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Sales Development Best Practices for Targeting IT: An Interview with Lars Nilsson

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 Lars Nilsson, VP of Sales Operations from Cloudera. He’ll share his best practices, most impactful decisions, goals, challenges, metrics and the most effective technology his team is using today.

We figured out how to use scoring to properly identify “SDR Relevant Leads”

Question 1: What decision did you make that had the biggest impact on your sales development team’s success?

Deciding to “Auto-Convert” leads coming in against existing accounts into contacts under those accounts. This solves the problem of:
a) Clearing out all the false-positives of inbound MQLs from partner activity. We have 1300 partners in our ecosystem and they hit our website, go to our events and download our collateral to the tune of generating 25% of our MQLs. The increase in productivity alone from diverting this lead management, triage and email + phone follow-up is putting hours back in our SDR’s day.
b) Converting known customer and active prospects inquiries automatically into their existing account objects as contacts allows us to alert both the account owning sales rep and the teamed SDR at the same time allowing for better collaboration, communication and proper follow up activities.
c) MQLs are now actually “leads” in the pure sense in that they are inquiries coming from unknown and or un-targeted accounts. When these are scored properly by Company Revenue, Industry tag and Geography parameters, our SDRs end up following up on exactly what they are suppose to be…what I call the “SDR Relevant Lead”.

To recruit and retain top millenial talent, create a 12-18 month career path for advancement

Question 2. What is the biggest challenge your sales development team is facing in 2015?

Creating a career path internally for these young millennials. Our sales organization has primarily been built out with very experienced field sales reps. The gap between our SDRs and Field Sales was wide and there was no route for SDRs to move into the field. Over the last year, we have built two phone based closing teams, the Education Sales Team and the Corporate Sales Team. The Education Sales Team is an overlay organization that sells private training courses into our customer base. They work alongside our field reps to increase attach rates on the initial subscription deals, as well as drive stand alone training deals which they source and close on their own. The Corporate Sales Team focuses on the Small and Medium Enterprise and is responsible for new logo wins, as well as renewal and expansion into our install base for accounts that fall outside of our Named Account list. We have also promoted one SDR to SDR Manager. We find that the lifespan of an SDR at Cloudera is about 12-18 months and to recruit and retain top talent, we will need to continue to build out the inside sales organization and provide clear paths for advancement within that time-frame.

Segment the SDRs to provide more focus and specialization

Question 3. What are the Sales Development Team’s biggest initiatives for 2015?

a) Team Segmentation: In 2015 we will segment our SDRs into 3 teams. Inbound, Hybrid, and Outbound. Our SDR team has grown in such a way that this pivot provides more focus and specialization. The Inbound team, will process and triage the leads from accounts with less than $1B in revenue. The Hybrid team will be tasked with “landing” new opportunities and expanding workloads inside of our target accounts. The Outbound teams mission is to qualify net new logos in the greater $1B plus market.

b) Process improvements: The segmentation of teams allows us to be much more prescriptive in their distinct processes. Because of the auto convert process laid out in question one, the majority of our inbound leads will be “SDR relevant” which allows us to prescribe and manage to warranted lead follow up. For the outbound team we will be monitoring researched leads added; quality touches; connects; SQOs: and SQO conversion.

c) Phone Use: Segmentation allows us to model out where this activity is most relevant in the data infrastructure space. We believe this is still an important touchpoint for high scoring inbound leads, but not as much for early evaluators or cold outbound prospects.

Lars Nilsson

Use a complete set of middle of the funnel metrics

Question 4. What are the top 3 metrics you use to measure your sales development team’s performance?

Meetings Scheduled; ACV coming from converted MQLs to SQOs; Conversion %’s of SQOs to SAOs and Weekly pipeline add coming from converting SQOs.

Because we sell to IT, we have a lot of success connecting via email

Question 5. What technology is having the biggest impact on your sales development team’s performance?

From an operational perspective, LeanData is a large part of the auto-convert strategy mentioned above. We used to use Eloqua to help with auto-convert, but LeanData has allowed Sales Operations to fully own that process and LeanData gives us more functionality that Eloqua.

From a Sales Development perspective, our reps leverage a number of technologies including LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Yesware, DiscoverOrg, and InsideSales.com. Because we primarily sell to IT, we have a lot of success connecting with our prospects via email. Yesware allows us to monitor opens, click throughs, replies, etc. so we can be more strategic and precise with our phone follow up and focus on the people that are engaging with our content.

Today’s author: Lars Nilsson is the VP of Field Operations for Cloudera, the company that is revolutionizing enterprise data management by offering the first unified Platform for Big Data, an enterprise data hub built on Apache Hadoop™. Prior to Cloudera, Lars founded SalesSource, a premier business services consulting firm specializing in Salesforce.com customization and sales process development to aid venture backed start-ups scale and drive pipeline. Lars has also served in Sales Executive roles at ArcSight/Hewlett Packard, Riverbed Technology, and Portal Software. All three companies achieved an IPO.

  • braybies

    The statement “, the phone is still important for high scoring inbound leads, but not for cold outbound prospects” is very misleading. This article documents a sales team selling into the IT industry. How many IT guys do you know that are killer on the phone? Very few. IT guys prefer email, because they are more comfortable in front of a computer. That’s what they do. If I was selling sales technology (outbound), I would call the sales manager and sell him on my software. For instance, companies like Ambition and Datanyze fall under this category. Sales guys will buy from other sales guy, either on the phone or in email. In an outbound scenario, selling to other sales guys, the phone is always the best form of communication. With all that said, nice read.

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