Hello to Canada’s SaaS Community,
platform on the back of strong performance and growth. Underpinning that growth is a powerful sales-led go-to-market motion. Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Klue co-founder and CEO Jason Smith explained how the leadership team built the company’s Business Development Rep (BDR) training to be so successful.
- You need to deeply understand both who your customer is and how they fit into their organization.
- Don’t make big promises you can’t keep—leverage customer understanding to capture their attention instead.
- Focus on delivering light value consistently to keep people engaged while you sell to them.
Co-Founder/Producer, SAAS NORTH Conference Editor, SAAS NORTH NOW
The term “business development rep” or “BDR” usually evokes horrible flashbacks of cold calling and hoping for the best. However, the Klue BDR team is trained primarily on relationship building rather than smiling and dialling. And it’s working–the company has raised over $100 million in VC funding for its sales and competitive intelligence platform.
Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Klue co-founder and CEO Jason Smith shared a deep dive into how the company trains BDRs, from initial outreach to Account Executive handoff.
In SaaS, a good product is a given, but most companies underestimate the importance of a strong go-to-market motion, said Jason. The key is first understanding whether your product and category are best-suited to a sales-led or marketing-led effort. For Klue, the former made the most sense because it’s a considered purchase where buyers have to convince their leadership peers that finding budget is worth it.
“Considered purchases, like what we have with Klue, require you to warm your prospect up, to educate them over time about the value you can bring.,” said Jason.
In Klue’s case, “warming your prospect up” happens with their BDR team. However, the actual sales process starts one step earlier: deeply understanding your Intended Customer Profile, or ICP.
Jason explained that knowing your ICP well is akin to having a “picture in your head” of that person:
- Who they are: what kind of person they are taking cues from how they write their LinkedIn profile or tweet, to sports they do, to people they follow, or personal interests
- Work politics: Who they report to, what internal political battles they might have to fight in order to win budget approval, and what their skip-level leader wants.
- Career aspirations: Where the person likely came from and where they want to go in their career.
“There has to be an innate understanding of your ICP—not just who they are, but where they fit into the organization,” said Jason.
The nuance is the message
Knowing your ICP is great, but Jason cautioned against over-using what he calls “shiny objects” to bring in attention. He explained using Klue; the platform shows competitive intelligence and can help you more deeply understand what other players in the market bring to customers.
For example, Jason said he could have run an outreach campaign where BDRs promised to share “every deep, dark secret about your competitors.” And it probably would have gotten responses–after all, who wouldn’t want that information? But Klue couldn’t have delivered fully against that promise, so ultimately the leads would be hollow and stop trusting marketing messages.
“You need to attract and catch somebody in their day-to-day and get them interested enough, but not be full of sh*t,” said Jason. “You can’t lure them in with siren songs and promises that can’t be delivered. Your credibility is everything.”
Instead, the BDR team leans into their ICP understanding to craft the right kind of direct outreach campaign. Rather than make shiny-object promises, they reference issues that might trigger a response: “You know all of those deals you lost to your competitor but should have won? Klue can help.”
This, said Jason, made the conversation more honest and respected where the prospect was at in their careers. If those prompting questions piqued someone’s interest, there’s a much higher chance that Klue might actually be the right solution for them.
“For me to surprise you with a piece of knowledge is a high-risk attempt,” said Jason. “It’s an easy one to get you clicking, but it’s not going to follow through. So that’s what I mean about understanding your market, your target, and then very clearly articulating a message that will hook them in.”
Contrary to some often-repeated sales wisdom, a BDR should not focus on the close from the first reach out. This might work for quick impulse purchases, said Jason, but not for higher-value B2B SaaS—and especially not when selling to enterprise customers.
“You have to earn their trust and so you deliver them value over time,” said Jason.
To do this, Jason explained Klue’s BDRs are trained to not ask for the close right from the start. Instead, they look for un-intrusive ways to pop in, add value, then duck back out before they might be perceived as a nuisance.
For example, a BDR might do some research on a prospect’s competition and then share an article about that competitor with a personalized note. Or they might offer a tip about how to increase your win rate against the competition. They might even comment on a prospect’s LinkedIn post complimenting them on their take. If they see a LinkedIn post from a prospect about winning sales, for example, the BDR might then send a DM asking if they’d be interested in a further chat about how to close more deals against the competition.
“When you’ve barged into their inbox or phone unannounced, you’re an annoying stranger, not someone to whom they’ll instantly give 15 minutes to,” said Jason. “Don’t jump on them in the first message. Assume it will take 5-10 messages and provide value not asks with each successive one.”
Buttery-smooth AE handoffs
If someone shows interest, the BDR is trained to ask for an exploratory call, but even that is not about the close. It’s about confirming interest and needs-match before handing the conversation off to an Account Executive (AE).
Here’s what the process looks like at Klue:
BDR makes first contact: This is usually through LinkedIn DMs or warm outreach from marketing lead campaigns. The goal of this step is to build enough trust so the prospect is willing to book an exploratory call.
BDR confirms prospect interest and qualification: During the first call, a BDR’s job is to learn more about the prospect and see if Klue’s solution might be a good fit. This call is high level, said Jason, and isn’t about asking for a sale.
BDR to AE handoff: If there’s a fit, the BDR will book a second call and invite the AE to join. The BDR introduces the call, then typically goes silent. The AE takes over, re-confirming the prospect’s challenges and going more in-depth into the platform. This usually takes the form of talking with the person 1:1, showing a relevant slide that helps explain how Klue can help solve a problem, or showing a feature via a product demo.
“If you just go straight into a demo, people’s eyes get glazed over very quickly,” said Jason. “So you need to go back and forth.”
AE running the process: For simpler deals, the AE might have another call and then start going for the close.
For more complex deals, the AE will bring in Klue’s various sales enablement team members such as Product Marketing or Competitive Enablement. Jason himself will even join calls that are significant or highly complex.
Selling is a team sport,” said Jason. “There are many supporting people both behind the scenes and in front of the prospect who help win business.”
A lot of relationship building is personalization and customization. But Jason cautioned against going too far in that direction. He shared the example of a highly-targeted campaign where the Klue BDR team built custom landing pages with personalized and sent personalized gifts–a modified version of the Clue board game–to 100 prospects. Jason said it was a lot of effort and expensive–yet only two people responded to the campaign and no one bought.
“There is a spectrum between highly personalized 1:1 outreach and spray and pray spam,” said Jason. “You need to find the balance between velocity and effectiveness.”
But this mistake turned into a huge lesson learned that has helped Klue scale. Personalization is not about going full-out every time, but about being present in a valuable way, a little bit at a time.
“There is a delicate balance of just making sure you’re delivering light value on a high frequency over time, popping your head in and coming out back in,” said Jason.