Sales Development Reps are the perfect bridge between marketing sales, to prospect and qualify new leads
Headlines shout every day about the technology revolution in sales, from AI to automation, from chat bots to robots. But there’s a quieter evolution that has been transforming B2B sales for years, focused simply on the organization of the sales process, and it may be the key to unlocking success with Social Selling. I’m talking about the growth of Sales Development Representative (SDR) teams as a bridge from marketing to sales.
SDR teams have been around for a long time, tracing back to the early days of inside sales teams at Oracle. In fact, one of the people credited with developing the concept, Anneke Seley, joined SocialRep’s advisory board more than a decade ago, and wrote about the alignment of inside sales and social media in her book Sales 2.0, long before almost anyone else. In the last 5 years, inside sales has been evolving with refinements that get at the challenge of marketing and sales alignment far better than any technology.
What’s the Problem Sales Development Reps Solve?
Marketing and sales have always had a problem of alignment. To oversimplify, marketing creates the branding and demand generation campaigns to fill the pipeline with prospective customers, and sales works each prospect to a deal. Any time a prospect doesn’t become a customer, sales will say marketing didn’t do a good job teeing up a viable prospect, while marketing will say sales didn’t do a good job of leading the prospect to a sale. There are endless variations of this story, picking on poor strategy, creative, messaging, competence or any other aspect of the process.
More than any other role in business today, SDRs work to bridge the gap between marketing and sales.
There have also been endless variations of schemes and methods to close that gap. The most effective approach to the problem is based on identifying clear qualifications that determine when a lead should be passed from marketing to sales because it’s an opportunity ready to close. The simple concept of creating gates to qualify prospects is how what started out as Appointment Setting evolved into Inside Sales. Originally, entry-level reps would call down a list of prospects to set up meetings for field reps. As criteria were developed to qualify leads before setting up sales meetings, the role divided into an area of specialization where an inside rep could work under-qualified leads over the phone and move them forward to qualify for a meeting with a sales rep in the field. In that way, inside sales evolved as a smart way to bridge the gap between marketing and sales.
Today, advanced inside sales organizations include specialized teams of Sales Development Reps, who develop sales opportunities from both inbound leads and outbound prospecting. Inbound SDRs focus on qualifying leads that have been identified through a lead generation campaign, an event, a website lead capture, or a call in to the company. Outbound SDRs focus on hunting for prospects that fit the profile of an ideal customer— they scour the news, network at events, even mine corporate financial statements to identify good candidates. Both inbound and outbound SDRs engage the prospect, determine whether they’re a viable lead, and cultivate the relationship until they qualify to pass on to an Account.
More than any other role in business today, SDRs work to bridge the gap between marketing and sales, cultivating relationships to turn prospects into Sales Qualified Leads.
Why is Social Such a Good Fit for Sales Development?
Historically, SDRs have relied on phone calls and emails to connect with prospects. Now they face the same challenges every sales rep confronts as buyers screen their calls and ignore an endless pile of unsolicited emails. It’s really hard to connect with prospects in an age of non-stop advertising and sales pitches.
In recent months, we’ve seen a growing number of posts and discussions among SDR managers about leveraging the tools and techniques of social selling. It couldn’t be a better fit. Here’s why:
- Social selling is far more suited for prospecting than quick closing, at least in B2B. We’ve trained thousands of reps on social selling fundamentals, and frequently find AEs don’t have time for social prospecting. They’re job is to always be closing, and that mindset often falls flat in social media. That doesn’t mean AEs shouldn’t be doing social, but it should be approached as a value add to their role, not a daily requirement. Keep your AEs focused on closing the best way they know how.
- SDRs are typically hired as an entry level role, develop their personal and selling skills, and then advance up the sales ladder. SDRs are therefore typically younger, more native to social media platforms and norms, and more open to learning new techniques and professional skills.
- SDRs are typically selected for their communications skills, their persistence, and their willingness to work a program as a member of a dedicated team. Those are perfect skills for social selling, and the development of social media capabilities will continue to be an asset for the entire duration of that employee’s tenure in sales.
- SDRs are typically focused on prospects that are at an early stage of the buyer’s journey. This is exactly the stage at which social is most influential, because buyers actively research business challenges and solutions long before they want to engage with a sales rep fixated on closing.
So What Would a Social SDR Approach Look Like?
Perhaps the best part of the convergence between social selling and the SDR process is that it fits naturally into the current order of most SDR teams.
- Marketing produces the communications, creative and campaign materials needed for promoting your solution and driving lead generation. None of that really changes. You need a clear value proposition for your solution. You need some kind of compelling offer to attract prospects—an event, a webinar, a freemium. You need some clear sales messages and playbooks to support sales conversations.
- Outbound SDRs add social media channels to their prospecting toolkit. They post on social media about the solutions they rep, they engage in online discussions just as they would at networking events, they share marketing’s lead-gen offers with prospects online, and they connect with prospective buyers on social networks.
- As prospects interact with your SDR on social media, the SDR can be advancing and qualifying them through offers they share, online demos and 1-1 dialog. When the prospect meets the minimum criteria for a Sales Qualified Lead, they get passed on to the Account Executive.
Very little in the basic process changes. It just adds a layer of social media marketing to the mix for SDRs. That’s a much bigger opportunity for marketing than a burden, because it helps provide more direction and purpose for marketing’s social media efforts than just amplifying brand messaging. True to the SDR role, it helps bridge the gap between marketing and sales by realigning marketing’s social media programs toward a measurable pipeline objective.
How SocialRep Can Help
If you’re a B2B technology manufacturer, solution provider, distributor, integrator or reseller, SocialRep can help you accelerate sales and market development with social media. Our social selling platform has been used by thousands of both direct and channel sales reps in more than 100 countries and 10 languages. We provide software and services to bridge the gap between marketing and sales by focusing on solution selling, social prospecting, and SQL pipeline development. If you’d like to learn more, request a demo, or follow us on LinkedIn.