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Setting up Sales in 3 Steps

The first few times I was hired to launch and establish an inside sales department before starting my own fractional sales operations company, I started by building out what I referred to as ‘shadow sales operations.’ Shadow sales operations are necessary before you bring on your BDRs and AEs to ensure their success.

To build a full-scale sales operations department, shadow sales operations are the minimum viable requirement. Compared to a full-scale sales operations team, which typically consists of many facets including compensation planning, enablement, territory building, recruitment, prospect targeting, and finally identifying, deploying, and managing sales stacks, shadow operations, due to its minimal and lean structure, should only focus on driving revenue as quickly and easily as possible.

What do you need to drive revenue?

Three things should be the focus of shadow sales operations, or rather the first sales operations, to increase revenue quickly;

Who are the prospective customers

When a company starts, they have two ways of identifying its prospective customers: prospects who are buying or people who want to buy from them. 

It wasn't an issue of the funnel itself, it was more of a martini glass with a thin stem. When I started at Duo Security, we had a massive funnel that would have made anyone jealous. 

To make a beer stein from that funnel, how did we do it?

As a first step, we thin-sliced those companies that came through and identified their ideal customer types (ICP), which is the company itself. But what makes a company ideal? 

Because Duo Security sells two-factor identification products designed to secure end users, companies with more employees are more likely to be targeted.

A second factor was the industry. We preferred the less technical industries. Our platform was easy to set up and operate and could be managed without substantial IT support (typical of law firms, architecture firms, and medical facilities). 

Thirdly, we triangulated ideal customers based on how regulated the industry was. We targeted regulated industries like banks, financial institutions, and others that needed more security at the time. This is because two-factor authentication was not as widespread as today. 

Our next step was to look at the personas within the ICP. Identifying a persona was an essential step in the selling process. If we called a partner of a law firm and convinced them they needed IT security software, they would think we were talking gibberish and rush us off the phone. 

A haggard IT manager, on the other hand, would relish the opportunity to learn how to quickly and easily secure their luddite end-users. They would then no longer be fearful of their partners phoning them in a panic about losing their documents after two in the morning. 

ICPs of different sizes may also have different personas. Remember that once you have a persona, it is not the same for each ICP. For example, a smaller firm might have an outsourced IT management firm, so instead of calling every tiny law firm, a single IT firm could manage several law firms. Having an IT manager for a mid-sized firm would be pointless, whereas having a chief technology officer for a large multinational firm would be pointless.

Once you've dialed into your different ICPs, segment them as much as you can, then identify the appropriate personas for each segment. 

How does your product help them?

You can quickly guess and hypothesize about how your product will help your prospective customer if you want to get to the core of what it offers. 

Initially, I joined a start-up whose primary focus was science, the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE.com). Our offering was of great value to manufacturers of science tools. We also discovered that it was a powerful marketing tool as well. As a result of these two data points, we investigated how we could make our marketing partners look like rock stars.

Since we are a company full of PhDs, none of us have any business experience, we got together and figured out what the conversation between the persona and their manager would be like.

Our search for answers took several hours before we realized we could find them abundantly and for free. 

You can find job postings for those personas by looking at job postings.

A company's job postings clearly define each person's role and responsibilities. 

Check out a Fortune 500 company's job posting if you want to know what a VP of Marketing does.

Interested in being considered a top AE candidate at a mid-sized SaaS company? Take a look at several AE job listings for fast-growing SaaS companies.

Your prospect's boss (or board member) will discuss your product as part of their monthly or quarterly conversations if your product relates to one of their key responsibilities. 

To develop your minimal viable sales operations function, you need to focus your messaging on how specific individuals in specific ICPs are meeting their goals.

Where can you reach them?

Reaching your prospect and getting a yes or no response is the most challenging part of the sales process. Twenty-one touches are generally agreed upon as the optimal number before recycling a lead.

When you consider how many different ways a salesperson can reach a prospect, twenty-one touches doesn't seem like a lot.

There are only three attempts for each of the seven methods listed above about reaching out to a prospect. 

There isn't a single physical mailer sent out by most reps.

It is common for reps to send a dozen emails per day.

There are only a few phone calls made by most reps. 

Which method does a rep use to contact a prospect?

Whatever that rep feels comfortable with is the worst way to make that decision.

Measure which channel works best and rely more heavily on it when building your sequence.

Depending on the ICP and the persona, different sequences may be needed for different ICPs and personas.

Consider the case of a company that sells

These folks manage big pieces of equipment and deal with physical problems. They likely have their cell phones on them and will answer because their job is putting out fires (sometimes actual fires). 

There are a lot of people who may never read their emails but always answer the phone.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is an IT security manager. 

A persona like this may never answer the phone, but always checks their email. It may be a good idea to leave a few voicemails referring to a phone call in those cases. Also, ask your marketing folks to place a few Reddit ads, as it is where they are likely to get information when they are down.


Putting themselves in the shoes of prospects and walking around in them will allow shadow operations to understand who their prospects are, what their daily pains are, and how they find solutions. By gathering and gathering information, shadow sales operations will be able to hire, train, and release a team of BDRs into an addressable market that will generate significant dividends as they turn around, hire, train, and release a team of BDRs.

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