The Sales Development Organization of 2018 and Beyond

December 26, 2017 David Dulany

The seismic changes in the Sales Development landscape over the past few years have been nothing short of phenomenal. Just a few years ago, the Sales Development process was much slower and more manual; pretty much just a combination of Salesforce, Google searches, Excel sheets, Post-it notes and duct tape. Whether qualifying inbound leads or going outbound, it was slow, clunky and difficult to execute.

Fast forward to today, where the explosion of technology to support Sales Development around data quality, workflow organization and email messaging has been amazing. The power and speed afforded by this technology now in the hands of SDRs are incredible. They now have the ability to work faster, be more organized and send out more messages to more people than ever.

However, having all this great technology available can also damaging. “With great power, comes great responsibility.” As we have seen, putting that much power in the hands of an untrained, disorganized SDR team can lead to negative reactions on the part of prospective clients. We all know that a bad message, sent out to lots of people, over and over, is still a bad message (and potentially damaging to your company's reputation).

You may recall a few years ago when only the Marketing team had access to Marketing Automation programs set up to send out one email after another. Those campaigns were generally planned, approved and vetted. Not so much anymore. Now even the newest SDR has that same power, at their fingertips.

The result? Not always good. Prospects are bombarded by irrelevant messaging. Potential clients are tuning out or getting annoyed. Brands are being damaged. And, all-in-all, it’s getting tougher to break through the noise.

Then you have the rash of “SDR shamings” on Linkedin; where people actually post emails and social outreach made by SDRs and complain about how badly they were executed. Ironically, this SDR shaming is usually done by sales leaders who are then turning around and pushing their own SDR team for more meetings, using the similar tactics. LOL. The irony.

So how can SDR teams breakthrough in 2018?

After working with several sales development programs over the past few years as a manager or with my firm Tenbound, I’d recommend starting with the fundamentals: how we think about the SDR team org chart. I argue that the current way SDR teams are set up in the first place ignores the reality of what is actually needed today to be able to reign in this tech explosion and align with the way prospective customers operate.

Most Sales Development organizations are still set up in a way that doesn’t give SDRs a chance to establish context and build basic trust and value with prospects, leading to the situation we have today. Many SDR programs simply fall back to the "spray-n-pray" tactics of yesteryear.

The current set-up also doesn’t harness the incredible power created by the new SDR technologies and the explosion of data being created by those tools, which, if set up correctly, could be used to improve overall team performance.

Instead, the current, usual Sales Development organization is now set up to require the SDR, usually someone fresh out of college in their first job with little or no experience, to do several different and, at times, conflicting jobs. The average SDR is tasked with researching massive amounts of prospect information, email copywriting, script building, mastering new SDR technologies, list building, cold calling, mass emailing, product knowledge and keeping up on social media updates.

It’s a jumbled mess.

In the face of this daunting list, many get overwhelmed and end up falling back to silently researching and sending out mass emails all day.

I argue that SDRs need to be better enabled, trained, organized and equipped in order to regain focus on their true purpose — having high-quality conversations with target prospects and setting up sales appointments.

The current organization asks the Sales Development Manager to not only be a trainer, coach and administrator for the SDR team (a more than full-time job), but also to be an expert analyst of the mass amounts of data being created by the different tools being used, and to translate that data to actionable and relevant insights.

It also asks the Sales Development Manager to be an expert in the SDR technology tools and back-end connections to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. These are two very different jobs that can and should be separated to maximize efficiency.

In order to break through in 2018, to really maximize investment in the many new tools out there, and to test and iterate best practices to gain more appointments, you may want to consider setting up your SDR organization in a totally different way.

I believe this structure will become the common practice in the future:

1. Break the SDR role into two parts

Sales Development Representative (SDR): Focus their time on quality conversations with prospects. They own phone calls, emails and social outreach to a high number of target prospects per day. They customize their messaging specifically to the personas and pain points of each prospect based on available research, using their creativity, training and experience. They're responsible for ensuring quality sales appointments are set and take place.

Account Researcher: They ensure all contact information is correct on Leads, Contacts and Accounts in the database. They find relevant, timely facts and trigger events to inform rapid SDR customization. They maintain a quota of facts and trigger events entered per day, week and month to create lists. They own data cleanliness and research readiness for a set number SDR accounts per month or quarter. They ensure all information needed for the SDR to make a high number of phone calls and send out a high number of highly customized emails is available and delivered daily.

By dividing these two roles, the SDR will have the research needed to touch a large number of prospects each day, in a customized and focused way, so the messaging is relevant and no longer spammy. The SDR is also freed up from the researching to focus on getting better on the hardest parts of the job — calling and talking to people versus spending a great deal of time each day searching for contact information and trigger events, ie “The Silent Sales Floor” effect.

2. Break the Sales Development Manager into two roles

Sales Development Manager: Owns overall team results and relationship with senior management. Focuses on daily sales training, coaching, mentoring, administration, reporting up and gathering target market intelligence. Spends time doing “ride alongs”, call coaching, reviewing game tape, doing 1:1’s, team meetings and setting the strategic direction for the team. Stays updated on industry best practices.

Sales Development Productivity Analyst: Reporting to the Sales Development Manager, this role owns data quality, quantity, integrity, analysis and compliance for SDR team. Ensures the team has enough data, tools and efficient processes to run smoothly and continuously improve performance. Runs split tests on messaging. Tracks and reports on all analysis and insights regularly to Sales Dev Manager and upper management. Suggests course corrections based on data. Contributes to the direction of SDR training plan based on data-driven choke points.

3. Clarify the role of Sales Ops to support the Sales Development Organization

Sales Ops. In addition to all usual duties, as it regards Sales Development: Owns all Sales Development tech systems and connections. Ensures tools truly enable the team and are fully utilized. Owns all vendor relationships, negotiations and contracts. Liaisons with Marketing operations and Sales Leadership with regards to processes and technology. Works closely with the Sales Development Productivity Analyst to ensure maximum ROI on the Sales Development team.

So how could this work?

Let’s say you have headcount for a 6-person SDR team. Before you hire the usual structure of 5 SDRs and 1 Manager, consider this approach: Hire an experienced Sales Development Manager with a proven track record first, before any SDRs. Give them a month to set up all the systems, process and technology to support building a team.

Then, hire one SDR and one Account Researcher. Sales Development Manager gets them up to speed. Then repeat that process with one more SDR and one more Account Researcher.

Finally, bring in the Sales Development Productivity Analyst to walk in lockstep with the Manager to translate the data being produced by the team into actionable insights that help improve messaging, training, morale and performance.

An upward spiral of performance is created. Sales Development Nirvana.

It’s interesting to note that this structure is how larger companies are already doing it. And they’re winning. No reason you can’t replicate that success at a startup.

Consider it!

What do you think of this structure? Leave it in the comments. Thanks!

Featured Image Source: Colleagues Cooperation Fist Bump by rawpixel CC0 Pexels

About the Author

David Dulany

David Dulany has built high-performance Sales Development programs for Glassdoor, OpenDNS, Infer and Act-On Software. At Tenbound, he helps companies start, optimize and turnaround Sales Development programs. Podcast and newsletter at daviddulany.com and tenbound.com

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