The Social Selling Blog

Tactics and strategies to align with the modern buyer

7 Essentials For Building A World-Class Account Based Sales Development Team

Posted by Jon Miller on Jan 10, 2017 10:30:00 AM

world-class-account-based-everything.jpgThe Account Based Everything model is built on the discipline of sales development. In a successful ABE strategy, you can’t just hire a bunch of young Sales Development Reps, give them a list of companies, and say ‘Good luck’.

Instead, growing and scaling an Account Based Sales Development program is predicated on your ability to build a professional sales development team that consistently delivers the big opportunities that drive rapid growth. Doing this well requires 7 key components, among others. I’ll be walking through these - and more - on Thursday January 12th in a free, live webinar. Join us!

1) Goals and focus

The goal of your ABSD team is nothing short of excellence at scale. In an account-based environment, every at-bat is important. While you don’t want to remove the ability for a smart SDR to use his or her judgement, you do want to instill focus, efficiency and control to the SD process.

Establish your goals early - the most important thing to know is why you’re doing it, and to make sure your stakeholders agree. An early-stage company might need to give their Account Executives more at-bats. A more mature SaaS vendor with a roaring inbound machine might need to maximize AE productivity and focus on key accounts. Building on success, your company may need to penetrate a new market, from the top down. Or, your priority might be revenue growth from existing customers, where your goal is a concerted cross-sell/upsell program. Your unique situation guides your goals.

2) Proper compensation

How much should you pay your SDRs? The average for the role has stayed pretty flat over the last few years. The Bridge Group found an average base salary for SDRs to be $46k, with on-target earnings of $72.1k, a base % of 64% and variable % at 36%.

Factors that drive compensation include experience, average selling price, region, vertical market and goals of your SDR team (whether meeting setters or lead qualifiers.) For more examples of compensation specifics, be sure to attend our ABSD webinar.

3) Quotas

 After compensation metrics come goals and quotas. As with any target, the key here is to set a level that will stretch your SDRs to deliver their best performance, but that doesn't set them up for constant failure. No one source can tell you where to set the quotas - it depends on deal size, percent of pipeline you expect to get from SDRs, your SDR to AE ratio, and many other factors.

Whatever you set quotas at, track how many SDRs meet their number each month. At Engagio, we set our SDR quotas based on “points” earned for meetings and opportunities at the accounts they cover. I detail the process in our Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development.

4) Recruiting

In 2016, the average required experience for an SDR hire was 1.3 years, an 18% annual rate of decline since 2009, according to The Bridge Group. Different leaders look for different qualities, but they do tend to converge on a certain type.

Most prefer very little experience, some like hard-workers who may not be academic high-fliers, some like seeing that a parent or family member was in Sales, and all seem to like a typical ‘Sales profile’ (confident, ambitious extrovert with the ability to prioritize, juggle, and manage time.) Everyone wants ‘smart’ - intelligence and empathy matter in this role, and grit helps, as this role is no place for the easily discouraged.

5) Onboarding

New SDRs don’t start contributing to revenue on day one; they have to ramp up. The faster you ramp them up, the sooner they’re feeding your pipeline and the more value you realize. Bryan Gonzalez of TOPO suggests three principles for SDR onboarding: make it SDR-specific, use hands-on management, and make it intensive.

Your SDR training program should include all the job-specific skills, including effective researching, call prep, personas and their drivers, core industry trends and issues, plays and their touches, product training and updates, tools and internal processes, and more. Join our webinar for more details.

6) Coaching

Coaching is a critical aspect of managing SDRs. You’re turning inexperienced graduates into pipeline creators. That doesn’t happen without front-line coaching sessions in which the manager can zoom in on specific skills gaps and reinforce positive behaviors.

Sales Development Managers should commit to constant coaching of their SDRs, including observing what they’re doing, diagnosing their behaviors, and prescribing specific actions to encourage correct behaviors.

Good coaching doesn’t just improve SDR performance, it improves job satisfaction and helps keep them in the role longer.

7) Promotion paths

Most SDRs see the role as the first stepping stone for a career in Sales. That’s great for you – it’s a source for people who often become your best Account Execs – but it also puts a strain on the sales development team, constantly draining it of its best reps.

To give SDRs a sense of career progression within the role, many companies implement a series of step promotions:

  • Associate SDR–until they make the grade

  • SDR– during full productivity

  • Senior SDR–as they progress to mentor others

These micro-promotions progress in defined, ‘Ramp-Achieve-Advance’ cycles that last from four to six months each. These are popular, but you may also need defined paths into other sales development roles (such as outbound) and a path into quota-carrying AE roles.

To learn more about these necessary components - and more - join me on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, as we team up with SalesforLife in an executive webinar focused on building a world-class Account Based Sales Development team. As part of that session, we’ll be demonstrating what it takes to put the right people, process, technology, and focus together to drive success in today’s selling environment. I hope you can make it - register now.

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Jon Miller

About the Author

Jon Miller is CEO and Co-Founder of Engagio, the Account Based Everything platform that lets you orchestrate human connections at scale. Previously, he was the VP Marketing and Co-Founder of Marketo. Jon has a passion for helping marketers everywhere, and in 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.