Inbound requests for sales meetings are a magical thing. A customer finds your content engaging. The topics discussed are relevant to their pain points. They think you can help them, so they reach out to you. Any salesperson will jump at the chance to talk to an inbound prospect.
The unfortunate reality is that inbound leads are not always enough. There comes a point when the company needs to leverage outbound prospecting and lead generation to grow faster. Sales teams typically have sellers that are capable of closing deals once they get in front of a prospect, but getting in the door can be the toughest part of the sales cycle. Due to the relatively new nature of the sales development function, there are also fewer guidelines on how to do this successfully.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a starting point if you are considering establishing an outbound sales development team.
Don’t get caught up on the tech stack.
The majority of sales people being hired today will conduct their sales over the phone and the internet. While the percentage of sales people relying heavily on technology to do their jobs has increased, so has the market for sales enablement technologies. Sales leaders are bombarded with the latest and greatest AI technology that promises to “get the most out of your sales force” and fix, accomplish or avoid almost anything you can imagine.
I will make this as simple as possible. Assuming you have access to reliable internet and a phone, you only need to start with two types of software to build a wildly successful sales development team: A CRM and a Dialer.
A CRM is needed to effectively measure, track and record who you contact and your conversations/communications with them. You need a dialer because while making a high volume of dials (50-100 a day), hand dialing can be a real waste of time. As soon as you have these two pieces of technology, the rest is about your process and ability to teach the right skills to SDRs. For example, can your team identify and gain access to the right people? Do they establish credibility? Can your SDRs pique enough curiosity in a prospect to secure a meeting?
As your team expands and your process matures, you will begin to identify process gaps, insights and challenges that may or may not require an additional technology investment. Remember, you can always add to the tech stack but you can’t make money back from an unnecessary investment.
Top performers don’t always make the best managers.
At this point, it’s a cliché but still worth repeating: excellent sales or sales development professionals do not necessarily make great managers. Knowing how to do the job yourself and teaching others are totally different skills. In SPIN selling, Rackham and his team were determined to figure out what made some sellers at Xerox great. The research team asked the top performers what they do to be successful and then went out on the field to verify it. Guess what? The top performers were off the mark with their diagnosis. Some people naturally end up doing things that make them great sales people; this does not mean they can codify their process and teach their skills in a scalable manner.
New managers, and even experienced managers, need help equipping their sellers with the right communication skills and an effective process to be successful. Help them help your frontline team by creating a scalable and repeatable process, a coaching cadence and clear dashboards to identify where things are working and areas for improvement.
Get people in the door and invest in them. The “right person” for the SDR job is hard to predict.
Who is the right fit for the SDR position? The answer is not always intuitive: education is not a great predictor of success in this role. Neither is IQ. A smooth talker is not always the best prospector.
According to research by Angela Lee Duckworth, the greatest predictor of success in a sales role is grit. She defines grit as "sticking with things over the very long term until you master them." She writes that, "the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina."
Duckworth herself acknowledges in her, now very famous, TED Talk that grit is hard to measure and develop in an individual. Since grit is incredibly difficult to predict, the focus should not be on finding the “perfect” candidate. Instead, ask question that help make a grit assessment, make your best educated guess and then invest in those people by training them on the skills they need to be successful in the SDR role.
The approach in summary
The people, their skills, and the process in place are the major predictors of success when establishing an outbound sales development team. Undoubtedly, technology is a very important part of being successful in the modern sales environment. However, sales teams don’t make it or break it because of the technology. The software we use as sales people is meant to enable us, not do our jobs for us- we still need to be able to effectively communicate. Having the skillset to gain access to the right people, establish credibility, pique curiously and secure commitments is critical to success, regardless of technology.
Get people in the door, equip them with a CRM, dialer and then focus on skills. Your industry and company-specific challenges that can’t be addressed by basics like a CRM and a dialer will become apparent over time, and mitigated by better skilled sales people in the short term. Only then, find technology and invest to address your gaps.
Build a world-class sales team.
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