How SDRs can make a proper first impression. Every time.

We all can agree that first impressions matter.

It matters when you meet the parents.

It matters for that job interview.

It matters at the very moment a brand shows up for a prospect.

For many companies, the first impression of their brand is delivered by the sales development team.

Let me say that again: Your sales development team is the first impression to your future customers.

It goes without saying, but this alone is a reason why business and sales leaders need to view sales development as a highly strategic function within the business. As a manager of sales development, it is critical to set your reps up for success from day one.

Here are a few tips to make sure your front line is ready to deliver an exceptional first impression.

Focus on problems

No one wants to hear about the product you sell. They want to believe that you understand the problem they and their market faces.

Before you send SDRs out to the market, educate them on the problems within the prospect’s industry and why it’s important that those problems get solved.

Demonstrating this knowledge to prospects fosters credibility and trust, and dramatically increases the rep’s chances of sharing how your product or service is positioned to make their problem disappear.

When the rep truly begins to understand the impact that is made on business when their challenges are solved, they can make a tighter connection between the problem and the solutions they are selling.

Research pays off

When a rep doesn’t spend some time getting to know a prospect or an account, it shows. Every time. And the opposite is also true: When a rep is armed with critical information about a prospect and their company, it shows. Every time.

Help your reps by establishing research criteria that gives them relevant information that proves that they did their homework, helping to increase… wait for it… credibility and trust, leading to more successful outcomes.

It doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Identify 3 – 5 pieces of information that the rep should learn before they send that first email or pick up the phone. Show them how they can use what they learn to personalize their message and demonstrate that they can speak their prospect’s language.

Continuous coaching

Each call and conversation that takes place is an opportunity to learn. It doesn’t matter how well the call script is memorized. In fact, a memorized script isn’t the goal.

Rather, SDRs need to be nimble and ready for anything. But even the best can get tripped up, or miss a cue from the prospect.

With a dedication to continuous coaching, every rep is given the chance to effortlessly navigate conversations with strangers. Like Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix.

When we review our SDR’s conversations, we focus on a few key things:

Get to the point and get permission:

Make sure the rep isn’t launching into a 30-second script with their name, the company they work for, what the solution does, and asking if the prospect has the problem you solve.

Instead, coach the rep to be respectful. They can simply ask: “Did I catch you with a minute.” When the prospect says yes, the rep should be truthful: “This is a sales call, but I promise to keep it short and to the point.”

Then, have them state a problem they are aware of in the prospect’s market and ask permission to ask them a question: “I talk with IT leaders every day who are impacted by the talent shortage of developers. Can I ask you a question about this?”


Now that they’ve tee’d up a compelling question, they need to let the prospect answer. Reps who listen more than they talk have better outcomes. They should let the prospect fully answer the question. Don’t rush them and don’t talk over them.

When the rep slows down and gives the prospect time to respond, it frees the rep to follow up with a thoughtful response or with probing questions to learn more.

It’s been said already, but the most important thing a rep can do when engaging with prospects is to establish credibility and to earn their trust. That only happens when the rep demonstrates knowledge that is relevant to the prospect.

So, take the time to polish that first impression. Because in the end, when the front line team is successful, the business is successful.

The Real Value of the Buyer Journey Map

Having spent much of my career working at digital agencies, I’ve seen many deliverables that collect dust once presented. To me, it’s clear why this happens. The issue is that too often the delivery of documented outcomes is viewed as the end-game.

It should be quite the opposite, in fact. Any deliverable should be a key that unlocks the next stage of information gathering, learning, and executing.

In my experience, if there is any deliverable that suffers from being well-designed shelfware, it’s the Journey Map. Why is this? The Journey Map typically acts as a pretty picture that describes the Promised Land, the utopian customer experience which will never be achieved. So it’s shelved.

Maybe that’s another way of saying that, oftentimes, the Journey Map is a visionary document, not a document that drives execution of ideas. This is a lost opportunity.

To move the Journey Map beyond being just another pretty deliverable, we have to redefine what the Journey Map really represents. The Journey Map must represent actions the sales and marketing teams can take immediately to create an exceptional buying experience. When businesses create exceptional buyer experiences, they can expect an uptick in revenue as a result.

At InStereo, we are intensely focused on creating Journey Maps that represent:

  • The Ideal Customer Profile
  • Targeted Buyer Persona
  • Stages the buyer goes through to become aware of, evaluate, and choose a product/service
  • Identified gaps between the Buyer Journey, internal sales, and marketing processes

These identified gaps are whats most important. So, let’s break down how to make it happen.

Talk to your customers (and the ones that got away)

Really. Go talk to those you’ve sold to. Why did you win their business? Why did you lose their business? 

Assumptions only go so far, so it’s important to talk directly those who participated in the buying process in order to understand their approach, their goals, and the kinds of questions they ask.

Running the interviews doesn’t need to be complicated:

  • Identify 8 – 10 current/former customers (and throw in a couple you lost)
  • Invite them into a 45-minute discussion aimed at gathering information to help you improve the customer experience
  • Ask them 10 – 12 questions about their experience buying from your firm
  • Review all of the answers to identify the key themes that illustrate their buying experience
  • Share with your sales and marketing team

Agree on your ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer personas


Your ICP is the definition of a company that was put on this earth to purchase your product or service. What I mean, is that you designed your product or service to relieve a specific pain in specific situations. There are companies that are directly in the sweet spot of pain that your product or service can solve. Agree on your ICP.

Buyer Personas

If the ICP represents the company you should target, the buyer personas are the specific people at the company who show up in the buying process either as the economic decision maker, the champion, an influencer, or some other role. 

Personas are incredibly important to ensure alignment of value proposition, messaging, and call-to-action as a part of your sales and marketing outreach.

Before you can create a journey map, first identify each role, prioritize the most important ones, then answer these questions to build out their profile. 

Put it all together

Now that you have fresh customer interview data in hand, and you’ve agreed on your ICP and buyer personas, it’s time to pull it all together.

Define the Buyer Stages

First things first. The buyer journey should be 1:1 with a buyer persona. So choose the most important persona to begin. 

Next, define the stages that the buyer goes through to become aware of, evaluate, and choose a product or service such as yours.

Use action-focused stage names. Stay away from generic customer lifecycle terms, like Awareness, Evaluate, Choose, Purchase, Experience. (I don’t know any buyers who come into the office ready to solve their pain with Awareness. Rather, they search, the ask others, they get referrals, etc.)

So put yourself in the shoes of the buyer, reflect on what you heard from your customer interviews, and write down the stages, from the initial triggers that kickstart their buying process, through being onboarded as a new customer.

Capture Buyer Goals and Questions

For each stage,  what does the buyer need to accomplish? Every buyer has explicit or implicit, stated or unstated goals to achieve at every buying stage. Write down one to three goals for each stage.

To achieve their goals, buyers will have a range of questions to consider before continuing forward in their decision process. What are the most important questions they need to have answered during that specific stage before they can confidently move to the next? Write down the top three to five questions that buyers have.

For example, if the buyer is in a stage to Get Referrals, their goal might be to Get five referrals from peer network. To achieve this goal, they may have questions like “Who’s solved this for companies like ours?” “Who is best at this?” “Who should I talk to?” 

You get the idea.

Find the gaps, and fill them

This is where the real value of the Journey Map comes into play. 

Up to this point, we’ve been standing in the shoes of the buyer: What is triggering the buying process, what are their buying stages, and what are their goals and questions. Now, it’s time to step back into your shoes.

The questions you need to ask your team for each buying stage is: How well do we support the buyer through our sales and marketing activities? What do we specifically do to help the buyer answer their questions, achieve their goals, and advance to the next buying stage? 

To answer these questions, go stage by stage and survey your current inventory of content, engagement activities, and processes. Capture those that you believe support the buyer within a specific stage. 

It’s likely, however, that you come up without any answers for some stages. You’ll realize that you don’t have much in the way of targeted content, engagement activities, and processes to support the buyer.

That’s ok. Because these gaps represent opportunities to implement ideas that lead to the delivery of an exceptional buyer experience. 

To fill the gaps, this is where brainstorming comes into play. Get creative. Come up with new ideas that are targeted, engaging, and valuable to the buyer. Capture these ideas and align to the most relevant and impactful stage of the buyer journey.

And there you have it…

Truth be told, when our team at InStereo helps customers develop their buyer journey map, we spend at least 8 total hours locked in a room with members from both the sales and marketing teams and lots of whiteboards. 

Sure, it’s a lot of work, but I guarantee it will be eye-opening, fun, and inspirational, as your collective sales and marketing teams set the stage for a well-aligned go-to-market plan, all in the name of delivering an exceptional buyer experience.


At InStereo we focus on finding and closing these gaps in the buyer journey. We take a people first, technology second approach and believe there is nothing more important than customer experience. 

The goal used to be to capture buyers, now the focus should be on connecting with them on a deeper level. Creating relationships that span a buying journey and result in repeat good business. 

Want to learn more?  Let’s talk!

10 Things We’re Most Excited for at Rainmaker 2019

Rainmaker is coming up in just a few short days and we can’t wait to be down in Atlanta for three days of learning, conversation, and fun! The conference has 100+ speakers, 1500+ attendees, and 40 workshops all centered around the sales engagement universe. Here are the 10 things we’re most excited about for #RainMaker19.

1 – Celebrate!

We can’t wait to see our customers and SalesLoft partners and to celebrate an amazing year of success over a beer or two. We will celebrate the hard work, passion, and achievements of all those we have been lucky enough to work with this past year. Being together will also allow us to reset, get inspired, and move forward into the future.

2 – Level Up Sessions on Monday

Don’t miss the Level Up workshops on Monday including our very own Bill Galfano talking about sales leadership and strategy. Bill will take a deep dive into buyer journeys and how to leverage SalesLoft as the platform of engagement that helps to deliver an exceptional buyer experience.

3 – SalesLoft Admin Certification

See the launch of the first ever SalesLoft admin certification. All of our customers now have the opportunity to become officially certified. Many of us have been using SalesLoft for sometime, and now we can make it official and flash that badge.

4 – Hear from Kyle Porter

We’re excited to hear the latest from SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter. This has been a ground-breaking year for SalesLoft and as a partner it’s been a ground-breaking year for InStereo. We can’t wait to hear Kyle’s views on the sales engagement space and what’s to come from SalesLoft.

5 – Danny Meyer Keynote

On Tuesday, Union Square Hospitality Group CEO and Shake Shack founder, Danny Meyer, will be sharing his secrets to customer centricity. At InStereo we tailor all of our strategies around the concept of delivering exceptional buyer experiences, and we’re excited to hear from a true icon like Danny.

6 – Blues Traveler

The big Hook is we can’t wait to Run-Around with Blues Traveler on Tuesday night to celebrate with all of our customers, partners and friends. But anyway…

7 – Women of Rainmaker Breakfast

Wednesday morning is the Women of Rainmaker Breakfast. We’re excited to hear empowering stories of women in sales to kickstart the final day at Rainmaker. The panel will include women at different stages in there career sharing their journeys and adversity they have faced.

8 – SalesLoft Roadmap with Butler Raines

Don’t miss VP of Product, Butler Raines, share where SalesLoft is headed in the future. Hear about new enhancements that will be coming to the platform over the next year and how to get the best out of SalesLoft’s newest tech.

9 – How SalesLoft Sells

At a conference all about SalesLoft, why not hear how SalesLoft actually uses their own tool. They’re going to be pulling back the curtain on strategies, best practices, and how SalesLoft manages their own workflow.

10 – Colin O’Brady Keynote

Lastly, to end Rainmaker with a bang, world record holder Colin O’Brady takes the stage to talk goal setting and overcoming obstacles. Colin is a Pro Endurance Athlete who has set record paces hiking the highest mountains on all seven continents, and who recently completed the first unaided and unsupported solo crossing of the land mass of Antarctica. Nbd.

Come Join Us!

As you can see, this is going to be an exciting three days. Let’s connect out there. Give Bill Galfano a holler at or call at (612) 888-8978. Happy Lofting!

InStereo, 23 Years in the Making

It’s crazy for me to think that I’ve been at my career for 23 years. Shit, when I started in ’95, I first had to educate marketers on what the internet was, let alone the value they’d get from having a website. Crazy.

Through it all, I’ve gained so much to be grateful for…so many people and so many experiences along the way that paved the path to making this day possible. Before bringing InStereo to market, I took some time to reflect on what got me here, and what has mattered most to me throughout my career.

Back in the late 90s, I was working at a fast-growing digital agency in a client services role. One day, armed a bit of frustration about our operations and a few ideas to fix it, I walked into one of the founder’s office, sat down, and commanded, “I can run this company as well as you.”

Why would I do this? Well, I wanted my ideas to be taken seriously and felt I needed a bold entry (which I now know would never have been an issue for this open-minded and inspirational entrepreneur.)

The result? A promotion. (And a now 20-year relationship growing businesses together with these guys.)

So what’s my point of this story? It was that experience that made it clear to me that I wanted to run my own consulting firm one day. In 2004, I tossed around a couple of ideas, (one of which was to start a UX-focused consultancy, which were very few at the time. Dang.) But I wasn’t sure I was ready and took another job.

In 2008, ready for a change, I had the opportunity to join Magnet360 as a founding employee, which became the largest regional Salesforce partner, and is now a global powerhouse. Back then, it felt like I was starting my own thing, but there’s a reality…I wasn’t a founder.

But that didn’t matter. I started at Magnet360 as a quota-carrying rep, was promoted to a regional VP of sales, and soon took over as North America EVP of sales and gained a seat at the leadership table. I had a blast helping to grow that business over 8 years.

But I have to admit, a thought occurred to me at some point and I questioned why a guy like me was in this sales leadership role. I started feeling a bit of imposter syndrome.

Let me paint the picture a bit: Here I was, a digital agency guy. I spoke the language of creatives, user experience designers, and web technologists. But here I was working for a fast-growing Salesforce partner. My counterparts at Salesforce were career-long sales professionals, working for the #1 sales platform on the planet, true leaders in their roles. How could I stack up to that?? I didn’t look like them, talk like them, or lead sales teams like them. Or so my thinking would go.

Sometime after leaving Magnet360, something else occurred to me:


I realized that I, too, was a career-long sales professional. I also realized that my approach often was different than those I’d meet in the field. But instead of questioning that difference, as if it made me less of a sales leader, I realized that it was mine to embrace and own.

Which brings us back to the present moment. After leaving my sales leadership post two years ago, and spending 18 months in between working with a SaaS startup, helping to build and market a product for inside sales teams, my love of sales was clear to me.

I reflected on what it meant to build winning sales teams, to set aggressive growth goals (and beat them), and to approach selling in a truly authentic way.

And that’s what inspired InStereo.

I have the opportunity to bring what I’ve learned over the past 23 years to other sales and marketing teams. A foundation of client service, user experience, digital marketing, and authentic selling.

All of which is precisely what InStereo stands for: We help our clients create richer buyer experiences as the path to revenue. We help sales and marketing teams reframe their approach to be authentic, helpful, and most importantly, empathetic. In the end, buyers, users, and customers are people, and when sales and marketing professionals connect with their prospects as people, great things can happen.

We’ve been fortunate with our timing, too. In August, we became one of the first SalesLoft certified implementation partners, and the partnership couldn’t be more strategic to our vision. To authentically connect with people is core to SalesLoft’s position, and their customers are placing a bet that this approach will give them a competitive advantage.

So what does all this mean? Well, I’ve known since the early days of my career that I was destined to run my own shop, but it had to be the right thing. And now I’ve found it. I’m grateful to those who have mentored me along the way, and to those who are putting their trust in what our team can do. We’re ready to have a blast growing this new venture and to pave the path for an entirely new experience.

The buyer is NOT in control. And 5 things you can do to quit worrying about it.

Have you had that experience of hearing a certain catch-phrase or buzzword just enough times to send you over the edge?

That happened to me recently: “The buyer is in control.” “The buyer is in control.” “The buyer is in control.” It’s even the first line summarizing SiriusDecisions’ recently published 2018 Global Chief Sales Officer Study (despite my lashing of the opening line, the study is worth a read.)

I do understand the point: buyers are armed with more data and information about a brand, product, service, competitor, or category now more than ever before. And with this data, the role of the sales rep must shift to one that is more consultative, more knowledgable, and more helpful.

I agree with all that. But here’s the thing: when hasn’t the buyer been in control? At the end of the day, they go through a process to gather information to make an informed decision. They ultimately own the decision to buy a product or service. Whether it was back in the day or today, if a rep doesn’t build trust by supporting the buyer throughout the buying process, they don’t earn the business. It’s that simple.

Bottom line: Selling is not about control. Here are 5 things to keep top of mind to better support your buyer’s journey, and to help you quit worrying about who’s in control.

1. Be knowledgeable.

Spend the time to get to know the prospect before you engage. It doesn’t require going tremendously deep, especially when it’s the first call and the prospect still needs to be qualified. But a little goes a long way. Learn about the company, their industry, what they sell, and the role of the prospect. Based on that, prepare your questions.

2. Be a solid listener.

You can’t listen when you’re always talking. And you can’t listen if you don’t ask thoughtful, open-ended questions. The job of a salesperson is to learn about a prospect and to determine if there is, in fact, a fit of their product or service with the buyer’s needs. By knowing a thing or two about the prospect and their company, you can assemble key questions to ask to get to the heart of their problem. And getting them talking is the best way to learn. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to use a dialer that helps you understand how much you talk on your prospect calls.

3. Share.

A great way to help the prospect is by sharing other resources that can aid in their buying process. This could be as simple as citing examples of other customers who shared a similar problem, or it may be a reference to a blog post or study that is relevant to the problem at hand. Send stories, articles, and tips, as these often become the ammo the buyer will use when making their case internally to buy your product or service.

4. Make promises you can keep.

Under-promise, over-deliver. This isn’t meant to be sneaky or deceptive. It’s meant to honor your own limits and make good on small promises you make during the buying process. For example, maybe you cited a stat from a blog post and you offer to send them the link. Instead of saying you’ll send it right after you hang up, suggest you will send it by the following morning. Then, actually send it shortly after you hang up. Promise to send a quote by Friday, deliver it before the end of day Thursday. You get the idea.

5. Most importantly, be empathetic.

We’re all human.* We have lives. We have goals and ambitions. We have problems. We have emotions. It is critical as a sales professional to understand that the buyer isn’t just some sentient representation of a persona your team dreamt up. (Ok, yes it is. And that’s the point!) It’s a real person! Be authentic and strive to understand life in their shoes. Personalize your communications Understand what they are experiencing to make a decision that —  to you, is a number towards quota — to them, however, is a decision that impacts the work they do, the work of their colleagues, and ultimately, their livelihood.

(* Yes, AI is showing up more and more in the selling process. But buyers most certainly remain human.)

So, in the end, control is a concept that is passed around simply to underscore the fact that the conditions for buyers continue to evolve. They will continue to become more informed as more content becomes available to them. As for sales teams, they can become smarter and more informed, too. And when they behave in ways that support the buyer’s journey, everyone is standing on a level playing field.