We discuss the evolution of the buyer’s journey daily; internally with our marketing and sales teams, externally with our prospects and customers. This evolution – the rise of the self-empowered buyer – is why we exist as a business.
With the dramatic change in how buyers are engaging, there is an increased emphasis on the importance of a team dedicated solely to engaging with leads at the appropriate time in their journey. The name can vary from organization to organization – inside sales, sales development, business development – but one of the biggest debates I see in the market, is where the team falls within the organization. Are they best grouped under a modern marketing department with an increased responsibility on driving revenue or as the tip of a sales organization that understands the importance of engaging at the appropriate time in the buyer’s journey?
The truth is, the importance of the team to both organizations is equal. The amount of data derived from the activity of this group gives marketing the information they need to better understand leads at the top of the funnel and equips sales with the intelligence they need to refine their sales process. Because the gap in the exchange of data is steadily being bridged through marketing automation, the decision of where the team lives comes down to managing day-to-day responsibilities, proper training and development structure, and career progression of the reps. From this perspective, I believe the team should fall under the management and leadership of sales.
When we look at the core responsibilities of the Sales Development Reps (SDRs) at Sugar Market, previously Salesfusion, they are responsible for reviewing, contacting and qualifying marketing-generated leads and delivering them to our Account Executives (a pretty traditional approach to the team). To accomplish these core responsibilities, they need to have a basic sales development knowledge-base (leaving voicemails, writing follow-up emails, handling standard objections) as well as the more sophisticated sales skills like buyer persona training (how to identify where they are in the buying cycle, what makes them tick?). These skills are best taught and consistently refined by a sales leader who is dedicated to improving the fundamental skills of the team. By training in core sales skills, the team is better equipped to handle the full spectrum of situations that can arise during initial conversations with prospects.
That said, I do believe there is opportunity within a marketing organization to have what is traditionally seen as a Market Response Rep who personally engages with prospects during the very early stages of the buying cycle. They aren’t tasked with determining whether or not the lead is sales ready but rather with offering a personal outreach to ensure all questions have been addressed. It can be difficult to determine where the line between a traditional SDR and a Market Response Rep should be drawn but a properly designed lead scoring profile can help. What activities indicate initial research and fact finding and what activities indicate a true willingness to buy? By assigning different values to these actions, you can ensure SDRs are engaging with prospects that are at a different point in their buying cycle.
Along with owning the proper training of the team, a sales organization is likely better equipped to track activities as well as create the proper compensation and incentive structure. Let’s not sugar coat it – the day-to-day tasks of an SDR can be tough. Even with the most sophisticated lead nurturing program delivering leads that are begging to buy, SDRs are required to ask difficult questions to determine if a prospect is truly ready to engage with sales. It is a numbers game and to be as efficient as possible, you need metrics and incentives in place that holds reps accountable and attribute their efforts back to opportunities. These types of metrics are what successful sales organizations are built on.
Lastly, we see our SDR team as a place to cultivate the next generation of Account Executives. Who knows your business better than the people who own the first conversation with your buyers, who understand the nuances of why they chose to engage with us? It is not a requirement or guarantee in our sales organization that you will progress from an SDR to an Account Executive but we want to have an easy and clear path for them to progress.
From my perspective, if you’re trying to decide if your sales development team should live in marketing or sales, you’re already doing a lot of things right. You’ve recognized the importance of the team and you’re asking a question that reflects a fundamental knowledge that they help bridge the gap between the buyer’s journey and your sales cycle, between your marketing team and your sales team. Couple that with the right marketing automation and CRM tools and you have a foundation for sales and marketing bliss.