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.