By Robert Pease, Pipeline Performance Practice Lead – Heinz Marketing

We spend a considerable amount of time working with clients on their sales outreach and engagement processes here at Heinz Marketing.  This has been more recently defined as the discipline of “Sales Development” and is something we believe every company should have a competency around.

How you identify, engage, and convert new customers is fundamental to business operations and there are so many ways to do it poorly that end up frustrating prospects, employees, and sales leaders.

To avoid the frustration and to get maximum return out of your sales development efforts, we have developed the following seven essential building blocks for high performance sales development

1. Target Market

It should go without saying that the more targeted you are in your sales development efforts, the more effective they will be.  Merely having lists of email addresses and phone numbers that you want to contact is not enough.  

Step back and think about the actual accounts that match your optimal customer profile.  Understand the specific qualification criteria you will use to identify those optimal targets and conduct detailed analysis on the personas who influence and make the buying decision.  Once those steps are complete, the list building activity will be of higher quality and increased relevance.

2. Sales Cycle

Rather than focus on how you want to sell and the steps you are taking, consider how your prospect buys and map the sales cycle from the buyer’s point of view.  You can certainly influence and impact the cycle but if decisions are made by several people or even by committee, then understand those steps and what is required to win each of those “micro-decisions” along the way.  

Are you in a smaller dollar amount, higher transaction volume business or are you in a higher dollar amount, lower transaction volume one?  Are buying decisions made on a seasonal or annual basis?  It is important to know the answer to these questions and apply a discipline to your sales development efforts that incorporates them.

3. Team

Sales development is not just the role and act of prospecting.  It is the process around finding, engaging, and converting customers and often this requires different roles and skills on the team.  Understand how prospecting leads to qualification to opportunity creation to converted customer and who is involved in that process.  Where are the hand-offs and what information is required from step to step?  What are the responsibilities of the sales development representative, the account executive, and the account manager? Are these three separate roles or blended into one or two?

Have a very clear set of job descriptions, competency maps, and daily time allocation to maximize active selling time by the sales development team.  These items provide a clear reference for performance reviews as well as a career/professional development path for the team.

4. Message

Now that you have the targets identified, understand how the buying process works, and have your team in place, now it’s time to focus on having something relevant and compelling to say.  All too often the initial message focuses on getting a meeting or demo scheduled when there has been no credibility established or any compelling reason to agree to either a meeting or a demo.

It is critical to “give” in the outreach process and your message must be built around this. What can you offer a prospect that will help them do their job better or deliver insight into their industry, competition, or customer even if they never respond?  Yes, read that again. Even if they never respond.  Deliver value in the interaction because it will benefit you in the long run.

Here is where having a defined point of view on the problem you solve is important.  It can feed the message and content you share anchored by a demonstrated understanding of the need your prospects have and the outcomes they seek.  There will be a time to describe your product or service in detail, but it is not in the earliest stages of the sales development process.  Focus on subject matter expertise and trust validation – highlight how other customers have benefited from working with you to solve the problem.

Understand that not everyone will be interested or ready to engage with you but in your now defined target market you have a list of all the accounts that should be your customers.  Keep in mind that this is not a “one and done” process.  You will revisit all these targets again and how they remember you from the last time is important.  Make sure you make it a positive memory.

5. Reach

Now it is finally time to begin engaging the target accounts with the messages you have created.  Before you start thinking it is all about picking up the phone and cold calling, step back (again) and consider where and how your target prospects gather information, get referrals, and discover new products and services.  Your goal is to get into the information consumption pattern of the target personas at your target accounts.

Your odds of calling a phone number, getting connected, nailing the pitch, and getting a commitment for a deeper discussion are low so do yourself a favor and think more holistically about engagement.  Yes, email and phone are important but what is the outreach flow and how often are you attempting contact?  This is where your message goes operational.  Make it count.  

Is it possible to leverage social media to “surround” your prospect with all that great knowledge you created and want to share or are your targets not even on social media?  In every industry there are a handful of associations, events, and newsletters that are effective ways to reach your target audience.

Mostly, craft your outreach efforts with a dose of patience and while the number of calls and meetings scheduled are important so too is the tone you take and impression that you make while doing it.

6. Enabling Technology

Never, ever start with technology.  Always start with process and find the technology that enables that process delivering scale, insight, and efficiency.  You will need a system to manage contact details, outreach activities, deal tracking, and sales pipeline.  Spreadsheets don’t scale but can provide a nice sketch pad of what you really need.  

Use tools like Google Sheets or Smartsheet for spreadsheet-oriented deal tracking.  Step up to a customer relationship management system like Salesforce.com or Base or use one like PipelineDeals, Insightly, or Nutshell to deliver the basics of deal tracking and relationship management.  Your organization, staffing, and reporting needs will dictate requirements here.

To help automate and scale direct outreach efforts, look to products like SalesLoft, Outreach.io, Toutapp, or PersistIQ.  These are ways to increase one-to-one outreach for the sales development team.  You can further ramp up sales enablement with products like Highspot that focus on delivering and tracking sales content and presentations.

7. Metrics of Success

Apply the right metrics and measurements to track progress and identify areas needing improvement.  Regardless of your business, you can track the number of net new contacts created, the number of qualified leads generated, opportunities created, connect rates, conversion rates, and revenue contribution.

Have a target number of meetings per week per rep – be those first touch commitments to learn more for a sales development rep or meetings completed by an Account Executive.  Track new sales pipeline created weekly ($) and force a discipline around probability of close that includes “stretch” accounts so that all opportunities are visible in pipeline reporting.

Mostly, be aware of what you are tracking because this will drive behavior.  If you are tracking the number of demos scheduled, then that is what all efforts will be directed at scheduling.  Stay vigilant about what you are closing to and challenge assumptions like is a delivered demo required to move a prospect through the buying process.  Stay focused on removing friction from the sales process and use metrics and measures to identify and isolate where that friction is present.

Interested in learning more about high performance sales development or how we can help you implement it at your company?  Contact us and we’ll set up some time.

  • Check out http://www.leadfuze.com for the technology portion 🙂

    I am featuring this post on the free weekly SliceOfSales.com newsletter as this is a good sales process breakdown. Cheers!