Are your Sales Development Reps (SDRs) ramping too slowly?
According to The Bridge Group’s latest study, onboarding an SDR is taking a little more than three months, on average. If the typical SDR stays on the job for about a year, three months is a long time to ramp up.
Here are four fresh ideas you can use today to help speed up this process for your new SDRs.
1. Instead of Product Training, Start with Persona Training
Many SDRs are coming into the Sales Development profession with little or no experience in the field of selling, and also know little or nothing about the people they will be calling on to set up meetings.
SDRs are usually given a bit of product and company training, then cut loose to start calling on prospects, many of whom have 20+ years experience in the industry.
With limited knowledge or context, the SDR has immediate difficulty connecting with prospects, faces massive resistance and, to compensate for these deficiencies, onboarding gets extended longer than necessary.
Instead, give your new recruits a fighting chance by educating them on who they’re calling. Get them started with Personas — the people who are involved in the buying process of your product — versus going straight to product training.
By enabling them to grow into experts on the people they will be calling on every day, rather than going immediately to what your product or service does, you’ll help your reps build a foundation of success not only as an SDR but also as an Account Executive, if they choose to continue on to that role. It is with that context that they can begin to have value-add conversations instead of going straight to their product pitch and becoming just another cold caller.
For the first few weeks on the job, make it easy for your new recruits to “get into the head” of their target personas by giving them a crash course in understanding the people they’ll be calling every day:
Ideally, they should strive to know the typical goals and pain points of each of those personas like the back of their hands within the first couple weeks on the job.
Your SDRs should also gain a deeper understanding of the events, blogs, resources and other material that their target audience uses every day to gain information and intelligence on their the field, and begin to follow those as well.
The goal here is to ensure that SDRs are really inside the head of your personas and can understand their world — at least the surface level — so your reps can begin to understand where they fit into their prospects’ priorities, and how your product or service can potentially alleviate pain points and add real value.
2. Connecting your Solution to the Personas’ Goals or Pain Points
Now that your new SDRs have a solid understand your target personas and the world they inhabit, it’s critical for them to understand how your product or service can help these people alleviate their pain points and/or achieve their goals.
Based on what they know about the person they’re calling, they should be able to get a better understanding of whether their intended messaging is actually going to make an impact and get the person’s attention, or simply be deleted or ignored.
They will also better understand how important it is for them to get in touch with the person, to help them attain their goals or to help them alleviate pain, through the amazing product or service you’re offering. It’s important to teach your reps that they have an important job: helping companies succeed. Yes, they’re selling your product, but it’s bigger than that.
SDRs are in the business of solving serious problems for companies. This understanding should help build motivation and sense of urgency on the part of the SDR, helping them move faster and with more energy, speeding up ramp time. It also imbues reps with a sense of purpose.
They’re not just call and email machines, they’re bringing life-improving technology to those in need.
3. Persona Interviews
Next step is to delve deeper into the understanding of the target personas by conducting live interviews. Help new SDRs find at least five people each who fit their target personas, both within your company and in the market. From there, have your reps conduct 30-minute interviews with the goal of discovering more about their personas’ pain points and goals.
During the interviews, the new SDRs should ask questions about their background, their goals for the year, their current responsibilities, their top pain points, what they worry about, what would they do if they had a magic wand and could alleviate all their problems in one stroke, etc.
The interview should also have questions about how they interact with their greater industry, what conferences they attend, what blogs they read, what podcasts they listen to, and how they keep up with the competition.
All of this is great intelligence on the very people the new SDR will be calling every day. The information gathered will give them some great conversation starters and ways to open with some great questions, speeding up the cycle.
For example, if you sell sales engagement software, and your target persona is a Vice President of Sales, have the new SDR conduct these interviews first with your own Vice President of Sales and their direct reports. Then make a list of five people outside your company who will give your reps 30 minutes for an interview to discuss their day-to-day.
You're not selling here, you are simply asking them for help. They gain a mentorship opportunity with a young SDR, and the new SDR gets some great context. Outlaw sales pitches during these interviews. The last thing you want your reps to do is to burn bridges by turning an informational meeting into a sales pitch.
Record these interviews via Zoom video call to use as a training library for new recruits, and a refresher for veterans. Which leads to our next step...
4. Document, Document, Document
Throughout the process of educating your new SDRs on the target personas they’ll be calling, the Sales Development Manager or Sales Trainer should be capturing all of this valuable information and documenting it in a way that can be used as a template for further training, and for onboarding future recruits.
By collecting this information, date stamping it and revising it quarterly, the manager can ensure that new recruits have fresh information and the entire team has their finger consistently on the pulse of the market they're selling to. Markets change, so it’s vital you revisit this information so your reps can keep up with how their target personas operate.
While there’s obviously no way a brand-new SDR will suddenly become a sales leader with 20+ years of experience overnight, a new recruit can absolutely control the amount of focus and energy they apply to becoming masters of their craft.
By understanding the world of the people there calling on, understanding their goals, pain points, aspirations and how they fit in with the overall industry landscape, your new SDR can use that knowledge as a foundation of their sales conversations, and the sales skills necessary to achieve massive success.
And, by having this context and knowledge, the SDR can start having quality conversations a lot faster than the average, raw rep, and start to cut down on that 3+ month ramp time!
David Dulany has built high-performance Sales Development programs for Glassdoor, OpenDNS, Infer and Act-On Software. At Tenbound, he helps companies start, optimize and turn around Sales Development programs. For more information, visit daviddulany.com and tenbound.com.
Registration is now open for The Sales Development Conference on August 30th, 2018 in San Francisco. Join the top minds in Sales Development for full day of learning, networking and growing your skills!
An amazing number of companies have been founded and are still based here in San Francisco. Here at Tenbound we've been blessed to work in this Sales Development teams ecosystem.
Big Thanks to G2 Crowd for this graphic.Click here to read some G2 Crowd reviews of Tenbound!
The seismic changes in the Sales Development landscape over the past few years have been nothing short of phenomenal.
Just a few years ago, the Sales Development process was much slower and more manual; pretty much just a combination of Salesforce, Google searches, Excel sheets, Post-it notes and duct tape.
Whether qualifying inbound leads or going outbound, it was slow, clunky and difficult to execute.
Fast forward to today, where the explosion of technology to support Sales Development around data quality, workflow organization and email messaging has been amazing.
The power and speed afforded by this technology now in the hands of SDRs is incredible. They now have the ability to work faster, be more organized and send out more messages to more people than ever.
However, having all this great technology available can also damaging.
“With great power, comes great responsibility”
As we have seen, putting that much power in the hands of an untrained, disorganized SDR team can lead to negative reactions on the part of prospective clients.
We all know that a bad message, sent out to lots of people, over and over, is still a bad message.
You may recall a few years ago when only the Marketing team had access to Marketing Automation programs set up to send out one email after another. Those campaigns were generally planned, approved and vetted. Not so much anymore.
Now even the newest SDR has that same power, at their fingertips.
The result? Not always good. Prospects are bombarded by irrelevant messaging. Potential clients are tuning out or getting annoyed. Brands are being damaged.
And all-in-all it’s getting tougher to break through the noise.
Then you have the rash of “SDR shamings” on Linkedin; where people actually post emails and social outreach made by SDRs and complain about how badly they were executed.
Ironically, this SDR shaming is usually done by Sales Leaders who are then turning around and pushing their own SDR team for more meetings, using the similar tactics. lol
So how can SDR teams breakthrough in 2018?
After working with several Sales Development programs over the past few years as a manager or with my firm Tenbound, I’d recommend starting with the fundamentals: how we think about the SDR team org chart.
I argue that the current way SDR teams are set up in the first place ignores the reality of what is actually needed today to be able to reign in this tech explosion and align with the way prospective customers operate.
Most Sales Development organizations are still set up in a way that doesn’t give SDRs a chance to establish context and build basic trust and value with prospects, leading to the situation we have today.
Many SDR programs simply fall back to the spray-n-pray tactics of yesteryear.
The current set-up also doesn’t harness the incredible power created by the new SDR technologies and the explosion of data being created by those tools, which if set up correctly, could be used to improve overall team performance.
Instead, the current usual Sales Development organization is now set-up to require the SDR, usually someone fresh out of college in their first job with little or no experience, to do several different, and at times conflicting, jobs.
The average SDR is tasked with researching massive amounts of prospect information, email copywriting, script building, mastering new SDR technologies, list building, cold calling, mass emailing, product knowledge and keeping up on social media updates.
It’s a jumbled mess.
In the face of this daunting list, many get overwhelmed and end up falling back to silently researching and sending out mass emails all day.
I argue that SDRs need to be better enabled, trained, organized and equipped in order to regain focus on their true purpose; having high quality conversations with target prospects and setting up Sales appointments.
The current organization asks the Sales Development Manager to not only be a trainer, coach and administrator for the SDR team (a more than full time job), but also to be an expert analyst of the mass amounts of data being created by the different tools being used, and to translate that data to actionable and relevant insights.
It also asks the Sales Development Manager to be an expert in the SDR technology tools and back-end connections to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. These are two very different jobs that can and should be separated to maximize efficiency.
In order to break through in 2018, to really maximize investment in the many new tools out there, and to test and iterate best practices to gain more appointments you may want to consider setting up your SDR organization in a totally different way.
I believe this structure will become the common practice in the future:
First, we should break the SDR role into two parts:
Sales Development Representative (SDR): Focus their time on quality conversations with prospects. They own phone calls, emails and social outreach to a high number of target prospects per day. They customize their messaging specifically to the personas and pain points of each prospect based on available research, using their creativity, training and experience. They own responsibility for ensuring quality Sales appointments are set and take place.
Account Researcher: They ensure all contact information is correct on Leads, Contacts and Accounts in the database. They find relevant and timely facts and trigger events to inform rapid SDR customization. They maintain a quota of facts and trigger events entered per day, week and month to create lists. They own data cleanliness and research readiness for a set number SDR accounts per month or quarter. They ensure all information needed for the SDR to make high number of phone calls and send out a high number of highly customized emails is available and delivered daily.
By dividing these two roles, the SDR will have the research needed to touch a large number of prospects each day, in a customized and focused way, so the messaging is relevant and no longer spammy.
The SDR is also freed up from the researching to focus on getting better on the hardest parts of the job, calling and talking to people versus spending a great deal of time each day searching for contact information and trigger events, ie “The Silent Sales Floor” effect.
Next, break the Sales Development Manager into two roles:
Sales Development Manager: Owns overall team results and relationship with senior management. Focuses on daily Sales training, coaching, mentoring, administration, reporting up and gathering target market intelligence. Spends time doing “ride alongs”, call coaching, reviewing game tape, doing 1:1’s, team meetings and setting the strategic direction for the team. Stays updated on industry best practices.
Sales Development Productivity Analyst Reporting to the Sales Development Manager, this role owns data quality, quantity, integrity, analysis and compliance for SDR team. Ensures the team has enough data, tools and efficient processes to run smoothly and continuously improve performance. Runs split tests on messaging. Tracks and reports on all analysis and insights regularly to Sales Dev Manager and upper management. Suggests course corrections based on data. Contributes to direction of SDR training plan based on data-driven choke points.
Finally, clarify the role of Sales Ops to support the Sales Development Organization
Sales Ops. In addition to all usual duties, as it regards Sales Development: Owns all Sales Development tech systems and connections. Ensures tools truly enable the team and are fully utilized. Owns all vendor relationships, negotiations and contracts. Liaisons with Marketing operations and Sales Leadership with regards to processes and technology. Works closely with the Sales Development Productivity Analyst to ensure maximum ROI on the Sales Development team.
So how could this work?
Let’s say you have headcount for a 6 person SDR team. Before you hire the usual structure of 5 SDRs and 1 Manager, consider this approach:
Hire an experienced Sales Development Manager with a proven track record first, before any SDRs. Give them a month to set up all the systems, process and technology to support building a team.
Then, hire one SDR and one Account Researcher. Sales Development Manager gets them up to speed. Then repeat that process with one more SDR and one more Account Researcher.
Finally, bring in the Sales Development Productivity Analyst to walk in lockstep with the Manager to translate the data being produced by the team into actionable insights that helps improve messaging, training, morale and performance.
An upward spiral of performance is created. Sales Development Nirvana.
It’s interesting to note that this structure is how larger companies are already doing it. And they’re winning. No reason you can’t replicate that success at a small company.
What do you think of this structure? Leave it in the comments. Thanks!
David Dulany has built high-performance Sales Development programs for Glassdoor, OpenDNS, Infer and Act-On Software. At Tenbound, he helps companies start, optimize and turnaround Sales Development programs. Podcast and newsletter at daviddulany.com and tenbound.com
Let's take it back to basics. What is this thing called Sales Development, and is it right for your company?
Quite simply, Sales Development is the practice of creating sales pipeline for your company through proactive outreach to prospective customers and of following up on inbound leads created by your marketing efforts.
The practice of Sales Development has exploded since the economic downturn a few years ago, especially in software as a service (SaaS) technology companies.
As the economy crumbled during that downturn, companies realized the importance of having someone in the organization always laser focused on sales pipeline generation; whether through proactive outreach to target accounts, or ensuring proper follow-up on the high quality inbound leads created by marketing.
As documented in his groundbreaking book Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross described how companies like Salesforce.com and others attributed their reliable, machine-like pipeline generation to a well-trained and organized Sales Development organization.
However, despite its documented success, Sales Development continues to be a head-scratcher for many companies and executives.
How does it work, where should it report, what are the metrics the unit should be producing?
Of note: “Sales Development” in this context is sometimes called “Business Development”, which is confusing because Business Development is also the specialty of forging strategic partnerships with complementary companies for integration and cross-selling purposes, something totally different than Sales Development. For this article I'm talking about Sales Development, as defined above. Sales Development Reps (SDRs) are alternatively called Business Development Reps, Lead Development Reps, Account Development Reps, Revenue Development Reps, or a plethora of other creative terms.
For most folks reading this, the first question which may come up is something like; “wait, isn't the role of sales pipeline generation the responsibility of Marketing?” Or, “isn't prospecting what Salespeople are supposed to do?”
Well yes, kind of.
Marketers create your brand image and generate leads coming into your company from various activities and channels. However once a lead comes into the company generally the marketing job ends. Marketing has created the interest, and now it's the job of Sales to take that and convert it into close revenue.
On the other side, you have the salespeople, who theoretically should take the leads created by Marketing, contact them and work with them until they close. They should also be cold calling new companies in order to forge new relationships.
However, in practice, these things rarely actually happen. Salespeople have a quota of closed sales that they need to hit each month or quarter. Therefore, they are naturally going to be focused on talking only the most interested parties and closing them so they hit their quota. Thus, unresponsive leads ignored, and cold calls go neglected.
And therein lies the gap covered by Sales Development.
Marketing creating brand image, community and leads, and then wondering what happened to all those leads they created. Most leads never get called, and Sales under extreme pressure to hit their quota and wondering when they're going to get some decent leads from the Marketing!
Meanwhile the leads being created are either been lightly touched if they're Red Hot and ready to buy, or ignored completely and put into a marketing drip campaign, which usually is a series of emails.
If by some miracle one of those marketing email drips causes the lead to re-engage and raise their hand, they are again sent to sales where the entire process starts over again. Hopefully, a sale is made, but usually it just recycles back into to the marketing database.
This is where Sales Development plays a critical role. The department can be broken down into two basic categories: Outbound account-based and Inbound lead qualification.
Outbound prospecting has been around for many years, basically since invention of the telephone. For example, in the movie Tin Men, the Sales Development team is seen briefly making calls from little glass boxes (noise cancellation!) on the office floor.
This group of people used to be (and is still sometimes) called “telemarketing” or “appointment setters”, and their job is to call the companies and attempt to set quality appointments for salespeople. The salespeople would then go out and meet with that potential clients to discuss the business issues.
With the advent of Sales and Marketing technology of the last 10 years, the telemarketer has been superseded by the professional Sales Development Representative (SDR), who has a whole plethora of tools at their disposal, such as email automation, call recording software, and contact databases to assist them in finding and contacting cold prospects and set appointments.
On the Inbound side, that same technology stack has developed over the past 10 years to assist in ensuring that when marketing creates a lead that it is contacted in order to determine interest as to whether the lead is qualified to take an appointment with the salesperson as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
This focus on both Outbound and Inbound Sales Development has helped companies such as Salesforce, LinkedIn and Oracle create astronomical growth, especially as it pertains to subscription as a service business.
Ensuring that greenfield opportunities are being covered and aggressively worked by the Sales Development Representative team was critical and landing accounts, and getting in front of the right people, whether proactively or reactively.
The technology has also enabled the Inbound lead process to become measurable and manageable and ensure that any interest that is shown in the company and expressed by potential clients is followed up on expeditiously by a human being, and not left to rot in a database.
Over the course of the last few years, most well funded start-up software as a service companies have attempted to replicate the model of those larger companies by hiring Sales Development teams and enabling them with the plethora of tools that are available today to make them successful.
This has created a situation where a potential prospects are inundated with phone calls emails, social touches and other outreach to the point where it seems that we've reached a saturation. As the explosion of these tools has taken place, prospects demand more sophistication from SDRs.
Moving forward, Sales Development Leaders and practitioners will need to become a lot more creative and resourceful in creating the type of ROI that their leadership is looking for from the investment in their programs.
Sales Development involves a tremendous investment in people, processes and technology. To make it pay off, it needs to be taken very seriously and set up correctly.
The good news is that Sales Development Leaders with with several years of experience in this field are beginning to emerge and create an executive class who up to now has not been seen in the Sales Development world.
I'm optimistic that this new generation of Sales Development Leaders will bring the energy, creativity and leadership that we need to push the practice forward.
Need help starting or turning around your Sales Development program? Contact Tenbound at tenbound.com
This article originally appeared on the SalesForLife blog Sept 25th, 2017 as "How 900 Companies build and execute successful Sales Development Teams" by Julia Manoukian
Sales development is one of the more misunderstood roles in sales.
Many people debate the definition of sales development while others argue which department it should report into or how much sales development reps should be compensated.
Either way, the sales development role is here to stay. In an effort to understand the sales development function and its role in the sales process, InsideSales.com Labs led a study in partnership with Tenbound, SalesForLife, BridgeGroup, Drift, Datanyze, and OneMob.
The study focused on 900+ companies and reviewed the structure, systems, people, and pipeline of their respective sales development organizations.
According to the research, inside sales professionals (reps who primarily sell remotely) represent 47.2% of the 5.7 million (2.7 million reps) and outside sales professionals (reps who primarily sell face-to-face) represent 52.8% (3.1 million reps).
Based on the survey responses, sales development reps are 25.1% of the 47.2% inside sales professionals making the ratio equal to one sales development rep for every three account executives. The total number of sales development reps is estimated to be 677,479.
Examining the data revealed that not every sales development rep is the same. The primary difference in sales development reps is the characteristic of inbound (reps who reach out to someone who knows your company) and the characteristic of outbound (reps who reach out to someone who doesn’t know your company). Of the 677,479, inbound sales development made up 17.1% (115,849 reps), outbound made up 28.8% (195,114 reps) and 54.1% (366,516 reps) were a blend of both.
Another difference in sales development reps is the go-to-market strategy of high-velocity versus account-based. 12.4% of companies reported they run a high-velocity model while 43.0% reported they run an account-based approach and 44.6% said they used both.
Because of the nature of the sales development role, it often lends itself to more automation than other roles in the sales department.
Examining the data revealed the overall estimated spend on sales development technology is $1.4 billion of the overall estimated 14.9 billion sales technology industry. Companies reported the average annual spend on sales technology was $3,894 per rep per year or $324.50 per month – which is 17.6% lower than the spend on sales technology for account executives.
The $3,894 covers an average of 5.8 tools per rep with the most popular tools being:
2. Social prospecting
3. Data/list services
4. Email engagement
6. Sales Cadence
The career path for sales development reps differs across companies and industries but one thing is for sure—not understanding and paying market rates for top talent will hurt companies in the long run.
study revealed the average base salary for sales development reps is $41,675 with an average on-target-earnings (OTE) of $80,774 – a 60/40 split.
On average, companies used 2.7 metrics to calculate variable compensation. The most common metrics used were closed revenue (65.3%) with an average quota of $95,682, number of opportunities accepted (42.1%) with an average quota of 15.5 opportunities, and number of appointments held (33.7%) with an average quota of 19.5 appointments.
Considering all quotas, companies report 63.5% attainment for SDRs. With these compensation structures in place, the average tenure of a sales development rep is 2.8 years which includes a 4.1 month average ramp time.
These activities led to an average of 14.1 meaningful conversations a day—14.9% conversation rate. The 14.1 conversations per day resulted in an average of 23.1 appointments set per month-- 5.5% appointment rate. 72.3% of appointments set become opportunities passed to account executives and the typical sales development rep had 12.5 opportunities accepted per month--74.9% opportunity acceptance rate. Of the opportunities accepted, 29.3% closed, which means that the average SDR is responsible for about 11 deals per quarter.
About the Author
Julia Manoukian is focused on creating, managing and producing everything content-related at Sales for Life. From product to content marketing, she is committed to constantly evolving the company's marketing strategy to exceed the demands of the ever-changing buyer.
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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: