Last week I had the pleasure to spend a day at the first ever conference dedicated to the growth and development of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs).
For those that are not familiar, SDRs fill the increasingly important role of reviewing, contacting, qualifying, and ultimately moving marketing generated leads to your new sales team. Utilizing SDRs has become increasingly popular as it allows selling organizations to increase efficiencies and utilize talent to their most valuable use.
It was an exciting, fast paced day (and kudos to the team at SalesLoft for putting the program on). I left with 5 important takeaways that impact any growth-oriented executive:
While it’s not new, everyone is still trying to figure it out.
While the term SDR is relatively new, the idea is not. I remember in my first company one of my first hires was a Business Development Associate whose job was to follow up on the leads we got from the seminars we put on across the country and determine which ones were the right ones for me, or one of our sales executives to take over.
For as long as I can remember companies have been using appointment setters (either internally or by outsourcing). While the SDR function is far, far more than about appointment setting, they both come from the same vein of specialization and focus.
That said, the growth and importance of SDRs as a core part of the client development process is multiplying fast. Companies as big as Salesforce.com and as small as today’s startups are all still figuring out how to best initiate and integrate what has proven to be a core sales acceleration strategy.
SDRs are table stakes for fast growth
Trish Bertuzzi, founder and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group (a leading advisor on inside sales and SDRs) shared with the audience that today, if you’re a technology or pure SaaS company, if you don’t have an effective SDR function, venture companies won’t even consider funding your company.
While the vast majority of companies we work with are not interested in venture funding, there’s still an important lesson here. If you’re goal is consistent, scalable high growth, you simply cannot rely on your sales team to generate enough leads to meet your goals. Additionally, you can’t rely on Inbound Marketing or other lead generation strategies to move prospects through the funnel fast enough.
Whether it’s a result of the trend of prospects doing more and more of the decision process on their own, increased competition or simply the increased noise in the market, SDRs are a crucial resource to enable you to connect, engage and qualify prospects.
For those who know me, it’s no secret that I love data. While opinions can be interesting and experience can be quite valuable; data, effectively used, allows you to truly assess what’s working and what needs to be improved.
Consistent, scalable growth requires the ability to work at a velocity that most companies are not familiar with. The only way to do so effectively is to have the systems in place that allow you to capture data accurately and apply your learning quickly.
Whether it’s assessing a list, determining if one message or approach is better than another, or to assess your sales team, it is critical that you have the data in place to make and support effective decisions.
Technology is necessary and confusing
If you’re not leveraging technology to support your growth, you are falling behind. As I’ve shared before, marketing automation is no longer optional to compete effectively; and increasingly sales acceleration tools are becoming crucial to success as well.
The danger here is that the technology landscape is getting increasingly crowded, complex and confusing. You can simply choose a technology and forget about it. Increasingly you must have people who are assessing new technology, reviewing your existing technology and laying out a roadmap for your organization. This means the rate of change your sales team is going to have to manage is going to continue to increase, but there’s simply no other way around it.
Alignment is crucial
I will share in a later post how to build (or outsource) an SDR function. The one thing that is clear is that alignment between the sales efforts and the marketing efforts is more important than ever.
When you implement a sales development function effectively it serves as a bridge between the two efforts, but it adds complexity as well. This means that clear service level agreements (SLAs) and prospect definitions must be in place and communicated clearly to all to be effective.
One of the most exciting aspects of the conference was the community that is clearly forming with the sole intent of enhancing this strategy and supporting its practitioners to greater heights. It reminds me of the Inbound movement that began almost 10 years ago.
Some of the leading thinkers in this space have active and insightful blogs and white papers that they freely share. I encourage you to review the material that The Bridge Group is sharing. Additionally, Craig Rosenberg of TOPO regularly comments on the process, and Steve Richard of Velocify provides insight to the nuts and bolts of execution.
And, of course, stay tuned here as we’ll be sharing more insights and data about how to integrate a sales development effort into a scalable lead generation and management system.