Bill WaltonBill Walton shared several approaches to sales prospecting is the Executive Vice President of Sales- Digital Sales Enablement at Ascend Advisers. Bill joined The Collaborator to discuss multiple approaches to sales prospecting, including:

1️⃣ AI-Inspired approaches leveraging tools and strategies from Ascend Advisers.

2️⃣ His MAIN framework (cool approaches to sales prospecting).

What is the MAIN framework that Bill Walton was speaking about?

  • (M) Market.  What is the current state of the market they work in and what challenges exists that you can help them solve (that are worth paying you to solve).
  • (A) Account.   What company do they work for?  What specific challenges exist within their company?
  • (I) Individual.  What do they spotlight about themselves in places like on their LinkedIn profile?
  • (N) Network.  Are they speaking at conferences?  Posting articles somewhere?  Volunteering as mentors?  Examine  these things to more deeply understand who they are and what they, personally, care about.

Bill Walton shared several other approaches to sales prospecting during our conversation.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Check out our guide on how to develop a sales playbook for B2B sellers as this can help you formalize your approaches to sales prospecting
And let us know, how do you want to help improve the Enablement profession?
Audio Transcript

The Collaborator
Good today with you,

Bill Walton
john. I’m doing great. Great to be with you.

The Collaborator
Great to be with you too, sir. Tell me Tell all of us a little bit about who you are, where you work and what you do.

Bill Walton
Yeah, sure. Well, my name my name is Bill Walton. I work for a company called ascend advisors. We’re a digital sales enablement company. And we have been around for Hey, john, I’m sorry, we got to start this over.

The Collaborator
Why is that?

Bill Walton
I had an alert on my phone. I thought I had my It was my zoom, alert for this call. And I it’s, it just rang so you might hear that on the audio.

The Collaborator
That’s okay. We’re live bill. So don’t worry about

Bill Walton
what anyway, Bill Walton from extended advisors, ie VP of sales. And we’re a company that’s dedicated to help other companies accelerate the way that connecting online and growing their people and in this in this era of digital, business and digital sales enablement. So we’re all people who carry the bag, I personally have 25 years of sales experience. The first third was in the consumer products industry where I was a Field Sales Manager and a region field leader and then moved inside with a company called Procter and Gamble to run sales promotion. And during that time, felt a real passion for developing salespeople and wanted to continue that. So worked for a few of the larger expert firms that do that really well and went out on my own and realize that coming into the year 2020, even earlier than that, that the world of digitization and technology was really going to be the the call of the day if you will for sales and selling. But then didn’t want to stop there with just training wanted to think about the tools and technology that sales organizations as they interact internally with marketing and digital marketing and operations could really create a a digital and integrated strategic go to market strategy. So that’s what ascend advisors does now.

The Collaborator
Oh, that’s really cool, man. Now, I know we’re going to talk about AI inspired prospecting. But before we dive into that, and I know this sounds like a silly question, but just to baseline everybody, what you know, how do you define sales prospecting? And especially What does good sales prospecting look like today?

Bill Walton
Well, it’s interesting sales process. You know, the phrase I use for sales process prospecting is it’s a, you need to seep through your pores, strategy and mentality about prospecting, there’s no one tool, there’s no one way to phone, email, social media, you got to do it all. And hopefully, that’s anchored by or you have the coverage and the support of a content marketing strategy wherever you work, so that you’re engaging in business conversations and conversations that are interesting to potential prospects, as opposed to always leading with what you have your your product or your service. And the best organizations that we’re working with are doing that and have something to share and have a reason to meet other than the thing, if you will. And that content marketing leads into thought leadership, which really is able now better to position salespeople and get them at equal business stature. So they can have better business conversations instead of product conversations. Amen. And so right, so today is really about thinking about, okay, how do I do lead generation? Well, who do I want to speak to who’s who’s your ideal stakeholder or client, there’s a lot of information you can get, obviously, on a service like LinkedIn, but also Google the job descriptions of the people that you want to reach out to, to see what they’re challenged with, learn about the pebbles in their shoe. So that you can align what you do with them and have an authentic kind of genuine mode of sharing, I call it a giving hand is always full mentality coming into prospecting, I take that mentality only because then it doesn’t feel like I’m pitching, it doesn’t feel like I’m selling. And I care less about rejection, because I’m not really selling anything, I’m trying to connect and try to be a thinking partner first, and then sell something seconds. So those are some of the things that we think about in prospect, and we’re using technology and other tools and messaging, I’m a value proposition specialist. And that’s really key no matter what the platform be able to have a great message. And when you can put those elements together. There’s more joy, more excitement in prospecting for both parties. So we’ve been we’ve been doing that.

The Collaborator
I love that that’s fun. You know, we didn’t we didn’t talk about this ahead of time, but I hope it’s okay. You know, cuz one of the things you said is you can reach out, you can discover what kind of problems the CMO or this or whoever you’re reaching out to is having? How do people do that genuinely when they’ve never been cmo?

Bill Walton
Yeah, well, a couple things that I think about is in addition to that kind of that helpful hack of googling the job description. You know, there’s a lot of publications that are focused on CFOs and CMOS, and then when you can find the the ideal individual or individuals that you’re looking for, then it becomes kind of a Boolean Google Search opportunity to think about where are they speaking? Where are they had a point of view? What conferences have they been a part of? I use an acronym called main. It’s actually like Main Street for capital letters ma i n. So I think about Okay, if you wanted to connect with a CMO, what market do they operate in? Because each market has its own dynamic. The account is the company that they work for, who is this this culture Who is this company that that that they operate in? The individual, you know? As their LinkedIn profile, say, what’s been their story, what’s been their track, what’s been their pathway? And then what are some of the networks and the nuances, you can think about where they might be engaging or sharing their thought leadership, so at least your issue fluid, to at least have a conversation or start a conversation based on your own curiosity. And I think, you know, it’s upon us as salespeople to kind of put the neck brace on and feel a little vulnerable to say, Hey, listen, I can’t pretend to know everything about you in this role. But here’s what here’s what I’ve learned. And here’s what I’m learning. And here’s what others have said.

The Collaborator
Love that bill. Really love that and not telling me I mean, what that hack is AI inspired prospecting. I see AI prospecting, I see AI tools, Ai, this AI inspired, piqued my curiosity in a way you don’t understand what it what the heck is a? Well, it

Bill Walton
was number one, you know, the artificial intelligence piece of prospecting is really to get you in front of more leads that are better, they’re the right people to talk to. And that’s and that’s a platform that we have. But the the inspired piece is kind of a play on words, because AI can only get you so far, at some point, you have to you have to initiate contact, you generate the leads using some tool and using artificial intelligence to do that, then you have to nurture that lead and make those connections. Particularly using a platform like LinkedIn, you have to be very careful and take it slow and have that giving mindset that I talked about before, before we can start earning talking about business having a conversation, you really want to you want to look at that inspired piece as you’re trying to do two things, you’re trying to generate some engagement. Yeah, then you want to turn that into a conversation. So we don’t have you know, while we’re somewhat impatient, the sales law is somewhat impatient with the AI piece is doing is giving you the volume of the targeted leads that you couldn’t experience on your own that you couldn’t source on your own, but also helping you think about, okay, the nature of who they are, where they are, what those firma graphics and demographics are. So you can go have a better conversation and be curious, but you have to take your time on LinkedIn, if using that tool.

Unknown Speaker
Oh, my God.

The Collaborator
Somebody connects with you, and then they send you Hey, I can help you out. Let’s have a meeting. I mean, yeah. So

Bill Walton
you know, typically, we typically start to say, you know, listen, you’ve been coming up in some of the similar leadership circles, and I have, I’ve had a chance to check out your background, I’d be honored for a connection on LinkedIn. I’m just very folksy. I’m very honest and upfront, and I always sign it warmly or warm regards, you know, Bill Walton, or bill depending on how I’m feeling that day. And I’ve rarely had a prospect shish me way or a potential connection. The next connection is a little different, where it’s a little bit about, hey, listen, I’d love to be your thinking partner. We love the space you operate in, we’ve dedicated our careers to it, love to share some thoughts around what we’re seeing in prospecting, particularly AI glad for some time. And the third engagement has to be more specificity and maybe lockdown at time and have a conversation and you just have to be ready for someone to about opt out and say, No, thank you. But it’s nice, because you have so many leads now use this, you know, an AI tool or some enable tool to where it’s not about 10 prospects anymore, you’re looking at hundreds and just trying to find friends and make make a good connection and be authentic and genuine about.

The Collaborator
I love that bill. Now with your tool. If I can ask, at a high level, how does it work? Does it basically do you punch in a bunch of criteria like, Hey, I’m looking for a CFO I’m looking for

Bill Walton
I was yesterday? Yes. Yeah. But the good news is, john is that it works with two very familiar tools that your audience probably enjoys or has experienced with. And that’s LinkedIn and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and both tools are great, they both have their advantages. And LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to their credit has a great ability for you to target a list, whether it be by title, by region, by geography, by function, by industry, by sub industry. So really, and by company size, so it really and you can choose multiple characteristics. And each one of those factors, which really helps you be listed in the moment, once you start selecting these factors. If when you look at the top of the page, the top bar will literally tell you how big that audience size is. So it can tell you You know what, what size of the audience is and who’s tracking and then you can start with LinkedIn and some of that capability to be able to start your messaging and make those connections. So it’s two tools that everyone knows. I think a firm like ours and others, particularly with ascend advisors, clients are working with senior sales executives, and I’ve done this before we’ve been prospecting. I teach prospecting at Wharton. It’s a key skill of ours. It’s kind of our core capability, if you will. So you’re working with senior folks to help you with the nurturing aspect to help you with the messaging. And we do message testing, certain messages will resonate other than better than others. And we have the analytics behind that to test what’s working, what folks are responding to. So you’ve got a partner in doing that. When we go in and we start working with these two tools, and but we’re also mindful of the rules and, you know, we’re giving hand as always for that That’s kind of our lexicon. We want to respect the platform. We want to respect the process. And we do that with our messaging. And our own platform has certain rev limiters, if you will any racing fans out there are guidelines and guardrails that that keeps us in scope within the guidelines of LinkedIn and Sales Navigator and helps folks engage in a respectful way. But in an exponentially greater way with higher velocity that again, we wouldn’t be able to achieve on our own. Certainly considering that prospects today because of the era of remote work, they’re consuming digital content at a rate that’s never been seen before. It’s crazy. So what’s trending varies by hour, not by month. So what’s trending is something you need to be mindful of in your messaging, and certainly include that in your conversations as you move through a sales process. Hopefully, you get that far using it with a resource like ours. So thanks for the question.

The Collaborator
Yeah, no, and that’s really cool. Bill. You know, one of the things sometimes I hear SDR say to me, and as as they’re doing their own prospecting, you know, the outside the inside teams, Jesus too many people for me to call, they complain if they don’t have enough leads, and then they complain when you dump on a whole bunch. How do you your tool? Or otherwise? How do they think about prioritizing who to call? Because that’s what people seem to struggle so much?

Bill Walton
Oh, john, great question. You know, I coined a phrase called the warm doors approach. So first off, you want to call folks that you’re familiar with whether it be in title, industry, role sub roll, because you have that fluency. And this is going to give you two terms warm doors approach, and then where you feel you have the greatest level of issue fluency. What I mean by issue fluency is the the issues of the day that that person that roll that title, faces every day, their center of plate issues, what’s really urgent, that big pebble in their shoe, I’m throwing a lot of Bill isms at you, john, but

Unknown Speaker
I want the big pebble, right.

Bill Walton
And they’re free, please your audience, please use them because it kind of really helps you visualize and kind of frame up who you might want to talk to first. So that’s, that’s kind of a Hey, think about the top top rim of the funnel. And then I started thinking about demographics and firma graphics, to think about, who next Should I call whether it be in title or importance, or certainly given what’s trending or who has an urgent need to fill I mean, we are in the digital sales enablement, business, we’re trying to get companies into this digital era, some organizations. My hat’s off to them, john, they’ve just took this time. And they’ve really done a great job by hiring digital content experts, digital marketers, folks that can use the tools that are facile in that they’ve improved their messaging, and everything is integrated. And they’re evolving product development people operations, people, the organization has to come from some great McKinsey research, the organization is going to market. Yep. And it’s no no fault or no shame of any other organization who hasn’t done that. Because either they’re used to doing business in the way they the manner in which they have, or they really don’t know how to do it, they don’t know how to make those linkages. They don’t know what that alchemy or that mosaic of digital pieces and technology should should fit in terms of our product now and how we deliver it, but also how we speak to the marketplace. And that’s kind of where we come in. So you know, the organizations that are linking those things together are having a lot of success. And what’s nice is it’s validating for a lot of the inside sales desks and the inside sales folks that have been doing this for a while. They’re very comfortable in this environment. And they’ve been able to mentor and coach some of the outside sales folks and other folks that are touching the sales process subject matter experts, what have you. And it’s nice to have them kind of lead the way and be able to show off a little bit for their organization in terms of how they built this engagement digitally.

The Collaborator
I love it. What kind of successes have you been seeing with either, you know, either from your perspective or with your customers or whatever, Bill? You know, what have you been seeing out there?

Bill Walton
Well, I think if you if you had to think about an inverted inverted pyramid, john, the first thing is I think companies are having more conversations, because those who they’re trying to reach and those who they’ve connected with authentically in a great way. And they’ve done their homework from a business perspective, they’ve been able to connect and have more conversations because clients are available. It’s interesting, we’re talking about this. You know, prior to the pandemic’s, Pew Research had a great data point, the average knowledge worker only had about 17 minutes of uninterrupted time while working in the office. Yeah. And now we don’t have that. So at 430 or 530, before getting ready to maybe head upstairs, be with the family or shift gears in your day, you’ve got time to take a few phone calls, you got time to learn a little bit of insight or someone who has reached out to you credibly or came you know, via referral. I’m gonna take that call, I’m happy to do it, keep it to 15 or 20 minutes, I’m willing to listen, I might learn something and and that’s and I’m that’s a great I’m a lifelong learner. You know, there’s there’s so many folks out there so that’s number one more conversations. I think the organization’s not just our clients but others that are using digital tools like ours are just have more more leads industry amount of time, there’s a greater velocity. So they’re, they’re shortening their sales cycle only because they’re getting to the folks that they want to speak with. And the conversion rates higher the conversion rate from would say, lead to prospect is faster, it’s higher. And that’s leading to higher engagement, which is leading to conversations, which is leaning towards leading to more sales. The processes is, if not more, so same, but more natural. But it’s just happening faster exponentially, which I think everyone’s and easier if you’ve got the right technology, and you’re okay, working remotely. It’s easier and it’s fun. And I think from this is a, you know, someone who carries still carries the bag, it’s, it’s, it’s what I wish I had this 20 years ago. We’re here. So there we are.

The Collaborator
Let me ask you, Billy, if I may, you know, you said you teach prospecting and warden. And that comes in, you know, obviously, that shapes some of you view, I gotta ask you, what surprises you most that people get confused about, or struggle with prospecting, whether it’s at that conceptual idea, or obviously, you’ve been working as a sales guy for for a long time? Or when people are actually doing it? What What surprises you?

Bill Walton
The biggest thing that’s probably surprises me, and then I just noticed john is out. Most folks try to do too much on that initial call.

Unknown Speaker
Brilliant.

Bill Walton
And we’re all in our heads, right? It’s like, oh, how’s this gonna go? I’m reaching out to someone I did. I spent 20 minutes, you know, my listen to Bill Walton seminar, or to ape and I’m getting ready to write, I’m getting ready to go do this, and I’m making this call, we’re sending this email, you know, I’m trying to do too much. Where, in the initial stages of prospecting, you’re really trying to sell a meeting, you’re trying to sell a conversation you’re trying to sell value for time.

The Collaborator
Wonderful. Yes.

Bill Walton
Right. So you have to answer that, let’s just unpack that. Let’s so reverse engineering, I’m trying to sell value for time. Well, to me value is in the eye of the beholder, and value and hopefully your listeners take this down and write this down as a note value is industry and role specific. A CFO in aerospace cares a lot looks differently at cash flow and risk than the CEO CFO of a hotel chain.

The Collaborator
Oh, amen.

Bill Walton
Well, differently, she CMOS say, right heads of procurement, heads of sales, heads of marketing CEOs for that matter. So whoever you’re selling to anyone in the supply chain is supply chains are different, the supply chain for pharma versus supply chain for, you know, Pepsi, different lot of similarities, certainly, in terms of how, you know, things are delivered. And there’s these industries are learning a lot from one another, which is awesome, which is great. But that’s that’s what I’m seeing. So the the feel the need to do too much that try to make the sale over the phone versus sell the conversation, work on your credibility, work on connecting authentically as a business person and as a thinking partner. And I’ve got an insight to share that. And have a little chutzpah around this that I you know, I’ve got something to share, and it’s worthy of a conversation. If you don’t, if you don’t have that don’t pick up the phone, don’t send the email. And that’s where sometimes I think the quantity, the quality is better than the quantity only because you’re following that warm, warm doors approach. Again, however long your list is, whether it’s 20, or 50, or 60. And however you segment that, you either want to reach out to your friends or reach out where you know, you know the issues, you understand the cultures, you understand the customer buying appetite. And again, some of the pebbles in the shoe of key stakeholders and the trends in the industry. And you can prepare to be spontaneous. That’s how I think I would close the sentence would be the second thing is is that be okay with spontaneity, who knows where the call is going to go. But if you can be authentic and show a little bit of your humanity, which is which has all been okay now certainly over the last 12 months. Yeah, it’s a better conversation and and I would love to take the pressure off of all of our listeners today. To do that in prospecting. I think prospecting is easier today. care less about a care more about what you can give and making that connection selling value for the time. worry less about rejection, or maybe Gosh, this isn’t the right time, I hope. I hope they’re you know, there won’t be an issue with calling them on their cell phone which folks think a lot about its business people get business calls between the hours of business and care more about your message and what you have to give an offer.

The Collaborator
Wonderful advice bill. Let me let me ask you this when do so I’m gonna ask you about your tool here for a second or and your services and all that. Yeah, thanks. When do people so we can all grow so much on our own? We’re smart people and all that. When when is the right time for people to think Geez, I’ve got a big enough pebble in my shoe that I want to talk to Bill, what kind of pain points are they encountering when they want to To build

Bill Walton
Well, you know, in many industries where you if you’re a business that gets a good deal of your revenue and your profitability from existing clients, yes. And now that you know that that is either capped out or tapped out, and you need to go out and find net new, I know that in the financial services industry, both in wealth management and insurance, the theme, gosh, for the last five years has been net new client acquisition. They still struggle with that because clients are demanding. It just takes time. You’ve got compliance, you’ve got administration, I wrote a book called taming the forehead, a dragon, just for that purpose for financial professionals because they had to focus on existing clients. Oh, yeah, to my prospecting, do my networking, the thought leadership, that’s dragon number three, and dragon number four was compliance and administration. And the dragon that always got short shrift was the prospecting piece. So I guess the folks that come to us are very successful, most often are well meaning, have skills, love, love, a great story love telling a great story. And I’ve had success and have clients that really enjoy them and are passionate about their organization, they just got to get outside of themselves for more, and they just can’t find a way to do it. So they’ve kind of bumped up against a low ceiling around that. So we’re trying to unlock that. And other companies too. If you think about the role, like we do a lot of work with producers, very senior sales, people that have a book of business that either look to watch or look to their organization said Listen, I need more either content marketing, I need more support, I’m ready to think about a different way of doing something then that they come to us. The sales enablement community is coming to us to say listen, what do you have new in your tech stack that we can augment what we have. So we try to assimilate what we have and try to build upon the great work that companies are already doing not to replace their whole enablement offering. But command and credit fun, that was really strategic points, we can create some inflection for them. And so value so we have that ascend AI as our AI platform, we also have a partnership with a company called one huddle, which creates a gamification which is, which is great for learning product development, product information. So we’re trying to find different ways to leverage technologies, number one that works and has been validated number two is easy to use is delivered or offered on a mobile device. And there’s really cool and gets folks engaged in using using the tools that they’re excited about using versus some other CRM tools from back in the day. Were really just an administrative exercise.

The Collaborator
Like Please don’t make me spend my next two hours entering stuff into the CRM. Yeah, exactly. built.

Bill Walton
That still is that that yeah, that that sentiment is not going on a style, I would say, not many sales people I know love administration that goes nowhere. So

Unknown Speaker
well. Yeah. I

The Collaborator
mean, I earned all my money by spending these two hours in front of the RM system. It’s wonderful. I can’t beat it. Yeah. Well, what did we talk about? Bill? This was wonderful. And I really appreciate all that you have shared what what did we hit upon that we should have?

Bill Walton
Yeah, the thing that I’m seeing Jada, I would guess the, I’m gonna use, I’m gonna use two phrases here to kind of explain what I’m speaking of. And we build a lot of sales processes. By the way, for companies, we have to now that we’re in a digital environment, the sales processes, many of the imaginations are the same. But what’s different is is how they’re fueled and how they’re supported. So I guess what I would say to your audiences, invest more in content marketing, to give your Salesforce the air cover, if you will, to go have conversations back in the day, it was big email campaigns, advertising campaigns, Booth set trade shows all over the country all over the world that we’re providing lead sources and other face to face contact that the that the salesperson didn’t have, the global account manager didn’t have when now we really don’t have that. But we have digital assets. And we’re businesses gone and our sales training curriculum where we take that as really a value creation curriculum that really feeds off of stakeholders specific insights to align your solution or service or your deliverable with the business issue at hand. So these so that’s kind of where you start start the dialogue. But the dialogue is the key point is what dialogue Are you starting. So if you’re with me, if you’re tracking earlier in our conversation around issue fluency, and specific stakeholder connections, you need a little bit support your organization has to support you has to support the sales process because the inflection points of that sales process are going to be the unique conversations you’re having with the prospect that they’re not having with anyone else. My goal for our team and for our client teams is we’re going to help you source and digest and then connect on privileged insights that your own prospect or client organization is not not enjoying internally, to make yourself disappear. principle in a way that way as a thinking partner to mean more to that prospect using some of these digital assets and these insights that align Well, with with the customer journey. That’s another thing. So many companies have thought about a lot about their sales process. But I’m so glad that they shouldn’t know the average sales process, even if you follow it to drive another 15% of top line revenue, on average. Yeah. But what’s missing john is it’s got to be aligned with the customer journey, how they buy so we can sell the way we want to sell and line up our tools, all the wonderful things that we do, and you do and the community does. But if it’s not aligned with a customer journey and mapped and there’s alignment points there, then it’s not it’s going to be a little more self serving. So those are the two things I’m seeing is a little more content marketing for greater engagement. And we talked about Yes, before and better conversations, right. They’re about they’re about not always about the thing, it’s about what really matters. And that that helps you build those relationships when you’re remote, but also a sales process that’s also aligned with your customer journey and how what their issues are, how they buy, how they look at the marketplace and how they decide.

The Collaborator
wonderfully said, Bill, let me ask you this final question. If people said to themselves, I gotta give me some of what Bill’s talking about. How should they reach out to you should they be

Bill Walton
pleased? Yeah, thanks, john. Really appreciate that. Please join us at ascend advisors with a ne er s ascend advisors comm we’ve got a new microsite we’ve got other tools coming out. We’ve got some video tools. We have a few conferences that we’re planning in a few executive briefings coming up please join us there. You can also reach me at B Walton at ascend advisors comm I’ll take your email, I’ll take your phone call, find me there, be happy to engage with your audience. But if nothing else, we’re going to try to put as many resources as we can up on our site to really grow this enablement community and help people excel in defining moments of a digital sales process as we engage in digital sales enablement. I

The Collaborator
love that. Bill. Thank you so much for the time today.

Unknown Speaker
And thank you. Thank you, john. Well, everybody,

Unknown Speaker
all right. Take care. Bye bye.