Research, Referrals & Relationships

September 3, 2020

The 3 R’s of the Decision Pyramid

A lot has changed in the world of sales development. We’re moving further away from the “spray and pray” model of outbound prospecting and towards a more personalized, thoughtful, and strategic sales development approach.

This demand generation strategy shift is best reflected in how your SDRs execute their outbound efforts. Are they doing the right research before reaching out to their accounts and prospects? Are they talking with the right people and remaining multi-threaded? Are they building rapport and establishing a relationship with the decision-makers before asking for a meeting?

Your SDRs are competing with hundreds of other reps for your prospect’s time, and to stand out from the crowd they need to make sure their prospecting is extraordinary. Following the decision pyramid will help your reps do the right research, find the right people, and build effective relationships with decision-makers during the prospecting process.


Strategic sales development has changed drastically over the past couple of years. Messaging is becoming more targeted, accounts are being mapped at a deeper level and call plans are becoming more advanced.

Rather than rushing to make 100+ calls a day, an effective SDR will put on their work boots and take an appropriate amount of time to research / account map before prospecting. In Account-Based Outbound demand generation strategies, this is especially important because success is predicated upon building genuine & reciprocal relationships within target accounts.

Each SDR has their own method of doing research, but there are a few industry standards that universally aid sales development efforts. Knowing how to use them to your advantage will help you complete the first step of the Decision Pyramid.

LinkedIn, ZoomInfo and other Data Tools help map out accounts and conduct preliminary research. If you’re making the shift to an Account-Centric prospecting model (you should if you haven’t already) you know that no one individual is going to be the driving force to make a sale. Lots of stakeholders exist within each organization, and you must get buy-in from each party if you want the sale to go smoothly.

Social tools like Twitter, Google Alerts and Owler help find compelling events and relevant information to bring to your demand generation strategy. Key stakeholders within an organization are more inclined to respond to your request if you send along an article that’s relevant to their industry or show that you can make a positive change within their business. Setting up a Google Alert and monitoring Twitter and Owler for news relating to your target accounts will allow you to bring something to the table other than your generic value propositions.

In the end, strategic sales development research is a key skill that SDRs should master before diving into an account. Without research, you don’t do anything to separate yourself from the rest of the SDRs out there, and without proper research you fail to separate yourself from the prepared reps. Good research skills are what turn a good SDR into a great SDR.


Sales Development Reps know that you can’t just call one person out of the blue and qualify them up to your sales team’s standards (unless you’re really, really lucky). It takes strategic sales development research on pains and needs, account mapping to find the right people, and a compelling or innovative pitch that convinces them you can help out.

To effectively execute this demand generation strategy you’ll have to talk to multiple individuals within an account, as each stakeholder will bring something new to the table that aids your case. Decision Makers might make the final call, but they listen to the rest of their employees to make sure they’re making the right call.

There will be ideators who comes up with the big picture solutions to help out with the pains and needs the organization is experiencing. In a similar vein, you’ll have the visionaries who predict what pains they might have in the future, and they work to pro-actively fix them. Influencers will be on the floor with the users of a product and they’ll be in the ear of the decision-makers, taking down all the information they think is pertinent to issues they’re having. It’s important to connect with all of them, as each one owns a particular facet of the decision making and qualification process.

Budget could be allocated by the visionaries, as they have to plan for future needs and big projects. They also understand the needs of their organization more than anyone. Ideators understand the time-frame required to implement large projects, and they have a running list of priorities to get through. Influencers understand what the business needs as they have the ear of the decision-maker and the actual users of products.

All of these people factor in the decision-making process even if they aren’t the ones making the final decision. This makes account mapping and utilizing the research tools at your disposal all that more important when you’re eventually directed to the final decision-maker.

Ultimately, referrals from key stakeholders will give you credibility as an SDR and a foot in the door when you get in front of that final decision-maker. The information you’ve gained along the way will help you have a more compelling conversation than if you tried connecting with the decision-maker first.


Strategic Sales Development is all about building up information and referrals to understand the needs of an account — and whether or not you can help. Building a relationship with a key decision-maker is the best way to effectively introduce your product and deliver your value proposition.

Going right for a product demonstration doesn’t help articulate the value you can bring to a company — it just shows that you haven’t done the right work beforehand. Showing that you’ve done your research and connected with the right people adds credibility, authority, and relevance to your pitch. Once you have that, it makes for a much more compelling discussion.

Now, it’s in the hands of your prospect. What will happen next?

Sometimes the answer is a unanimous “yes, we’d love to take a deeper look at your product.” Other times you’ll get a “this looks good, but we really can’t afford to allocate time to look right now.” The answer should never be a flat out “no” — you’ll have figured out whether or not they’d be a fit long ago when account mapping and researching. Remember, you have the backing of stakeholders on your side as well as the information you’ve dug up while researching. At this point, if you’re speaking to the decision-maker the answer should only be a now or later.

If it’s a yes — go ahead and celebrate! Pass that hot lead off to your sales team and watch them fly through the funnel. If it’s a “not now”, this is where you’re going to have to go the extra mile in your strategic sales development approach. Nurturing a lead for the future will force you to continue your credibility building over time, and this means a bit more on the research and referrals angle. Finding articles or events that relate to the business will help remind them that you’re still invested in helping and that you still have a solution they could use. Talking to other individuals within the company will help you get updates on their internal situation without bothering the key decision-maker regularly. Checking-in every once in a while won’t hurt — if anything it will show that your interest goes further than traditional sales development processes. It shows that you have a vested interest in helping their business grow.

Ultimately the work you’ve put into your demand generation strategy of researching and account mapping through an organization will get you to the top of the pyramid. That meeting with the key decision-maker rests on the quality of the work you put into researching the company and navigating your referrals.

Taking what you learned and using that to build a relationship will yield the results you’re looking for.

Do your research. Get referred to the right people. Build a relationship with the decision-maker.

It seems like 3 simple steps, but we all know it’s not that easy. Sales development is a tough job, but boiling your activity down to the basics will help you stay the course and execute your outbound prospecting the right way.

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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