Hiring Sales Development Reps is like throwing money down the toilet.

Many businesses are trying to re-invent they way they sell and will do anything to find that sweet spot. The hiring of new SDR’s (Sales Development Reps) is the buzzword these days! Build a team of SDR’s to increase the productivity of your salespeople.

It’s not a new idea and has been done for years now. You hire some junior reps or a call center agents to dial, dial and dial some more……These reps hit the phone 100 times a day, attempting to engage prospects, then, once they have engagement, transfer those prospects to more experienced closers.

Today’s Sales Development Reps is the same idea, with a slightly fresher approach. From the customer’s perspective, the experience is more or less the same. And from the organisation’s perspective, SDR’s are an expensive way to improve salespeople’s productivity.

Guys like Justin Roff-Marsh and Aaron Ross (SalesForce) are fans of applying division-of-labor to sales and have had huge success in this field.

Why the SDR idea doesn’t really fly?

Two reasons:

  1. Your most valuable prospects find junior salespeople’s questions insulting and are irritated that these people cannot answer the technical or high-value questions.
  2. Because SDRs go through hundreds of prospects, the approach to the marketplace is completely un-targeted and boring.

The qualification myth

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The SDR idea is very appealing to those who believe that you can qualify sales into reality. They believe the essential nature of the sales process is to filter-out all those prospects who will not buy — leaving only the sure things, behind.

In most environments, though, prospects cannot be qualified into purchasing — they need to be convinced, or actually sold. And the most critical selling conversation is — the very first one.

You should insist that your experienced, capable salespeople have those important initial conversations with potential customers.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking! How do you avoid your salespeople’s limited capacity being consumed by people with no potential to purchase?

The answer is simple: don’t push non-prospects into your salespeople’s opportunity queues. The thing is, it’s actually not that difficult to differentiate between prospects and non-prospects. The key is a combination of targeting and research (neither of which require SDRs).

Targeting and research

The first step is to have your campaign team design targeted campaigns. For example, rather than targeting VP Sales with a general pitch, target VP Sales leaders in a specific industry who must solve a specific challenge in the next 90 days.

Step two is to compile a list of only those VP’s, in that specific industry and with that specific problem. It’s probably not possible to purchase a list that’s this targeted. So, that’s where research comes in. Your campaign team will need to commission a mix of web and phone research to hunt down that small group of individuals to whom this campaign is targeted.

Where phone research is required, it’s important to point out that your researchers should not attempt to speak directly to your target customers — in most cases, they can get the answers from junior people in your target’s departments. And, if your researchers happen to talk to your target, then they should make it clear that they are only collecting information and NOT selling.

Where does this leave inbound?

This same advice applies when you are generating inbound opportunities. Rather than roiling out content that’s optimised for clicks, your campaigns team needs to design content that appeal only to the specific people — in the specific environments — you are targeting.

No free rides for managers

With more targeted campaigns, your salespeople’s work becomes easier. Engagement is easier and the odds that a salesperson will find themselves talking to a non-prospect are radically reduced.

The approach still features division-of-labor, its just drawing the boundary lines in different places.

In place of a team of SDR's you now have a larger campaigns department and maybe a small team of reserachers.

This approach is less costly than a team of SDRs but it does force management to carry more responsibility than they are used to. Specifically, management must become actively involved in the campaign-planning process. To enable the kind of micro-targeting, changes to your core offering are often required and only senior management has a large enough mandate to approve these kind of changes.

Field Sales Reps

“One of the biggest challenge for sales professionals is to focus on a constant flow of well qualified sales meetings . Field sales people on average spend only around 15% of their time is spent in the field, with the balance of their time spent in the office or some sort of admin tasks.

Consider the goal of the sales function (it’s reason for existence). It’s tempting to resolve that the goal of sales is to sell. But, in most organisations this just doesn’t cut it. To pull its weight, the sales function has to consistently manage all functions such as: generate leads, qualify them, close, do customer relations, admin, project management...

How can we expect these sales people to reach target and stay on–track?

“Biggest Misconception”

Most executives’ think adding salespeople grows revenue.

However, the root issue is not on growing the team but on lead generation and qualification, plus ensuring that field salespeople spend 100% of their time facing clients.

Salespeople do not cause customer acquisition growth, they fulfill it.

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About Riaan

Over the past 20 years, Riaan has been working with leading Sales Organisations, Sales Managers and select Individuals who want to improve sales performance, design and implement winning strategies and sales cultures that leads to more deals.

 Since 1985, Riaan has been in Corporate | B2B | High-level Sales and led teams to maximise performance. He provides strategic oversight and serves as executive sales coach and advisor to clients ranging from small, rapidly growing start-ups to well-established, large corporations.

His experience has allowed him to work with organisations and executives within entities such as Old Mutual, Sanlam, the Telecoms Industry, Siemens, Capgemini, Accenture, BWI in Hong Kong and many others, to help them improve sales performance.