Benchmark on one or the other, not both. “One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is setting internal expectations using introductory meeting metrics (quantity) and then requiring opportunity-level qualification (quality). This seemingly innocuous misstep often ends in total disaster.”
Maturity of market is critical decider. “In an immature market, the number one challenge your SDRs face is to arouse curiosity around a business issue that potentially hasn’t even been recognized yet. Sales development should be teeing up introductory meetings so that the account executive can do the work of educating the prospect and developing that curiosity into interest. If you’re selling a disruptive solution, asking BANT (budget, authority, need and timing) types of questions make no sense. There isn’t going to be a budget set aside for problems that prospects don’t know they have.”
SDRs free up AEs and are also a talent pool. “account executives at this particular company were wearing many hats. They were identifying accounts, reaching out to secure first conversations, conducting discovery calls, working existing opportunities, the works. This created a problem. The reps were so focused on the top of the funnel, on opportunity creation, that they were actually elongating their own sales cycles… To meet its aggressive growth targets, the company decided to build an in-house sales development team. This not only allowed account executives to focus exclusively on moving prospects through the sales process but also gave the company access to a pool of new candidates to nurture and grow — a farm team for future account executives.”
Intro meetings model means longer sales cycle. “For groups setting introductory meetings, business likely won’t close for months (or even quarters.)” Sales development is an investment, not a cost center.”
Marketing is not enough. “The reality is that the majority of companies source less than half of their pipeline from marketing. Only the tiniest fraction — about 10 percent of companies — are able to source more than three quarters of pipeline from inbound. Companies with revenue less than $10mm receive only 41% of their pipeline from marketing.”
SDRs need to go after elephant accounts. “Since inbound is worth twice as much as outbound, I say go after accounts twice as big when you go out-bound. Winning large customers is much more about causing a sale, not just catching one. That doesn’t mean calling each and every prospect under the sun. It means identifying the accounts that are the most profitable and targeting them with outbound activity.”
Inbound SDR can handle nurturing 200 leads per month. “One inbound SDR can typically handle about two hundred to three hundred leads a month when fully ramped.”
Inbound and Outbound SDRs are different. “Separate inbound and outbound into distinct roles. We split the role for three reasons. First, lead routing rules had become complicated to the point of being cumbersome. Second, reps were constantly shifting gears between inbound and outbound. That was impacting momentum. Finally, reps followed the money as the compensation plan paid at different rates for inbound versus outbound.”
Territory division for outbound SDRs “The outbound team: Territories were divided by geography and product. Initially, reps were measured on the number of introductory meetings- a less strict qualification criterion than their inbound counterparts. Over time as outbound effort matured, the model migrated to generating qualified opportunities. At that point, the group focused on target accounts. They deeply qualified opportunities before passing to sales counterparts. Without the (often distracting) flow of inbound leads, reps were more strategic about planning their days.”
Use different methods. In addition to executing a multi-touch cadence, reps need to vary the media they use. This should include the following:
*ghosting is calling a prospect, hoping to catch the live, and not leaving a voicemail.
Cadence. Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft, certainly knows about cadence. In fact, his company built a product that help sales development teams execute prospecting. Kyle shared SalesLoft’s 7x7 cadence which includes seven attempts for each new prospect over a span of seven days. The pattern follows:
Day 2- It’s a phone call with no voicemail.
Day 4- It’s another email.
SalesLoft has found that for their market seven touches in seven days works best. For many of my clients it is nine touches in fifteen days. Don’t get hung up on the numbers, you will find your unique formula with trial and error.
them. One way to do this is to demonstrate relevancy. For example, your reps could reference something happening in their industry, with their role, at their company, or that they shared in an interview or on Twitter. Prospects don’t care that your reps made two other attempts. “Haven’t heard back from you after my last call” and “Following up on my recent email” aren’t good enough reasons to call again. Each message should build on the previous and offer something new. Referencing previous attempts wastes precious airtime and often comes off as hostile.
Time is limited. It is my personal belief that reps shouldn’t take up the beginning of their voicemails saying their name and company name. It wastes valuable real estate, and it makes them sound like everyone else.
No Contact. An account shouldn’t be marked “no contact” until at least two prospects have said no (or not responded).
Next steps. Closing out a discovery call without a confirmed next step is just a waste, so have a process in place to make sure it does not happen and trach those outcomes.
These are the metrics that leaders can manage and reps can control. Telling reps, “Hit your number; I don’t care how you get there,” is great bravado and terrible management. Informing your reps that activities will lead to z results is real leadership. The Objective metrics you’ll want to measure include the following: # of connects/connect rate, $ of quality conversations/rate, Email response rate, “Bad data” rate.
number of quality conversations is one of the most important indicators of rep proficiency. Does a given rep have the ability to arouse curiosity and launch a conversation with a prospect? Or is the rep being shut down and kicked to the curb form the get-go?
No shows. If you are setting introductory meetings, the cruel truth is that no-shows are a reality. A no-show rate of 15 percent to 20 percent is normal. Any more than that and you should evaluate whether your reps are sparking curiosity or badgering prospects to accept meetings they don’t ever plan on attending.
Gotta use Glassdoor. “Far too many companies haven’t even claimed their Glassdoor profiles. Their company pages are stock and bleak, and they present only the bare minimum of information. To stand out from the crowd, spice it up. Add pictures, videos, awards, information about your culture, your philanthropic commitments, etc. to your profile.”
Use a survey to narrow down candidates. “Here’s how it works in practice. When candidates submit a resume, prompt them to take a five-minute survey. There are several immediate benefits. First, the candidates prove they’re interested by investing an additional five minutes. There are plenty of resume blasters out there — reps who apply for any position with a pulse. They are unlikely to begin and even less likely to finish your survey. We’ve just eliminated them in one fell swoop. Here are a few sample questions to give you a feel for what this might look like…
Which two of the following do you consider our closest competitors? (Pick list: include three competitors and three non-competitors)
If you only had thirty seconds, how would you explain what we do to someone you met in an airport or coffee shop?
Ask about real stories. Behavioral questions ask candidates to share specific examples of how they’ve performed in past situations. Ziprecruiter’s Kevin Gaither, who earlier shared his approach for sending LinkedIn messages to candidates, commented, “too many managers ask questions about how someone would handle something. To me, that’s just a BS way of trying to get at the answer, because how they would respond is not nearly as important as how they have responded in the past. I’m not looking for textbook answers. I’m looking for real stories.” So many candidates are asked the same exact questions in the interview process that their responses are rehearsed.
Be fast and deliberate when hiring. “Take a look at some of the most highly rated employers on Glassdoor, and you’ll notice a common thread: Their interview processes are lean. Many run from soup to nuts in just two weeks. If you want your perfect candidate to choose you, you need to move quickly. Here’s my (admittedly aggressive) timeline.
Phone screen — Day 2
On-site interview and shadow — Day 5–8
That’s ten business days from application to offer. Personally, I prefer the offer to come from either the CEO or the VP sales — As high as you can go. This is a final opportunity to make the candidate feel special. Just like with job descriptions, add some personality and sizzle to the offer letter.”
Productive time is short. “Productive time in the role is just simple math: Tenure minus ramp time. On average, that’s just eight to fourteen months.”
Hire in classes. “The massive efficiency gains from hiring two or more reps simultaneously vastly outweigh the boldness of the proposition. Training for one single rep tends to be informal, ad hoc, and (too often) sloppy, but training a “class” demands more attention and quality preparation. New Hires Bond Together: A class mentality leads to peer-to-peer coaching, better brainstorming, and a healthy competitive spirit. The big benefit is that new reps don’t feel like they’re alone. If you’re launching a sales development group from scratch, you absolutely want to hire as a class. I suggest you budget for an initial headcount of at least three reps.”
Job descriptions. “Most of us were taught that a job description should, well, describe the job. But that’s totally backwards. A job description should sell the job. Your job description should be an amazing piece of content that you’ll use to attract the best talent. In a highly competitive market, you’ll be selling the sizzle, while every other hiring manager will be documenting the chemical makeup of the task. EXAMPLE: Zenefits is the fastest-growing SAAS company ever. The founders managed to hit on a great idea at just the right time, and now they’re reaping the rewards. Two years ago, we had six employees and zero customers. Only a year later, the company hired 212 employees and signed over 2000 customers. EXAMPLE: We’re looking for recent college grads that want to jump-start their career through enterprise sales and business development. Did you know that 40 percent of S&P 500 CEOs come from sales and marketing backgrounds? Previous sales experience in technology doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t a requirement (the majority of our team came directly from the dorm to our office! The line “40 percent of S&P 500 CEOs come from sales and marketing background” is killer. More often that not, when people graduate from college, they don’t run out the door waving their diplomas and hollering, “give me a list, give me a phone, I’m ready to hammer out some dials!
SDR Comp. “The average base is $46k and on target earnings are $72k. The core plan has no more than two moving pieces, and the nuances can be bulleted out on a cocktail napkin. If it takes PowerPoint and a cross-country plane ride to explain it to the rep, the plan is broken. I don’t believe that reps should be rewarded or penalized for the skills/actions of others. This includes tying a large portion of incentive compensation to won business. SDRs can’t choose their partnered account executives. Nor do they participate in the opportunity process. A large share of their income shouldn’t be dependent on factors outside their control. Base salary should be roughly 60–70 percent of total compensation for sales development reps. Also, whenever possible, pay incentive compensation monthly. These SDRs aren’t your angel investors. Don’t make them wait for a payday.”
Don’t pay for closed deals. “For groups generating qualified opportunities, there is a strong impulse to equate quality with closed business. This often translates to paying the bulk of incentive compensation for closed deals that were sourced by the SDR. From a management perspective, this is couched in terms of “driving alignment with the business”. From a rep perspective, they will often refer to it as “screwing me for things outside my control.” It is my firm belief that you shouldn’t tie more than 20 percent of incentive compensation to “opportunities won”
Set expectations. “We may tell a candidate the story about the person who got promoted in six months, but we tell them that they could just as well expect to spend two years in the role. Doing a good job of setting expectations upfront prevents disconnects and the inevitable disappointments.”
Going from SDR to AE is big. “The jump in skillset from the SDR role (prospecting and qualifying) to an AE role (challenging and closing) is significant. Very few can seamlessly make the leap. The micro-promotions we detailed above are a way to bridge the gap. Adding small amounts of incremental responsibility along the path can be a great way to vet an SDR’s desire and abilities. You could have SDRs work on larger accounts, call higher into target organizations, or perhaps participate in demos or sales calls for the opportunities they generate. The important thing is that they have the sense they are learning new skills and are upwardly mobile. Also, be sure to communicate that this isn’t a one-and-done process. You might find that excellent AEs come from SDRs who took two or three attempts to demonstrate their readiness.”
Promote only if you would hire. “The moral of the story: promote only those you would hire. Put your SDRs through the same hiring and evaluation process you would for external candidates. No one benefits — not you, your company, sales leadership, or the SDRs themselves — When a promotion sets reps up to fail.”
6+ attempts. “Reps are giving up too quickly. Studies have found that it takes between six and ten attempts (including at least four by phone calls) to properly prospect a given contact. Consider the following from insidesales.com. The absolute bare minimum number of attempts to contact at least 50 percent of your leads is 6. The average rep’s performance? Between 1.7 and 2.1. In addition to executing a multi-touch cadence, reps need to vary the media they use. This should include the following: Voicemail, Email, Other (ghosting, texting, social media). Ghosting is calling a prospect, hoping to catch them live, and not leaving a voicemail. One voicemail and email are equally important. Two, voicemail and email together are twice as impactful as all the rest combined”