The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Sales Development
The sales industry is inherently a competitive field. It can be intense, and at times difficult. It weeds out all but the most resilient and patient. The skills and knowledge you gain in a sales development role can quickly help you move through the ranks and push you to the very top, whether you’re grinding away in a corporation or run your own business.
Recent research from XANT, “State of Sales Development 2017″, gives us a glimpse into the life of a Sales Development Rep with a few statistics.
Sales development reps have an average of 14.1 meaningful conversations a day. They set an average of 23.1 appointments per month, send about 36 emails per day, make 35 phone calls and send about 15 voicemails per day.
You can read the executive summary of the study that included over 900 companies here.
We caught up to a real sales development champion, Jonathan Dyer, to discuss the findings of the report and get some insights beyond the numbers.
Jon is constantly at the top of the rankings at XANT, by setting the most appointments and building qualified pipeline. Here’s what he told us.
There are about 670k sales development reps in the United States, but few are constrained to either an outbound or inbound sales role. About 54 percent of sales development reps are a combination of both. Tell me a bit about what you do at XANT, Jon.
I’m an outbound sales representative. Outbound sales are sales reps who connect with new prospects. These are potential customers that have not had any contact with the company.
We don’t work blindly with leads, though. We first do some research into that lead’s title, job, what their needs and pain points might be, or their social media activity.
Of course, there is a balance here and you don’t need to spend too much time on research – but it certainly helps kick-start the dialogue.
So, you’re cold calling a lot. How do you feel about that?
The outbound sales role is a unique position. Cold calling teaches you a lot about the art of conversation. I feel like the skills learned in this position I will use for the rest of my life, especially if I stay in a sales role.
It’s not an easy job. Sometimes it can be intense. You’re talking to dozens of executives per day – most of them at Vice President or Senior Vice President level. They have been in the industry for a long time. You don’t know them at all, sometimes you don’t have anything to refer to.
But it’s really rewarding. I enjoy my job, I like doing it. It develops an extremely important skillset, that will be useful in any sales role.
What’s the one thing you love the most about your job?
When you are reaching out to people you’ve never met before, the best feeling is when you find their pain point – a problem that you can solve for them.
The goal for us is to find what their pain points are – and see if it aligns with how we can help them. If we can get through to them and have a good conversation, we can set an appointment for our field reps. That’s the best feeling and my favorite part.
Also, just being with a group of guys that are doing the same thing. I think we have a good culture here, coming to work is fun and you really feel like you belong to a good team.
The State of SDR study revealed that sales development reps have a mix of base and variable earnings. It was about a 60/40 split with 59.7% for the base and 40.3% for the variable. How do you feel about the variable income part of the job? If you’re honest about this, does it help you or does it stress you out?
I am a big fan of the variable income. It drives performance, it motivates me. I have a goal in mind that I need to hit, and that makes me push harder every day.
I don’t see a lot of people being uncomfortable with the variable. Knowing that they’re coming into a sales role, then they expect variable income and that they are going to have to hit a quota.
This is where we get to the pain point, the quota. Companies report only a 63.5% average quota attainment for sales development representatives. What do you think is preventing them from achieving quota, and how can they do better?
It’s a balance of both working smart and overall effort – these are the two things that matter most. Your skill on the phone is important, but it comes in second to the effort that you put in. It’s always been that way, and it will always be.
The people who genuinely love their job, they are the ones that put in the most effort, and you’ll find them here in the trenches day in and day out.
They are self-motivated and they want to advance their careers. They are the ones who will have the best results overall. It’s the passion for sales which leads to results.
How do you think technology plays in here? What systems are you using that help you get the job done and hit your quota?
Technology helps a lot. That’s the part about working smart. You need a good sales technology stack in place so you can be more efficient. An automated process helps you get to your goals faster, and you stop wasting time doing things manually.
Once you have the tech stack in place, it’s just an effort game to get to your quota.
I know at XANT you use a lot of tools that make your job easier. Which of these tools is your favorite, or helps you the most in your profession?
We are very lucky here at XANT, because we have a lot of different tools – we have Sales Navigator, ZoomInfo, Salesforce. We have our own technology – Playbooks and it makes things a lot easier from a lead management perspective.
My favorite tool is Salesforce. I utilize Salesforce the most, it offers total transparency into everything you do.
That being said, I don’t know how much I would love Salesforce if I didn’t have Playbooks. Playbooks gives me so much more information that I wouldn’t have if I just utilized Salesforce.
The combination of tracking tools – emails, calls, history of every lead’s touches – with the AI-generated NeuralScore, which shows you which leads are more likely to close, it’s a real winner. It really does help my game a lot.
What are some of the challenges you have in sales development every day?
It’s very important to have alignment between business development (or sales development) and sales executives (or the field reps) – especially when these two sales departments work separately, or they are in different regions.
The sales development reps who have a good relationship with account executives are doing better and getting more pipeline than the ones who are disconnected from their closers.
We need to work together as a team and understand that we have the same goal, and that is finding a customer’s need and ultimately closing the deal.
Well, OK, I was expecting that you would tell me about rude customers here, I guess you get a lot of that. What’s the rudest thing a customer has ever said to you, and how do you deal with it?
Of course, people will tell you to F* off on occasion. It doesn’t happen all the time. You’ll get the one guy who has received way too many phone calls that just is way too angry. He just will tell you off. You need to brush that off, that’s going to happen.
You need to have patience, resilience. And the ability to just look past it and just realize that he might’ve just had a bad day, you don’t need to take offense.
The worst customer is not the one who just tells you “No” right off the bat. The worst customer, by far, is the one with which you have a good phone call or a couple of meetings, and then just goes cold. They disappear.
Those are more frustrating than people who just turn you down, because they’re leading you on and that’s painful. It’s a time waster.
So, what’s the best type of customer you can have, as a business development rep? Obviously, you want them to get an appointment and eventually close a deal, but is there something more here?
Absolutely. It’s when you’re talking to a guy who’s not too happy to talk to you at first, but you can turn the conversation around. You can find pain points and have him open up about what he needs to improve in his business. When you can make him realize that his team needs something like the platform that you’re offering. And that eventually becomes a closed deal.
It’s not the ones that just come in and request a demo and already know what they want, not at all.
It’s the ones you must work for – those are the best customers you can have.