Why Account-Based Marketing Signals the Rise of the SDR

By May 24, 2016
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Account-Based Marketing, Account-Based Sales Development, Account-Based Sales, Account-Based Everything–whatever you want to call it, it’s here (at least for a while) and people everywhere are actually doing it (Hi!).  People who aren’t doing it are wondering how to get started.  There are conferences dedicated to getting people started. In fact, I’ve been to two of them in the last few weeks!

Many of you think it’s about tweaking your usage of Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, or Act-On.  But the reality is, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Account-Based Marketing is more than just how you send emails—it’s about how you approach your entire sales and marketing strategy. One of the biggest changes you need to think about when switching to account-based, is changing the behavior of your SDRs and raising expectations on what the SDRs are capable of.

How do you empower your SDRs to up-level their roles and responsibilities? How do you shift how your marketing department to support them?

First Off, Kill Your Vanity Metrics

Typical KPIs and metrics used to measure SDRs are calls and emails.  Most of my career I’ve asked SDRs to make between 50-60 calls each day, with an understanding that they will send about the same number of emails. That’s over. Get rid of that right now.  Seriously, stop forcing your people to make so many calls during the day, it’s a waste of time. Why? Because over the course of a month your SDRs will end up calling thousands of bad leads that have no chance of buying from you.  You’re wasting their time and skills, and when they book meetings with bad leads, you’re wasting your AEs’ time and skills.  The most damaging part of this is that you will ultimately drive a wedge between your SDRs and AEs instead of creating harmony because AEs will not trust the leads your SDRs are bringing in.

So what’s the right number of calls and emails? Without understanding your business, I can’t tell you for sure.  But we’ve seen much greater success placing roughly 20 calls each day. So, how do I get away with a team that only makes 20 calls per day per rep? The calls they place are personalized. These calls are made in tandem with personalized emails and they are in support of personalized social outreach.  Think about it for a second–would it be possible for you personalize 100 phone calls and write 100 personalized emails in a single day?

But, Matt, Sales Development is a volume game, we need SDRs to call everyone possible in order to have the conversions we need. They don’t have the skills required to catch and retain people’s attention.

BS–SDRs are probably the most underutilized resource in your business.  Your SDRs are the future of your sales team. You need to start training them to run the first 25% of a sales cycle–that means researching prospects and finding entry points in addition to what your marketing team can deliver. It means you need to teach them to craft messages that are relevant, messages that encourage prospects to engage. Your SDRs need to have the chops to effectively explain your product’s ability to align with a prospect’s needs.

Next, Bring Your Lead Acquisition Process into 2016

The pressure that marketers are under right now to add net-new leads to the top-of-the-funnel has reached a fever pitch.

Marketers are trying every tactic in the book (and outside of the book) in order to meet their KPIs. In some cases, marketers are turning to sources that have very low conversion rates. List purchases typically have the lowest conversion rate of them all. They’re great for adding numbers, but when you start calculating the impact on pipeline or closed-won deals, the viability of list buys drops to nearly zero. Most marketers know that these leads will be bad, but they do list buys anyway, hoping that they’ll get people that look like the leads they’ve deemed as good.

The look-alike part is right, but trying to find look-alike personas is flawed. What you want is look-alike accounts and the leads that exist within them. Why? You know why! Titles are just titles, and they mean very little when it comes to running account-based sales development. What’s really important is the quality of the company. Let’s go back to the reasons why so many companies are going account-based:

  • People leave companies, but the needs of the company don’t change.  If you’re reaching out to someone who no longer works at that company, move on to another person. If your SDR knows the company is good, she will have no problem going after someone else.
  • If the company is a bad fit, who cares if you’re talking to the right person?  Seriously, if your SDRs are booking meetings with people that are the right fit, but the company is a bad fit, how will AEs hit their quota, or close anything at all? It’s a waste. And if your amazing AE actually closes that deal, imagine the disaster that’s waiting for your customer success team. Remember, in SaaS, renewals are the name of the game.
  • Your requirements to sell may be based on tech stack, department size or maturity, location, etc.  If you can only sell to companies that have Salesforce.com as their CRM, who cares about a meeting your SDR just booked with a company running SugarCRM?  Similarly, if your requirements are that a company has 20 or more sales reps, who cares if an SDR books a meeting with a company that has 12 sales reps?

Account-Based Everything is the way to go. It generates more success for the organization as a whole. In order to do this properly you need to put more time and faith into your SDRs. They’re more than capable.

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