4 ways marketing can help turbocharge growing sales development teams
Break down the sales and marketing team silos by sharing data sources, productive use cases and leveraging content proficiency.
Around 25 years ago, email and websites kicked off a revolution in B2B marketing. With everything now established in the stack, we’re probably well into MarTech 3.0. Back in 1990, Moriarty and Moran published the seminal “Managing Hybrid Marketing Systems” that discussed how to optimize the use of various distribution and communications channels in a holistic go-to-market strategy. While the rise of SFA/CRM clearly defined SalesTech 1.0, right now we’re experiencing a technique boom in sales that I think signals generation 2.0 in sales development. But many marketing teams have yet to fully partner with sales development. Leading practitioners, however, are making substantial progress right now that all of us can learn from.
This article outlines the key growth and challenges inside the sales industry as well as four things you can do to help your Sales Development Representatives succeed now. Specific trends and challenges below have been illustrated by our client practitioners and supported and validated by research findings from the 2018 State of Sales Development Report [registration required].
Change is here: Stack matters, but people matter more
In a parallel universe to Martech, there’s a ton of excitement right now about innovations in the salestech stack. But in my opinion, the big story is about people. In the last year alone, there’s been nearly 20 percent growth in SDR numbers versus face-to-face account execs. These are real human beings identifying and engaging in-market demand. And while marketing and sales development have together been contributing about 63 percent of the total pipeline, in 2018, the SDR-contributed portion started to surge ahead. While many spotlights have been shining on advances in marketing and sales technology, many organizations are not waiting for a tech benefit — they’re using people to push business performance ahead. That means the organizations who do better at enabling these folks are likely to outperform their competition.
This team needs and deserves your help
If you’re not yet working closely with your sales development team, this ought to be the year you start. Let’s just admit that whoever executes it, the fundamentals of demand identification and engagement are essentially the same: we need to know which accounts to focus on, who to talk to there and what to say. So if your company is adding sales development reps who need to be enabled, there’s no better group to accelerate this process than the seasoned demand generators from marketing who have spent years working on this stuff. Top-performing teams are already making sure that the requirements of both marketing and sales development are taken into account when investing in infrastructure. An obvious next step is to extend that approach wherever relevant.
Here’s what you should do now to help SDRs succeed
Many SDRs are fresh out of college or very early in their careers. When they start, they know very little about your products and the decision-making processes your prospects go through. Although research says an average SDR is considered “fully ramped” after just four months in the job, that’s a whole different level from how you’d describe a new marketer a few months into their role. These mostly young people have volunteered to be right on the front lines of your company with little more than their wits, energy and drive to sustain themselves. They deserve better than that.
1. Get them on the right data sources
In the complex world of enterprise solutions, leading marketers have moved away from top-of-funnel email blasts. Even if you aren’t fully transitioned to an account-based approach, I suspect you’re past depending on a spray-and-pray approach to drive your numbers. You’re probably already exploring how real SQLs are achieved.
That’s exactly why more and more companies are fueling marketing with a potent combination of first- and third-party behavioral data. They’re adjusting their content to support buyer’s journeys and nurturing prospects until they’re ripe for closer contact. You should be concerned if your company is still relying on a high-velocity cold-calling model alone. You know you’re wasting a ton of money and time on calls that can’t possibly succeed. You should make it your mission to ensure your SDRs have access to the same quality data sources you’re using to achieve better outbound results. The Insidesales.com research points to real purchase intent data as the second highest-leverage contributor to SDR quota attainment, just after cadence tools.
As a bonus, when you make an effort to extend high-quality data resources to the SDR team, and you make sure they know how to use them, our experience shows you will have no problem getting credit for the results you’ve helped deliver.
2. Focus them on productive use cases
Think about the triggers that inform your marketing actions. Many of those same triggers can be acted on by SDRs. And when utilized in combination with better data, SDR call activity can provide an extra push to make your campaigns more successful.
Think about the physical events use case
You need to recruit the right people in the right location. You need to make sure they show up. You need to perform the right kinds of post-event follow-up that will maximize conversion and continue the momentum. Third-party real purchase intent data can tell you who’s currently performing buying research in a given city. If you can’t get them to respond to email, pick up the phone! These are plays you design together with your SDR team leveraging the same data sources for email, advertising the event, and for call-making.
Think about the inbound use case
If you could see account activity surges to your website, what action would you take if you could find the exact people who were researching a particular solution need? Now there are behavioral data sources that provide this exact insight. By overlaying third-party intent on your web traffic, you can provision your SDRs with the people to call and the topics to open with, even if no one is filling out forms.
Think about knowing a project is in motion
At the best companies, the days of marketing throwing things over the fence to sales and hoping for the best are long over. When a marketing team can access a verified project in process at a company, they make extra sure that the SDR team is fully trained up to proceed accordingly. They guide the current install, the key drivers of the deal, the insider contact and the buying group around them. They even prepare scripting for calls and SDR email.
3. Enable them to be proficient with your content
As mature demand generation teams have learned, there’s easy leverage in versioning great content to make it more relevant to a particular audience. Better enablement for your SDR colleagues can be approached as a “versioning” type of project. Especially since (in the name of sales productivity) research recommends reducing the 19 minutes SDRs spend on pre-call research, nearly anything marketing can do to better to deliver key knowledge will help. With slight modifications to your campaign/asset preparation process, you can provide insights you have utilized directly to SDRs within their workflow. You can start by simply making the asset and synopsis available directly in CRM.
4. Train them on a schedule and through ad hoc “open-door” availability
In complex business categories, it’s challenging to train adequately on feature/function alone. The downside is that SDRs can do little but shout out the benefits of your wares. Solving “First-15-Second Dysfunction” — those critical first seconds of an SDR’s pitch — will deliver disproportionate benefits. One key lies in helping your SDRs see through the prospect’s eyes. Here, you can extend the persona work you’ve done, including customer feedback data, to deliver a continuous stream of training around the functions and roles the SDR is selling into. You can also look into your real purchase intent data sources to contextualize the insights that are found there for your SDRs. For example: what do known purchase drivers tell you about the pressures on the buying team? And I couldn’t be a bigger proponent of making sure your team maintains an open-door policy with the SDRs such that they feel comfortable going to you for advice and ideas. In our clients, we see good ad hoc advice spread virally within SDR teams to great effect.
Tear down your silos
The trend towards growth in sales development is not slowing down. Across the board, the average tenure of a sales development person has been lengthening in recent years (it’s now close to three years). This suggests that companies and employees are viewing it as an increasingly professional role. In the more sophisticated account-based models, pay is going up, indicative of the value being delivered. More interesting to me is that in our long-term client examples, we see the SDR organization and marketing tear down some of the longer-standing barriers between once-siloed departments. In the best-performing growth shops, there are no silos to begin with. Marketers are making sure that sales development understands and can leverage marketing outputs. Sales development is making sure it leverages whatever it can from its marketing colleagues. Each is working to create a more effective, efficient whole.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.