Podcast | 21 minute read

Podcast Pit Stop: Tom Slocum on Improving Your Sales Success Through Cold Calling

tom slocum
Posted by Adam Statti on June 6, 2023

Improving Your Sales Success Through Cold Calling

In episode 76 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Tom Slocum, Founder at SD Lab, a leading sales consulting agency. Tom specializes in building and scaling sustainable sales development teams that consistently achieve quotas. With a focus on research, relatability, and relevancy in outreach, Tom shares his expertise in improving sales success through cold calling.

Join us as we explore the world of outbound sales motions and their role in accelerating company growth. Tom will provide insights on developing effective cold calling approaches, building rapport, establishing trust with potential customers, and the importance of persistence and follow-up in successful campaigns.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!


Pitstop Highlights

The Relevance and Importance of Prospecting

Many people are fearful of doing cold calling because they lack resources to be confident on a call when objections are raised.  Successful cold calling involves knowing buyer personas, messaging, knowing what problems their product solves, etc...  

Failing hard and fast is key.  The more dials and practice you have, the less curveballs there are.

Proactive vs Reactive on Outbound Sales

A proactive, outbound motion helps speed up your growth and the evolution of your product by creating a feedback loop.  Basically, go to your market, don't wait for your market to come to you.  

"Get the feedback loop going because it's going to allow you to grow fast, make an evolution, tweak your messaging..."

Quick Start Strategies for Structuring an Outbound Approach

You have to get into the mindset of helping your customers, and positioning yourself as a need, not a want.  In the first 90 days, don't be afraid of failure, just have all the conversations you can with people that ideally fit it in the bucket of the ideal customer profile.  Then you can take that data and structure a gameplan.  Also, use the proper tech to amplify your outreach.

3 pillars:  look at your processes, look at your tech, look at your people and how you're empowering them.

Connect with Tom

Website:  https://www.thesdlab.com/

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomslocum/

Full Transcript

Brendan:  Hey everyone, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who have competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I serve as the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today, Tom Slocum for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome Tom.

Tom:  Hey, what's going on? Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Brendan:  Well, Tom, we were just joking in the pregame prep. You are in Arizona, and I am in what has become a wintery spring in Georgia. So I'm very jealous of the weather you're experiencing on that side of the country.

Tom:  It is beautiful. We've got our sun out and bright now hitting the 100 degree days coming up soon so we're gonna have a good four months.

Brendan:  Well, for our audience who may not know who Tom is, Tom serves as the founder at SD Labs. And Tom, I was about to give our audience a brief on SD Labs, but I'm realizing our guests are usually better at the pitch. So how about you give our audience a little bit of background on who SD Labs is, and ultimately how you started this company.

Tom:  Yeah. So SD Lab is the sales development lab, SD, and it's a top of funnel sales consultant agency. So I'm helping founders, VPs of sales, SDR managers, you know, really focus on three pillars, which is people, process, and tech, and helping them build and scale a sustainable sales motion that's going outbound.  And we tackle those three pillars. We go into coaching, we go into their processes, we go into their operations and we get all under the hood to where ideally at the end of the program, they're seeing about a 20% increase in their meetings booked and pipeline generated. And now they have a repeatable and scalable unified process, you know, for their entire sales team to put into motion.

Brendan:  And how did you come up? 

Tom:  So that all started, you know, I'm a, I'm a 15 year, year 16 now sales vet, all I've ever done is outbound back in 2017, I fell in love with top of funnel. Um, it was just where I, I thrived in booking the meetings, creating the pipeline, having those conversations. And I scaled quite a few, a couple of teams under that. Um, and you know, had hiring firing all the great joys of all of that.  In 2022 last year for a very early stage startup to help them build their motion. And we finished in about five months and we separated our ways. And from there, I didn't really have a plan as to do what next. But since 2020, right before COVID, I had started with this kind of playing and toying with this idea of running my own company. And so I started birthing the SD Lab,  I jumped into community building under Revgenius did a few things and then when this with this and Startup I was at I said hey, let's just go all in I had a lot of my friends the network being like don't go to another job Dive into this you I already had clients on the back end that I was working with so I went all in In October or September of last year making it my full-time job now We're in month seven coming up in like five days. We hit month seven working with clients, supporting them, taking everything I've done in 15, 16 years, the teams that I've done, the playbooks, the formulas, and now gifting that to these folks so that their learning curve goes from building a motion in 12 months down to within 14 weeks because we can just move fast, get them these motions that work, and then give them a wealth of knowledge so they can start driving more revenue. So that's kind of how it came about. That's where we are now. And it's been an incredible ride.

Brendan:  Well, good for you. Yeah, there's we're fans of Jared Robin and Rev Genius. He's been on the show talking through community led growth. And look, I think for any entrepreneur, there's that moment where there's the burn the ships moment and either do it or you don't. And so good is to you to to make that step. I remember that for us when we started RP, and it's not an easy decision. And as we talked about the pre show having having kids does not make that easy. But, you know, but it's, yeah, so it's not meant to everybody.

Tom:  It's not for the faint of heart and there's nothing that can prepare you for it. I thought I was, you know, um, I, I thought of this dream for a long time and I thought I had all the necessary levels to kind of at least get this motion going. But, uh, there's nothing that prepares for you being a working parent, COVID, all these things that have changed versus some folks who open businesses, you know, five years, 10 years ago, prior to all of that, um, it makes it challenging. But like I said, it's, it's been a ride. I will never forget.  Whether the outcome, whether this turns into a 10 year business and I blow this thing up or I go back to work in a few years, whatever that may be, you know, I enjoy the ride. It's been an incredible time. I'm leveling up, I'm helping clients and I got a little bit of work life balance in my life and you know, can't replace that.

Brendan:  I guess a good transition when you talk about work-life balance and one of the traditions at pit stops at podium is to get to know our guests outside of work. So when you talk about balance, what are the things that you balance work with that give you energy or joy, whatever that word is that you want to use? We'd love to learn a little bit more on that side.

Tom:  That's a tricky one for me, right? Cause sometimes my hobbies involve work. Uh, I really have a passion for what I do. You know, they say, if you love what you do, you never actually work. And I don't, I don't, I don't feel like I'm, you know, a cognitive machine. I'm boggled down. Like I pick clients, projects. I've done things that really bring me joy. Uh, but there are times where I get lost in it and I got to take a breath. And so for me, that's like time with my kids, uh, because they take me back down to earth a little bit and help me remember just the smaller things in life, the little moments of joy, being able to catch my son play basketball, he's in basketball right now. I've been to every game, you know, I don't I get to be in the audience be present, see his face up there when he gets excited, knowing I'm there. That kind of just refills the heart, the passion, the joy of, you know, we get lost in all this stuff, everything kind of becomes like these little ant hills become giant, big old mountains, and you just, kids and I do stuff with them or I take them places and just the little things. I'm like, damn, this is, this is what I'm doing this for. This is where the joy comes from and the, and the thrill to, you know, maybe I have to sacrifice and put in a few hours on this project to give it my best, right? Do a couple of things to where three, four days I'm deep in the lab, but then I come out and I get to rejuvenate with them playing basketball, you know, with the boy. We're gamers. We like to play games.  We'll get into Xbox, PlayStation, me and him will play some baseball. But yeah, that's like where my true passion comes from outside of work and how I balance is just those moments with my kids. My wife too, we'll go out, we'll make time. I try to make as much time to be present and acknowledged because the last seven months I've been deep in the hermit hole, just building and going. So I try to take those moments to just kind of say, I want to give you my time uninterrupted. So that's kind of like what I do outside of work is just, you know, sports, games and family time.

Brendan:  Yeah, it reminds me, I've been reading, I'm gonna butcher it. I think it's Arthur C. Brooks, success to success. I started this week and there's this whole idea of the strivers curse. And it's, I mean, it's very relevant probably for our audience. And as you were just talking of people that are high performers and want to succeed, there is a cost to that. And so he goes into that and also talks about, inevitably as we age, we decline.   And so when you talk about the idea of joy and kids and family, that's certainly something that people talk about, but sort of a good reminder of how important that truly is. So I appreciate you sharing that. Well, Tom, let's go into the big idea. You talked a little bit at the beginning in terms of what SD Lab does as it relates to people process technology for creating program to drive top of the funnel. And I know there's an element of that, we talked about that success with the cold calling. And cold calling can be a bit of a, I don't call it a dirty word, but a divisive word and something that oftentimes people shy away from. And so I'd love to get your perspective on what, broadly speaking, we think about prospecting. Why is that element still so relevant and important in your mind?

Tom:  Yes. You know, cold calling is very dear to my heart. It's what I've built my entire career on.  I believe it's an entire, you know, there there's different people in your team, man, learn to leverage that not everybody has to pick up the phone. Um, some are very good at email, social selling, but I definitely encourage a cold call and culture, uh, but there's a way to go about it, right. And more times than I can count. The only reason that people are so fearful of it is because they're not empowered and they're not, they don't have the resources to even be confident to go on a phone call. That's the scary part, right?  Email, you have time. Somebody emails you back an objection, you have time. You can maybe gather and phone a friend, you know, pull the audience on how you should go about it, right? Call some lifelines and then get back to that person. Same with social selling, where cold calling, that's on the fly. As much as right, it's live, it's as soon as they give the objection, you have to be prepared. So the big roadblock that I always find is just paralysis, fear of the unknown, in the weeds, they don't know how to puff their chest on a phone call because they're not empowered to, you know, you ask them to handle a concern, they don't even know what to say. They're just winging it. They're not knowing how to answer this question or be okay to ask a leading question for you without being concerned of, oh God, what do they say if they go this route? I can't handle that, right? I need them, you know, they're trying to stay in a box, a script. And so, you know, you've got to come in and look at your entire foundation.  Taking back the cold calling culture and first looking at do they know their buyer personas do they know their messaging do they know what objections work well do they know what your product actually does for customers that's a big red flag is most can't even get on the phone and give their value prop strictly to that persona or to that person on the phone. What the hell are things does right there just told sell the meeting and I'm not saying to go know your product and get in all the weeds of that but, your customer success, go talk to your close one customers and say, why the hell are you here? Why do you pay us? What did we do that like change your life that you're like, yo, I can't do without you guys. You know, this is what you've done for us. And then puff your chest when you go into a phone call, because then you can objection handle. You can actually have enriched conversations with folks and actually speak to them and not be fearful of the rejection, not be fearful of the strikeouts, you know, your ammo, you're empowered to do so.  That's what I come in and teach, right? We look at those things, we look at your buyer personas, and sometimes they're not there yet. Like I'm working with a few clients that are very early stage and are trying to iron that out. But that's when you lean on your market, you learn from your competitors, you learn from others in that industry and you kind of figure out where you can work off of to give you that ammo in the meantime, right? All digital marketing have the same persona. You might have a different offering now and a brand new product and no customers, but you know, digital marketers, created your product. So how do you, you know, empower through all that? And so I think it's breaking down that structure and then empowering them to do so. And then fail hard and fast. The more dials, the more at bats, the more practice just like in baseball, right? The more times you're at the plate, there's not many more curve balls that can be thrown at you that you're not, um, you know, you're unaware of, right? You go throw a ball at Mike Trout. Mike Trout knows what he's doing. He's seen every possible outcome of every ball, you know, sure he still strikes out, but he gets it. You know, he's mastered, you know, he's studied the game.

Brendan:  Yeah, I like that. To your point, the fear is likely rooted in, well, there's a lot of reasons, but I liked how you talked about, it's live, and so you have nothing to hide behind, and that's scary. And so that makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. And I think that getting into, we can get into structure in just a little bit, but I think it would be helpful just to take that step back as you were just even describing as, well, why should I do it?  So there's like the, I liked how you were describing, as you were talking through some of that why, it was actually a training enablement for the rep. It may not even be for those first few prospects, actually for you to truly understand and learn the buyer, the objections to make you better going forward. But from a business outcome perspective, what is the justification that you're seeing that says, hey, for us to scale, we really need to have this outbound sales motion to accelerate our growth?

Tom:  It's proactive versus reactive, right? When you are, most companies are, you know, first year, two in, they lean on their network, their referrals, get inbound, everything's great, they start seeing some wins, some studies, then that drives up, right? And now you're stale, you're stagnant, you've done what you needed to do, where you need to go and be proactive with this outbound motion to speed up your growth, to speed up your evolution of your product, because you're going outbound now and going to your market versus waiting for your market to come to you. So let's say for a whole month, you test an outbound motion and you don't get any meetings.  That's not a loss, depending on what happened in all the conversations you did have. Maybe you learned what, I'm doing this for a client right now. We're in an entire outbound motion. They have one client they have closed and they are trying to figure out, do they have something valuable here to expand to the market? So what do they do? We've got an outbound motion. We're testing, messaging, copy. We're getting conversations that are being had that now in the last four weeks, they have sped up their entire growth.  They have marketing collateral, their messaging is getting tighter. The founders are going through exercises that make them uncomfortable a little bit because they're learning like, Hey, we need this stuff. Like tell me what, you know, and now they're getting this ammo so much faster than now we're scaling. And so we're either going to determine, yeah, we've got something viable here. Now let's hire some folks and get a team going or you don't, right? This isn't what the market needs. It isn't what you need to do back to the drawing board and now restructure your offering. So going outbound and cold calling over email or social is faster. You're having real live conversations. You're able to take that feedback and create a feedback loop between your little organization, whether that's a 15 person team of SDRs and you've got marketing and rev ops, or you've got two founders and a couple reps, right? Get the feedback loop going because it's gonna allow you to grow fast, make a evolution, tweak your messaging, and go to your customer base and talk to them.  For me to talk to you and understand like where my product fits in, you know, for SD lab, that's the first 90 days that I did. I spent, I had 42 meetings in 90 days. Um, and it was able to speed me up in understanding when I started selling the kitchen sink in the beginning to 90 days later, holy crap, I had an offering. I had exactly what my market wanted, exactly what they were needing, what they were looking for, what things they were diving into that they needed to push over the hump, right? Like I had to create all of that. I had to understand it all. And cold calling did that versus waiting days and weeks for emails or, you know, social selling and trying to have those discussions. I got right on the phone. I was able to have those conversations.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think to your point about Proactive versus Reactive, it's the feedback loop that you alluded to. I think there's also that abundance mindset of like, hey, when we talk about not waiting, it's like I can control my pipeline through my own activity and not being reliant on someone else. Because that is the aspect of, regardless of how you have your marketing motion set up, you can always have more opportunities.  So I like that. So let's get into a little bit in terms of the approach side. So you talked a little bit about the importance of it and you start talking through the structure. So let's get into that approach a little bit further in terms of how when you start to think you have to give the whole 14 week strategy in five minutes. But in terms of like when you start thinking, hey, here's some like quick start ways to be mindful of how to structure an outbound approach.

Tom:  Yeah, you know, in 14 weeks, we get really under the hood. The first few weeks is your foundation, really looking at where you're at, what you already have going on, where are your wins, what are you seeing as of today? And then, you know, month two, we're now starting to tweak and test. And then week three, you know, month three, we're optimizing, right? And we're structuring and scaling now that that stuff, really, you know, quick steps for you right now, if you're about to go outbound is really understand your persona, understand your client, your prospects. That's the number one thing is you have to get in the mindset of them. And how are you going to help them truly help them? What do you have? Why is it important? And be and really understand who you're talking to and how to position yourself as a need, not a want. A lot of things out there are going to market with a nice to have versus a need to have. And, and nowadays you've got to have a need to have right. And in the mindset of buy of cut clients and what they're buying, they, they need something. They don't, there's no luxury of the nice to have as much as it was. Um, so find those two things out, write down your personas, find tech that can fill your outreach, right? That's a big thing. I have found a lot of folks that are just 30 dials a day, you know, 20 email, they're doing low amounts of activity and it's not very fruitful. So you want to fail hard and fail fast. If you want to have an outbound motion, do not be afraid to go wild in that first 90 days. Go bonkers with no expectation of what to come from that, except just conversations. You just want to talk to all the folks you can that ideally fit in that bucket.  We're going to be able to take all of that data and now structure a game plan. Right. And really fine tune it and understand what your messaging looks like. Um, what your process looks like, you know, are you slowing your folks down or are you enabling them to run fast? A lot of reps are kicking their feet every day, right? They've got their shoes tied and they're trying to run fast, but their shoes are tied together. So they get going and then go to the habits. They, they, they fall right. And they can't get going. And they re you get under the hood and you're like, dude, so look at your tech, how are you leveraging it? What do you have? Put some money towards it. Understand how you can truly amplify your outreach in a way that makes sense, right? You're not burning your tan. You're not trying to go out there and spray and pray or throw out all this stuff, but you do need to get some at bats. You got to, in order to finally, you know, fine tune your motion. So from there, then you want to look at, you know, your people, Do they understand again what your product does? Are they actually equipped to represent you? Most founders in early stage are very hesitant on that part because they're so used to their process. They've been running the company for two years. They're doing everything to where now they're delegating and they don't know how to delegate. They didn't document anything. They didn't write anything down. They've just been kind of running fast. But now they're like, I want to hire somebody and you go in there and they're like, dude, you are not ready. You have nothing set up.  You expect them to solve your problem for you and they can't until you equip them. So you got to go through all that stuff, write down your processes, go through, maybe create a playbook that really is defined on how they should be going to market so they're empowered. So those are like the three, again, those three pillars, look at your processes, look at your tech, and then look at your people and what you're doing to empower them. And if you tackle those first things right now, early on, you will have a scalable motion, I promise. But if you just throw somebody in, say start selling, good luck, you're going to probably go through two, three reps before you find your motion and you're going to blame the reps. Oh, they didn't perform, they stunk, they weren't built for this. You know, nope, it was a bad outcome. And I asked you two, three questions about this stuff. And you're like, yeah, we had none of that. And I'm like, okay, so you failed, you did that, right? Like let me help you. And then we can try it again.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think it's great. I think another reason why people don't do cold calling is what you were just alluding to, which is oftentimes the manager, when you think about people, process and tools, and the way you were describing it, the underlying theme or the one consistent in all three of those is the manager. So someone's got to buy the tools, someone has to create the process, and then someone has to train the reps. And that's the manager. And all three of those things are not easy to do. 

Tom:  Well, it's like, you know, restaurants. It's like, you know, when you're starting a business, that's how like I had my uncle one, you know, a couple of years back, he was an incredible cook, deciding to buy a restaurant, open this restaurant. It didn't work. Why? Because he knew how to cook. He didn't know how to run and lead and coach and actually run a business. He just thought, Oh, I know how to cook. This is easy. Let me go do this. And that's where a lot of founders, their network engineers, they're technical founders, they built a great product, and now they're trying to figure it out that they need outside help. They need a consultant. It is okay to ask for help and say, come help me do this because my job is to help your learning curve. Again, don't take 12 months of failure and tripping over yourself when we could do something in 14 weeks that's repeatable, that'll get you through the motion and guide you because half of you don't know what you're... They're like, I just know to cook, man. I have a product. I know it works. I know it can help. And most of them just try to figure it out. Whereas if they just take a little investment and say, hey, come help me, they get, you know, tons of discounts to tech that they would need, right? They get relationships, they get network, they get support, they get all of that learning curve just wiped out. So right now they're like, whoo, I got an extra set of hands, eyes, you know, eyes and a brain that's going to guide me through this.

Brendan:  Well, I think it's a credit to the manager or the founder or whatever that person that's seed to be self-aware enough to know, I know where my limitations are and I'm going to seek support in those areas. And so credit to them. Well, Tom, as we wrap up, last question, this is more of a quickfire question, but in prospecting, where do you think the bigger challenges occur? Is it getting that conversation or is it the follow up to try that next step? Where do you see the breakdown occurring more often?

Tom:  Ooh, man, what a good one. Uh, gosh, I think sometimes it is just the beginning. What I'm seeing more now recently has just been the beginning, the conversations, getting the success at the top of the funnel, finding those opportunities to even be able to follow up, right? They're like, dude, I'd love to follow up if you gave me somebody to talk to, or somebody that I could work with. Right. Um, so I think it's definitely the top. It's, it's getting the meeting, getting the conversations, finding out the right people to target versus, hey, the follow-up, even though I say follow-up is where battles are won. It's definitely the weakest point in all of sales, but I think right this current moment, this season is definitely the top of funnel.

Brendan:  Well, maybe we'll have another podcast where we talk about the follow-up. But hey, Tom, I really enjoy this. It's been some great content. I know our audience will find value in. If they want to take their next step, and whether that's to reach out to SD Lab or get more of your content, what's the best way for them to do that?

Tom:  I live on LinkedIn. That's where I'm at. Come find me there. You'll find my website, sdlab.com. All of my publications, my testimonials, my references, everything that I have under my belt. And then you can DM me there and chat and we can have a conversation. So LinkedIn is where it's at.

Brendan:  All right, go find, follow, and connect with Tom on LinkedIn, continue the conversation. But until then, Tom, thanks for taking a little bit of time. I really do appreciate it.

Tom:  Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

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