Common pitfalls in starting a Sales Development team
Guest post on the Operatix Website
Building an SDR / BDR team is a crucial step for companies looking to grow revenue and accelerate sales cycles. There are a few burning questions you should be asking if you’re serious about doing so: Is it best to own this function in-house, or outsource it? Who should look after the SDR team? What tools and technologies are needed? To help understand the challenges businesses come across, we had a chat with David Dulany from Tenbound who’s helped several companies to start, optimize and turn around Sales Development programs across North America and Europe.
Avoid hiring Sales Development Representatives before leadership is in place.
An all too common mistake when companies implement an SDR team is the lack of leadership and strategy. Often companies start hiring SDRs expecting them to deliver results straight away, without giving them the adequate training, data-set and tools to succeed. Product training in itself isn’t enough to make the rep successful, but a valuable message about the product benefits, not just the technical details, is extremely useful.
The first step a company should take in building a successful SDR team is to hire a Sales Development Leader. This person can look after the team (independent if it’s outsourced or internal) and outlay a clear strategy to make the team as effective and efficient as possible.
Who should the SDR Team report to?
The classic case scenario when it comes to the reporting duties of a Sales Development Leader usually boils down to two options: sales or marketing. According to David Dulany, the best possible answer to this question, however, is neither of these options. In the best-case scenario, the Sales Development Leader would report directly to the CEO. A direct channel of communication between the Sales Development leader and the CEO leaves that person with the required degree of autonomy to make the right decisions regarding the SDR team’s business direction. A Sales Development Leader must liaise with sales, marketing, operations, product marketing and various other departments; hence, a level of autonomy is key for them to execute their goals.
Failing a direct report system between the Sales Development Leader and the CEO, and if the choice absolutely has to be between the VP Sales and the CMO, Dulany believes it’s better to have the Sales Development Leader report to the CMO. In the recent research “The State of European Demand Generation” Sirius Decision found out that in 70% of companies the SDR/BDR team is lead by marketing, which proves Dulany’s point.
The sales department can often look at the SDR team as its little brother. SDRs often have ambitions to move into the sales team in the future, and it’s true that representatives between the two departments share similar qualities. It’s all a rather romantic concept, but sales leadership rarely have enough time to mentor an SDR department, as they’re far too busy closing deals and generally executing the nuances of their role.
When you look at a marketing department, their job is to drive the brand and awareness surrounding it, as well as pipeline for the company. As such, it makes better sense for the SDR team to sit as an extension of the marketing department. It will hugely benefit both the SDR and marketing teams if they’re working in tight coordination for field events, marketing campaigns, content and the like - all of which are typical aspects of a marketing team’s job.
Will technology solutions support the SDR team?
It’s inevitable that technology vendors will catch wind of your venture into building an SDR team. Once they do, the sales calls will start to roll in regarding fancy pieces of software. Software solutions can be an incredible tool to enhance the workflow of an SDR team, but without the right planning and thought - they can be a big hindrance to the operation. Think of a shiny new software solution like a toolbox; it can be the most incredibly toolbox in the world, but those complex tools are useless if not operated properly.
Vendors will naturally promise great results with such solutions, but the reality is that they need to be implemented carefully and properly. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling as though these implementation processes can be autonomous in nature, but there needs to be a dedicated person left in charge of making them work for the SDR team.
Some final thoughts.
Outsourcing an SDR team adds another dimension to this conversation. The mental trap that companies quite often fall into is that an SDR team has to either be in-house or outsourced - one or the other. In reality, and on a case-by-case basis, it doesn’t have to be like this. Companies may often find that a hybrid mixture of in-house functions and outsourced help, to varying degrees, is the best solution for them.
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.
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