The Next Big Innovation in Pipeline Generation: Partnerships

July 23, 2020

Sara Howshar

Every Thursday, Chorus CEO Jim Benton goes live on our weekly show, The Weekly Briefing. We unlock the sales data and insights for executives each and every week.

This week, Jim was joined by Bob Moore, the CEO and Co-Founder of Crossbeam, to discuss the next big innovation in pipeline generation: Partnerships.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Crossbeam is a solution that connects companies through mutual friends. “We’re a company that helps businesses find opportunities to upsell and cross-sell,” said Bob.

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Average number of meeting participants

Continued Momentum of Sales Teams #

The world over is in a relatively down market, and you would expect sales activity to mirror it. But as we examine the data, we see that sales teams are maintaining momentum into Q3.

Sales activity is up week over week #

In the midst of a pandemic and a complete WFH overhaul, the world of sales keeps turning. This past week was up 5% from the week previous. And though there has been a decline, it’s not as stark as imagined.

“It’s good to see how little drop off there is just as the macro environment has changed so drastically,” said Bob.

Looking at that dip at the end of June, it made sense to Bob. There are a lot of factors contributing to this light summer slump.

“Most companies' second-quarter ended at the end of June, so you’ve got a very natural drop off that happens in the beginning of any new quarter,” said Bob. “And you’ve also got the seasonality of summer where people are taking time off. That holiday weekend where that holiday lands on a Friday is a perfect storm.”

I think what a lot of teams are starting to focus on is the mental health of their team members.

Getting the pulse of the sales market is critical #

Measuring the productivity of sales teams only tells part of the picture. The other is hiding behind the quality of those meetings and the energy sales teams are engaging with prospects.

“I think it’s that transition from being in a state of change where you have a lot more work, but you also have the benefit of a jolt of adrenaline with a lot of things being new,” said Bob.

So, how do we make this new state something that’s actually sustainable? Bob said it comes down to the welfare of your entire team.

“I think what a lot of teams are starting to focus on is the mental health of their team members,” he said. “Are they taking time off? Most companies are seeing less as time goes on. Companies are getting a little more zen about it in the face of Zoom fatigue. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we’ll be back to normal.”

Working from Home Means Working from Anywhere #

Chorus moved to shelter-in-place in early March. Which means that we are now in month 5 of working from home. And we can see that people are starting to seek more space.

Even with people moving around, the meetings per rep has remained steady. The median meetings per AE per month hit 23 in June, reaching January levels for the first time since then.

“It’s fascinating,” said Jim, “that people are moving but that activity remains relatively steady. We have people moving across the country in different environments, but still having meetings.”

Bob agreed. “The percentage of people who are where they would normally be is pretty low. A lot of folks are taking the opportunity to get to alternate locations and get more space.”

Are Sales Meetings Different Now? #

We’re meeting just about as often as we used to. But are we meeting differently? It’s possible that because the world has changed - because there are no events to network and meet new people - that the meetings we have now have adapted to fix this gap.

We’re meeting differently because we used to have events and such.

“It’s almost an eerie flatness,” said Bob. “It’s Groundhog Day. It’s the same thing day after day after day. And thankfully, that has not resulted in a decay in activity, but it has kind of stabilized. And those meetings are fundamentally different.”

Why are they different? Because there are two forces balancing each other out: More access and more fatigue.

“There are two forces battling each other,” said Bob. “One force being that people have a lot more buyers and sellers on their hands. But on the other hand, there’s Zoom fatigue. These forces balance each other out and we end up flat.”

Just as we have seen COVID mentions strongly decrease since the peak in April, we’ve seen mentions of fatigue decrease as well. But, as Bob says, just because you’re not complaining, doesn’t mean you’re not resistant to it.

“I think fatigue can exist without directly changing behaviors,” said Bob. “I think there’s a lot of scar tissue that has built up among people. There’s some resiliency there and less complaining, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have this gut instinct to resist adding more to the pile.”

Multi-Threading: Bringing More Horsepower to Sales Calls #

There are 18% more selling-side participants on the average meeting than there was in January. More support, more horsepower, more visibility.

“There are big blocks of time that used to be filled with other stuff that are just gone now,” said Bob. “If you ask a sales manager how they’d want to spend this extra time, they’d want to spend more time on calls, coaching, with direct reports. I think this is what you’re seeing here. People are able to join calls. The friction of hopping on other people's calls is gone.”

Jim agreed wholeheartedly. “It’s so enjoyable too,” he said. “I’ve found some real joy in this in the last week of being part of this dark blue bar and just getting into it more. And then we share the recordings and coach afterward. It’s wonderful just to get in front of these customers.”

“Tracking more laughter and making it more fun is important,” Jim added. “Finding ways to get the whole group to enjoy the work we’re doing.”

New Strategies to Build Pipeline #

Cold calls have remained somewhat steady since our initial report in March. Cold calls are down 20% but connect rates are relatively steady. They’re holding at about 9% which is only 2 points down from January’s 11% connect rate.

The big change here is cold emails.

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The average number of emails sent per week, per rep

In June, BDRs sent 400 emails per week. That’s up 60% from February.

The Rise of Cold Emails #

In June, BDRs sent 400 emails per week. That’s up 60% from February when BDRs sent only 250 emails per week. Why the change?

“We’re very email friendly here at Crossbeam,” said Bob. “[The spike in emails] is potentially because there is less commuting time or other things junking up your calendar. There’s added productivity that can show up.”

“Email is tried and true,” he added. “It’s a known performer.

How to Have Your Emails Stand Out #

With people now receiving 2x the emails, how are companies able to stand out and cut through the noise?

Bob’s take? Content Marketing.

“We do a lot on the content marketing front. Our cold emails are very often laced with insights pulled together by our content marketing team,” said Bob.

He listed many content initiatives their team draws upon for outreach, including their latest Partnerships KPI report and the Partnership Playbook.

“It’s something we give away that can drive value before we ask people to open their wallets,” he said.

Virtual Events Are All The Rage - But Do They Work? #

There has been a 13% increase in Webinar mentions month over month. There was a 98% jump from February to March, as events were getting canceled and translated to a digital version.

“There’s a very real saturation of these,” said Bob. “These are now the vehicle to convert in-person events to virtual and it’s just not the same.”

Virtual Events are necessary in this climate. And, as Bob says, they’re better than nothing. But the real challenge is to deliver the excitement behind an in-person event - the networking, the experiences, the adrenaline - in a virtual environment. It’s much more than turning it into a webinar.

Partnerships Are Key To Building New Relationships (and Pipeline) #

Events are where deals were made in the old world. In a Zoom join link world, how do we build new connections in a meaningful way?

One way is partnerships.

There has been a 33% increase of partnership mentions in meetings since Q1.

“Now it’s about how tech can help create these partnerships,” said Bob. “Partnerships are coming into their own in the SaaS 2.0 playbook as to driving new sales. That’s the market side. On the product side, it’s the density of partnerships.

This is the result of the API economy maturing. The interoperability of software has become easier and easier. It’s part of the product playbook of companies today. Now it’s how do we use this interconnectivity to drive customer expansion and new deals.”

Jim agreed. The networking aspect is something that everyone is struggling to create right now. So expanding into your customer base is essential.

Predictions for Q3 #

Bob said that the health of your team should be the top priority for any leader.

“This should be a priority for any leader: Make sure their teams are as healthy as they can be. Help them stay sane. If you can do that, you can continue playing offense in this environment.”

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