Sales development and tech-assisted selling
By: Aya Gharbawi | 6/7/2022
B2B sales has changed a lot in the last few years. From prioritizing the delivery of transactions through digital channels, to moving towards predictable and scalable revenue generation, and adoption of new sales technologies to meet customer preferences, change has been rapid.
In-fact, McKinsey reported that 80% of B2B customers are now entirely happy to deal with vendors remotely, or via digital self-service.
And while these changes have been spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been sales development teams that have provided the foundation for new technologies and ways of work to be tested and implemented. Even long before the pandemic, the sales development landscape was gearing up for a sales cycle with digital, data and the customer at the heart.
A Gartner study showed that in 2017, buyers were just spending 17% of the buying cycle interacting with potential suppliers. In stark contrast, they spent 45% of the buying cycle researching independently, online and offline.
In this article, we will explore how sales development has spearheaded new technologies, what technologies have been implemented, and tips on how to make tech-assisted sales development work for you.
Learn more: Technology for sales development: a guide for decision-makers
What is sales development and tech-assisted selling?
First off, let’s define what sales development is and how it goes hand-in-hand with tech-assisted selling.
Sales development sits in between marketing and sales and is charged with making sure the latter is busy with high-quality leads. Sales development takes marketing qualified leads (MQLs) generated by marketing, and nurtures them until they become Sales Accepted Leads (SALs), ready for a sales call.
Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) primary goal is to ensure the sales team engages strong leads with a high likelihood of converting. This is vital, because leads that are generated solely through marketing efforts have a very low likelihood of becoming a buyer.
The importance of sales development is outlined in a recent survey by Gartner, where 72% of C-level respondents selected “improving pipeline creation and sales development” as their top priority for 2022
Why? Because today’s customers are picky, spend more time making a purchasing decision and will scrutinize their options. As a result, the sales development function has become key to identify, engage with and qualify leads before they reach the sales team. SDR functions include:
- Uncovering and prospecting high-quality leads
- Lead qualification and research
- Email and phone outreach and engagement
- Appointment and handoffs to sales
So what is tech-assisted selling? Ultimately, this is the practice of giving your SDRs the tools to perform and engage leads in the most effective way. There are many technologies that will help your SDRs do the job, so they can prospect, engage, nurture and research leads in a methodical and data driven manner. Wave after wave of SaaS-based tools have emerged to help automate the sales process, make it more efficient, and ensure leads receive better engagement.
Tech-assisted solutions play a huge role in developing the relationships that leads have with the organization and can help breed confidence between the lead and your organization. SDRs will have the information to understand a lead in greater detail, and will respond to their specific challenges. Meanwhile, the lead will receive consistent, timely and educational engagement – which means your organization will stand out when it is time to make a purchasing decision.
How sales development has spearheaded new sales technologies
Sales development is driven by lead data and technology. In this current climate “systematic selling” as described by Forrester, it comes as no surprise that the sales development function continues to receive prominence in line with advances in AI-based solutions, business intelligence platforms, analytics solutions as well as improved CRM and lead generation fidelity.
We can even go back to the mid-2010s and the customer-centric landscape, where the growing requirement for personalization and the ability to make sense of CRM data from multiple channels were key drivers for converting leads. Simply put, as leads have become more sophisticated and harder to keep in the sales funnel, it has been the sales development teams and the technologies they use that have responded to their needs.
Learn more: What is sales enablement?
SDRs leverage all channels, from social media, to email marketing, phone prospecting, and more. Each touchpoint requires data, and each area of working requires automation functionality to run smoothly and implement personalized and meaningful engagement.
For example, SDRs need technologies that enable the ability to:
- Understand leads in greater detail
Tools that enable lead scoring, lead-to-account matching, data intelligence and conversation intelligence that are regulars in the SDR arsenal can help paint a detailed portrait of a lead. From demographic and firmographic data, to behavioral and historical data, leveraging lead information is key for tech-assisted selling.
Learn more: Tips to set up a lead scoring strategy to improve your pipeline
- Visualize processes and workflows
SDR tools can help automate mundane tasks to increase efficiency and ensure more time is spent on value adding tasks, such as engaging leads. A big part of this is software that visualizes the buyer’s journey of each lead, clearly displaying key information about each lead, and showing how likely they are to become a buyer.
- Implement complex strategy to target different lead segments
Automation and workflow tools that can be tightly integrated into CRMs can offer SDR teams the freedom to approach different lead segments with engagement strategies unique to their position in the buyer’s journey. This ensures each lead feels like their business challenges and needs are being tackled.
- Analyze and improve over time
For SDRs, iterative improvement is vital. Many sales development platforms and tools can measure the performance of individuals and how effective specific touchpoints campaigns and lead segments are.
There are so many complex tools and technologies on the market that without them, the ability for SDRs to obtain qualified leads would suffer.
Key technologies SDRs use to nurture leads
Today, we are seeing a renaissance in sales development technology. Just a few years ago, the market could be characterized by point solutions assembled into ever changing technology stacks with API-enabled CRMs at the foundation.
Now, we are seeing these point tech-assisted selling solutions develop into far more mature and broader platforms. Instead of CRMs with sales development tools bolted on, we now have sales engagement platforms, sales enablement platforms and revenue intelligence platforms.
Sales engagement platform
Sales engagement platforms focus on the interactions between the lead and the SDR, and help execute processes, track and measure prospects in the funnel, and optimize interactions across multiple channels.
The sales engagement platform sits on top of the CRM, which enables it to use prospect data to build personalized communications. Functionality typically includes workflow automation, analytics, channel integration, real-time lead recommendations, conversational intelligence and more.
Sales enablement platform
Sales enablement platforms are tools that help educate leads at every stage of the sales funnel with relevant and personalized content. It fosters trust in the seller’s organization and its services, and its ability to solve the business issues of potential buyers.
In practice, sales enablement platforms connect content to the sales cycle. They provide full visibility of the lifecycle of content and its usage, to help determine what works, what doesn’t, and how to best match content to a prospect. They are vital to ensure content is proactive, speaks to leads, and can be best used by SDRs, marketing and sales.
Revenue intelligence platform
Revenue intelligence platforms capture seller activity and assess the health of sales pipelines. These platforms are aligned towards the sharp end sales of the organization, by capturing and analyzing data about the sales process to generate forecasts and predictions.
Functionality of these platforms includes the ability to identify the potential for deals in other systems, including email, calendars, AI-derived feedback and advice on individual rep sales performance, and insights on the health of pipelines based upon activity data.
Besides technology platforms, the market for tech-assisted selling has given way to hundreds of standalone tools which address specific sales development challenges. Here are some examples:
- Sales intelligence platforms
These platforms gather lead information from inside and outside the seller organization and match it to relevant leads in the database.
- Conversation intelligence
Conversation intelligence tools are AI-based tools that analyze speech or text and deliver insights into interactions between sales agents and customers. This includes conversation analysis to help representatives improve their performance based on variables such as technique and cadence used.
- Lead scoring
Lead scoring tools score leads based on the seller’s ideal buyer persona and engagement with your organization. They help uncover the viability of leads, which is essential for differentiating between qualified and unqualified leads.
- Lead-to-account matching and routing software
This software matches new leads to existing records within a CRM, to help minimize the chance of leads being ignored, delayed responses and calls from multiple reps.
- Email tracking software
These solutions allow sales teams to monitor the performance of their messages and find out how and if they are reaching leads.
Want to know what technologies are right for your sales development team?
Report: Technology for sales development: a guide for decision-makers
Tips to ensure SDR technology works for you
Every organization is unique, and so is the technology solution that will best fit your needs. Whether you decide on a platform, software suite, point solution or best of breed offering, make sure you make it work for you and not the other way around. Here are some tips that will help you make the best use of your solution.
Learn more: 6 Effective Lead Nurturing Strategies for 2022
Training and guidance is key
The approach your organization takes with tech-assisted selling has to be driven by data and clear objectives. Whatever you plan to buy, have a good idea of how you plan to implement it, and ensure all teams, including marketing, sales development and sales, are on board.
It is a common occurrence, especially in organizations growing at scale, to purchase sales development tools but not provide the training and on how to utilize them properly. This means that sales development teams are left to find out how to operate these complex tools effectively, which ends up in an un-optimized process and misspent resource allocation.
It is up to leadership to ensure the right environment and support structures are in place so SDRs can make a success of the tools they use.
Implement working team structures and maintain good SDRs
To ensure your technology stack is being used to deliver high-quality leads to sales, you need to:
- Have a clear plan and cheat sheet for sales development with processes from beginning to end
- Ensure there is clear communication between sales development and other customer facing departments
- Work with the sales development team to outline their responsibilities, so everyone agrees
- Limit outside stakeholder interference by ensuring there is one point of contact for sales development
- Create a strategy and have meetings with your sales development team to see if goals are being met and how to help them overcome pain points
- Work with them to help them understand which are vital processes and which are non-vital, so they can prioritize work and meet business goals
- Establish service level agreements are in place across customers’ functions to ensure fairness across all teams
Ensure your processes are data driven and automated
Any tool you decide to buy should make an SDRs job easier, not harder, ensuring that high value work is accelerated. Instead of SDRs wasting time searching for relevant data, find a tool that populates relevant lead information fields clearly and intuitively, so they can measure the quality of the lead in a clear and uniform way, and have relevant info on hand for lead nurturing tasks.
Learn more: How to automate your lead nurturing strategy
SDRs spend a lot of time calling and emailing leads to build relationships and educate them about the offerings of your organization. Find a tool that can help SDRs analyze their engagement, and improve personalization through email automations, marketing automation tools, segmentation, and personalization across all touch points.
Lastly, the ability to lift key metrics, such as close rates and lead velocity, is vital for process improvement.
Working with Foundry Sales Development Services
There has been a lot of change in the B2B world, with changes in sales organization, technology priorities, workforce location, as well as customer preferences. It can be a lot to get to grips with, especially for organizations growing at pace.
Outsourcing is a great utility for organizations that dont have the resources, management experience, time nor expertise, to staff and train an in-house sales development team. It provides access to skills, people, technology and expertise in a comparatively small cost package when compared to an in-house team.
At Foundry SDS, we guide each customer’s journey toward conversion on your behalf, operating as a seamless extension of your in-house business development team. Once we bring your leads to the right level of maturity, we hand them off to your sales team for final conversion.
If you outsource sales development, you don’t have to worry about setting up lead nurturing workflows, qualifying and segmenting leads, salaries, technology and licensing, office space, recruiting, training, and onboarding.
Foundry SDS are lead nurturing experts. We will create a bespoke lead nurturing program to deliver high-quality leads that fit the buyer persona of your business development strategy.
Learn more about our services here.
Technology for sales development: a guide for decision-makers
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