There is an assortment of landmines that could go off when building out a new Sales Development practice and being that this is a field we are familiar with we wanted to help expose some of these landmines before you take your first step.
We simply wanted to provide you with clarity around the obstacles that await you and hope this post helps with your planning efforts.
- Effectiveness – Effectiveness, in general, is the greatest challenge overall and is rightfully at the top of the list. There are a lot of moving parts involved with the implementation and management of an effective Sales Development practice and it is easy to get caught up in the busywork. Increasing your company’s growth rate through carefully coordinated engagement opportunities with your ideal customer is the ultimate outcome and delivering on that should always be priority #1. Under-qualified managers will feel as though they are making a considerable contribution to the business with detailed reports and thorough training plans despite their team delivering subpar meetings, if they are delivering many meetings at all.
- Compensation – Incentive compensation plans for Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are very similar to incentivizing any other performance-based role in your sales organization. It’s all about driving the right behavior. The behavior needed from a team of SDRs is different for every company and varies depending on the company’s current conditions. Most SDR roles, in general, are focused on delivering new meetings and/or qualified sales opportunities. Getting SDR compensation right isn’t easy and yet it is the single most effective tool in driving the results you need. We have seen companies base a portion of SDR compensation on activity like calls and emails, and another portion tied to booked meetings. It is our advice to always tie SDR compensation to the deliverable you require. In most cases this is completed Discovery Meetings. Other questions that might come up are: Should we pay an incremental bonus for opportunities that close on the heels of a meeting set by an SDR? What if the meeting that they set was not with an ideal customer?
- Hiring – Forming an effective hiring strategy for your SDR positions comes back to the current conditions of the business. Are you hiring for inbound lead capture or for outbound efforts? Or a hybrid? Are you open to remote work or do you want your SDR team based in the same office (when office work resumes to normal)? What is the persona of the people they will be engaging with? Are they prospecting within a strategic/longer buyer’s journey with a large deal size? Or, is this a transactional sale with a smaller deal size? Answers to questions like these will shape the candidate profile. From there a job description can be written and the role can be advertised. Then the questions switch to your recruiting plan. Are you able to use 3rd party recruiters? If not, what is your company’s plan for engaging proactively with top talent or will you just wait for resumes to come in? Once you have applicants in the funnel, how will you assess them in the interview process to ensure they are a strong fit for the role? Do you have an interview track that is inclusive of cross-functional teams? Do you have a framework for each interview with carefully crafted interview questions intended to elicit specific responses that will confirm whether the candidate is right for the position?
- Sales Training – The biggest gap we see in SDR on-boarding/new hire training programs is the lack of training around actual sales skills. Marketing and the sales enablement teams do a great job of helping new hires understand Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) but if he or she has not learned the basics in the art of selling, then their ability to communicate value and overcome objects is going to be massively hindered. It’s not enough to bring your SDRs up to speed on your product and the competitive landscape, and then leave them to rely on their “strong communication skills”. Navigating a sales dialogue effectively is an art and there are important sales skills that are needed to ensure the SDR is able to convert conversations at a high rate. Giving them a book from the expert who spoke at your last Sales Kick-Off (SKO) isn’t enough either. Sorry to be brutally honest but we genuinely want to help make sure your Sales Development practice is as successful as possible. Properly developing sales skills takes time and a high degree of engagement from an impactful mentor. Someone who can role play, listen to calls, participate on calls, and help the SDR at every turn make the subtle adjustments needed to be a consistent contributor of new pipeline.
- Management – Small SDR teams that are well established with an experienced player/coach on staff inherently do not require a great deal of supervision. A full-time SDR manager that does not contribute could be over-kill at this more advanced stage. Prior to that, however, and especially when the practice is first being formed, it is vital that you have the right management model in place to ensure every component of your Sales Development program is implemented correctly and tuned to your business’ unique requirements. While doing this it is important that the program is stood up with as minimal distraction as possible. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most new SDR teams. A large percent fail and end up producing the opposite effect they intended to have.
- Messaging – Your company invests a lot of time and money into its message to the market and a very common breakdown in Sales Development programs is the message you have carefully crafted. With SDRs being at the frontline and the first impression of your business, being off-message is not something that you can afford. Unless you have a Demand Generation Manager who is writing the copy for all the SDR’s outbound email sequences, you could be in trouble. Leaving outbound messaging to your new SDR’s “strong communication skills” could be a vulnerability in your process that will directly impact conversion rates. We’ve already touched on the importance of hiring and training as methods to mitigate this potential breakdown but once again, that is not enough. How will you monitor how the Sales Development team is communicating with potential customers?
- Metrics – Prior to deploying a Sales Development team be sure to design a delivery model that clearly illustrates the results required from your Sales Development program in order to achieve your annual sales goals. Your delivery model is the basis of the performance metrics that will be assigned to your SDRs. Creating a Sales Development delivery model takes some work. It factors in the productivity capacity of an individual SDR, your approved headcount plan (budget), the growth in pipeline needed, and a few educated assumptions. From there you can tie it all together and assign obtainable metrics that SDRs can realistically achieve while providing a meaningful impact to the business.
- Process – Your Sales Development process is the culmination of several smaller processes. As an example, the process that ensues when an asset is downloaded from your website from a good lead. The process of targeting accounts for outbound prospecting. Designing and optimizing outreach sequences. The lead to opportunity conversion process. The handoff process from SDR to Account Executive. These are just a handful of processes that will need to be considered when structuring a scalable sales development practice.
- Qualification – The level of scrutiny that an SDR applies to a new lead can vary greatly. There are often cases where the threshold for what is acceptable has to be relatively high while in other scenarios the qualification requirements could be light in order to maintain a certain level of velocity. If the SDR team does not qualify their discovery meetings effectively your Account Executives will be inundated and distracted from the vital activities related to progressing opportunities to close. Striking the right balance is an important point that can help ensure your program is extremely successful.
- Structure – Structuring a Sales Development practice is not “just hire a couple of SDRs and give them accounts to call”. Will they be inbound focused or outbound focused? How will leads be distributed? Through a round-robin or territory-based? How will discovery meetings be distributed? Based on a direct alignment (ex: 1-SDR to 2-Account Executives) or some other method? A potential outcome to avoid is overloading one territory/Account Executive while the other closers are strapped with new/developing SDRs that might not yet be delivering. Spreading the effort and the results is key in order to ensure the sales organization as a whole is successful.
Please contact us for a free readiness assessment if you would like some help as you embark on the journey of scaling up a Sales Development practice.
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