2020 B2B Sales Development Trends

December 9, 2020

2020 has been a heck of a year (understatement of the century).

We saw companies pivot their sales, marketing, and demand gen strategies multiple times in the hopes to remain relevant and stay ahead of their competitors.

Amidst all of the turmoil and chaos, we picked out 10 different trends that have shaped B2B sales development – both this year and for the future.

From the rise of micro-communities to a focus on omnichannel selling to the growth of remote workforces, we cover the trends you need to know to set your team up for success in 2021.

The rise of micro-communities

Sales development has changed A LOT this year.

And at the forefront of that change is a rise in micro-communities.

We started to help build SDRevolution in mid-2019, and since then have seen a surge in similar groups.

From RevGenius to SDRDefenders to SDReady to the GTMReady community (and so many more), SDRs have a ton of resources to help them level up and be heard.

These groups help facilitate connections, drive conversation, and give reps insight and advice when they need it most.

Our suggestion? Get involved with a few!

As a manager, you can help speed up your ramp time and get reps producing results earlier in their career.

As an SDR, you gain access to a wealth of resources and connections to help you establish credibility and authority early on.

What’s not to like?

creating content as an sdr

What do your buyers…want? Care about? Struggle with?

Your SDRs probably know.

Nobody is more equipped to understand the needs of your buyers and how to position your product/solution than your SDR team.

So if you aren’t encouraging them to take that intel and create content, you’re both missing out.

SDRs are building personal brands on LinkedIn to boost their own credibility and authority…

but they’re also creating content to help teams accelerate the sales process and develop pipeline.

As a manager, it’s like ‘running a team of mini-marketers’.

If you’re hesitant to let SDRs create content, check out our conversation with Kyle Vamvouris. We cover the impact that SDR-created content can have on your organization AND how they can accomplish that without taking a hit to their activity metrics.

building a personal brand as an SDR

Hand in hand with content is brand.

And without one, lots of SDRs are falling behind.

Now, we’re not saying you have to be ‘famous’ to see success (it certainly doesn’t hurt).

But SDRs who can establish authority and credibility with their target audience online are thriving, while those who don’t are slowly falling behind.

Building a brand is no easy task. But it’s also not as hard as you might think.

You don’t have to post daily.
You don’t have to run a live show.
You don’t have to be part of every online community.

What you DO have to do is add value to the community with every post you make, comment you leave, and connection request you send.

Building that credibility and authority through your activity takes a concerted effort, but it’s how the best SDRs are separating themselves from their peers.

Want to make it even easier? Enable your reps to build a brand online – they’re the face of your business, after all. The more you can help them build a brand & audience, the better your overall brand will be.

creativity and personalization at scale

You can keep pushing the idea of ‘personalization’ at scale all you want, but it’s just not possible.

What IS possible, is relevancy at scale.

The difference between being ‘personal’ and ‘relevant’ is hugely important.

Because what a lot of people consider ‘personal’ we consider ‘relevant.’

As Morgan Ingram said:

It’s virtually impossible to be personalized and targeted with your messaging while still being able to do it at the scale most sales development teams need.

Instead of trying to be personalized to individuals at a large scale, shift your mindset to being relevant to groups of people at scale.

A personalized email is one that you could ONLY send to ONE person. It was made specifically for them and no one else.

Relevant emails are targeted at smaller groups of people – maybe by job title, industry, or responsibility.

Emails aren’t personal if you take a template and add someone’s title, company name, or where they went to school. Those emails are relevant.

And relevancy is scalable. Personalization isn’t.

Finding the balance between relevance and personalization has taken 2020 by storm, and building a process to optimize that will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Because at the end of the day, both are better than a generic template 10 times out of 10. So knowing how and when to use them is (and will continue to be) paramount to success.

increased SDR efficiency with AI

The SDR role is more automated now than ever, and that’s…

a good thing?

We’re not sure. But we do know one thing:

AI has made the SDR role way more efficient.

-SDRs can get real-time suggestions on how to diffuse objections.

-They get recommendations of who at a company they should talk with.

-They even get lists of lookalike companies to target based on historical data.

SDRs can start cadences with one-click (and glean some incredibly valuable data) with tools like Outreach and SalesLoft.

Your reps can quickly see the sentiment of their conversations through tools like Gong and Chorus.

They can even schedule meetings for themselves and their AE with Chili Piper.

AI is helping reps save time, make smarter decisions, and focus on one thing:

Generating top of funnel opportunities

Like all good things, there needs to be a balance. AI (and enablement tools in general) can act as a crutch for SDRs. Be wary! It’s easy for an SDR to hide behind a mountain of enablement tools and AI-driven decisions – but only if you let them.

Don’t look at these tools as a solution to your problems. Look at them as a way to supplement your team’s activity and to illuminate problem areas.

Make AI a supplementary component of your SDR function and you’ll go far.

omnichannel selling and alignment

Phone. Email. Video. Direct Mail. Tik Tok (not kidding).

The prospecting channels available to you are ENDLESS.

And new ones crop up seemingly overnight.

And while it’s important to test new channels out…

there has to be a process behind it.

The best SDRs today are using all of the tools at their disposal to rise above the noise and get noticed by their prospects.

And they’re doing it strategically.

Being multi-channel is one thing – reaching out to your prospects on phone, email, social, etc.

But being OMNI-channel, and putting yourself in places where your prospects can easily find you is different.

SDRs & their managers are creating some really compelling sequences that involve phone, email social, gifting, ads, events…you name it.

They’re tying channels together and creating a consistent message across all of their platforms, not just using them separately as a means to the same end.

And no one is more equipped to accomplish this than your sales dev team. What other group has insight into where your prospects hang out and what content resonates with them?

Are you working on multi-channel level? Or has your team made the jump to an omni-channel prospecting strategy?

building long-term relationships

Have you ever tried to catch lightning in a bottle?

It’s pretty much impossible.

And yet, tons of SDRs are building their prospecting strategy around it.

Catching a prospect at the right time and booking a meeting on the spot.

Newsflash: that’s not a sustainable way of developing pipeline.

It’s a great way to score some quick wins (and absolutely take those if they crop up), but you’re sacrificing long-term growth for short-term gains.

And reps who are focusing on the long-term are building healthier, more sustainable pipeline:

  • They’re building credibility and trust over time instead of asking for 15 minutes in their first email.
  • They’re learning more about their target industry/company/prospect and having meaningful conversations with their prospects.
  • They’re becoming partners, not just SDRs.

In the end, these long-term relationships have major impacts on your revenue – they convert more often, move through the funnel quickly, and are more likely to offer up referrals.

Focus on the long-term and watch your team flourish.

it's a buyer's market - be the delta

Nowadays, prospects can find out pretty much anything about your company online.

Well before they get in touch with an SDR.

So when they do talk with someone and it’s just a recap of the info they already know, they’re not compelled to keep talking.

But if you can tell them something they CAN’T find online?

You’ve hooked them

Most SDRs regurgitate information from company websites, brochures, datasheets, etc.

But the best SDRs know that templated pitches won’t cut it with modern buyers.

To compel someone to take a meeting, you have to show them something they haven’t already thought of or read themselves.

This means having a clear understanding of your prospect’s goals and challenges…

And having a deep understanding of your solution and the value it can bring…

So you can tailor the conversation (and value of your solution) to each individual prospect.

Otherwise, you sound just like every other SDR out there.

SDRs need to work with sales and marketing leaders at their own company to embrace this approach and really become that delta for your prospects.

the growth of remote SDR workforces

It wasn’t by choice, but remote SDR workforces are becoming the norm.

And for some companies, that’s a scary reality.

“Can I trust my SDRs to be as productive at home as they are in the office?”

We say yes – provided that you have the right management layer in place.

Teams that are well-run can still get the most out of their SDRs despite the difference in location.

There are plenty of tools and techniques to promote transparency, enable communication, and motivate reps to generate pipeline.

And the best teams out there are crafting compelling campaigns that take advantage of this WFH situation.

Sales dev leaders are turning to digital events as a lead gen method – and they use their SDR team to focus the topic around what they’re hearing from prospects on a daily basis.

Direct mail and gifting are increasing in popularity – we saw tons of ‘WFH Starter Packs’ sent out in March & April, and they were joint efforts between sales, marketing, and sales dev.

Top sales development leaders aren’t just adapting to this new reality, they’re embracing it and thriving alongside it.

getting sales development a seat at the table

Sales development has changed dramatically in 2020. And in 2019. And 2018…

Point is, what teams are doing now is a far cry from what they were doing a year (or 5) ago. They’ve adapted, changed, and re-established their processes and strategies.

All of the trends we listed above embody this ‘new sales development team’ more than anything, and they indicate a major shift:

Sales Development is getting a seat at the table.

Newer organizations and fast moving companies are starting to see the value that the sales development function brings outside of just booking meetings. They bring strategic direction and alignment to the organization in a way that other departments can’t.

Sales development is no longer just ‘the child’ of sales and marketing, it’s becoming its own department and contributing to the overall mission of the company. And the employees who have risen up through the sales development ranks are the new VPs of sales, Heads of Marketing, and CROs at their companies.

Join Lindsay Frey, David Dulany, Rebecca Garber, and Aaron Browning, as they talk through the trends we’ve seen in 2020, how they relate back to the rise of sales development, and what the future has in store for sales dev leaders.

getting sales development a seat at the table - demandDrive round table discussion

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aj alonzo

AJ Alonzo is the Head of Marketing at demandDrive. A former SDR turned marketing leader, he's made it his goal to develop resources for sales reps who are looking to level up and for managers who are looking for guidance. Outside of work you can find him trying to shoot under par at his local disc golf course, sipping on a bourbon on the rocks, or continuing his quest to be the very best like no one ever was.
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