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How to Write Outbound Emails

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Writing Outbound Emails

“Outbound email” means reaching out systematically to people who fit your target customer profile using email. 

You can be more effective if you follow these tips and guidelines.

Note on the overall approach

  • Outbound lead generation is based on sending a succinct email with a clear call to action to someone who matches your target profile.
  • Outbound sales is a well-established approach among B2B technology companies – it is used by 75% of US tech companies according to a Gartner survey on sales technology usage.
  • That means there is lots of data to show what works in terms of email structure, content, length etc.
  • Outbound emails are more like the ‘direct response’ ads you see in newspapers and magazines than typical marketing or web marketing copy.
  • The language you use is usually shorter and more direct.
  • It should also look like an email you would send to a work colleague or friend – not like a marketing email you are sending to thousands of recipients.

Be careful about who you target

  • As a rule of thumb, we tell clients that about 60% of the success of outbound sales campaigns is based on the accuracy of who you target, 10% on your subject line and 30% on your messaging.
  • So think carefully about who you will target. Have a clear idea of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Your ICP is a summary of who you have been successfully selling to e.g. “Plant Operations Managers at Food Manufacturing firms with 100 to 200 employees”.
  • A good Ideal Customer Profile is one that, if we had 10 people matching that profile in a room, you’d expect to have serious sales interest from at least 5 of them.

The subject line

  • People will never get to hear about how great your product or service is if they don’t read your email in the first place.
  • The subject line is what people use to decide whether to open your email or not.
  • Some general rules for subject lines include:
  • Length – keep it to 10 words or less
  • Not too specific – do not try to summarize the content of the email in the subject line as that is likely to cause a percentage of recipients to think they can ignore it. 
  • Clear about purpose – recipients should not be surprised that you are seeking to make contact with them, so it’s best to signal that in the subject line
  • Don’t “bait and switch” – do not suggest one offer in the subject line and then either ignore it or contradict it in your actual email copy.
  • A/B test different subject lines – send one subject line to half a list, and an alternative subject line to the other half, and see which gets opened more often.

Think about the person receiving the email

  • “Bad first date syndrome” is when you talk too much about yourself, and not about the person you are with.
  • Well, that’s true for sales emails too. They won’t work if you talk too much about yourself or your company or product.
  • When we open an email most of us are thinking “WIIFM” – “what’s in it for me”. You need to answer that as quickly as you can.
  • The StoryBrand framework recommends that you make your customers “the hero of your story.”
  • The framework recommends that you ask yourself
  • What does the hero want?
  • Who or what is preventing the hero from getting what they want?
  • What will the hero’s life look like if he or she gets (or does not get) what they want?
  • Now try to create a first draft email focused on your potential customer (“the hero”) addressing these points.

Time is a factor – keep it quick

  • Because these messages are email based, time is a key factor.
  • Recipients decide to read or delete a message within 3 to 6 seconds.
  • And when they decide to read the message, time is still a factor – most recipients are looking for a quick reason to delete or ignore your message.
  • This means you need to communicate “What in it for me?” (WIIFM) very quickly – ideally by the 1stor 2nd  paragraph.

Ideal email length

  • Industry studies suggest that shorter is almost always better than longer when it comes to emails.
  • Marketing email vendor Campaign Monitor suggests the ideal length is between 50 and 150 words. Constant Contact found that it was about 200 words.
  • We are not that prescriptive – longer emails can work, if the additional text provides valuable information.
  • But as a rule of thumb, we try to stay at around the 200 word length or less.

Structure, sentence length and sentence complexity

  • For business communications, especially outbound emails, simple short sentences work better.
  • Simple short paragraphs work better too.
  • Sentences and paragraphs should communicate a key concept, not multiple concepts.
  • A study by Boomerang found that emails written at a “third-grade reading level” had the highest response rate.
  • They performed 36% better than those written at a college reading level.
  • This isn’t because recipients are stupid, but because shorter sentences are easier to scan, understand and respond to, no matter how smart you are.
  • We recommend an average sentence length of 15 to 18 words.
  • Complexity is when you have complex phrases separated by commas, or complex terminology that is unexplained. Avoid complexity in your emails.
  • You should keep sentence structure as simple as you can.
  • One of the simplest ways is to break long, complicated sentences into shorter, simpler ones.

Use of ‘You’ and ‘Your’

  • We recommend that you use the words ‘you’ and ‘yours’ in the first sentence and frequently throughout the email.
  • This is because it creates greater engagement with the recipient.
  • It also helps you avoid writing sentences that are too abstract or disconnected from the recipient’s needs.

Getting to the point

  • Put the important stuff up front. Whatever people see or read first, they will assume that is your primary focus.
  • Put the most important facts, information and observations at the start. Try to order this by what is likely to be important to the recipient.
  • Readers should understand what you are trying to communicate to them and ask of them within 2 paragraphs. If they are confused, they will not respond.
  • Emails should explain “What’s in it for me?” really quickly. Make it clear why should they respond, and how will they benefit.


  • Your message should persuade the recipient;
  • that they have a need that is worth addressing
  • that is is worth addressing now and
  • that you can address it.
  • The first part is important – people may be aware something is a problem, but they may not think it’s a big enough problem to actually do something about it.
  • You need to overcome that inertia.
  • Use the Need-Outcome-Solution-Evidence (NOSE) structure to persuade them.
  • NOSE means:
    • briefly describing their need and why it’s a big deal,
    • explaining the outcome if that need could resolved,
    • describe what your solution looks like, and
    • provide evidence you can deliver.

Call to action

  • You need to make it clear what you want the recipient to do in response to your email – this should be crystal clear.
  • If you want to have a phone call with them, say so, explaining how they will benefit.
  • Make the call to action “low commitment” – something that is easy to say yes to.
  • So instead of asking if they are free for a physical meeting or hour long phone call, ask instead if they are free for 5-minute web call.
  • Do not have more than one call-to-action in any email.
  • For example, don’t ask for a phone call and then also ask that they download a brochure.
  • Every additional call to action dilutes the overall impact through confusion (“what do they want me to do?”) and reduces the response rate.

Active / Passive voice

  • Passive voice is where you say, “a solution was delivered”. Active voice is where you say, “we delivered the solution”.
  • For email, Active voice is always better.

The Tom Sant Checklist

As a final piece of advice, we have adapted a checklist from Dr Tom Sant’s “Persuasive Business Proposals” that we think is useful

  • Have I accurately identified my audience?
  • Do I understand what they need?
  • Do I know what their likely decision criteria will be?
  • Have I used the words ‘you’ and ‘yours’ at the start and frequently throughout the email?
  • Have I kept my email short?
  • Have I avoided cliches and jargon?
  • Have I used active voice?
  • Have I expressed myself clearly?
  • Are my sentences short and simple?
  • Have I eliminated jargon?
  • Have I eliminated unnecessary detail?
  • Do I have a clear call to action?

Written by Michael White

Michael White is co-founder and CEO of Motarme, the Sales Technology and Services vendor. You can find him on LinkedIn .



What is Account Based Marketing?

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Account Based Marketing

Account Based Marketing (ABM) means ‘love-bombing’ selected target companies by contacting multiple individuals at the company using multiple tactics, from email through to ads and social media. ABM contrasts with other B2B marketing approaches which target a lot of individual leads across many organisations using one tactic at a time.

For example, standard B2B marketing might use online ads to target a wide geographic area and pull in a range of visitors as potential leads. In contrast, an ABM ad campaign is tightly focused on specific target companies as part of a coordinated sequence of tactics.

The term has surged in popularity in the past 2 years – this is the Google Trends graph for the phrase ‘account based marketing’:


ABM is not a new concept, but new technologies make it possible to implement account based marketing more effectively, particularly through “IP-based targeting”. ABM is sometimes used to refer specifically to ad targeting based on people’s IP addresses – it is the most effective way to target enterprise B2B clients using online advertising.

So if you have 30 contacts from “Acme corporation”, 15 of whom are from the same office location, you can plan your marketing, primarily your online advertising, to target those 15 individuals.

There is some crossover with marketing automation. Marketing automation systems usually use cookies to track users while most new ABM systems use IP addresses to track individuals. This means marketing automations require some initial interaction with someone before you can personalize your marketing toward them. Account Based Management systems can target people even before that interaction, based on their IP address.

As mentioned in a Clickz article “5 things to know about Account Based Marketing”,

“Account-based marketing is only going to get bigger in the future because it allows you to buy one highly personalized ad, in real time, for one account. Consider the following situation: You’re trying to sell to GE, and you know you have a person in a buying cycle, but want to make sure you can reach all of the other decision-makers with relevant information about your brand. Account-based marketing would allow you to show ad impressions only to the GE employees from the office you are targeting, in real time, with a very small advertising budget. You may only get 40 ad impressions, but those impressions are by the correct people, at the correct time. This is the future of B2B marketing — a combination of 1:1 marketing and online advertising methodologies.”

ABM is an example of the alignment of Sales and Marketing teams. Using the ABM approach companies can integrate marketing tactics in support of specific sales goals at key target accounts.

To get started you don’t have to buy an ABM system – just begin thinking about how best to target your ideal accounts:

  • List the customers you most want to target
  • Identify individuals at those organizations using LinkedIn and other resources
  • Create custom content for those customers where that makes sense e.g. a case study or video specifically targeting their needs
  • Use Outbound Lead Generation to initiate contact
  • Use Online Marketing – your website, blog, social media, email marketing – to interact with your targets
  • Test IP-based display ads at small scale to see how they work for you
  • Consider other higher cost tactics like business lunches and other invite-only events as a way to further target your ideal customers.

Here are some good additional resources on ABM:


Different Types of Lead Generation

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Types of Lead Generation

How do you generate sales leads?

Most of us have to generate a regular flow of leads to win new business. But if you achieve results with one lead generation tactic you can get ‘tunnel vision’, ignoring other possibilities.
There are lots of ways to generate leads, but not all of them will suit your business or the product you sell. For example, some types of lead generation only make sense for high-value products.
Brian Carroll, author of ‘Lead Generation for the Complex Sale’ has drawn a mind map illustrating most of the major types of lead generation. He suggests you should have a ‘portfolio’ of lead generation tactics that you regularly review, the way investors manage a stock portfolio.

Lead Generation mind map


Seeds, Nets and Spears

Aaron Ross, author of the book “Predictable Revenue”, uses a simple categorization of “Seeds, Nets and Spears” to describe his view of the main categories of lead generation.

Aaron Ross seeds nets and spears

  • Seeds” are leads you generate through ‘word of mouth’. For example, customer referrals or a lead passed to you by a partner.
  • Nets” are leads you acquire online through you website, blog and social media.
  • Spears” are leads you generate through outbound prospecting and lead generation.

In ‘Predictable Revenue’ Aaron Ross suggests that business-to-business (B2B) companies should focus a lot of effort on this 3rd element – outbound lead generation using dedicated prospectors and a simplified process starting with email.

Our categorization is a little simpler than Brian Carroll’s and a little more complicated than Aaron Ross.

8 categories of lead generation

We think there are 8 main categories:

  • Outbound – prospecting and contact via email and phone
  • Online – driving traffic to your website and generating enquiries and leads.
  • Paid 3rd Party – content distribution networks, lead brokers, lead generation agencies, list vendors
  • Events  – tradeshows, invitational meeting, business breakfasts etc.
  • Branding & Advertising – sponsorship and advertising in mainstream media, analysts etc.
  • Direct mail – hard copy mailers sent to prospects
  • Referrals – generating leads through customers and partners
  • PR – press releases, editorials, speaking opportunities etc.


You can sub-divide these categories:

Category Tactic


  • Prospecting tools
  • Outbound email automation
  • Prospect databases
  • Phone prospecting
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Content – strategy, creation, distribution
  • Website and Blog
  • Lead capture and marketing automation
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Webinars
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Display advertising and Re-targeting
  • Lead nurturing
  • Tradeshows
  • Seminars
  • Executive briefings
Branding and Advertising
  • Advertising
  • Sponsorships
  • Press releases
  • Editorials
  • News coverage / interviews
  • Speaking opportunities
Referrals  / Word of Mouth
  • Customers
  • Technology Partners
  • Service delivery partners
  • Professional networks
Direct mail
  • Promotional offers
  • Event invites
  • “Dimensional mail”
Paid 3rd Party
  • Lead brokers
  • Content distribution partners
  • List brokers
  • Lead generation agency / telemarketers


How do you choose Lead Generation tactics?

How do you choose which tactics to use?  There are a few rules of thumb.

First, you should “fish where the fish are” – that means you should find out where your customers typically look for information and concentrate your lead generation there.  For example, if they spend a lot of time on particular websites or are members of a professional association then you should look at tactics that can target those areas.

Secondly, assess the cost per lead for a particular tactic.  For example, if you have a sale value over $5000 per unit then online pay-per-click advertising may make financial sense i.e. you can afford to spend a few hundred dollars on advertising in order to acquire a customer.  However, if you are a software vendor with an average sale price of $300 per year then online ads may not make financial sense and you will have to concentrate on low cost or free channels like social media.

Third, most lead generation tactics work better when they are used as part of a multi-channel approach.  For example, leads will respond better when they hear about you across multiple touchpoints – through email, via web search, through their professional association and so on. Pick multiple tactics and synchronise them so that they reinforce each other. For example, combining email, PR and online ads in the periods before and after you exhibit at a tradeshow.

Fourth, consistent messaging is really important.  Your promotional tactics should be reinforcing the same message across channels so that prospects are given a consistent description of what you offer and your competitive differentiators.

Finally, you should aim for a ‘hub and spoke’ model for your lead generation where most tactics are bringing prospects back to your website or phone.

Lead generation hub and spoke

To improve prospecting, find ideal customers, and deliver more qualified leads, please check out MobileMonkey lead generation tool.

How To Convert More Sales Leads with Lead Nurturing

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Lead Nurturing

Are you converting enough of your sales leads to customers?  A study by the CMO Council estimated that companies waste up to 80% of sales leads because they don’t follow them up effectively.  Sales teams do a good job pursuing hotter leads that look like they will buy in the next quarter.  But a lot of other contacts are lost, ignored or discarded.

Lead Nurturing” is a way to automate your follow-up so that more of your sales leads become customers.  You can convert an extra 20% to 30% of your leads by automating your follow-up this way, and it has other benefits too, like more efficient use of your sales team’s time.

In this post I’ll look at how to get your first Lead Nurturing program up and running.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing means automating communications, usually via email, with your sales leads. The goal is to keep your company ‘front of mind’ with prospects until they are ready to engage with your sales team. You define a chain of communications you want to send out to leads and specify the time intervals between each email or call. Then you automate the sequence using a marketing automation tool or your CRM (if it supports nurturing).

Lead Nurture Track example

Goals and Principles

The main goal of lead nurturing is to convert more leads to sales by being consistent in the way you follow-up. I think it is also useful to set out some principles before you start lead nurturing for your company, spelling out what you want to achieve:

1. Ensure we respond to all leads (i.e. that none of them go un-contacted).

2. Make sure this response happens faster than at present (e.g. minutes or hours rather than days).

3. Ensure we respond to all leads consistently.

4. Ensure this response is based on information we have about the lead (who they are and what they show interest in).

5. Ensure that our lead nurturing communications convert leads to customers – that each communication increases their engagement, not decreases it.

6. Record sufficient information about how we manage leads so that we can analyze our activities and draw accurate conclusions about how to improve our approach.

Getting Started – Lead Capture

The first step is to make sure you capture leads from your website and blog. (This is because four of the five top sources of sales leads are online, according to research from DemandBase and Focus.com). You set up lead capture using registration forms next to “calls to action” on your web pages. For example, you can ask visitors to register their email address in exchange for a white paper or video. When they register you automatically record their details.

Landing page example

Score Your Leads

Some leads are more likely to convert than others. For example, you may find that leads from particular industries or countries are better quality. A lead score is a number you use to represent how ‘hot’ you think the lead is. You base the score on a mixture of information you can gather about the person (such as their job title and company) and on their subsequent behaviour (such as repeat website visits and response to emails). A lot of this information can be gathered automatically.

Lead Scoring Example

Categorize the Leads as “Personas”

You can categorize your leads into different “Buyer Personas”. A persona is a simplified description of your target buyers. For example, one of your target personas could be “IT Managers at Engineering firms”, or “Finance Directors at mid-size software firms”. Different personas will have different interests. When a new lead is created, you decide what kind of persona matches that lead. This helps you choose what kind of information they will be interested in during your follow-up.

Lead nurturing and personas

Choose What Kind of Content to Use for Lead Nurturing

Content is just another word for information that your buyers use when they are researching a product or service. Content includes case studies, white papers, presentations and videos. Your sales leads will be interested in different kinds of content depending on their role, their business and their stage in investigating a product or service. Typically prospective customers move from “awareness”, “interest” and “evaluation” through to “decision”. As they learn more they require different types of information. For example, at an early stage a general overview of a product might be useful. As someone gets closer to making a purchase decision they may want to see technical specifications and pricing information.

Use a ‘Content Table’ to map out the kinds of content you think will appeal to the Personas you are targeting as they move through the buying process.

Content Matrix

Setting Up Your First “Nurture Tracks”

A Nurture Track is a sequence of emails and phone calls executed to a pre-defined schedule. For each persona map out which emails and content you want to send and specify the delay between mails. For instance, for a “Sales Director” persona you can start with a ‘Thank You’ email, followed by sending them a link to a white paper. Then a week later you could send out a link to a blog post or case study.

Lead Nurture Track example

You can automate these follow-up steps using a marketing automation system. Now as people register on your website the system automatically scores them and allocates them to a nurture track, and they receive a predefined sequence of emails. Where a phone call is required the system will notify your sales or marketing staff who they have to call and when.

Monitoring Progress

Once you get up and running you can check how your leads respond to your nurture. For example, are they opening the emails and responding to your offers? If they respond positively e.g. by visiting your website and downloading more content then you can automatically increase their lead score. Your goal is to get them to a point where they become “sales ready” i.e. they fit your target profile, they have shown serious engagement with your emails and website and they have given some indication that they are in a buying process.

As you monitor your nurture tracks you will find that some emails work and others don’t. Identify emails or content that get a good response and eliminate emails that don’t get opened.

Automate Your Follow-Up to Convert More Leads

Lead Nurturing is a straightforward way to convert more sales leads. By defining your target buyers, identifying content that interests them and then running a series of automated emails, you can increase sales conversions by 20% to 30%. Getting started now could give you an edge over your competition.

What are “Inside Sales” and Sales Development Representatives?

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What Is A Sales Development Rep

Inside Sales” is a rapidly growing model for business-to-business (B2B) sales.  Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are a key part of that model and there is a big increase in hiring SDRs, especially among technology companies.  This post provides a simple explanation of ‘Inside sales’ and describes what a Sales Development Representative does as part of the sales team.

In the Beginning There Was Field Sales

20 years ago, most sales people in business-to-business companies worked in “Field Sales”. They spent a lot of their time on the road meeting with prospects and clients.  They did a lot of their own sales prospecting or else worked with a lead generation team. Those lead generation teams (often known as ‘telesales’) worked their way through cold calling lists, trying to identify potential prospects. But the model was centred around the concept of sales teams identifying and pursuing customers in person, face-to-face.

So What is Inside Sales?

Inside Sales can be defined as sales where leads are mostly generated, pursued and closed using the web and phone. Inside sales teams originally focused mostly on generating sales leads, but now they can demonstrate products and close sales too, usually for products in a price range of $5,000 to $100,000. Field sales are still used in a lot of industries, and for higher value deals, but Inside Sales teams are growing across almost all sectors.

The Rise of Inside Sales

Sales has changed in the past decade, both in the way sales teams sell and the way buyers buy. Where most of the process used to be face-to-face, now a lot of it happens over the phone and online. This has happened for a few reasons:

Buyers do more research online – where people used to rely on vendors to supply product and market information, they can now gather this information themselves.  Even in more traditional sectors buyers are becoming more comfortable using the web and social media when looking for solutions or products. This is illustrated by research from the Savvo Group that found between 58% to 70% of the buying process is completed before talking to a vendor.

B2B Buyers do more research online

Sellers are looking for more efficient ways to sell – there are huge savings for companies if they can close most sales over the phone and web versus in-person sales calls. This diagram from David Skok of Matrix Partners highlights the relative cost of moving from an online sales model to a high-touch face-to-face model.

Cost of Customer Acquisition by Sale Type

Sales Role Specialisationsales teams that break the sales process into separate, specialized functions are more effective. So teams now allocate functions such as lead generation, lead qualification and subsequent lead management to different roles in a sales team. The Sales Development Rep is a good example of that new specialized type of role.

There are better tools – 10 years ago tools for web based selling were limited – for example video web conferencing was relatively expensive and pretty flaky. Today a sales person can easily demonstrate a product over the web to a customer, have a video call, chat directly with them on live chat or connect via social media. The tools are better, faster and lower cost and it’s possible to get close to a ‘virtual’ face-to-face experience.

How are Inside Sales Teams structured?

Inside Sales teams are structured in an assembly line layout, with lead generation at one end and sales qualification and follow-up at the other.

Inside Sales Team Structure

The process starts with lead generation. There are usually two flows for lead generation – outbound and inbound.

Inbound lead generation starts with web marketing execs who drive traffic to the company website to generate leads and inquiries. They review these enquiries before passing ‘sales quality’ inbound leads to an Inbound Sales Development Rep.  (Leads that aren’t ‘sales quality’ can be sent to a ‘Lead Nurturing’ workflow to keep in contact, or else rejected). The Inbound SDR’s role is to establish contact with the lead they received from marketing, confirm there is an opportunity and schedule an initial call or demo, before passing that lead to an Account Executive (AE).

Outbound lead generation starts within the Inside Sales Team, with the Outbound Sales Development Representative preparing lists of potential prospects through online research. The reps then make contact with these prospects, starting usually with initial outbound ‘cold emails’ followed up by phone calls with prospects who respond positively. Again, the SDR will try to confirm there is a real opportunity before passing the qualified leads to an Account Executive.

Follow-up and closing belongs to Account Executives, who manage the qualified leads until they are ready to become paying customers.  For B2B companies this may involve multiple interactions over weeks and months until a sale is agreed.

What are the key tasks for a Sales Development Representative?

The goal of the SDR is to identify and qualify as many candidate customers as possible in as short a time as possible. You measure their success by monitoring how many qualified appointments and/or demos they schedule for your account executives.  Breaking this down a little, their main tasks are:

Understand the ‘Ideal Customer Profile’ – the SDR needs to be clear on who he or she is trying to target. This means target industry, role, company size, geography, region etc.  There is good information on how to create your ideal customer profile in the books “Predictable Revenue”, by Aaron Ross, and “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale” by Brian Carroll.

Create prospect lists: once they know who to target, the key task of an SDR is to research online and build lists of contacts that fit the profile.  This can be through a combination of web searches, LinkedIn searches, association membership lists, 3rd party database providers like Jigsaw, and purchased lists from list providers.  The SDR can use tools to improve the accuracy of their lists to ensure the names and contact details are correct.

Run outbound emails and calls: once they are fully up-and-running, SDRs can be contacting 30 to 60 people per day, in a controlled process.  These initial contacts are brief and exploratory – the SDR is trying to establish if there is a potential interest and requirement for your solution, not actually trying to sell it.

Handover to Account Execs: when an SDR is sure that one of her contacts is worth pursuing, they capture all relevant details and then do a controlled handover to one of their Account Exec colleagues.  This handover can include confirmation by the Account Exec that the new lead meets all the necessary criteria for them to pursue.

Make use of technology at each step:  there are tools available to help SDRs do their job better and faster.  From prospect databases, email verification, outbound email automation and CRM systems, SDRs should use tools at each step to identify prospects, contact them and record their interactions, and to measure their overall progress.

What makes a good Sales Development Representative?

This person needs to be (a) good at written communication, (b) great at phone communication, (c) efficient in researching lists, (d) rigorous in the use of tools and (e) disciplined in managing their time and monitoring results.

For example, your SDRs will be emailing and calling senior executives at target companies – you need to be comfortable that they can represent you professionally. They need to be able to give an online demonstration of your product where necessary, and they should use your CRM and other automation systems effectively so they can automate as much of their work as possible.

Beyond these skills, the SDR should have certain characteristics.  They’ll be working as part of a team and need to have good interaction and collaboration skills.  They are going to be trying to investigate whether a prospect has a business problem you can solve, so they need to be curious and good at probing for useful information.

Perhaps the most important characteristics are optimism and persistence.  By the nature of the job, they are going to hear ‘no’ a lot of the time from people they contact, so they need to be determined, focused and optimistic.

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