September was a landmark month for TOPO’s Sales Development Practice. Our analysts published new research on underperforming SDRs. Leaders from the sales development community gathered for our 2nd Sales Development Council. The addition of several amazing customers has us hard at work continuing to build leading sales development teams at the world’s fastest-growing companies.
Expanding on the success of the first TOPO Sales Development Council, we were excited to bring together an even larger gathering of 35 top sales development practitioners. It was a morning of sharing best practices, examining trends in the industry, and collaborating on strategies to take sales development organizations to the next level. We learned last time that putting the best and brightest in a room together yields incredible results, and this time was no different.
Here are the highlights:
- 35 SDR managers, directors, and VPs were in attendance.
- Companies like Zendesk, CallidusCloud, Intacct, Jive Software and Okta were represented.
- Our three speakers were Kristina McMillan of Five9, Russ Hearl of DoubleDutch, and our very own Craig Rosenberg of TOPO.
- Our exclusive sponsor Salesloft partnered with us to make the event a success (thanks Kyle!).
- The Rosewood Sand Hill had us back for everybody’s favorite croissant breakfast sandwiches.
It’s as old as sales, the pitch, but I am shocked at how frequently salespeople stumble through it. Every rambling cold call, every flustered kid at an event booth, every email that reads more like a novel…it all stems from the same inability to simply articulate what you sell and why it matters.
So, let’s begin with a redefinition. Today’s best salespeople aren’t so much “pitching” as they are delivering a “value proposition.” The difference, while subtle, is important. A pitch is typically self-serving and remains the same each time you deliver it. It also tends to devolve into a features-and-benefits sell: “Let me tell you about this really cool product. It does this and that and all these great things!”
A value proposition, by contrast, is buyer-centric, and thus adapts to each situation. “Our product has been helping companies like yours with value 1, 2, and 3, by doing X.”
34 demand gen professionals joined TOPO last Friday for our first Demand Generation Council event. The event was only our second ever, but like our Sales Development Council event last month, the half day session turned out to be an excellent forum for some of the world’s fastest growing companies to share demand gen best practices. Much of this success can be attributed to the design principles that we’ve adopted for these events. First, we are laser-focused on the patterns and best practices that high growth companies exhibit. Second, we only allow marketing and sales practitioners to speak and attend TOPO events. Third, we tell all of our speakers and attendees that specificity wins – thought leadership/pontification does not play well at these events.
One of the most striking things our analysts see is the lack of standardization that exists in most sales organizations. There’s a staggering number of “one offs” – gerrymandered sales territories, custom comp plans, salespeople who “just do it their way”, content created by individual reps…
The lack of sales standards should come as no surprise though. Sales leaders and salespeople alike are strongly incented to make decisions in the context of achieving quota in the current or next period (whether that period is a quarter or a month). This results in short-term, one-off decisions, like allowing one sales rep to own a vertical, even though the 99 other reps on the team have geographical territories. Sales management and CEOs rationalize these decisions with the mantra “we need to hit the number”.
TOPO recently held its first ever event – a meeting of the TOPO Sales Development Council. The event was a terrific success, bringing together 26 of the world’s leading sales development practitioners for a half day of in-depth learning and collaboration. Our objective for this event was simple – put a small number of smart people in a room to talk about their specific experiences building and managing sales development teams.
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.
Account based marketing is getting serious attention these days. Vendors, bloggers, and market research firms are fueling a resurgence in account based marketing’s popularity. ITSMA coined the phrase in 2004 and B2B vendors have been doing this type of marketing for years (but without calling it account based marketing). For the last several years, sales and marketing teams have been trying to re-think demand generation, understand technology such as marketing automation, wrap their hands around inbound marketing, and have now realized: “Well wait a minute, we sell to companies – we need to build our sales and marketing machine accordingly.”
Here is ITSMA’s definition of account based marketing:
“Treating individual accounts as a market in their own right”
A structured approach to developing and implementing highly-customized marketing campaigns to markets of one, i.e., accounts, partners, or prospects. This approach involves marketing and sales taking a close look at key business issues facing the target, mapping them to individuals, and tailoring campaigns to address those issues.
One of the most critical functions in converting leads to opportunities is a sales development team. Sales development is a group whose main job is to identify, connect with, and qualify leads. When a lead is qualified, they hand the qualified lead over to a sales person who is in charge of working the rest of the sales process and hopefully, closing the deal. Some organizations call this role lead qualification, lead development, account development, telemarketing, or inside sales. For this post, we will call the role “sales development”.
Your revenue often depends on having a high-functioning sales development function. I am one of the biggest proponents of the sales development role. Here is a brief write-up that includes my views from Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Lead Qualification: