Sales Development and Sales Alignment is Key to Driving Quality Pipeline at High Growth Companies
If you want to join the ranks of the highest of high-growth companies, do not leave alignment to chance. It’s a fool’s errand to expect a 22-year-old sales development rep (SDR) fresh out of university to develop a consistent, scalable, repeatable prioritization, execution, and qualification process. Be prescriptive in your expectations and methodical in the tools you arm your teams with. I use the sales development team as an example because they bridge the gap between marketing and sales, and are a pivotal piece to the pipeline puzzle.
How many times have I heard from go-to-market leadership, “We need to beef up our SDR hiring profile so we can hire folks who are go-getters and can improvise on the job,” which is actually code for, “We don’t give our SDRs the structure they need to thrive, so we want someone who can work well under ambiguity.” How many SDR interviews did I conduct myself where I was searching for that “special sauce” of analytical thinking and innate sales skills when all along I should have drafted my own repeatable recipe into our internal process?
In the absence of a playbook, a few of your highly analytical, stand-out SDRs will develop their own processes so they can get paid. (Or, worse, they’ll quit and find another organization that provides the structure and incentives necessary for them to succeed, both as an SDR and eventually as an outside sales rep). But for the overwhelming majority of your team—who have never held full-time, quota-carrying roles and aren’t able to think strategically yet—you must be prescriptive. You need to show them how to think strategically and tactically as they approach their daily work.
To achieve that prescriptive clarity, you must first figure out what your SDRs should be doing. Do you know exactly what they are going to do first when they sit down for work each day? What about their second, third, or fourth task? How should they prioritize accounts or inbound leads? How much time and effort are different accounts or inbound leads worth?
The majority of the recommendations that TOPO Sales Development Analyst Dan Gottlieb and I have given our clients recently have been around prioritization and process definitions. You cannot create clarity, drive productivity, and increase team morale without them.
Misalignment between sales development and sales kills sales effectiveness
Recently, our team met an SDR from a high-growth technology company who didn’t know how to prioritize his day—the first sign of a greater alignment problem. Let’s call him Gary.
The marketing machine at Gary’s company was working hard and delivering a high volume of quality inbound leads with intent and engagement scores, yet Gary didn’t know what to do with them. Every day Gary would review his lead queue and try to chip away at it without a method for who to target first and with what message. Unfortunately, Gary was also struggling with another alignment red flag—ad hoc qualification criteria from sales reps. This led to anxiety and unpredictability on both sides of Gary’s world: what entered his world (leads) wasn’t structured in a way where he could tell what was important and what to do with it in order to meet his quota, and the success of what was leaving his world (qualified leads to sales) depended on the individual rep’s qualification definition. Talk about a lack of consistency! How do you scale when you leave that much room for interpretation?
No inbound prioritization process + undefined qualification criteria + lack of a concrete handoff process = missed numbers, low morale, employee churn, and personal resentment and distrust from the marketing and sales teams.
Our recommendation to Gary’s sales development leader was straightforward: take the time to define qualification criteria, get buy-in from marketing and sales, and give your team the processes and methods they need to win. Once the team aligned their most time-sensitive plays with their hottest leads, they developed a playbook for what a typical day should look like for SDRs. They tackled questions like: Should we put more effort into inbound qualification and nurturing for lesser qualified leads? Should we jump into outbound prospecting against a named account list? What kind of personalization do I apply to different segments? What do our touch patterns plays look like for different segments?
The answers for each organization depend on revenue and strategic goals, of course. But the lesson is clear: specificity wins when you are explicitly defining the process that connects marketing to sales development to sales.
Process and specificity win in order to drive your company into high growth
Getting this strength of alignment in place should be table stakes, let alone if you want to join the ranks of truly high-growth companies. You cannot afford to let internal distrust fuel a downward spiral of slowed growth. Take control! Let process bring your teams together, even if it feels awkward and artificial at first. Everyone in your go-to-market team will thank you for the clarity and your pipeline dashboard will reflect your newfound alignment.
Using a third party advisor (like TOPO) to help identify gaps in your process and facilitate alignment discussions is a major benefit to the pain we see go-to-market leaders have as they attempt to solve problems without best practices of what other high growth companies are doing and an unbiased, third party assessment of their current state. You know what’s broken, but you don’t know what great looks like or how to go from misalignment to a humming organization hitting its growth goals – that’s where we come in. Reach out if you’re interested in learning more about how we help go-to-market leaders today.