Episode 225: Jamie Shanks – Leveraging Sales Signals and Social Proximity for Effective Account Selection and Sales Success
Jamie Shanks joins us to reveal the game-changing potential of sales signals and social proximity in account selection and sales success. Instead of merely showcasing your client logos, he suggests using “social proximity” to uncover connections within one degree of separation from your customers. By reverse engineering these connections, you can secure valuable referrals and opportunities. Jamie’s own experience, from one customer to 600, shows the power of this strategy. Tune in to this episode of Making Sales Social for these vital insights!
Jamie Shanks is the CEO of three successful companies, including Pipeline Signals. The company is pioneering relationship signals as a form of buying intent by finding and teaching how to leverage customers on the move as an excellent process for pipeline creation and customer success. With a focus on helping customers “Get More at Bats,” Pipeline Signals is a done-for-you (and with you) service that measures success by turning leads into SQL. This is the ultimate goal in sales: qualified leads.
Jamie Shanks 00:02
I’ve always thought that sales is a left and a right brain motion. The left side of my brain needs to collect data and facts to make objective decisions. So I think the most important decision is account selection and account prioritization.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social Podcast featuring the Top Voices in Sales, Marketing, and Business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show!
Brynne Tillman 00:43
Welcome back to making sales social. I am so excited about my guest today, Jamie Shanks. I have known him for as long as I’ve known the term social selling, probably 12 years now of engaging and while I know him, he’s the CEO of three companies. We’re here to talk about one of them today, which is “Pipeline Signals”. They are pioneering relationship signals as a form of buying intent by finding and teaching how to leverage customers on the move as an excellent process for pipeline creation and customer success.
Pipeline signals ultimately help customers get more if that’s there, done for you, and with your service. And their customers measure success by helping turn leads into SQL, which is what we all want sales, qualified leads. Jamie, Welcome to the show.
Jamie Shanks 01:42
Thank you so much for having me.
Brynne Tillman 01:43
I am thrilled. I mean, you are definitely one of the pioneers of social selling generally. And this pipeline signal is really about leveraging data and triggers in social, to help salespeople sell better, is that right?
Jamie Shanks 02:00
Absolutely. Yeah, if you look at how we help a seller, sales professionals know that there’s a few sales plays that open a lot of doors. One of them is when a happy customer upset leaves and goes into another customer or goes into a named account they’re working, or goes into what’s called the green field, which about a third to half of all the opportunities our customers find, or in like-minded businesses that are not in their CRM that look just like the type of customer they’d want to go after.
So that’s the opportunity. But the challenge is that you ask a sales team to be able to do this at scale, and they have hundreds of customers and 1000s of prospects. They just can’t keep up with this intelligence. So we capture that intelligence, we write it into their CRM, or delivered in the way that they want, whether it’s in their sales engagement platform, or if they want it in a CSV file. And then we ensure we enable them to understand what is the signal? Why should you care? What do you do when you get a signal? So that we’re turning these leads into sales qualified leads?
Brynne Tillman 03:02
I love that. And I’m gonna dive deep into that in just a little bit. But before we do, we ask all of our guests one question, which is what does making sales social mean to you?
Jamie Shanks 03:14
I’ve always thought that sales is a left and a right brain motion, the left side of my brain needs to collect data and facts to make objective decisions. So I think the most important decision is account selection and account prioritization. So social tools allow me to find triggers or compelling events to decide, do I go after a company A versus B, today, not tomorrow.
So that’s the left side of the brain, the right side of the brain says, “Okay, I need to tell a story.” I need to actually, sales is an engagement sport, I need to engage. Well, Social, like a tool like LinkedIn allows me to communicate with the customer, in a way different than email and phone. So what social does is it just digitizes the very sales motion, every seller knows is important, but it just opens up the aperture of communication of sales, intelligence and communication.
Brynne Tillman 04:13
Ah, I love that. I think that’s great. There is a term that you use often that I use often and I probably learned it from you. I don’t remember if I’ve been using it for so long. But it’s the social proximity piece.
Jamie Shanks 04:28
And I’m just reading an article about a minute ago.
Brynne Tillman 04:31
Yeah. So to me, I mean, this is the core of everything that we teach it buyer mapping and going as high and as warm as you possibly can and map out your pathways to the decision-makers, but talk about how pipeline signals not only identifies triggers in the marketplace, but can also help them use their own network to get that competitive edge.
Jamie Shanks 04:58
Yeah, and I’m a visual person. Now, Brynne, I never asked you if this is also a video podcast as well?
Brynne Tillman 05:06
It is. But also know that a lot of the listeners were listening.
Jamie Shanks 05:10
So I’m going to describe, but for those that are on YouTube or whatever other platform or visualize it as well. So what I want you to picture and this was a concept that I created based on when I had a sales consultant company 12 years ago, that was 13,14 years ago that was failing. And I was struggling to book opportunities for myself. And what happened was I won one customer and in the center had a sheet of paper. I took a sheet of paper, and I drew a circle in the middle and I wrote the letters VC, my very first customer was called Vision critical.
And they’re a market research company, and I won that customer and did a fantastic job. But then I didn’t know what to do with that story. And so here’s where I think a lot of sellers fail. You win the American Airlines account, or you win McDonald’s, and then you sling that logo to everyone. But guess what, very few people care about the successes or failures that are happening in McDonald’s. But what about if you thought about vision critically, and then asked yourself who cares about the story?
Well, using what’s called social proximity, the idea that within one degree of separation or the sphere of influence around them, there are spider webs. As an example, if somebody opts in, leaves vision critical, and goes into another business, when you tell them the story of vision critical, they’re much more likely to care. Or imagine you are a full cycle account executive, or a customer success manager working with a customer. And you are doing a great job together.
What if you went into the social network of the people you work with within vision critical, and reverse engineer the top three to five people or companies they know, in their own social network, they’re much more likely to give you that referral based on their own high social proximity than they are just if you said, “Introduce me to every chief revenue officer,” they’d be like, “Wow, I don’t even know where to start.”
So this is the concept that when I build sales for life, I have one customer, that one customer got me three, and then five. And then we ended up with 600, when sales for life are now kind of merged into pipeline signals. We had 600 global customers. And it was all primarily built on reverse engineering one customer and figuring out where people went, or we’re interconnected to the next customer.
Brynne Tillman 07:47
Yeah, I love that. So talk about not necessarily the software pipeline signals, but talk about actual pipeline signals. What are some things in the marketplace? That trigger first of all, a message in our trigger something to a sales person to say, “Oh, I can act on this”
Jamie Shanks 08:12
Yeah, there are five signals in the world. Categorically, I think there are sort of categorical signals in the world that I think every seller should pay attention to. Number one is called buying intent. Now that can come from marketing, that’s a traditional way that companies think about buying intent, but you can have buying intent at the seller level. As an example. I use video. My vineyard platform tells me when somebody watches a video, opens a video, I use digital sales rooms by vineyard.
So when somebody opens my digital sales room, I am notified. LinkedIn has something like this called SmartLink. So buying intent helps me choose account A versus B today, not tomorrow. Next category is called product usage. Now there are tools like Jeetu crowd, there’s tools like built with that of trying to tell you as an example, if you had a WordPress website or a Shopify website built with will tell you every technology that touches a company’s website who uses WordPress, so if they use Crazy Egg or HubSpot, it shows you on a list who those companies are.
Microsoft uses product usage all the time, they have technology to figure out the usage and utility reports of Azure, who’s using more of it and less of it, who’s opening up more worksheets, who’s not, and they aim their targeted account lists based on usage and utility. Number three, that is really important is competitive intelligence. It’s the anti christ anti antithesis or whatever it’s called. Opposite of buying intent and the other signals everywhere. to talk to you about, I’ll tell you a real quick story.
I was once doing a workshop, and it was a team based workshop, and we were doing account selection. And I saw a lady crying in the room, I couldn’t figure out why. So I asked her, and it turned out, I was teaching her to reverse engineer customers on the move and social proximity. And she had been targeting Harley Davidson for eight months, only to realize that for eight months, she kept getting her proposal shot down. At the last minute, I wanted to figure out that the chief operating officer used to work at their direct competitor.
So competitive intelligence helps you deselect and D qualify very quickly, it’s as equally as important as qualifying in the last two, our time. And of course, relationships time, executive job changes, the window of change getting there in that first 100 days. And then the last is the sphere of influence customers on the move. People who are interconnected to your past customer base, those five categories are where I recommend sellers focus and say, “I have an opportunity to strike now rather than later.” So I’m going to focus on those accounts right now.
Brynne Tillman 11:12
Wonderful. So where are the areas that you’re pulling that data from? Like, so where are you listening to that data?
Jamie Shanks 11:20
Yeah, so my company pipeline signals use a variety of different data sources. One that’s very common is that every LinkedIn profile in the world is a public URL, there’s 900 million LinkedIn profiles. And if you build technology that knows how to look for time changes, dates of employment, looks for job roles, looks for all this specific information, we cover two of those five categories right out of the gate, delivered to you every month, which is time based signals, and relationship based signals.
We can reverse engineer all of your customers and tell you where any key contact, or buyer persona has gone into other businesses. For some of those other types. Buying intents at the marketing level, very popular, is the sixth sense. And Bombora is in the demand base of the world. But at our cellar level, I use Vidyard. For both, I use Vidyard for video, to give me buying intent, I use vineyard for digital sales rooms, to tell me who’s opening up my digital sales rooms. Those are some of the tools you could use.
Brynne Tillman 12:33
Excellent. So part of your program is not just to hear the signals. But here’s what to do with those signals.
Jamie Shanks 12:41
We’re a full education, we’re an enablement as a service. So we have two existing programs with two more coming online in the next month, to revolve around inbound, social selling mastery. So think of yourself as a lighthouse, not a tugboat and you’re drawing like a magnet drawing people towards you. And the other two are outbound account based sales development programs. And they’re based on a methodology or an acronym we call spear. And so we go deep down the rabbit hole of account based sales development. So those programs run in conjunction with you receiving your signals.
And we do this because when I started pipeline signals, I thought I was going to have two separate businesses, I thought I was going to have an education business and do it for your business. And it turns out as we gave customers their signals in the do it for you business, they turned to us and said “This is awesome.” Now what do I do? Right? So I basically created two businesses when they should have been one. So we put them back together.
Brynne Tillman 13:47
I love that. And sometimes that’s what it takes to get it right. You know, you focus on the triggers and the signals without education first so that you can really hone that is missing, there’s a chance that had you done it all together would have been a different baby.
Jamie Shanks 14:07
Brynne Tillman 14:08
So sometimes it works out great like that. So Account Based Marketing count, account based sales, many sales reps, they’re given 20 3050 companies to go after other companies are exploring account based where right now they’re geographically divided, or maybe industry divided. But when you go after, let’s say, a company comes to you and says, “Okay, we want to go a little more account based.” How does pipeline signals help us identify the right accounts?
Jamie Shanks 14:43
Yes. So typically, what we say to them is great seller A, B, and C each of 50 accounts. There’s two opportunities for them. Number one, what signals provide them is you can’t target all 50 Today, and expect great results but there are five I have in each one of your sellers 50 that have what we’ll call an asymmetric competitive advantage, there is a disproportionately greater opportunity for a door to open. It’s basically the Chet Holmes pyramid, which means that three to 10% of the market is more open to change.
And then the other 90% is kind of sitting on the sidelines. So what do we use? We use our signals to say, if I had 50 accounts, of those 50 accounts, where are their executives that just took new roles that are going to force change in the business? Anyways, number two, more importantly, are there any of our past customers in any of those accounts that can be the super champions? So it’s truly an account segmentation program, then we also challenge our customers to say 50, could it be 50? To like, do you really need 50? Like, so the reason that’s important is what we’ll call the Greenfield.
What most of our customers come to realize, when they start looking at signals, is they are going after a geography or a vertical, and their database is not complete. So they watch customers leave their customer base and go into other accounts, they go into accounts that are named, that’s in their CRM, but accounts that are Greenfield, and they look just like the ideal customer profile, they drew up for us, a 100 million dollar company, in these types of industries.
For whatever reason, this company’s logo just never ended up in the CRM. And we say to them, would you like to know that there’s, you know, key stakeholders in some of these accounts. And many times, those are the deals that open up. And it’s, they’re not overly targeted. They’re an adjacency, to have some vertical that they never thought of, and they have a champion in those accounts.
Brynne Tillman 16:50
I love that. So I have two more questions. And then we’ll start to bring up the first one as well. Three more questions. Let’s say the first one is, How do you use signals to cross sell inside of an organization?
Jamie Shanks 17:02
How to use it to cross sell, typically, where we’ve been seeing signals used for cross sell, is champions going into other divisions or executive job changes in other divisions? And it allows them the compelling event to start a conversation to say, “Hi, we’re in Volkswagen Canada, you’re in Volkswagen, like Braska, Nebraska. Here’s the reason I’m reaching out, congratulations on your new role.” I imagine you’re going to be invoking change, what are your top three priorities? But by the way, we’re already there. If you, if these are one of your top three priorities? Well, here’s what we did with Volkswagen Canada. So that’s typically where it’s used.
Brynne Tillman 17:54
Yeah, I love that. And you just simply say, “Hey, if you’d like me to tell you a little bit about what we did up there, hit the ground running with something already proven.”
Jamie Shanks 18:04
With all that snow up there. Yeah.
Brynne Tillman 18:07
Yeah. No, I love that. So the second to last question is, I would presume that pipeline signals can help you protect your customers, right from like, are they shopping somewhere else or something like that? So how can that help? How can I pipe?
Jamie Shanks 18:25
Every time I launch a product over the last 12 years, I always say to myself, this would be great for both net new sales, and also existing customers. But ironically, so few companies use it for protecting their customers. But let’s think about this logically. So I’m holding a yeti water bottle. Right now, the Yeti is your happy customer, a key stakeholder in operations or customer success would have your ups and leaves Yeti, well, that just left a giant hole.
And there are other signals that we can mind for you. We can track every company that’s posted a job alert. So it proactively is the ultimate leading indicator and tells you who they’re about to hire. Then somebody leaves that company. So your CSM is void of a relationship. Number three, somebody’s eventually going to get hired there. The question is, are they a friend or a foe? Did they come from an existing customer?
Are they neutral? Or did they come employed previously from a competitor, or a company that uses a competitor of yours? So all of this human capital migration tells a story? Now, it’s just unfortunate that a lot of our customers don’t see it that way. And I don’t know what it is about the CSM world. I have always felt that customer success is woefully behind on both education and tools in comparison to their net new brethren. But it’s very logical that it’s the same human capital migration. Just what do you do with that until the difference.
Brynne Tillman 20:01
So that’s fantastic. And one of the things that pops in my head when you say this, is we can even reach out to the hiring manager and say, “Hey, look, I work with lots of people like the people you’re looking for, feel free to look through my network if there’s anyone you’d like an introduction to and now we can influence who’s getting seated in that position.”
Jamie Shanks 20:23
Now, that’s the ultimate leading indicator.
Brynne Tillman 20:28
Yeah. At least you’re building loyalty with the hiring manager to be so interesting. I love all this. Okay, my final question is. What question did I not ask you that I should have?
Jamie Shanks 20:38
I don’t know. You know, you asked some great questions. I never thought hey, yeah, there’s none that are void. Oh, okay.
Brynne Tillman 20:49
Well, then I asked you the question, how can folks get a hold of you?
Jamie Shanks 20:55
Yes. Connect with me on LinkedIn. On Jamie Shanks, you’ll see pipeline signals as I’m the CEO. Also, if you go on to pipeline signals.com, go to contact us. You can book a call with me personally. There’s contact sales and happy to talk account based sales development best practices. And if you’re wondering, our ideal type of customer, we love helping specifically account executives who have what we’ll call a quota gap, meaning the account executives have a million dollar target each.
And there’s a tailwind that comes behind them from marketing leads to channel leads. But it’s quite evident that whatever that tailwind in who tailwind is it’s not enough to supply them to 100% quota attainment. So that means the account executive, the bonus is on them to self source their own opportunities. And this is a big void in the market. A lot of Account Executives either don’t want to do it, can’t do it, forget how to do it. They need their engine reinvigorated and built rebuilding their prospecting muscle. And that’s where we focus.
Brynne Tillman 22:04
I love it. Well, I had so much fun learning about pipeline signals, not just the company, but literally pipeline signals. So this was very informative, and I appreciate it and I’m sure the listeners will have gotten tons of value. So to everyone listening when you are out and about don’t forget to make your sales social.
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