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TOPO Sales Development Council #12 – A Recap

Over 30 sales development leaders from the bay area’s fastest growing companies once again convened at the Four Seasons in San Francisco last Friday for TOPO’s Sales Development Council #12. These Councils offer a unique forum for sales development leaders from high growth companies to learn from each other and share best practices. Each Council features three speakers who share the processes, plays, organizational elements, and technologies they use to drive key revenue metrics. This Council produced a few key themes, including discussions about improving SDR effectiveness, refining the qualification definition, and creating effective touch patterns.

Some of the highlights from Sales Development Council #12 include:

  • The Sales Development Council attracted sales development leaders from over 30 high growth companies.
  • Sales development leaders from companies like LinkedIn, Cloudera, and Zendesk attended the event.
  • Our speakers were Miriam Olsen from Showpad, Chris Pham from Birst, and TOPO Practice Leader, Kristina McMillan.
  • We hosted the Council at the world class Four Seasons San Francisco, while the Cleveland Cavaliers were meeting in the conference room right next door. #GoDubs

Key Sales Development Trends

As usual, we started Council with a lightning round of introductions and asked attendees to share a “hot button” issue. Invariably, improving SDR effectiveness and decreasing SDR ramp time were among the most common challenges in the room. A large part of the discussion centered on these issues, as well as ideas for improving the way SDR leaders coach and develop their teams.

Some of the highlights from the three speakers’ sessions included:

  1. TOPO Practice Leader, Kristina McMillan, presented some early trends from our upcoming 2016 SDR Benchmark report. Kristina began by discussing how the top challenges SDR leaders are struggling with have shifted away from organizational elements, such as hiring and career path, to effectiveness measures, such as connect rates and conversion rates. She also shared insights around how the SQL definition is changing, and how organizations are still struggling to create effective touch patterns. Kristina offered recommendations for addressing these challenges such as 1) clearly defining one’s ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) 2) better enabling SDR teams with buyer-centric messaging to improve response rates, and 3) ensuring touch patterns are both well defined and managed.
  2. Miriam Olsen, SDR Manager, at Showpad, addressed the struggles new SDR managers experience when they first step into a leadership role. Considering SDR Managers are often promoted after being successful individual contributors (ICs), Miriam shared strategies and tactics for first-time managers to leverage, as well as guidance for Senior SDR leaders managing first-time managers. She also discussed topics such as the importance of learning & self-development, the need to manage time around high-value activities, and best practices for managing both individual SDRs and the team as a whole. The learnings she discussed generated lots of good questions and comments from the audience on how to structure SDR development to better prepare for this transition in advance.
  3. Chris Pham, Senior Director, Sales Development at Birst, discussed his team’s shift to Account-Based Sales Development and the work needed to realign the organization to this strategy. Chris broke it down into 4 distinct areas of focus: culture, process, people, and performance. First, he shared that culture needs to be actionable, and every leader should take time to identify their core values to empower the team to drive change. Second, to align on process, Chris discussed how he spends time with all of his leaders to ensure they have the proper skills and training they need to be successful. Third, he shared his experience around establishing meaningful training programs for his SDRs to improve their ramp time. He also shared a practice he calls “skilling” sessions, that empower his SDRs to learn from one another. Lastly, Chris stressed the importance of creating an environment of competitive collaboration, which leads to more activity and result in better performance and productivity.

That’s just a small portion of what we discussed at our most recent Sales Development Council. If you’re interested in attending an event, we have a number of Councils planned for next quarter, including Sales Development Council and Demand Generation Council. Send a request to analyst@topohq.com to be added to the invite list.


About the author:  David Hershenson, Senior Analyst, Sales Development Practice, TOPO

David is a Senior Sales Development Analyst at TOPO where he uses best practices and research to help clients achieve success. David has spent more than 15 years developing a high level of subject matter expertise running Inside Sales and Sales Development teams and is passionate about the design, initiation, and growth of sales organizations. As an experienced practitioner, David has held numerous leadership roles for successful SaaS companies, including salesforce.com, Yammer, and Zendesk.

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