Part of your overall sales strategy, your sales development strategy is the blueprint or playbook your company uses to identify target prospects and start sales conversations.
This strategy is typically executed by sales development reps, who are responsible for the front-end of the sales cycle. These team members may belong to marketing, sales, or a hybrid team that lives between the two departments.
Like any good strategy, your sales development strategy should work backward from your goals. For example, if you aim to close $1,000,000 in annual recurring revenue next month, how many prospects do you need to identify, engage, and qualify? Given your average sales cycle length, by what date must you pass those leads to sales? Finally, what are the best strategies and tactics for achieving your goal?
In response to the last question, most sales development reps now rely on sales sequencing to communicate with prospects, which increases sales activity numbers and drives consistent sales execution.
Sales Sequences: The SDR’s Bread and Butter
Sales sequencing is a practice that was pioneered by companies like PersistIQ and Outreach in 2014 with the goal of generating demand from and starting conversions with targeted prospects.
Sometimes called a sales campaign, a sales sequence refers to a series of sales touch points, including emails, phone calls, and tasks, which are delivered in a pre-defined cadence.
Most sales organizations are now adopting solutions developed by companies like PersistIQ to execute sales sequences and measure their performance. (If you haven't already, you should.)
When this tactic emerged three years ago, sales sequencing software was disruptive in a few meaningful ways:
- You could automatically follow up with prospects
- You could consistently engage with prospects over time
- You could gain visibility into what was or wasn’t working
- You could scale your own execution and performance
- You could drive consistent results across the entire team
As a result, many sales teams and professionals adopted the technique.
Sales sequences are now considered an essential component of every modern sales development strategy. Unfortunately, that means that buyers are flooded with messages, causing them to see through this once innovative tactic. That, in turn, raises the bar for salespeople, who must do more to elicit a response.
The Problem with Sales Sequences: Diminishing Returns
We’ve all received a generic cold email. Most of us skim the copy, realize it’s a catch-all message, and promptly delete the email. After three years, we’ve been there and seen that—and we’re over it.
The thing is, most sales sequences rely too heavily on automation—failing to incorporate the human touch that you’d typically find in personalized communications.
Poorly executed sales sequences not only result in diminishing returns, but they can also harm your company’s brand and credibility. The second prospects realize that you’ve wasted their time and tried to deceive them, you’ve lost their trust (and their business)—sometimes for good.
Is The Sales Sequence Dying?
Traditional sales sequences don’t cut it anymore, which begs the question: Is sales sequencing dying?
After all, similar to fads, sales technologies quickly come and go.
Like most things in life, the answer isn’t black and white. Sales sequencing as we know it today may be losing its effectiveness, but the fundamental concept isn’t going anywhere. Its impact on sales performance is real and meaningful. The concept simply needs refinement to regain its effectiveness.
Consider these two facts:
1. Outbound sales is alive and well
That’s right: Despite what HubSpot wants you to believe, outbound sales isn’t dead or dying. ← This is a myth created by a group of (very) talented marketers.
Over the years, outbound sales has gotten a bad reputation for targeting “innocent bystanders” with “aggressive and pushy” sales messages. But when done right, it targets those who can benefit from your solution with messages that deliver value at every touch point.
The truth is, inbound marketing tactics can only get you so far. In many respects, it’s like a lottery. You produce search-optimized content and promote it across a handful of marketing channels in hopes of attracting the right buyer. But often, a large percentage of the leads you generate don’t fit the profile.
When it comes to consistently winning customers from within your target market and predictably growing your company, outbound sales has the upper hand. Not only can you maintain control over lead quality, but you can also effectively reach unmotivated buyers and penetrate new markets.
2. Sales sequencing has undeniable value
The benefits of sales sequencing are too good to give up. Not only do sales sequences power your pipeline, but they also improve your performance and productivity along the way.
By automating a series of sales messages and touch points, you ensure that you engage with prospects consistently. You stay top of mind and improve the likelihood that you’ll receive a response.
Plus, by transforming your most effective messages and campaigns into best practices shared by your whole team, you can eliminate hours of manual labor, consistently meet your sales quota, and drive sales growth through performance improvements.
Sales Sequencing 2.0: Two Rules to Live By
Now that we’ve established that this sales development strategy is here to stay, let’s consider two rules every sales development rep should live by:
1. Balance the power of automation with the effectiveness of personalization
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Too much automation is bad for business. The thing is, one-way communication is not a relationship. For any relationship to thrive, you must give as much as you take.
Smart solutions leverage the power of automation while keeping things personal enough to build rapport. Unfortunately, many of the sales sequencing products on the market today rely too heavily on automation. For example, Outreach makes it easy to blast generic sales emails to huge volumes of contacts.
In contrast, PersistIQ can enforce personalization, which helps sales managers maintain high standards and keeps sales reps disciplined.
It’s worth the extra time investment. According to a 2013 study by Experian, personalized emails deliver 41% higher click rates and 600% more revenue than generic emails.
But using variables like someone’s first name and company doesn’t cut it anymore. To attract (and keep) your prospects' attention, you must include hyper-personalized and relevant communication that can’t be generated by a machine. ← At least not yet!
We’ve got the case studies to prove it: Since using PersistIQ to create their sales sequences, BackerKit’s reply rates have jumped from 13.6% to 25.1% (an 84.5% increase).
Introducing more personalization into your outbound sales campaigns can boost the number of meetings you schedule. See how PersistIQ can help.
2. Prioritize quality over quantity
Investing more time in crafting higher quality outbound sales communication pays off. Not only can you start more conversations, but you burn fewer bridges along the way.
Say you’ve set aside time to create a new sales sequence this week. You’ve developed a list of 100 new prospects, but you know you don’t have enough time to create personalized messages for all of them.
You have two options: You can either create a generic, catch-all sales sequence to send to the entire list, or invest the time in crafting highly personal messages for 25 quality prospects.
Before deciding, let’s see how each would unfold.
You choose the first option. 100 prospects receive a generic sales message—and instantly see through it. The thing is, sales sequences have been around for a while. They now receive several cold emails per week. Yours is no different. You’ve shown these prospects that you don’t value their time. Unless they’re in dire need for your solution, they ignore your message.
The result: 2-3% agree to a meeting. The rest make a mental note of their experience, reducing the likelihood that they’ll do business with you in the future.
You choose the second option. 25 prospects receive a highly personalized message. It stands out from other sales messages in their inboxes. You’ve demonstrated an interest in their unique needs and circumstances and provided value at each touch point. As a result, you’ve gained their trust.
The result: 25% agree to a meeting. The rest make a mental note of their experience, remaining open to doing business with you in the future.
Which decision comes out on top? Option 2, of course. By personalizing your messaging, you landed twice the number of meetings. And, by showing the other prospects that you value their time, you kept the door open to doing business with them in the future.
A Sustainable Sales Development Strategy
Sales sequencing is an essential component of every modern sales development strategy.
Done right, it’s an efficient way to scale your sales communication, predictably fill your pipeline, and achieve strong sales growth.
But, be careful! When poorly executed, it can alienate prospects and tarnish your brand’s reputation.
When executing your next sales sequence, keep these best practices in mind:
- Prioritize quality over quantity
- Balance the power of automation with the effectiveness of personalization
- Measure and manage your sequences with PersistIQ or a similar tool