The very early stages of the sales process are vital to closing the deal – but are you paying enough attention to the critical details of those stages? Too many sales organizations focus only on the end part of closing the deal. So, we’d like to talk about the steps before closing, and why it’s important to pay attention to sales development. Or as we like to call it, the art of preparing to succeed.
What is Sales Development?
Sales development is the team, or process, that focuses on the front end of the sales cycle.
This can mean:
- customer research
- lead qualification
- initial engagement
Sales development started as a B2B tech practice in the 1980s, but it’s a common function in most larger sales organizations at this point.
That’s because sales development is an essential part of running a high performing sales team. Sales development helps get more qualified leads, which leads to a higher closing rate. Spending less time on unqualified leads increases sales efficiency and productivity, and helps bridge the gap between sales and marketing.
Sales development is typically a department within sales, where sales development representatives operate and provide their services to help account executives deliver deals.
What Do Sales Development Reps Do?
Sales development reps (SDRs) are sales professionals, but they aren’t typical sales reps. They don’t carry sales quotas, and they aren’t out making deals. Instead, they’re really enablers of the rest of the sales team. They do this by generating and qualifying leads, so that the quota-carrying sales reps know where, and how, to focus their time and energy.
Sales prospecting is a big part of an SDR’s role, as well as lead qualification. They help find potential clients, consult on how well products or services fit the market, and keep the sales pipeline full of high-quality leads. In addition, they can follow up with leads on multiple digital channels – something busy account executives usually lack the time to do.
They often further qualify marketing qualified leads (MQRs) and manage the transition point between marketing and sales. Plus, they can provide valuable data and insights to the marketing team about what’s resonating with customers so marketing can be more effective at bringing in the best MQLs. This is a task many sales reps are lax about completing, but can yield big results in your marketing effectiveness.
When an SDR is doing their job well, they help senior sales reps and account executives to close more deals, and close those deals faster. This can lead to a big leap in sales productivity, so your sales team can do more business and generate more revenue without having to hire additional sales reps.
SDRs can shorten the typical span of the sales cycle by increasing efficiency, and that also helps increase revenue by increasing the amount of sales you can make in the same time.
Sales Development Strategy
Your successful sales development strategy should focus on three key things:
Do you have the right people in the right places to scout out and evaluate prospects, make contact with them, and close the deal?
Sales development’s role in ensuring the right people are in the right roles means that you’re not having customer-facing reps waste their time on calling people who are not going to convert, or spending all their time researching prospects or on lead generation instead of doing what they do best – selling.
Are your processes enabling consistent, repeatable successes, or do you lack a sales playbook and other clear processes?
For processes, sales development means you have a solid plan in place for how you begin the sales cycle every time. Your plan is repeatable, and scalable too for when you grow. This can mean a system for prospecting for new leads, assigning roles for inbound and outbound leads, standardizing how sales reps engage with potential leads, and more.
And finally, is the technology your sales team uses helping them succeed or holding them back?
Technology can be a quiet killer of sales efficiency. If your CRM or other tools your sales team uses are getting in the way of performing their roles, you might not even know about it if you haven’t asked them. And that’s a good way to decrease productivity and even demotivate reps. An effective and efficient CRM should make your sales team better, not hinder their productivity.
Investing in updated technology might seem expensive, but having a more effective CRM system that works with your sales development team in evaluating and sorting leads can return many times its cost, quickly.
The Sales Development Process
What exactly does the sales development process look like?
Decide on your sales qualified lead
This means getting clear on what exactly the qualities are of a person or business who is very likely to purchase your products or services.
It’s crucial to have the following in mind before you even begin pursuing prospects:
Defining the right prospects
After confirming the qualities of your ideal customer, it’s time to find them. We do this with the discovery process.
Discovery is the art of asking really good qualifying questions at the beginning, to gather the appropriate information to let you know whether this is a prospect worth pursuing.
At 360, we firmly believe that when deals don’t close or are lost, it’s usually because of a poor job up front – or the result of poor Discovery.
Align sales efforts to your marketing strategy
If your marketing says one thing to prospects, and your sales team is saying something different, that’s going to cost you conversions. Ensuring these two functions align is a key goal of sales development.
Engage leads according to a clear process
For both inbound and outbound leads, who is driving these? How do you engage them – via phone call, email, or something else? Decide what works best for your business and make it a universal practice for all reps.
Qualify those leads
How likely is it that these leads will purchase what you sell? It can be tempting to keep chasing a big fish even if they’re unlikely to “bite”, but your sales development team should have a way to calculate the resources required to make the sale versus the potential value of the deal.
Don’t chase those pricey, demanding leads with little chance of success if you’re not going to get real value out of it.
Hand the leads off to the account executive
And now, the sales development process has ended, and it’s time for the account executive to do what they do best – closing deals. Your sales development team might make the introduction and set a meeting, but their job after this is done.
Specialization in Sales Development
Building sales development teams is something more and more organizations are doing, especially in the B2B and tech worlds. If your business is big enough to think about bringing in a few SDRs, it could be well worth it.
Having a dedicated team to handle the whole beginning of the sales cycle increases not just the number of leads coming in, but the quality of those leads as well. Plus, it frees up time account executives would normally spend on tasks like qualification and research by bringing in specialists who excel in this type of work. Then those account specialists are free to do what they do best, which is to make the sale and close the deal.
This type of role specialization can make your entire sales cycle significantly more efficient. A strong sales process, higher-quality leads, and more time for your best salespeople to spend actually selling? We see a recipe for huge sales and revenue growth.
Strengthening Your Sales Development Strategy
Looking for a way to create a stronger, more strategic sales organization by bringing on a sales development team?
That’s where 360 Consulting comes in. We’re your partner and guide through every step of optimizing your sales organization – from hiring the right people, building the right sales infrastructure like a sales development team, and creating the right sales process that closes more deals in less time.
Schedule your free consultation to find out how we help sales leaders and teams work together to break sales records.