As we’ve written about before, growth-oriented companies have a serious lead management problem. As more money is being invested in lead generation strategies, the chasm that exists between marketing and sales is becoming more prevalent. Marketers, who for the last several years were heros for multiplying lead volumes, are now being challenged on the actual revenue impact of those efforts.
While sales executives are buoyed by growing customer budgets, they are finding that the sales effort needed to win the business is mushrooming. A recent research report highlights that winning a B2B sale in 2015 took 52% more touches than 2014 and the sales cycle lengthened by 32%. This means that hitting revenue targets is harder and more expensive.
In response, leading companies are changing the playbook they’re following to attain growth. A core piece of that new playbook is the implementation of a dedicated sales development team to bridge marketing and sales.
Download our Sales Development Playbook Workbook here to learn how to create an effective outbound approach.
The impact of effective sales development strategies are well documented. While sales development is becoming a standard in venture-funded technology and SaaS companies, other industries are lagging and often resisting this new approach.
After several years implementing these programs in several industries, I thought I’d share the most common reasons I hear about why the approach is resisted, and how to deal with each issue.
1. It’s too aggressive
Often when someone not familiar with real prospecting sees the intensity of the cadences involved in making the initial connection, they respond with disbelief, objecting to the aggressiveness of such an approach. Before sharing an initial campaign design with a client, I warn them that they’ll want to cut back, but to fight that urge.
In fairness, sales development - inbound or outbound - campaigns are aggressive when looked at in a vacuum. When you consider what’s involved in making contact and you review the data, you quickly learn that anything less would not work. This is actually the biggest lead management mistake I see made by companies. They fail to do enough to make contact and advance the prospect, so the effort that is put forth is purely a disruptive waste.
The reality is that aggressiveness is not really an issue. Instead it’s obnoxious or meaningless efforts that are the problem (see examples here). If you use the crucial filter with every communication you won’t create many problems, even with an aggressive outreach strategy. That filter is: Are we creating value with every communication and touchpoint?
2. You need to be experienced to sell in our industry
This is my favorite objection. The reason I like it so much is that it’s both fair and wrong. Certainly the challenge with building a sales development process is creating an environment where a young, inexperienced salesperson can have a valuable, resonating conversation with an experienced, often senior, executive.
Addressing this issue is all about creating an effective sales development playbook and coaching. The job of the playbook is to provide your reps with the information, insights and soundbites to have a meaningful conversation about very specific issues. Coaching is what enables the rep to apply the playbook effectively.
The goal of a sales development process is the creation of sales qualified leads (SQLs) not to sell. This means that your sales development reps (SDRs) don’t need to have expertise about your solutions (you don’t actually want them to have that expertise). Instead your job is to train them on the limited problems that your prospects have, and teach them to ask effective questions that drive the process forward.
A strong playbook and coaching addresses the experience issue.
3. We sell professional services
This is a close cousin to the previous objection. I often hear people say, “Doug, this makes total sense if you’re selling a product. But, we sell a service. The issues we address aren’t as defined as a product is.”
To that I say two things. First, don’t be lazy. Defining the issues for a service is no harder than for a product. It requires work and focus. Don’t let it be your excuse.
The second thing I say is precisely what I said about experience. The SDR shouldn’t be an expert on the service. They need to understand the problem set deeply enough to have a relevant conversation and ask the relevant questions that drive the process forward.
4. We’re implementing inbound so we don’t need sales development
Make no mistake, I’m a huge, raving, crazy fan of inbound marketing. However, less than 1% of companies implementing inbound can rely on those leads alone to meet their growth goals - and even those that could would be foolish to do so. Consider the fathers of inbound - HubSpot. They generate 70,000+ leads plus per month. They still have a strong SDR team that follows up on the leads that are created.
Simply put, if you’re waiting for the people who downloaded your stuff to also call you up to do business, you’ll only be getting a small fraction of the revenue you should be getting. We have a saying at Imagine:
Sales development without inbound is just glorified cold calling;
Inbound without sales development is merely charity.
Inbound and sales development work together to solve the same problem. Being a fan of one approach by no means exempts the other.
5. Our salespeople won’t like it
This one took me a little while to understand. After all, what salesperson wouldn’t want SQLs delivered to them, wrapped like presents.
Then I realized that salespeople, by nature, are on the control freak side of the continuum. Introducing a sales development process means they won’t control the entire process. Additionally, salespeople have been promised leads so long that they often don’t believe it anymore.
There are three components to addressing this issue:
- Build a transition plan. If salespeople are currently responsible for their own prospecting, don’t tell them to stop until your sales development efforts are producing results.
- Be sure your playbook clearly lays out the operational issues and defines the handoff so that there is no room for confusion.
- Be transparent. Share the data and the status of the leads pipeline with the sales team so they know what to expect.
After a few months of execution, you’ll find that the salespeople that were most apprehensive about the approach will be the biggest fans.
6. Our clients will get frustrated if they’re “handed off”
This is the most common question/concern I get when rolling out a sales development process with a client. They’ll say things like, “Relationship is really important in our business, so I’m concerned prospects will get frustrated when passed off to people that don’t know them.”
Having implemented this process numerous times, I can firmly say that this concern is in the head of the selling organization and not the buyer’s side. When the process is structured correctly, the approach actually enhances the status of the seller. Additionally, a prospect really only cares about one thing - can you solve my problem?
Now, if your SDR mumbles and fumbles their way through a conversation, then yes your prospects will get frustrated. Additionally, if you’re so wedded to your process - like being required to answer 10 specific questions before a lead can be passed on as an SQL - then prospects will get frustrated.
The key to solving this is a good playbook. While you need to define the typical process a lead will go through, your lead definitions (specifically the SQL definition) should be clear enough that when someone clearly meets your criteria, they are not faced with resistance when they’re ready to move to the next step.
7. We just don’t have the time
When I got my first sales job, here was my onboarding and training process: “Here’s the phonebook, here’s the phone, press ‘9’ to get an outside line.” Today, that is a recipe for failure.
Make no mistake about it, designing, implementing and managing an effective sales development process takes time and commitment. If you underestimate it, your efforts will fail and disrupt everything in the process.
That said when you consider the problem that growing organizations face - generating enough lead velocity to create predictable growth - there really isn’t an option. You can spend the time and energy building a repeatable process, or you’ll spend it frustrated and exasperated, constantly trying to figure out how you’ll “make the number.”
The good news is that an SDR program, much like inbound marketing, builds an asset that you can leverage to build momentum and drive sales results.