- Michael Kerman
7 Steps for Lead Development Rep Success - Part I
How many times have you or your leadership team uttered one (or more) of the following phrases in some degree of desperation:
“We have to reduce our cost of selling”
“We can’t burden our field reps with leads that aren’t ready to buy”
“We have some interested prospects, but who is going to actually call them and qualify them?”
Don’t worry if your answers were “daily” or even more frequently. The reality is that B2B sales cycles have become more complex due to (1) more solutions available, (2) better educated customers, (3) more content available to educate prospects prior to selling and (4) tight budgets and demand for clear ROI.
One company I know started with an “inside sales team” only to find that their solutions really didn’t lend themselves to be sold over-the-phone. So, the team was disbanded and a new “business development rep” team was formed to help build out the account and contacts in the CRM system. Eventually, this morphed into a “lead development rep” team that only focused on cold-calling. Finally, the team became a “sales development rep” team and was focused on all lead qualification. While this cycle of hiring/training/firing/repeat may sound odd, the reality is that this constant change isn’t unusual. Companies are always looking to implement some type of lower-cost, in-house function that somehow sits between marketing and the field organization.
I’ve been fortunate to see these models work well and fail and have identified seven (7) specific actions steps that the winners routinely take:
1. Define the Problem
2. Build the Model
3. Clarify the KPIs
4. Integrate into Marketing and Sales
5. Choose the Right Tools
6. Train, Mentor and Measure
Step 1 – Define the Problem
Amazingly, some organizations rush directly into writing and posting job descriptions and beginning the recruiting process before they’ve truly identified the problem they’re trying to solve. For example, each of the following is a common business challenges
We need faster and more hands-on qualification of inbound leads.
We need to build-out our contact database in preparation for moving to a new segmentation model or perhaps embracing account-based marketing.
We need a team to sell our lower-priced solutions over the phone.
We need a team to set up appointments for our overly-busy field teams.
It is critical that the leadership team (not just the Sales leader) discuss and achieve clear alignment on what problem needs to be addressed.
Step 2 – Build the Model
OK, you’ve got the problem scoped and achieved cross-functional alignment, so it’s time to being recruiting, right? Wrong! Now, you have to build out the financial and operating model. This involves answering several very important questions:
Organization… How will this group be structured? Will it require its own leader? What organization will the team report into? While “Sales” may be your immediate response, you may find that all of the team’s lead qualification and lead generation activities make it better suited to being part of Marketing.
Ideal Candidate Profile… What does our "ideal candidate" look like? Are we looking for hungry, junior-level people who are going to do this for 2-3 years and then move-on? If so, are we prepared to make that investment in training with such high turnover? Are we prepared to be continually recruiting to keep a pipeline of potential replacement candidates? Or are we hiring more experienced candidates who will stay in this role for a longer period of time?
Financial Model… Are we all comfortable with “the math”? Do we know how many people we need? What will be their ramp-up period and timeframe for full productivity? Have we factored in the cost for ongoing training, supervision and tools (see below)? Are we confident we understand the full, burdened cost and can confidently achieve an attractive payback?
Step 3 – Clarify the KPIs
Defining success is critical for any role, especially these positions that can quickly become a “dumpling ground” for all types of assignments and projects. More specifically, KPIs are required around:
Activity Quantity. What types of activity are important (e.g., emails sent, calls attempted, actual conversations, appointments made, etc.). It is critical to be crystal-clear about what constitutes “activity” and what the daily or weekly target is.
Activity Quality. Is it important that conversations are with prospects who match your ideal customer profile or target personas? For example, if you’re selling to VP’s of Technology and the lead development rep has a call with someone in Procurement or Finance, does that count as a quality conversation? Again, thought needs to be put into what constitutes a quality activity so you don’t end up with lots of irrelevant activity.
Timing. Many companies compensate inside teams only to find out that their activity (e.g., setting up appointments) never led to any business. To compensate for that, they often result to paying some percent of compensation over the duration of the opportunity, essentially creating a lightweight, milestone-based compensation model. Again, much of this depends on the length or complexity of your sales cycle, but it does need to be discussed to ensure you have an aggressive but achievable compensation model.
As with all planning, this work takes some serious though, analysis and cross-functional input. Once you’ve completed this Steps 1-3, you have a solid foundation and can proceed with Steps 4-7 that I’ll cover in Part II of my blog.