Sales Development Team: Most Important Sales Process Innovation in 10 Years

Kyle Porter shared Craig Rosenberg’s great new post The Sales Development Team: A Proven Framework for Success. Sales development became popular after Predictable Revenue hit the startup circuit a couple years ago. Now that I’ve seen sales development teams in action at several companies, I believe it’s the most important sales process innovation in the last 10 years.

Here are the headlines from the sales development team article:

The Case for Sales Development

  1. Connecting with prospects requires time and resources
  2. A fast, standardized lead follow-up process is the key to conversion
  3. Converting a lead to an opportunity requires its own playbook and subsequent training and coaching
  4. Sales Development means a higher lead to opportunity conversion
  5. Marketing and contact data is vastly improved with sales development
  6. Sales and marketing alignment
  7. Increased productivity and efficiency from quota-carrying sales reps = more revenue
  8. Your buyer wants you to follow-up

Designing the Sales Development Organization

  • The importance of the qualified lead definition
  • Sales development organizational design
  • SDR compensation
  • Training, onboarding, and coaching
  • Sales development hiring
  • Sales development metrics
  • Sales development technology

I’d recommend heading on over and reading The Sales Development Team: A Proven Framework for Success. Sales and the sales process is much more scientific than ever before, and with sales development teams it becomes even more predictable.

What else? What are some other thoughts on sales development teams?

7 thoughts on “Sales Development Team: Most Important Sales Process Innovation in 10 Years

  1. Curious to know your thoughts on the different ways to align SDRs to a Sales team.

    Openview partners have an extremely comprehensive guide to building a Lead Gen team that highlights different reporting structures (SDRs to specific Sales Reps, SDRs on Marketing team, etc) –

    Have you seen variations on the model impact any ATL companies? Have you seen any teams switch the reporting structure over time?

  2. David, I love your posts!! I’d love to connect sometime.

    The sales development team is absolutely critical in a B2B sales environment.

    Now companies can build the sales development team in-house using Aaron Ross’s “Predicatble Revenue” book or augment their internal team with an outsourced (All-American & in-house) team like ours, who was recommended by Forbes (google: Appointment Setting)

  3. Hi David,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now. Great stuff!

    I think it’s important to define the multiple types of sales development. Obviously, all orgs use different nomenclature. But, I think it really comes down to pre-, during- and post- sales contact.

    Pre-sales contact is what your’e more explicitly referring to in this post. Relative to the difficult plumbing required in setting up a sales team, this is not too difficult and can be done using smart, but cheaper sales staff.

    The during- and post- sales development folks are the people (think value solutions, dedicated renewal reps, account development managers) who can really create strategic value and unlock massive revenue potential.

    While the pre-sales folks allow for “access” the other folks help take $ to $$$.

    Looking forward to keeping in touch!


  4. As a startup owner this is something I spend day and night thinking through. I see immense value in constructing the internal team in this fashion. But here are two challenges I have: 1)In a startup with limited financial resources, you are adding a layer to the sales team that will need to be ramped up in terms of salary,comm.,training, etc. 2) in a SAAS model you have just added to the cost of acquisition that will now increase the break-even/profitability point on an account.

  5. David:

    Thank you very much for showcasing my post. I have deep respect for you and learn something new every time I read your posts. I am honored to be included.

    I’d like to set a bit of a historical context to the concept of sales development. Let me start by saying: It is not new. As a matter of fact, it has been one of the key organizational strategies for most famous b2b technology companies for years. In 1997, I started at Pure Atria which was Reed Hastings’ first big win before Netflix. We had a big SDR team. That team was modeled after the highly successful teams at Oracle. Sun had a big SDR function, Cisco too, the list goes on and on.

    And that is just in my short time in Silicon Valley…

    My mentor was Stu Silverman. He started his consultancy New Way Marketing in 1984(!) and his core competency was (drum roll please…) building SDR teams. He has worked on 100’s of SDR teams in Silicon Valley over that time including many of the earlier mentioned companies. 83% of everything in the post I wrote came from him and the stuff I learned from him. His company is now called SalesRamp and they still build great SDR teams (Eloqua, Taleo, 3Par) are some recent companies that have grown to bigger and greater things.

    Anneke Seley built the original Oracle Direct team (called DMD) in the 80’s. As a point of reference, Marc Benioff worked for her in Oracle Direct. In 1990, she went on to found what was called Phone Works (now Reality Works) which like Stu built 100’s of inside sales and SDR teams in Silicon Valley. All at great companies

    On the east coast, Trish Bertuzzi, founded The Bridge Group in 1998 and was an inside sales leader since the early 90’s. The Bridge Group has built over 200 over that time, primarily in technology and had some of the biggest brand names in the business.

    Others can probably point to early pioneers of the process. (I plan to research for a future post). My main point is the sales development function has been a breakthrough for leading, world class technology companies for at least 20-30 years which is before Aaron (author of the book mentioned in the post, Predictable Revenue) and I had even left college. Aaron’s book has been great for everyone because it has helped highlight the value of this function and spread the word wide. I just want to make sure that we recognize that this has been trend for awhile and there are people who deserve to be recognized (there are probably more). And as I mentioned, a lot has changed with technology, digital, etc but the core strategies, tactics, and philosophies were set years ago and are still the best practices for successful sales development groups today.

    Thanks again. I hope this adds some value!


  6. David, thanks for starting this conversation and Craig, thanks for the mention!

    My first job in technology was as part of an SDR team. That was in the late 80’s and I was finding leads for mainframe software field reps. The concept is absolutely as old as the hills (as am I) but has most recently picked up attention and momentum.

    While the concept has been around for decades that does not mean that the profession and the model have not progressed. They surely have. We have been publishing metrics and compensation studies on this role since 2007. Here is the 2012 version and we are about to release the 2014. The trends are very interesting.

    My point is that I agree with Craig. The strategy has been around for years.. it is up to all of us to continue to ensure it evolves. Thanks for listening.

  7. David,
    Thanks for starting a great discussion on this important topic and highlighting Craig and Kyle’s excellent post!

    You must have smiled as I did at the title, since OracleDirect (now a multi-billion dollar global sales organization) was founded almost 30 years ago as a “sales development” support function for the Field and – when we saw the acceptance of phone-based selling & recognized the revenue and profit potential – quickly morphed into a combination revenue generating + pipeline generating (sales development) function for all direct and indirect channels covering all products and all size companies and both new and existing clients.

    I appreciate your recognition and appreciation of inside sales history. People like Stu, Trish and I got to create new kinds of sales teams using new tools and practices that were once considered revolutionary and are now thought of as mainstream. When you are ready to write your “history post”, I can point to others who have made significant contributions – or successful people besides Marc Benioff who started as inside sales reps at Oracle. 🙂

    The great news is that sales and marketing leaders working today are taking these practices to the next level with the changes in buyer preferences, the availability of new technologies, and the global acceptance of doing business without sellers and buyers being in the same room. I feel privileged to have witnessed this evolution and to still be working – with a large community of fellow “thought leaders”, colleagues and partners like you- to help companies understand and realize the power of inside sales!


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