Next week, we’ll be hosting the first ever conference 100% focused and dedicated to Sales Development, at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. September 21st.

When I originally thought up this conference, I had no idea what the response would be.

Was I the only one who thought it was time to start treating Sales Development with the respect it deserves in 2017? Was I the only one who thought this topic was important enough to warrant an entire conference dedicated to it?

Collectively, can we push this practice forward a few steps?

Well my fears have been totally allayed as the response has exceeded even my wildest estimations.

The hunger in the Sales Development world for fresh knowledge, leadership, networks, and research has been overwhelming, and even though the conference hasn’t happened yet, I already consider it a success. 

The agenda is solid, the venue is first class and the attendees are a psyched. I’ve met some incredible people and reacquainted with old friends as a direct result of the conference. And if you haven’t signed up yet, get in there today before it sells out.

So, why start a Sales Development community? Why now?

I believe now is the right time, a critical time really, to solidify this community.

The Sales Development landscape has changed radically in the last couple of years, and I believe we must respond to this change intelligently in order to stay ahead of it, and to thrive moving forward. 

There are three factors unique to today I believe we need to focus on, as a unified group:

  • Sales Development as a strategic imperative
  • How the Buyer’s Journey has changed  
  • Prepare for long, cold economic winter (burr!)

Factor #1. Sales Development: from afterthought to strategic imperative.

Goes without saying that in order to stay alive and grow, companies need sales. Sales are the lifeblood of a business.

Without sales, companies wither up and die. Duh. But where do sales come from? They come from a robust sales pipeline. Some companies use the rule of 3X or 4X of their sales targets in pipeline maintained to be able to hit their sales numbers. In any case, there must be plenty of deals in play.

And how do you generate that sales pipeline? Through sales appointments with prospective customers. Sales appointments that are created as a result of conversations with prospects.

Green field opportunities, existing accounts, event attendance; whatever drives those conversations to happen, eventually the prospective customer must feel compelled enough to start talking to someone at your company via some kind of sales appointment.

Enter the Sales Development team. A group of people laser focused on contacting prospects, generating conversations and setting those sales appointments. This is what we do.

So I ask you, if businesses need these sales appointments to grow pipeline, then, if not the Sales Development team, who specifically is going to call the leads you generate enough times to connect and have those conversations? Who’s going to call your top target accounts enough times to penetrate?

Who is going make sure no stone is unturned in the prospect database you’ve spent good money to acquire? Who’s going to be watching chat 24/7? Who is going to be driving your appointment number, from a management perspective?

Will it be your Marketing team? Your Sales Reps? A Robot? You? 

Usual answer is: “well, the Sales team should be doing it.” They want to make sales, right? However, I beg you to study the true behavior on a daily basis. Look at their calendars.

In my experience, it includes very little time spent locating new prospects and effectively locking down new sales appointments. Sales people want to present, negotiate, close deals and collect commissions. That’s what they’re good at. God love ‘em!

Similar with the Marketers, they want to deliver the metrics they are accountable for, whatever those might be.

The Robots, maybe someday soon, who knows.

And so we go back to today’s simple equation: appointments to pipeline to closed sales.

If we can agree sales appointments are important, and nobody else is going to do it, suddenly Sales Development is not an afterthought, or a red-headed stepchild in your company, it is now a strategic imperative that must be considered at the highest level and taken very, very seriously.

Your very survival may depend on it.

Let that sink in. Now look at the reality. Most companies look at Sales Development as an entry-level position. A nice-to-have. Something perhaps to spread out, automate or eliminate. A cost center. A drain on resources. The big debate is still, today: where should Sales Development report? Come on!

To me that confusion makes little sense.

And that outlook is not how the CEO’s speaking at the conference treat Sales Development. Or the emerging leaders in the Sales Development world attending the conference.

They are taking Sales Development very seriously.

Factor #2. The Buyer’s Journey has changed, but Sales Development organizations have not. 

Potential customers are inundated with millions of messages each day, mostly generic marketing and messaging from marketing automation systems or poorly trained Sales Development teams. The result? They are tuning out.

However, the fact remains that prospects are out there trying to solve difficult business problems that our products and services can help with, and we must continue to have those conversations that lead to appointments.

Yet the current way Sales Development teams are interacting with prospects is showing diminishing returns. The spray-and-pray methodologies of the past are fading out in effectiveness. Clueless SDR’s are not definitely not effective.

Today’s potential buyers demand the same type of personalization that they get with an Amazon search or while browsing Netflix. They crave interactions with people who truly understand their pain points and can help them solve their problems. They want connection with people who understand their business and can add value.

At the same time, pressure is going up on Sales Development teams to have more conversations and to set up more appointments, and so we equip Sales Development teams with powerful tools to send out more emails while underinvesting in the training, coaching, and career paths that would create better Sales Development Reps. We continue to hire and fire, and generally don’t make Sales Development a place people want to be.

Instead of investing in specific Sales Development career paths and training that would create long term success, we treat the position as a bus stop on the way to bigger better things. “Lifer” SDRs, who understand their buyers and contribute a ton of value to companies, are exceedingly rare. Most SDRs are in the positions for a only a few months before leaving.

Yet when you think about the way buyers want to be communicated with, Lifer SDRs are actually great. Well trained SDRs are amazing. And somebody good at running Sales Development teams should be able to become a VP of Sales Development or even Chief Sales Development Officer, reporting to the CEO.

That is how important the role should be and I believe forward-thinking companies will start to adapt to this reality.

It must change. We currently have a broken model that is leading to fewer appointments, less pipeline, lower sales, SDR burnout and public shamings on Linkedin of victimized Sales Development Reps. Wasted money. Not good!

To stay aligned with the new buyer journey, to become experts in their pain points and to truly add value, and earn the right, we need to up our Sales Development organization game, big time. Right now.

We need to collectively figure out how to improve this situation.

Factor #3 Winter is coming – economically speaking.

As someone who’s lived through the dot-com bubble, the real estate bubble and countless other corrections and downturns, I can tell you, we’re in a protracted climb right now that is naturally due to slope downward at some point. Maybe sooner than we think.

One look at the chaos in the news and you can tell an economic storm is coming, and it will undoubtedly do it’s job of separating the weak from the strong. It will wipe away companies that do not respect the power of sales. Again, sales, the lifeblood of a company.

Sales that come from pipeline, the pipeline which comes appointments. And we’re back to the critical role of Sales Development and why I believe now is the time to take it more seriously.

Now more than ever. Instead of fear and retraction, we should be ready to attack and expand during the coming recession, to stay alive and to thrive by grabbing market share and dominating sectors.

A killer Sales Development program can help do that. Now is the time to prepare.

So there you go, three big factors we need to gather, network, discuss and improve! I’m convinced that as a group, we can solve these issues and become more successful.

…And finally, I got a lot of comical reactions when I started calling people about the conference, which is enough for another whole post.

I got some really weird reactions.

One of the common misconceptions about it was that it was “an SDR Conference”.

While I’m excited to get SDRs involved in it and to meet the next generation of Sales Development leaders at this conference, it’s definitely not “an SDR Conference”. 

It’s a conference for anyone concerned about appointments, pipeline and revenue.

And that should be anyone involved in running a business.

See you next week!


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