Sales Development has evolved from a secret sauce of high growth companies to “table stakes” for B2B sales organizations. 15 years ago, I remember having to make impassioned pleas for executive teams to invest in sales development. Back then, there was only a 50% chance they would make that investment. Times have changed. Now, you would be hard pressed to find a successful, high growth technology company that doesn’t have a sales development team.
In 2014, TOPO benchmarked the sales development function at high growth companies to understand the processes, people, technologies, metrics, and plays they employ to drive revenue growth. The benchmark data reveals a handful of patterns shared by high-growth companies that are extraordinarily valuable for other companies to understand. In this post, we’ll focus on 11 key strategies identified in the data. There are many more in the actual report.
When you sign up for the on-demand version of our webinar “11 High Growth Sales Development Strategies”, you can watch a presentation on these 11 strategies and you will also receive a copy of the 2014 TOPO Sales Development Benchmark Report.
TOPO is committed to bringing the sales development community the latest trends, data, and best practices from the fastest-growing companies in the world. Today, we continue our sales development interview series with Sean Kester, Head of Sales Development from SalesLoft. He’ll share his best practices, most impactful decisions, goals, challenges, metrics and the most effective technology his team is using today.
In the 2014 TOPO Sales Development Benchmark, only 27% of companies surveyed still used BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) for their sales qualified lead (SQL) definition. This represents a recent, yet significant change in thinking about what constitutes a sales qualified lead. While BANT qualification still works well in certain organizations, the majority of organizations are using a looser definition such as ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money) or AN (Authority, Need).
In today’s selling environment, the ability to deliver an effective sales email is absolutely essential to prospecting success. The phone is still a critical channel, but it is highly inefficient. According to to the outsourced demand generation and training firm, VorSight, it takes 22.5 dials before you can have a meaningful conversation. As a matter of fact, Coca Cola just disconnected their corporate voicemail. This has made connecting via email more important than ever, and the industry is responding, as evidenced by the rise of sales email applications such as YesWare, ToutApp, and SalesLoft. However, corporate buyers are getting more emails than ever before, with the combination of sales emails and those being sent via marketing automation. This means, while email is essential, your email will be ignored if you are not able to pierce through the high volume of emails your prospects receive daily with compelling email copy that provides value to your prospect.
Sales development is one of the most important processes an organization can build to deliver a seamless, efficient revenue machine. Sales development is a phone-based team that identifies, connects with, and qualifies leads. When a lead is qualified, they then pass the qualified lead to a sales person who takes over for the rest of the sales process. From Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Sales Lead Qualification and Sales Development: “Put simply, SDRs (Sales Development Reps) pass the baton between marketing and sales.”
In this post, we want to explore best practices for designing, building, and optimizing a sales development team.
Every organization needs to map their target buyer’s buying experience before they make any decisions about the design of their sales and marketing function. TOPO came to this realization as we worked with clients over the last year to solve vexing challenges in their sales and marketing organizations. A client would come to us and ask a critical sales or marketing question. While we offered best practices and strategies to the client, most of these questions were best answered by their buyers. For example, marketers would often ask “What content types do buyers prefer?” or “What content will really convert?” The more questions we heard, the more we realized: The buyer is the best person to answer this question.
The buying experience will tell you how your buyers want to buy. This insight will allow you to properly design your sales and marketing organization to deliver the buying experience your buyers want. As a matter of fact, our research has found that the buying experience is more important than product and price. Homayoun Hatami, co-leader of the Sales Growth practice at McKinsey, provides his take on the importance of providing a buyer-centric sales experience: “Sophisticated customers are not interested in traditional sales models. They demand faster, more seamless, and even enjoyable sales experiences.”
Content selling is the practice of leveraging content to support sales as they facilitate the buyer’s progression through their buying process. Sales is trained to understand who the buyer is, where they are in the process, and what they need. Once they understand those factors, they use content, along with some strategically designed sales plays, to help move the buyer along. This approach is fundamentally different to the standard “close-close-close” approach and it works. Greg Alexander from Sales Benchmark Index is a major proponent of content selling and he told me in an interview that sales leaders who have adopted this approach are typically at 150% of quota and have a job expectancy rate of 3-4 years (versus the more typical 18 months). He has said on numerous occasions: “In the future, a piece of great content will outsell an average sales rep. The self-directed buyer will begin to make complex purchases with zero rep involvement. Scary for some. Exciting for others.”
The sales technology market is growing at breakneck pace. At last years Sales 2.0 conference, it was estimated that there are over 2000 Sales 2.0 solutions on the market. If you don’t believe those estimates, then look at the number of sales solutions listed on the Salesforce.com AppExchange. I counted 746 applications as of August 7, 2013.
There are a number of reasons for this growth:
Webinars are an essential part of any content marketing and demand generation program. One question I always get about webinars is: if buyers are so busy, how does anyone have the time to sit through an hour long webinar? Loren MacDonald from Silverpop once wrote a brilliant answer to this question: “Many people view webinars as an hour of free consulting and training”. Webinars allow organizations to open a classroom for an hour and provide valuable, interactive content to their prospects and customers. As such, they are a very effective tool for driving customer engagement. They also tend to convert at a high rate because there is a deadline to register. With written content, people can “get to it when they have time”. With webinars, people who want to attend will make sure they register in a timely fashion.
One of the most important factors in creating a scalable, repeatable revenue machine is sales and marketing alignment. In aligned organizations, sales and marketing are working together in a coordinated effort to achieve the ultimate goal: revenue. There is compelling data that highlights the effectiveness of aligned organizations:
- Organizations with tightly-aligned sales and marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 38% higher sales win rates – MarketingProfs
- Companies with dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes had an average of 10% more of their sales people on quota – CSO Insights
- Aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% annual revenue growth while less aligned companies reported an average 7% decline in revenue – Forrester Research
- B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three year period – Sirius Decisions
Despite these statistics and years of emphasis, sales and marketing alignment continues to be a struggle. The good news is that there is a desire to change. The biggest impetus for this new mind-set has come from sales. Sales now realizes that buying behavior has changed and marketing now must own a significant portion of the buying process. A recent Sirius Decisions poll of 300 sales leaders highlights this: “The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople.” Sales needs marketing now more than ever.