Insights / Sales / Article

11 Sales Development Strategies for High-Growth Companies

September 06, 2019

Sales development as part of a B2B sales strategy is still a numbers game, and these 11 steps will help your company come out on top.

The original version of this article, authored by Craig Rosenberg, was published by TOPO, now Gartner. 

Just 15 years ago, there was only a 50% chance a business would invest in sales development. Times have changed. Now, you would be hard-pressed to find a successful, high-growth technology company that doesn’t have a sales development team.

Download ebook: Future of Sales

No. 1: Only 27% of sales development teams use BANT as their SQL definition

For years, budget, authority, need and timeframe (BANT) had been the de facto definition of sales qualified leads (SQLs). Now, 73% of companies use looser SQL definitions such as authority, need, urgency, money (ANUM) or authority, need (AN) instead of BANT.

  • The SQL definition is absolutely critical to the success of every sales development program. Make sure you choose the definition that is right for your business and target market.
  •  Most outbound sales development organizations used AN or ANUM for their SQL definitions. Trying to apply BANT to outbound is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

No. 2:  Some 60% of sales development teams have specialized reps to focus on inbound or outbound

The inbound marketing and demand generation movement of the past five years has created a high volume of leads that require follow up.

Inbound lead conversion has very specific requirements that can only be executed effectively with a specialized inbound team. For example, inbound leads should be followed up within five to 30 minutes of receipt, which requires full-time headcount to achieve.

  • Organizations with specialized roles are typically delivering 200+ leads per sales development representatives (SDR) per month.
  • Many of the hybrid teams are primarily enterprise focused and typically provide less than 200 leads per month. With these teams, lead volume is inconsistent on a month-to-month basis.
  • Data also shows some sales development teams specialize by company size, vertical industry and product. 

No. 3: Only 31.5% of sales development organizations respond to leads within 5 minutes

The highest inbound lead conversion rates happen within minutes of download. A prospect who has just completed a registration form is thinking about your offer and is more likely to respond.

  • Of the organizations that respond within five minutes, the vast majority have specialized inbound SDRs.
  • Many of these teams use technology such as intelligent lead routing and zero-minute emails.
  • Not surprisingly, hybrid teams struggle to achieve best-in-class response rates of less than five minutes.

No. 4: The average number of touches per lead is 8 to 12 times

The key to success is to think of outreach as a campaign with an optimized, set number of touches over a set period of time.

The best practice is to touch a prospect eight to 12 times over a short period of time such as two to four weeks. In many accounts, there are multiple people to sell to and each one should get their own touch campaign.

  • These touches should be spread across a mix of channels such voice, email and social.
  • Once the two- to four-week week campaign is over, SDRs should revisit the lead at a later date.

The average number of times an SDR touches an individual lead

Meaningful touches are defined as touches that deliver a message to a buyer such as an email. An example of a touch that is not meaningful is a dial where an SDR calls a prospect and hangs up without leaving a message.

11 Sales Development Strategies

5. Half (50%) of sales development teams include a LinkedIn touch in their touch patterns

For most sales development organizations, LinkedIn is the predominant source of sales intelligence. It’s also  a key channel for touching hard-to-reach prospects.

  • Most organizations include a LinkedIn touch as part of their first set of touches, known as the triple touch: call, email, LinkedIn.
  • We do not recommend inviting cold prospects to connect on LinkedIn until you have had a conversation with them. The best practice is to send an InMail or message simply forwarding their email.
  • More advanced tactics include liking, sharing or commenting on content shared by the prospect.

No. 6: The average number of touches per day is 95

Sales development is still a numbers game, but that should not come at the expense of quality. With technology, templates, training and process, SDRs can produce high-quality personalized emails and voicemails and still hit the metrics needed to be successful.

  • Organizations that execute 95 touches per day have optimized sales development processes in their CRM to make data management easy.
  • These organizations drive high SDR productivity by leveraging technology including sales email automation and auto-dialers.
  • Many provide time management training so SDRs can organize their day to reach the required number of touches.

No. 7: Some 37% of sales development teams keep live call length under 10 minutes

Shorter live call times provide more opportunity for SDRs to execute the touches they need to get their next connect. Our data shows companies that keep calls under 10 minutes produce the highest number of SQLs each month.

  • Live calls should be under five minutes for looser SQL definitions such as ANUM or AN, while live calls for BANT should be under 10 minutes.
  • There is little correlation between SQL quality and long call times. Calls over 10 minutes often occur because SDRs lack the call structure and training to get answers to their qualifying questions and close for a meeting.

No. 8: Half (50%) of high-growth companies with under $25 million in revenue maintain a one-to-one ratio of SDRs to sales

Some high-growth organizations even have a ratio of greater than one-to-one.

No. 9: A full 54.5% of sales development teams reward SDRs on SQLs

SDRs should be compensated on the deliverable they can control, which is the SQL.

  • The quality of the SQLs passed to sales should by governed by the SQL definition, which sales leadership must sign off on.
  • In the situation where the SQL-opportunity rate is too low but SDRs are fulfilling the terms of the SQL definition, the problem may be the SQL definition. In this case, sales and sales development should review the SQL definition and find areas to optimize.
  • Many sales development organizations that compensate their SDRs on SQLs also provide an additional bonus for closed business.

No. 10: The average employment tenure for SDRs is 14.2 months

In the fastest-growing companies, average tenure is less than 12 months.

Sales development has long been a stepping-stone position to other areas in the organization. As such, sales development leaders must plan ahead for SDRs who will be out of the group in a little over a year.

  • Sales development leaders should always be recruiting. They should meet as many prospective candidates as possible whether or not they have an open position, leave the job description up on the website and encourage employee referrals.
  • Most high-growth companies have SDRs at or near their numbers after one month. That’s critical because SDRs are not in the seat long enough for organizations to wait three or four months to achieve quota.
  • Many teams have internal promotion plans to allow SDRs to grow within the sales development organization instead of looking elsewhere. For example, SDRs may start on the inbound team for six months before they have the option to be promoted to team lead (player-coach) or to an enterprise/outbound sales development team.

Average SDR tenure

Overall average tenure for SDRs is 14.2 months, with about 85% staying in the role for less than 18 months.

11 Sales Development Strategies

No. 11: Half (50%) of sales development organizations leverage five or more technology applications

A sales development technology stack has emerged to address the manual processes that have hindered sales development teams’ ability to scale.

  • The foundation of the sales development stack is CRM, sales intelligence, sales email tools and data tools. Once the foundation is set up and the sales development process is optimized, teams should then consider auto-dialers and third-party analytics applications.
  • One emerging category in the sales development stack is touch management solutions. These solve one the biggest challenges in sales development, the ability to efficiently track and manage multitouch, multichannel touch patterns.

Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference

Connect with the leading CSOs and sales leaders to get the latest insights on sales technology, sales enablement and more.

Drive stronger performance on your mission-critical priorities.