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Akhilesh Betanamudi, SmartReach: “businesses that leverage technology outperform their peers”

In the age of ever-evolving technology, companies always have to be on the lookout for innovations to stay competitive.

There’s no denying that the pandemic pushed organizations to digitize and automate various processes. While the IT departments around the world upgrade their operations with the latest threat detection and VPN solutions, the sales teams should look into innovative tools too – after all, customer engagement is what the success of a business depends on.

To discuss the challenges and innovations in the email marketing landscape, we invited Akhilesh Betanamudi, the Co-Founder of SmartReach.io – a company helping business/sales teams improve their email outreach.

Let’s go back to the beginning of SmartReach. What has your journey been like?

It has definitely not been a smooth ride. We saw our share of ups and downs but thankfully we were able to learn from such situations and become better. Achieving product-market fit and making our presence felt in a very tough category was very challenging. Now that we have achieved product-market fit with over 1500 paid users, there are newer challenges and we have built a solid team to take these challenges head-on.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What are the main challenges you help navigate?

SmartReach.io is one of the leading sales enablement platforms that specializes in email deliverability. We assist B2B sales-driven businesses to automate engagement with prospects and increase productivity. We currently manage B2B customer interactions via email channel and soon shall launch our multi-channel features i.e.outreach via LinkedIn Messenger and other platforms along with email. We have also developed an email finder software (ProspectDaddy) and an email warmup software (WarmupHero).

Our marquee tool is designed to let users schedule and send personalized emails and follow-ups automatically from their mailbox and boost their reply rates. The idea is to increase the sales team bandwidth so that they can focus on prospects who have responded. This in turn increases revenue and reduces costs.

Business heads could track the performance of their team & their respective campaigns, identify what's working, and scale on winning strategies. They could configure the right level of access to features/data for team members based on their roles and the clients that they are assigned.

A few advantages of using Smartreach.io are:

  • Ability to send and receive emails from different email providers
  • Create & manage campaigns with ease
  • Store and manage a huge number of prospects
  • Integrate with other software
  • Email deliverability features like email validation, spam test reports, warm-ups, etc.
  • Agency-focused features to manage multiple clients from a single dashboard

What other company processes do you think would greatly improve by implementing automation?

Our ideal audience is companies with sales teams or agencies that provide inside sales services. The current challenges faced by sales teams today are creating a predictable revenue stream. The primary cause of this challenge stems from (1) lack of adequate lead generation techniques and tools and (2) email outreach software to convert cold leads to sales-qualified leads that would be then targeted by the sales team. Once you have a predictable process and tools that would power a stream of sales-qualified leads then predictability and scale won’t be a challenge anymore. Currently, we are solving this part for B2B sales teams.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work?

The pandemic forced B2B buyers and sellers to go digital in a massive way. What started out as a crisis response has now become the next normal, with big implications for how buyers and sellers will do business in the future. B2B sales leaders who reluctantly adopted digital during the pandemic lockdown now have a growing conviction that digital is the right approach. Recent articles published by Mckinsey state that almost 70% of B2B decision-makers are open to making online/remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% percent would spend more than $500,000.

The use case for our product grew 15X over the last 3 years, as more businesses started selling online. Initially, only SAAS companies built inside sales teams, the pandemic forced the sales team across sectors to use automation tools to reduce cost and increased deliverability. We now see players in the media, travel, event, recruitment, and distribution industries slowly start using our services.

What would you consider to be the most serious challenges that new businesses face nowadays?

With sales getting more complicated every year almost 40% of businesses failed to meet their sales goals last year. Increased competition, longer sales cycles, lesser control on the sales journey, and lack of high sales qualified leads are some of the challenges faced by business teams today.

Businesses selling online need to adapt to new technologies to combat these challenges. Today, you get software for everything you wish to achieve, businesses need to closely evaluate various software based on their needs.

They need to build trust and concentrate on counseling rather than hard sales. Make use of multi-channel strategies in their outreach program. Last year, approximately 320 business emails were sent and received per day, and that number is growing while only 22% of sales-related emails are opened. Hence standing out is important. Automated emails need to get more personalized, we need to reach out to prospects via multiple channels.

Businesses need to provide prospects with high-quality content and a personalized experience. The idea is to build meaningful relationships with our potential customers. Businesses will also need to start capturing more data about prospects and make sense of it so as to give their sales teams a lot of insight into the prospect's behavior.

Lastly, to combat long sales cycles businesses need to constantly engage and nurture prospects by showcasing value, timely response to queries, and providing a WOW experience. At times the reason for long sales cycles is due to wrong targeting. Hence they need to target decision-makers and decision influencers

What details make a message stand out in someone’s inbox? Would you like to share some tips with us on how to create effective emails?

Most sales outreach gets directed to the bin as they look like they’ve been sent to 1000 other prospects. Such emails have an open rate of around 22% and a CTR of around 2%. So businesses need to leverage relevant techniques and tools at their disposal to increase their chances of success.

After reviewing tons of sales prospecting emails we identified 3 key trends that resonated with high engagement. (1) Optimal usage of links – webinars, youtube videos, social, etc. (2) P.S. – Businesses could use P.S. to fit any context. It's the only part of the email your recipient is sure to read. It should be targeted to the prospect and works toward the objective of the email. (3) Keeping it relevant and crisp – Prospects don’t have time to read long emails, so keep it short and showcase the benefit of using your product.

Other trends identified (1) words like “quick” and “tomorrow” or “prospect's name” have higher open rates, so choose words wisely. (2) Prospect will decide to continue reading based on the first sentence of the email, especially considering the way mobiles show a list of emails (3) Ask an engaging question at the end of the email. E.g. “Is this a challenge that you face?”; “Where could I send you this report?” (4) Use software like SmartReach.io. that could track campaign performance, personalize content by effective use of merge-tags and achieve all of the above-mentioned stuff.

What other marketing tools do you believe can greatly enhance one’s operations?

Businesses that leverage technology (sales/ marketing tools) outperform their peers. These tools are built for effective targeting and make life simpler for sales teams. Below are a few key categories of tools that would enhance the sales process. (Excluding CRMs)

  • Sales intelligence – helps businesses understand who they need to talk to, what they should be talking about, and when they should reach out.
  • Sales acceleration – helps improve both efficiency and effectiveness with better engagement throughout the entirety of the sales process.
  • Sales analytics – these provide a granular view; breaking down sales into understandable parts when analyzing where teams, products, and campaigns are performing the best, and where they should improve.
  • Sales productivity – helps improve the productivity of sales teams, providing a range of automation and time-saving tools that allow teams to focus on the more critical aspects of the sales process.
  • Marketing automation – helps companies streamline marketing workflows and optimize strategies by automating marketing tasks such as email marketing, social media posts, and lead generation.
  • Account-Based Marketing – helps marketers build scalable, personalized marketing campaigns, measure their results, and improve revenue.
  • Sales enablement – helps businesses track content that prospects engage with, which can be highly useful when analyzing impactful content.
  • Customer success – helps businesses to identify dissatisfied customers, set appropriate tasks into motion, and increase customer retention.
  • Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software – helps businesses automate the lifecycle of the proposal process. Starting with the time a shows intent in a product and ending with the dispatch of a detailed quote.

Talking about cybersecurity, what would you consider to be the best practices organizations should follow nowadays?

As a SAAS provider, we need to account for the many risks and vulnerabilities associated with outsourced software services.

SAAS business should focus on threats and vulnerabilities, and employ mitigation strategies by referencing threat intelligence to prevent any latent risk from turning into a full-blown attack or event. Another best practice is setting processes to identify a cybersecurity attack as soon as it occurs then setting up a response and recovery team that would diagnose the issue, allocate resources and set up a recovery plan.

Businesses should create an identity and access management system that authenticates and authorizes internal user visibility and access to sensitive customer data. This sensitive data should also be protected as per industry and security regulations. Finally, businesses should ensure that they follow the protocol of encryption and key management regulations laid by regulators.

Can you give us a sneak peek into some of your future plans for SmartReach?

We are currently working on several exciting features like:

  • Team Inbox
  • LinkedIn as a channel
  • Few other channels like Calls, SMS, WhatsApp
  • Deeper integrations with CRMs and new improved API documentation

We are not only working on improvements to our current product but also developing new products and features that primarily address the productivity concerns of sales teams.

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