30 Sep First Impressions and Persistence: The Difference between Success and Failure
One of the most critical functions in an organization is the first person of contact for enabling an M&A transaction. If your competitor calls you and wants to buy you would you entertain that conversation? Having a third party like an advisor brings in standard operating procedures, best practices, and the proper etiquette that is paramount to creating engagement and good outcomes.
Some key points Ashley and the team cover in this episode:
- Documenting outreach
- Framing up a discussion to present an opportunity
- Respecting the prospect’s time and recognizing their tone
- Communication methods
- Best practices for follow up
- Business Development functions
- Revenue Rocket standards
Mike Harvath 00:04
Hello this is Mike Harvath with this week’s revenue racket Shoot the Moon podcast and we are thrilled today to have our Director of Outreach on the call Ashley Battel, and as well as our other partners in the business, Ryan Barnett, and Matt Lockhart. With that, I’m gonna turn it over to Ryan, to start today. And let’s go.
Ryan Barnett 00:31
Hey, good afternoon, Mike. And thanks for kicking us off. And Ashley, thank you so much for being a guest here today.
Ashley Battel 00:38
Oh, it’s my pleasure, Ryan’s a pleasure and privilege, and I appreciate the opportunity.
Ryan Barnett 00:43
Great. So today, what we’re going to walk through is a we have found that one of the most critical functions at an organization, and this goes within M&A, but with also within marketing and sales is the first person of contact from your firm, who is typically an outreach director, or a business development rep or a market development Rep. These are the roles that are really focused on targeting a company starting to make calls, emails, LinkedIn introductions, essentially, any kind of outreach to help bring a firm into the fold. At Revenue Rocket, we have an origination team, that originally radiation team is, is got a staff of researchers who start to look at Target accounts and who we should go after their research team develops the ideal prospect profile, and the list of companies that we go after that’s turned over to our outreach team in that outreach team starts to make contact into firms on behalf of our sales team. So essentially, this is a very common practice, you see it oftentimes at enterprise software, say you see in an enterprise services, you see any more enterprise accounts where you’ve got a dedicated team to help build demand. So today, what we’re trying to understand is what makes Ashley tick, and where some secret sauces that we can put in the field of that outreach function. And with that, I’m just going to turn it over to Ashley, would just love to know. Now tell us a little about yourself. I know, what’s a little bit of your background? What are some fun facts they can learn?
Ashley Battel 02:35
Thank you, Ryan. So just in terms of an educational background, I did go to university business school and got the foundations of business from my studies. Shortly after exiting university, I had an opportunity to work with an online service that was a subsidiary that eventually a subsidiary that came for America Online, and work this celebrity scene. I’ve interviewed celebrities from all walks, TV movies, basically anything in the entertainment arena, had my own online talk show with those celebrities and interview calm. And interestingly, there is a very interesting tie in to outreach from that standpoint, and that we didn’t have a guest Booker, there wasn’t anyone to book the guests directly. So it was had to be a bit of a self starter in that regard and learn quickly how to make those contacts with agents with publicists with studio was then eventually became on a first name basis with executives at all the major television studios and some of the movie studios as well. So really from from any field, whether it be entertainment, or m&a, there’s certainly benefits to having that kind of initiative to go after outreach.
Matt Lockhart 03:51
Well, wait a second here, Ashley? It sounds like you’ve sort of rubbed elbows with the stalkers who are over some of the names? Let’s do some name drop in here.
Ashley Battel 04:06
Well, just some of the stars I interviewed over the years, Sofia Vergara as many people might know from Modern Family and America’s Got Talent, Josh Doamel from all my children and some of the Transformers films. George EADS, who was Nick Stokes on CSI as well as the Anna Nicole Smith who she’s, of course, was quite well known how over the years there so those are just a few that I spoke with over the years.
Matt Lockhart 04:33
Wow, we’re pretty lucky to have you Ashley. I mean, I’m sure I’m sure our customers are, you know, could maybe a little bit easier to work with than some of those. You know, some of those prima donnas that you worked with.
Ashley Battel 04:49
You know, it’s really basically that a lot of them are very, very, very kind. You know, it’s they’re very cordial to speak with them and very open and engaging. It was really quite an interesting time in my life, and I definitely grateful for it.
Ryan Barnett 05:06
I’d love to understand a little bit. One thing that we’ve learned through the years is when you were talking to someone, and you had these interviews, it sounded like you developed your own shorthand. And that essentially leads into something that has been one of the most interesting and critical functions of outreach, which is really solid documentation. And I’d love to hear you What do you think is important when listening to a conversation when it comes to nodes, and then conveying information to someone else?
Ashley Battel 05:43
Certainly, thank you, Ryan. You’ve touched upon a very important point, you know, when you’re making a call to a prospect, make sure to document it, I mean, take diligent notes, as detailed as possible, so that if you need to return to that prospect, six months later, or possibly a year later, even two years later and beyond, you can go back and read those notes, review that history and feel as if you had held that call yesterday. It’s a matter that basically looking for those key points were they inching towards Oh, maybe I’m looking to acquire a company, perhaps, I’ll just actually start that over again. Let’s say for example, if you were reaching out on behalf of a client who was seeking to sell their company, and that particular prospect was fairly clear, they weren’t necessarily looking to acquire a company right now. But they did give some indications that they might be interested in selling themselves, at some point, just kind of getting a feel for what that timeline might look like, you know, taking those key points down and making sure to establish a proper follow up procedure, so that at the appropriate time, you can reach out and re engage and recall that conversation with the CEO or whoever you’re the owner, or whoever you’re speaking with, and you know, refresher on that conversation and see if we can engage at that particular time.
Ryan Barnett 07:02
Yeah, that’s a it’s a great point, what I’ve noticed is that when you take a note to the field, you typically use in your, I think in your notes that you write down in your notebook, you might say LVM, left voicemail. But in reality, what comes back in what’s shared with the team is that you dialed a very specific number, you encountered a switchboard in which he used a number of 123, in order to get a hold of the CEO, the CEO, didn’t answer the call. But and in this case, you left the third voicemail, and you write that up completely out. You know, a lot of short cut could be there. But I’m wondering, Is that part of the secret sauce, when it comes to recalling, and getting into the groove of calling so many people a day?
Ashley Battel 07:58
Yes, Ryan, I think you hit the nail on the head there it is part of the secret sauce. Basically having LVM, it tells a story but doesn’t tell the complete story. It could be a situation where maybe this is the third attempt I’ve made I’ve left a voicemail, perhaps there was a situation where I reached the receptionist directly, maybe there was this particular receptionist that reached maybe Betty that reached this time, maybe the next time, maybe Betty was a little bit tougher on me this time, maybe she wasn’t laying me through to speak to the to the CEO at that particular time. But next time, maybe I hear that I’m speaking with Tracy and Tracy was much more cordial. And maybe there might be something that I may have talked about with Betty and she didn’t let me through. But you know, talking about that with Tracy, she might let me through. So every little detail helps. And as you say, I do have kind of a bit of a shorthand that I use on my little notepad. But in typing out, I want to type the notes out is if you know, for example, let’s say someone else had to jump in and make those calls, they could read the notes on that call, and step right in as if they were on all of those calls in the past.
Ryan Barnett 09:03
And it’s such an interesting thing to me is is this is where something that’s critical. And Matt and Mike, I’d love to get your opinion on this is what your you’re doing in your role is to help getting someone to the next stage. So you’re not necessarily trying to sell the company. So you’re essentially in our world if you’re calling on behalf of one of our biocide clients, so you’re calling companies that are perhaps willing to sell? You’re asking them a really big question of what do you what do you try to do with your business? Would you consider an acquisition, would you, you know, how would you like to monetize your life’s work? But you kind of stop it there. So I’d love to say, Ashley, if you could, you know, help me understand. What’s a good pitch for you. And then Matt, Mike, I’d love to understand from your perspective, what’s required from that business, develop Under rule in order for you to have this something that you can knock out of the park.
Ashley Battel 10:06
Yes, it’s Ryan, just to clarify there. So you’re referring to say if if I was representing someone who was seeking to buy I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that part.
Ryan Barnett 10:15
Well, either way, actually, like, if you are talking to someone, where’s your point in which you may stop, for example, you don’t ever really pitch, deal specifics, you don’t even pitch any of our clients specifics. So there’s a bit of holding off in order to pass that off to someone else in a team. So in a way, you’re kind of you throw in the pitch, and you’re hoping that that pitch is going to yield something that the rest of the team can really hit. So I’d love to understand, you know, what is when you’re framing up a discussion? What’s the ideal setup, and and the rest of the team – What are you looking for in that setup?
Ashley Battel 10:58
Certainly, so, within the conversation, you’re framing it in somewhat general terms, of course, not revealing anything that would be confidential to our client, presenting the opportunity, say, for example, if you’re representing someone who was selling their company, indicating that that effectively is the goal, setting up a general framework to describe the company without giving up too much detail. And then of course, proposing that we set up a discussion of between that individual with either Mike, Matt, or yourself to discuss further particulars and see if there might be some common interest. I one of the things, though, that I look for, and one of the things I’ve sharpened over the years, is paying very close attention to tone. Tone is it can be a bit tricky at times. You know, some people are generally enthusiastic and might always sound very positive, upbeat, while others may sound a little bit more quiet and subdued, but it’s very key to listen to tone. And you can kind of tell if someone’s just giving you a bit more of the time of day, versus that they’re genuinely interested in the particular opportunity. And I do use that as a judgment in terms of follow up within the conversation. But one of the key things that I’ve noticed is let’s say I’m presenting a buy-side opportunity, if a particular client is seeking to acquire the person that the company, the person I’m calling, they might say, Well, you know, I’m just not really interested in selling right now, but might be interested in acquiring, so then it becomes a matter of well, you made to turn the tables, but maybe there’s an opportunity here to, to see what you might be interested in acquiring and taking the conversation in that direction.
Matt Lockhart 12:42
Yeah to follow on Ryan. Ashley and, and his team, I think do an incredible job of this is a you’re building rapport, which is building trust. And you know, let’s keep in mind in this business, it’s very, it can be emotional, you know, these companies are oftentimes founder led businesses and considering the end of a chapter in terms of owning the business and beginning a new chapter, as part of a larger firm, as you know, can be a little daunting. And so trust is, is critical. And I think that Ashley and, and his team do a great job of building that trust right out of the gate. And that’s important for all of us, it takes a team to, you know, successfully enable these mergers and acquisitions. And, and we all play our role. But, you know, Ashley really starts that process so in addition to the note taking, so, you know, we can have an understanding of the tone as Ashley talks about as well as the content of the conversations, I think is key, but but again, you know, starting to build that bridge of trust that that hopefully we we all then carry forward for our clients and our clients prospects is I think critical.
Ashley Battel 14:20
Yes, Matt. And actually just to piggyback on something you mentioned there as well. One of the key things in speaking with prospects is maintaining professionalism. It’s one of those things where if you’re calling up a particular CEO, they’re not necessarily just waiting by the phone you know waiting for your call… they’re immersed in many different things you know, respecting their time,checking to make sure that you were actually catching them at a time that’s good for them to speak. Just as an example yesterday, so I was making a call to a prospect and they mentioned “Well, you know, I’ve got about three minutes left for the three minutes for this call. I’ve got a call waiting for me, but you know, go ahead, shoot, you know, what do you got?” I was basically able to make that pitch within two minutes and book the appointment with about about 40 seconds to spare before his next call. But you know, just making sure that they have the time to take the call. And again, acting in a professional manner. This isn’t the time to necessarily get into a 10 minute conversation about your favorite sports team, it’s there on a tight schedule, and you’re getting kind of straightened to the point and you’re making sure you reach your goal within a reasonable period of time.
Ryan Barnett 15:31
Well, for Ashley, for you not to bring up a hockey game. I mean, that’s kind of hard.
Ashley Battel 15:35
Alright, every call Ryan is it’s a struggle. I tell you.
Ryan Barnett 15:41
Ash, I love to you picked out something. And we’ve mentioned this a lot. But I think it’s I want to make sure that the audience understands this. Can you tell me about your preferred method for contacting someone? With all the channels that we have available? Tell me your structure for getting getting a hold of someone, I think it’s relatively me. And it’s a bit of a lost art. So how do you go? what’s the what’s the appropriate channel and method for for wrangling someone in?
Ashley Battel 16:12
Certainly Thank you, Ryan. So my preferred method of communication is still you know, the basic good old phone call. We’re in a time now with social media, you know, everybody’s texting each other, they’re, you know, maybe chatting online, but really don’t have that kind of, you know, hearing the person’s voice. It’s a bit, as you mentioned, a bit of a long start. There are folks who I’ve spoken with who and just outside of work, who mentioned, you know, I really haven’t had a phone call with somebody in the past couple years, and you’re really just chatting online, I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, and just chatting with everyone through through text. And, you know, hearing that voice and having that personal interaction. You know, there’s that old saying, There’s that old kind of phone company saying, reach out and touch someone. And really, it does reply here in terms of making those calls. Hearing a person’s voice, it resonates in particularly at a time right now we’re, we’re, we’re so you know, it’s been a very tough year, year and a half as everyone knows, and kind of hearing that that human touch through phone, it definitely can make a difference.
Ryan Barnett 17:18
So so I’d love to expand on that. So when we typically have outreach, our first rule is to call someone and the first and the reason why is a we want to be, we want to find the right person. I think in mergers and acquisitions, it’s critical to be talking to a decision maker. If you’re looking to sell a company and you end up talking to a salesperson about hey, you want to sell the company, it can lead to somewhat troubling repercussions. So I think calling for us has always been important to find who is that key top person. And then also, we just find that emails are really easy to delete. So when we ask to communicate via email, we certainly do. But it there has to be tenacity in the follow up. So a blind email to someone without calling, we find is relatively ineffective. But if you’ve called into someone, you’ve worked, the switchboard, you work the exec you work the everyone else, moving to email can be a little bit more effective. So you know, when we look at our process, again, we find that phone call, it’s relatively unique. It’s something that it will be looked upon, like postcards someday, or direct mail, but the the efficiency and efficacy is still very powerful in our interactions.
Ashley Battel 18:54
Absolutely, it’s, again, as we said, it’s really kind of something that’s become a bit more of a lost art. And as you mentioned, I mean, CEOs can get emails, let’s say hundreds, if not 1000s of emails a day, and sometimes they’ll just sit there if they’re very busy. It’s like okay, sales, email, sales, email, delete, delete, delete, you know, and making that personal connection beforehand, it gives them a heads up that that email be forthcoming. There are some calls and just to piggyback on that there are some calls where we’re speaking with a prospect and particularly on a sell side campaign where we’re selling the client’s business, they will request more information about that particular opportunity. And at times, we will send information out via email so it establishes that initial discussion where Okay, keep an eye open for this email. This will be coming within next hour, it will come from my email address so they know to look out for it. Particularly in a time nowadays, where we had you know, different data breaches and phishing emails. This will give us an opportunity to know hey, that emails important to all look out for it. And then We’ll get there as opposed to being blocked by a spam filter or kind of just deleted as junk mail.
Ryan Barnett 20:07
Yeah, I agree. Actually, one other thing that we found is that tenacity is extremely important. I was looking through some call records the other day, actually one of our clients, and it took 44 attempts for us to get a booked appointment to get them solidified. 44. If you look at our statistics, only 9% of our screening calls happen within the first three attempts. And then a greater majority happen between four and 10. And if you get after attempt 10 starts to dwindle a bit. Ashley, give us a indication on tenacity, as well as perhaps the timing you we can’t call someone 100 times in a week or code but perhaps that has limited results. So tenacity and timing.
Ashley Battel 21:02
No, excellent. Thank you, Ryan. Yes, it’s one of those things that I like to call a patient persistence and it’s important to realize that not every as you noted not every appointment is going to come on the first call or the first contact we’re living in a world now particularly with the pandemic more people are working remotely there’s a lot more general voicemails out there about more main greetings Do you have to navigate through it’s important to keep on top of things in this job one of the biggest things is that patients you know it’s basically if you’re going to reach out to someone you don’t want to reach the point where you’re harassing them but at the same time you don’t want them to forget you so keeping that say maybe one contact a week one contact every two weeks perhaps a bit longer if you’ve contacted them you know quite often but you know in changing up your message just a bit just you know to recognize that you’ve you know contact them a few times but keeping that name out there. Making certain that they are well aware I did have one example of a prospect is maybe a bit of an extreme example but I there was someone I was trying to reach me various contacts there about once a week stretch to tip a once every two weeks or so. person was not picking up no matter how hard I tried. They just weren’t picking up the phone – one day literally about a year later, I had called, they picked up the phone must have recognized the caller ID without me saying one single word. They said Ashley, I’m ready. And they thanked me for my patience and my tenacity and they said there were circumstances within their business that that you know, necessitated not picking up that phone at that time. But he said at this point we’re ready to have a discussion and booked an appointment right on the spot. So when you may get discouraged and feel while the voicemails are going to never Neverland, you know, those voicemails are being heard those touches are being made and recognized. And sometimes maybe the timings a little off sometimes there are other factors at play, but keeping that regular paste level of contact, but not so much that you’re effectively harassing someone. But keeping the regular pace of con pace of contact to consider the reap dividends in the end.
Ryan Barnett 23:17
Yeah, that’s that’s great, Ashley. We’re fortunate to have you. Mike, I there’s something that you had mentioned earlier this week and talking about this function in that it feels like a lot of technology companies were founded on great technology, and you’re so busy responding to leads. And there’s a there’s a place in which you have to actually start to go to market. And Mike, I’d love to get your thoughts on why is it critical to introduce a business development rep, and perhaps even ideal prospect profiling and kind of the SVP type process?
Mike Harvath 24:04
Yeah, Ryan, thanks. You know, I have strong opinions about this, I think certainly, you know, we developed our SVP, you know, specialize verticalize productize methodology and implemented it literally hundreds of times with IT services companies over the years, as a way to help them get marketing effectiveness, and ultimately be able to be proactive in approaching their market. You know, a business development function inside of the business certainly is part and parcel on a key component to that function. I think most technology companies were founded during a time when, you know, you just needed to have you know, most tech services companies were funded and you just need to have smart technical people and hang a shingle and the phone would start ringing right now you need to be good at selling and good at building relationships and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, Day, it was much more about having smart technical talent than it was about running a more mature sort of business development function. And certainly what we’ve seen and learned over the years is that the most successful IT services firms are the ones that are proactive versus just reactive, what I just described is more reactive. Proactive, has a very narrow target for an ideal prospect profile. That’s why we, you know, definitely like the intersection of the technology and a vertical market, and recommend that our clients focus in that way as they go to market because it certainly enhances your marketing effectiveness. But much more importantly, as part of a more broad outreach campaign, the single biggest return on investment you will have as a business owner, provided you’ve sort of optimized your messaging and know your ideal prospect profile, is to put a business development function inside of your business. Because essentially, that function is, is absolutely required in order to open new Greenfield customers and new opportunities. And I think it’s very, very hard to grow a business and IT services business, sort of just farming your existing base, you have to have new customers in order to do and have new customers, new potential customers need to learn about you, they need to be qualified for interest based on their needs, and ultimately be introduced to your firm. And as such a role. You know, like out an outreach role or business development function is absolutely critical to that ongoing success of a growing IT services business.
Ryan Barnett 26:57
I think that’s I think that’s critical, Mike, you kind of nailed that you. You can only take things so far by reacting. And the hard part is, salespeople are not really raised trained. Or they’re just not conducive to a outreach role. So I think there’s something very unique about an outreach, business development a role, that is this tenacity built with a ability to navigate, build relationships instantly, but not get invested into the sale. And I think hiring for the role is really difficult. And actually let you kind of get some last thoughts in here. But what what advice can you give to someone who is hiring a outreach role? And what should they look for in the character and in personality traits that that could be exceptional,
Ashley Battel 28:02
necessarily, thank you, Ryan. I would say it’s quite critical. We touched on this a little bit earlier, but someone who, you know, accent and sounds professional, of course, just making sure that they’re not being too kind of casual loosey goosey about the role very diligence, we’ve talked about as well the in terms of the note taking and just kind of background and just on the side. So as I discuss my background previously, I did a lot of writing as well through my previous work with celebrity interviews, and really having that skill to take those detailed notes. Also, just really, someone and I know we’ve also desensitize kind of everything coming together a bit here but also that that element of patience and knowing that the job if you’re if you’re easily affected by a know is probably isn’t the job for you. Yeah, it’s one of those things where you really have to let that deflect off you and it kind of bounced off you and realize that you’re even though you get a no you’re one call away from that next Yes. And keeping that positive attitude is very important. So really looking for some of those qualities I think would make for the ideal, you know, outreach candidate.
Ryan Barnett 29:14
That makes sense. Again, we’re lucky to have you here today we’re lucky to have you on board. I encourage any company that’s listening to this podcast to to consider this role. It has been really game changing for us. And it and I will say we support it. We’ve got research teams they go after we have systems that do it. We have diligent follow up. These these these are the Glengarry Glen Ross type, Mitch and Murray leads haven’t been get. And I it’s really important that when you do get past something like that, that’s a great lead that’s packaged in the right way that you execute with vigor. The They’ve really put themselves out there and it’s as a salesperson, or an m&a professional. It’s your responsibility to go and execute with that. And make sure that you can communicate results back to the senior member that set it up. With that, I’ll pass it over to Mike. Any further cotton. That’s what I’ve got today. Anything from Mike or Matt?
Mike Harvath 30:25
Thanks, Ryan. Thanks, Ashley and Matt and Ryan for a great podcast today, I just, I think was great information sharing and knowledge transfer. I look forward to next week’s podcast please tune in for more pearls of wisdom from your friends at Revenue Rocket. And we’re thankful for all you listeners and look forward to next week. Take care