Three Principles of Sales Development Methodology

Before looking to take your tech company abroad, you have to nail down the core elements of sales development. Our partners over at Predictable Revenue hosted a recorded livestream recently, and we thought it was so on point and useful, we have outlined their sales development methodology steps, to help you build your successful sales strategy. 

In this latest webinar, Predictable Reveue’s CEO Collin Stewart, SVP Carrie White, and Lead Coach Sarah Jane Hicks teamed up with successful author and sales strategist Alice Heiman to bring you their collection of ideas and steps “that we believe to be important when building successful sales development teams to help create repeatable, scalable and predictable revenue.” And we agree wholeheartedly. 

Check Out: Partner Livestream: How to Generate Predictable Revenue with Sales Teams and Lead Generation

The three principles

The workshop went straight into the new sales development methodology, offering three lenses from which to view the entire performance of your sales development team: 

  • Positioning
  • Pace
  • Practice 

These three elements form a chain-link system where overall performance is limited by its weakest link, so all are equally important and one cannot function well without the others. Kind of like a stool that will always wobble if all three legs aren’t in sync.

Why use this methodology?

Perhaps you are experiencing internal struggles — you may be wondering how best to build an SDR team. Often, people invest in sales development for the wrong returns. You might end up doing 90% of the work for maybe the wrong results. If anything is missing from your methodology, you risk the chain braking and can multiply your results by zero. 

That’s why it’s necessary to write the exact methodology and put it all out there, and Predictable Revenue are planning to have it on the site as accessible information. 

Similarly aligned, at Sales Force Europe we agree you really have to write your sales strategy down ahead, truly understanding — and always measuring and reiterating — what’s working and what isn’t. A modern sales development methodology is as agile as your tech teams, continuously improving.

By planning ahead with these three steps in sync, you lead to less burnout — and happier sales reps sell more!

Step One: Your positioning in the market. 

What is your product-market fit? AKA, do you have something that people want to buy? And how will that translate (or not) to new markets?

You start a company, you start doing outbound, and you’re not getting the results. Then it’s time to ask yourself why you are marketing in a particular sector? It’s about more than a couple of early wins with nothing substantial behind it, it’s about:

  • Sustainable
  • Repeatable
  • Scalable

Alice clarified: Lock in what you have to sell and who you are trying to sell to, in order for your sales development team to be successful. If not, you’re aiming at the wrong people with the wrong method. If you have a good product-market fit, people will be intrigued and be more likely to want to have the right conversation. 

Understand and articulate the first steps

Carrie reiterates that you need to have the right foundation in order to build the home that is your business. Not enough companies spend enough time analyzing and tackling those first steps, understanding and articulating them. 

Early founders and entrepreneurs ask if they can use sales development, a question often asked of Collin. His answer? Yes, you can, and no, you can’t. Yes. You can use the tactics. Same tools and strategies, sure, but flow and calls and methods are different per organization and per target customer. You’re not going to get the return on investment you want or hit the pipeline goals, but the goal here with entrepreneurs is to learn, so the ROI in this case is feedback and strategy. 

Alice agrees and says that sales should be easy. If you keep running into a wall it’s because you don’t have the correct product-market fit. People need what you have, but they need to find you and you need to find them. 

Get into your customer’s head

Carrie offers some succinct advice. “Get out of your own head and put yourself into your potential customer’s head, ie your target market. It’s not your mindset that counts. How is your unique value of what you offer and sell going to encompass and provide the value and the proof to those buyers and potential buyers? How do your unique capabilities help them with their business?”

Once you get your positioning right it all falls into place. You send the email and the reply is “Oh, You can DO that?”

Who signs on the dotted line?

Sarah mentions not only to reach out to the companies that are your prospective customers but more importantly to the person behind that company, the face, the human. Your outbound ideal customer is not the same as your inbound ideal customer. Sarah Jane Hicks says “The juice has to be worth the squeeze for outbound.” You have the ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and underneath you have the buyer personas and they are who you are reaching out to directly with outbound sales. There’s a company or business impact, then there’s an individual impact and that’s the difference. A company will want to save money, save time, increase profit etc. They’re looking for the overall impact. But what is impactful to that individual decision maker? You might know the company type that you want to go out to, but who makes up the buying committee? Go after those people that sign on the dotted line and find out what they need. 

Understand their point of view

Alice says that the ideal profile of a company is one that is likely to need what you have. Simple. However, you need to know who are the people at that company who will be intrigued by your message? You cannot have one without the other. In a complex sale, there might be lots of people. Sales become easier when you understand the buyer’s point of view. 

And when looking at branching out in a new market or vertical, don’t forget to find trusted partners who can help you in your account-based selling.

Research in aggregate

Carrie advises to do the research in aggregate, find out in general terms, based on the types of customer and company you are targeting. What do they generally care about? Then you can hone in on the specifics that are important to them. Use your own company, find out from groups of people who are in the same function as your target customer what they think. It sounds simple but it’s effective. Use your own team to understand those you will be calling on. 

Also, go out to your existing customers, and again seek the same roles and ask the same questions. Perhaps they can form a panel and advise your SDR team on the things they care about and are interested in? Use what’s easiest and already around you, the low-hanging fruit.

Again this is where local partners and outsourced lead generation partners can be very valuable — your first conversations should be learning from them.

If you have product-market fit, but you haven't communicated it to the team, or you don't have all the required information from your product organization or product marketing team, then go get it. It will pay dividends downstream.

Take the time on the front end to shorten everything up on the back end. 

Step Two: How fast do you want to move as a sales development team?

How quickly do you want to move in terms of how big do you want the team to be, and, more importantly, how much do you want to spend? Pace all comes down to finance.

So many companies don’t do the math ahead of time, said Collin. You cannot just go ahead and hire an SDR, for example, you have to do the math first.

Particularly when branching out to a new vertical or geographic market it can take six months to a year to build up brand recognition and customer relationships in order to close a deal. Of course if you have local partners, that can speed that up. But you definitely need to be ready to invest in the long-term before you waste money giving up too soon.

Count the dollars and cents

First up is your finance strategy. Collin asks: How much cash do you have in the bank, and how quickly are you going to have more cash in the bank? Are you a bootstrap company or have you got a VC? Are you expecting a next round of funding or do you have enough revenue in your current market? This will all dictate the amount of pressure you will be under, and how quickly you can move.

Total market opportunity

Then take a look at your total market opportunity. Collin advises to take a look at the competition, how many customers and companies are out there, how much is one of those companies worth to you? This is a fair indication of what you can spend — and naturally goes back to whether you’re a bootstrap or backed business. This also tells you who you can afford to hire, when and how. How much money do you spend to get that minimum viable sales team off to a start. You could need a good European Business Development Manager, at least two SDRs and a bunch of support structure or you may just need to start out with a senior sales rep with an existing network but only working for you half time. 

When is the best time to outsource?

Alice brings up the question of whether, at this point, it’s a good idea to outsource talent or wait until, say, five years down the line when some kind of organic growth has happened and perhaps investors are shelling out more for some more growth potential. Where is the tipping point for outsourcing SDR work versus growing it internally? If the experts have already got this down, why not let them do that for you while you are building? If nothing else, partnering with outsourcing companies means you get where you need to go in front of who you need to talk with, faster.

Back to the first step

Just remember that the product-market fit has to be there first. Alice warned that there are SDRs who can crush it, booking demo after demo (because that's their job, right?), but if the product-market fit is not there, then none of those leads will convert. Alice remembered a clear example of this, where a company who went onto then outsource a new SDR team  — who happened to be experts in their field — to replace the in-house hires who were making appointments but no conversions.  Immediately these newly-outsourced SDRs realised that the issue was that the product-market fit was missing, and they were calling on the wrong customers! They could of course carry on and book demos but the result would be the same as in the first instance with no conversions. Imagine the investors putting the pressure on, and needing to see this company close sales and make an ROI?

Lesson? You cannot go fast and gain pace if you haven't performed the first steps correctly.

Outsource and build together

It’s better to both outsource at the beginning, as well as spend time and money building your own team. Scale up or scale down as you grow and change. You can eventually own that core sales team — including we have a path to permanently hire our sales reps — but it might not make sense to straightaway throw 500K at it until you know the market inside out.

Step Three: Practice makes perfect

Practice is where we convert the strategy — positioning + pace — into tactics and results. Where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

Getting support and buy-in from the entire revenue organization is a key step. What are the others?

  • Creating a culture of experimentation where ideas and methodology is continually tested, the endeavour is always cyclical. 
  • Getting in the right sales team.
  • Ask for external thoughts on your execution
  • Get your pipeline moving at scale.

Like all things in tech, it’s an iterative loop. You will continually revisit and reflect on your product-market fit, which is likely to evolve just as consumers always are. Things change, as in the ongoing pandemic. Identify the mechanisms and act on the feedback received, regardless of seniority. And remember that outsourcing is not a distinct entity, it’s all part of your bigger sales development picture. You’re crowdsourcing, per se, throughout your whole company. You have to keep going back and revising all elements. 

Make a practice plan, use the steps — practice makes perfect! But then you’ll still have room for improvement next month.

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