Sales Development is Project Management

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Guest Post by Sales Development and Project Management Pro Daniil Krets

Knowing how to run a good process has unquestionably been helpful as a manager, and it was also a force multiplier when I was an individual contributor. Before focusing on building a career in Sales Development, I’ve been super passionate about Project Management. I ran complex projects in fintech for years before moving to the US and making a transition to sales. I even secured a PMP certification back in 2016 which I’ve been finding extremely valuable ever since.  For example, as an SDR, whenever you have a slow week and ask your manager how to bounce back you’re most likely going to get a similar answer every time: trust the process. 

This is why the process is so important in Sales Development. The essence of Sales Development is building a repeatable, measurable, and predictable process that scales with the business. In this blog post, I will dive into the key knowledge areas of Project Management and how they align with Sales Development. I will provide examples to highlight some of the key components of a successful sales development strategy and what SDR Leaders need to focus on to build a good process. 

 What does Project Management have to do with Sales Development? 

Actually a whole lot. If you run a basic search on key knowledge areas the waterfall Project Management methodology focuses on, the list is going to look like this:

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholder Management

Let’s see how each one aligns with Sales Development. By doing this, we will unpack the similarities and see how project management skills are relevant in sales development and identify the top 3-5 most important “project management components” of sales development an SDR Manager should polish to be successful.

Let’s dive into each individual component:

  • Project Integration Management:  Without getting into too much detail, this knowledge area focuses on assigning a project manager, identifying key project components, and fundamental plans of the project. “Integration management takes various processes, systems, and methodologies and brings them together to form a cohesive strategy. 

I’d say from my experience, that this piece is something a lot of new SDR managers struggle with. Defining the tasks/processes that hold your “project” together is the easy part. What’s quite complicated is prioritizing these processes and identifying what exactly and at what stage is key to supporting the SDR function to move the needle on performance. 

Another component that stands out when I think about this knowledge area is integrating and defining the scope of Sales Development within the organization. As an SDR Leader, you have to be a bit more involved in sales and marketing than you’d like to because you’re sandwiched between the two parts of the funnel and the state of both heavily influences your performance and what ultimately your “project” needs to look like. 

  • Project Scope Management is super important as an SDR Leader – what is the scope of the function at this particular stage of the organization? Within this area, I see 2 components: 
    • Making sure you’re fully aligned as an SDR Leader before you take the job and fully understand what you’re signing up for. 
    • Making sure there’s an ongoing process of defining and confirming the goals and objectives you need to deliver on with your stakeholders. If you are building the function at a startup from scratch there will be a lot of pivots in the strategy and goals. Make sure you not only know what and when needs to change so you’re being a good partner to other teams and the business but also know that in advance enough to have time and resources to pivot.
  • Project Time Management: The most successful SDRs I’ve seen manage their time well and make the most out of their time executing. They also structure their activities well and break down their day into time blocks for focus. On a manager level, time management is extremely important when it comes to individual projects you’re running. I’d say one of the most important questions you should ask yourself and the leadership is “What’s my timeline to complete this?”. There are always a few types of projects you’ll run consistently as an SDR Manager that need to have a really well-thought-out structure and time frames – recruiting and onboarding come to mind in particular. 
  • Project Cost Management: As much as Sales Development is considered top of the funnel, one of the things I realized over the course of my career is that in a performance-based role you’re always measured on revenue. Most of the time the performance for SDR function is measured in meetings held and ops/pipeline created but at the end of the day, revenue is key. The more revenue the fewer cost-associated questions you’ll get as a leader. Ultimately, there’s a myriad of situations where there’s no/not enough budget and you need to get creative to get the job done. 
  • Project Quality Management: This one is so important and is so closely aligned with Sales Development I don’t even know where to start. In a world where quality matters so much and spraying and praying doesn’t work anymore, measuring the quality of the outreach and all of its components becomes key. From email personalization to quality of calls – there’re so many things that can be “winged” that you as a leader need to pay attention to. A few components that come to mind are sequence copy quality and performance, meeting quality and show rates, call quality and connection to meeting rates, activity quality and ROI on it, and much much more. 
  • Project Resource Management: One of the key components of an SDR Manager role is managing people. As much as we don’t want to think of people as resources, resource planning is one of the most important “projects” as an SDR Leader. Headcount planning, recruiting, and forecasting – all take a lot of your time as a manager and are key to your success and the success of the team. It’s also what influences the success of your stakeholders a lot, like the sales team and how much pipeline your team is delivering. Or marketing and how fast you can recruit, hire, and onboard when your inbound lead volume grows rapidly. 
  • Project Communication Management: The more senior you become as an SDR Leader in the org, the more you communicate. Lots of components to unpack here. It’s communicating with the team, communicating with your stakeholders such as marketing and sales, and communicating with your peers – Enablement, HR, RevOps, Product Marketing, and other teams you’re working with daily to achieve your goals. Communicating well, on time, and having agendas, timelines, and deliverables for all the conversations you have with your team and other parts of the business becomes a big part of your job as your SDR org scales. 
  • Project Risk Management: As you’ve been reading about the above areas, I’m sure the thought “there’s a ton of risks to manage here” crossed your mind. And yes, the role is so complex there are always a number of projects running concurrently, processes running consistently, and changes happening based on the results of pretty much every project. All of this involves a ton of risks. The ability to manage the risk and pivot fast is how you learn and adapt to changing requirements and internal/external environments. 
  • Project Procurement Management: Not a lot of overlap here if you take this area literally but when you think about it – you’re hiring “contractors” as an SDR Leader all the time. The scope of the role is huge. Delegating well means getting things done and at times surviving. You naturally seek help within your team and within/outside of your organization to complete certain projects faster and better. A few examples:
    • Recruiting – you hire someone internally or externally to help you scale the team when needed. It becomes its own project, and frankly, it’s a separate job that involves managing timelines, costs, and expectations.
    • Delegating something to an SDR on your team becomes a series of small projects that need to be managed – things like reviewing sequences, helping onboard new SDRs, working on the playbook, and documenting processes – all of that essentially means “controlling a procurement process by managing and monitoring, and then closing the contracts once the work has been done to everyone’s satisfaction”
  • Project Stakeholder Management: We’ve seen this come up a lot in Integration, Scope, Risk, Communication, and Resource management where all of these areas when applied to Sales Development involve managing stakeholders – Senior Executives, Sales, Operations, and Marketing leadership and others involved in the GTM strategy within your organization. This area is about identifying the key stakeholders, addressing stakeholder needs and concerns, managing expectations (sometimes adjusting them as well) at all stages of the “project”, and over-communicating when it comes to the status and results of your work. 

I’m sure by now you see how much alignment there is between Project Management and Sales development. What does this mean? 

The SDR Manager job is increasingly becoming more about running a good scalable and measurable process, rather than about getting the messaging out there and making sure the results are good enough. The job is becoming more and more complex as the function matures in the business world and becomes a key component of the GTM strategy for a lot of organizations. I’d argue that at this point, the job is probably done best by a group of people, rather than one person. 

Some “projects” are very different jobs by design and it’s difficult to find a unicorn SDR Manager that does all of them well. Some are better people leaders (or cheerleaders) than others, some are focusing on strategy, tools, and process more than anything else. Both are good options but for different stages of Sales Development function maturity and the type/stage of the organization. 

Right now, we’re seeing SDR Enablement and Operations emerging as new, separate functions within SDR organizations and this is a sign of the function evolving and becoming more complex. This proves my point about the fact that this part of the funnel, being run by one person with no support and resources, the way it used to years ago (but still being the case quite a bit today), is unscalable or impossible. 

The areas to master will be different for each individual SDR manager but being self-aware and identifying the key areas of growth is extremely important for career development and growth. Communities and resources like Tenbound help accelerate this growth and learn from past mistakes and experiences. Networking and having mentors are key drivers that helped me grow as a professional and a leader faster which I’d highly recommend to any new SDR Manager. 

To sum things up, the most important project management areas to master as an SDR Leader from my perspective are Risk, Resource, Communication, Quality, and Stakeholder management. Coupled with an ability to run a good process, mastery within these areas guarantees a long and successful Sales Development Leadership career.

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