The weakest point in the sales process for most businesses is filling the top of the sales funnel in a predictable manner. Most companies rely on an occasional customer referral, inconsistent marketing efforts or old contacts from your new sales exec to bring in new deals. But what if you could fill the top of the sales funnel in a systematic manner and give your sales execs their pick of deals to work on? These three key ingredients in the sales development process will help your business improve lead generation and fill your sales funnel efficiently and predictably. But first:
What is sales development?
Sales development is a specialized person or group of people who focus exclusively on the front end of the sales process, filling the top of the sales funnel by scheduling meetings for sales execs with qualified prospects. This concept has been around for more than 30 years, but with the arrival of newly available software (specifically email automation, business intelligence, and intelligence and a handful of other key tools) the function can be systematized to create a predictable flow of highly qualified meetings. If executed correctly, your company will be able to turn this system on and off as you need qualified opportunities for sales execs to work. The three key ingredients to a successful sales development formula are people, message, and timing.
How does it work?
The object of the system is to find the decision-maker in an organization, get them interested in your products and services via a tailored sales message, and ensure that the delivery of that message falls during the time they are most likely to buy and are therefore ready to take a scheduled call with one of your sales reps. The sales development system can be broken down into the following formula:
Right people + right message + right time + automated multi-touch email campaign + strategic phone calls = a predictable flow of qualified appointments
You may have noticed that cold calls are not a part of this formula. This is by design. Cold calling is not the most efficient way for anyone in sales to spend their day. Even if you can find a direct number for an executive you are targeting, chances are they will not answer the phone or you will be screened by their executive assistant. At best, you can leave a voicemail or a message. More often than not it will be deleted and you cannot leverage it again to initiate contact like you can an email.
While phone calls do have there place in the sales process, phone time should be used strategically. Email automation platforms can now track a person’s engagement with your email and only those prospects who are most engaged or a high value target warrant a phone call.
In the hands of a well-trained sales development rep, or SDR as they are commonly called, this system is very powerful. It can mean the difference between your sales execs focusing on closing deals or wasting their time making cold calls.
Optimizing the formula
The formula does take a little time to perfect. In that case, listen carefully to the people who have agreed to meet with you and see if you can figure out how to optimize the formula. It’s typically in one or more of the first three ingredients: people, message or timing.
If you’re not sure, schedule time to talk with existing customers and find out why they work with you and how they describe your products or services to others. Therein lie clues to the exact verbiage your messaging should contain. If you are targeting people just like your customers and you are using the right messaging, sometimes it’s a matter of timing. Look for publicly available indicators that companies are ready to buy.
For example, let’s look at a company I recently worked with who helps banks quickly rebrand their physical assets after a merger or acquisition. They were targeting banks who had recently announced the merger or aquisitions, but failed to gain traction. They had a compelling message and had done their homework on the appropriate business contact at the bank, so they began to workshop their timing. They soon realized there was shorter window of opportunity to deliver their value proposition once a deal was announced than they originally anticipated. Once they began to focus on the most recently announced deals, their number of meetings began to increase.
Once the formula is optimized, it’s time to scale— assuming doubling or tripling your company’s revenue is a goal and you are prepared to handle that kind of growth. You’ll have to experiment with what makes sense at your company, but one full-time Sales Development Representative can support anywhere from one to three sales execs. Hopefully, you will have the delightful problem of trying to figure out how to deliver on all the products and services your sales team has sold. Good luck!
Patty Laushman is a P2Bi vendor with expertise in helping B2B companies implement a system to predictably fill the top of their sales funnel. One client for whom she cracked the code saw $30 million in opportunities from around the globe drop into their sales funnel over the course of 18 months which Patty was able to achieve by herself. This client now has five people working as what are called sales development reps implementing the same system. If you’re interested in finding out how your business can do this, Patty can be reached at (303) 800-6383, firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.