Episode No:112

Optimizing Sales Engagement: The Role of Timing and Automation in GTM Success ft. Alan Zhao

Alan Zhao

Co-Founder @ Warmly

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Ep # 112: Optimizing Sales
Engagement: The Role of Timing and Automation in GTM Success ft. Alan Zhao (Co-founder, Warmly)
Ep # 112: Optimizing Sales Engagement: The Role of Timing and Automation in GTM Success ft. Alan Zhao (Co-founder, Warmly)
  • Ep # 112: Optimizing Sales Engagement: The Role of Timing and Automation in GTM Success ft. Alan Zhao (Co-founder, Warmly)

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Hyperengage podcast, host Adil Saleh discusses with Alan Zhao, co-founder and head of marketing at Warmly, the evolution of go-to-market (GTM) strategies and tools in response to the AI advancement and the shift towards digital sales in the SMB segment. They explore the importance of timing in sales outreach, leveraging AI and automation to improve lead qualification and engagement, and the role of intent-based playbooks. Alan shares insights into Warmly’s approach to solving the classic GTM challenges of identifying the right time to engage with potential customers, emphasizing the significance of speed and precise timing in converting visitors to customers. The conversation also touches on Warmly’s efforts in democratizing advanced sales and marketing tools for SMBs, the simplicity and quick setup of their platform, and the company’s focus on customer education through videos and up-to-date go-to-market strategies. Warmly’s culture is likened to a professional sports team, aiming for continuous improvement and success, highlighted by their quarterly offsites and commitment to elevating team performance.
Key Takeaways Time
Alan discusses how Warmly focuses on timing engagement with leads when they are ready to have a conversation, such as when visiting pricing pages multiple times 15:30
Warmly aims to democratize intent-based marketing playbooks for SMBs by offering a fast setup time and low costs compared to enterprise solutions 28:30
The platform tracks website visitors’ historical data to identify patterns and trigger appropriate actions 21:15
Warmly syncs data with CRMs like Salesforce to route leads and enable reporting for sales and marketing teams 33:00

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Adil Saleh (0:00:03) - Hey, greetings everybody. This is Adil, your host at Hyperengage podcast. Look like in the past two and a half years, we started off with talking to a lot of GTM toolings back in the days when Chap GPT-2 came up and there were so many founders trying to gear towards automating the pipegen workflow, integrating with Python tools like sales pipe drive, all of these tools to help empower the GTM tools to streamline the buyer's journey. We spoke to companies like qualified in the past as well. So this episode was long awaited. We've been reaching out to Alan , who says, the co-founder and head of marketing at Warmly for quite a long time. And we were thinking that why not? We just discussed the current status of how this GTM function is going to work at scale in the SMB segment. So today we have Alan , who's the co founder of marketing, as I mentioned, at Warmly for the last quite, quite some years. And they've been pretty successful in the recent times after this AI evolution, as well as there is some huge, I would say, movement in the SMB segment towards digital sales or digital pre sales when everybody's trying to do product led sales and all. So that's why these GTM teams, that's a good tool when it comes to generating revenue and, you know, revenue orchestration, you can call it. So thank you very much, Alan , for taking the time today. Alan Zhao (0:01:34) - Adil, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you. Adil Saleh (0:01:37) - Love that. And also, just to mention, like, Alan  is also incredibly doing his own podcast. They have their own show, and I'm sure once this episode is live, people will go look at it too, is doing incredibly well. So, Alan, thinking about, you know, somebody who's joined as a CTO, nursing the idea of, you know, you know, helping GTM teams have better qualified leads, product qualified leads, and making that, that, that experience seamless as well as, you know, scalable. So what is that your one take? Like, thinking of next three in the past three years, how did you initiate it? Like, what was the inception of warmly from your marketing standpoint, like, go to market and all? Like, positioning the product when you started building warmly? Alan Zhao (0:02:22) - Yeah, when we started building warmly, we were actually partially helping to build it for ourselves. We ran a different product. It's called nametags. And we were selling to enterprises. The classic go to market problem, as we found out, and that most people probably are aware of is what do you say? Who do you say it to and when do you say it? And in the past ten years. The who do you say it to and what do you say has largely been solved through tools like Zoom info and Apollo that you can very quickly pull out large lead lists of exactly the people you want to be speaking to. And what do you say? You refine the messaging over time, but you have a good sense of it. So once you can do that and you can have add an outreach and sales lock, you can sequence these guys at scale. And so basically the first two questions were answered. What do you say and who do you say it to? Anyone has access to that. The one do you say, it has always been the unsolved problem and it also happens to be the most important problem. We've seen this ourselves. It's when someone's feeling the pain or when they're hungry for your tool. If you can reach them at that moment, then your conversion rates skyrocket. I almost think of it like a hot dog stand outside at 02:00 a.m. After you've had a long night of drinking at the bar and you walk outside, you see a hot dog stand. It almost doesn't matter what they're selling. They're selling hot dogs, it's going to sell out. And so we brought that same first principles over into building product. And we wanted to focus acutely on the timing when someone is in market or ready to have a conversation. And then of course delivering the right message to the right channel, to the right person. Yeah, there's a lot of tools out there that do intent well. And you know, companies like 6th sense, Clearbit, bombora. The missing piece that we saw is once you find someone who is hungry for your product, or in our case maybe is visiting your website, can you react fast enough in that moment, inside that window of opportunity? Especially when digital attention spans are 8 seconds? These days, thanks to social media, everyone has a much shorter and shorter attention span. There's so many things that need to happen inside of those 8 seconds for a rep to be able to capture you in the moment. So speed of execution, timing, these are two things that we really wanted to capitalize on at one week. Adil Saleh (0:04:41) - Very interesting. Like you mentioned, clear bit. I mean, that brings a lot of external data sources to analyze, but again, when it comes to time sensitivity, you got to make sure that you grab that lead right there and then, and how instantly you can intelligently engage with that, with that buyer, with that visitor to, you know, it's, it's basically, it's visitor to basically customer journey, visitor to conversion journey. So that is what we are working on. So if I am to understand warmly, it's more about pre sales, it's more about how you can turn your visitor into customers. So it's basically giving you different touch points, intense signals. Is it right? Alan Zhao (0:05:21) - Yeah, it's all throughout the entire sales funnel, actually. At the end of the day, the question that salespeople always trying to ask themselves is, who do I call? What do I say? Why do I say it right now, at this moment? Because unlike machines, an individual person, they can only do one thing at a time. They can't paralyze themselves, and they're asked constantly to do 30 things at once. It's like juggling 30 balls, but only being able to decide right now, what do I do? If you can pull in all the intense signals from all the systems, and there are a lot of systems now you have your intent signals, your contact database, your email sequencing tools, your CRM. All these things need to constantly be toggled and used all throughout the day. And so a salesperson, instead of having them do all these tasks, why not have the machine soak in, take all data, and then now the machine, or the system has context over what's important, and then serve up the salespeople, the best leads to engage with at the time that they're ready to have conversation. This part isn't as new, serving up the best leads. The next part is, um, being able to take the overflow that a salespeople, that salesperson can't get to. So once you service the best leads, this is what part of our system does, then you, then for the ones that the salesperson could get to, could you deliver an experience to those leads, um, and then have loop, and the salesperson later, when they're ready for a conversation, then this is this intent to action combination. We combine intent with action. Happens all across the sales funnel, especially even at the bottom where it's closed. One, when someone who's an active deal visited the pricing page five times, is currently on the pricing page at six different stakeholders who visited the page. That's someone that the salesperson needs to interact with right now, and you need to engage with them on the site while they're thinking about you before they go to a competitor. All the while, if you have leads who are next tier down, not the hottest, which is active deal and CRM, pricing page, demographic, ICP, all that stuff aligns perfectly. That requires the salesperson next one down. Might be they're not an active deal, they are an ICP fit. They have multiple people visit the page. Theyre researching key topics that your company helps solve for through Bambora research, topical intent, but theyre not a deal. So what do you do then? If youre a salesperson youre always going to prioritize the active deal first because thats closest to finish line. So the next tier down, those guys hit the website every single day though. Every day only 95 5% of people, sometimes 3% of people fill out forms. The other 95 97% don't. So those people should also be getting some sort of engagement, especially if they are in market. And then warmly we'll do other sorts of automation like sending a follow up sequence via email on LinkedIn to the buying committee and then when to drive them back to the site. Adil Saleh (0:08:08) - Oh amazing, amazing. And does it also attracts the historical data? Let's say if I'm a visitor sitting on warmly's website, I'm comparing this platform with, with entirely different platform and I'm not a right customer fit or product PQL fit. So do you also track those, those historical data points of those visitors? Alan Zhao (0:08:33) - Yeah, we do track historical data points. We track historical chats, historical website visits and all those things can be cut up in factor. Like if you are visiting the website for the third time this week, that's something that you can trigger actions off of. So like a common heuristic is active deal third visit, three people from the company been on the site for 30 seconds or more. Visit the pricing page, did not visit the users page. All these things and then ICP then do something. Adil Saleh (0:09:02) - Yep. Wonderful. Because a lot of these folks that are listening to this episode, they are still struggling to get product market fit. In the first two, three years from c to series a, they're sitting in and they're trying to figure out their pre sales as well as onboarding. And they have standardized operations success metrics. You know, all the data points standardized like that, like you mentioned, like they need to follow these four steps to be able to be able to qualify for a right customer, ideal customer. So all of these standardization, so how you're doing it internally for Romney, for your ppls? Alan Zhao (0:09:40) - Yeah, for us it's basically what I said before, which is if they're an active deal, if they're assigned to a rep, then what warmly does is we find the account owner for anybody who visits the site, company and contacts. And then if they're an active deal, immediately routed to the rep, this person's on the site, you engage with them directly. If they're not an active deal, but they are an ICP fit, which means that their company size, you know, based on industry, company size for us is 50 to 250. And then they're b, two B SaaS. They have website traffic activity. You can break by that. Clearbay gives you that information, which we integrate through our tool. Then they get put into a sequence and we target the sales leaders, we target the marketing leaders, and we target even the junior sales reps as well. So each, each person gets a different type of sequence. Adil Saleh (0:10:29) - And we, of course target because their experience is unique. Alan Zhao (0:10:32) - Yeah, yep, their experience is unique. But the key thing here is that the problem that we're ultimately solving, it's all unified. So while we write messaging, that resonates to the individual Persona, like a sales rep is gonna get something different than the marketing leader, the value. But at the end of the day, what we're solving is time. Time kills deals, time kills startups. And you want as much time back as possible. So all of our messaging is unified. It's an omnichannel approach. Keegan, our head of sales, always push us for this. So we multi thread. We do take an omnichannel approach. We email them sequences nurture and sales convert, conversion sequences. We also do LinkedIn. So we integrate with a tool called sales flow, which means that if they come to the site, we prospect the buying committee automatically through email LinkedIn and then drive them back to the site, which our AI chat bot can then engage. When the AI chatbot engages and then prospect responds, it loops in the account owner again to then have a conversation run on the website. Adil Saleh (0:11:33) - Amazing. So you're basically covering the entire lifecycle from the first interaction to the website. Alan Zhao (0:11:39) - To the, to the finance section. Adil Saleh (0:11:42) - It's constant, qualifies or disqualifies. Wonderful. So looking at your DTM, like I've been following your journey, your founders journey, your content quite, for quite some time. So now you. I'm not, I'm not sure if you have mentioned it, but you have recently funding too. Alan Zhao (0:11:59) - Yes, that's right. Adil Saleh (0:12:00) - Yeah, just a few months back. Okay, so congratulations on that too. But I'm sure your growth matter pretty up to mark. Like you're thinking of going up market slightly mid sized companies. So what is the strategy that you guys thinking? Your head of marketing too. So what is that go to plan for this year? Thinking of penetrating slightly upward. Alan Zhao (0:12:23) - Yeah. So we know that this idea of revenue orchestration, intent, account based marketing, this intent, signal based playbooks, it's available, but typically it's available to enterprise companies. And companies like 6th Sense, demand based, they service those guys. It's only enterprise companies that have the time, resources, money and playbooks to execute these plays. So what we're really trying to do now is democratize intent based playbooks down to the SMB. And like I was saying before, 25 to 500 size companies. We're really trying to target and fill that niche. Adil Saleh (0:13:01) - Wonderful, wonderful. And these companies, they always wanted to do more with less, and they want to optimize the bandwidth, they want to optimize the cost and everything. And that, that comes handy. That comes handy. So thinking of a team of account executive, let's say ten account executive have a pipeline of around 200, $200 to $300,000. What do you think is going to be the best workflow? Like, I'm just trying to figure out like how much of this is something that they can automate, how much of this that they need to prioritize, as you mentioned, because time is what we are all trading against as salespeople. Talking about sales teams. So what is the best way for early stage sales teams, account executives, bdRs, sdRs, to make sure they incorporate platforms like warmly into their, alongside their pipe gen tools and other tools that you have integrations with. Alan Zhao (0:13:55) - Yeah. So the key thing that we also wanted to talk about is demand based 6th sense and some of these larger platforms, they can take months to set up and it costs an arm and leg. Of course, we wanted to make warmly, super fast setup and so we have customers who set up in minutes. They book qualified meetings, two of them eight minutes after launching the AI chat. And so the time to value is very quick. It's also free to get started, start denony site traffic. And we have a startup tier that starts at $500 a month, which is a far cry from the 100, $200,000 you might be paying for an enterprise solution. So all you have to do is you integrate your slack or your favorite tools, honestly, Salesforce, Salesloft, outreach, HubSpot, Apollo, all these tools that I think a lot of SMB companies are used to integrate, all them all with one click. Add the script tag to your website and then you're basically good to go from there. Define your ICP in the segments. Adil Saleh (0:14:48) - Good. Alan Zhao (0:14:48) - Define your Persona and then we'll take it from there. Adil Saleh (0:14:52) - This is as seamless as I could ever imagine because we spoke to a lot of data integrations tools. You might have listened to a lot of these companies coming up and they have like a lot of these customers, they complain, talk about gainsight. They have like three to six months of onboarding window and multiple calls, catalyst, they're also serving the post sales journey, but that is also a lot of time. This is quite a job for data ops team. Even then it needs a lot of technical aspect of things as well because a co founder is not technical, CEO is not technical of a small team. He cannot do it all by himself. So it takes a lot of time, resources and friction to be able to integrate a platform, which you said the time to value. Thinking about bigger accounts. You know, how, how does it different, like warmly is different across teams. Talking about marketing teams as well, because this is slightly a bigger use case for marketing because they're sitting on visitors, they're trying to increase the visitors and then create these intense signals and interact based off of different touch points. So talking about like slightly bigger size marketing and sales teams, how do you see a different, is it all same? Like, is there anything that you wanted to mention? Alan Zhao (0:16:05) - Yeah, for smaller teams, they want automation and they want speed fast. We can even tear it up even to, we call them like very small teams. So steam sizes of one to ten. Sometimes people just want their site traffic de anonymized. They have no idea what intent is, they don't know what orchestration is, they're not used to, they don't know what the sales tools are out there. They just want simple de anonymization. And that's the crawl stage. Then once you start to move up, they'll understand, okay, I need to add some sequencing tools in. Let's add an outreach. They started using Apollo. We have discounts for Apollo and outreach so you could buy through us. And then they're like, well, we need some way to stitch this all together because my reps don't have enough time to email people when there's intense signals because I'm on calls all day. So we decided to automate everything. And yeah, you can just use our AAP prospector that automates LinkedIn and email outreach based off intent signals from your website, as well as the AI chatbot that loops you in but has the first two messages sent out and it loops in the sales rep. Once they are ready to have that conversation, once you get to larger companies, it very much becomes an OpS game. And we do have to spend the time to integrate map our fields appropriately. What they didn't mention is that all the data that we find, we sync back to the CRM. And for salesforces we have to make sure we get the custom fields mapping right, the bilateral syncs done correctly, the lead routing to the right reps done correctly, make sure the data is thinking properly so that they can create the right reports. Make sure that the AI chat bot is having the right copy because, you know, bigger companies, bigger brands, more things, more risk. So it's a bit more heavy on the upside. And then for the marketing team, it's making sure that all the data syncs back to the CRM so they can use it for later and for tracking. Marketing teams are really curious about what kind of people are coming to the website. What are they looking at? What are they reading? Are they reading this case study? Okay, I should probably write more about that. I had no idea that even though we are writing to the government, there's construction as an industry is starting to surface as like people who are visiting our site. Maybe we should write more content about that. This content converts this type of traffic. This content converts that type of traffic. All these new use cases come up for marketing that we're pretty excited to build more towards. Adil Saleh (0:18:15) - Amazing. I love the fact that you are, you're thinking about bi syncing, like bilateral syncing with the CRMs and marketing tools. Because when organization gets bigger, they have global operations. They want to stay within their workflows. They don't want to go outside and use third party tools a lot. They want data to be populated inside. What I understood is you have a bicycle. Everything that gets updated inside normally gets updated in Salesforce and hotspot as well. Alan Zhao (0:18:48) - That's right. Adil Saleh (0:18:49) - If they want to take action, they can, they can stay within the CRM or marketing tools to take action. So now this last segment is going to be more about, you know, how much you guys are investing into the customer education. I know that you have your own media, your own show, you have pretty decent blogs that you consistently, you guys are writing. So what kind of other initiatives have you guys taken towards customer education, which is one of the biggest play here. Education drives everything. Alan Zhao (0:19:15) - So video, I think that video is probably the big bet that we're making. It's what a lot of companies are making too. One video to help a brand. The second is video to help customer education. These days it's very easy to create a quick two minute video so that people in two minutes can understand exactly how to use your product within their existing tool stack. And so we've created videos for every piece of the integration puzzle and they're one to two minutes. It goes out as an onboarding sequence for all free users and for all paid users as well. And in addition to sending them videos through email, we also send them videos through LinkedIn. So in the same way that we take the omnichannel approach in sales, we do it for enablement too. That's how we, those are the sequences that get sent out on how to use our product. And we also have a newsletter to share best practices about the coming changes in go to market. As I'm sure everyone's aware of, go to market's changed a lot. Some of the old channels and old ways and tactics of generating leads aren't as effective anymore. But that's also just because most marketing tactics have a shelf life. Adil Saleh (0:20:25) - So we try to keep people up to date and AI has taken it over. There's a lot of technologies that has taken the replacement, which is great. Well, how does, like talking about your operating principles and some of the dnas and vision, how does, how do you keep your, your team, you know, pretty much bound into one umbrella? Do you have like operating principles or anything, or maybe any weekly, monthly or quarterly activities that keeps the team, you know, motivated? What kind of, what is, what kind of culture warmly has? Alan Zhao (0:21:01) - Yeah, and it's funny, we've evolved our culture quite a bit. In the beginning. We had a very, we still have a very warm culture and very inviting and we had a lot of videos of ourselves or images or pictures of us going to Hawaii, team trips, and it's fun. But at the end of the day, we are trying to win. So I almost equate our culture more as a professional sports team. We are. Adil Saleh (0:21:23) - Oh, we're teammates first. Alan Zhao (0:21:26) - Yes, exactly. We're teammates first. We need to show results. And it's in everyone's best interest because they joined on for a particular reason for us to win. So it's in our hiring principles is each new hire has to raise the bar for the previous hire and bring on something new. It doesn't matter if they're a junior person. They have to raise the bar for what it means to be a junior person at warmly and at the same time for leadership especially. We want to bring on people that are needle movers that can change the outcomes. It's not that they can operate quickly or they can get a lot of stuff done, but they can also, if the trajectory of the company is going downhill, if we introduce them, could they turn things around? Are we bringing on those types of people? And more and more we're starting to shift our DNA into these types of folks. And it's been really great for the company as far as culture is concerned. We have quarterly offsites, so we'll have a company offsite in Mexico City in April. We've done off sites in Vancouver, in San Francisco, and Porto, Portugal because our CEO is in Germany and all across the US, New York. So quarterly off sites, keep the company together. Make sure that we know who we all are, because sometimes the company can grow and it's hard to keep track of everybody. Yeah. Adil Saleh (0:22:43) - Amazing. Great. I'm a big believer of the fact that if you make the top line decisions, right, the bottom line will follow. Just like Steve Jobs says, you got to make sure that on the leadership, everybody's pretty much clear, laser focus on the, on the high level vision and they know their goals and then they, then they will know what, what players they need, like what kind of skill set, what kind of mindset, leadership skills and all. So, you know, I've been following you, you guys, pretty much for a long time. So I mean, I'm pretty much amazed the way you guys are driving your messaging and communication on to public. And, you know, also that you mentioned that these events and everything. Yeah, it was, it was great to know what kind of culture you're trying to cultivate at warmly. And it's going to be so inspiring for people listening. Alan Zhao (0:23:35) - Thank you very much. So it's, it's inspiring to be a part of some of these podcasts and see it play out. Adil Saleh (0:23:41) - Yeah, absolutely. Thank you very much for your time. Take good care of yourself. I'll see you next time. Alan Zhao (0:23:47) - Thank you so much, Adil. Appreciate it.

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