Tuesday night, we hosted our first ever Sales Hacker Sales Development Executive Dinner at Sens in San Francisco. It was attended by some of the top Sales Development Executives in technology today, representing companies such as Google, Oracle, Square, Blackberry, New Relic, Nitro, Mulesoft, Brightfunnel, Box and others.
The conversation theme of the night was Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) and the intersection of Sales, Sales Development and Marketing to build new business pipeline.
As the wise man Jon Miller points out, “accidents happen at intersections”, so you could guess the conversations were lively and some great relationships were formed between these high-powered Execs. Circling the room, I picked up on some of the major themes being discussed…
The dearth of creativity in ABSD tactics... the most valuable commodity for these Execs behind SDR execution seemed to be creativity with regards to ABSD tactics. As everyone becomes more and more data-driven and process-oriented, creativity is becoming more scarce, and coming up with fresh ideas is a main challenge these leaders are facing. How do you stay ahead of noise when all your competitors are reading the same blogs, watching the same webinars, and are armed with the same tools, same SDR profiles, same cadences, same data, same same same? Once a new idea is proliferated online, it gets picked up and used by multiple companies. Prospects become immune, and you become more noise. How do you stay ahead of noise, and crack in to accounts if everyone is sending Fedex envelopes, Remy Martin bottles and Nike shoes?
Marketing and Sales are merging, however... this fact is only being realized by a select number of high-performing ABSD practitioners, many of whom were in the room at the dinner. There are still a TON of old-school leaders on both sides in senior leadership positions out there who are not clued in to this and still treat the two departments as silos. In the next few years, those old-school leaders will most likely go the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex; however, in the near term, they create roadblocks to implementing ABSD. Thought leaders in ABSD will have to spend a lot of time educating people about what ABSD is, how it works and how it will benefit the bottom line. Marketing and sales must be aligned in order for ABSD to succeed, and that means a synergistic relationship between Senior Execs in Sales and Marketing. This will take a lot patience, trust and repetition.
A ton of vendors are serving the space... but without enough solid coordination, operationalization, and SDR training. In the last few years, the response to stay ahead of the competition from many ABSD leaders has been to plug in the latest new tool. But after firing off too many silver bullets, many of the leaders I talked to are now gun shy and becoming more selective before adding anything else. They are tracking attribution with an eagle eye, and being ruthless in ripping out things that aren’t working. Big takeaway for vendor SDRs or CSM’s reading this… SDRs, you better know the business issues and challenges for your ICPs and Personas inside out, and how your product helps solve those pain points, or you will be shunned. And CSMs, you better be all over your accounts, consistently proving out the value of the subscription and ready to dive deep if they aren’t happy. If not, there will be hell to pay.
SDR sophistication will have to go way up to support ABSD… another theme that I heard was that, as the spray and pray method is replaced by a more coordinated ABSD approach, SDRs need to change. The hiring profile, skill level, pay grade, and reputation of the SDR all need to be upgraded. SDRs are not a coin-operated churn and burn operation (as if they ever were), but they are a strategic imperative for a business. And they need to be treated as such. In my view, for companies that are doing ABSD for large accounts, you’ll see the SDR elevated in all ways in the coming years: better management, better training, higher grade hiring profile, higher OTE, and better reputation within organizations. In exchange, SDRs will need to know their stuff: industries, verticals, ICPs, personas, sales skills, phone skills and higher activity levels.
All in all, it was great group having lots of interesting conversations. We’re planning to host these invite-only events for Sales Development Leaders again in San Francisco, and in other markets, so if you’d like to attend please shoot a note over to firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list.