What is Sales Development, and is it Right for Your Business?

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If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve recently heard of Sales Development, and now you’re wondering not only what it is, but if it’s right for your business. To help answer that question, let’s first look at what B2B selling used to look like.

For a long time, businesses involved in B2B sales had two major departments – Marketing and Sales. It was the Marketing department’s job to generate leads, and the Sales department’s job to convert them into customers. The problem with this setup, especially as time went on, is that the people in the Sales department had too much on their plate.

Your sales staff is directly responsible for how much revenue you bring in. As such, you want to make sure that they are making the most out of their time. Before Sales Development teams came along, the Sales team was often swamped with different tasks. This meant that they couldn’t focus solely on the high-value tasks for the business, thus hurting the company’s revenue.

3 Major Factors that Impact Sales

While this type of setup worked for a while, it’s now become practically unsustainable. Salespeople have a tougher task now than in previous years, due to three major factors:

  1. There is more competition than ever. Whatever your business is selling, chances are that there are a few other competitors in your niche that you need to beat. With the rise of online business, it’s now easier than ever before to reach potential customers, no matter where you or they may be located. B2B sales teams can no longer rely on geography or having the niche to themselves in order to gain an edge.
  2. Buyers typically include more than one decision maker. Now, more often a salesperson needs to convince not just one person, but an entire team of people to complete the sale. This requires more work, and therefore more time spent with one prospect.
  3. Startups are up against a clock. If you’re running or working at a startup, you likely don’t have a lot of time before the money runs out. You need to generate sales fast just to keep yourself in business. Wasting your time on poor leads only speeds up the clock.

With these three factors, now it’s more important than ever that your sales team is enabled to focus only on the best leads. But how do you know which leads are the best? And how can you figure it out if you don’t want to give more work to your sales team? You can’t ask your Marketing department to handle it, but they already have enough on their plate as well. This is where a Sales Development team comes in.

What is a Sales Development?

Sales Development

Sales Development is an umbrella term used to describe many different functions. It is essentially a new way of doing sales – one that combines processes, people and technology. The idea behind it is that it’s much better to sell to someone who is interested in your product or service rather than a complete stranger. This may seem obvious, but it’s taken a while for this idea to get adopted into the sales process.

Sales development focuses almost exclusively on the early stages of the sales process. It’s not concerned with closing the deal – that’s up to the sales department. It also doesn’t worry about promoting the product or service – that’s for marketing.

Instead, Sales Development focuses on that middle area – finding, connecting, and qualifying leads and passing them onto the sales team.

Putting Together a Sales Development Team

To start, Sales Development requires that you have the right people within the sales process. You shouldn’t hire just one person to handle all tasks – rather, each major role should be given to a qualified person. The tasks that should be delegated by roles within the sales team are:

  • Lead Research
  • Prospecting, Email Outreach, and Social Selling
  • Lead Qualification
  • Closing deals
  • Account Management

Roles within the sales team

Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) should be in charge of Prospecting and Lead Qualification. These people will serve as a bridge between the Marketing Department and the Sales Department. Your marketers work hard to bring in leads, and they don’t want to see them go to waste. On the other side, your highly paid salespeople can’t spend all of its time chasing down each lead – they only need to focus on the best ones. This is why the SDR bridge is important.

Your SDRs will be responsible for making the first contact with leads and then passing the warm ones to closers. It’ll be their job to qualify each lead and perform lead scoring – deciding which ones are worth pursuing – and maintaining all of your lead data. They’ll also be the ones who are sending out regular follow up emails, saving your sales team the trouble of having to chase down hard to reach prospects.

Next, you have your Account Executives. These are the people in charge of closing the deal. They’ll be the ones setting up meetings with potential customers, and adding a personal touch to the proceedings. They should know everything there is to know about your product or service and should be excellent when it comes to closing the deal. Your account executives will also be in charge of maintaining their current clients, checking in with them to ensure they’re happy.

Finally, your Managers will oversee the entire operation. It’s their job to ensure everyone has what they need to succeed in their role, that everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and that everyone is focused on the company goals. Every once in a while the managers will also review performances, and either find ways to boost performances or bring in replacement team members if things aren’t working out.

Training Your SDRs

Once you have the right people in place, it’s important to give them the best training. Too many companies spend a large portion of their budget on acquiring the best talent. But, spend too little time and money on training new employees. If you’re going to go through all of the work of bringing in the best people, you’ll want to do everything you can to get the most out of them and keep them around.

The most important thing you can do to train your SDRs is to develop a learning culture. Create a practice within your company to always find ways that you can do better. A great thing you can instruct your SDRs to do is ask prospects for the feedback. Ask them “What was it about my message that didn’t resonate with you?” A question like this can provide some very useful feedback to SDRs. Maybe the story they used wasn’t compelling enough, or the prospect simply doesn’t require your services. Whatever the reason, you can learn something valuable from your rejections, so work on asking why.

Retain Your SDRS

Now that you’ve spent time bringing in the best SDRs and training them, you don’t want them to leave after only a few weeks or months on the job. You can save your business a lot of money by keeping your current SDRs whenever possible, rather than spending more time and money bringing in new people.

One way to help keep your SDRs around is through micro-promotions. Everyone likes to get promoted and given new responsibilities, but you also can’t make everyone Vice President of the company. This is where micro-promotions come in.

With a micro-promotion, you’re not giving people entirely new jobs, just different responsibilities. This will help to keep them engaged, will make the best use of their talents, and shows that you value their work. This also lets them know that you see them as a part of your long-term plans, and will hopefully help to keep them around.

How to Maximize the Productivity of  Your SDRs and Account Executives

There are a lot of ways to increase the productivity of your team – using a team productivity tools, scheduling regular meetings, providing incentives, etc. To get the most out of your SDRs, one of the things you’ll want to focus on is the handoff between the SDR and the Account Executive. Sometimes it makes sense to pass on every slightly interested customer to the AEs. While other times the SDRs will need to be a lot more selective. Learning which leads and when to pass them will increase the synergy and efficiency between your two teams.

Introductory Meetings and Qualified Opportunities

There are two different models that your business can use when it comes to the handoff between SDRs and AEs. The first is called Setting Introductory Meetings. With this model, the SDRs are handing off prospects that have an understanding of what you’re offering, but you’re unsure of their readiness to buy yet. They could only have a slight interest, or they could be fully ready to buy. The purpose of the introductory meeting is to find out more about the prospect and to understand their level of interest.

The time to use the Setting Introductory Meetings model is either when your product/service is immature, or when your AEs have an empty schedule. If you’re introducing something new into the marketplace, prospects don’t know yet if they need it or not. The introductory meeting can be a great time to explain the benefits and to get people familiar with your solution. At the same time, if your AEs have an empty schedule, you might as well fill it up with introductory meetings, even if your type of product or service is well known. They may ultimately get rejected, but it’s better than doing nothing at all.

The other model is Generating Qualified Opportunities. With this model, your SDRs are using a formula to determine just how interested a prospect is in becoming a customer. Then, based on your own internal benchmarks, they pass along those leads they consider to be of high value.


For a while, companies used a system known as BANT to qualify their leads. BANT stood for:

  •  Budget
  • Authority
  • Need and
  • Timeframe.

An SDR was supposed to look at these four factors and see how prospective clients fit into each. For example, after talking to a prospect, did they have the available budget for your service? Does the person you’re talking to have the authority to make the buying decision? Do they even have a need for your service? And how long would it take them to implement your solution?

This method was used for a long time to qualify leads, but it has recently been replaced with a better system – PACT:

  • Pain
  • Authority
  • Consequence and
  • Target Profile.

There are a few reasons why this method has become more popular:

  • If people don’t realize they need your product, then they won’t have the budget for it. It’s better to focus on their pain points, and how you can provide the solution so that they want to make room in their budget.
  • PACT and BANT both use Authority. But, with PACT you’re recognizing that often more than one person is involved in making the decision.
  • A consequence is about focusing on what will happen if a prospect buys your product/service.
  • By focusing on your target profile, you can tell if a prospect is a good fit and notice any red flags.

By using this method, your SDRs can determine which of their leads are the best. Then, when your AEs have a fuller schedule and can’t be bothered with every single lead, the SDRs can pass on only those that are most likely to convert.

Inbound + Outbound = Allbound

Too often in the sales world, we are tempted to chase after the newest trend. There was a time when Outbound was popular, and every company was making as many cold-calls each day as it could. Then Inbound become more popular, and suddenly every business became focused on creating blog content to attract leads.

However, the best approach isn’t to follow one or the other – it’s to use both.

Outbound vs. Inbound

Why is this? Let’s first look at how Inbound Marketing works. With Inbound, you do a lot of prep work to find your perfect customers, then prepare valuable content that they might like. You then segment your potential prospect universe and draw up an ideal customer profile, with the goal of knowing exactly who it is you want to reach. With Inbound, you’re not creating content for everyone on the Internet. You’re gearing it towards the niche that is going to return you the most profit.

However, the problem with Inbound is that you can’t always sit around and wait for someone to find you. There are people that fit your ICP and aren’t browsing the web looking for your content.

Now, let’s look at Outbound Marketing. For a while, Outbound put the “cold” in “cold calling”. Meaning that salespeople were calling every person imaginable, trying to convert them into a sale. This lead to a lot of wasted hours by your sales team, which eventually lead to marketing departments dropping cold calls altogether.


This is the wrong approach. Rather than getting rid of Outbound altogether, you should incorporate the best parts of Inbound – it’s an approach being called Allbound.

With Allbound, you identify who is going to be the most profitable (something you learn from Inbound), but then you focus your Outbound activity on them. This allows your Outbound team to operate more efficiently, making Outbound once again worth your time.

Don’t listen to anyone who says either Inbound or Outbound is a waste of time. The fact is that you can learn something from them both, and if you combine the best parts of each, you can create an effective Allbound strategy for your business.

Your Sales Development Strategy

Sales Development Strategy

To develop a successful sales development strategy, you’ll want to study your prospective and current customers. Then, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions and come up with answers for them:

  • Why Listen? – Why should your prospective customer listen to you? They have a lot going on in their day, why should they make time for you?
  • Why Care? – Why should they care? After getting leads attention, explain all the positive aspects your solution can have on their business.
  • Why Change? – The prospect probably already has a way of doing things they are content with – why should they change over to you?
  • Why You? – If they are going to make a change, why are you the right choice? What sets you apart?
  • Why Now? – Why should they make a change now, rather than somewhere down the line?

These questions will give you an idea about how your prospective customers think and how you should approach them. Once you have the answers, you can begin to align your sales development processes and strategy to fit your targets. This is essential for getting your SDRs on the same page, and to have everyone working towards the same goals.

Consider the LTV

Beyond answering those key questions, you should also think about the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your prospective clients. This can help you decide where you should focus more of your efforts.

For example, if the LTV is over 20k, then it might be better to focus on outbound sales. Direct sales are easier in this market, and therefore you might get a better return if you put more of your energy here. On the other hand, if the LTV is under 20k, then direct sales will be more difficult. Instead, you’d want to focus on some inbound strategies, such as SEO, social media, and forming strategic partnerships.

Should You Have a Sales Development Team?

 Sales Development Team

After all this, the question still remains – should you hire a sales development team? In our opinion, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” SDR teams are great for practically every company, and your business can likely benefit from one if you don’t have one already.

Let’s say your business currently has a great team of closers. Whenever they get a great lead, they have no trouble turning them into a customer. However, there just aren’t enough of these leads to go around. A good SDR team would help bring in more leads, thus giving your closers more work.

Or, let’s say you have plenty of leads coming in – too much in fact. There are so many leads that your salespeople spend all of their time qualifying them, and not enough converting them. An SDR team in this situation would be able to take a lot of work from the sales team so that they can specifically focus on selling.

Situations like this appear in businesses of all shapes and sizes. Take some time to examine your current sales strategy, and think about whether it could be running more efficiently. You may find that bringing a sales development team to your business could greatly improve productivity, and in turn, increase sales.

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