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The Importance of Getting Your Sales Development Team Right

Sales development team

Sales development teams, also known as business development teams, are typically a division that sits between a company’s marketing and sales efforts and is a new or growing area in many businesses today. Sales development can be the most important department an organisation can build to deliver a seamless, efficient revenue machine by identifying, connecting with and qualifying leads.

Sales development representatives take control of the initial step of a sales process which is prospecting, once they have qualified a lead they pass this through to the sales team who then take it over for the rest of the sales process.

Some people simply say sales development is the bridge between marketing and sales, but they are much, much more.

SDR/BDRs Provide a Higher Lead to Opportunity Conversion

Converting a lead can take time. You have to research and reach out to the lead, be valuable by providing insights, new approaches or ways of creating solutions to grab a potential buyer’s attention, then you have to overcome initial objections, ascertain if that lead is the right fit for your organisation by qualifying in or out and finally connecting that lead to your sales team.

A company’s marketing team will generate leads through owned or earned channels which historically would have been passed straight through to a sales person, then they would contact that lead when time was available to do so. This would for many companies cause issues with leads not being followed up quickly or at all and sales teams had issues with the quality of the leads being passed across. This caused problems between the marketing and sales relationship, but by deploying a Sales Development team all the leads marketing generates go straight to that division for initial research, contact and qualification thus making sure the lead is contacted promptly, which keeps marketing happy and the sales team receive an opportunity rather than a lead.

Investing in any development team between marketing and sales is a good decision. This will of course depend on the size of an organisation and how it is structured in terms of its products and services, but if a company is spending a significant portion of their yearly budget on marketing activities to generate interest then having a development team to turn the generated leads into sales ready opportunities seems like a no brainier.

On top of dealing with the marketing generated leads a team of sales development representatives (SDR) will also be doing their own prospecting, finding new leads, applying cold outreach to create more interest in a company’s offering.

SDR/BDRs Free Up Time and are a Fantastic Talent Pool

On top of having more leads, leads that are actioned quicker and better sales opportunities, SDRs free up the time of salespeople. Instead of salespeople identifying new accounts and reaching out to secure initial conversations, the SDR does this so that the sales reps can concentrate on conducting discovery calls, working and closing existing opportunities. By having a sales development team in place you can actually reduce the length of your sales cycle and in turn create more aggressive growth targets.

Yet another big positive of a sales development team is that it gives companies access to a pool of new candidates that are being nurtured and developed to become future sales reps. If managed correctly SDRs can be moulded with the knowledge they need to be able to step straight into a revenue targeted sales role. This leads me to…

The 4 Stage Sales Development Pipeline

If you provide your development team with a structure similar to that of the sales team you prepare them with the right knowledge for when they get promoted. Supplying SDRs with their own pipeline means they can track where each of their prospects are and this will allow them to forecast to management what can be expected to drop in that month or quarter, as the sales team would do. This structure can impact everyone in sales and the company as a whole by identifying which type of leads and how many are close to being converted to a sales qualified opportunity (SQO).

There are a number of different ways to name each stage of an SDR pipeline, but below is a simple four stage for the purpose of this article.

New Lead

This is the initial stage where leads will have come directly into a sales development rep lead queue from marketing or where a rep has identified potential leads and added these in ready for the next stage.

The SDRs should be fully aware of a company’s ideal customer profile so they can maximise their efforts on identifying the correct leads. This information should be included in your company’s Sales Playbook.

My article Ideal Customer Profile: Know Your Target Market can provide more insight for this section.

Lead Contact

This is where contact has been attempted, but the sales development rep has been unable to open up enough dialogue for qualification to begin.

Providing your SDRs with a cold call script, cold email and social outreach examples, cadences, open-ended question examples, etc., here is highly important and should be included in your company’s Sales Playbook.

Managers should have KPIs in place for their team’s outreach, should have regular role plays and conversations around cadences to consistently make improvements where necessary.

My articles below can give insights for this section:

Lead Qualification

This is where qualification has begun. All companies should have a framework in place for how their development team qualifies prospects. Depending on an organisation, its industry and company structure, the qualification can vary.

Now that a dialogue has been started with a prospect it is likely the SDR will come up against objections, so they should be trained adequately in how to handle these as and when they arise. All frameworks should be included in your Sales Playbook.

My articles below can provide more insight into this section:

New Opportunity

This is the best part for an SDR. All their hard work has resulted in a qualified lead that has now turned into a Sales Qualified Opportunity. The opportunity will now be passed across to the sales team to turn into a sale.

The SDR should be rewarded with commission for turning the lead into an opportunity and will generally receive a small percentage of the overall sale once the Sales Rep has closed the deal. This information should also be provided in your company’s Sales Playbook.

A better, more up to date and efficient CRM

Why pay thousands of ££ to have a CRM if the information contained within it is outdated? It has always baffled me how neglectful companies are with their CRM. I have experienced first-hand CRM systems that have been mis-managed and hold unimaginable data loads that are outdated and useless.

This is where a sales development team can make a huge difference to an organisation. When an SDR researches and reaches out to a potential new client the information they upload to the CRM is crisp, new and fresh, when they receive a lead from Marketing they investigate that lead, they remove incorrect information and replace it, they add in data that they uncover from their investigation such as an alternative email address and phone numbers, additional linked contacts within a company’s org, social media information, insights and the list can go on and on.

Making sure your sales development team know what they need to find out and having these fields available in your CRM is crucial to continued growth and retention. Creating a sequence of events for an SDR team is just as important as having a sequence of events for their marketing and general sales teams. They should have fields that only they can complete like pipeline fields and information fields to record each conversation. Each lead should only be able to accessed and amended by that team until it is qualified and then moved across to the next stage.

Imagine this as an efficient structure. Your marketing team generates exposure through their activities and then when they feel a lead is created they pass this through to sales development. Now, at this point marketing releases complete control of that lead, they are no longer able to go into the lead and change anything. An SDR then picks this lead up from their queue, they have their activities to build up information around that lead, contact, qualify and then set a meeting for the sales executive. When that is done the lead is passed across and the SDR releases complete control to their sales counterpart and are no longer able to go into that lead and change anything. The sales team then do the same and pass the lead to customer success (if this team exists).

Sounds easy, efficient and I’m sure a lot of companies will say they have this in place already, but do they? Do they have the fields in the CRM that are specific to each team’s activity and that can only be changed by them? Can reports be run for that particular section of the business and not as general reports? These are just some examples but hopefully it gives some guidance on having each of their teams as a separate entity, but at the same time striving for the same company goals. If this efficient structure is in place at your company then I take my hat off to you and raise a glass to your continued success. If this structure is not in place at your company then there is a lot of work to be done.

In Conclusion

There are many pros of having an SDR team if your organisation’s model permits and there are very little cons. Companies do struggle to bring in top sales talent and ramp up times can be longer when bringing in new salespeople from different industry sectors as learning new products and company setups can be long winded. Having sales ready talent at your fingertips to step in at a moment’s notice is an SDR.

Maximising your marketing efforts by following-up in a timely manner on leads generated before they fall by the wayside, and having someone at hand to not only follow-up but to build on all that good work and investment by marketing. This is an SDR.

CRM systems are full of pointless, ineffective data sitting there gathering dust as it will never be used, why not have someone in place to spot this outdated information and give it a fresh coat of paint to brighten up your CRM and give future information for your marketing, sales and other teams in the organisation. Guess what, yep that is an SDR!

If you have a development team think about investing more into this division. It may take a while to reap the rewards, but if done correctly those rewards will be endless.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”

– Aristotle

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1 Comment

  1. Phil P

    I don’t normally add reviews but I came across your article from a quick Google search and I have to say this was a really GOOD read! Thanks for the insights.

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The Importance of Getting Your Sales Development Team Right

by Ben James time to read: 7 min