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The Specialized Sales Development Team: An Interview with Kristina McMillan of Five9

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 interview Kristina McMillan, Director of Sales Development for Five9. She’ll share her thoughts on sales development best practices, goals, challenges, technology, and metrics.

Focus on the sales development metrics that impact day-to-day efforts

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

2014 was the year of visibility for my team. We talked about our numbers on a daily basis and had dashboards for everything, but there was just too much noise for my team to really see the message in all of that data. So we focused on simplifying and broadcasting only the relevant metrics that impact my team’s day to day efforts. We actually put two simple dashboards up on TV screens that showed activities of each SDRand how they were performing compared to their team. This transformed productivity and created more urgency in the team’s culture.

By getting back to basics, the team is better able to prioritize and self-manage their actions for greater impact, and respond quickly if they are heading in the wrong direction.

sales development metrics

Inbound sales development requires different skills than outbound

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

We are in the process of creating specialized inbound and outbound roles on our team. The rationale is that inbound and outbound require very different approaches and skill sets, and specialization will yield greater productivity. The biggest challenge with decoupling a hybrid role is easing the transition of some of my best reps to doing outbound full time. Unlike the high volume quick success of inbound, they are struggling with the slow, steady, and strategic process of trying to get outbound started.

Though we are in early days, our success so far has been from having daily check-ins with the outbound team to discuss everything from email messaging, to organizing research and contact discovery, to better use of tools (like LinkedIn and Leadspace), to managing the emotional frustration of not getting traction in an account. We are staying extremely close to the daily ups and downs and encouraging the team to think of this change as an opportunity to forge the process and strategy for this role, and giving them the autonomy to be creative, curious, and bold in their efforts.

Specializing the roles of inbound and outbound SDRs increases output by 28%

Question 3: What are the sales development team’s biggest initiatives for 2015?

Segmenting our inbound and outbound efforts into specialized roles is our biggest initiative in 2015. As with most companies, we are being pressed to get more results with less money, despite increasing revenue goals. We currently have a team of 8 SDRs now that focus about 75% of their time on Inbound and 25% of their time on outbound. We honed our inbound process significantly in 2014, and increased productivity by nearly 30%, and now have to focus on determining and optimizing an SDRs capacity for outbound. We expect that this move to specialization will increase our overall team output by 28% with the same headcount and offer a more defined path for growth for the SDRs before moving to other sales teams internally.

The most important sales development metric is the number of opportunities created

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

Our top metric is # of opportunities created (that means accepted by a sales rep and added to the pipeline). We also look at qualitative metrics like conversion from qualified lead to opportunity and then to close, and quantitative metrics like # of touches per lead, # of overall activities, and SDR efficiency (# of SAOs generated from 100 leads compared to peers).

Use technology to enhance and grow your marketing database

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

We have been hyper-focused on optimizing marketing’s demand generation funnel to ensure that we are enhancing and growing our overall marketing database. This means focusing on content strategies for nurturing our existing prospects as well as identifying net new prospects and accounts to target. We use Salesforce and Marketo as our foundation, and have added in predictive scoring with Lattice Engines, data enhancement and intelligence with Leadspace, and advocate marketing with Influitive. We also use technologies like BrightTalk, Integrate, and Kenshoo to help with net new names.

The SDRs use Five9 (our outbound dialer product) and ToutApp to improve the efficiency of their calls and emails.

Today’s Author: Kristina McMillan is currently the Director of Sales Development at Five9, the first pure cloud contact center solution helping companies drive better customer experiences by improving customer satisfaction across all channels of customer communication, such as calls, emails, chat, and social media. Prior to Five9, Kristina spent 8 years as a strategic consultant focused on helping startups build high performing sales development teams with best practices around process, technology, training and coaching. She has worked with Eloqua, Taleo, Coupa, Knova, Zmanda, Bloom Energy and more, many of whom have achieved a successful exit.


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