Devon McDonald: Hey Aaron, how long have you been with Zmags now?
Aaron Kerzner: It’ll be two years at the end month!
DM: Wow, congrats on your upcoming anniversary! (OpenView helped recruit and on-board Aaron as Zmags’ first inbound lead qualification specialist in 2010.)
DM: Aaron, would you mind telling the audience what your role was when you initially joined Zmags?
AK: Sure, my role was pure lead qualification — and I was dealing strictly with inbound leads. I was brought on board because Zmags had such a large influx of inbound leads, it was becoming really time consuming for the sales team to talk to unqualified leads. My role was to have the initial conversation with the prospect and determine if it made sense to pass it along to a sales rep. It was typically a really basic conversation. I was making about 60 dials a day, which would translate to passing along two qualified leads each day.
DM: What did you enjoy about your starter role as a lead qualifier?
AK: I thought that it was a great learning role. When I first started at Zmags, I was really green. I am so grateful that Zmags was willing to take a chance on someone pretty much right out of college. I really like the fact that I got to work so closely with the sales team. They were always willing to let me shadow their calls and helped me along the way. They would listen to the conversations that I had with prospects and give me suggestions on how to improve them. It was a pretty cool experience. Ultimately, the sales guys knew that the better I became at my job and the more they helped get me there, the better off they would be with quality leads coming their way.
DM: What was the biggest challenge you faced as Lead Qualifier?
AK: Initially, the biggest challenge was trying to develop my own style. When I was first put in the role I was given pretty much all of the materials I could ever need. They included voicemail scripts, email templates, conversational guides — you name it. However, those materials can really only take you so far. You need to have your own style to be successful. After having some initial success, I got more comfortable on the phone and I was able to develop that style. That made all the difference. The number of qualified leads I passed along to the team increased tremendously.
DM: You’re now in a closing role as an account executive and, from what I hear, you are kicking butt. Is prospecting and qualifying leads still a part of your role?
AK: Yes, definitely. Prospecting is still half of my job now — a solid 50 percent. Honestly, I’d say it is still the most important aspect of my role here. At the end of the day, you can be a great presenter, negotiation, and closer, but if you don’t make the prospecting calls you aren’t going to have a pipeline to work with and you are not going to be able to hit your goals.
DM: What are 5 tips that you would give to those either starting in a lead qualification role or currently trying to improve their output as a lead qualifier?
AK: Sure, here they are:
1. The higher the better. I honestly go right to the top when prospecting, the C-level. Once I finally figured out that was the best way to go and I started getting responses from people at that level, it gave me confidence that snowballed. That confidence allowed me to go to places with my prospecting efforts that I had originally been too scared to dive into. It allowed me to bring in my own style and personality.
2. Be human. This was something that Jens Karstoft, the co-founder and VP of Strategic Innovation at Zmags, taught me very early on. Prospects want to deal with humans, not robots. Have some personality. Be real. On that note, your email can’t look like it was a template generated by your marketing department. The person you are reaching out to will definitely pick up on that and immediately delete it.
3. Brevity is always king. Less is always more when you are prospecting. It’s really easy to write an email with 200 words that includes numbers and bullets. But the best emails are sharp and never more than two or three sentences. Ideally, you are looking at 90 words max with a simple, razor-sharp value proposition. Don’t use lots of bullets or numbered items. Don’t use words like robust, exciting, etc. — that’s just fluff. Get to your point. If you are really struggling with brevity in emails or your call intro (you can’t explain something in a couple of sentences), make sure it’s something you work on.
4. Be willing to test. You need to constantly think about what is and isn’t working. To be successful, you need to make adjustments until you’ve nailed it.
5. Be willing to learn. Take the time to learn and master processes. Read books on best practices. I personally recommend Jill Konrath’s Selling to Big Companies, particularly for email tactics. You need to truly learn about the industry that you are calling into and know what will separate you from every other sales person or lead qualifier. That means actually understanding your prospect’s business, not pretending to know. If you have a deeper knowledge, it will definitely be obvious in your conversations.
DM: Thanks for taking the time so share some tips with the next class of Lead Qualifiers, Aaron! Congrats on your promotions and successes!