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John Barrows - Top Strategies for Maximizing Response Rates from Executives

John is a sales trainer for some of the world's leading tech companies, including Box, LinkedIn, MarketTo, SalesForce, and Zendesk. 

When I first started in sales, I was given a script, a list, and a monthly quota and told to go. I “figured it out,” but most people are not successful in sales because we don’t train salespersons effectively. A lot of people think sales is an art, but I disagree. I think that sales should be thought of as both a science and an art.

Contact Strategy Matters

You need to be prepared when you contact prospects and think about what you're saying. Also, you need to be persistent. Remember though, there is annoying persistence and professional persistence.

Don’t use the terms like “checking in” or “touching base” when you call a prospect. These words are cliche and they are a waste of time if you get someone on the phone. Use the phrase, “The reason for my call is…” or, “Hi, I wanted to talk about…”

Test Different Strategies For Different Sales Activities

I’ve sold for a variety of different companies. For one of the companies that I worked for, I found out that for every 1600 prospects I contacted, I would make 8 meetings, 4 proposals, and 2 sales.

This was my conversion and I didn’t work scientifically to improve my conversion. When I prospect now, I test the different messages that I use to prospect and call people. I look at the conversion ratio for each of these different approaches at each stage of my pipeline and figure out what the best message is going to be. By doing this, I’ve been able to increase my number of sales without increasing the number of prospects that I contact.

When you look at the activities that you make for your sales, you should always consider what are the number of activities that you need to make in order to make your quota. If there isn’t enough time in the month to make your quota at your current conversion, you need to make a change. Use the testing method I described and you’ll be able improve the chances that you’ll meet or exceed your quota.

Define the target

When you’re focusing in on a target, some prospects are ready to be contacted by a salesperson and some need to be nurtured by your marketing team. Lead scoring from services like Marketo can help your prospecting, but they can also have you chasing down a rabbit hole. The science of lead scoring will let you know to call them, but the art of selling will help you figure out when you should stop calling them.

When targeting, you should split your leads into tiers. Within those tiers, you should consider which leads are good, average, or bad. This will help create a spreadsheet of information that you can use to target the best people to contact. When I think of my prospects, tier 1 represents my quality, tier 2 represents my quantity, and tier 3 represents my practice.

Who do you talk to?

Figuring out who you should talk to is important. Most of the time, this isn’t going to be your C-level executives. With that being said, C-Level executives can be great people to go to if you’re trying to figure out the right person to sell to. Let them know why you are calling them and they’ll most like refer you to the person who will be in a position to make a decision. I always try a top-down approach first if they are an A-target of mine.

Remember, top executives don’t listen to “touching in” or “checking up on.” They want you to know about them and their business, hear new ideas, and see your results. Don’t ask the question, “what keeps you up at night.” They expect you to know that already because you’ve done your homework. Be direct and to the point, easy to respond to, and have professional persistence.

Some other things to consider:

- Execs care about ROI so you need to speak in numbers for them.

- Most email is being read on a cell phone.

- People make up their mind in 2.7 seconds about whether they want to open up emails, which means that your subject lines matter.

- When you’re calling, say, “Hi, I’m John and I am calling about…”

Have a contact strategy

83% of high sales performers have a defined strategy and make 4  - 8 attempts. You have to have a defined contact strategy - I recommend 5 unique touches in 30 days. Each touch should have a unique message and reason to want to connect with you.

Tools that I use

Some different tools that you should look at for selling/researching - LinkedIn, Salesloft, InsideView, Gagein, Google Alerts, Talkwalkeralerts, Blogs, Yesware, Facebook, Twitter, ToutApp, and Feedly.

Every morning, I open up my Firefox with these apps pre-loaded up and scan through the tabs to get information. I use that information to write 2 or 3 well-written and contextual emails for prospects.


Sales Hacker Conference is a meeting of top sales execs sharing the unique sales hacks they're using to attain nine figure revenues in B2B sales. Sales Hacker Conference was held on April 24th, 2014 at SPiN in New York City.

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Mark Roberge - How Hubspot Scaled Sales Through Science and Social Selling

Mark Roberge is the Chief Revenue Officer of Inbound Sales at HubSpot, the top ranked marketing automation system software.

Old School Sales vs. Modern Sales - Prospecting

Old school salespersons used a salesperson-centric method for prospecting. The strategy for old-school prospecting was:

- target prospects that were a good fit for you.

- cold call prospects with your elevator pitch

- push through your sales process

The emphasis for the prospecting was all on the salesperson pushing their process and product onto the customer. Today, modern sales prospecting entails listening to the marketplace and engaging with people in the way in which they want to engage.

One way that modern salespersons prospect is through better understanding the context of their contacts and leads. How did a contact find you? What products and services are they looking for?

Modern Demand Generation

LeadGen in the modern era has changed how we buy and sell. Consider the following: how many people in the last 6 months have bought something from a direct mailer? Now, consider how many people go to their social groups via social media, google, etc. to buy products today? Most people are doing the latter. How do you help people find you?

One of the biggest opportunities that companies can create for themselves is helping customers find them. Ideally, you will be found when and where your prospects are searching.

Blogging about your marketplace and area of expertise is a great way for customers to learn more about you and your product. Don’t write all the blogs yourself though - find a journalist or professional writer in the area who can help you. Setup an interview cycle with one of your execs and have them conduct the interviews and blogs for you. Create your content calendar and create a call-to-action at the end of each piece of content. Call to actions only requires first name, last name, email address.

Old School vs. Modern Outbound Sales

Old school outbound sales was time intensive and repetitive. Conducting research on prospects, consulting our CRM to see if the lead was in our CRM, and entering this information took a lot a time. To improve this experience, we developed an internal product that can quickly pull research into our CRM and validate that a prospect is a new lead. We’ve taken what used to take 20 - 30 minutes, and automated the process so that it takes 3 seconds.

Old School vs. Modern Messages

Old school prospecting messages sent the same message over and over and over. These messages were dull, repetitive, and didn’t respond to the needs of the buyer.

Modern contact strategies for prospecting focus on sending messages that are timely, relevant, and unique. We use research tools to observe customers, what they’re looking at on our website, and what their competitors are doing. We also follow whether our prospects are engaging with us over email, social media, and our website. These are all signals.

Next, you want to engage with those people in a really human way. send different messages that speak to data that you’ve discovered and how you can provide value that is contextual to their needs. Example - increasing leads via Facebook in the B2B space.

Modern Sales Management

Managers are tempted to try to fix too issues with their sales teams all at once. At Hubpot, we focus on one improvement at a time. We have a metrics-driven sales coaching culture that starts at the top and cascades down through the sales staff. We use data in our system  to target the specific improvements that our staff can make in our selling process.


Sales Hacker Conference is a meeting of top sales execs sharing the unique sales hacks they're using to attain nine figure revenues in B2B sales. Sales Hacker Conference was held on April 24th, 2014 at SPiN in New York City.

Sign-Up for PipelineDeals Sales Series Powering the Pipeline for 30 Days






Dave Govan - Aligning a Go to Market Strategy with Sales Execution

Dave is the Executive VP of Sales for Sailthru and has been the driving force behind Sailthru's sales organization. He has grown the sales team by 800% in the past year.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a gap between business plans and sales execution. Often times, I think that this is not the salesperson’s fault. I think that we can improve go to market strategies through more effective market maps. Here are some of the insights that I’ve gained in my experience bringing a variety of products to market.

Know the Needs of the People You’re Selling To

In a complex, enterprise level sales process, you will sell to six or more individuals within an organizational chart to get to a sale. Given that you are selling to people across the organizational chart, each person that you sell to is going to have different pain points. You need to focus on the voice of the customer with each person you’re selling to communicate your solution appropriately.

What are the competitive alternatives?

You also need to know the competitive alternatives. Who are your potential customers considering, why are they considering those companies, and why will you win? Will your prospective customer choose you or will they choose another company because you don’t understand the competition?

Understanding your differentiators is important. One great way for doing this is is via a competitive matrix for your product. Highlight how your product competes with other products in the space, and where you provide a better value. You should consider both whether your competitor has a feature and how good it is. Be honest with your sales team about this.

Prioritize Targets

    Finding your sweet spot for success is important. Who has the highest propensity to buy from you? Do you know who these customers are? Do you know your customers that are most successful with your product and why? In order to find success in sales, you need to identify the businesses that are most likely to find success from your product solution.

Marketing Execution - As a salesperson, the last thing that I want from my marketing team is a really big Excel that “dims the lights” when I open it. I want my marketers to target ideal prospective accounts using characteristics from my current customers that are finding success. One strategy marketers can use is to target the SIC code subcategory industries that align with your market map. Once you know more about your potential universe of prospects, create pursue opportunities with accounts that align with your service.

Sales Execution - When executing your sales plan, it’s important to identify the ideal job title of a prospect to serve as your entry point. This person is your gateway to a sale, so you need to understand his/her characteristics. Remember - you need to know the unique pain-points that this person may experience and speak to them in order to effectively sell.

Troubleshooting Questions

- Is the voice of customer clearly understood and listened to?

- Is your solution strategy comprehensive enough?

- Who has the highest propensity to buy your product? Have you targeted verticals and suspects?

- Have you identified and are your engaged witha ll areas of the opportunity?

- Have you priortized targets? Are you finding them, engaging with them, converting?

- How are you doing at finding, attracting, egaging, converting, and retaining?

- Are you using the state of the art best practices and are there any breakdowns in sales execution?


Sales Hacker Conference is a meeting of top sales execs sharing the unique sales hacks they're using to attain nine figure revenues in B2B sales. Sales Hacker Conference was held on April 24th, 2014 at SPiN in New York City.

Sign-Up for PipelineDeals Sales Series Powering the Pipeline for 30 Days