A Sales Saybook is what Your SDRs Need.

Sales Pipeline Development by SOMAmetrics

There is a significant difference between a Sales Playbook and a Sales Saybook, as we will discuss in some detail below. But, to quickly give you the key differences… A Sales Playbook is a complete discussion of how a company plans to go to market with its various products to achieve very specific sales goals. It is for Senior Leadership; Account Executives (AEs) and the Enterprise Account Executives (EAEs); for the Marketing department (especially product marketing managers), and the like. It is comprehensive, detailed, and…impressive.

A Sales Saybook, on the other hand, is designed to give a very junior Sales Development Representative (SDR) exactly what to say in a 3-4 minute conversation so he can book a qualified meeting. It is everything the SDR needs during the call—and nothing more.

Sales Playbooks are Great—for Account Executives 

A Sales Playbook is likely hefty, with lots of information on the various market segments, and the various buying personas within each segment that it sells to. Not to mention details on the products sold, pricing, qualifying for pain, negotiating pricing, who the supporting Go To Marketing team is for each product/market, and much more.

Now, the average Account Exec that most B2B companies hire tends to have at least 10 years of sales experience. So this AE is not going to need to read the playbook from cover to cover. Most likely, the AE is going to skim the playbook, take what she thinks works, and build her own, much lighter version of the sales playbook. She can do that, because she knows a lot about selling already—she is just filling the gaps regarding the product, market, and some competitors. And if she came from the industry (most AEs change companies within the same industry), then she has even less “new” stuff to learn.

Sales Playbooks Don’t Work Well for SDRs

This, however, is not the case for SDRs who tend to be very junior, typically with less than two years of experience in phone prospecting. Furthermore, the average SDR changes jobs across industries far more than within the same industry, partly because they want to try a different market to see if they will be more successful there.

Now, imagine a 24 or 25 year old recent hire (as in two weeks ago) grappling with dozens of folders and hundreds of pages that comprise your Sales Playbook—and expecting him to remember what he needs when he is actually calling a prospect. As they used to say in NYC, “forget about it!”

Why a Sales Saybook is Right for a SDR

The 10 second rule

In an article titled, “Two Hidden Competitors your SDRs face every day”, we showed why time was the #1 competitor that every SDR has to overcome in order to get a meeting with a busy decision maker.

Experience shows that, once a SDR connects with a decision maker, he has less than 10 seconds to either win or lose that decision maker’s attention. And those first 10 seconds give the SDR the legitimate right to ask qualifying questions so he can book a qualified meeting that goes on the pipeline. 

What happens during those first 10 seconds practically determines the rest of the conversation that the SDR has with the prospect.

Why It Matters

To illustrate, let’s say that you have a service that enables auto-repair shops to significantly improve their cash flow by dramatically reducing their average account receivable cycles.

Let’s say your SDR calls the owner of such a shop, and once connected to the owner, says, “Hi Joe?”…”Joe, my name is Justin with Cash Flo. We help auto repair shops with significant DRP business cut their average AR cycles to under 32 days. I just have one question for you. Do you have a minute?

Here is how this works. DRP stands for “Direct Repair Programs”. Auto insurance companies have pre-negotiated rates for auto body repair jobs. When a vehicle owner who recently was in a crash files a claim, the auto insurance company sends her to one of their nearby DRP shops. The vehicle owner doesn’t really care which shop as long as it’s nearby, the repair job is satisfactory, and all she has to pay is her deductible.

But for the auto-repair show owner, not only are they getting a significantly reduced amount from the insurance company on the bulk of the repair job, but they are getting the money 60-90 days after they complete the work.

Therefore, from a cash flow perspective (which is the lifeblood for most small to mid-sized companies), this is a big problem.

So, when the SDR makes that opening statement, not only is he quickly getting to a critical problem that auto-body repair shops face, but he is using the term they use (“DRP”) to indicate he has experience working with auto-body repair shops. So, he gets the owner’s attention very quickly.

And, when he follows up by saying, “I just have one question. Do you have a minute…” the owner is intrigued and wants to know what the question is and is likely to say, “Yeah go ahead…”

This works just as well for a CFO in a biotech company—as long as the SDR knows the key issue that CFOs in biotech companies grapple with, and he states that in the words they use to describe the challenge. That is very critical.

It’s All About Situational Fluency

As you can see, the reason your best SDRs seem to consistently hit or exceed both their meeting and pipeline quotas is because they have situational fluency and can “talk the talk” of their prospects. They sound like an insider. Therefore, the prospect quickly makes a decision to hear this out a little bit more because, so far, it doesn’t seem like a waste of time.

Even if your Sales Playbook provided all this information, it will be hard for your SDRs to find the exact page it’s on while they are on the phone with the prospect. In other words, unless they memorize several openings (one for a CFO in biotech, another for a controller in pharma, and so on), they will not come out sounding like an insider. Which means, they get the usual, “I don’t have time now”, “I was just walking into a meeting. Call me back tomorrow…”

Why Sales Saybooks work

A Sales Saybook, on the other hand, is designed to provide situational fluency to a junior SDR who knows little or nothing about the industry nor the persona he is calling.

 A Sales Saybook walks the junior SDR through the mechanics of the actual prospecting call, as the SDR is talking to the prospect—how to open, get the attention of the prospect, handle objections, then move to qualifying questions, then book the meeting if there is a fit.

Furthermore, each Sales Saybook is 100% customized to the specific buying persona in a specific market segment, so that key phrases are all accurate. This is how your SDR gains the legitimacy to ask the qualifying questions.

Furthermore, the qualifying questions are not generic, but come from a pain bank built specifically for that buying persona/market segment combo. Therefore, in just asking those highly relevant questions, the SDR continues to build on legitimacy and credibility.

Which is why SDRs who use the SOMAmetrics Sales Saybook increase their effectiveness by at least 25% within 2-3 weeks.

Want To Find out More?

If you want to see a Sales Saybook in action, click here to book a demo for SIP, the SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting Solution.

Two Hidden Competitors your SDRs face every day

Hidden Competitors

There are two hidden competitors that stall sales pipeline development more than any other—and they are not the ones you are probably thinking of. In fact every company, every product, faces these two hidden competitors. You can’t escape them. Not only that, they are the first barrier you face—before you encounter any of the competitors you typically analyze closely.

And yet, these two hidden competitors block almost all prospecting attempts right from the start. Without fully understanding them, there is really no effective way to counter them. And without countering them effectively, sales pipeline development will stall.

What Every B2B Sales Leader can Learn From…Coca Cola

Huh? Yes, actually, the soft drink industry is a perfect way for B2B companies to understand the real competitors they face—including hidden competitors—so they can rapidly and consistently build quality sales pipelines.

For generations, Coca Cola’s direct competitor has been Pepsi, especially in the cola market.  However, Coca Cola also faces a category of competitors that includes all soft drink products: root beer, ginger ale, seven up, and so on. In addition to the soft drink category competitors, Coca Cola also faces a broader generic group of competitors consisting of all beverage products including bottled water, coffee and tea, and including beer and wine. It has to win, not just against cola makers, not just against all soft drink makers, but also against all packaged beverage product makers.

However, those are not even the most formidable competitors it faces. Coca Cola must first overcome the two hidden competitors before it encounters the ones mentioned above.

Time and Budget: The Two Hidden Competitors

Every product competes for time and budget—and Coca Cola is no exception. While the average Coke product typically costs under $2, that is the first hurdle for someone who has limited budget (perhaps is in between jobs and conscious of spending money). To such a person, the choice becomes buying Coke, or buying cigarettes (if he is a smoker); buying Coke or buying food; buying Coke or buying gas…you get the point. 

And, for the person who has $2 she can spend on Coke, there is still another competitor—time. With over 5,000 marketing messages she sees/hears each day, Coke is competing for her attention every waking moment of her life. If Coke hasn’t turned itself into a default purchase (which is why it spends about $4 billion in advertising alone each year), then someone else likely gets her attention first. And Coke loses to whatever she elected to purchase instead.

The Two Hidden Competitors are Even Harder to Beat in B2B

Do B2B companies have to face the two hidden competitors, time and budget? Oh yes. In fact they are even more difficult to beat in the B2B arena. Here is why.

In B2C, every consumer is essentially a decision maker, typically for herself, but sometimes for a family.  

In B2B, however, decision makers tend to be far fewer—they are by definition the most senior people in the company, and there are only a few of those.

Therefore, every vendor is essentially competing for the time and attention of a very few decision makers. And this holds true whether they are direct, category, or generic competitors.

Let’s say you sell a software product–say a CRM specifically designed for the Mortgage Industry targeting the Head of Sales  and CFO of these mortgage lenders. You may have two or three direct competitors who also sell CRM products designed for mortgage lenders. But you also compete against all CRM category competitors including the big gorillas, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Microsoft Dynamics. Furthermore, you compete against the generic competitors that sell software based productivity tools (Google Suite, Microsoft Office, etc).

But, before you even compete with any of them, your Sales Development Reps (SDRs) first have to get the attention of the decision maker—who is also targeted by non-software vendors, not to mention her own direct report, her boss, and other internal stakeholders. 

So, if your SDR wants to talk to the CFO, he must get her or attention first. Once he does that, then he has a chance to present his company’s products—which is when he starts facing each type of competitor (generic, category, and direct).

Did we mention “budget” yet?

Well, assuming your SDR got the attention of the decision maker (prospect), and he is now trying to qualify the decision maker for pain, timeline, etc, the prospect is asking a question in her head—what does this “thing”cost? She wants to know if this “thing” is in the ballpark of her available budget or if she has to work hard to get the money. 

Budget may not be the first hurdle your SDRs need to overcome, but it certainly comes before any other competitor you typically target.

Where are We Going With This?

The first thing that every SDR on your team needs to know is that time is the most precious and the most fungible resource that any decision maker has. The “two minutes” your SDRs are asking of that decision maker to hear them out is the “two minutes” every other competitor is asking for, not to mention anyone that reports to her or she reports to in her own organization.

There just aren’t enough two minutes in her day.

Remember, she is a decision maker. The very first decision she has to make is to give your SDR that “two minutes”. What has your SDR given her, in the way of information, for her to assess whether that’s in her best interest to do so? What has your SDR said, immediately after connecting, that tells her the two minutes she is spending with your SDR has a higher return than the hundreds of other requests for her time?

It’s not about a Playbook. It’s about a Saybook.

Those in Sales talk about a Sales Playbook. The sales playbook details out the game plan: the target industry and personas, the messaging, in what format, sequence, and date intervals the message is delivered and so on. 

Yes, the playbook is necessary, even critical. But your SDRs are likely to be young, probably fresh out of college, and don’t yet have the sophistication to get all this information quickly—much less use it effectively.

Playbooks don’t work, because SDRs can’t really use them as they are talking to a prospect. Here is why.

If your SDRs’ target persona is, say, a busy CXO who has to work 10, 11, 12 hour days, they better know how to get that decision maker’s attention very quickly—as in the first 10 seconds.

In order to do that, your SDRs must know what that persona does in that particular industry or sector. From there, they must clearly understand how their company’s product or service changes a key metric for that decision maker. Now, if they can quickly and clearly articulate that, then they get their prospect’s attention.

And the only way that they can say that quickly (as in 10 seconds) and clearly, is if they state their compelling opening in the fewest words possible that dont need more explanation.

That means, they must speak the language that their prospects use—the acronyms, the “shop talk”, the vernacular. If they can do that, then 10 seconds is plenty to get a prospect’s attention—which by the way, is exactly what your best SDRs are doing right now.

As you can see, a playbook won’t help your SDRs as they are talking to a prospect. What they need is a saybook.

Let’s Summarize

Here is what we have said so far. 

  1. Time and budget are the hidden competitors that act as gatekeepers to your prospects. If you can’t get past these two, you don’t have to worry about any other competitor.
  2. Time, even more than budget, is the critical gatekeeper since it is the hardest to get from a busy decision maker. You literally compete with everyone in the world, inside and outside your prospect’s company, for her time.
  3. Your SDRs have 10 seconds to articulate how your company’s product or service can change a critical metric for your prospect. Otherwise, she is not interested and hangs up.
  4. In order to be that clear and crisp, your SDRs must know exactly what their prospect does in that industry, and how your company product impacts what they do. 
  5. And your SDRs must be able to say that in the prospect’s language, so it comes out quick, crisp, and credible.

Simple, but not easy to do.

Two weeks, 25%, 30 days

If I still have your attention so far, I hear you asking, “Okay, but how does this happen? We’ve been trying to get our SDRs to do that and it takes months for them to get there.”

The gibberish heading above means you can get your SDRs to be fluent at getting a decision maker’s attention in 10 seconds within two weeks. And as a consequence, you can see your sales pipeline improve by 25% or more in 30 days.

We are doing that right now with the SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting solution or SIP.

Give them a Saybook, not a playbook. That’s how you get them ramped up in weeks rather than months.

If you are interested in finding out more, let’s schedule a demo/call so we can show you how.

How to drive Predictable Revenue growth with a Radical Sales Pipeline Strategy

SOMAmetrics sales pipeline strategy

One of the first things we look at when working with a new client is their sales pipeline strategy. And, we are often surprised at how inadequate their sales pipeline strategy is. All the more surprising because these are typically highly experienced sales leaders. Don’t get me wrong—their sales strategies are detailed, well-thought-out, and comprehensive. They have worked out their sales targets, territories, and have fielded each territory with experienced sales pros.

And yet, when it comes to their sales pipeline development, their plans seem inadequate. Sales pipeline strategy is critical because as the sales pipeline goes, so do sales. The whole predictability of revenue growth depends on the predictability of sales pipeline. After all, it’s the foundation on which sales is built.

In fact, the most cost-effective way to realize sales targets is to invest in sales pipeline development. It is the surest way to see high ROI on the investment made in the sales organization.

In this article, we will cover the most important building blocks of a sales pipeline strategy. Our experience is that clients who follow this approach generate the quality sales pipeline they need to deliver predictable revenue growth.

The Building Blocks of an Effective Sales Pipeline Strategy

Start Right: Invert Your Funnel

Step 1: re-orient your mental funnel concept. The traditional concept of a funnel was based on how one pours liquid into a narrow necked bottle (fig 1-A). The top of the funnel is wide, and it tapers into a narrow bottom. In this case, gravity would aid us in getting the fluid into the bottle.

However, as every sales leader knows, there is no such aid from gravity when it comes to sales. In fact, Marketing, Prospecting, and Sales teams all face tremendous resistance from prospects. 

A more intellectually honest mental construct would be an inverted funnel (fig. 1-B). This more realistically shows the effort required to engage over-messaged prospects and overcome their deep skepticism. In truth, we are dragging prospects up against inertia and risk-averseness. Let’s start by being clear on what we are up against. 

Another way to look at this is that you want sales to go up, not down.

Build a More Segmented Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the first point of alignment for Marketing, Prospecting, and Sales to ensure they are engaging the same audience with the same message. Yes, the engagement happens on different platforms/media at different times. And yes, the messaging itself is varied so as not to bore the prospect to death. But it must be aligned and consistent across all three teams.

Which means that if you find it necessary to use different sales teams, you should focus each team on a specific ICP. Let’s say you sell regulatory compliance solutions (reg-tech) to consumer lenders. At the top tier, you sell to global lenders such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, etc through your enterprise sales reps. At the middle tier, you sell to regional (multi-state) lenders using your account execs, and to the local community banks and credit unions, you sell through your junior reps.

These must be defined as three separate ICPs, with detailed descriptions of the account (company) as well as the personas (decision makers) to be engaged. And each sales tier should be extremely knowledgeable of their market space and their targeted personas.

This is foundational to building an effective sales pipeline strategy.

Define Average Deal Size (ADS) Separately for each ICP

Depending on whom one asks, the question “What is your average deal size?” seems to elicit different answers. For instance, we may ask someone in marketing and hear, “Our ADS is around $60,000”. Then we talk to a sales rep and he says he is looking at deal sizes between $250K and $500K. That is too wide a range to reconcile.

What that tells us is that those in marketing may be literally averaging across multiple tiers of customers, leading to messaging that is overly diluted.

 If you have multiple sales tiers, and you have defined multiple ICPs, you should arrive at a specific ADS for each ICP.

Measure your Average Closing Ratio Separately for each Sales Team

Similarly, measure the average closing ratio of each sales team separately. 

As it is very likely that your most experienced sales reps sell at the top end, you will likely see better closing ratios (25%-35%) there. Conversely, those selling the smaller ticket items to smaller customers may be more junior, and consequently show a much lower closing average (perhaps as low as 10-15%).

It would be just as bad a mistake to take the averages of these closing ratios as it would be to use an average ADS across all tiers.

Build your Sales Funnel Math Separately for Each Sales Tier

Armed with a well-defined ICP, ADS, and closing ratios, it is now possible to build a highly effective sales pipeline strategy for each tier.

The chart above shows the SOMAmetrics approach to funnel math. Here is a quick example:

  • Average deal size $100,000
  • Average closing ratio = 25%
  • Incremental revenue target for this tier = $10 million.
  • This means, on average,  we need 100 closed deals to reach our sales target.
  • Which means that, at the 25% average closing ratio, we need 400 sales qualified opportunities (SQOs).
  • If our SQO to SQL (sales qualified lead) ratio is 80%—which, by the way is pretty good—then we need about 500 SQLs from the prospecting/marketing teams.
  • If it takes on average three quality conversations (QC) to set a qualified meeting (SQL), then we will need about 1500 QCs to meet our Incremental revenue target, and so on.

Remember that these are cumulative numbers. Someone who wasn’t reachable last quarter, maybe reachable now. Someone who wasn’t interested 4 months ago, maybe interested now, and so on. Therefore, It is not necessary to have very large numbers at the bottom of the funnel stack. What is more important is the quality.

If the ICP is well-thought out and your value prop is compelling, then sooner or later, many in the ICP will be interested at least to explore your solution (pipeline development).

You will find a much more in-depth and thorough discussion on the best practices in prospecting at the high level in the seminal book, “The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development”.

Integrate into One Cohesive Plan

Let’s assume that what we worked on in the previous section was for your middle sales tier. You would do the same for your top and bottom sales tiers. Once you have separately built your funnel math, and you have the separate numbers, then you can integrate them to arrive at your holistic revenue plan.

Taking a somewhat simplistic example, let’s say your overall incremental revenue target was $25 million. You think you can get $10 million at the top; $10 million at the middle; and $5 million at the bottom sales tier. You would build each funnel separately to support your target for that funnel. 

SIP: The Solution for Executing your Sales Pipeline Strategy

So far, we discussed in some detail the building blocks of an effective sales pipeline strategy. Next we will see the building blocks of a highly effective solution for building a high quality sales pipeline.

For this discussion, we will focus solely on the the prospecting (SDR/BDR) team for two important reasons:

  1. While there are numerous high quality tools for aiding the work of marketers and sales professionals, that doesn’t seem to be the case for those tasked with prospecting.
  2. Companies make lots of investments on marketing and sales. However, if an adequate amount of quality pipeline doesn’t materialize, then all that was accomplished was to increase costs.

Yes, there are a number of tools that boost the efficiency of Sales Development Reps (SDRs). With these tools, SDRs can easily make 100 dials a day.  However, we haven’t seen tools that boost the effectiveness of SDRs—their ability to engage high-level decision makers and book qualified meetings.

Therefore, we would like to recommend a tool that significantly improves the effectiveness of SDRs, enabling them to build high quality sales pipelines, cost-effectively. We call this solution SIP (SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting). The key components are listed below.

GOSPA Manager

Now that you have developed your specific sales pipeline strategies for each sales tier, you are ready to execute.

Going back to our earlier reg-tech example, let’s say you have two SDR teams:

  1. The more senior SDR team prospects for the enterprise sales team
  2. The junior SDR team prospects for the regional accounts sales team

Let’s say you have one manager for each team.

You give each SDR manager his/her numbers—their incremental pipeline amount and average deal size. From these, they can figure out their quarterly targets including the quarterly number of meetings needed.

They then divide the overall number by the number of SDRs on their team to arrive at each SDR’s quarterly target.

This is where GOSPA comes in. GOSPA stands for Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Plan, and Activities. It is a proven model for aligning the needs and wants of the individual SDR with that of the company. By the way, it’s a good idea for the SDR manager to also build his/her GOSPA as well.

Each SDR will build his or her own GOSPA–how they plan to hit their numbers. They will submit their GOSPA to their manager, who will review with them and make suggestions as needed. SDRs have to hit their assigned numbers, but they can commit to a higher number if they wish to make more money.

Now that each SDR has both the assigned and committed numbers, he/she can set these as targets and work towards hitting them.

We have found that when SDR teams use GOSPA, the average quota attainment rate increases by as much as 40% or more. Here is an article that discusses GOSPAs and how to use them.

ICP Briefs

Think of your most experienced sales reps or SDRs. What makes them good at what they do is that they know their prospects very well. They know the industry or market space. They know what that prospect does–what her responsibilities, headaches, priorities, and goals are. 

Which means they know how to talk the prospect’s language. As a result, they don’t waste their prospect’s time. Which is why they tend to sooner or later catch their prospects, and why prospects agree to talk to them when they connect.

Now, what if all your SDRs were like that? By how much could your sales pipeline grow? And how much would that increase your sales?

Sure, training is important. But the data shows that people tend to forget what they have learned unless they apply it immediately and consistently. However, today’s environment is different. It takes a lot of effort to reach a high-level decision maker. New or junior SDRs don’t get a lot of chances to practice what they were taught. Which increases their likelihood of forgetting much of what they were trained on.

A better approach is to give them briefs—on the industry, personas, and competitors. These briefs are short but powerful. They show them only what they need to know. They point out the trends and challenges in that space. They illuminate how their prospects think, what their priorities are—how to talk to them.

Best of all, these briefs are always there for the SDRs to take a quick glance as a refresher. Unlike training which is an event that occurs at a specific time, and then is over, these briefs are always available to the SDRs.

Prospect Engagement Tools

Depending on the industry and personas you target, it could take twenty (20) or more touches before your SDRs connect with the right person. That’s dials, voicemails, emails, and LinkedIn messages.

The more compelling the emails, voicemails, and LinkedIn messages, the higher the connect rate. Prospects become intrigued and more willing to take a call. 

If you agree with this logic, then you don’t want your SDRs writing their own emails—especially your junior SDRs. What we have seen happen too often is junior SDRs Googling to find templates, make small changes, and send these off. Templates by nature are generic, which is the opposite of compelling.

Get these emails, voicemails, and LinkedIn messages professional crafted. It’s well worth the small additional cost.

Call Navigator

After making hundreds of dials with the help of a power dialer, your junior SDR is finally talking to the COO of a bank. Now what? How does he open the call? How does he intrigue the COO to want to hear more? How does he qualify to make sure there is need?

And having done all that, how does he get a meeting?

One thing you and I know is that the qualifying questions your SDR asks are in themselves telling. Prospects know by the questions they are getting whether they are talking to someone who will waste their time or not. 

What if the SDR got some simple objection such as “I don’t have time right now” or “Why don’t you send me some information I can take a look at?” What if the prospect asks how much it costs? How does your SDR neatly navigate these, finish qualifying, and get the meeting?

As the name implies, a Call Navigator walks your SDR through the prospecting call. How to open it, what example stories to tell, how to handle objections and questions, and more.

Campaign Manager

Marketing teams spend a lot of money on multiple lead generation campaigns every year. Some are event-based such as conferences or webinars. Others may be promotional such as ads. SDRs play pivotal roles in the achievement of campaign objectives. 

For instance, if you are sponsoring an expensive conference, you want to drive as many prospects to your booth as possible. Making sure your SDRs are well aware of the campaign, remember to mention it, and know what to say can make or break the campaign ROI.

A Campaign Manager ensures that a specific campaign relevant to the ICP that the SDR is calling into is front and center on that SDR’s view. It constantly reminds the SDR to be sure to invite the prospect before ending the call.

In Conclusion

At SOMAmetrics, this is how we help our clients build their sales pipeline strategy, and then provide them with the solution they need to effectively execute their strategies.

Clients who use the SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting Solution (SIP) see as much as 50% increase in sales pipeline development within 90 days.

Let’s schedule a quick call to discuss your needs and how we may be able to help you.

Building High Quality Sales Pipeline

High quality sales pipeline

NOTE: Read this ONLY IF your team is having difficulty consistently hitting their quotas.

The number one factor that affects the ability of sales leaders to hit their numbers is high quality sales pipeline. In fact, as the sales pipeline goes, so does revenue growth. Sales leaders that focus on building high quality sales pipelines are far more likely to consistently hit their revenue targets.

Now, most sales leaders know this. However, we keep seeing a far greater focus on the size rather than the quality of the sales pipeline.. Quality matters even more than size for one important reason: A high quality sales pipeline will deliver the same amount of revenue for less cost than a larger, less quality sales pipeline. Which means more profits per sales dollar earned.

Sales leaders must accurately forecast sales for a given period (quarter or year), and hit that forecasted number. This is true for CROs and VPs of Sales, as well as regional sales leaders. And, in all cases, success greatly depends on the availability of a high quality sales pipeline.

Furthermore, the cost of generating revenue is just as important as hitting revenue targets. This is especially true during times of economic uncertainty. Which brings the issue of quality to the forefront, as we shall discuss below. 

In this article, we will discuss:

  1. Why the quality of the sales pipeline matters more than the size of the sales pipeline
  2. Why effectiveness, and not efficiency, is what builds a high quality sales pipeline, and
  3. How an intelligent prospecting solution is what’s needed to increase effectiveness and build a high quality sales pipeline. This typically can increase by as much as 30% or more in just 90 days.

Why High Quality Sales Pipeline Matters

Sales is not just a numbers game anymore.

The traditional view of sales is that it’s a numbers game—if you want more sales, do more activities. However, activities are just another way of saying cost. More activities means more money spent on leads generated, more conferences attended, more people hired, and so on.

Since 2011, the cost of acquiring a new customer has increased by an average of 10% per year (CSO Insights). Not only that, most customers no longer remain customers as they once did. An Accenture study showed that 80% of customers change vendors within 24 months (2019).

And, competition is intensifying. Over 100 million companies started each year globally (HBR). Which means that the trend will be further increase in cost of acquiring a new customer.

Companies can no longer just spend their way to growth. The better way, we argue, is to improve sales processes so that sales increase faster than costs. Below are some practical ideas that may help.

What Sales Leaders Can Learn from Manufacturing

The “product” of a sales team (the “deliverable”) is revenue. Manufacturing shop has to forecast how many units will be made and delivered within a targeted cost model. Similarly, sales teams must also forecast and deliver revenue within a targeted cost model.

During the 1970s and 1980s, US manufacturers found themselves at a significant cost disadvantage compared to Japanese manufacturers. As a result, US manufacturers were rapidly losing market share in automobiles, electronics, memory chips, and more. Japanese manufacturers found that they could eliminate a great deal of their manufacturing costs by improving their quality process. 

At the time, the prevailing wisdom among American manufacturers was that improving quality meant increasing cost. And, they didn’t think customers wanted to trade off higher quality for higher cost. At the time, the typical “Quality Control” approach of US manufacturers was to estimate the number of defects per million. For example, if they estimated say 4% defect, they would then add that to their forecast. So, if they targeted 1 million units, then they would make 1,040,000. That meant they were prepared to throw out 40,000 units.

However, Edward Demings showed that the further a defective unit moved into the manufacturing process, the greater the cost. More and more labor and additional material would be added to the defective product, which eventually has to be discarded. Therefore, catching a defect very early in the process reduces the overall cost.

American manufacturers learned that improving quality meant reducing cost—which meant increasing the overall value of the product to the customer.

Sales is a Quality Process

Similarly, the sales process should be a quality process. What goes into the sales process determines to a great extent what goes out at the other end. 

Improving the quality of the process not only increases the “yield” (total revenue gained), but it reduces the cost per yield (cost per dollar revenue).

We will illustrate this with an example of what we saw with an actual customer. We have modified their industry and some of the numbers to protect their privacy. However, the story is largely true.

Case Story: Costly Errors That Could Have Been Prevented Early

The client sells enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) software. Their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is enterprise accounts primarily in high-tech manufacturing. Their target personas are CFOs, Controllers, VPs of Finance.

Pre-COVID, their average closing ratio was about 25% at an average deal size of $100,000. The Board thought that with the COVID lockdown, they actually had greater opportunity. They decided to double the previous year’s incremental revenue target to $20 million.

Therefore, based on their expected close ratio of 25%, they assumed they would need about $80 million in sales pipeline. They expected 60% ($48 million) of that to be generated by the Sales Development (SD) team. At the assumed average deal size of $100,000 they would need about 480 meetings/year set by the SD team. This is about 40 meetings per month.

They thought a team of eight SDRs would be adequate, based on past results. However, there was one crucial change they didn’t factor into their core assumptions. They had promoted out of the SDR team two top SDRs who were incidentally generating most of the meetings). Which meant they had to hire five brand new SDRs to make the team of eight.

That was the plan. What actually happened is a far different story. 

We said above that the least expensive place to catch a defect is at the beginning of a process. As you will see below, “defects” were allowed to move further and further, from one step to the next.

  1. Aggressive numbers drove all other (bad) decisions. They assumed that to double the previous growth rate, all they had to do was double all the numbers downstream.  But as we shall see below, the conditions pre and post-COVID were very different.
  2. Marketing lost its focus. In order to support the suddenly doubled sales pipeline requirements, Marketing had to significantly increase its top of funnel. It had to go after verticals it knew little about. Furthermore, it had to dilute its Persona requirements to get more contacts into the funnel. Before, they were only interested in marketing to the C-suite. Now, they went all the way down to director and manager levels to get the targeted database. Consequently, new “Marketing Qualified Leads” (MQLs) included business analysts and pricing managers who could never make buying decisions.
  3. Very young SDR team left on their own. Pre-COVID the company had five experienced SDRs who had the benefit of working closely with sales execs. They learned how to qualify and set the right kinds of appointments their reps wanted. This was no longer the case. The five brand new SDRs who had never prospected before, were working from home completely isolated. They made few dials because they felt out of sorts and demoralized. and when they were given inbound leads, they made their pitch and booked a meeting without really qualifying the prospects.
  4. Meetings were low quality, leading to low quality pipeline. These new SDRs didn’t know how to prospect at a senior decision maker’s level or to properly qualify, quality suffered. They were booking meetings with the wrong people and/or with accounts that were too small to afford the product. As a result, most of the meetings booked led to nowhere.  
  5.  Pipeline-starved sales reps started accepting any meeting. The reps had large quotas and no pipeline. Many were assigned verticals they have never sold to before. So, they accepted any meetings, did their discovery calls, and tried to make the best of what they were getting. 
  6. Closing ratios and average deal sizes began to deteriorate. As can be expected, closer rates dramatically dropped as did average deal sizes as reps cut prices to win deals.
  7. Attrition rates rise. Missed quotas meant no one was making money and sales reps and SDRs alike began to quit. Management began to offer more money to attract new SDRs and sales reps.
  8. More money spent on hiring with little effect on revenues. The teams missed one quarterly target after another. At first the company tried to spend its way out of the problem. They hired more SDRs and sales reps. Eventually, they saw that costs were growing alarmingly faster than revenues and began layoffs.

A mistake that was made right at the beginning and could have been caught early, just kept snowballing. Millions of dollars were unnecessarily wasted without the desired effect on sales growth. One major point of failure was the SDR team on which rested so much. Too much of the underlying assumptions rested on a very young SDR team. It appears that Senior Management underestimated the challenge in building the quality of pipeline needed to hit the targeted numbers.

We have seen this happen too often. Many companies simply mandate sales numbers, then think they can hire their way into that number. Sure, that can happen—if one throws enough money at it.

However, there is a cheaper and faster way to ramp up, as we shall discuss below. 

Quality Sales Pipeline is About Effectiveness, Not Efficiency

Experience and research clearly show that Improving the quality of a sales pipeline is about prospecting effectiveness, not about efficiency. Increasing efficiency may increase the size of your sales pipeline, but it will NOT improve the quality. 

Efficiency is about doing things the right way. The focus is on doing more things in the same amount of time or for the same effort. For example, a power dialer may allow your SDRs to easily make 100 dials or more per day. However, it will not change the quality of conversation between the prospect and the SDR once there is a connection. 

(By the way, the vast majority of software tools for sales and sales enablement are about improving efficiency.)

Effectiveness is very different. It is about doing the right thing—the activity that produces the most results for the same effort. Effective people first decide what they will do, before figuring out how they will do it. Effectiveness is what we produces the right ROI.

In prospecting, it is knowing what to say to whom, when, and how. Your best reps focus on quality, not busy-work. What they do consistently produces the desired results.

You know that your best people always talk to the prospects that can get them to a “yes” decision quickly. They only want to talk to the most senior people in the largest accounts. They know what results they want and who can get it done for them.

Which means your top 10% are carrying the vast majority of your teams.

Our analysis shows that less than 10% of SDRs/sales reps produce 50% or more of the results. Can you imagine what your numbers would look like if you can close the gap between your top and bottom performers by even 15% or 20%?

So, how do you get your struggling SDRs to be effective? How do you get them to talk to the right decision makers in the right way, thereby building a high quality sales pipeline that closes faster, and at a higher rate?

Intelligent Prospecting = High Quality Sales Pipeline

We started this article by saying that the sales pipeline is king—as the pipeline goes, so does revenue. We also said that it is the quality of the sales pipeline that matters and we showed some illustrative examples.

Assuming we are in agreement so far, the next question is : How do you build a high quality sales pipeline in the size you need, to confidently hit your sales target?

Building a high quality sales pipeline means prospecting intelligently, effectively.

It means talking to a decision maker, and keeping that prospect engaged, curious, and wanting to meet with a sales rep to explore further.

For that to happen, your SDRs must fully understand the space and the persona they are calling. That means they must fully understand what companies in that space do, how they compete, how they make money, what threats they face, where the trends and opportunities are, and more. 

Your SDRs must fully understand the role and level of the person they are talking to–what her responsibilities are, her challenges and pains, what she wants to accomplish, what constraints she faces, and so on.

Armed with that background, your SDRs must customize their pitch and value prop to perfectly fit the space and persona they are talking to so they have a compelling opening and have their prospect fully engaged and curious.

And that’s just step 1.

Step 2, and the real job of your SDRs, is to adequately qualify your prospect so that there is at least an 80% chance that this prospect will advance further down the sales funnel once your sales rep has completed a discovery call. If that is NOT the case, your SDRs shouldn’t even be setting a meeting. This is how you keep quality high and your cost of generating revenue low.

 Step 3 is to book the meeting.

Finally, step 4 is ensuring that the prospect stays engaged so she attends the meeting.

Clearly, your best SDRs and reps are already doing this, but perhaps the others aren’t.

The SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting Solution

SIP is an Intelligent Prospecting solution that increases prospect connect rates, leading to more qualified appointments, resulting in more discovery calls that convert into sales pipeline.

SDRs and inside sales reps who use SIP can expect to see up to 50% improvement in their sales pipeline within 90 days.

SIP is a complete prospecting solution consisting of Industry and Persona briefs that provides your SDRs with a concise but thorough briefing on their prospect’s background; a Call Navigator that customizes your value prop to each market space/persona to give your SDRs a compelling opening; the qualifying questions they need to ask; objection management; and more.

SIP also comes with a Goals Setting tool called GOSPA GOSPA (Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Plan, and Activities) that help each of your SDRs to prepare their plan on how they will meet and exceed their quotas. These plans give them the target and actual view each time they login. At any given moment, SDRs and their managers can see where they are at in achieving their targets.

Finally, SIP comes with a Campaign Manager that ensures your SDRs follow up on the most recent, high priority campaigns, ensuring high ROI on key marketing spend such as events and ad campaign spends.

SIP can make the difference between your teams missing their numbers and consistently crushing them. Click here to schedule a quick demo.

Sales Engagement Platforms: The Wild, Hungry Beasts!

Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs), such as outreach.io; frontspin.com; groove.co; to name a few, enables your SDR and Sales Teams to track and personalize the steps in a buyer’s journey. They automate menial tasks, ensuring that prospects are “touched” in a regular cadence until the sales cycle, or “sequence”, has ended. When used effectively, SEPs allow your Sales and SDR teams to spend more time generating revenue in an extremely efficient manner.

Sales Engagement Platforms are a much needed solution to save time in the Sales tech stack. Nonetheless, they are difficult to maintain and manage. I’ve implemented these solutions at numerous companies. Our customers believed that once the implementation was completed, the SEP would manage itself. However, this is not the case. SEPs are like wild, hungry beasts: they require constant care and feeding to remain manageable. If left in the hands of your Sales or SDR teams, it will be difficult to determine if your sequences, cadences, and content are effective.

The Problem with Sales Engagement Platforms

When companies implement SEPs, they feel confident that this new solution will help them reach more people faster, and in a more personalized manner. SEP’s provide great stats on open rates, and provide dashboards so that the team can see what to do and who to contact next. Great news!

Here is the problem: companies fail to understand that their SEP is only as good as the latest content that has been added to the SEP library. Consider these points:

1. Recycling emails and content will not garner the customer engagements you are seeking.

Every sequence has a life span, let’s say 10 weeks. Once the sequence is completed, you can create another sequence for the customers who didn’t engage with you. Every customer interaction should be of value to your customer. Thus, reusing the content from the first sequence may not work; the customers who didn’t engage haven’t seen your value, yet. Provide updated content which will make you the thought leader, and provide valuable insights for customer success. Emails, blogs, infographics, videos, and social media should be refreshed every month or—at the very least—every quarter. Assign someone in your organization to create and update content regularly.

2. “Snippets” must be valuable content.

I often get emails that start with, “Hey Alicia, did you receive my last email?”, or, “Following-up on My Last Email”, which I delete before opening. If I don’t know “immediately” who the sender is, their value prop, and what they want, why should I waste my time wading through a string of emails to determine their value to me? Provide content that is of value to customers across multiple platforms and your response rates will improve. (Hint: Every company that has a SEP uses these generic snippets. Consider this: hundreds of these snippets are going to customers every day. If everyone is doing this, your emails will fade into the background and your sales engagement tools will go suffer).

3. Sales Engagement Software provides team members a fast and easy way to message to customers.

However, this feature may not be helpful. SDR’s and Sales Reps are not necessarily the best writers when it comes to conveying your message. Your team members may or may not understand your message and value-prop, or they may not consistently express the benefits of your solution. To remedy this, task a company writer to write these personalized emails with the plan to refresh every month or so.

4. CRMs have an Administrator and SEPs should have one too.

To get the highest value out of your SEP,  give someone (not a SDR, Sales Manager or Sales Rep) in marketing operations or sales enablement the job of:

  • Managing the SEP solution
  • Creating the sequences
  • Updating and refreshing the content library
  • Tracking the data of the content, sequences, cadences
  • Creating nurture sequences
  • Reporting results to the management team

Make no mistake about it: this is a full time job. If you don’t plan to centralize the management and feeding of a SEP, don’t purchase one.

How Sales Engagement Platforms Will Drive Revenue

The Sales Engagement Platform is a wonderful tool which, when used correctly, can help you increase customer engagement and grow your revenue. When this sales technology is not managed consistently—for example, with refreshed materials and sequences, or if Sales Reps and SDRs are expected to write content to deliver your messaging—you may find that you have wasted a lot of money on a solution that becomes unwieldy over time. Remember, managing your SEP is a full-time job. If you want to increase customer engagement, invest in a full-time team member to manage it.

Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.

Find out more about SOMAmetrics’ Intelligent Prospecting Platform and get free resources on our website at www.somametrics.com.

Navigating Complex Sales: Build a Sales Development Team to Support Pipeline Growth

complex sales cover

Companies that have complex solutions have additional challenges in meeting their revenue targets due to obstacles or delays. This is a major problem that many of our clients struggle with. SOMAmetrics specializes in helping clients address a number of issues related to complex sales. This article discusses some important points executives should think through when it comes to generating sales pipeline for complex solutions.

For discussion purposes, we will define complex sales as those that typically target large organizations (Fortune 2000 companies and government entities); poses significant perceived risk and cost for the customer; involves, at the very least, a handful of key stakeholders besides the final economic decision maker (i.e. CEO, CFO, CIO, a CXO); entails a complex sales process and decision making process; and usually comes about as a result of a company or division-wide initiative.

Assessing the Prospecting Process

To complicate things further, different titles may be in charge of the same initiative or drive in a given sales environment. This makes it difficult to determine where to begin the prospecting process. Hence, a complex sale involves research over time to uncover the moving parts and weave together a coherent sales strategy or assessment. The following are a few examples of information that this assessment may address:

  1. What is the driving issue/initiative behind the need?
  2. Who are the key stakeholders involved?
  3. What are the key pain points and concerns of each?
  4. Who has the most urgent pain, and therefore wants to see this taken care of sooner rather than later?
  5. From where is the funding going to come for this? Is it all in one place (department or division), or will it be shared, and how?
  6. Are there multiple decision makers? Who is the final decision maker?

These are only some of the early questions to begin assessing whether there is a viable sales opportunity for your complex solution.

Using Sales Reps to Prospect is NOT a Good Idea

Often, we find that companies rely on their field sales reps to find viable opportunities within large, complex organizations.

We don’t think this is a good idea. This task differs greatly from what sales reps are expert at: calling on prospects who have agreed to see the sales rep. Prospecting, however, requires making 10-15 dials just to reach John Doe, who might not even be the right person to start with. Then, John may only have time for a quick conversation and suggest the rep call Jane Smith. Twenty dials later, the rep finally reaches Jane, who adds more to the story and suggests calling Mike.

And this is only the first round of calls; there will be follow-up calls to multiple stakeholders to find out more about one or more issues.

It is not unreasonable to expect that 500+ dials might be made into a single account to determine whether there is value in moving forward.

The question here is: who is better at quickly and cost-effectively uncovering viable sales opportunities? A field rep that will make 10-20 dials a day, or a seasoned SDR who makes 70-80 dials daily?

The SDR Solution to Complex Sales

Our experience repeatedly shows that field salespeople engage in early prospecting ONLY when their pipeline dries up. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for companies to reliably forecast what their revenues will look like over 3-4 months out. Since the sales cycle for most complex sales products tends to be six months or more, this means that a company cannot reliably predict revenues outside of the current quarter.

Our recommendation is to use SDRs to build the sales pipeline for the sales team (Read “5 Reasons Why Your Sales Development Team Is Failing“). This avoids the yo-yo effect and makes revenue targets more reliable. In this scenario, a senior SDR will do all of the initial research to gather the coherent sales opportunity story and pass it on as a Sales Qualified Lead. This opportunity story is a synopsis of the key initiatives; which departments or divisions are directly involved; who the key stakeholders are; which CXO is driving the initiative; what the individual pains, concerns, and desires of the various stakeholders are; and what a reasonable timeframe looks like for making a final decision on the acquisition of the solution.

Choosing the Right Person for a Complex Sales Role

The right type of Sales Development Rep (use our free Top SDR Interview Questions Resource) to successfully perform this would have the following qualities:

  • Has experience as a quota-bearing field or inside sales professional who understands sales, particularly complex sales into enterprise account
  • Is very comfortable and successful at accessing and selling to CXOs
  • Has the right temperament to work alone as well as to enjoy interacting with others
  • Is an avid learner, always trying to learn more about his/her industry and what the pain-points and new concerns for the targeted CXO’s are
  • Understands that this is painstaking work that will require hundreds of dials and many dozens of conversations that may or may not lead anywhere, and still enjoys the hunt
  • Is results-driven and has a strong sense of urgency

This is a specialty area, and the right person must align to the job. Start with Sr. SDRs while you grow your SD Organization. Once you have nailed the messaging, processes, and metrics, you can scale with SDR’s who are less experienced in this role.

Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.

Find out more about SOMAmetrics’ Intelligent Prospecting Platform and get free resources on our website at www.somametrics.com.

How Difficult Is It to Generate a Meeting? Common Misuses of SDR Teams in Appointment Setting

In my book, The Radical Pipeline Strategy, I discuss the strategies and best practices I have used to build effective Sales Development organizations with regards to appointment setting. These teams, commonly known as Business Development (BDRs); Account Development (ADRs); and Sales Development (SDRs), consistently help your sales teams to achieve pipeline and revenue targets.

How difficult is it to set a meeting?

Over the years, Sales Development has come a long way. It is no longer disparagingly thought of as “Telemarketing”—a group of junior people whose primary role is appointment setting, or register people for seminars and events.

The SDR role is, however, still considered an entry-level position: their job is to generate a sales qualified meeting otherwise known as an SQL. The reason why companies hire junior-level people is because they think, “how difficult is it to set a meeting”? This is a pivotal question that I explore fully in my book.

In this blog, I will outline common misuses of SDR teams as appointment setters that I have encountered while retooling client SDR teams at over 65 companies.

Role of SDRs

To start, consider this: companies hire junior SDRs as their first line of defense. Their job is to call valued prospects who have 10 or more years of experience in their field. However, most junior-level SDR’s haven’t acquired the skills to speak to these seasoned professionals in a meaningful way, nor have they been given the tools to support their qualification efforts. In other words, “junior” SDR’s are the first point of contact with the most valued prospects of your company. This is an ineffective strategy for appointment setting that simply doesn’t work.

Junior SDRs don’t know how to speak to executives, and executives—who receive hundreds of calls from the same type of people—will tune them out. As a result, few qualified meetings are set and pipeline goals simply aren’t achieved.

To make up for the lack of quality meetings, companies hire more SDRs to help them squeeze out more appointments needed to meet their qualified meetings quota. In doing so, companies just build larger, more unsuccessful teams. This, in turn, costs companies a lot of money and frustration as they continue to miss pipeline targets month after month.

Next, consider this: billions of robocalls (over 50 billion in 2021) are made to the same seasoned professionals which lowers your SDRs chances of getting the target to answer their calls. And when they do actually answer, SDRs aren’t prepared to talk to the potential prospect. SDR’s need extensive training—in B2B appointment setting—to have conversations that provide prospects with the “valued” information for making informed decisions. Without this training, no one (prospects or sales) gets what they want or need.

Below are some examples of how SDRs are misused.

SDRs are NOT:

  • A panacea! If your company doesn’t have a viable solution, or your executives haven’t identified your best targets, or if your messaging is off the mark, SDRs won’t be able to generate a quality sales process and pipeline. Don’t force your SDRs to make up your messaging—they will fail.
  • A cold-call engine. Our research shows that it takes around 2,000 cold call dials to generate one closed deal. I don’t know any company that can afford a resource just to make dials. Instead, give your SDRs enough MQLs (marketing qualified leads) to meet your stated objectives. Then, set up a Target Accounts program, which are key accounts that your Sales Executives want to close, during the year. Market to these specific accounts using ABM, for example. Next, assign a handful of these accounts to your SDRs each quarter and arm them with content to give to prospects as they work to make contact. Finally, provide your sales reps with SDR marketing solutions, like FrontSpin and Outreach.io, to enable them with the skills to send personalized and targeted messages.

They are also NOT:

  • Your Chief Marketing Officer or VP Marketing/Sales. Every team I retooled allowed their SDRs to create emails and sales tools, which were not effective. SDRs are not product marketing executives or writers. Effective SDRs are good on the phone, but most are not good at writing. Marketing and Sales should consistently provide the right tools and fresh content with the desired messaging to their SDR team members. I tune out emails that are regurgitated and sent to me week after week… your prospects will too.
  • Your Sales team. Don’t expect your SDRs to close deals. Instead, educate them to uncover basic needs and pain. In addition, let them focus on generating quality SQLs and appointment setting with viable prospects. Have your sales and inside sales teams close the deals.
  • Admin support for your sales team. Many of the companies I have worked with loaded their SDRs with admin work. When this happens, SDRs who don’t enjoy making phone calls focus on admin work, and the SDRs who like making phone calls won’t do the admin work. So, SQLs are not being generated, nor is admin work being done. Remember, SDRs are there to develop a quality pipeline for your sales organization. Give them one job: generating highly qualified SQLs and sales appointments.
  • An after-thought. The SDR operation works best when it is considered an integral component of a company’s overall marketing and sales strategy. Companies that just “plop” in a SDR team without providing the right infrastructure, or with effective marketing or sales strategies in place, waste a lot of time and money. It takes careful thought and planning to build a SDR team that will generate a quality sales pipeline.

SDRs are:

  • Often the first live personal contact your prospects will have with your company. This first conversation needs to be spot-on and meaningful in order for your prospects to stay engaged with your company.
  • An effective method for delving into your prospects’ needs and building pain for your solution. Teach your SDR’s how to ask the right qualifying questions that build pain and need.
  • A sales pipeline development engine.
  • Most effective when supported by MQLs, or have an effective Target Accounts program in place.
  • Opportunity builders. Every communication with a prospect increases your company’s chances to create a viable opportunity. Make sure every call counts. Train your SDR team to take full advantage of every prospect interaction through efficient lead generation. Provide them with the right tools and proper training. Help them learn how to keep your prospects engaged throughout the qualifying process.
  • A great way to stay in touch with key or Target accounts. While field reps are closing deals or chasing warmer opportunities, someone needs to stay in touch with the key accounts or else you may lose them to the competition. (Some years back, one of SOMAmetrics’ clients had Comcast™ listed in their database as a Target Account. Comcast™ had been in their database for a while. Our SDR discovered that Comcast™ was going to acquire NBC. She called them and generated an enormous opportunity for our client. The field rep was unaware of this new information. This might have been a missed opportunity if our SDR had not contacted Comcast™ when she did).
  • In touch with the same prospects every month. These prospects often provide useful market intelligence which your company can mine to perfect its messaging and targeting.

Building a quality sales pipeline

To answer the previous question, “How difficult is it to set an appointment?”: it is very difficult to set an appointment. This is why so many SDR organizations fail. Every connection with a prospect needs to be treated like gold. Today, most people don’t pick up the phone to speak to anyone who is not on their contact list. When they do, the SDR needs to be armed with the right messaging and understanding of both your targets and your ideal customer profile (ICP). They must know how to qualify for pain and how to identify compelling prospect events, which align with your solutions.

In short, the role of your SDR team is to build a quality sales pipeline. They do this by setting highly qualified meetings with the right targets in the right market. Pipeline is always king. If you view this team as a strategic part of your pipeline build and set it up properly, you will hit your pipeline and revenue targets consistently.

Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.

Find out more about SOMAmetrics’ Intelligent Prospecting Platform and get free resources on our website at www.somametrics.com.

5 Reasons Why Your Sales Development Team Is Failing

Sales Development

Ten years ago, I wrote a book titled, “Teleprospecting for Executives Who Sell Complex Solutions”, a workbook to help executives understand how to properly run a Sales Development operation in a B2B setting.

I recently reviewed my book to see what had changed, expecting to make massive changes before publishing on Amazon.

While some of the details may have changed, I was astounded to find that fundamentally not much has changed in the Sales Development world since I last wrote my book.

Today, most companies have invested in Sales Development Teams—typically referred to as Sales Development Reps (SDRs). This team is hired to generate meetings for their sales team organization. The majority of these SDRs are not successful. The Sales organization doesn’t accept meetings that they generate, and the trust between the departments fades very quickly.

At the same time, SDRs feel like they have worked hard to generate these meetings. They fail to see why a sales process and strategy do not accept these hard-won meetings. Sales Reps find that marketing meetings with SDRs are shallow, don’t map to the relative customer buying journeys, and rarely include decision makers.

What Has Changed?

Ten years ago, each of my sales development representatives received around 200 solid MQL calls each month. While about half weren’t that great, the rest were good enough for the team to call in to qualify for need and pain.

Now, decision makers don’t read their emails or answer the phone unless they know the caller. This has put a huge burden on demand generation development teams to drive traffic to their websites. But these inbound leads dribble in and the numbers aren’t large enough to support an SDR team.

Therefore, to fill the gap, demand gen teams depend on content syndication to make up the difference and send these to their SDR teams to ensure that they have someone to call. News alert! Qualified leads from content syndication will only burn out your SDRs because very few out of thousands actually have a need. Most of these prospects are just doing research for personal reasons or just to keep apprised of what data tools are available, maybe for future use.

The business world has changed! It has become more difficult to engage prospects and to generate leads. This is one of the reasons why SDR teams aren’t effective. Now let’s look at other reasons.

5 Reasons Why Your Sales Development Team Is Failing

1. Inbound lead traffic is low

Demand generation teams struggle to get quality, meeting-ready leads in front of the SDR teams.

2. Companies hire junior level people to generate meetings for sales

As stated in my book over 10 years ago, it is counterintuitive to expect your least experienced people to be the first point of contact with your very special prospects (decision makers, influencers, etc.). Junior people don’t understand your prospect personas, what keeps them up at night, and how to engage them on the phone to get to their needs/pains even if the prospect doesn’t have an initiative. When a junior SDR has a call guide, they don’t have the skills to make the points on their own and to tell a story about the value prop of the solution they are calling about. They also don’t know how to pivot when the call goes off-script.

In my book, I tell a story about a senior SDR who reported to me. He had a call with a CTO at a Fortune 100 Manufacturing company. David (the Sr. SDR) had a quick meeting with me to review his sales strategy and process for the upcoming call. He had just read an article in CIO Magazine which reviewed why CIO’s/CTO’s typically last in their positions for less than 18 months. During the call, he mentioned the article when the CTO told him that he wasn’t interested. David replied, “Sure I get it. Your job isn’t to figure out how to lower your energy spend. I just read an article that discussed how CIOs like you only keep their jobs for 18 months, because CEOs don’t believe that they are effective. I’ll send you the article.”

It took David about 3 years of hard work and a personal drive to become a sales qualified Executive. Juniors will cost you a lot more, in the end, because they are not effective and require a lot of training.

3. Companies believe that the SDR’s job is to generate appointments

This is wrong! The job of the SDR is to build a sales pipeline and execute through sales operations. The method used to build the pipeline is by setting meetings with decision makers and/or influencers to understand the prospect’s pain and to show the prospect how their problem is bigger than the cost of the solution. Companies don’t establish that their job is pipeline development, even though that is what everyone wants…. More and better pipeline.

The best way to establish pipeline growth is with a compensation plan that includes a small part of the variable for the appointment, a bigger part for an approved SQL, and a larger part based on the amount of pipeline generated each month/quarter from these appointments. I have coached my clients to add a bonus that maps to the closed deals from these appointments. Regardless of structure, the compensation plan focuses on pipeline growth.

4. Companies don’t establish the right KPIs to track and measure SDR activities

Dials made and emails sent are good to track, however, these elements do not ensure quality meetings. There are a few key SDR statuses that I look for (the details are in my book). Meaningful Conversations or Key Conversations are calls with a decision maker or someone in the know to identify some issues/paints. Often it requires more than 1 call to get all of the details to generate a strong meeting for Sales.

However, if there is interest, the timeline is decent, and the person is the right person, then there is enough information to set the meeting and send to sales. Either way, this status needs to be tracked, among others. From my perspective, Meaningful Conversations Or Key Conversations are the SDR pipeline and they should have 2-3x their meeting quota each month.

5. The SDR process is different from a sales processes

Most companies don’t understand this and set up their CRM as a one-size-fits-all. SDRs should make a lot of calls and send many emails/day. SDR Managers need to keep track of these activities, which won’t necessarily lead to a great meeting, they are required to get meetings. As stated, there are other KPIs to track as well, to ensure that SDRs are driving to their goals.

In addition to mapping the KPIs into the CRM, key qualifiers that your team needs to gather should be in the CRM. This will ensure consistency in B2B sales, and enable the SDR Manager to track the quality of the lead/meeting before they are given to sales. As such, there should be two approved workflow processes set up to track the meeting:

  • Make sure that there is a process for the senior sales manager to approve the meeting.
  • Once the meeting is approved by the SDR manager, the workflow should move the meeting to receive the account executives’ approval after the call has happened.
  • If the Exec doesn’t approve the meeting, the lead should be pushed back to the SDR with notes of what is needed to make this a better meeting. This gives the SDR a chance to re-engage with the prospect and get more information about their inside sales.

These 5 points of failure, if fixed, will enable your SDR team to generate meetings that build an effective sales pipeline. Pipeline is King!

Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.

Grow Sales Pipeline and Drive Revenue Growth

grow sales pipeline

Grow Your Sales Pipeline to Fix Missed Revenue Targets

How can you grow your sales pipeline and consequently fix missed revenue targets? If you think of your total revenue operations, it is likely fed by four major revenue streams:

  1. New orders from totally new logos
  2. Reorders or renewals from current customers
  3. Upgrades, up-sales, and add-ons from existing customers
  4. New orders from entry into brand new markets.

In all but one (reorders/renewals), the key challenge is how to grow a sales pipeline of sufficient size and quality. It is also finding one that consists of informed decision makers who are actively searching for a solution within budget.

The fundamental thesis of this blog is that missed revenue targets happen primarily as a result of missed pipeline targets.

grow sales pipeline

If you are skeptical about this, consider the following research findings:

  1. New customer acquisition cost is increasing by an average of 10% or more each year.
  2. Over 100 million new businesses are started each year, worldwide.
  3. Partly as a consequence of that, nearly 80% of B2B companies change vendors within 24 months.
  4. Nearly half of sales reps (49%) fail to meet their quota—a trend that has been consistent for some 10 years now.

If we put the stats together, the story looks like this: competition is intensifying and competitors are stealing customers. So, we have to find opportunities for new customers just to grow at the same rate. This is forcing us to spend more marketing and sales dollars to acquire new customers, creating a spiraling cost loop.

Furthermore, we continue to design, invest, and build our sales pipeline management the same way we did in the 20th Century—and our sales reps struggle to meet their sales quotas.

Things were definitely different then. Buyers more or less welcomed sales calls because salespeople were a source of valuable information about what competitors were doing and so on. Then internet boom allowed for buyers to research this data for themselves, so sales teams became more a nuisance than an asset and were mostly shut out.

Fast forward to the 2010s, content and social media became king as B2B companies began to invest in their marketing efforts. And then the global pandemic hit and sealed the deal of a new sales process. Now, marketing is everything: ABM, demand gen, growth marketing, etc.

B2B Bottleneck

So, B2B companies created a bottleneck, an operational bow-tie with large Marketing spend and large Sales spend. They gave practically no spend or thought to what connects the two big operations, namely Sales Development.

Here is one way to think about this. Your marketing department is tight on time and resources on sales performance (as much as you spend there). So, marketing campaigns end up going after the Total Addressable Market (TAM) instead of a more focused Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM). You end up getting leads that are too small, too big, or in geographies you can’t really sell for whatever reason.

None of these will ever go on your sales pipelines, and yet these “leads” pass on to your sales reps. They become overwhelmed by all these leads just to find the ones that they can actually work with.

The Problem with your Sales Pipeline

So, you hire Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to help with that. Only, you hire junior people, provide them with basic training and lots of technology, and let them loose on these new prospects.

The problem now is different. You have someone who was just a few months ago working at Starbucks calling on a senior decision maker who has been doing this for 10, 15 years. It’s like a high schooler saying to an NBA player, “Let me show you some slick moves…”. It’s not going to work out well.

So, all the money you spent on your marketing gets throttled down in the middle. Good lead generation slips away because those tasked with following up and setting appointments simply don’t know how to execute social selling or talk to these people.

As a result, your sales organization has to do its own prospecting. They spend less time moving those in the sales pipeline towards a close. The end result is missed quotas and missed sales opportunities.

The Solution

The solution is to design your company’s revenue operations in such a way that you avoid the bottleneck. This allows revenues to smoothly flow from Marketing all the way to Sales, facilitated by SDRs who grow the sales pipeline for the sales organization.

Sales Development is a strategic revenue operations partner—equal to Marketing and Sales. It needs to be headed by a senior strategic thinking leader, and its members must be capable of talking at the level of senior decision makers in global companies.

Most importantly, your Sales Development organization has to grow the sales pipeline (not meetings) and should be compensated the same way your sales organization is—by how much it contributes to revenues. It’s time to really rethink our revenue chain, and redesign it from the ground up to meet 21st Century sales needs.

The Hidden Cost of Sales—Low SDR/BDR Performance

cost of sales

The Story Behind Rising Cost of Sales

According to HubSpot, the cost of new customer acquisition (cost of sales and marketing) has increased by 60% over the past six years or so.

What makes this even more alarming is that when we combine it with another finding. A 2019 Accenture study reported that 80% B2B buyers are switching vendors at least once in a 24-month period.

Let’s add a third stat: a 2019 Salesforce study found that 57% of sales reps weren’t making their numbers.

I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time reconciling these numbers. If 80% of B2B buyers are changing vendors within 24 months, how are 57% of sales reps having trouble meeting their numbers? Shouldn’t it be easy to win new customers?

Looks like there is more to the story here.

And to tell that story, I have to tell another one first. In the 1990s (feels like a century ago, doesn’t it?), Dell Computers was growing faster than any other company—at least 100% every year for many years. Needless to say, they didn’t miss their numbers much.

One strategy Dell used to grow that fast was to cut sales territories by half each year. Sales reps screamed in anguish how this would kill their income…and each year they made more money than ever before.

Why? Because they got to know their customers more intimately when their territories were smaller. They focused more, learned more, and became far better resources to their customers—who became raving fans of Dell and wouldn’t buy anything else.

It seems that’s the story with every company that is growing fast—Zoom, Amazon, Netflix, HubSpot, Salesforce…They all know their customers—deeply. They, therefore, don’t lose customers, and their customers only buy more and rave about them to others—which means their cost of customer acquisition is going down, not up.

The “Cost” in Cost of Sales

With that setup, let’s focus our discussion on what we mean by knowing your customers deeply. And for our discussion, I’m going to focus on just the front end—sales and marketing.

In most B2B companies, and especially those that sell to enterprise accounts, their “front end” consists of Marketing, Sales/Business Development (“SDRs”), and Sales. Each is focused on a specific operation. Marketing builds the top of the Funnel, SDRs focus on the middle funnel, and Sales focuses on converting the bottom funnel into revenues.

Unfortunately, In many of the companies we work with, only their best sales people truly understand their customers, and thereby close the largest deals and have the highest win rates. Alas, they make up maybe 10% of the entire “front end”. The rest barely know anything about their customers, let alone deeply understanding them.

The inevitable consequence of that lack of customer understanding? 

Marketing content that is too generic and doesn’t draw the right customers; SDRs not getting leads and sending their own generic emails that mostly lead to more unsubscribes; meetings that are canceled because prospects don’t see the value in keeping them; underwhelming pipelines forcing sales reps to spend their time generating their own leads rather than moving the sales pipeline to close.

In short…more sales reps missing their targets, leading management to hire more SDRs and sales reps in the hopes of making their numbers, leading the cost of sales to rise each year.

Before you spend more…

As yourself, in your company, who really deeply understands the customers? Who can talk for hours regarding the customers? Who is that person, “you can turn on your recorder, sit back and let them talk?”

How many will describe your customers in terms of: what they struggle with each day, what their priorities, concerns and goals are; how their company makes money and how they get compensated; what they have worked on for so long to get right, and what they are afraid could change to disrupt that? How many know where the customer’s industry is headed, where new competition, regulations, and other threats are?

Does your marketing team understand this clearly? Is that what they are building their marketing content on? Are they driving the right prospects into the top funnel for your SDRs?

Do your SDRs know this? When they pick up the phone and call a senior decision maker, do they clearly understand how they can eliminate the key pain/cost/risk of that person and improve their numbers by “X” amount? Can they articulate that? Can they book and keep meetings with highly qualified senior decision makers?

At the very least, hold off spending more until you know the answer to these questions.

The Hidden Cost of Sales

That is the hidden cost of sales for most companies—their SDRs/BDRs don’t really know how to engage their prospects to get quality meetings booked for their sales reps.

As a result, pipelines are not sufficient to hit revenue targets and too many of your sales reps are spending too much of their time prospecting rather than moving leads in the pipeline towards a successful close.

Unsupported SDRs/BDRs are the hidden cost of sales and there is a simple solution to fix that—support them with these SDR services.

Let’s discuss your specific environment, challenges, and potential solutions:

Quadrant 3: Customer Retention and Upselling to Drive Sales

customer retention

Quadrant 3 is all about encouraging existing customers to buy new products; generally upgrades, add-ons, and bundles. In general, the goal is to increase the number of products your customers use by about 15-20% per year. It may seem like a big ask, but keep in mind that, apart from Quadrant 2, these buyers have the lowest perceived risk — they’ve bought from you before and are going to be a lot more willing to buy from you again, studies show. Meanwhile, the chances of selling to a new prospect are between 5 and 20%; selling to an existing customer skyrockets to as much as 60-70%. 

It’s crucial to invest in 3rd Quadrant prospects as it’s been proven to yield massive ROI. Bain & Company found that even a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% ROI. That’s a five-fold return. In the following sections, we’ll be looking at the strategies industry leaders are using to drive Quadrant 3 sales. 

Customer Support Strategy

The reduced risk factor for Quadrant 3 prospects is dependent on their elevated trust in your company. Make sure your customer support strategy continually renews their trust in you and keeps you fresh in their minds. 

This can be facilitated by having a scalable support infrastructure like chat and self-help portals that can offer painless and quick support to customers as they learn and use your products. You should also maintain good communication with customers in order to stay relevant and keep them educated on your products and updates as they come out. 

Keeping close contact with customers also yields valuable insights into their buying behavior, which can help when it comes to pitching new products to them down the line. Knowing your customers well (including their needs and pain points) translates into knowing what to suggest to them to make their processes more efficient. 

Customer Retention Strategies 

Quadrant 3 sales rely on offers like bundles, packages, and deals that incentivize customers to buy more products from you. Make sure you figure out which products are best paired together and create promotions that offer added value to the original products your customers want to buy. 

Automation can play an important role here, too. Use it to promote targeted marketing campaigns to customers based on what they’re already buying. For instance, if a customer is already buying product X, use marketing campaign A, and if they’re already using products X and Y, use campaign B. 

Sales reps should also be invested in these strategies. Train them on which products are to be recommended together and on how to pitch an additional product without coming off as too sales-y; customers want to know that you’re on their side and trying to add value to their purchase rather than simply selling to them. Management can build a compensation plan around account penetration to encourage Sales reps to fine-tune their upselling capabilities. 

Upselling Strategy

Everything discussed previously has essentially been strategies that support upselling, which is the main goal in Quadrant 3. Upselling is when you recommend additional products that will complement those the customer is originally buying. HubSpot has outlined some key strategies that support upselling and will ultimately drive Quadrant 3 sales. 

First, determine which product combos get the best results, both in sales and in customer satisfaction. You want to find combinations that make sense to customers when pitched (and can be backed up by proof, like with case studies or infographics) and that will ultimately add value to the customer’s original purchase. Tracking KPIs and asking for customer feedback can give some direction to these efforts and highlight which pairings you should be pushing. Oftentimes, segmenting customers by personas can help fine-tune which recommendations to provide and to whom.

Make sure your upselling strategy is based on integrity; you’re only hurting yourself if it’s done with anything less. Though upselling is generally very profitable, if customers sense they’re being taken advantage of or don’t find added value with the extra purchases you recommend, they’ll lose faith in your business and might churn. The products you upsell must be chosen with customer experience in mind, with the main goal of making them better, easier, or more efficient. 

To support upselling, make sure to consistently introduce new products that can complement one another. Releasing a new product every 2-3 years is recommended in order to keep complementary items current and relevant. 


Quadrant 3 is a great place to invest selling resources and if your customer retention and upselling strategies are well-thought-out, it can bring in considerable ROI. Driving sales in this Quadrant is all about investing in an excellent and helpful customer support strategy that will build trust between your customers and your brand. Some key customer retention strategies can also help boost your upselling capacities to reach your maximum Quadrant 3 selling potential. 

You can find more resources like this on the SOMAmetrics website under resources. Or click here to schedule a call if you would like to speak with one of our associates.

Quadrant 2: Customer Retention Strategy for Increased ROI

customer retention

Hubspot has shown that customer acquisition costs have skyrocketed by as much as 60% in recent years, making the customers that you do have that much more profitable to your business. As McKinsey notes, if you’ve already spent a sizable amount of time and money to acquire a new customer and they churn early in the process, you’ve lost out on the full potential revenue of that customer. Their study goes on to show that what’s separating top-performing companies from their competitors today is how efficient their customer retention strategies are. 

Customer retention is hugely important in today’s business world. Falling under the 2nd and 3rd Quadrants of the Four Quadrants of High Growth model, customer retention is all about encouraging existing customers to buy more一 either of what they’re already buying (Quadrant 2), or related products (Quadrant 3). Optimizing your customer retention strategy can lead to considerable perks.

Many companies tend to take their paying customers for granted, placing most of their marketing budget in Quadrant 1 and favoring customer acquisition over retention. Invesp found that 44% of companies have a greater focus on customer acquisition whereas only 18% focus on retention. It’s only when unsatisfied customers churn (and their revenue is halted) that these companies realize how crucial it is to invest in Quadrants 3 and 4. More importantly, they see how important it is to see all the Quadrants as important sources of revenue rather than just the first. In a study by Invesp, 70% of informants reported that it is cheaper to retain than acquire a customer, and indeed, existing customers are both 50% more likely to try new products and 30% more likely to spend more on them than new customers. Customer retention can be a game-changer if you invest in it. Bain & Company found that even a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% ROI. That’s a five-fold return. 

Fortunately, there are a series of proven strategies that today’s industry leaders are using to boost customer retention and drive Quadrant 3, all of which will be discussed in the following sections. 

customer retention

 Customer Support Strategy

Your target audience in Quadrant 2 already uses your products and is familiar with your brand. In order to promote the likelihood of them ordering more from you down the line, make sure you have excellent customer support. You want to develop their trust in the idea that your company is helpful and easy to work with. That way, they’ll be incentivized to become more involved in your offerings and might even become open to buying other products (i.e., joining Quadrant 3) down the line. If customers are unsatisfied with your company after purchasing from you, they’ll be highly unlikely to order any more from you. Conversely, customers that feel well-connected to you through good customer support will be all the more likely to engage with promotional offers or discounts to buy more. 

Remember that, from your customers’ perspective, everyone who works in your company is there to support them一 that includes Marketing, Sales, and everyone else, for that matter.

Also, remember that the best support strategy is to continuously educate your customers on how to use your product better to realize the returns they are looking for.

Customer Journey & the Buying Process

Current customers who have already vetted and approved your company are among the most valuable contacts for marketing campaigns. Make sure to keep your brand at the top of their minds even after they’ve made their initial purchase with you. The best way to do this is through email marketing一 by offering them promotions, discounts, or even premium services as a perk for buying more. Try to send at least one promotional email a month to keep connected with your customers and make sure these campaigns incentivize them to buy more. Update customers on new features that increase ease of use and efficiency and let them know about related products they may be interested in. 

The buying process in this Quadrant should be as simplified and easy for the customer as possible. On your end, too, it should be very low-touch and standardized; automate as much as you can and shoot for the majority of your purchases in Quadrant 2 to be completed without the direct involvement of a Sales rep. The operations should resemble a self-serve portal where customers can easily order more of what they want and have those orders fulfilled immediately. Automate pricing, contracts, and order fulfillment to ensure the buyer’s journey stays as seamless as possible. 

KPIs & Strategy Sharing 

As with any business strategy, the best way to improve your effectiveness is by measuring and analyzing the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). McKinsey found that customer retention success is best measured through customer-oriented metrics, such as website traffic, customer engagement time, response time, and conversion rate. However, other figures matter quite substantially here. The customer experience is important and metrics in customer frustration (perhaps with bugs on the website or with the products), a slow load time, or a poor onboarding experience can all highlight crucial areas that may need improvement. 

As these KPIs are analyzed and improvements are made based on them, make sure these valuable sources of information are not limited to just part of the company. Make sure that customer insights are shared across the entire organization, and specifically mutually updated by the Sales, Product, and Marketing teams. Feedback of this type will ensure an overall and constant improvement in customer retention that is propelled by a concerted effort across multiple departments. 


These days, it’s becoming increasingly more costly and time-consuming to acquire new customers, making it all the more important for companies to tap into the full potential of their existing customers in Quadrants 2 and 3. Quadrant 2 is all about encouraging customers to buy more of what they already use, and the key to maximizing this customer retention can be found through the following steps:

  • Grow trust in your company through excellent customer support 
  • Simplify and incentive the buying process
  • Track KPIs and share customer insights across the company 

Considering that even a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% ROI, customer retention is a great place to commit resources and boost sales. You can find more resources like this on the SOMAmetrics website under resources. Or click here to schedule a call if you would like to speak with one of our associates.