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The Most Common Sales Development Questions Answered

Modern sales development remains a relatively new specialization in sales, bringing with it loads of questions about how to best manage Sales Development Reps and their work. In the first post of our 3-part Sales Development series, we examined the rise of the SDR. In the second post, we explored tips and best practices for hiring the best sales development team.

Today we'll take on some of the most common questions that come up for sales development teams.

At their root, most questions about SDRs get to the same issue: how do you define and measure the success of your sales development team? Unfortunately, there's no simple answer. The tactics you take will depend very much on the product you sell, the customers you sell to, how well you know your customers and the size of your team.

So let's start with a big one:

 

When is a lead developed by an SDR qualified "enough" to hand off to an Account Executive (AE)?

Sadly, not all leads become customers. If they did, the sales infrastructure could be much, much leaner. But there's a reason the tasks of developing leads and closing deals have been split in recent years and it has everything to do with efficiency. It can take a long time and a lot of work for an Account Executive to close a deal. If it's a high-priced deal, the ask is all that much greater. Far greater than scheduling a meeting or a demo, for instance.

But just because it's easier to get someone to say "yes" to a demo, doesn't mean the SDR needs to schedule one. If an SDR passes along too many weak leads to an account executive, the AE will be wasting time pitching non-buyers. If an SDR is spending too long qualifying a lead and the AE's pipeline dries up, there's no one to pitch.

There are criteria for when an SDR can call a lead "qualified," therefore ok to pass off to an AE. At the very least, an SDR should make sure the lead is at a company or organization that could plausibly use your product, is in a position to make or influence the buying decision and has expressed a clear need for a solution like the one you offer. Avoid creating situations where an SDR might qualify a leads just to hit a quota.

For a look at why it's critical -- especially for a startup -- to avoid letting account executives spin their wheels on hopeless leads, check out this post by Redpoint Venture's Tomasz Tunguz. "Investing in improvements at the top of the sales funnel, particularly in early prospect and lead qualification are so valuable," Tunguz wrote. "They save the time and energy of a startup’s go to market teams and can meaningfully improve unit economics" (click to tweet this gem from Tomasz).

 

What are the best metrics for rating the success of SDRs?

Again, the answer will vary across customer-types and market segments and what stage your company is in. You want these metrics to be aligned with the overall goals of the organization and also recognizes and rewards hard, smart work.

If you're just starting up and need to learn a lot about who your best customers are going to be, set high quotas for outbound activity. It's the fastest way to learn. But don't be afraid to tweak the metrics as you refine your process. After you have a better idea of who you're targeting, volume will necessarily drop. Check out our Quick Start Guide to Outbound Sales for more on personas, company profile matrix and execution plans.

But if the only metrics are dials per day or qualified leads, an SDR will have an incentive to boost them artificially. Avoid these situations by tying some piece of the SDR's performance to the overall success of the sales team. At the end of the day, the goals are to win more customer and earn more revenue. Reward the SDRs who help you get there.

Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven, offers some great advice on how to find your main sales KPIs in another post on our blog.

What are some tricks for finding good prospects?

The more resourceful the SDR can be about prospecting, the more successful the team will be overall.

But before you start looking for prospects, figure out what and who you're looking for. Start the process -- if you haven't already -- by creating an "ideal client profile." This is basically a list of attributes that your best customers will generally share. If you're stumped on where to begin the list, look at your existing customers and start with the things they have in common.

Still stumped? Read Aaron Ross's and Marylou Tyler's excellent book Predictable Revenue or check out this blog post on the division of labor on the sales team for ideas.

Now that you have a list of attributes -- such as job titles, responsibilities, company size -- think of places where you can turn those into search terms or keywords. In his book Hacking Sales, Max Altschuler advises answering these questions:

  • What products are my customers using that I complete with, complement, or might translate to interest in my product?
  • Where are these people living on the web?
  • What do I consider my low-hanging fruit?
  • What can I decipher from my previous closed deals that I can use in my new ones?

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an excellent tool to start answering these questions, but everyone uses it -- including your competitors. Some other excellent places to do homework on your prospects are Angel.co, CrunchBase and forums or groups discussions.

Twitter is another place where people volunteer a lot of professional information. Followerwonk, Moz's Twitter bio search, is a great place to start prospecting groups of people with it's "audience targeting" feature.

The key is to get creative and use every tool available to you across your sales stack.

"Sales people who embrace the technology and new opportunities available are going to get ahead, especially at a startup where you really need to use your resources wisely," Max tells Insight Squared's Cara Hogan recently (tweet that knowledge now!).

 

How do you keep SDRs happy and engaged?

No question, the job of an SDR can be brutal. SDRs are ignored and rejected all the time. And because they aren't responsible for closing deals, they can easily feel like they have little control over their own destiny. It's a situation that can lead to demoralization, burnout and high turnover.

But these bad outcomes can be avoided by managing SDRs well and creating an environment in which they can thrive. How?

Make sure SDRs and Account Executives check in with each other regularly. These don't need to be long meetings -- 20 minutes is usually enough, according to Ralph Barsi, the sales development director at Achievers. Keep SDRs in the loop about the progress of an account. They'll appreciate knowing when accounts close and may be able to offer insights that can help the deal along.

Moreover, don't interrupt an SDR during a period of intense work. If you see an SDR banging out call after call, let that person rip. There's a rhythm and cadence to this kind of work, and interruptions can ruin it.

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Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

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