Next week, we’ll be hosting the first ever conference 100% focused and dedicated to Sales Development, at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. September 21st.
When I originally thought up this conference, I had no idea what the response would be.
Was I the only one who thought it was time to start treating Sales Development with the respect it deserves in 2017? Was I the only one who thought this topic was important enough to warrant an entire conference dedicated to it?
Collectively, can we push this practice forward a few steps?
Well my fears have been totally allayed as the response has exceeded even my wildest estimations.
The hunger in the Sales Development world for fresh knowledge, leadership, networks, and research has been overwhelming, and even though the conference hasn’t happened yet, I already consider it a success.
The agenda is solid, the venue is first class and the attendees are a psyched. I’ve met some incredible people and reacquainted with old friends as a direct result of the conference. And if you haven’t signed up yet, get in there today before it sells out.
So, why start a Sales Development community? Why now?
I believe now is the right time, a critical time really, to solidify this community.
The Sales Development landscape has changed radically in the last couple of years, and I believe we must respond to this change intelligently in order to stay ahead of it, and to thrive moving forward.
There are three factors unique to today I believe we need to focus on, as a unified group:
Factor #1. Sales Development: from afterthought to strategic imperative.
Goes without saying that in order to stay alive and grow, companies need sales. Sales are the lifeblood of a business.
Without sales, companies wither up and die. Duh. But where do sales come from? They come from a robust sales pipeline. Some companies use the rule of 3X or 4X of their sales targets in pipeline maintained to be able to hit their sales numbers. In any case, there must be plenty of deals in play.
And how do you generate that sales pipeline? Through sales appointments with prospective customers. Sales appointments that are created as a result of conversations with prospects.
Green field opportunities, existing accounts, event attendance; whatever drives those conversations to happen, eventually the prospective customer must feel compelled enough to start talking to someone at your company via some kind of sales appointment.
Enter the Sales Development team. A group of people laser focused on contacting prospects, generating conversations and setting those sales appointments. This is what we do.
So I ask you, if businesses need these sales appointments to grow pipeline, then, if not the Sales Development team, who specifically is going to call the leads you generate enough times to connect and have those conversations? Who’s going to call your top target accounts enough times to penetrate?
Who is going make sure no stone is unturned in the prospect database you’ve spent good money to acquire? Who’s going to be watching chat 24/7? Who is going to be driving your appointment number, from a management perspective?
Will it be your Marketing team? Your Sales Reps? A Robot? You?
Usual answer is: "well, the Sales team should be doing it." They want to make sales, right? However, I beg you to study the true behavior on a daily basis. Look at their calendars.
In my experience, it includes very little time spent locating new prospects and effectively locking down new sales appointments. Sales people want to present, negotiate, close deals and collect commissions. That’s what they’re good at. God love ‘em!
Similar with the Marketers, they want to deliver the metrics they are accountable for, whatever those might be.
The Robots, maybe someday soon, who knows.
And so we go back to today’s simple equation: appointments to pipeline to closed sales.
If we can agree sales appointments are important, and nobody else is going to do it, suddenly Sales Development is not an afterthought, or a red-headed stepchild in your company, it is now a strategic imperative that must be considered at the highest level and taken very, very seriously.
Your very survival may depend on it.
Let that sink in. Now look at the reality. Most companies look at Sales Development as an entry-level position. A nice-to-have. Something perhaps to spread out, automate or eliminate. A cost center. A drain on resources. The big debate is still, today: where should Sales Development report? Come on!
To me that confusion makes little sense.
And that outlook is not how the CEO’s speaking at the conference treat Sales Development. Or the emerging leaders in the Sales Development world attending the conference.
They are taking Sales Development very seriously.
Factor #2. The Buyer’s Journey has changed, but Sales Development organizations have not.
Potential customers are inundated with millions of messages each day, mostly generic marketing and messaging from marketing automation systems or poorly trained Sales Development teams. The result? They are tuning out.
However, the fact remains that prospects are out there trying to solve difficult business problems that our products and services can help with, and we must continue to have those conversations that lead to appointments.
Yet the current way Sales Development teams are interacting with prospects is showing diminishing returns. The spray-and-pray methodologies of the past are fading out in effectiveness. Clueless SDR’s are not definitely not effective.
Today’s potential buyers demand the same type of personalization that they get with an Amazon search or while browsing Netflix. They crave interactions with people who truly understand their pain points and can help them solve their problems. They want connection with people who understand their business and can add value.
At the same time, pressure is going up on Sales Development teams to have more conversations and to set up more appointments, and so we equip Sales Development teams with powerful tools to send out more emails while underinvesting in the training, coaching, and career paths that would create better Sales Development Reps. We continue to hire and fire, and generally don't make Sales Development a place people want to be.
Instead of investing in specific Sales Development career paths and training that would create long term success, we treat the position as a bus stop on the way to bigger better things. “Lifer” SDRs, who understand their buyers and contribute a ton of value to companies, are exceedingly rare. Most SDRs are in the positions for a only a few months before leaving.
Yet when you think about the way buyers want to be communicated with, Lifer SDRs are actually great. Well trained SDRs are amazing. And somebody good at running Sales Development teams should be able to become a VP of Sales Development or even Chief Sales Development Officer, reporting to the CEO.
That is how important the role should be and I believe forward-thinking companies will start to adapt to this reality.
It must change. We currently have a broken model that is leading to fewer appointments, less pipeline, lower sales, SDR burnout and public shamings on Linkedin of victimized Sales Development Reps. Wasted money. Not good!
To stay aligned with the new buyer journey, to become experts in their pain points and to truly add value, and earn the right, we need to up our Sales Development organization game, big time. Right now.
We need to collectively figure out how to improve this situation.
Factor #3 Winter is coming - economically speaking.
As someone who’s lived through the dot-com bubble, the real estate bubble and countless other corrections and downturns, I can tell you, we’re in a protracted climb right now that is naturally due to slope downward at some point. Maybe sooner than we think.
One look at the chaos in the news and you can tell an economic storm is coming, and it will undoubtedly do it’s job of separating the weak from the strong. It will wipe away companies that do not respect the power of sales. Again, sales, the lifeblood of a company.
Sales that come from pipeline, the pipeline which comes appointments. And we’re back to the critical role of Sales Development and why I believe now is the time to take it more seriously.
Now more than ever. Instead of fear and retraction, we should be ready to attack and expand during the coming recession, to stay alive and to thrive by grabbing market share and dominating sectors.
A killer Sales Development program can help do that. Now is the time to prepare.
So there you go, three big factors we need to gather, network, discuss and improve! I’m convinced that as a group, we can solve these issues and become more successful.
...And finally, I got a lot of comical reactions when I started calling people about the conference, which is enough for another whole post.
I got some really weird reactions.
One of the common misconceptions about it was that it was “an SDR Conference”.
While I’m excited to get SDRs involved in it and to meet the next generation of Sales Development leaders at this conference, it’s definitely not “an SDR Conference”.
It’s a conference for anyone concerned about appointments, pipeline and revenue.
And that should be anyone involved in running a business.
See you next week!
This article first appeared on the Sales Development Management Newsletter
Anyone who listens to the Sales Development Podcast knows I’m passionate about getting the Sales Development function the respect it deserves within organizations.
Yet, in many companies (not yours, of course) the SDR team is often seen as an “entry level” job that you want to exit out of as quickly as possible, sometimes not really worth investing in or focusing on, since it’s considered transitory.
Churn & burn, smile & dial, hire & fire, go up or get out. The attitude from the top becomes for an SDR, “well, I’ll do this for a year and then go get the big money…”
I think that whole thought process is totally broken. On both sides.
It’s 2017. The buyers have changed. The technology has changed. Performance expectations have gone way, way up. The result of all this old school thinking becomes robotic spamming, burnt-out SDRs, high SDR attrition, annoyed prospects, disappointed executives. Public shamings on Linkedin… usually by Sales and Marketing execs, no less!
Here’s my view: unless your product sells itself, Sales Development is critical to the success of an organization. It should NOT be a bus stop or afterthought. It should be a key strategy.
It’s new sales meetings, new pipeline and new closed/won revenue. It’s market testing. It’s your future talent bench. It needs serious focus, investment and commitment by both executives and practitioner SDRs.
It needs to be architected, iterated, trained, invested-in, and expertly managed.
In short, I think we ALL need to take it a lot more seriously.
If you’re in Sales Development, my advice is this: don’t wait around for this atmosphere to change. Invest in yourself, and start elevating the profession right now.
And don’t write off Sales Development as a career choice.
Here’s why. I predict forward thinking companies will start to take Sales Development very, very seriously in the coming years. There are already some companies out there who have built their success on Sales Development, and there will be more.
If you don’t think there’s an emerging career path in Sales Development, check out this job recently posted by Splunk.
I don’t know much about Splunk (other than it’s got a cool name) but I know it’s a successful company and I know by posting this, they care about Sales Development.
For people thinking there’s no future in Sales Development; take a close look at that job. Or this one. Or perhaps this one. Just by looking at these you can tell they are big money jobs with major juice at great companies.
Or listen to the career paths of some of the people who have been on the Sales Development Podcast. Very lucrative and successful.
Another prediction, there will be a lot more opportunities like this in the future. You absolutely can make a career in Sales Development, if you become an expert. You can then leverage supply and demand.
There are very, very few out there right now. I get calls weekly by employers desperate for good Sales Development Managers. Mostly, I have to say "sorry, I don’t know any who are looking right now".
I've had a steady stream of clients since I opened Tenbound last year, and they usually come to me saying "what should I do about my Sales Development program?"
So how can we start correcting this? Do you want to take it to the next level?
Whether you’re a CEO who needs more pipeline and closed deals, or newby SDR who started yesterday, you can start by doing one or all of these:
What are you doing to elevate our profession? Leave it in the comments!
Last week Tenbound held our first publicly available training seminar focused exclusively on Sales Development Management strategy and tactics. The seminar was attended by 6 super bright Sales Development Team Leaders, Managers and Directors from some of the fastest growing SaaS companies in Silicon Valley.
The target audience for this seminar was current Sales Development Team Leads, Managers and Directors who wanted to up their game, as well as SDRs (BDRs, ADRs, etc) who wanted to step-up to Sales Development Management in the future.
Overall, the seminar went great and it was awesome to be able to close the door with these leaders and laser focus on what makes a world-class Sales Development program tick, along with the many, many pitfalls to avoid in putting one together. This was for hard-core students of the Sales Development craft, who wanted to bring this practice to the next level and in turn, elevate their own value in the marketplace.
As the moderator, I personally had a lot of fun and felt like I got as much out of the class as the participants. The discussions were robust, the issues where real and the people in the class had great attitudes. Each walked away with an overall understanding of the critical aspects involved in setting up and running an high performance Sales Development program and will definitely elevate our profession moving forward.
So far, 100% of the post-training survey respondents have agreed with the statement “I'd recommend the training to someone interested in Sales Development Management”.
But life “ain’t all sunshine and rainbows” and I came away from the seminar with a few observations and things to work on for next time:
1. I should have sent out a more robust pre-training survey versus just an email asking what they wanted to get out of the class. It would have been good to know if there were some specific metrics the leaders could bring in that they were trying to improve within their programs, such as conversion rates, attrition rates, onboarding time for new reps, etc, so we could spend more time on those, and perhaps do a before / after training comparison. I really want the agenda for these to be about what the participants want to focus on specifically, not only what I think is critical in making a high-performance program.
2. In that vein, the seminar material consists of 21 important aspects to keep in mind in setting up and running a high-performance Sales Development program, grouped by 4 major buckets. It was developed using 20+ years of Leadership, Management, Sales, Marketing and Sales Development expertise, all of it boiled down to 4 hours of content. That’s a lot of stuff for half a day. Some of the feedback I got in the survey said they wished we could dig in some of the topics more, and have more time for breakouts and activities. This is true; each of the 21 points could be unpacked and discussed for hours each, but I was trying to fit it to a half day so the time commitment wouldn’t be too daunting for participants.
Had I really pushed the pre-training survey, I could then have put more focus on what’s most important to the class and powered through or skipped other parts. Moving forward, I’m now thinking that the current version is actually a half-day “Turbo Framework Bootcamp” good for people who can only spare a half a day out the office and need to get an overview they can take back and build on. Then developing another class based on the 4 buckets in their own 4 hours each, spaced out over 2 days. I don’t know if people will sign up for 2 days out of the office, but I believe that would be an ideal.
3. The number of people in the class (6) was perfect for the first one. We could probably go up to 8-10, but having 6 gave everyone a chance to comment on the material as we we went along, without anyone feeling like they couldn’t contribute. Before, I was thinking we could get up to 20 in the class, but now I’ll cap the next one at 10 people maximum. Also, setting up everyone in a U-shape worked out really well, versus lecture style, and we set up an invite-only Slack group with Guru integration to stay in touch after the training, to ask questions and to capture useful information, which has picked up some traction and will continue to grow with new cohorts.
4. I got a bunch of inquiries from people in different parts of the country and overseas, or who couldn't get out of the office or to San Francisco for a half-day live training, so I’m now working with TalentLMS to put the whole thing online. Although the classroom interaction and bonding was what made the class great, online is more convenient and available for anyone out there running a Sales Development program or thinking of starting up and needs that framework. We’re also researching cities that have a lot of SDRs, Sales Development Managers and others who are interested in this to put some more public seminars on the calendar in fall and winter. We will be doing the next one in San Francisco again in July, but if you want to do it live somewhere else let me know and we’ll put something together.
Final thoughts: Businesses have done a great job investing in the technology of Sales Development over the past few years, but what about the processes and people? What about the leadership, strategy and tactics to ensure our Sales Development programs are set-up and lead correctly to produce the required business outcomes of more sales meetings, pipeline and revenue? We need to start investing in the people and processes just as much as the technology. People need help figuring out how to do this job. I hope these seminars can help fill that need and create a strong community of next generation Sales Development leaders.
Big thank you to my lovely wife Katherine for putting up with me in general and being instrumental in the success of the launch, Chris Ortolano for all the training tips and techniques, and Chris Sears, curriculum design maestro and all around great dude. Of course a huge thanks to the participants in the class, you were amazing to work with and I love seeing your comments and questions in Slack group.
A bit about me... I'm a Sales Development program building specialist with deep experience building highly successful SDR programs from scratch for technology companies. Currently helping Sales Development teams achieve higher performance through training and consulting at Tenbound.
I'm also the host of the Sales Development Podcast, the only audio forum 100% focused on Sales Development program leadership and management. Check it out.
Episode 17 Brian Walton
In this episode, David shares the mic with Brian Walton, Sales Development Director at LinkedIn. Listen as Brian walks us through his journey from starting off on the talent solutions team of LinkedIn to becoming the Sales Development Director. He has managed and reorganized the sales development teams of Latin America into segments so that each team can focus on their target people and maximize their efficiency. Tune in as Brian discusses the importance of training your sales reps and what he’s fired up about, today, in his work at LinkedIn.
3 Key Points:
1. Managers and directors: spend time with your sales reps, educating them on the fundamentals of how business leaders think.
2. Sales reps: if your point of contact is a VP of sales, go to your own company’s VP of sales—study and learn from them so that you can be better equipped for that meeting or call.
3. At the end of the day, you are just two people connecting and and that point of connection is what people appreciate and respect.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
TOPO’s research has shown that 100% of high-growth organizations have Sales Development organizations. We know for most businesses it's critical have a team consistently prospecting and following up on leads to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Sales Development can drive quality pipeline for your Sales team, and provide a Talent pipeline to build the future of your company.
We also know a key to a successful program is strong leadership. The right leader can make or break a Sales Development team. Sales Development is expensive; it involves people, processes and technology, and it needs to pay off fast. We're pouring thousands into the program each month. We know if we don't have the right leader in place, the whole thing goes off the rails.
But how do we treat the leadership function in Sales Development? From what I've seen, two ways. One, find a high performing SDR and promote her to SDR Manager. Or, find someone from a big name company who raised up the ranks in a few years and bring them in to run the team. In both cases, there's little training, coaching or support given to the Manager. They're on their own.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In fact, I often see Sales Development leaders "managed out" of their organization due to poor results. In many cases, they're set up for failure without any structure, mentorship, training or coaching. They are usually just beat up on a weekly basis for numbers, or whatever bone-headed thing an SDR on their team did that week.
As I've worked with companies over the past year at Tenbound to help them diagnose and revive their Sales Development teams, I saw a huge need in the marketplace for high quality training for Sales Development Managers and high potential SDRs who want to step up to management. Personally, I'm tired of seeing people fail at Sales Development management, and I'm drawing a line in the sand today!
And so, our training class was born. If you're an SDR, Team Lead, Manager or Executive who wants to take your Sales Development program to the next level, join us in San Francisco on May 18th for a 1/2 day live immersive class on Sales Development Management. Don't manage in the dark, get the skills you need to excel. https://tenbound.com/events/ (next class is July 19th - link below)
UPDATE: this was an awesome session and many thanks to the bright group of leaders who participated. Look for more seminars on the calendar this year, and if you like to receive more information please go to https://tenbound.com/contact/
Let's turn this situation around by training a new generation of Sales Development Management to be successful in their role.
Welcome Joe Payne to the show! Joe handles the Demand and Partnerships at LeadGenius, a lead generation company that takes marketing to the next level. Listen as Joe shares with David why he considers the old lead generation methods to be a waste of time and resources, the different ways LeadGenius works with their customers to maximize on their ad targeting and sales development, and why hiring a sales intern can be the first step to building a lead generation process for small companies.
3 Key Points:
1. Lead generation is more than just acquiring a list of names and email accounts—the opportunity to save time and narrow in on your targeting is KEY.
2. Your messages to prospects MUST translate into a valuable, personalized message, otherwise, it just becomes a noise.
3. Smaller companies can start building their lead generation processes and systems by utilizing the people that are available to them—sales interns are a great resource for this.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
Episode 14 – Russ Hearl
In this episode, David interviews Russ Hearl, Vice President of Sales at PatSnap, a company that offers innovation intelligence, patent searches, and IP analytics. Russ attributes his success to his strong background in cold calling. He addresses the strengths of cold calling and debunks the myth that it is dead. Tune in to find out how he was able to raise $82M for Double Dutch through cold calling, the importance of researching your target market, and some key advice to strengthen your sales teams.
3 Key Points:
1. Cold calling is NOT dead – its success is dependent on a number of factors including the demand for your product and the research you put into targeting those calls.
2. Set up structures, methods, and define roles and expectations clearly for the success of your sales teams.
3. Always use data to analyze your target market and do your research to hit them at the RIGHT time.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
● 00:34 – Introducing Russ Hearl – VP of sales at PatSnap
● 01:19 – Russ’ career in selling started 20 years ago
● 01:27 – He worked for Rolling Stone Magazine in Ohio
● 01:33 – While doing his undergraduate studies, he worked for Merrill Lynch doing cold calls
● 01:42 – By the time Russ finished his undergraduate degree, he already had 6 years of cold calling experience
● 01:46 – To Russ, a sales career can be built around cold calling
● 02:01 – He worked in sales for FedEx, for 7 years
● 02:16 – Russ believed that his abilities in cold calling, prospecting, identifying the target market, and tailoring his pitches were the reasons why he was promoted so quickly
● 02:35 – As Russ progressed and evolved, cold calling was always the basis of his success
● 03:23 – Russ always had the passion of building businesses through sales
● 03:42 – He shares his experience with Double Dutch, raising $82M
● 04:08 – Over 90% of their wins were from cold calling
● 04:28 – Now at PatSnap, Russ has a team of over 45 people across 2 offices
● 04:54 – PatSnap has a very large investment in inside sales
● 05:10 – PatSnap sells innovation intelligence software to professionals and large companies
● 06:03 – They’ve just raised a large series C from Sequoia
● 06:55 – Cold calling results depend on several different factors
● 07:04 – “Your chosen go to market strategy is often predicated upon how much built in demand there is in the market for your product or service”
● 07:18 – Russ explains this further using the example of Hubspot
● 07:44 – The role of cold calling is different for other businesses
● 08:08 – Saying cold calling is dead depends on several factors
● 08:15 – What’s the demand for your product?
● 08:25 – “We’re not running inbound shops”—so we need to reach OUT into the market
● 08:54 – “There’s a significant need for intelligent outbound prospecting” so that you use your time and efforts efficiently as you look for leads
● 09:41 – PatSnap’s significant wins came from outbound cold calling
● 10:26 – The amount of content marketing got everyone on the bandwagon
● 12:44 – “It always starts with targeting”
● 13:28 – Make sure to put together centrally determined territories with account lists
● 14:15 – Have a method for how to reach contacts
● 14:28 – Measure your conversion rates
● 15:23 – Compare your business against businesses with similar market dynamics
● 16:01 – A sales development team helps build opportunities and pipelines
● 17:06 – Sales development transcends as a strategic function of a business
●18:34 – In many organizations, there’s now a merging of sales operations, sales development, and sales strategies into one leadership structure
● 19:36 – The CRO became a title of a person who is in charge of revenue, closing deals, and customer success
● 20:27 – “The linchpin of the organization is your ability to effectively, smartly, target the market”
● 21:19 – Use market intelligence to understand what the competitive landscape looks like
● 21:38 – Setting up an efficient outbound sales machine can defeat the competition
● 21:58 – Russ and his team made millions of cold calls at Double Dutch
● 22:26 – “There is an approach there that works where you can out in front of other businesses before they have the need”
● 23:00 – Waiting for your sales team to improve can make you lose the race
● 24:04 – Double Dutch used data on upcoming conferences and events to sell for those events
● 24:27 – “We can time the market”
●24:44 – PatSnap knows that the companies that produce the most patents are probably the best candidates for them
● 25:34 – Get the information you need and start calls
● 26:14 – It’s vital to know when your fiscal year ends
● 27:14 – The timing of when you target the market can make the biggest difference when it comes to your success
● 28:34 – If calls are missed, they can be missed forever leading to negative ramifications for your business
● 29:10 – Too many sales leaders overlook facts and miss variables
● 29:40 – Representatives may know a lot, but they need a senior leader to centralize strategies for them
● 30:11 – Everybody wants to know the “art” of cold calling but it’s not where the waste is
● 30:50 – The lack of planning is often to blame
● 31:18 – What Russ tries to do in his sales teams is to “improve the transparency of the inputs that it takes to get to the outputs”
● 32:08 – Prevent blaming and unproductive conflict by adoption of the CRM process
● 32:35 – Separate the sales development team from the account executive team
● 33:31 – Changing the structure of teams after they’ve scaled can lead to bigger issues
● 34:49 – There’s a need to spot check to see if all processes are being followed
● 36:14 – Use a comp plan to monitor sales representatives’ behavior
● 36:23 – For example, the plan is to make 80 activities a day
● 36:30 – They may make 60 emails and 20 half-hearted calls
● 36:34 – “Making calls is what you want them to do”
● 36:51 – Consider monitoring only meaningful activities – this does NOT include email sending
● 37:39 – Younger salespeople takes the path of least resistance
● 38:34 – Make sure to design their roles properly
●39:27 – “It’s always been about your business acumen—are you demonstrating personal and professional growth and are you a good team player?”
● 40:00 – Selling is about communication and asking the right questions
● 41:09 – Skills is a mixture of classroom training and in-field exercise
● 42:25 – “If you’re just sending emails, you’re not going to have those swings”
● 43:12 – Invest in yourself, build relationships, and be a great team player
● 44:39 – End of podcast
Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives