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.
Recently, I was having coffee in San Francisco with my good friend Chris Ortolano of DiscoverOrg, and he mentioned he was heading over to do a talk at GrowthX Academy. Chris and I are both passionate about training and development, and I thought the Academy sounded interesting, so Chris suggested a meeting with the Sean Sheppard and Will Bunker. I was immediately fascinated by what they are doing. After a few more meetings, we decided I’d become a GrowthX Academy mentor, and it’s been a great experience so far.
I think the GrowthX Academy is filling a huge need in the marketplace.
As a local Sales Development leader, it’s been frustrating for me to see how unprepared people are when entering the workforce for their first or second job, especially when trying to break into Tech Sales.
As I wrote about a while ago on my blog, very few Universities teach Sales as a major, despite the fact that Sales careers are widely available at many companies and are a great first step into the business world. How are people supposed to get prepared or understand how to be successful without a guide?
While there is an active Sales Education Foundation, which verifies Sales programs at Universities, the closest SEF certified programs we have in the tech-heavy Bay Area are up at Chico State and at Cal State Fullerton in Southern California. And their graduates are usually snapped up by Fortune 50 companies before they even hit the Bay Area job market.
So you have a need for skilled Salespeople at tech companies throughout the world, and very few people to fill them, along with massive turnover in the Sales Development world due to misaligned expectations between candidates and hiring managers.
A lot of people decide to become SDR’s in order to “give sales a try,” causing themselves a great deal of frustration and costing the companies that hire them a lot of money. And once newbies enter the SDR role, there is often very little training provided to help them succeed.
People entering the field need to come in with their eyes wide open about what it means to be in Sales for tech company, and if it’s the right choice for them.
GrowthX Academy offers it’s a students a great way to understand the technology industry by immersing students in the start-up world and in turn helping real starts-ups solve solve real-world problems.
Students can get a firm understanding of the Sales side of the business, and understand first hand if it’s a good route for their careers. If they find a great match, it can be the start of something awesome. If they find they are more interested in other parts of the business, that’s great too. The program gives them a chance to explore this in real time, and being a Mentor helps me connect with upcoming professionals and offer my hard-won advice on directions they could take their career. It’s also been a lot of fun.
I look forward to helping the Academy and the students grow in the future!