An Interview With Ryan Arnett: Using Sales Assets to Educate, Inform, and Understand Buyer Intent

By: Teresa Weirich

November 4, 2018

Ryan Arnett, VP of Sales, DocSend

As a sales leader with more than 15 years of experience, Ryan Arnett has seen his fair share of competition. After starting his career at an internet ad company, he quickly realized he had a knack for the hunt, and this ‘only the strong survive’ mentality has followed him to his most recent role as VP of Sales at DocSend.

At DocSend, the company’s focus on delivering content management and tracking solutions to help teams securely share documents has made Ryan a true expert on educating, informing, and understanding buyer intent. Being in the industry so long, he’s seen plenty of sales trends come and go.

“Today’s sales reps don’t value the hunt as much anymore,” he said. “We’re so used to getting leads fed directly to us. But this is also a question of technology. There is a tech solution for every sales role and function. The tech stack as a whole is growing increasingly out of control. It’s all about finding – and being – a needle in the haystack.”

In this conversation, Ryan offers his explanation of buyer intent, discusses how to personalize the sales process, and more. We hope you enjoy the following conversation with Ryan!

What is your definition of buyer intent? How can sales reps understand buyer intent in an outbound sales process?

In today’s world of B2B sales, and especially in the SaaS world, prospects are fed up with traditional discovery calls. Buyers just aren’t as vocal about what they’re looking for in a product or solution. For sales reps, this is the challenge of buyer intent. It’s about doing extensive research and due diligence to dig deep and understand what is motivating a prospect to make a purchase, even if they won’t tell you explicitly what they’re looking for.

When it comes to Account Based Marketing (ABM) approaches, getting to the root of buyer intent becomes an organization-wide focus. ABM is an orchestrated effort across an entire organization, and the segmentation of accounts is something that the entire team can rally around. It comes down to finding and prioritizing accounts that have all of the attributes you’re looking for in a client. Then, once you have these clients highlighted, your team can figure out what attributes and business problems link them together, creating a jumping off point for buyer intent.

When it comes to outbound sales processes, sales reps sometimes get nervous about buyer intent since they don’t have any context to draw from. It’s about sticking out from the crowd, and the only way to do this is through personalization and research. The buyer intent is there, and it is possible for you to find it, but it’s about finding the channel and the message that will bring it to the surface. I always tell sales reps that personalization will get your foot in the door, which is why due diligence, patience, and research is so critical.

How can personalization allow sales reps to understand and inform buyer intent?

In the very beginning of a sales process, a focus on personal details can help create an emotional connection between a rep and a prospect. I coach my reps at DocSend to start with LinkedIn and look at a prospect’s recent activity. Anything they’ve liked or shared or published are all examples of personal interests and demonstrate an emotional connection since this is what they’re putting their name next to in a professional situation. Then, reps should go in and research these topics themselves to establish a mutual interest. Referencing these topics in an introduction can work wonders in establishing relatability.

This emotional connection can then help bring buyer intent to the forefront because the prospect feels comfortable and understood. There is a sense of mutual respect that you can’t achieve by just cold calling someone without doing due diligence. And, this sense of personalization isn’t stuck on the discovery stage either. The entire sales process is ripe with areas to be personalized, and it all comes down to research and not cutting corners.

Instead of trying to tackle all of your product’s features, dig deeper on one or two to anchor your deals. Personalize these specific topics to your prospect’s unique needs. At DocSend, instead of focusing on closed/won or closed/lost deals, our reps focus on winning the deal at every stage. It’s not the end that matters, it’s each step of the process that is critical.

Do you have a framework for what assets to send to specific prospects?

With so many tech stacks in sales, sending content and assets must be part of your organic sales workflow. There are two things to take into consideration here: sending the right content and creating the right content.

When it comes to determining what content to send, don’t just think about your champion. Be strategic and package materials that might be helpful to other personas down the road. Buying decisions aren’t made by a single person anymore. It’s all about tailoring your content to specific personas based on what they want to see. A technical buyer, for example, likely wants to see more specific specs and details about a platform, while an economic or financial buyer would be more interested in the quantitative metrics. ROI calculators and custom visuals are helpful in this scenario.

Additionally, content is needed for end users and champions as well. End users are typically interested in success stories and day-in-the-life type content, while champions want to see what broad value your solution can bring to the entire company.

Working with marketing to create the right content is also a critical step. Sales should work with marketing to inform the content that prospects want to review. In the DocSend solution, we have what’s called a Digital Feedback Loop that shows marketing what assets the sales team deems most valuable.

What is your advice for sales leaders who want to focus on personalization?

Develop a deep understanding of your ideal customer profile and the key personas your team works with most often. It’s about knowing exactly who you’re positioning your product around and what problems they’re trying to solve. Once you have a strong grasp of this, you can work backward and create highly targeted content that addresses these issues.

At DocSend, our personalization framework goes something like this: We identify the industry challenge, how we solve it, how we solve it better than our competition, and then highlight our proof points. Breaking it down into manageable steps will help get to personalization faster.

What can you recommend to our readers in the way of further reading or education?

I love Craig Rosenberg’s blog on how to connect sales and marketing in a holistic ABM approach. Additionally, I always recommend that sales reps self-identify where their personal weaknesses are and then look for targeted content that addresses these issues. We in the sales industry are often so process focused, but when we step back we remember that people are usually emotional buyers. Building up this emotional connection is key, and for this, I really like the book What Great Sales People Do by Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan.

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    Teresa Weirich

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