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Account Based Sales Development: A TOPO Case on Cloudera’s Sales Development Process

Consistently generating sales qualified leads in the enterprise is a constant struggle for outbound sales development teams. This presents a significant challenge for the 93.4% of companies that conduct outbound prospecting, and particularly for the 54% of organizations that have a dedicated outbound SDR role. For these organizations, the traditional “numbers game” sales strategy in which SDRs send mass cold emails and make calls with the same generic message no longer produces results in the enterprise.

As part of TOPO’s commitment to identify the most effective tactics in sales development, we studied the highly successful outbound process from Cloudera, which Lars Nilsson, VP of Global Inside Sales, calls “Account-Based Sales Development.” This strategy, founded on the principles of Account-Based Marketing and adapted for sales development, focuses on launching tailored, SDR-driven campaigns into specific target accounts. Cloudera has implemented this strategy to produce incredible results in the most coveted, but also most difficult segment to penetrate, the $1 billion+ enterprise. For example, Cloudera has seen a 20% lift in SQLs generated and a 31% email response rate. Further results and deeper analysis into this process are detailed in the TOPO case report: Account Based Sales Development.

The Cloudera Account Based Sales Development Process

Cloudera defines Account-Based Sales Development as the coordinated process of developing qualified pipeline in a target addressable market by running proactive multi-touch campaigns into target accounts. These coordinated and proactive email campaigns make it possible to deliver relevant solutions and use case specific content. The process is outlined below:

Cloudera ABSD Process

The sales operations organization built accounts for every company within Cloudera’s target market of companies over $1B in revenue and loaded them into Salesforce.com. From this database, SDRs work with their AEs to identify accounts for ABSD campaigns within that database. To prepare accounts for these campaigns, SDRs use LeanData to consolidate all relevant leads, contacts and data into master accounts. SDRs use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and DiscoverOrg to create a target list of contacts. SDRs leverage AEs and Cloudera Subject Matter Experts to develop three custom emails completely tailored to the specific account. The custom emails are loaded into Outreach.io for a week-long campaign with three emails sent 2-3 days apart from each other. Once an SDR connects with a relevant contact, their job is to set an appointment with sales. There are no stringent qualifiers such as budget or timeframe.

Outbound Sales Development Takeaways

Cloudera’s outbound strategy highlights several important takeaways all outbound sales development teams should internalize.

The traditional numbers game of having SDRs produce a large quantity of un-customized dials and emails fails to achieve results in enterprise outreach. Traditionally, organizations targeting the enterprise tend to provide SDRs a broad territory and then ask them to produce large amounts of phone and email activity in hopes that they will eventually connect. Today’s busy buyer requires an average of 22.5 dials to connect, making the numbers game more inefficient than ever before.

Successful outbound enterprise outreach requires a standardized, repeatable process that can deliver buyer-centric messaging at scale. Cloudera’s Account-Based Sales Development process is a perfect example of the difference in results between an unorganized, numbers game approach and a targeted, account-based approach. Cloudera has dedicated SDR resources running a smaller number of well-planned, coordinated campaigns against specific target accounts. This approach has yielded a 20% lift in sales qualified leads generated for sales.

Advances in the SDR technology stack enable organizations to run target account outreach more efficiently than ever before. New technologies, built specifically for sales development, have enabled companies like Cloudera to scale highly customized outreach. For example, Cloudera leverages LeanData to consolidate data into target accounts, LinkedIn to identify and research ideal contacts within those accounts, and Outreach to automate highly targeted email campaigns. In short, there is a dedicated app to optimize each step of the process.

Buyer-centric messaging customized to each individual account and buyer provides significant lift in email conversion rates. Targeting outreach campaigns by account enables Cloudera SDRs to research individual accounts and buyers and speak to their exact pain points. As a result, these campaigns produce a 60% open rate, 31% response rate, and massive increases in both net-new opportunities and add-on business from current customers.

Enterprise outreach should be managed in Salesforce.com with accounts/contacts and not in leads. In targeted outbound sales development environments, organizations are forsaking the leads tab in Salesforce.com and having SDRs work out of the accounts and contacts tabs. This allows the organization to track and leverage all current and historical data to plan and refine their outreach strategies.

Selecting the right contact data provider is essential for executing enterprise outreach programs. Cloudera leverages LinkedIn and DiscoverOrg to build thorough contact lists in their target accounts. SDRs leverage keyword searches relevant to their product to target the buyers most likely to experience the pains Cloudera solves. Larger accounts often have 200-300 contacts. This wider level of engagement often results in SDRs scheduling as many at 15 meetings in an individual account.

If you’d like access to The Cloudera Case Report: Account Based Sales Development, contact TOPO at www.topohq.com. If you have specific questions for the lead analyst on this report, Bryan Gonzalez, you can reach analyst@topohq.com

About the Author: Bryan Gonzalez is TOPO’s Sales Development Analyst. He publishes research and helps clients design, build, and optimize their Sales Development organizations. Prior to joining TOPO, Bryan was a founding member of two high-growth SDR teams, and helped launch, execute and scale their Sales Development programs.

  • Andrew Beltran

    Excellent insight into Cloudera’s Sales Ops Org and Process for Sales Dev Outreach!

  • This is a good summary. Forsaking the Lead object in Salesforce is a mistake in my opinion. You can develop a business process central to Accounts, and still provide vision of contacts and leads simultaneously. This achieves the use case explained without abandoning the multitude of data relationships dependent on standard object architecture.

    • Lars Nilsson

      Thanks Andrew. …and As for the lead object, we are definitely not forsaking it. ~40% of all inbound marketing inquiries come in and stay as lead objects and are triage’d, researched and followed up on by an SDR with a very specific methodology. The inbound leads that are auto-converted are leads that are coming in against known and already existing account objects. Inbound inquiries that come in against current customer and active prospect accounts that have AE (Account Executive) owners and being actively worked by them are the ones that get auto-converted. In addition, Inactive target accounts that are owned and being actively prospected into by AE’s and their teamed SDR’s are also being auto-converted; This is done so that both the AE and the SDR get alerted the instant an inbound inquiry comes in. Real time AE alerting is not possible as they are not owners of leads. We also auto-convert known SI/VAR/ISV partner accounts so as to divert “non-SDR relevant” leads ( we get 20%+ inbounds from these partner accounts). There are a few more reasons auto-conversion works well for our operation, and I could see how this would vary from operation to operation.

      • Please forgive my delay, I appreciate your reply to my comment. It’s provided great clarity on the reasoning- which I generally agree with given the role-object alert dependencies mentioned above.

  • Manuel Medina

    This is great piece. At Outreach we have fully embraced the ABSD model to great success. The trick is the amount of pre-work you need to do mapping out personas and buyer’s journeys to select the right communication channels, sequence, timing, and language. ABSD is a powerful framework for anyone looking for a high velocity/high frequency enterprise sales model

  • Ilan Kopecky

    Great stuff, but it poses a question since the model above suggests auto-converting leads into contacts (and not necessarily creating an opportunity); how does DemandGen get credit for the inbound lead if credit is due? if an opportunity is created later, which lead source is it attributed to?

    • Lars Nilsson

      Great question Ilan, thanks for asking. Lead objects that are converted still and always will carry their unique marketing campaign identifier (if they indeed came from a marketing campaign and not added manually by an SDR through finding in Linked-in or D.org.). Those leads when converted AND if an influencing factor in any opportunity will get tagged with a “contact role” against the opportunity and thus be tied to any pipeline/revenue generated. Frustratingly, and in this day and age of Marketing automation, where nurturing emails are constantly sent out to both lead and contact objects, one lead/contact can end up with 10+ unique campaign identifiers making marketing lead attribution that much more difficult.

      • Ilan Kopecky

        Exactly our problem today, Lars. Thank you for clarifying.

  • Great overview of Account Based Sales. The days of sending mass generic messages are over. ABSD is a major improvement for both the buyer and seller.

  • Miles Varghese

    Still relevant as always. The post that keeps on giving! Thanks guys.

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