How to leverage Sales Development Reps to generate leads for the sales team.

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Today’s article is a focused on how to leverage Sales Development Reps to generate leads for the sales team. If you would like to implement an outbound marketing program with a team of SDRs, consider having one of our experts spend some time with you in workshop at SBI’s executive briefing center The Studio.


I recently interviewed Heather Young, the Vice President of Sales Development for Rimini Street. Rimini Street is a leading global provider for a third-party enterprise support. This includes maintenance and support for SAP and Oracle E-Business Suite, Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Hyperion and RETEK software.


Why this topic? For many B2B companies, inbound marketing is not producing enough leads for the sales team.  As a result, many marketers have added a team of SDRs, sales development reps, to drive outbound marketing efforts in an attempt to meet the never-ending need for more leads.


Heather is uniquely qualified to speak on this topic, and below you will find the questions and answers from our discussion. If you prefer to access an audio podcast of the interview, list here.


Why did you choose to implement Outbound Marketing with a team of SDRs?


Inbound is critical to help build pipeline but it might not necessarily be enough to get to your revenue goals. We found at Rimini street that to be the case. We built an outbound team not only to focus on the inbound leads but also have a proactive focus on prospective clients that we believe have the highest likelihood of benefiting from our offering but they might not be engaged with us already.


Is this in replacement of or in addition to Inbound Marketing?



It’s absolutely a joint effort. It’s in addition to Inbound Marketing as well. Like I said, Inbound is hugely critical in how we respond and respond quickly to the interests of those coming into us is important, but outbound allows that proactive outreach to those who aren’t engaged with us. It’s really the combination of both that allowed for a full spectrum strategy to reach out to as many prospective clients as possible.


You have a team of approximately 20 SDRs. That’s a sizeable investment so what expectations are there for this team and how did you secure the funding? What was the business case?


In terms of expectations, the team members each have a quota target of leads. The expectation then is to achieve that target goal and that these qualified leads will, they’ll convert into pipeline. That makes the business case simple by applying these resources who are dedicated to pipeline creation. We’re providing the business a higher potential to close more business. It makes it an easy business case and we’ve definitely seen the results of that and that helped further our investments.


Did you hire all 20 in one batch or did you kind of add them over time as you started to have some success?


We added them over time. We started off small, kind of piloting the program, saw the immediate success, and then took that leap of faith and then hired more. We also helped in that it’s a ratio of supporting a percentage of, it’s a three to one ratio out into the field so we hire at the pace the field is hiring as well. One SDR supports three field reps.


Did you come up with that ratio because that’s some type of best practice or was that kind of tribal knowledge, with you experiment with the ratio? How did you settle on that number?



It’s definitely an industry best practice but we also evaluated it through trial and error. We started off as a two to one which is a nice, that’s a nice luxury. It doesn’t quite give you the same yield cost but three to one is a nice number that still gives each of the three the number of leads that they need to get to their revenue goals but at a cost that makes sense to the business.


Heather, what is the profile of a sales development rep that you hire?



To begin with I really believe in building a diverse team. It’s that depth, and breadth, and different experience and knowledge that cultivates ideas and fresh approaches that lead to standardized business practices. That said, SDRs are typically an entry-level position into sales, really. We draw a lot of early, raw talent that’s not so much from real world job experience but the characteristics that we see be successful in an SDR role. Being smart, sharp, ambitious, having a high sense of activity level, being a strong communication skills, whether that’s verbal or written, and then of course a strong worth ethic.  That’s really the profile of a sales development rep we’re looking for more than traditional experience that you’d see in a standard resume.



Where do you find your SDRs?


College recruitment is a great way to start. I mean, anyone who has sales internship program are a strong source as well as college job fairs. Then of course there’s LinkedIn and other social technology strategies to use. Referrals are strong too. Once you get a cluster of A players they tend to usually hang out with other A players. If you’ve built a meaningful program for them you’re going to draw and recruit through referrals more top talent. I rely on that a lot and having that solid recruitment strategy. Being in tight alignment then on what that profile is going to be important to be able to draw that referral base as well.


In terms of onboarding SDRs, what does that look like?



Definitely a very prescriptive onboarding program. Again, you’re not taking from resumes that have this long history of experience you really have to build in a program that focuses on tracks of different learning.  Product tracks, of course, where you’re learning the product solutions. Also, technology training to make sure that they understand the different tools that’s being leveraged. Then, soft skills training too, sales prospecting techniques as an example.


We run a six-week program that has measurable milestones too to ensure that they’re pacing. Then, as needed, if they need to go back and get reinforced in one area or another. That’s important to making sure that everybody is off and running to be the most successful in the world.


How do you compensate SDRs?


It’s a base and variable compensation plan, so very similar to sales and that. The variable piece is tied … The majority are tied to the lead targets that we want them to go after. A successful meeting from that lead then earns credit towards their target goals. We also have a portion of it that’s tied to the quota goals of the field reps they support. We talked about that three to one ratio. Having a component of their variable tied to their field rep success is then critical for the alignment and the collaboration of the fields they support. It also gives a greater assurance that the leads that are being passed over are of the highest quality.



That’s a good closed loop system. Just a follow-up question on that. If they’re supporting three reps, do all three reps have to be successful or is it kind of partial success, is that attainable?


Performance and key performance indicators then are a measurement not only of the attainment of the leads but, to your point, what is the distribution of those leads? It’s equally balanced among the fields reps. We don’t want to have a haves and have nots, as best as we can.


Heather, did you consider outsourcing this function? Why did you decide to do it and how soon?


I think outsourcing is a great strategy if you’re piloting a program or a specific project that has a finite time stamp on it. I also think outsourcing is a great strategy if you’re building into a new market. To really dedicate an outbound function focused entirely on lead creation, having the investment brings, I believe, a far greater return. For example, the understanding and effective communication of our value proposition is going to be far greater from somebody who went through that training program.


Plus, as well as the commitment to Rimini Street, in general. Lastly, I really believe that people are our primary investment. If we’re building and developing our people then not only are we going to get the recruitment that we talked about before, but we’re going to get a bench for future roles into different areas of the organization too. That’s a really sound, full cycle investment that I believe that can only be accomplished with an in-house strategy.


You know, if I was representing one of these outsourcing firms, the counter argument to that would be its pay for performance. You typically pay for an appointment when it’s held. Whereas when you do it in-house you’ve got a salary as well as the variable. It’s a little riskier, if you will, doing it in-house. How would you counter that?


We do pay for performance in the variable compensation piece. There are often hidden costs in outsourcing that you must consider. For example, typically there’s an account manager function and that’s additional cost on top of the lead. There is that piece of it but, again, it goes back to … You’re right, as a short-term strategy you might have, you might save yourself a couple a bucks. Long term, you’re creating an intellectual property from the people that you have that can give back in many ways beyond just the quality of the lead. The quality of the lead is going to be at a higher level, I’ve found, because, again, they really know the business value, they really have a strong, tight alignment out in the field. They really have a strong understanding of what it is that our business value is bringing to the customers that we’re seeking.


None of that is surface or for a finite period, it continues to evolve and grow as we continue to invest in them.


It seems like every day I read about a new tool targeted at improving the productivity of SDRs. The technology tools, there’s so many of them these days. What types of tools do you provide your team and any recommendations for our audience as to tools that be most effective?



Right now, is such a great time in our industry for sales development. We’re seeing new tools popping up all the time and I’m constantly looking at them, by the way. We have a rich tech stack. We use a dialer technology. That’s going to help you increase productivity and efficiency and conversion rates around the dials itself. We’ve got an email technology and that’s there to help build an integrated email campaign. You can see the results of those campaigns too.


We have a plethora of contact enablement tools that gives us customer information and customer insights. Then of course we’ve got Salesforce as our CRM and a couple of others as well, but those are our primary functional daily tools that we use each and every day.


My last question for you is, what do you think the future holds for outbound marketing and the SDR rep position ?


I think that’s a great question. I believe that we’ve only just begun with this function. We’re starting to see more and more companies really embracing the idea and seeing the value of dedicated focus that an outbound function brings. As this continues to evolve obviously, we’re going to see more tools continue to emerge. More importantly, what I think is we see a deeper alignment between sales and marketing by doing this. That creates an overall better experience for our customers as they make their way along the buyer’s journey.


We can set up a workshop at The Studio, SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art executive briefing center located in Dallas, Texas. A visit to The Studio increases the probability of making your number because the sessions are built on the proven strength and stability of SBI, the industry leader in B2B sales and marketing.



Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.


He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.


Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.


He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.


Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.


He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.




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