Every B2B company these days generates leads by running search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing campaigns. But no business can drive sales conversion only by generating more leads. In addition to generating leads from various channels, they must keep in place a process for identifying, connecting, and qualifying leads.
The sales development process helps your business to identify, connect, and qualify leads by focusing on the early stages of the sales process. Unlike the marketing process, the sales development process does not focus on promoting your products or services. Also, sales development representatives, unlike sales professionals, are not responsible to close sales deals.
According to Wikipedia,
“Sales Development is an organization that sits between the marketing and sales functions of a business and is in charge of the front-end of the sales cycle: identifying, connecting with, and qualifying leads. Simply put, this organization is tasked with setting up qualified meetings between a salesperson and a potential buyer with a high probability of purchasing a product.”
The sales development process identifies and creates sales opportunities by evaluating leads generated by the marketing team and passing qualifying leads to the sales team. Hence, you can boost both lead generation and lead conversion activities by creating and streamlining a sales development process. However, you can drive conversion rate consistently only by focusing on each of the key elements of a sales development process.
3 Important Stages in a Sales Development Process
1) Identifying and Differentiating Qualified Leads
The sales development process starts with the evaluation of leads and identification of qualified. The sales development representatives evaluate leads generated by initiating conversations and making appointments through multiple channels – phone calls, text messages, emails, and social media messages. Based on the conversation, they divide prospects into two broad categories – sales qualified leads (SQL) and marketing qualified leads (MQL).
2) Engaging Qualified Leads
After identifying qualified leads, sales development representatives engage them by both learning and engaging. They gather relevant information to learn about the lead’s business process, needs, pain points, expectations, budget, timeline, organizational structure, and decision-making process. Also, they educate the prospect by answering their questions and sharing relevant information. While educating customers, sales development representatives focus extensively on overcoming objections.
3) Creating Real Sales Opportunities
The sales development process must focus on identifying and creating sales opportunities regularly. The sales development representatives continue to nurture and qualify leads till they are ready to sign a sales deal. They hand over the sales-qualified leads to sales managers or account executives once the sales opportunities are created. However, the sales development process does not include activities to close sales deals.
6 Essential Components of Sales Development Process
1) A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
The customer relationship management (CRM) software is designed with features and tools to manage your business’s relationships with leads and customers efficiently and effortlessly. CRM is one of the most prominent technologies that will drive your sales development activities. The CRM systems will help sales development representatives access up-to-date information about the leads. Also, the sales development can update the lead information to boost lead nurturing and help the sales team close deals.
2) A Lead Qualification System
The sales development representatives qualify leads and pass qualified leads to the sales team based on clearly defined processes. Your sales development process must help representatives to identify and nurture qualified leads by providing relevant training. The training will prepare the representatives to handle various objections effectively. Additionally, the sales development process must help sales development representatives to evaluate leads by providing elaborate guides and real-time best practices.
3) A Centralized Content Management Portal
The sales development representatives need a variety of content to nurture leads and educate prospects. Your sales development strategy must not compel representatives to create content. Instead, it needs to ensure that a representative can access the right content without putting in extra time and effort. Your business can make it easier for representatives to access relevant content on-demand by building a centralized content management portal. The seamless access to content will help representatives to create more sales opportunities.
4) Sales Analytics
While selecting and sending content, sales development representatives have to consider the buyer persona and the current stage in the buyer’s journey. They need technologies that help them to identify the lead’s current position in the buyer’s journey. You can use sales analytics as a powerful tool to enable representatives to gain actionable insights from sales data, trends, and metrics. Representatives can use sales analytics to nurture and influence leads by sending the most appropriate content at the right time.
5) Built-in Feedback Mechanism
Your sales development process must bridge the gap between marketing and sales processes by facilitating seamless communication and collaboration. The sales team must help sales development representatives to qualify needs by sharing relevant information and tips. Likewise, the sales development team must make it easier for the sales team to close deals by sharing actionable insights. That is why; you must keep in place a feedback mechanism to facilitate collaboration between marketing and sales teams.
6) Metrics and KPIs
You must measure the effectiveness of your sales development activities and the performance of sales development representatives using a slew of metrics and KPIs. Some of these metrics help you to evaluate the quality of SQL, while others make you understand the time and effort required to convert SQL into sales opportunities. Most B2B businesses evaluate sales development process using useful parameters like number of SQLs, average deal size per SQL, number of calls per win, number of outreach attempts
5 Important Benefits of Creating a Sales Development Process
1) Reduce Lead Response Time
According to the lead response time statistics compiled by Vendasta,
“78% of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first. Also, businesses can close more sales deals by reducing average lead response time to 5 minutes.”
Your business can easily curtail the average lead response time by creating a sales development process. The sales development representatives will connect with every lead early and quickly through multiple communication channels – phone calls, emails, and text messages. They will further make your business respond to inquiries before competitors.
2) Close More Sales Deals
Sales development representatives pass qualified leads to salespeople. Hence, salespeople are not required to connect and evaluate many leads. They simply need to focus on following up with the leads and closing more sales deals. The sales development process further helps your business to reduce the length of the sales cycle by about 15%. The shorter sales cycles increase revenue by approximately 30% by making salespeople close more deals.
3) Boost Marketing Campaigns
After interacting with leads, salespeople often do not update information or data due to time constraints. Hence, marketers lack the information and insights required to boost lead generation strategies. Sales development representatives, unlike salespeople, update information about leads proactively in the CRM system. The marketers can access the updated and accurate data to boost lead generation campaigns using the appropriate techniques and delivering the right message.
4) Build and Nurture Prospect Relationships
Many digital service providers already build and nurture customer relationships by streamlining the sales development process. Unlike digital ads or public relationship (PR) campaigns, sales development representatives represent your brand by adding a human touch. While interacting with leads, they can identify the content or steps required to personalize customer experience or deliver meaningful support. Hence, they create more sales opportunities for your business by sustaining customer relationships.
5) Align Sales and Marketing Activities
The marketing team focuses extensively on lead generation, while the sales team focuses on closing more sales deals. Salespeople have to put in extra time and effort to connect with many leads and identify qualified leads. You can keep in place a sales development process to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. The sales development representatives will evaluate the leads generated by the marketers and pass qualified leads to the sales team.
Sales Development Team
You cannot streamline and boost the sales development process without putting together a dedicated team. In addition to bridging the gap between marketing and sales teams, the dedicated sales development team will handle specific sales development activities. However, you must not expect a single sales development representative to handle multiple activities.
You must create multiple roles in the sales development team based on specific tasks – lead outreach, lead research, lead qualification, account management, closing deals. While creating the sales development process, you must clearly define the role and responsibilities of every representative. But you must not forget to assign every role in the team to the right representative according to her qualification and skill.
Your B2B business can boost both lead generation and lead conversion activities by creating a sales development process. But you must remember that sales development trends change from time to time. You must optimize every important element of the sales development process to create more sales opportunities and sustain profitable growth.