One might say the missing link, but I prefer the term “strong link”: the link that unites teams, creates solidarity and strengthens synergies.  I’m talking about the Sales Development Representative (SDR for short).

This is a new sales function from across the Pond, reflecting the current trend of specialisation of sales teams in the B2B sector. Times when salesmen had to do everything themselves, from prospecting to concluding deals, are definitely over.

Let’s take a closer look: first and foremost, why the need to specialise? And what is the difference between an SDR and an Account Executive or an Inside Sales?

Why should sales teams specialise?

Traditionally, salespeople were responsible for the entire sales cycle, from prospection over qualification and sales negotiations to the management of the customer portfolio. Today, sales teams tend to specialise. But why?

Three main advantages:

  1. Better performance: specialisation allows each team to excel in what it does
  2. More easily accessible and better organised data: systematic processing of data from different sources, structured and encoded in a follow-up tool like CRM
  3. Improved customer relation: prospects who are not interested are not bothered longer than necessary. Efforts can be focussed on qualified prospects.

In short, the SDR will do research, look for and qualify prospects before passing the torch to an Account Executive in order to turn them into customers.

What’s the difference between the SDR and an Account Executive?

Like any other community, the Sales community has its own language. But it’s difficult to find two enterprises who have the same definition for the terms Account Executive, Sales Executive, Business Developper, Account Manager or… Inside Sales. For the moment, we’re going to keep it simple and limit ourselves to SDR on the one hand and Field Sales on the other. In other words, we’re going to make a distinction between the person who stays at the company and the person who goes into the field.

  • The SDR starts his activities rather early in the sales cycle. His tasks comprise the creation of lists of prospects, as well as prospecting through telephone calls, e-mail and social networks. In order to do this, he uses IT tools (CRM, data base, web sites,…)
  • The SDR identifies prospects and starts negotiations before referring them to the Account Executives, whose responsibility it is to conclude contracts. This means that the SDR is the customer’s first “human” contact with the company
  • The SDR contacts and qualifies the leads identified by the marketing team, confirms that an opportunity exists and refers the Sales Qualified Leads to the sales team
  • The SDR maps the key players of the key accounts and provides support to the Key Account Managers for an optimal decision-making process

It is therefore the SDR’s responsibility to arrange the first face-to-face meetings as soon as the lead has reached a certain maturity.

Doesn’t that resemble the responsibilities of an Inside Sales?

Yes and no. What they have in common is the qualification of the leads. The Inside Sales qualifies the incoming leads but, contrary to the SDR, he doesn’t have to generate leads himself. The latter also performs outbound sales, which means he generates new leads himself and maintains relations with them. This requires a wider range of competencies than the Inside Sales: he has to control social networks, marketing campaigns, incoming calls and cold calls after a written and personalised contact with the prospect. If necessary he also makes demos. One might go even further and state that after the qualification, he is able to conclude a distance contract. This is the case for transactional sales or for solutions of low complexity and value.

In short, the SDR knows and controls the offer and the needs of the market. He is able to have a well-reasoned conversation with the targeted prospects, to challenge them to discover new perspectives and to arouse their interest enough for them to want to have a face-to-face meeting.

The SDR creates added value during the interactions. He optimally paves the way for the Account Executive, who will then continue the personal contacts with the leads.


On a recent lead generation training course, I was very surprised to find a large majority of salespeople among the participants. It turned out that these sales reps were attending because their marketing wasn’t delivering leads that made sense from a sales perspective. Some of them had KPIs for cold calling, and results were reportedly getting worse and worse.

This situation again illustrates that the majority of businesses in Europe haven’t yet realised we’ve arrived in the ‘age of the customer’. Not that the customer has changed, but thanks to the internet, social media and new mobile possibilities, buyers have changed the way they interact with us. Organisations that want to secure or grow their business shouldn’t wait any longer to start looking at ways of meeting the empowered customer’s needs.

A well-oiled sales and marketing machine is essential

Buyers today can find loads of information about your products, and your competitors’, in just a few clicks. If you want to do business with leads who are looking for a solution like yours, it’s the marketing department’s job to provide the right information in the right form, at the right time in your lead’s buying cycle.

Cost efficiency and volume are key: marketing generates leads in a one-to-many digital approach. Only leads that meet specific marketing criteria (MQL) are being handed over to sales, who then take over from there. Sales qualifies both the contact and the buyer readiness (SQL), and leads rejected by sales are recycled by marketing into campaigns that can be made very specific thanks to the new insights gained by sales.

One marketing activity that is often forgotten is demand generation: besides capturing ready-to-buy leads, marketing can also create demand through inbound marketing. Leads from these campaigns can be nurtured to hopefully become sales-ready one day. Without demand generation, sales will keep on complaining about the quantity and quality of leads provided by marketing.

So has your machine been oiled to meet new customer demands?

How to get the machine running

If your machine’s a bit sluggish, it’s probably time to stop the ongoing battle between sales and marketing. Take a new look at activities and responsibilities, and create a value chain that helps your customers buy from you.

Here are a few tips to get sales and marketing collaboration on track.

  • Share common goals
    Across departments, increase awareness that we’re all trying hard to achieve the same company targets. Collaboration is key!
  • Share a common vocabulary
    In the age of the customer, replace your sales process with a buying process, and make sure both sales and marketing are speaking the same language. Introduce a clear demand-generation process with milestones based on commonly agreed definitions to make it work
  • Co-development and best practice
    Work together as one team. Both sales and marketing can add lots of value, insights and messaging to improve traction, conversion and ROI on marketing activities. Sales meetings are an ideal platform to keep marketing up-to-date with what’s happening in the market; marketing can take the stage to inform sales about ongoing results and planned activities in line with the sales organisation’s needs, again reinforcing the importance of common goals
  • Marketing: messaging should allows the building of customised content
    Research has shown that that up to 90% of content created by marketing goes unused by sales. Implement a content strategy that enables the building, sharing, measurement and improvement of messaging quality. Messaging should allow the building of content that is customised for different roles, their individual buyer readiness, and context
  • Marketing: ‘why change’ content
    The majority of content aims to convince us why we should choose company X or product Y. But research shows that 60% of opportunities are neither won nor lost; they simply disappear without a sale. The content that explains why customers should change is therefore crucial for creating demand and increasing conversion

Want to find out more and see the whole picture? Watch the webinar ‘How to Align Sales and Marketing’ with guest speaker Pascal Persyn, CEO at Perpetos, and moderator Deva Rangarajan, Associate Professor at Vlerick.


Implementing a (new) CRM system is strategically important for driving sales productivity. Perpetos CEO Pascal Persyn recently shared his experiences about this at the Microsoft Sales Productivity Master Class. He has three tips for using CRM to drive sales productivity: do it in a sales and people centric way, choose correct data over more data, and make it easy to use.

Tip 1: Implement your CRM in a sales and people centric way

First and foremost, think about who is going to use your CRM, when, and why. Design it for the people who use it every day. Keep your various teams’ differing goals in mind. And focus on core objectives to avoid complexity during implementation. We see too many cases where the taskforce gets carried away by the CRM’s endless possibilities, but not enough time is spent reflecting on its usability on a day-to-day basis. This means the system gets way too complex and people become less motivated to enter data usefully.

With everyone using CRM to organise their activities and gain more insights into customers and opportunities, you will:

  • have better internal collaboration
  • reduce overheads
  • cut administration
  • have more accurate forecasts with documentation
  • ultimately win more deals

Tip 2: Correct data is more important than more data

Almost all the CRM systems we see have too many required fields. Screens aren’t adapted to the use case and endless workflows tend to restrict users. So people fill in random information instead of using the data entry as a means to reflect on their real activities.

And last but not least, CRM should be a reflection of what is actually going on in the real world; not just what management wants to hear, nor an interpretation of what sales thinks. Give your sales people the opportunity to enter exactly the information they need, right when they need it. Sales will then be motivated to update the system, because it will help them be more successful.

Tip 3: Make your CRM easy to use

Start by mapping the different use case scenarios – what information is needed for which sales situation. You will overcome the biggest hurdles in any CRM implementation if you design screens, workflows and dashboards for these use cases. Important examples of these use cases are: entering a new prospective customer, preparing for a meeting, updating and strategising after a meeting, or preparing for a 1-to-1 with a sales manager.

Data capture for non-sales teams should be designed in terms of buyer readiness. For example: don’t ask sales to select products and configurations at the start of a buying cycle, because this hasn’t been discussed with the customer yet; the customer can still change their mind, and it forces sales to think in terms of product sales rather than facilitating the buying decision. CRM can also be instrumental for embedding knowledge, sharing experiences, coaching sales, and adopting a sales methodology.

Regret missing the Microsoft Sales Productivity Master Class? Catch up with this video:

 

 

 


Many companies currently focus on big data. Unfortunately, small data are all too often forgotten, as if this problem has been solved now. In B2B, however, we are confronted every day with incomplete databases, outdated information and customer data stored in individual salespeople’s smartphones or in all kinds of Excel lists. New contacts’ business cards, LinkedIn updates, website visits and email traffic are not converted into a unique database.

CRM should be this unique database compiled by manual and automated data collection. Unfortunately, the potential is usually not fully realised in reality. The problem is often intrinsic to the implementation:

  • The screens and workflows are not adapted to the different roles and use situations
  • Low adoption rate among users due to a lack of added value for each individual user or user role
  • When the CRM system is selected, insufficient consideration is given to the rapidly changing needs and environment

We know what this results in. The forecast requires quite a lot of manual work in every analysis. The sellers perform a single major update just before each deadline and do not keep track of their work on a daily basis. Time and again, Marketing has to request that the sellers manually check the lists before an action can be started correctly. Sales leads are insufficiently qualified and are badly monitored or not at all.

Less data means more data

By using CRM correctly, a whole new world can be opened up for improved collaboration between departments and higher impact on the market. The following elements have most impact on the data quality:

  • Make the screens less complex and make the fields consistent with the logic behind them. Also take into account the different situations in which the screen will be used
  • Remove fields that are hardly ever used
  • Remove workflows which act like a straitjacket because they are not adapted to real situations
  • Provide sellers and middle management with individual dashboards which reflect daily and weekly use
  • Always use CRM live screens in case of interactions with sellers, e.g. during opportunity, pipeline or activity meetings

This is sufficient in itself to provide more up-to-date information and reduce frustration because sellers do not need to complete countless separate PowerPoint or Excel lists anymore.

If you immediately take this on board, you will achieve significant results within one month.


Even before most customers go to a supplier, they have gathered information and seek an answer to specific questions. A traditional salesman who displays his excellent product knowledge in his sales pitch and who has mastered the conventional negotiating techniques does not meet his quotas anymore. An exceptional salesman, on the other hand, knows in which buying phase the customer contact has arrived, understands the situation and is able to give advice. It takes three things to turn any salesman into an exceptional salesman: content, technology and a continuous learning process.

Content

To illustrate his words and continuously learn about the product range and its possibilities, the salesperson needs the right content, sufficiently flexible to be combined and supplemented at his own discretion. The content is created in a dynamic process so that other salespeople always have the most recent knowledge and documents at their disposal as well. Content creation becomes one of your principal sales support processes so that your salespeople constantly improve their knowledge and adapt to any customer situation.

Technology

Your seller needs software not just to be able to show the content in the right manner, but also to be able to consult the most recent information on the customer in advance. CRM should be more than an automated filing cabinet or tedious administrative work. It should support the seller in doing the right thing at the right moment with the right contact. Sellers should use the tools willingly and constantly so as to store and share knowledge as well as to review their own actions. This brings us to the third aspect of our topic.

Continuous learning

The learning process of each seller should also become part of the corporate culture. Your sales team needs permanent training and coaching. Everyone considers it normal that the best athletes have to train and are coached on a daily basis. This is also necessary for sellers whose environment changes continuously. Their own products develop, the market changes, the customers evolve and the competitors are not sitting back and doing nothing. A seller who acts as a talking catalogue is not much use in this context. To be a good adviser, they need to be able to count on your support. Training and particularly coaching are more important than ever. Empathy and commitment to the customer are capacities which require lifelong learning.

These three elements ensure better and deeper relations with customers and will make sales talks more relevant than ever for the customer.

 


Today we start with a motivational quote: “The customer is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” This quote is attributed to Gandhi, but the point is that customer focus is of all times.

However, a clear break can be noticed, which took place some five years ago. Josh Bernoff from market research company Forrester calls this the beginning of “the age of the customer”, which heralds the end of the previous age of information. Due to rapid technological evolutions including social media and mobile computing, customers seek information in different ways and their purchase behaviour is gradually changing as a result. Consequently, the role of sales and marketing is also changing profoundly.

All customer experiences

A study by SiriusDecisions from earlier this year indicated that 71% of purchase decisions are based on the sum of the experiences customers have with their supplier. All experiences, both digital and personal as well as with staff from any department, play a role in this. It proves Bernoff’s earlier proposition that “the only sustainable competitive advantage is the knowledge of and engagement with the customer”.

Meeting customers’ expectations in every interaction is therefore the real challenge in the age of the customer and the best way to stay one step ahead of the competition. The seller’s role in this is no longer to provide information and thus try to convince customers. The seller now has to ensure interactions which enrich the customer’s vision, help to demonstrate the positive impact of a purchase decision and facilitate the entire purchasing process in an optimum manner.


Are sales still the exclusive domain of the sales department? If so, you may have a problem, as customer interaction has changed dramatically. Customer contacts increasingly take place via other channels, such as the Internet, social media or relations. The preparation of purchases is also strongly influenced online.

Everybody has a commercial role

Your salespersons are not the only ones who bear responsibility for your company’s lasting commercial success. Within their role, each employee needs to be aware of the ultimate aim of their activities, namely the customer. This requires a serious mentality change with plenty of companies, and perhaps also with you.

More than ever, customers expect to play a central role in your processes. This demands a targeted approach: any interaction between you and the customer matters and has to meet the customer’s expectations. You need to be able to quickly and adequately answer any question from them. In most industries this is the fastest way to strengthen your competitive position.

Your processes from the perspective of your customer’s purchase cycle

Are you ready to take your organisation to a higher level and to increase your growth potential? Then you need to organise your processes from the perspective of your customer’s purchase cycle. You have to meet their expectations with every contact. This also impacts the competencies of your employees and the manner in which technology supports your customer processes.

Create a Buyer’s Journey roadmap in five steps

For the sake of brevity we will not discuss this in depth, but in general terms you build your roadmap in five steps:

  1. describe the purchase cycle for each type of customer
  2. inventory the contact moments (including those with third parties)
  3. describe all those moments, every touch point
  4. identify the most important decision criteria and decision points
  5. convert the schedule into ready-to-use guidelines


Like many marketeers, we worked extremely hard on our campaigns: webinars, events, trade fairs, workshops, and so forth. This resulted in sufficient new names which we neatly passed on to our sales colleagues. As they are quite result-oriented, they asked for more and more leads.

We did not want to employ another staff member in a marketing position to provide even more push campaigns, so we decided to concentrate in particular on the quality of the leads going in the sales funnel. Lead scoring had to increase the turnover per lead by having the sales department focus especially on promising leads. Within this scope, we were one of the first in Belgium to start working with marketing automation software.

As part of the preparation, we conducted an analysis of the entire process with our sales colleagues to ensure that everybody agreed on the method and the definitions. A rather bothersome and complex exercise, but indispensable to get rid of weaknesses in your funnel. We noticed that some leads were neglected. What is the use of more and more leads if they are not monitored properly?

In the meantime, all leads have been registered and qualified in the marketing automation software. Each contact is monitored and gets a score with every new action, even in case of existing contacts. After all, we often focus too strongly on new names and lose track of upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Still overly dependent on push marketing

After lead scoring the time was right for a next step. An analysis of our lead funnel showed us 1) that push marketing accounted for the majority of our leads; and 2) that our inbound leads completed the sales process twice as fast. We therefore decided to focus more strongly on inbound activities so as to increase the influx as well as the quality of the leads.

Potential buyers consult their network and other references to make or prepare purchasing decisions. So you also need to lead them to the purchase online. Customers increasingly inform themselves without contacting a supplier. If you only count on push marketing, you often arrive too late in the decision-making process.

Within the scope of our inbound approach, we mainly invest in four kinds of actions: several media channels, SEO, content creation and general branding. We thus want to increase the share of inbound leads to 50% in the long term.

This blogpost is a contribution by Tom Dubois, Worldwide Marketing Manager at VASCO Data Security

 


No Lead Left BehindAs is the case in many companies, the cooperation between our marketing and sales departments used to be less than optimal where leads were concerned. Thanks to the internal project “No Lead Left Behind”, we have been able to find a solution for a rather unproductive situation.

Using marketing automation software, we are currently preparing the next steps such as lead scoring and automated nurturing. We should be able to the see the results in about one year.

Number of sales accepted leads doubled

We have developed a process where not a single lead is lost and where efforts are made to follow up on all leads. The cooperation between the sales and marketing departments has considerably improved as well. Generally speaking, the number of sales accepted leads has doubled, with a record 136% increase in the beginning of the year. We have achieved this thanks to the following four steps of our action plan.

1. We have created an unambiguous process to manage the pipeline from lead to deal, with clear agreements on all intermediate stages, definitions and nomenclature. The process also includes the possibility to refuse or requalify leads on the basis of fixed parameters.

2. We have defined all stages of the process in a very detailed manner in our software, so that they are monitored quickly and correctly.

3. Targets relating to data quality, timing and conversion have been calculated for each stage. These targets are documented in an internal Service Level Agreement, which has been accepted by all sales and marketing people.

4. Through coaching and training we have made sure that everyone is motivated and is working towards the same goal.

This blog post is a contribution by Inge Landerwyn, marketing manager at Basware


Visual and word artists are indispensable for marketing. However, a modern marketing communication department has to be able to do more than sending attractive newsletters, creating eye-catching designs or organising memorable events. An equally important part of the job is driven by data analysis. Clients and prospects leave a digital trace that, when interpreted correctly, may stimulate sales.

Know your customer

Marketing communication is a powerless tool if it doesn’t include digital analysis. It also makes the job a lot more pleasant than it may seem. Like the owner of a local shop knows the personal preferences of many of his customers, each marketeer can acquire similar insights, mainly by using marketing automation tools.

However, we do not expect the marketeer to lock himself up in his digital laboratory and to gather all his information from visitors’ statistics, click behaviour and Excel pivot tables. He must also be active in the field, establish contacts with prospects and go to all major trade fairs. The ideal marketeer is a combination of both. We are calling him the “extraverted nerd”.

One-to-one is standard

We have prepared our marketing staff for their future through intensive internal communication: one-to-one is our standard, creativity and analysis go hand in hand. In addition, we obtain a relatively high turnover from each deal, which proves that one-to-one marketing is certainly not a useless investment. It has taken us more than one year to set up marketing divisions capable of linking creative concepts and dry data analysis all over Europe. In the past, we were mainly lacking knowledge of digital marketing, but we have in the mean time been able to make up for that lack.

Our teams consist of digital marketeers responsible for content and its highly varied distribution (the “Digital” team members), analysts who gain insights from our marketing software (the “Insight” people) and campaign experts whose task it is to stimulate demand (the “Demand” people). Together they are managing a detailed marketing funnel, the results of which are increasingly easy to predict and which accounts for an ever growing part of our turnover.

This blog post is a contribution by Philippe Gosseye, marketing director Western Europe at EMC.