How to Become a Great Sales Development Rep for Your Team

We’re living in the age of the “attention economy”, and attention is harder to capture than ever before. If sales used to be about knocking on doors and charming your way into a manager’s office, today it’s anything but.

The business development landscape grows more complex. When you’re reaching out to an email address, how do you know it’s going to the right person? Some companies don’t even have phone numbers, and employee titles mean different things in different companies. It’s rare, if not impossible, to find the key person responsible for business development opportunities in an organization.

You know you have a great product that could change the game for a company, but you can’t even figure out where to start. From a psychological perspective, it feels like you’re shouting into an internet void. Pursuing so many leads without making a meaningful connection is exhausting.

What if there’s a better way to do things? To be an amazing Sales Development Rep (SDR), you’re going to have to think differently than the crowd. A “spray and pray” approach isn’t going to work, even if you have the technology and the budget to do it.

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Buyers encounter 32% more marketing campaigns now than they did just two years ago. (SiriusDecisions) The attention span of the average buyer has dropped by a third – from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. (Statistic Brain)

It’s time to start challenging your assumptions. Here are the steps you need to take to break down how the SDR role has changed, and figure out what you’re going to do about it.

Step 1: It’s Not Only About Getting Leads

Volume isn’t our issue. Sales Development Reps today can churn out hundreds of phone calls and emails every single day. The real issue is, how do we get peoples’ attention? The old tricks of the trade aren’t enough in today’s complicated, web-enabled environment.

Leading vs. Lagging Indicators

When you’re choosing where to devote your time and attention, think about your sales performance metrics. Leading sales indicators focus on the likelihood of what you might achieve in the future – leads, top of the funnel engagement, and other predictive metrics. Lagging sales indicators focus on output and results – things like sales made, number of sales meetings booked, and profit margins.

A lot of SDRs tend to focus on leading indicators. When that pipeline of leads is strong, SDRs feel good about all of that potential. They consider their work done when they’ve checked off the list of daily tasks given by their manager (make 70 calls a day, send out 100 emails, etc.). Staying busy all day feels productive. But if you’ve done 70 outreach calls (lead) and you’ve gotten zero appointments (lag), you’ve kept yourself busy but you have nothing to show for it.

Today, it’s not about the lead. It’s about the lag. A lead is only as good as the eventual revenue it brings you. It’s all about the impact and the ROI!

Step 2: Stop the “Spray and Pray”

Tempting as it is, spraying and praying isn’t going to work. Even if you have the technology to make it happen. Today there are more automation platforms than ever before; you can dial hundreds of people each day. You can collect virtual warehouses of email addresses and contact them all within seconds. You need to research and personalize your message in order to have good luck closing deals from it. Writing out sales cadences and hitting send, zombie-like, is not sales development. 

Step 3: Do Your Research: Be the Quarterback, Not the Leadoff Hitter

Yesterday’s SDR was expected to be a sales team’s leadoff hitter. Yesterday’s SDR was just trying to get on base. As the first one in the line of communication – the face of the sales team – yesterday’s SDR was focused on reaching out, nurturing, and assigning leads to a sales rep.

Today, being a great SDR requires more strategy. Reading the opposition, communicating the play, and making strategic decisions to scoring more points. In order to excel in the field, SDRs need to go beyond leadoff hitter activities.

This job means putting your thinking cap on. What does good research mean? You’ll need an understanding of how an organization works, who are the key players inside of it, what their buying process looks like, and how you should prepare to communicate to them. The research you do needs to guide your strategy – you need to make your pitch relevant to your prospect. If you’re only pamphleting a large group of people, even if you’re using interesting technology, you’re ensuring that you’ll go nowhere fast.

To be a good quarterback, you will need:

  • Key insights on your prospects
  • An understanding of your prospects’ challenges
  • A replicable, pre-defined process that works (with the ability to customize as needed)
  • Integrations to automatically log activity and free up time for more valuable work

Proper research leads to quality communications and strategy. QBs think strategically. Be the QB.

Step 4: Understand that Your Marketers Won’t Save You

“This all sounds great,” you say. “But how does an SDR go beyond leadoff hitting? Our marketers are too busy to help us, we don’t have the insights on prospect behavior a marketer has, nor do we know how to use the marketing automation systems or have the time to create sales campaigns from scratch.”

Those are valid concerns. In fact:

  • Half of all companies aren’t even using marketing automation yet.
  • Out of the half that are, 79% of marketers have a long way to go to build out mature marketing automation… according to themselves!
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Stats from LeadMD’s “The 2016 Marketing Maturity Benchmark Report” (2016)

The graph above is for marketing automation, not sales automation. Most marketing teams are not ready to help with sales automation, and won’t be for the foreseeable future.

Step 5: Develop A Smarter Approach To Leads

Now you know that leads are only half the battle, and no one is coming to save you. So what do you do? That’s where automation comes in. But not just any old automation.

What you need out of a sales automation platform is all, not just some, of the following:

  • A robust CRM integration that frees up more time for being strategic while still ensuring that you have accurate activity logs
  • Marketer-level insight into the activity your automation has generated:
    • Where is a prospect in their buying cycle?
    • What content is a prospect engaging with?
    • Who else is involved in the deal/opportunity? The real buying committee.
    • What email messages are driving the most engagement?
    • Pipeline report with actual engagement score and not just gut feel likelihood of close.
    • What specific task you should be doing for each lead?
  • Quality: Understanding of prospect engagement, and what personalized steps to take next
  • Quantity: Scale communications up from 50-100 connections per day to 5x using sales automation

In order to achieve these needs, SDRs must go beyond their CRMs which are not designed to give you everything you need. One key missing piece of the puzzle is a sales automation platform that provides valuable insights into the sales readiness of your prospects.

Spraying and praying is a thing of the past. 100% manual processes – including activity logging – are a thing of the past. A lack of key insight is a thing of the past.

Thanks to automation and integrations, SDRs (and all sales reps!) can gain the key insights they need, scale communications with intelligence, drive key business results and get promoted faster. These key ingredients for success can be found in Fileboard Workflow for SDRs.

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Step 6: Get Your Priorities Straight

So you’ve been smart about your leads, and you have meetings set up. Now what? Prospect prioritization is still a challenge for SDRs. There’s so much sales enablement technology out there, but which content do you send out, and when? After all, you still have to close the business.

An SDR Use Case
You’ve gathered your leads, done your research, and you’re sending out tons of emails and content. You want to understand when to follow up, and how to make each conversation relevant. If you could somehow understand exactly when your prospects read your email and sales content, you wouldn’t waste their time (or your own). In other words, you need an intelligent sales process.

With Fileboard Sales Assistant, that’s exactly what you’ll have. Artificial intelligence is used to give you:

  • Insight into the buying stage
  • Prioritization of prospects/leads based on real data
  • Engagement tracked from end-to-end in the sales cycle
  • Opportunity to define a measurable goal for every single communication that goes out
  • An understanding of your prospect’s challenges
  • Insight into the helpful content you can send your prospect at exactly the right time
  • Lag over lead as tasks are generated based on actual prospect activity and engagement

An intelligent sales process is all about removing the guesswork to understand what you need to do right now. Your sales engagement prospect should be bigger than just enablement. Rather than mindlessly sending, you need to be strategic. With a system that tells you what you need to do, rather than creating tasks based on what you think you should do, you’ll have full transparency into your priorities. Better prioritization means you’re steering towards real engagement.

In Conclusion…

You know by now that attention is hard to capture. So when you do capture it, make it count. Don’t waste your time and your prospect’s time by taking shots in the dark about what they need, what they do, when they’re available, and what their pain points are.

If you’re going to be the QB, you’ve got to develop strategies to remove the guesswork from your sales process. Don’t go out into the field with a hopeful attitude as your only tool. Automation and integrations have done wonders for marketers and their marketing/technology stacks. It’s about time salespeople also benefit.

The best Sales Development Reps aim to constantly provide value while contacting prospects. If you think this kind of clarity will magically happen for you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Instead, take the control into your own hands, by using strategic technology that helps you prioritize.

Check out our Kick-Ass Sales Follow Up Whitepaper for more actionable tips to improve the quality of your outreach!

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