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TOPO Sales Development Funnel

The proliferation of sales development teams in B2B companies over the past decade has been unprecedented. While the sales development (SD) function has existed for at least 30 years, many great companies safeguarded their sales development process as a “secret sauce.” Today, sales development is considered a requirement for any normally functioning B2B sales and marketing organization, and SD practices have become virtually standardized across companies. In fact, TOPO’s research has shown that 100% of high-growth organizations have sales development organizations.

At the core of sales development is a team of people specifically focused on engaging potential prospects via inbound lead follow-up and/or outbound prospecting to set qualified meetings for sales. Furthering the sales development phenomenon is the fact that SD teams are achieving unprecedented output.

In TOPO’s 2017 Benchmark Reports on sales development and sales, two key insights emerged:

  • Sales development teams are creating more sales pipeline than ever before, delivering record levels of sales qualified leads (18+ SQLs per month) that convert to closed business at an average rate of 22%.
  • Sales development teams create roughly 65% of pipeline for the B2B companies surveyed.

Today’s sales development teams are not telemarketers who cold-call lists all day. They are process- and metrics-driven organizations built for efficiency and optimization delivering significant results for the world’s best B2B companies. Over the past two years, TOPO Analysts have researched the best practices of SD teams to inform the design of our TOPO Sales Development Funnel. It is a framework for designing, executing, and measuring a world-class sales development organization.

Key Takeaways

The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the foundation for all sales and marketing efforts, including sales development. The ICP defines the types of accounts that will deliver on key economics for the organization, such as close rate, potential revenue, velocity, and retention. The ICP becomes the basis for the target account list, prioritization, and qualification criteria.

The sales development process is built for inbound and outbound processes. Inbound and outbound sales development efforts have unique underlying activities, but the key milestones of the SDR funnel are predominantly the same.

Lead and account prioritization drives efficiency as SDRs focus their efforts on the right prospects. The substantial effort required to create an SQL mandates that SDRs stay laser-focused on the leads and accounts most likely to meet the SQL qualification criteria. For example, with inbound lead programs, SDRs might focus multiple touches only on the accounts that fit their ICP, while sending automated emails to those that don’t. 

The Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) definition is key to aligning Sales Development and Sales. The SQL definition is a mutually-agreed upon set of criteria and attributes that determine when a prospect is qualified and ready to be passed to sales. SQL definitions are based on demographic factors, such as account and prospect role, as well as psychographic factors, such as an active project or relevant business need. All SQL definitions should require that a handoff meeting between sales and the prospect has occurred.

Sales Development is indispensable in driving high-converting pipeline. 100% of high-growth B2B organizations have sales development and those teams contribute to 65% of the sales pipeline. Sales development is not optional, it is a requirement to growing demand and enabling sales to focus on what they do best, closing business.


About the Author: Kristina McMillan
Kristina McMillan leads the research organization behind all of TOPO’s practices. She works with TOPO’s analysts to develop best practice frameworks and actionable research that help clients cultivate world-class demand generation, sales development and sales organizations. She is also one of TOPO’s sales development experts and advises clients on all matters related to sales development. Previously, Kristina spent 12 years as a best practices consultant and practioner helping build sales development and inside sales teams for companies such as Knova, Taleo, Eloqua, Five 9, Zmanda, and more.

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