Sales prospecting and lead development could be doing so much more for your company. But the tendency is to stay stuck focusing on the first stage.
So you’ve finally built a lead list, now what?
We need to ask a few questions. What is the most efficient way to find accurate contact information? Who should be reaching out and how?
What best practices can I employ today?
Perhaps the most important question for the long-term success of your sales teams is this:
What’s the ideal way for Sales Development Reps and Account Executives to work together to achieve success?
Let’s start with making sure that we’re reaching out to the right people in the first place.
1. What Is The Most Efficient Way To Find Accurate Contact Info?
First, it’s not to ask your AEs to do it. Your AEs are paid too much to be finding contact info; keep them focused on closing.
That leaves you with two options: have your SDR team uncover contact info one decision-maker at a time, or outsource the work. Consider the list size to choose the right option.
If you’ve got a large list (lucky you), outsourcing the work might be the right answer. Leveraging lead generation outsourcing shops enables you to take advantage of their efficient lead generation and enrichment services at enterprise scale, without taking valuable SDRs off the phone. Again, it’s about keeping sales staff free to sell without getting bogged down in the non-selling work that eats up the majority of many reps’ time.
2. Who Should Be Reaching Out And How?
Did I mention yet that I’m a huge believer in SDR teams?
When you hire the right young people, train them properly, and give them the right tools, an SDR team will help you smash your revenue goals.
There’s a secondary benefit too. SDR teams allow closers to focus on doing what they excel at. When everyone’s doing what they’re good at, the whole team works better, boosting team morale.
SDR teams also create a training ground for future sales reps and account managers at your company. That strong career progression opportunity is something you can sell your SDRs, and when they step up to be reps and AEs later, they’ll have a clearer idea of the whole process. You’ll also be retaining valuable employees over time.
I’ve put together a thorough sales stack I like to leverage.
When it comes to reaching out to potential clients, our favorite tool is Outreach.io. The platform makes an SDR team function as if they have 2-4x the headcount with their customized and collaborative email sequences (you can also add call tasks).
Other tools I’ve found to be highly effective include Yesware for email templates, reminders, Salesforce for syncing, and Boomerang for reminders to follow up on emails your prospects may not respond to or to send messages at a later date for optimal delivery.
It should be noted that most of these technologies have many of the same features. There’s lots of duplication, but they all have particular strengths too, and I prefer each for the task noted.
3. What Best Practices Can I Employ Today?
I’ve leveraged these technologies to reach out to thousands of potential customers. Along the way, I’ve come across some valuable best practices.
The first is about finding a balance between personalization on the one hand, and practicality on the other. If you have a tiny number of emails to send, maybe you can hand-craft each one. But that’s not scalable. On the other hand, anonymous mailshots fail in every possible way. So the name of the game is to make your messaging, including subject line, as relevant to the person on the other end as possible - without getting so customized that it slows you down.
The subject lines I’ve had the most success with include the contact's name or company name and a brief call to action. I’m usually shooting for at least a 50% open rate and 10% reply rate, but these metrics vary by company.
We’ll templatize wherever we can. Our team shares high-performing template emails and subject lines using some of the technologies listed in the previous paragraph. Templatizing our top performing emails allows us to share best practices and move quickly as we customize our outreach.
We also need to look at frequency. Best practices for outreach cadence vary greatly depending on who you ask. I personally feel that touching a lead every two days is nearing harassment, but others might call my sales strategy passive.
Here’s the thing, though. When I win business, I want to be a trusted partner who has my client’s best interest at heart, not the pushy sales guy. That’s why I won’t contact someone more than twice in a week.
A typical cadence we use lasts six weeks and features ten emails and two calls. This is a healthy amount of time to spend on a lead that hasn’t responded before moving on to find a new contact.
Using Outreach.io, our SDRs and AEs have developed highly effective sequences that involve both parties and help us break up the sequence by introducing the prospect to a new, more senior contact midway through.
Here’s how it works from our end. After a few emails from the SDR and a call, the SDR can set a task in Outreach.io to then loop in the AE. At this point the AE will send an email to the contact and cc the SDR. The SDR then marks the task done and resumes the sequence if no response from the contact. We’re seeking to combine the most personal approach with the most repeatable, reliable process, and this strategy has generated a reply 20-25% of the time.
4. What’s The Best Way For SDRs And Account Executives To Work Together To Achieve Success?
In order to effectively work through a lead list and get the best return, your SDRs and AEs need to work as one unit. That means they should meet regularly to analyze the leads they are working and review performance metrics, as well as monitoring the quality of appointments set.
This helps to eliminate the problem you get when each stage of the buyer journey is managed by people who get recognized and paid based on how much volume they hand on to the next stage: if this process is working well, SDRs should be handing on leads that are actually useful to AEs. When the people in the two roles know each other and each other’s professional needs, that’s a lot easier to do.
A good SDR is an AE’s best friend, so I always recommend the pair head out for coffee together (on the AE’s dime) once a month and get to know each other personally. AEs have the experience that can put an SDR’s growth into hyperdrive, so AEs should be motivated through your culture and direction to participate in SDR development. At the same time, a motivated, hard-working SDR who envisions growing into an AE role at your company can grow your pipeline exponentially faster. Get your SDRs and AEs into sync, and everybody wins!
Task SDR teams with finding contact info and verifying it. If there’s too much, outsource it. This isn’t AE’s jobs: don’t waste your money and their time asking them to do it.
Sell SDR roles as career progression - and make it true.
Manage prospecting with appropriate apps to boost productivity.
Get as personal as possible without becoming unwieldy.
Build a process that involves both SDRs and AEs and gets maximum effect out of the different skill sets of both.
Rob Simmons is an enterprise technology sales executive based in Seattle, WA. Rob focuses on new business opportunities at Skilljar, a cloud-based training platform for customer onboarding and success. Previously Rob was a Strategic Account Executive at AdRoll in San Francisco and ran the sales training program there.