Dive into the latest episode of the B2B Go to Market Leaders podcast, where sales expert Tom Slocum shares his comprehensive approach to go-to-market (GTM) strategies. As the founder of The SD Lab, Tom brings valuable insights into marketing plans, sales motions, and customer success. 

Learn about his journey from a sales representative to an entrepreneur, his strategies for building and scaling SDR teams, and the importance of collaboration and client involvement in crafting effective messaging. This episode is a treasure trove of actionable advice and nuanced understanding of modern marketing tactics.

Listen to the podcast here:

Expert GTM Insights from Tom Slocum: Building Effective Sales Teams, Collaborative Messaging, and Optimizing Outbound Efforts

Let’s start off with the signature question of the show, which the listeners love. And that is how do you view and define go to market?

Such a good question. This one’s so finicky. You know, you get people always talking about GTM leaders, you know, all this different stuff and influencers and whatnot. For me, how I define GTM, first and foremost it is to go to market, right. Go to market. Right.

And I think it is a full holistic view of an organization proactively going to their market. So they’re going after their ICP, their buyers, people that would be needing help in solving the problems that this that your organization solves. And that means what’s the marketing plan? What’s the sales motion? What are all the pieces in there? You know, how is CSM going to run? What’s their goals? And really putting a holistic view together on going proactively to your market and making sure that the entire engine runs as a full piece. It’s not just outbound, it’s not, oh, phone calls and emails and that’s going to market. I just don’t believe that. I think, you know, to be a GTM leader is those people that would sit in a room with a CEO, a CRO, and a CMO and a board and be able to actually lay out a plan on on what we would be able to do to get you into your market, find success there, and be able to grab market share and funding and growth as a very holistic view.

Completely agree with a lot of those points. I’m sure we can add more to that, but what you tell and what you share, Tom, actually reminds me of my time back when I was exposed to go to market for the very first time as a product marketer about, what, five, ten years ago or so. So for me, when people talk about go to market and there’s a hey, product marketing owns go to market, you’re responsible for it. My view back in those days, it’s a very limited view, which is do we have all the right elements for the launch? That was it, right? I mean, it’s almost like a bomb checklist. When I say bomb, it’s a bill of materials checklist kind of thing, which is okay, do we have the training material, has sales been trained on it and support as well? Do we have a pitch deck, web page pricing and so on. It’s more like a checklist kind of thing. But over the years, for me, I’ve had the good fortune of leading marketing teams, working with CEOs, sales leaders and other counterparts.

My view of the good market shifted and evolved, thankfully. Yeah, it’s a lot in that it’s not just, hey, do we have the list of things for the launch? But also how are we? First of all, do we have the right definitions of our ICP? What are our big metrics? Not just launch, but beyond that? And how are the different parts of the organization evolving? But there is also another element. So goes back to what you mentioned earlier, which is very internal centric, which is okay, how is the marketing, how the marketing, sales, customer success working hand in hand, but then having an external view? I mean, who are we solving this problem for? Who is it that we are solving this problem for? Right. And then is that messaging coming across? And how are we measuring that leading indicators and so on. So there’s also an element of product I mean yes, marketing, sales, customer success. They’re critical but without product.

There’s only so much you can do. But not much we can do. Yeah.

Yep. And that’s it. You know, making sure that it’s actually what your market needs. Are you listening? Are you pivoting or are you implementing the feedback, you know, quickly? All of that is part of, you know, going to your market. You need to make sure things are ironed out. Now, some things can happen on the fly. There are adjustments. Even in my own company. You’re right. You start in one direction and a few months in years in, you might pivot to something completely different. and it can, you know. Go through a rebirth, but that’s simply just by listening to the feedback of your market, really getting into their world and understanding, and then aligning, you know, the ship to, to go that direction. Yeah.

So let’s take a step back. Big picture. why don’t you share with our listeners your career journey, professional journey and what you do and what led you to what you’re doing today.

Yeah, so I am a 16 year sales vet. I started in 2007, started in financial services, at Discover Card, and then I moved into for profit education for a couple of years, dealt with a couple layoff, within that space just because there were for profit schools. So it was a lot around numbers and different things, not state funded. and then I moved over to companies like GoDaddy, Yelp, SMB, web design, and paid media. And then I jumped in around 2015 when I was at Yelp, I really fell in love with just booking the meeting and hunting for business more so than a closer. So I always kind of explained, like I kind of had like two two jersey retirements, like in a sports, you know, I’ve got the number 24 and the number eight like Kobe, because for almost a decade from 2007 to 2017, I was a full sales cycle rep. I did everything sourced, closed, didn’t matter where I worked, I had to own everything. to where.

Then in 2015, 2016, I started discovering just what an SDR was. So in 2016, I joined a company and was just purely an SDR and I absolutely loved it. It was great. It was stress free. It was just booking the meetings, making sure things were qualified and hoping to ease on the back end what they needed to do. And then in 2017, I had my first chance to get into a leadership role, and I built and helped scale a SDR team over three years from 0 to 30 enterprise space. We had a great run. It was a lot of fun. After that went on a second run, grew a team from 0 to 7 and that was during Covid. And so during that time, I got to learn how to manage remotely through all of that, being fully remote after having a 30 person SDR team in person. And then in 2020, I found a community, just because of Covid, things started happening. People all over the world secluded. So I fell into a place called Rev Genius, which is a sales community with like 40,000 people.

Right? When I joined, it was only like 2000, led by Jared Robin. And he kind of took me under his wing. I fell in love with the community side of it. It lived in slack, and I ended up birthing a micro community in there called Rev League, where I had about 2000, 2500 folks that were SDR sales leaders. And I recreated this virtual sales floor for people with cold calling, workshops, competitions, tech that we provided them as partners, help people land jobs, all that good stuff. For almost three years we had an eight week curriculum. We would cover all that good stuff. Then I jumped back into the sales motion and I went to be a VP of sales for an SDR boot camp, and I helped them move from the UK to the US market in five months. And then that run ended abruptly. And next thing you know, I didn’t know where I was going to go. I had been in the community for a while. I then went into this organization to help them.

I didn’t know where to go. I wasn’t looking for a job or having any pipeline. So after talking with some friends, you know, I’ve been in the game for 15 years. At that point, it was time to go all in because when running the community and doing that stuff, I started getting side hustles, right. That’s how it always starts. People were coming to me for workshops and hey, help my organization. You get SDR land very well and go to market. So I launched The SD Lab in September of 2022, and I birthed my own consulting and outbound agency, September of 2022. So we’re now in month 19. I am just a few months away from entering year three. And, you know, it’s just been really fun. Now I’m the founder. I am building this business out to where we’re helping organizations either build an internal SDR motion and a go to market plan, or we’re just doing it for them and are doing an outsourced appointment setting. So if the org doesn’t want to do the whole lift and re haul internally, they can just give it to us to help them find proof of concept.

You know, put some meetings in the pipeline before they look at building one internally, if at all. so full, full house, outbound agency got a crew now, about six months away from that three year kind of move. and that’s just been a journey. So about, you know, 16 years now, I’ve made 500,000 cold calls and counting. I still actively co call every day. It’s my number one channel. And now, you know, after all those business, you know, doing ten years of an individual contributor and full sales cycle rep to another five, six years as being an SDR land and helping, you know, build out these teams to now, you know, almost two years being a, founder and CEO.

Very cool. I mean, quite a few nuggets, that pop out to me in your storytelling. I mean a couple of things. One is early on in your career, you worked at big brands, reputed brands. I mean, discover, GoDaddy, Yelp and so on.

And reputation is another one. And you go into different aspects of sales. While doing that, you fell in love with SDR specifically, right? Is the SDR just creating opportunities, creating meetings and creating the next step for account executives to close? So that is a sweet spot. And something else that popped out as you’re sharing your story is being part of a community. Rev genius. And a quick fun fact sidenote Jared Robbins on this podcast. Great guy. We learned a lot. Yes, in that conversation with him.

Was a strong mentor of mine. I owe a lot to that guy. We had a good relationship. We still talk very often. even after I kind of pulled away from the community side. But, yeah, a guy took me under his wing, and basically helped me get to where I am just by giving me the opportunity to kind of build a micro community there. And I was community manager of Rev Genius for a while. Ran with the team, help them go from I think we were like 2500 members when I joined to almost 30,000, 35,000 by the end of the run.

Yeah. help with sponsors and, you know, closing deals on the back end with us. And then, like I said, running that little micro community in there. Great guy. Yeah.

And then something else that popped out is, as you are very active in Rev Genius, creating the micro communities and running workshops around SDR and go to market broadly. Something else that popped up for me was folks started reaching out to you in terms of workshops, hey, can you do this? This is your sweet spot expertise. We have a gap here, right? It’s almost like it is not almost. It is inbound and referral. Yeah. For you. That’s you putting yourself out there with your expertise.

100%. You know, I always preach this when going to market or with organizations is the best way to get your outbound to transition and kind of funnel your inbound. Is this not about pitch slapping? It’s not talking about your value prop, but it really is just about giving, giving and giving some more in that entire time and running a community that was free.

One, the no. None of those reps being a part of that channel paid a thing. We ran for two and a half years before we put a paywall up and started offering a curriculum and a more structured process. But for the first two years I ran that it was just me spilling 15 years of knowledge, and people would pop in with questions and say, hey, I can’t get over this objection. This is what they said, you know, or me building out a resource and saying, hey, here’s five tips that really worked with me and could call and try them out. So it just builds a lot of trust and credibility. And when I was hoping to end up with these skills and these eyes, well guess what would happen. They’d get promoted, their numbers would influx, they would start kicking butt to where when a manager asked him what changed, what’s been going for you? Oh, really? Being in Tom’s community and Tom, he’s met with me three times in this last month and just been really helping me to where then next thing you know, the manager was DMing me, hey, what would it look like to help the whole team? Or, you know, I saw what you did with them.

We’re really stuck in that process. Or you know, we don’t really have a good SDR handoff, you know, would you come in and do a workshop? and then I started ending up on podcasts like this, and it just started letting people see who I was. My thought process. And all I did was just give because I didn’t have a business at the time also. Right. I was a director at a company, I was getting paid, I was building my team, so there was nothing for me to gain. So I was just unloading everything I had of any tip I could give, any conversation that could be a part of right where then? Yeah, it started building out the side hustle because then people just started coming to me. Naturally, I started succeeding in those and I was like, oh, I have a little bit of a business model here. Maybe this is something I could get into. And then my hand was forced, you know, in September of 2022 and I went in and now it’s been great.

And there’s a lot of companies that don’t know how to build a sales motion. They just don’t. And I spent 15 years to where I almost say, like, I’m a brown belt at a karate level in sales, development and in sales. I’ve done 500,000 cold calls. I’ve worked B2C, B2B, I’ve done enterprise, mid-market, SMB. Anything you could throw at me, I’ve seen, and I built in skill teams. So I know how those work and making those decisions and hiring, firing all these things. And then the kicker was I got to go through the remote world, right? So then I got to learn how to manage in-house, but then also manage outs in the remote world. And most leaders right now are only learning about the remote world. Some of them don’t even meet their team anymore. They don’t. They’re just hiring out remotely and might not ever meet these people. Or some are transitioning from, you know, 20 years of being on a field floor to now learning how to do it remotely and they don’t know what the heck they’re doing, or how to keep their team motivated and in touch and without being a micromanager, all that stuff.

I got that experience too, and I did it well. So it’s just different. and it’s just valuable stuff that I can share. And the results, you know, and the impact that I bring speaks for itself, right? People are like, dude, you take my learning curve from 12 months down to three months, you know, four months. And before I know it, I’ve got a repeatable, you know, structured sales process that actually makes sense for how we’re trying to go to market. Fantastic.

So let’s dive into The SD Lab. I mean, you did mention what led you to The SD Lab. So tell us more about the lab, who you serve and what services are programs and products that you offer.

Yeah. crazy. You know, flab started, again September 2022. Started kind of throwing out the kitchen sink in the beginning. Didn’t really know what like my actual as we talk about going to the market, like, what is that package? What is it that you’re trying to do? I just kind of went all in no capital, no run rate.

It happened within four days. I was, you know, done being a VP of sales. And I said, hey, I’m going all in on this. So for the first four months, it was just kind of just consulting, coming in, helping organizations. I really went in on all in on founder led sales folks that were maybe 1 to 2 years in their business now looking to transition from founder led and get their first sales hire. And instead of hiring that player coach and kind of making those mistakes, get in between that spot and say, hey, let me come in first. Let me get you all set up, and then you can bring in that player coach. And they’re not having to formulate the plan for you and all those bumps and bruises. Yeah. So I started doing that. And then about six months in and all of pretty much last year people were pushing me and my deal cycles on. Well, can you do it for us? Like what about that? Right.

And I did not want to get into the appointment setting space. I didn’t think it had a bad name. I had plenty of friends who were doing it that were already reputable and doing it for a long time, so I just started outsourcing. Unfortunately, they were dropping the ball. It really wasn’t performing, even though these people were the best that I knew in the market, it still was just really rough. Yeah. And so, you know, up until September of 2023, so a full year later, after that first year of building a foundation of the business, kind of figuring out my products. So by month six, I was doing what my core offers are, were, 14 week revenue accelerator program, where I’ll come in for 14 weeks and we meet weekly. We go through your entire under the hood process. We’re looking at the three pillars: people, tech and process. So we’re going to look at your tech stack. We’re going to make sure everything’s in play. Find out if we can condense things, get you the right CRM, the right tools.

And that’s all custom to, you know, again what your go to market strategy, what your ICP. Not everybody needs all these tools. Look at your processes. Right. As a founder led to a lot of times you’re just running a gun and there is no process. You just do what you do every day and it works. So then trying to bring somebody in to come start booking meetings and run a sales cycle, they don’t know what the heck they’re doing because everything’s in your brain. 

You just did it every day, right? So I’d come in and fix that, iron that out, and then we’d look at people. I’d start helping them hire, find people in my network that might be a fit, help them build job descriptions, show up on interviews with them, and kind of help them find the pieces they needed. And then I built custom playbooks. I really enjoy building playbooks, so I started building them in Canva, Google sites, and some companies would just hire me because they were looking to scale, but their reps were all kind of doing something different.

So before they doubled their headcount, they wanted a unified playbook on like, what’s our messaging like, what is our process like? So I built them for them before they doubled up on their headcount. So when those people came in, they just referenced the playbook and they were right up to speed with the rest of their reps. Yeah. So I was doing that. That’s our main offer. And then in September of 2023, I dove into after some business mentors and some conversations, people were like, why not just do the appointment setting stuff? You keep putting it off and you’re actually getting more requests for that than the other stuff that you’re doing. Yeah, I said, okay, so I launched it. So, since September of last year, that’s what I’ve been doing, is now moving kind of really into just an appointment setting. because I want to change the statistics. I think the stat that I share all the time and I’ve seen is 92% of the companies that rely on outsource appointment setting fail.

There’s like an 8% success rate. And I realized when I was outsourcing it and giving it to people, it was just because nobody brought in the consulting element. It was more like a painkiller. It was just, hey, we’re just going to throw out meetings. We’re going to run our own messaging. We’ll just give you those meetings every month and let us handle it. And then it would just end up on a blind line item, and I’d be talking to these clients and prospects and they’re like, well, we’ve had this place for six months. We just pay them every month just because. But we’ve gotten like four meetings over six months. I’m like, what are you doing? And they’re like, are we forgetting it and leaving it. And it’s just been kind of running. So these new people come into the org and fire that, and they cut the line item and be like, Tom, we’re trying to look for a new company. So I bring in the consulting side where I’ve got my reps.

They’re going to do the code calls, they’re going to do the email, all the outreach. But I am going to be on top of that account with you. And we’re crafting messaging together. We’re doing buyer persona exercises like, I end the job if I actually do care. And I do want you to get numbers on the board. If that’s not happening, then what? Why is that? And I talked to a client earlier this week where he was like, oh, you craft the messaging with us or you will do it. And I was like, yeah. And he’s like, man, the last company we used, they just started sending emails without ever clearing it with us and just kind of went out there and we’re sending campaigns. They said, we’re tested, right? And like it didn’t do anything. And I was like, oh no, no, no, no, no. I would never represent your company without your involvement. Like, that’s crazy to me that somebody was just out there and it was like, look, we just wanted meetings.

So we trusted them. And I was like, no, no, no, no, we’ll build everything together. Because whether you work with me, you know, for the time or not, I want you to be able to build that internally and kind of figure out what your process should look like. So we’re building it and you’re involved. So since September I’ve been doing that. Now it’s going really, really well. Our ICP is really, you know, pre-series to series B, kind of where we live through their founder-led sales organization that’s, you know, pivoting, to running a full sales motion or obviously a series A or series B where they probably have, you know, 7 to 20 reps. Things are kind of broken. They’re not unified. One rep does it this way. One does it that way. You know, they’re potentially looking to optimize everything. and then industries, a lot of it was SAS for quite a while because that’s where I’ve been for about four years. So SAS kind of software as a service now it’s kind of getting into manufacturing.

Automotive, digital marketing agencies is where I’ve been targeting probably for the past like four months now, is we really found our sweet spot with digital marketing and media because yes, they know how to build leads and funnels and marketing stuff, but honestly, they have no idea how to run a sales operation. They don’t even know what an SDR is. They’re just good marketers. They build a cool product or, you know, platform to help you with your SEO. But they get all those leads, but they don’t know how to run it. So that’s been a good space for us. But we’re kind of going to non SAS industries companies that you know are looking for that outsource team to kind of take that recent client with like cryptocurrency that we got into. So just a little bit more unorthodox industries, but ones that could really use a sales motion and honestly appreciate my knowledge because it’s so foreign to them, even to this day. They don’t know about the video. They don’t know voice memos. They don’t know these innovative methods.

They don’t even know the tech stack. They get so overwhelmed with opening LinkedIn because they’re not tapped in. So hey, there’s five data providers. Tom, who in the heck is the right one? Like, I hear it every day, but like, how do I read through that? Yeah. So that’s where my expertise comes in. And so yeah, that’s kind of where we’re at now. we’re doing the accelerator program, custom playbooks. We do team coaching workshops. So if you just want to hire for, hey, come teach our team a little bit about cold calling or social selling or cold email. And then now, the outsourced, appointment setting services, trying to become a full house, outbound agency for these orgs that, you know, if you come to me, doesn’t really matter what you got going on in your outbound motion. There’s something we can do for you and help you. But as you know, when you’re going to market, you’ve got to be super clear on, like, who you’re working for and with and like a very niche versus a huge wide net.

But realistically, anybody comes inbound, we pretty much can work with them. But as far as our outbound targeting, we are fully in pre-series to series B digital marketing agency. And that’s kind of been our bread and butter for about four months now and kind of just targeting them.

Yeah. Very cool. I mean definitely excited to see how you grow as the lab from just yourself to offering different services and building a team. So a couple of questions that come to my mind as you’re sharing your story. One is how did you get your initial set of clients? And then I’ll ask the follow up later.

So that all came initially from my brand and referrals, to be dead honest with you, took a little while to get the outbound motion going. I was unknown to a large world of businesses, but on LinkedIn, I’ve been building there since, you know, July of 2020. When I got into Rev Genius, I didn’t have anything on LinkedIn before, then started getting in. Now I’m a top voice, 25,000 folks and so after almost two years from 2020 to 2022, before I launched, I had built up almost 20,000 people.

I was well known. So when I went all live and got to leverage LinkedIn, all my friends started helping me and finding me business or opening conversations for me. and that really, really was where I started. My outbound motion didn’t actually start working until almost month four. To be dead honest, it took probably 90 days to really let a campaign actually run. Let people be aware of what I could bring to the table. And then two, I just had to get some actual clients. I had some side hustle stuff going, but it was never under my brand of this company. Right. So I had to start getting a couple clients in, start to see how they were, seeing results, getting some testimonials, and then probably around month six and eight started really being able to now book stuff cold and outbound. But to this day, you know, for 19, 20 months now it’s been referrals. People that know me from either my client that worked with me opening up new deals, or my peers in my market being like, hey, I trust this guy, I genuinely do.

He’s doing appointment setting and consulting like, you need help, talk to him. So a lot of it comes through that.

Very cool. And yeah, I think you answered my follow up question, which is how has that GTM evolved? It sounds like it’s still your presence on LinkedIn plus referrals and inbound mostly.

That’s really it. My outbound motion isn’t really that solid. I’m not trying to do math outreach. I’m not spamming. Right. I’m taking on very few clients a quarter. you know, and doing what we can. And so it works. But I use my outbound to generate my inbound more. So I’m not pitch slapping in emails. I’m not trying to just throw out all these crazy 5000 emails a day. It’s more just to build awareness because, again, I’m brand new to a market even two years later, like there’s a lot of reputable outbound agencies. There are bigger organizations, ones. So I spend my time outbound to educate, give a lot of free stuff.

I create guides, resources, all kinds of things to where as I message you, whether you work with me or not, I am taking up. You know I am taking up space in your inbox or on your phone. You’re walking away with insights that you can implement for no cost at all. Write a guide, you know. Hey, I’ve been talking to other sales leaders. This tip’s been working for them. I’d love for you to try it on your team and let me know how it goes. That’s the type of email I’m just dropping free stuff to these people and then through my referrals. And then from that activity, I get people to hit my website, book a call, they’re coming in and they’re like, hey, got your email. Thanks. Yeah, we could probably talk about this. And then they’re coming through the website and booking. So my outbound kind of turns into my inbound which is what you want.

Yeah. Outbound more for education awareness and giving value that turns into inbound automatically.

Very cool. 

So yeah, great stuff. I think you emphasized and reinforced some of the key aspects of go to market in your own go to market, which is it’s not outbound and cold calling and setting up appointments. It’s more outbound to give value education. And then that turns into inbound. I think that’s critical in terms of demand generation and growing your brand and awareness out there and the credibility as well.

I tell a lot of founders, a lot of organizations, you know, activate your brand. You know, LinkedIn is a great resource. Now, mind you, for the listeners and stuff. Not every market lives there. I’ve worked with clients to move over to Twitter. Instead they’re going after cybersecurity engineers. Way different space. Maybe Facebook has a better play for you depending on who you’re working with. So the point being, create content. Get out. The thing about going to market nowadays, I started in 2007. This stuff really didn’t exist and a lot of it was 1 to 1, right? Emails, cold calling, just going out and just randomly calling people up and maybe seeing if they had a need.

Where now with social media being as wide as it is and so many platforms, you can get out to the masses with just one piece of content, and if it hits just right with the right content, you get a couple DMs and you turn them into a couple meetings and you now you’re just booking meetings by creating really valuable pieces of content that engage conversation versus having to pave the pavement as hard and going to 1 to 1, or adding a parallel dialer in so you can pick up a little bit of value. Covid really destroyed a lot of stuff, right? Email is so saturated it’s pretty bad. Then you’ve got cold calling where most buyers nowadays are 30 or younger, most sales leaders are at 30 or 35, and they’re not. They’re a little bit different now. They do DMs and social comments, and they’re not really picking up the phone, and they don’t want to pick up on no numbers. You’ve got Google and Yahoo strapping on spam filters, and now on your phone it’ll tell you if it’s spam.

So it’s just easier to create a brand for yourself. Really educate your space. Let people see who you are at a wide scale. I’ve done business with people in India, Australia, New York all over the world, and yet I live in my room right here in these four walls in Arizona. Right? You don’t, you never got to do that stuff. Right. so it’s just different.

Yeah. So do you have an example of a content that really worked? I mean, I completely agree with you. I just want to get more tactical into giving more value to my listeners of the podcast. So any example of content that comes to your mind?

One that definitely comes to my mind, that I’ve repurposed a few times is one that went super viral for me was what they call a carousel. So like on LinkedIn or Instagram, you know, it’s like slides and you kind of can put this complex idea together through a visual. And what I had shared was how I booked 12 meetings in a week.

And that was my hook. Here’s how I booked 12 meetings in one week. And then this whole carousel with breaking down just those common practices, my tonality and my phone call. I gave a script on what I was using, what was my email like, what was basically the process. And that thing got over 35,000 views and generated me like seven more meetings from people being like, hey, we could use you, you know, come talk to the team or hey, really like that. They got to save the carousel even and reference it moving forward. So it’s stuff like that to where this was just a great way to show them, hey, here’s how I did this, and here’s the full process. Take a look at it. And it was done. You know one too many got in front of 35,000 people. and it was very, very cool. Right. And it did. Well, carousels were really cool because you could take an idea. They’re the best things you can do online, like infographics, handouts, guides, things that people can save and reference.

Because that’s how they’ll take them. You know, for me, I want to bring my content to their team and find wins. So a lot of times I’d get DMs a week later and be like, hey dude, you were in our Monday meeting, some of my teams followed you, or implemented what you said on your cold call script, and they booked five meetings today as a team. That was incredible. Do you think we could talk further about this? Because there might be something we could do together. Now I’ve got a meeting. So that was the kind of stuff that really worked for me. Another one was a carousel in the SDR playbook. A lot of times that’s a broken process, right? So I guess what I’m getting at is highlighting a pain or problem that is really in your space of buyers and giving them that information that you probably repeat to every client you’re ever on the phone with. Like the real simple stuff. It doesn’t have to be high level, but it’s stuff that you’ve repeated on every call.

It’s a commonality. Everybody always calls me and says, Tom, what’s your best opener when you cold call? You’ve made so many. What have you found to be the best one? Well, now, after hearing that ten times, I flipped that into a piece of content. Hey, I hear all the time. What’s the greatest opener to work for you? Here’s three that I rotate. Let me know how it goes for you. And then I break those down on why they work and what it’s structured like. An example. That post will go viral for me. And then, you know, a couple of days I’m getting a couple DMs from either the reps telling me they used it and it worked, or a manager saying, hey, I brought that up in my team meeting team. Put up a couple of points with that. and it changed for them. One of my best ones was, I tell people all the time, like my opener, instead of saying, how are you? You could say, how have you been? So it’s a little bit more different in tonality.

It’s just like, hey, how have you been? How are things? And it makes it sound friendly or that you’ve spoken before? and that when I get DMs all the time like, man, I changed my, my opener to that and people actually talk to me, they’re like, hey, I’m actually okay, what’s going on? And then you pivot into, you know, hey, the reason for my call is, you know, I saw this. I saw that this is what led me to you, you know, where are you at with that? So stuff like that. That’s the stuff that has done well for me, is when I, like, can break down an actual process or something that’s saleable or something they can take to their team meeting. That doesn’t break my bank. What do I care about openers? That’s not going to affect my bottom line. That doesn’t do anything. Like if I put that content out there, it’s not going to hurt. It’s not like I’m giving out my secret sauce.

Right. but it builds trust and credibility because they’ll find wins in that. So I always tell people, give people stuff that they can make micro wins with. That’s how you get instant trust and credibility if you told me to go do something, if I go buy a TV right now and I’m not really looking, but I’m like, hey, I’m trying to do this with my TV. And this rep tells me, hey, you know your current TV, if you actually go in the back and do this, it probably does the same thing. why don’t you try that and then let me know I go home, I try that, I’m like, Holy crap, you change the whole quality of my TV right now. I’m going to go back to you when I need to get a TV, because you showed me your credible and I can trust you. And you gave me something that actually helped me without looking for anything out of it. You were just being a good rep and you’re like, hey man, timing may be off to get a new TV, but based on what you explained, here’s like three things you could do with your current TV that might buy you some time and Band-Aid until maybe that pain threshold gets, you know, the TV goes just, you know, breaks or, you know, the pain threshold of it isn’t there anymore.

Or it’s high. Then they trust you.

Yeah. And I think you just get a complete playbook or tactical playbook of how to build good LinkedIn content. So switching gears here, as you and I know, Tom. I mean, go to the market is a mix of success and failures. So from your worst experience, either from your time at the lab or with your clients, if you can share a success story and a failure story, that’ll be good. I’ll leave it up to you with which one you would go first.

Let’s go with failure because people always try to shy from that, right? I’ve, I’ve been doing this for, you know, 19 months. I’ve been in sales for 15 years, and they’re still failures. I even told you the stat without an appointment setting is 92% technically fail or have an unsuccessful relationship with the appointment setting. So in Q4, that happened to us recently. In Q4, we took on two clients, and we didn’t make it work. and it just didn’t really.

And after three months of working with us, we couldn’t actually generate any meetings for them. they actually rolled viewers. Now, that wasn’t a lack of effort. That wasn’t a lack of the numbers. And us, you know, doing everything we needed to do. But it was market fit. It was messaging. Sometimes, as much as I want to be there for the company and support them, they don’t even know their own stuff. There was one client in Q4 where every week he actually got frustrated at me because I had to push him and really dig in because he’s like, well, we’re going after, you know, high growth companies. I’m like, okay, cool. What does that mean? I don’t know, just companies that are looking for high growth and like, maybe they can. I’m like, no, but like, what is a high growth company? Like what are you looking for? And I had to push it to get frustrated. Then on messaging he couldn’t even relay or package up like what he was trying to position or kind of where I was in the first 90 days of my own company where he was just trying to grab it.

He’s like, I don’t know, just anybody that will want to work with me. And I’m like, okay, we’ll go out and call. And my rep was putting in conversations. We were sending recordings and trying to work at it, but it was just there was too many problems under the hood and for what they were paying, you know, all the other stuff I couldn’t, I can’t, I’m not Superman and I can’t come in and save you. Right. This is a partnership, a collaboration. We are going to do everything we can to help you find success, but sometimes you just don’t have product market fit. And that’s in our book. Out of that three months, that was still a win for another client. Same thing. Very technical rev ups, Mops space, super technical. They have tried outsourcing three times and under like two years and it all failed. And so they came to us off a referral with like hey, this is going to be the best option you can get.

And we failed too. And she was like, I don’t understand. And I was like, look, your best option. And out of all of this still proves you need internal outsourcing. This isn’t actually a fit. Not all. Not everybody can outsource and say, hey, go book us meetings. There are some orgs where highly recommend, and your best option is to build an internal team. You need somebody in your org who lives and breathes it, understands it because again, we’re part time, we’re outsourced, we’re fractional, we’re of course we’re learning your product, your market. We’ve got the experience. We’re going to do what we can, but we don’t live and breathe it right. And we have other clients we’re supporting where if you get an internal team, that’s all they’re focused on. And so those were kind of two recent GTM failures that we had where we did try to help them go to market. And it wasn’t a failure per se. Yes, it was based on performance and meetings, but it was actually a win because both of them walked away with a plan of attack.

And now this is now what, in March, April, they’ve now gotten meetings. The one client came back and said, look, you helped me really exercise and go through. I left them with a full playbook of questions and frameworks to help him iron out his business. Similar to what I had to do helped him get clearer. And the other one brought in three stars, built it out with a good onboarding program, and is now actually getting meetings on the books. So it may be a failure per se, but it was, and it still showed them market fit and what kind of actual playbook they would need for go to market. I told you, every market is different. You have to really know your business. And maybe cold calling doesn’t even work in your industry. LinkedIn doesn’t work at 80% of the industry. So do we even need to talk about it? No. Some clients we do. So those are my failures, right. And why they were failures and kind of, you know, where we were at.

And then two on the success side.

Actually, before we go to the success story. Yeah, yeah, two things. And commentary that that sticks out for me is in a simplistic term, you cannot outsource your problem to an outbound agency. As simple as that. The reason, I mean, if I have to re articulate or reshape and share what you shared in terms of your clients failures, the first person didn’t know or they’re still trying to figure out who the IC is, and they’re outsourcing that finding the product market fit problem to your agency. And that’s where again, back to your stats. 92% of the outbound agencies fail. It’s because of that. I mean, first of all, you need to know yours. And then once you build a system, you can outsource that or partner with them. That’s one second too. Point, which is, first of all, figure out an SDR or outbound system internally and then you can scale up with an agency.

And that’s a big piece of it.

Now, some people, obviously I can help you get that structure to I get it. Not everybody has that, and they’re just trying to figure out market fit. I’ve had clients where they don’t. They’ve never even tested it. And they’re like, Tom, we’re not looking for meetings per se out of this success for us in the next three months. Is it just that we actually have something here? Like, is there a market for this is, you know, we just want to learn from the people you talk to because we want to see if before we double down on bringing an internal SDR, building out all this stuff, we just want to know if we have something first. So that was one of my clients for three months. There was really no expectation on meetings. It was just have conversations, go see what the market says, tell us what they’re looking for out of this product. And that was a huge win for them, right. Because then two months later they did realize, hey, there’s a market here.

This is good. Now they’re putting all their resources and doubling that out and scaling that. Right. So it’s a lot of times that too is yes. Sometimes you don’t even know if you have a market. We can help you. That’s why outsourcing is good because it’s less costly and less commitment. And if it doesn’t work, no harm, no foul. You kind of save yourself a lot of money, a lot of strength, a lot of tech that you might not even need because, okay, we could go buy all this tech, try this. But in three months, if it doesn’t work, we’re out 40, 50 grand that we could have put into other things right before we got here. Or now we got this tech and contracts that like, hey, this didn’t work, give it to us. We have tech. We have everything very low overhead for you. So we’ll go test it. And if it’s actually producing, cool. Now let’s pivot and start helping you build your internal operation.

Show you the tech we’re using that’s making this all possible. And now you have an actual plan moving forward.

Fantastic. All right. So switching to the go to market success stories that you’re going to share.

Yes. So then on the ones that did work, we had an opportunity, that I worked with a client that was a recurring client, for five months, last summer. And it was an organization where the bar manager was let go. things were kind of broken. They had seven servers, they had solution engineers, and they had eight inches. So this was like a company already in motion, making good money, doing great things. But this PDR manager was doing some stuff they had to Canham. They then, brought over their sales enablement person to come over top of that, didn’t know what they were doing. Sales enablement is very different from running an SDR team. Yes, enablement. But like they’re looking at it from a different view as a whole, as a company then, hey, how do I just work with SDRs? So again, another referral friend came in.

He was an aide at the company. He was like, hey, this is where we’re at. I’m going to set you up with this person. We ended up getting a deal. And so I came in and for three months it started off as and this was more a consulting deal, and I helped them redefine their SDR handoff. We did team coaching on cold calling email, social selling. We then went and partnered with marketing. I helped them roll out an ABM program, helping them align their sales and marketing department with a content calendar. All these things to get sales and marketing to actually be cohesive. My next thing you know, they had an actual, reputable and scalable process. Things turned around. Then in month four, they had me come back for messaging to just craft some cadences and some sequences for them. Then in month five, I actually got to work with their UK extension of their team. So then I got a referral from the US house and they’re like, hey, our UK side would like to do the same thing.

So then I went and did the same stuff on their UK team that was also their SDR department, but on that side. So that was one that was super successful. We had a great time. I was able to get under the hood, help them unify a lot of growing pains. You already had stars doing their thing. You already had A’s doing their thing. It just wasn’t unified. And they were looking to scale and bring in, you know, another seven reps. And before they did that and kind of, you know, maybe lose four of them, maybe lose half of that because it’s just the processes and stuff. We ironed everything out, tested it with their team. Everything worked out more numbers, more open rates, more replies. They then were able to scale. So that’s one. On the appointment setting side, we had an automotive org in Q4, that already reputable business in the automotive space. They had a new product that they wanted to test, so they built a new product based on feedback.

They wanted us to go out for three months and just pitch it to the market and see what the response was. So they gave us a very dedicated list. They said, here’s the 500 people. We want to work. Here’s the messaging. Just go see if these people will buy. We booked 45 meetings and 90 days for them to where we overwhelmed their pipeline. We paused in Q1 and they were able to work out those deals. They got tested that their market was good. They found out the product was fit. They did make a few tweaks based on what we were hearing on why people wanted to use this kind of platform for E-signatures, it was like a DocuSign kind of setup, but for automotive. And it worked out. So 45 meetings. That was another referral, actually. a friend from an older company back in the day, which was even cooler. Yeah. I worked with them. She was like, look, I trust you. We’re looking for this outbound. All.

You were doing it. Can you help us? so I took that on. and that was a success. That one worked out just because ultimately they did the heavy lifting, like you mentioned before, they knew their ICP. They already had tested stuff. They gave us the dedicated list of who we needed to call, already vetted. And they basically gave us a script on how they wanted this presented, what some objections were that we were probably going to hear where they were going and building the product with a couple of roadmap features, so it was really transactional for us. It was just a real setup. Get in, send some emails, do some cold calls. And we were able to generate about 45 meetings in 90 days, just being fractional for them. And now they’re running smoothly. That product is now reached out. They generated almost 400 400 K in Q1 from those opportunities. So things were good. and they might come back. But right now it was really just a test for them on that product.

And things are good.

Very cool. Yeah. Thanks for sharing both that go to market success story and failure stories. I think, quite a few lessons, reflections and learnings from that in terms of build your system and then outsource. Was outsourcing a problem? I think that’s very clear. And second is, I think going back to the good market success story, which you shared, just kind of like an e-signature for the auto industry, where they had the initial success and they required your company team services around setting up meetings to build pipeline. Again, once you have the ICP, once you have the messaging, the value prop, and here’s the contact list or accounts that you need to go after, just outsource that. That’s when they can see the success. Very cool. so another area of expertise which you mentioned. And we didn’t deep dive yet a whole lot. And I would like to get your thoughts on this. Tom is founder led sales. You did mention that. So what have you seen? I mean, where do founders really fumble when it comes to founder-led sales and advice on how to avoid it?

My best analogy.

So what I’ve found with founders is one, they love their baby very, very much. You don’t want to call it ugly. They really pride themselves on. Hey, I know what my market wants. I’ve been building. We’ve gotten some sales in, but the way I always reference it, and I even wrote a post on this because again, it’s one of those things I kind of go back to many times and share the story is it’s like a person who was a really good cook at home or, you know, really loved to cook and and connect with people via food. Okay. Well, now they want to open a restaurant because they’re like, my food is so great. People come to me, they want my food. They open a restaurant in 6 to 8 months. That thing fails like no other because at the end of the day, they’re really good at putting together food and that’s their baby. That’s what they love to do. But they don’t know a lick about business on that back end.

They don’t know how to run books, accounting, staffing, hiring, all these other elements. They just know how to make really good food that really connects with the people they give it to a mom being a baker and making goods for the moms around the neighborhood, right? Next thing you know, she’s opening a business. All that stuff is crazy, and you’ve got to have some knowledge or you make a lot of mistakes. So a founder led sales, that’s it. They don’t have a formal process. They built their product, they went out and they’re doing it the best that they can to keep their head above water. They’re looking at VC money to maybe give them some capital because they’re not getting, you know, the product in their hands. And then when it comes to, let’s say you being founder led, you’ve generated a couple, six figures in revenue. Now you want to bring in somebody. Well, now you’re hiring a player coach and you’re expecting them to build your business for you.

Well, you’re the expert, you know, like we don’t know. And now you’re holding this person’s hand because every day they’re like, hey, this customer said this. What should I say? Hey, where do I find this? Hey, what do I do here? And now the founder is getting frustrated because the whole point of bringing this person in was to relieve you. And it’s actually more of a headache because they’re asking tons of questions and they’re trying to get up here into your brain where all that stuff is that you’ve never put on paper or formulated or created a process around. So when I come in with these orgs, that’s really the pain is that they’ve already failed with the player coach or the player coach left them because they were getting paid peanuts and there was no process, no tech. And the founder was like, well, it worked for me. You know, I was doing this and I was great. So a lot of times that’s where it’s at, if they’re really good chefs.

They know their product, they’re engineers. A lot of times they build really cool products or they’re offering a service, but they don’t get a clue about ironing out an ICP, ironing out a marketing plan and strategy of like, what are you going to do there? Do you have resources you’re sharing? Which is okay because for most founders, just move, don’t be held up on a lot of stuff, right? A lot of times it’s just move, take action. You’ll make bumps and bruises. But after that first year, year and a half, you got to have a lot of that stuff ironed out by then, right? You really do. You should be taking the time to put in processes, build on notion, an entire knowledge hub, you know, do stuff to set yourself up to where when you bring in those next people, they can just catch right up to where you are and take off. Otherwise you’re in a whole problem. No onboarding. You don’t got tech, you don’t have a process, and they don’t know case studies.

The Org I worked with was running out of Excel for 16 months when I came in, that was their CRM, color coded files and sheets. And oh, we’re here with this person. And the SDR would double book things and the founder would get mad and be like, man, I already talked to that person. And it’s like, well, how am I supposed to know that? So guess what I did? I recalled and built them an entire HubSpot CRM within under like three weeks. And they were like, Holy crap. And the founder hit me up and was like, this is amazing. I can just go in there and like, I know where we’re at and all of this. And I said, yes, now you have visibility. Everybody’s on a page. They had dashboards to show the amount of activity. I’m like, gosh, I don’t know how you made it a year and a half on Just Excel. But that ain’t it. Don’t do that. so it’s stuff like that where they just don’t know that back end stuff and just kind of how to set their org up.

And that’s what I find at founder led sales is they want to transition, but they just hope somebody will come in and save them. they now know that they’ve got market fit. They know they’ve got a couple clients in. Things are going well, obviously time to scale and double up, but they just have no idea how to do that successfully.

Very cool. Again, I keep hearing this over and over from you, Tom, which is building systems. And you did mention the notion. So as the founder is seeing what’s working and what’s not, the ICP, the messaging, the pricing and all of the and even case studies put it out there. So it’s easier when someone comes on, it’s easier to onboard them and they can run with it and build from there up versus starting from scratch and picking your head and both of them getting frustrated and end.

That’s it. Yeah. And that’s where I hope. With the learning curve, you know, is like, look, you can go through this for the next two years and potentially bankrupt your company, piss off your VC, all this stuff, or lose people.

I had another buddy who did that, and he went through four phases in under eight months, and it was because there was no process and it was just, hey, let them solve the problem for us. And then you’re also paying a lot more money for that, because then you get in this pickle of, okay, now I’m going to hire Tom. Do I spend more and get somebody experienced and seasoned, or do I spend less and get, you know, somebody who may not know what the heck they’re doing? And I got to hold their hand, and then it’s in that pickle that they have a problem with, too, because it’s like, why do I have 100 K to give somebody and hope that they can build this out for me, but I also can afford 50 K, but then I know they’re not going to be like that. Great. They’re not. I still have a lot to do. So it’s always those kinds of pickles too, to try to help them navigate.

Fantastic. I know we’re coming up again at the end of the hour. A lot of good nuggets and a lot of good insights here, Tom. So the parting question for you is what advice would you give to your younger self if you have to roll back the clock to day one of your go to market journey?

A good one. In my beginning days as somebody going to market working in sales, I was really attached to the outcome. I was very fast paced. I talked a lot, I rambled, I would get very defensive in objection handling, my messaging wasn’t great. Now, looking back, I wish I could have. I could go back to him, you know, 15 years ago and share what I know now, which is, number one, detached from the outcome. Man, you’re not going to win. You’re not that great to where you can have a 100% success rate with every phone call or every email. Focus on other things that matter more.

Learning from those insights, just having a conversation, whether it goes to a meeting or not, taking advantage that you have somebody to talk to. Learn from them so that you can be better for the next call. Or go make a product or a guide or something that will help the next person. So just being insightful on, you know, letting go of that stuff like, yes, we’re going towards that and that’s what we’re working for. But it’s not all there’s other ways to win in the sales process. 

That is not just your identity of, well, how many meetings did you book and how much revenue have you driven? That’s not the only answer. so detached from the outcome was a big one for me. Pausing, slowing down. when you are talking to folks, in your messaging and when you’re going to market, don’t be all about your value prop and what they call pitch slapping and writing these really lengthy novel emails. I wish I could go back to myself and say, hey man, like write emails that focus on them and that are conversational and showing them how you can help you know that you understand their world and really seek to understand and then be understood.

A lot of times I made a lot of assumptions when going to market. I’d be like, oh, you got this broken and this and that, and they’d be like, where are you getting your information from? That is not correct. And I would get so frustrated and be like, oh, cool, just hang up because I’m already mad. where now it’s like, you know, seek to understand, ask questions, bring a natural curiosity and your go to market, because that will help you in the long run. And, you know, just focusing on your prospects and what gets them to want to buy, what are their pains and challenges, understand their world. Those are things I wish I could go back to my younger self and understand that, and then niching down and being very clear on your offer and what you want to help people with. Yes. Can you help everybody? Yes. Do you just want revenue? Yes. But at the end of the day, really, really make it clear.

Who are you working for, why and what can you do for them that will help you in the long run when going to market, especially in the early days of going to market, really, really iron out and put yourself through the exercise of who do you want to help? What inspires you every day? Who do you want to be working with and really drill down on just that one thing? That way your go to market strategy is super clear. Otherwise, if you’re all over the place, that’s just too hard. Like, how do you even create content for that? Or marketing collateral when you’re just everywhere? And oh, I can help everyone. You can’t help everyone. What are you trying to help? Really think about that. For me, it’s founders, number one. I really want to help founders that are trying to transition into becoming an enterprise company, a big deal company down the road. But they need help. That’s who I really, really, really want to work with.

And a market that I really want to work with is digital marketing, because it’s something I’ve done my whole career. I know SEO websites and honestly, they’re the ones that need my help the most. Are there other organizations and everybody else? Sure, those will come inbound and I will still take them and I will still do good work for them. But ultimately, the one that I really want to work with every day and help are these folks, because I’m going to win big there, and I’m going to show them how they can transition into that sales motion. So that’s another one. And then lastly, say no a lot more often. Be comfortable with that. I think when you go to go to market, you try to take everybody, you’re like, oh, cool, you want to pay me? Great. And you know dang well you shouldn’t take that client or you probably shouldn’t do that project. And there’s some times where it’s okay because it might push you and, you know, hey, believe in yourself.

You’re probably doing it. I took a couple projects that I really probably shouldn’t have. And then I killed it. Right. And I did well. And I was like, whoa. Like, I really didn’t think this was going to be good. And here we are. So just being comfortable with saying no, though, and really saying, look, it’s okay to disqualify people when going to market. if it’s not fit, it’s not fit. Let them know that you will replace it with somebody who’s better on your books that you do feel passionate about, that you do want to help. Don’t just say yes just to collect some money and, you know, do what you need to do.

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