicated customer time.
Mission: In alignment with the GitLab Value of Iteration, we want to give time back to the customer-facing teams, SALs, SAs, BDRs, TAMs / CSMs, ISRs, and Channel Account Managers, to allow for customer focus and partner-facing time. In addition, we feel it will allow for more significant customer and partner collaboration.
Why it matters: We recognize that there is an abundance of internal meetings and requests. To help foster more customer centricity, we have developed the concept of “Outbound Wednesdays.”
What it is: Use your best efforts not to pre-book internal meetings on a Wednesday. If on a Wednesday, feel free to schedule a same-day meeting to collaborate with the critical stakeholders on customer activities.
Exceptions: Outbound Wednesdays are not a mandate; however, a recommendation for our Americas Enterprise teams to use their best efforts only to pre-book customer and partner meetings. For managers, this would include customers, partners, and recruiting. They can still happen if we need to have same-day internal discussions on a Wednesday. There will be the time in people’s calendars for same-day meetings.
The goal is to avoid scheduling such meetings in advance. By doing this together as a “ONE AMER ENT Team”, we will find that it will help to provide an environment where customer-centric collaboration can more easily happen. By striving to reduce internal meetings on Wednesdays, we should be taking the initiative to operate asynchronously with team members whenever possible. We can follow up with an internal discussion on subsequent days where synchronous collaboration is needed to clarify any misunderstandings.
Generally, surprises - whether in the form of sudden, major deals or sudden, major losses - are a bad thing. We have to strive to create predictable results. At first, this seems like trying to predict the vast unknown. But if you have a strong strategy in place for your pipeline, you’ll be able to see exactly how your year will turn out well before it happens. This means better, more reliable forecasts and less stress for you on whether you’ll meet that target.
Validate, validate, validate. Effective qualification is just the first step. As you invest in a prospect, it’s important to continuously validate the opportunity throughout the sales cycle and make sure it can deliver results for you and that we are the effective solution for the prospect.
Use data to validate your opportunities. If you’re making big bets because you ‘hope’ a prospect will change their mind it’s a sign that you need to go back to the validation process:
Meet with your team and get their help and feedback on validating what’s in your pipeline and hold regular meeting cadences with them to walk through your top prospects.
Keep your opps squeaky clean: Pay attention to how long something has been sitting in a specific stage, and close it out when the time is right. For a tech company, the average strategic deal takes 6 months to a year to close. While it’s normal for an opportunity to sit, holding it prevents another team (or other resources) from helping it progress.
Holding hurts our prospective customers because while they’re sitting there, they aren’t getting any real value from us (and likely to get more value from a competitor). It’s for their benefit that we push deals along or move them to close.
Partner support: #channel-sales Slack channel is a great place to get help from a Channel Account Manager that can share partner contacts with you
The toolkit above will be your main resource and contains things like a sequencing template for you to copy and modify for your own pipeline generation activities. It also includes the resources below which we’ve described here for easier access. To explore additional tools available, check out our tech stack page.
Outreach.io is a tool used to automate emails in the form of sequences. Users can track open rates, click through rates, response rates for various templates and update sequences based on these metrics. Outreach.io also helps to track sales activities such as calls. All emails/calls/tasks that are made through Outreach.io are automatically logged in Salesforce with a corresponding disposition. See below for a list of current call dispositions, what they mean and scenarios on when to use each of them. All SALs can request access to Outreach.io by submitting an Access Request (if you do not already have access).
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is one of the main prospecting tools we use at GitLab. It features a powerful set of search capabilities, improved visibility into extended networks, and personalized algorithms to help you reach the right decision maker. All SALs have access to LSN. Click to go to the EdCast training. And view additional videos and tutorials on the handbook page.
DemandBase is used by Sales Development who can show you relevant data related to your target prospects. It has a wealth of intent and propensity to buy data that is married with account engagement indicators to create a holistic intent mapping for each account.
Conversica is a conversational AI tool that helps enterprise marketing, sales, customer success, and finance teams attract, acquire and grow customers at scale across the customer revenue lifecycle. The AI Assistant works by engaging the prospect in a human-like conversation over email in an effort to further qualify the prospect.
Salesforce Inbox is a productivity tool to integrate Salesforce with emails. You may need to request access. View the Associating emails to Salesforce handbook page for more information on how to use Salesforce to track outreach.