Sales development is a cost-effective resource that bridges the gap between high-volume marketing and high-touch sales.
Kemberton is a small company with fewer than 150 employees. Despite our size, we have been able to grow a network of 150 hospital clients in 25 states for our revenue cycle management services.
However, to reach the next phase in our growth, we knew we had to change our sales process. Our market stretches across North America, and we just didn’t have the budget to hire enough experienced (and expensive) salespeople to cover the whole territory.
We decided to build a sales development process to support our sales team, and less than a year into the experiment, it’s an unqualified success. For us, sales development is a cost-effective resource that bridges the gap between high-volume marketing and high-touch sales. Using a team of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) to engage, qualify and nurture prospects quickly and efficiently, we are rapidly filling the sales pipeline with quality leads which will enable our small sales team to focus on closing more business.
How we built an SDR process from scratch
We had no experience in sales development and no idea where to begin, so we started by talking to companies who had gone before us. We were lucky to be able to talk to Phreesia, another LLR portfolio company who built an incredible sales development team. (Read “Why Our Sales Development Program Did More than Just Double Bookings in One Year” by Phreesia’s VP of Sales Operations for more on this story.) We took that learning, adapted it to our unique situation and, through trial and error, built an SDR process that works for us.
Our process is based on these core functions:
1. Lay the groundwork.
Lack of awareness is a big barrier for Kemberton, and SDRs aren’t going to see much traction reaching out into the void. We start with a marketing campaign that targets a specific market segment by sending three tailored emails over a three-month period. Prospects who visit the website or interact with our marketing content at any point during this time are automatically forwarded to the SDR team and inserted into their outreach program. Prospects who open the emails but don’t act on them stay in the nurture until all three emails are sent. Those with higher open rates are then sent to the SDR team, while with one or no opens are nurtured further by email. Once the initial three-month marketing period is completed, we move on to the next market segment with new, refined messaging, and the process begins all over again.
This marketing phase is critical to our process. By the time our SDRs reach out to new prospects, these companies already know who we are, what we offer and how we may be able to help them, so they’re much more likely to engage.
2. Do the research.
Before reaching out, our SDRs do an incredible amount of research. They use social media and other sources to discover everything they can about potential leads, including what content they like to consume, what issues are top of mind, what solution they have in place, whether they in-source or outsource, the volume of accounts they process and what level of success they have in collecting on those accounts. They also map the organizational hierarchy to determine exactly who we need to speak to.
In no more than 3 to 5 minutes, the SDR can gather valuable, qualifying information and get a commitment to meet with an account executive where there’s a clear fit.
3. Start the outreach.
By the time our SDRs reach out to a lead, it’s not a cold call. They know enough about the organization and the person they’re talking to that the communication is tailored to the organization’s priorities and needs. In no more than 3 to 5 minutes, the SDR can gather valuable, qualifying information and get a commitment to meet with an account executive where there’s a clear fit. And the SDRs log everything they do so that there’s a complete record of every interaction, all the information gathered and all the decisions made. Every lead that’s passed on to an experienced salesperson has been pre-qualified and comes with a complete history so that sales can pick up the conversation seamlessly.
What we learned in our first year
In the first few months, we made mistakes, but we learned from them and used them to improve the process. If you’re considering putting together a sales development team, here are some tips:
Find a champion.
Finding someone who can take ownership of the initiative and be passionate about it can make all the difference. It took us a few tries to find the right person to run our SDR team, and we found that experience wasn’t as important as aptitude and interest. Look for a willingness to try new things and a mix of analytical and people skills. This is someone who needs to be comfortable both analyzing data and managing people.
Experience is not as important as aptitude and interest; look for a willingness to try new things and a mix of analytical and people skills.
Our process is hugely programmatic. From the qualifying criteria to the time of day that SDRs make prospecting calls to the text snippets they use in their emails, SDRs follow a detailed plan and they know exactly what they need to do to make the best use of their time. There’s still enough flexibility that they can personalize or adapt the content, but the overall process is highly repeatable and based on what’s proven to work across hundreds of engagements.
Measure (and optimize) continually.
To build that structured process, you need to measure every part of it. We use a sophisticated sales prospecting platform called SalesLoft that integrates with Salesforce, so there’s no intuition or hunches; it’s all data driven. By analyzing the data, we know the times of day that calls are most likely to be answered or that emails are most likely to be opened. We know the subject lines and prospecting questions that work best. And we know how many calls the SDRs need to make to support Kemberton’s sales goals. We’ve learned what works, but we’re continually testing and refining to raise the bar and improve our outcomes even further.
Here’s the bottom line.
Creating a sales development function has been instrumental in helping our small company beat far bigger competitors to the punch. Using SDRs to find, qualify and nurture prospects has enabled us to penetrate new markets, widen the sales pipeline and improve lead quality while keeping the cost of acquisition manageable.
LLR Partners believes in sharing the wealth of experience and expertise within our portfolio companies, network and teams in order to inspire and help accelerate growth for a wider community of business leaders. We hope you find these GrowthBits helpful and share them with your network. Read more growth insights here.