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Cold Email and Productizing Your Service Offering with Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting (Part 2 of 2)

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Are you fisher, or a hunter? Your sales and marketing strategies should have a mix of both. Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting walks through the details of how he uses cold email and outbound marketing to win and build business.

Up next…

Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

Mentioned in this episode:

Blissful Prospecting
Connect with Jason on LinkedIn
Book a Strategy Call with Liston
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Apollo.io
LeadIQ
NeverBounce
Mailshake Mail Merge Tool
Woodpecker
Nova.ai

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Cold Email and Productizing Your Service Offering with Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting (Part 2 of 2):

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales. Now, Jason, welcome back. Part two of our interview.

Jason:
Let’s do it.

Liston Witherill:
You’re like a marathon runner right now. I appreciate your stamina. So where we left off in the last episode, you were talking about the cadence that you use to reach out to people and you said, I think it was 48 hours apart in the beginning, and then you move up to a week and then it’s like two weeks, a month, and this can go on for as long as six months. But for you you’re doing two to three month long sequences. And I was curious, is that it? Is that the end of this person hearing from you?

Jason:
It depends. So like if you do those searches in LinkedIn sales navigator and you’re like, “Wow, there’s 20,000 businesses that I can work with. I’m probably not going to take the time to email someone back that didn’t respond after I emailed them for three months.” Right? But if it’s a tighter market and what you do, and especially as consultants, a lot of times what you do is really niche, right? So you might be working with a market size of like 1,000 or a couple thousand. I definitely would, in that case. And then your email tool, whatever you’re using, I have recommendations on that, if you need them, will allow you to kind of sort for that staff and you can try a different type of campaign or maybe move them to a nurture campaign where you just email once a month with your latest and greatest content. So, as with a lot of things in business, it depends.

Liston Witherill:
That’s what I say. I say you can pay me a lot of money just to hear it depends constantly.

Jason:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. So you mentioned email tools. What are your recommendations for email tools?

Jason:
I say on the low end, if you’re looking for something that’s inexpensive and you’re kind of doing this by yourself, I would use a tool called Mailshake. It’s just super simple to create a mail merge, they call it a campaign, upload the contacts in there. It’s got some cool AI stuff where it’ll help you correct the email if it’s too long or has misspellings. If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, let’s say, and you’ve got a couple sales reps or you have someone doing sales for you, I would use a tool called Woodpecker.

Jason:
Then for all of our clients, we use a tool called Nova. So if you’re looking for something you can afford to pay 100 bucks a month, 120 bucks a month, that sort of thing, Nova’s really cool because you can operate … It has a Gmail extension, so you can do everything within Gmail, so you can upload your contacts into there. It syncs up with Salesforce or HubSpot. It uses AI to help you personalize emails and that’s like one of the more robust solutions. So I would say those three are the ones that we liked the most.

Liston Witherill:
Okay, cool. And just to be clear though, basically any tool is better than no tool, and any of the three will probably be … If you don’t have one already, will probably be acceptable in the beginning. Is that right?

Jason:
Yeah. Like what you said, using no tool is so important. If you don’t send followup emails, you’re not going to get very many responses. Like people don’t typically respond to the first email. So if you’re not using a tool and not doing that followup and you have no analytics into what’s actually working, you’re wasting so much time and your time is worth money, right? So you’ve got got to be using something. At the very least, it should have mail merge capabilities and it should be able to stop the sequence when someone responds. At the very least, it should be able to do that.

Liston Witherill:
It’s almost as if I paid you to say that because I’ve been going around screaming from the mountaintops that you have to follow up because no one, I repeat, no one is sitting there wondering, “Hey, where’s that email from Jason?” Like, I’m just sitting here thinking about Jason constantly. Like no one’s thinking that they’re busy with their own shit and so you have to remind them and follow up. So thank you for saying that. For people who are looking to get into this or maybe improve where they are now, what are some benchmarks for … And the two things that I would look at are, well, and you can tell me what the KPIs should be, but one I think should be open rate, and the second should be reply rate. What are benchmarks that you set for your team in order to figure out if you’re on track for a campaign?

Jason:
Yeah, I would say those two. And then I would add also conversion rate into an appointment, or conversion rate into whatever you’re trying to get them to do. It could be looking at a blog post or downloading something. People have mixed opinions on this. I don’t know why, like people look at open rates as a vanity metric, but I’m like if you’re open rate, like what we typically aim for is 50 plus percent in the open rate. You want to be in the range of 30 to 50%, but really you should have something that’s like 50 to 80% after you keep tweaking it. And the reason for that is, I mean you’re just not getting … This person’s not opening an email, you’re not getting opportunities. So 30 to 50% at a minimum for open rate response rate. It depends on what you’re selling, but I would say five to 20% is what we see. So the more successful campaigns were 15, 20% response rate. And then typically you’ll have a one to 5% conversion rate of total emails sent converted into a meeting.

Liston Witherill:
Total emails or total contacts?

Jason:
Total contacts, excuse me.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah.

Jason:
Total contacts you email. Yep.

Liston Witherill:
So if I send to 100 contacts and my campaign is optimized, I’m going to get one to five meetings. Is that right?

Jason:
One to five meetings typically. Yep. Yeah. This is at a minimum, so ideally you’re tweaking and you’re getting more and more and more, but you can kind of see what those metrics look like, right? If you’re wanting to build backwards there and you want to do five to 10 sales calls a week, you probably should be emailing a couple of hundred people every week

Liston Witherill:
and let me just warn you, dear listener, you’re no Jason Bay when you start, right? This is going to take some time to get there to get to that one to 5% conversion rate because truthfully, I see a lot of people, the story I see for most people on outbound prospecting is they go, “I emailed 40 people, and it didn’t work.” And I’m like, “There’s a volume component to this, and 40 is not hitting your volume requirements.”

Jason:
Yeah, I mean, that’s like never lifting weights and then going to the gym and you … No one’s ever taught you how to do bench press and you can’t figure out how to do it and you’re like, “Lifting weights doesn’t work. This weight lifting thing just doesn’t work.”

Liston Witherill:
Which by the way, I can promise you it does. Okay, cool. So we talked a lot about the technical aspects of how you’re doing what you’re doing. I’d like to shift our focus a little bit to how you’re building your business. So one term that you used about your business is you’re selling a productized service. So this is a very particular flavor of consulting or service business, which is that you sell a thing and you do it very similar over and over again for lots of different people.

Jason:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Why productize business? Like why did you go into this? Why did this matter? Because what listeners don’t know is you and I talked as you started this business and this was the first thing you said to me. You said, “I knew I needed to start a productized business. Prospecting seems like something that’s repeatable.” So you’ve had this in your mind from the very start.

Jason:
Yeah, and the reason for that is what I got really sick and tired of as a consultant is that anything high level I had to do, right? And a lot of times what people were hiring me to do was like really technical stuff that I only knew how to do. So it made it really hard for me to go on vacation. But most importantly I just couldn’t scale a business. I hit this point where I was making a good amount of income, my business was doing in the low six figures as a consultant, and I was doing a lot of the work myself. I had a virtual assistant and I would hire project-based people, but I couldn’t really get past that hump, because I was doing stuff that was too technical. None of it was very repeatable, and I always had to sell to get more revenue.

Jason:
The reason why productizing is so appealing, especially why I was looking to is like I wanted to avoid those lifestyle traps of running a business. I wanted to make sure that when I work really hard to get a client, I can continue working with them. I wanted to make sure I had a service that would provide ongoing value to them. And most importantly, I wanted something that we could actually scale. And scale is a really overused word these days. But to me what that means is that you build a business that’s bigger than yourself. It could be one employee, it could be two employees, but the business functions without you having to do all of the work. And that’s why I think it’s so important is that you’re never going to get out of this consultant’s lifestyle of always being on the grind and always having to work and always having to prospect if you don’t build repeatability into your business.

Liston Witherill:
And so what has your experience been making the transition from a consultative model to now this productized service business?

Jason:
There’s a couple things here that … Because I was thinking about this before this call and I think you’re looking for three things. You’re looking for something that’s valuable, you’re looking for something that’s repeatable, and then most importantly, you’re looking for something that’s profitable. The way you figure this out is by prospecting. So we use prospecting to sort of build the MVP service offering. And what I mean by that is that I think a lot of people, I just talked to someone today actually that’s making the mistake of thinking they know what a great service offering would be for a product, but they never actually talked to anyone about it that would actually pay for it. They just say, Hey, I’m in business now, or here’s what I’m offering. And they don’t do any validation of any sort. Right? So the way that we started blissful prospecting was I knew that prospecting was something B2B businesses needed, because I would get clients doing it, and the B2B businesses didn’t know how to prospect.

Jason:
So a client out of just luck a year and a half, two years ago hired me to do outbound prospect. And this is actually more like two years ago. And I had never really been paid to do it before, I’d always just done it myself. And I learned right there. I was like, “Okay, cool.” I’m using this freelance opportunity that I got through prospecting. I was having 15 to 20 conversations every single week with people I thought couldn’t use a service like this. And what I started figuring out is how they talk about it. They told me, “Hey, here’s what I’m trying to accomplish.” And I could get the exact words that they would use and that’s what I would use in my sales copy. That’s what I use in my sales calls too. And they started talking most importantly, like here’s the challenge they have and here’s why they’re not doing this.

Jason:
So once I knew that, I’m like, “Hey, there’s a need.” I’m like, there’s clearly a market for it because I’m talking to 15 to 20 people a week, half of which need this. And then maybe a quarter of those people can actually afford it. And then I just started booking just one off projects. I’d say, “Hey, well what if I did this for three months? Here’s what it’s going to be, here’s what the deliverable’s going to be.” And that first part that I talked about, it being valuable. That’s the first part of this that you’ve got to figure out is, is what I’m doing valuable for this client? From their perspective, do they see value in it? Is it hard to sell them or is it easy to sell them? I want to find something that’s easy to sell, right?

Liston Witherill:
Right.

Jason:
And does it help them grow their business? Those tend to be the things that people pay ongoing for. Right? The second part, that repeatable part, the way that I figured this out is like, I think if you find how what you’re doing ties to revenue or profit, there’s a chance for repeatability in there because they’re always going to want more revenue and they’re always going to want to be more profitable. So you can take whatever you’re doing, even if it’s design related and it doesn’t necessarily have an ROI, if you can attach it and build tangible results with your existing clients around what you’re doing, that’s a way that you can sell other people on that.

Jason:
So repeatable, making sure that whatever you’re doing as a freelancer, start messing around with that service or a consultant and start documenting what it is you’re doing and look for the things that just happen over and over and over and over again. And that last part, I really feel like this is the most important part. It’s the part that happens last, but it’s really the most important. I see a lot of people get into this trap when they’re looking for product I services is they charge a price point that’s low enough that it almost … Like after time it starts to actually eat into their business and their profit. So you want to make sure that whatever you’re doing, that the client finds value from it, it’s repeatable, but you also make money, otherwise it’s not going to be sustainable.

Liston Witherill:
Right. Yeah, of course. I totally agree with that. Now, one thing that I really appreciate about what you said is you want to come up with a offering, a package, a product that is valuable to a specific client. How did you decide on a client? Because like you said, most of the prospecting businesses are going after really large enterprise organizations, and you decided specifically not to do that.

Jason:
I wanted to be different and I wanted to do this. I’m always thinking of how can we do something and get really good at it, especially compared to our competition really quickly. It’s that blue ocean strategy I mentioned in the previous episode. I’m always thinking about that. To answer your question more directly though, you don’t know what type of client you want to work with until you start talking to people. So I had an idea, I had a hypothesis, I guessed right, and then I just started having conversations. So I said, “Hey, I think small business owners, people that run marketing agencies or do creative work or whatever that are under 25 employees aren’t doing a very good job of selling. Let me prove that out by getting on LinkedIn and connecting with hundreds of those people every week, and asking if they want to hop on a phone call so I can figure out a little bit more about what they need and then try to sell them.” So like the first three, four months of our business, I had no case studies. I had no testimonials. I was just selling people, right?

Liston Witherill:
Right.

Jason:
And just having conversations and that’s what you got to do. Like when you’re doing this, you just got to do it. The conversations, this is what you help people with, right? If you’re good at sales, you will validate a service offering. It might take time, it might take two, three … It took us like almost six months of me as a consultant doing this on my own to figure that out. But I was having over a dozen conversations each week with people I thought we could be doing business with. And after hundreds of those conversations, you start to figure out who needs this? Who’s the most receptive, who can afford this? Who is this just really easy to sell to? You start getting answers to all those questions, but you have to have conversations. You can’t just do market research by looking at Cora. You’ve got to actually talk to people.

Liston Witherill:
That is such a novel and strange idea in 2018. Talk to people

Jason:
And Facebook or LinkedIn messaging back and forth doesn’t count. You have to have a conversation. It can be over Zoom, it can be over the phone, but you’ve got to actually talk to them.

Liston Witherill:
I totally agree. Okay, so you talked to a bunch of people. You vet this idea, you get your early customers and then comes building system. So one thing you said is as a freelancer, as a consultant, you want to start documenting the things that come up over and over and over again, which is how I’ve gotten to where I am now. As I was like, “Oh, people have these problems and I can pretty reliably teach them how to deal with those problems.” It sounds like documentation is the key component to starting to hit scale, meaning plugging other people in to help you out with the delivery. What are some of the challenges you faced as you think about documentation and scale and moving this beyond you?

Jason:
Yeah. This is a weakness of mine, actually, and this is why Sarah, my wife and I and co-founder were such a great fit is she comes from a product, digital product background, so documentation is like her thing. The challenges that we had with this at first are when you’re trying to productize something, you’re looking for those repeatable things and it took us the longest time to figure are we using the right tools? I don’t know if we’re using the best tools for this stuff. And it just takes time, right? But one thing that you have to start doing right away is I think that we were looking for the perfect way to do it. When in reality it didn’t matter. We could just use a Microsoft word document and start writing everything down step by step. You just need the information.

Liston Witherill:
Right.

Jason:
Where we really started to make some headway though is I was already working with a couple of freelancers when I was a consultant and we just brought them on as employees when we started, and we had them do the documentation for us. So the person that you hire to do the task, you can have them document, because documenting things is very taxing on your willpower and your brain power. So the people that are doing it for you, pay them to document it for you. Don’t let you being too tired or not having the perfect tool keep you from documenting something. Treat it as a draft. You can always iterate an add-on to it later.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. So you’re what, 12 months into this journey? Not even. 10, 11?

Jason:
I guess more like 10 months because we technically launched at the end of December last year, in 2017.

Liston Witherill:
Right. I was going to say, so you and I first met over LinkedIn. You and I had a phone call. I remember distinctly I was in the lobby of the gym when you called me and I said, “Let’s get together.” And you’re like, “Yeah, we started this new business. I’d love to meet you but I’m moving in a week so that’s not going to happen.”

Jason:
Oh yeah. This is right before we moved to Austin.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So you’re 10 months into your journey and you obviously don’t know everything. I mean, nobody knows everything but there’s still a lot to go but you’ve made a lot of progress in 10 months. If someone else were looking at building a productized business, whether it’s exactly like what you’re doing or anything really, what would you recommend they think about and do right away that maybe you wish you would’ve known?

Jason:
Like if I was going back and doing this again for the first time, knowing what I know now. Really to continue what I was just saying, I think we spent too much time looking for the perfect thing. You have to treat your business, especially at the early stages, like it’s a rough draft and it’s very hard for people that are … Like I’m a perfectionist and my wife is a perfectionist also. It’s very hard for us to like be like, “You know what? This is just a working draft of something.” I would say that, because we did all of the things right to validate the business. The only other thing I wish we would have done actually is likely what you’re doing. It’s smart to start a business that’s already been started before. I would not want to make like an iPad before iPads came out, like what Apple did because you just don’t have the budget that a company like that has to like create a need for something that’s never existed.

Liston Witherill:
Well, let me just point out that they didn’t create the first tablet either. There were lots of tablets before it. Apple’s never first. They just make it better.

Jason:
Theoretically there’s already someone doing something similar to you or has a similar business model. What I wish would have done at the very beginning is talk to more marketing agency founders and people that are in the prospecting industry, and that would have helped us learn a little bit more about the growth curve because where there was a huge lack of resources is there’s not a lot of great resources out there for scaling businesses like consultants and scaling businesses like agencies and things like that. Everything is geared towards like really large companies. Just not a lot of great information out there on how to scale a company from one employee, to 10 employees. You’ve just got to kind of do. So one thing I wish we would have done is talk to more people that are sort of where we’re at now and ahead of us we’re at now when we first started. It would have saved a lot of trouble and headache.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, I love that advice because there are so many people who are out in front of us, maybe two steps and we can learn from them. The other day I was on LinkedIn and someone goes, “There’s two types of people in the world.” Which as a general rule, tune out whenever someone starts their statement with that.

Jason:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
And he goes, “People who take action and people who go and read and look for other … What other people are doing.” And I’m like, “Well, no. Lots of people who take action actually like learn the lessons of …” I was like, “So should we not like look at history to make decisions about the future.” Anyway, I agree with you. This is a long way of saying.

Jason:
Yeah, I can go on and on about that too. Every piece of businesses advice I’ve ever heard is like contextual. Everyone wants to say it’s one extreme or the other and I know that it gets clicks and views and all that other stuff, but really there’s probably somewhere in the middle and some sort of balance is probably good.

Liston Witherill:
So tell me Jason lightning round, what is one book that you recommend?

Jason:
The One Thing. I love that book, it’s just all about staying focused.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, I could use that because right now my book would be like the nine things, which is not good.

Jason:
Saying no to more things sooner is something we should have done also. Being able to say no and be like, “No, we just have this one service offering. Let’s just [inaudible 00:20:35] this one thing.”

Liston Witherill:
And what is one tool that you recommend?

Jason:
I love a tool called Guru. It’s at getguru.com. That’s the tool we use for documentation. The reason why I like it is it’s got a Chrome extension so you can open it up on the side of your browser and it will show the task that you need to do or the process flow or whatever step-by-step on top of the window that you’re working on.

Liston Witherill:
Now, I will say it’s very expensive for small teams.

Jason:
It’s not cheap anymore.

Liston Witherill:
I know. I was going to say, you must’ve got the grandfather pricing.

Jason:
Yeah, we definitely have grandfathered in for 10 bucks a month. I think you have to spend a couple hundred bucks a month now for your team or something. That’s a bummer.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. I know. I was beating up one of their sales reps to try to give me the old price, but he wouldn’t budge. So one habit or routine that you couldn’t live without, Jason.

Jason:
My wife and I, we do … This is her idea. It’s called a Sunday retro and in product world you do these retros. It’s a start, stop and continue exercise and we do it, we talk about our personal … Just our marriage, personal life business. I think there’s a really good exercise to do once a week as a business owner with your business partner or by yourself or whatever. Just really quick, just think about like what should I continue doing that’s working well? What should I start doing that I am not doing and most importantly, what should I stop? Like what should I say no to? What’s causing the most grief or costing the most money or whatever it is. Just doing that exercise once a week and taking stock and taking a chance to course correct whatever journey you’re on. That just does wonders for our business and for our marriage and all that good stuff.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. I’m sure some people will want to know the answer to this question. If they wanted to follow up with you, what’s the best way to do that?

Jason:
Yeah, our website blissfulprospecting.com, definitely check out the newsletter, got some great tips in there and content and that sort of thing. Things to grow your business from a sales and prospecting standpoint, and I do all of the work to find the content and get it down into an email you can consume in about five to 10 minutes. And the other place I recommend is just Jason Bay on LinkedIn. Look me up, follow the cold email breakdowns. Each week I take an email that I received or one of my clients received, and I break it down and ask other people what they would do differently too. So it tends to get a lot of engagement, a lot of people chime in and so you can get a good idea of if you want to send a cold email, you’ll get a really good idea of what not to do by looking at the [inaudible 00:22:55].

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. Well, Jason, thank you. You’ve been very kind and very open about everything in your business. I appreciate it. Thanks for being here.

Jason:
Absolutely. Thank you.

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