I have to admit that I’ve been looking forward to this year’s Inbound conference. As usual I’m excited about plugging into the growing inbound community, hearing the latest trends and insights, previewing some of the new technology that will be filling our sales/marketing stack in the future and catching up with old friends.
What’s different this year is that I’ll be speaking about one of my favorite subjects – how to effectively implement sales development programs. I’m pumped about it not only because I love talking about the topic and sharing our experience, but more so because it demonstrates the acceptance and importance of the sales development function in any growth effort.
At first blush it may seem a contradictory subject for the conference. The creators of the inbound movement (as well as the term “inbound”) have asked me to speak on a strategy that is all too often confused with old-school, cold call tactics. The reality, as I’ll share in my presentation on Thursday, is that sales development is the yin to inbound marketing’s yang. Every company that is serious about sustaining growth in the future needs to understand and adopt key components from the sales development playbook.
Last Friday, I shared the story of a friend of mine who runs an inbound marketing agency who was fired by client even after exceeding their target goals in the first six months. The reason was that while they were creating plenty of leads, those leads weren’t turning into bona fide revenue opportunities. Their experience is not unique.
What Happens When You Don’t Have A Sales Development Function
As I continuously write about here on The Demand Creator Blog (and elsewhere), the complexities associated with successfully penetrating high value accounts has increased exponentially (and continues to do so). Here are just a few of the challenges selling organizations face:
- The decision-making process of most B2B organizations has gotten far more complex. The Challenger Sales study identified that buying organizations have gotten increasingly consensus-driven. Where in the past the key to success was to connect a VITO (very important top officer), today you must increasingly have already connected with lower levels before VITO is open to a discussion.
- As we all must deal with more demands on our time, connecting with key influencers and decision-makers has gotten harder. According to TOPO (a sales acceleration research firm) the average number of attempts it takes to connect has increased to between 8 and 12 contacts (and growing).
- Whether you agree with the studies that say buyers have taken on the vast majority of the buying process without talking to salespeople, there is no debate that buyers don’t need salespeople like they once did. This means the effort and threshold to be able to make contact with key influencers is growing as well.
- As solutions have increased in complexity and nuance, the time and energy it takes to successfully manage a high-profit sale is increasing. Salespeople must be able to dedicate more time than ever before to managing and facilitating increasingly complex sales and buying process.
I could go on. The point here is that traditional (simple) approaches like the hunter/farmer model are no longer sufficient to be able to predictably scale growth. Before all the sales consultants out there start attacking, please note that I am not saying that individual salespeople cannot be successful using such approaches. Certainly they can, but they’re outliers. The reality is that they’ve always been outliers, and now they’re more so. The problem is that you can’t scale growth with such approaches.
More so, why would you want to? Think about it. Attacking the market with the expectation that your salespeople are going to prospect, engage, manage the sale and close is simply inefficient at best, and (well, to be frank) stupid at worst. It would be like running an NFL team and ignoring the passing game. Yeah, it worked for Bronko Nagurski way back when, but this new stuff isn’t just a fad.
Consider these drawbacks to traditional prospecting approaches:
- Most salespeople who love prospecting don’t enjoy managing complex sales processes, and most who enjoy managing complex sales processes don’t enjoy prospecting.
- As you get successful in one area, you have less time for the other.
- Salespeople are all too often limited by their weaknesses (she’s really good managing relationships, she’d make so much more if she’d only prospect as well; and vice versa).
- Hiring is difficult.
- There’s no track to grow salespeople successfully if you have to be able to do everything to succeed.
When building sales development processes into your overall process you are able to match talents, skills and experience to job roles more effectively, integrate your entire go-to-market machine to be more powerful and more effectively align your approaches to your buyer’s.
What It Takes to Succeed at Sales Development
Sales development is not just another word for cold calling. Nor is it a buzzword for appointment setting (I’ll be sharing a post in the near future explaining the difference, so stay tuned). Sales development is a highly sophisticated strategy merging the strengths of your inbound marketing, lead management and sales processes to unlock efficiencies and enable you to scale growth.
Mastering sales development is not as simple as reading a book (no matter how good Predictable Revenue is – and it’s really, really good). Success at sales development is as much about the plumbing as it is about the people.
And that’s why I’m speaking on Thursday at Inbound 2015 (if you’re there, please join me). Implementing an effective sales development process requires a clear understanding about the process, playbook and technology that you will be using. If you can’t be at Inbound to see the presentation, I’ll be sharing the video as soon as it’s available.
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