Separating Inbound and Outbound Sales Development

January 14, 2019

Optimize Your Sales Development Channel

A lot of attention has been given recently to the idea of “specialization” in the sales development process, especially for B2B technology firms. Companies are increasingly splitting their sales teams into qualifiers and closers, and as a result, many have seen increases in overall sales efficiency. A team of Sales Development Reps (SDRs) work on cultivating new relationships and uncovering qualified leads, and a team of Enterprise Sales Executives focus almost entirely on closing. This is not a new idea, and it has gained some momentum but is surprisingly still only implemented by 40% of tech companies. Here’s a great article highlighting the trend.

We still often find that even the most forward-thinking tech companies don’t go far enough. Sales development teams are often focused on responding to and qualifying inbound leads first. The remaining time is spent reaching out to cold prospects. The problem is that those two lead channels are very different. The most recent Sirius Decisions waterfall, used by many as the guide for developing lead definitions and sales process, acknowledges this difference and breaks the top of the waterfall into two sections: inbound and outbound. To maximize the production from your sales development team, we recommend separating inbound and outbound reps, and here’s why:

Inbound SDRs won’t do the right work on outbound

The problem with the current sales development model is that SDRs will inevitably default to what they deem to be easier (inbound) and neglect what can be, in many cases, the most productive lead channel (outbound). The nature of inbound leads makes them far more appealing to an SDR. I’m sure we can all agree that we’d rather reach out to someone who is expecting our call versus making a “cold” call. That said, a mix of inbound and outbound activity is essential to the success of any marketing organization, and outbound activity usually suffers in this model. Without a single focus, we find that SDRs don’t produce enough touch points or account mapping actions to make an outbound strategy effective. By separating inbound and outbound SDRs and creating a singular focus, you can ensure that the right inbound/outbound mix is accomplished.

Different sales development skills are required for success

You’ve probably heard the term hunters and farmers when it comes to sales development. As much as these terms are overused, they do begin to describe the different styles required to be effective in the SDR role. Inbound reps tend to have more customer service characteristics. They generally speak with prospects that are already aware of your company and as a result will require deeper product knowledge. Outbound Sales Development Reps, on the other hand, tend to be better researchers. They are required to begin a conversation with a prospect before they’re aware of your company, and while they don’t hold as much product knowledge, they can ascertain whether or not the prospect would benefit from a second conversation or product demonstration. In the inbound instance, it’s more of an affirmation that the prospect is interested or not. In the outbound instance, it’s more of a consultative conversation to deliberate whether or not the prospect could benefit.

Performance metrics should be different

Because the approach of inbound and outbound reps is different, managers should use different performance metrics to measure each. While both inbound and outbound reps are measured by leads — opportunities passed to the sales rep — the way that each group gets there is very different. For inbound reps, the touch-point to lead conversion rate is naturally higher, as a good portion of the work is done for them already. With outbound reps, they need to do a lot more legwork in order to find the right people to talk to and determine if there’s an opportunity within the company. That fact leads outbound reps to be judged more on the volume of activities — the number of calls, emails and— most importantly — connects are the best way to determine if your outbound reps are doing the right work.

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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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