In the beginning, there was sales. For a long time, it was as simple as that.
Salespeople would work their Rolodex and run the full sales process with just one goal: ABC, Always Be Closing.
However, the idea that one role can address all the complexities of modern sales has changed. Over recent years, the Sales Development role has exploded in popularity, spreading from Silicon Valley companies to sales organizations of all types and sizes.
With the advent of Software as a Service, the importance of dividing the sales team into three parts—Sales Development, Account Executives and Customer Success—gained viability.
Sales Development finds new leads and follows-up on inbounds, Account Executives close deals, and Customer Success ensures the customers never cancel their subscription.
The success of companies such as Salesforce.com and myriad of others has proven out the Sales Development model.
Quite simply, Sales Development is the dedicated practice of creating sales pipeline for your company through proactive outreach to prospective customers and of following up on inbound leads created by your marketing efforts. Instead of a single sales rep handling everything, it divides the job into specialities.
While that may seem simple, we’re still seeing confusion in the Sales Development industry, with a lack of clarity on what’s actually involved and lack of expertise on how to implement it effectively.
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Sales Development, from what it is to how you can build it successfully into your organization.
- What is Sales Development?
- Benefits of a Sales Development program
- Implementing Sales Development in your organization
- Top Sales Development skills
- The SDR process
- Building a Sales Development tech stack
- Sales Development training and tactics
- Monitoring the right metrics
What is Sales Development?
Sales Development covers the early stages of the sale. From researching potential prospects to carrying out the initial lead and ultimately generating sales-qualified leads (SQLs).
In Sales Development, the people responsible for carrying out this work are Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). In many sales organizations, they sit between marketing and sales, in some cases reporting to Sales, in some cases Marketing.
Their job is to carry out those early-stage sales tasks, with responsibility for prospecting and qualifying. In a nutshell, their job is to maintain a full pipeline of qualified leads for the sales team.
Depending on their exact role, they’ll either take inbound marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) from Marketing (for example, those who’ve engaged with content), or they’ll go looking for leads themselves.
In either case, they’ll reach out to those leads with the objective of qualifying the lead ready for the sales team. This might involve a variety of channels, tools, and strategies. While the traditional idea is of a rep working the phones, today they are as likely to be sending emails, recording videos, or sending connection requests on LinkedIn.
Is the lead a good fit? Are they interested? The SDR will follow up with the lead, usually with the objective of priming them and booking a meeting. At this point, they’ll then hand them over to an Account Executive (AE) as a qualified lead.
To be clear, SDRs carry out a very different function to AEs. AEs will usually be involved in the tail-end of the sales process, getting the SQL across the finish line and signing the contract. The SDR sets up the deal, the AE closes it.
SDRs are also different from Business Development Reps (BDRs), although some companies use the term interchangeably. BDRs usually have the objective of identifying new markets and making connections with businesses in that market. The SDR job is more focused on finding and qualifying inbound leads.
Of note: “Sales Development” in this context is sometimes called “Business Development”, which is confusing because Business Development is also the specialty of forging strategic partnerships with complementary companies for integration and cross-selling purposes, something totally different than Sales Development. For this article I’m talking about Sales Development, as defined above. Sales Development Reps (SDRs) are alternatively called Business Development Reps, Lead Development Reps, Account Development Reps, Revenue Development Reps, or a plethora of other creative terms.
Benefits of a Sales Development program
Don’t all these different terms and roles just confuse matters? Why do we need all these different job functions?
For a start, connecting with prospects requires time and resources. Having a team of SDRs allows your sales team to keep a tight focus on specific objectives. This focus means they can use different playbooks and receive training that’s specifically tailored to their tasks.
In their State of Sales report, Pipedrive found that only 62% of salespeople spend most of their time actually selling. By having SDRs who stick to prospecting and qualifying, sales reps can spend more of their time getting leads signed up and closing deals. As an entry-level position, a dedicated Sales Development team means you’re not paying your top closers top dollar for the job, saving you time and money.
SDRs also have the opportunity to contribute to strong prospect relationships. As the first point of contact that a prospect has with your company, they can make a good first impression on your prospects, for example by quickly responding to any inbound interest.
With their clear obj