3 Key Elements to Mastering Sales Development

Many sales leaders continue to debate the right approach to sales development. Some leaders play a math game, striving to identify the right input of calls and emails to get to enough conversation with decision makers as an output. Others rarely pick up the phone, selling primarily through social media or email.

Another approach gaining traction is the account-based model: Sales teams conduct highly targeted outreach, focusing only on the prospects that have the highest likelihood of doing business with you. The idea is to find a customer who can benefit from your solution. This approach takes mastering all mediums of outreach: phone, email, social, even direct mail.

Although there is more than one effective approach, you need to invest in finding the one that is right for you and your company. And whatever the approach, good sales development boils down to a few key elements.

Get Prospects to Pay Attention

The first part of reaching prospects is to get them to notice you. Depending on your target and their personality, various mediums can be effective.

Getting prospects' attention is about creating enough noise and value that they not only notice you, but they stop to listen. Sales development reps have only a few seconds to get a prospect's attention, and pattern interruption is one way to do it.

Humans are naturally creatures of habit; once you can grab a person's attention, you need to make him stop and think while his attention is yours. Everyone has a set of programmed responses that a good salesperson can overcome with something that gets the prospect to pay heed. 

One of the most effective ways to reach prospects is through a healthy cadence that gives them time to respond the way they would naturally respond to others. A few ways to do this include:

  • an email that gives them time to respond;
  • technology that allows for personalized messages to cut through the noise;
  • social channels on which to share information, without overlooking the valuable information prospects provide in return;
  • a phone call to gain a referral;
  • a one-liner that catches a prospect off guard and gains a response.

Develop a Dialogue

The most important part of the sales process—at least early in the sale—is to get the prospect to respond to you and create a meaningful conversation. No sale in the business-to-business world can progress until a conversation begins.

Sales development representatives often try to close a deal before prospects even know what their solution does. First, the prospect must have interest in what you do, and then she needs to understand the value your product provides.

Rather than going for the hard sell on the first call, work with prospects to give them insight into why they should care about talking with you. You can do this by:

  • understanding their problems before you call;
  • painting a picture of what it would be like to work with you;
  • demonstrating value;
  • solving for the next step, not a closed deal.

Expand the Relationship

If you succeed in getting prospects to buy into your message, your job isn’t done there. You still need them to show up to the next meeting with an account executive. There is always a chance that a prospect will go dark or stand you up at your next meeting, sending you back to square one.

Sales development representatives might not be the ones guiding deals to close, but they are the key players in adding value to the relationship as early in the process as possible. This critical role is much more art than science—it's the ability to expand the relationship with others internally.

The best sales development representatives find a way to get prospects to commit to a firm meeting time before they get off the phone and keep in contact with them before the handoff.

As sales development has matured, businesses are starting to see sales development representatives as a vital part of the organization. Mastering these key areas will give SDRs a much better shot at sustaining success.

Phill Keene currently leads the sales development team at Octiv (formerly TinderBox), and through his experience he has learned how to be a strategic resource to companies trying to reach their revenue goals and attain quota. He brings best practices around sales productivity, lead generation, and technology. Connect with him on Twitter @PhillKeene.

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