How On Earth Are Emails And Calls Still KPIs In Sales Development?

May 14, 2015 Sam Laber

If you’re thinking “Hmm… this feels like the beginning of a slightly asinine and certainly long-winded rant” well, you might be right. Thursday evenings are always good for an outspoken opinion piece (and this definitely is an opinion piece), so what the heck.

In our humble opinion, there are way too many sales teams that still use operational metrics (emails, calls, leads created) to credit or discredit an individual rep’s performance. The story goes something like this:

“From our CRM data, we know that 1 out of 10 outbound leads will become a qualified sales opportunity. Given that it takes 5 calls and 6 emails on average to convince a lead to take a meeting, each rep must make 1000 calls and send 1200 emails to hit their monthly quota of 20 opportunities. Jenny failed to hit her call and email numbers this month, which is why she underperformed.”

If you’re skeptical of the math, here’s a brief explanation:

To generate one qualified opp, you’ll need to create 10 leads. You’ll be emailing and calling each of these leads, because you won’t know which one is most likely to convert. This means that you’ll need to make 5*10 = 50 calls and send 6*10 = 60 emails to get one opp or 5*10*20 = 1000 calls and 6*10*20 = 1200 emails to make your quota of 20 opps.

Now, I realize that the beauty of sales development is in its predictability, but this mindset should not be extended all the way down to the operational level. There are just too many cases in which activity is mistaken for productivity. I’ll quickly list a few of these cases below — feel free to chime in with more via the comments.

Some SDRs just aren’t good on the phone… and that’s OK!

If some of your SDRs set the majority of their opps over email, why make them slug through 50 dials a day? Take the time to understand your reps’ strengths early on and work with them to develop a personalized outreach strategy guided by (rather than tied to) metrics. As a manager, there’s nothing worse than hearing one of your SDRs leave an awkward voicemail for a key decision-maker at one of your target accounts. 

It’s not (that) hard to game the system

When faced with a daily call and email quota, some of your more resourceful reps might be tempted (we’ll leave it at tempted) to “enhance” their numbers a bit over time. Common strategies include leaving voicemails on switchboards, logging phantom calls and/or emailing the same CMO for the 28th time rather than finding a new VP or director to pursue. Setting a daily quota for operational metrics causes your reps to use their creativity in less productive ways, while deterring them from trying new mediums of engagement that may have a higher conversion rate.

Stress causes burnouts

Sometimes you just don’t have it in you to send 40-60 emails a day. You get unmotivated, you don’t personalize your outreach, you get lousy replies and you feel like crap. This can be pretty demoralizing for a rep and often the response is to try and send more emails, make more calls and enter more leads into the system to make up for it. This cycle is unproductive and more importantly, unhealthy. Give your reps the flexibility to set their own benchmarks. What matters is the bottom-line, not the activity dashboard.

Don’t waste bullets

In most cases, reps tend to be most active during the beginning of the week, but this isn’t when prospects are responding. Most people reading this blog have seen a chart like the below from the famous Lead Response Management Study. According to InsideSales.comWednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call to make contact with a lead, and Thursday is a 49.7% better day to call than the worst day, Tuesday.

Forcing your reps to complete a certain number of activities each day overplays the value of Mondays and Tuesdays and leaves opps on the table on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

About the Author

Sam Laber

Sam is the director of marketing at Datanyze. He's a big John Hughes fan who occasionally fills the DZ office with the sweet sweet sounds of 90s rock giant, Creed.

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