The Biggest Contributor to B2B Revenue

In most B2B companies with complex products or services, marketing-sourced leads rarely account for even half the revenue and often it is much less. To keep valuable field sales resources productive, many of the more innovative sales and marketing departments build “sales development” teams. Oracle. Marketo. HubSpot. HP.  Salesforce.com.  Just to name a few.

Very quickly, these teams contribute more pipeline than any other lead source.

Those sales development teams might follow up on inbound marketing leads or use outbound prospecting to set appointments or develop opportunities. They then turn over the appointment or the opportunity to a sales person. The benefits of such sales development teams are many:

  • Better conversion and ROI on marketing qualified leads
  • One of the most effective – if not the most effective – sources of pipeline deals
  • Improved sales productivity
  • A deep bench of talent to replace inside or field sales people who underperform, get promoted, or leave.

Five Key Considerations for Creating the Best Sales Development Strategy

If your company does not have such a team or the team you have is not optimized, getting the model or strategy right is key.  After reading her outstanding new book, The Sales Development Playbook,I asked Trish Bertuzzi her thoughts on creating the model right.  Her company, The Bridge Group, has helped over 305 companies design and optimize various inside sales operations.

What are those key factors?  “Every situation is slightly different,” she said, but these five are among the most critical.

#1: Your brand

To start with, your brand matters a lot.  When you’re calling from IBM or Salesforce.com, most of the people you reach will be familiar with – or at least think they are familiar with – your company. That credibility opens doors and buys a few more seconds of attention from prospects than does the brand of a company no one has heard of.

#2. Your Product Lifecycle

Another key factor is the lifecycle of your products or services.  Are you trying to reach innovators or early adopters about predictive analytics?  Guess what?  Most of them won’t have any idea what predictive analytics is or why they should care.  In contrast, if you are selling anti-virus software to IT managers, they all know what anti-virus is and why they need it.  So your phone conversations start in a very different place.

For an emerging solution category like predictive analytics, you might have to provide a provocative insight about the amount of money wasted on leads and accounts that will never buy. For anti-virus software, you need to say why your product is better than what they are using now.

For products or services early in their lifecycle, it often makes sense to stop the qualification process short of an opportunity.  Rather, the opportunity development team would qualify the person and the account and set up a meeting.  This gives the sales person lots of chances to develop the buying vision with the customer early in the process.

#3. Your Buyer Ecosystem

Do you sell to a single buyer persona or more than one person within a company?  Is the ideal outreach top down or bottom up or both? Obviously, the more complex buyer ecosystems create the need for the ideal sequence and priority of outreach to the buyer personas, the messaging and questions for each buyer type, and how many conversations to have before turning the opportunity over to sales.  Obviously, the process, messaging, metrics and event skills sets for a team calling a single buyer persona would differ significantly from a more complex buyer ecosystem.

#4. Revenue Per Account

Some companies serve a broad market and generate lower revenue per account.  Other companies are focused on larger enterprise accounts and so generate much more revenue per account.  In the first case, often an inbound model works best, with reps following up on marketing leads.  In the second, an outbound team either developing qualified opportunities or setting up appointments can be highly productive.

#5. Scale of Operations

Generally, the larger your operations, the more possible it is to have divisions of labor. Inbound versus outbound reps are the most common example.  Generally, such divisions of labor can accelerate the time-to-ramp because reps will have less to learn and because you can hire people with skills specific to the role.  For example, for companies selling a new category of product (i.e., earlier in the product lifecycle), especially when the monthly recurring revenue or deal size is larger, hiring reps just to research accounts can increase the overall return on sales development resources.  After all, the skills required to spark conversations with decisions makers are very different from those needed to find trigger events or key talking points about the account or the person.

While there can be other factors that matter, these five are generally the most important.

What about all the new technologies, you might wonder.  Don’t they impact your sales development strategy?  While technologies have made inside sales more productive, Trish adds one caveat. She believes that having the right process and message impact results more than anything else. Once you have defined those critical success factors, then you can look to automation to scale success.

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