The Sales Development Representative role was first introduced nearly four decades ago. However, not until recently has sales specialization become so widespread. Sales Research (or Data Enrichment Specialists) roles are still uncommon. However, both titles play an essential role in a modern, successful B2B sales process.
Both SDRs and researchers work at the early stages of a sales funnel to fill sales pipelines with high-quality leads. As an outsourced lead generation provider, our company CIENCE has studied both roles in depth along with associated best practices. In this article, we’ll explain why a sales team needs researchers and SDRs to close deals.
What is a Modern B2B Sales Process?
Recent surveys on the buying process prove it had transformed significantly. Needless to say, changes in buying behavior have influenced the way companies sell. Here’s what sales teams need to know about B2B buyers:
- According to CEB, the average number of decision makers has increased to 6.8.
- There’s a complex hierarchy of values and fears that influence the customer’ decisions.
- Buyers prefer to control the process by consulting digital sources of information (e.g., articles and blog posts). There is little ‘information gap’ or asymmetry between buyers and sellers.
- There’s an overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet. Coupled with the abundance of companies and solutions, it makes the decision-making process even harder.
- Sales cycles have grown longer. This extended sales process requires more efforts from a sales team to close one deal.
- Companies have become increasingly more concerned about what happens after the purchase, trying hard to develop relations with accounts, expanding them and/or reselling.
- Buyers’ desire to make wise decisions requires more from sellers to generate and demonstrate value.
- Segmentation has become extremely precise, as sales teams increasingly don’t want to waste their time on the poor fit clients.
- To efficiently handle all the tasks within an extended sales process and under time pressure, teams need to distribute them across several roles. This is where sales specialization wins in high growth organizations.
The Role of Research in the Sales Process
As we mentioned above, an efficient sales team would only work with prospects that are likely to become customers. For example, if you sell waiter-robots, you would only want to search for high-tech restaurants. If you run plumbing services, you would probably want to work with local businesses, rather than those located thousands of miles away.
There are many ways you can specify your buyer persona. Segmentation and microtargeting rule the day in modern sales processes. However, the more precise you go, the more exclusive your list of leads will be. You can’t just take any file of contacts and hope you’ll get a good result.
If you want to directly outreach to prospects that fit your buyer persona, you need first to find them. So, the researcher is a person who seeks credible data on the Internet from multiple, legal sources. Their primary task is to discover companies, then several titles, and then key criteria of those people that fit the buyer persona.
Few companies have a full-time employee dedicated solely to lead research (data enrichment). As a rule of thumb, they either purchase lists of contacts from providers or entrust this function to an SDR. Alternatively, companies can assign outsource the data enrichment to human-driven software augmented providers.
Pro’s / Con’s
The pros of a purchased list:
- you don’t have to spend money on FTE
- your SDRs don’t have to spend their time doing the research
The cons of the purchased list:
- low quality of contact data, including high bounce rates, inaccurate phone numbers, fixed data points
- no options to change the details of data enrichment - one-time operation
The pros of an SDR doing data enrichment:
- the flexibility that only human intelligence can provide
- no expenditures on FTE or purchasing contact list
- research on contacts should provide valuable information for outreach personalization
The cons of SDR researching:
- much time and effort during the day is spent on searching for leads
- data enrichment requires skills that many SDRs don’t possess (personality type mismatch)
The pros of outsourcing research:
- human intelligence + expertise and experience
- outsource is cheaper than FTE, while quality is higher than the purchased list
- your SDRs don’t waste time on research
The cons of outsourcing research:
- it’s slightly more expensive per contact than pre-existing lists (depending on accuracy levels)
Quality of leads
The accuracy of contact data has always been one of the most damaging pitfalls of any sales process. All the more– it’s in the very beginning of a sales funnel. It’s obvious, but worth saying that campaigns with inaccurate contact data cannot succeed. And will be a huge waste of time.
There are four main criteria for a lead quality:
- Company exists
- Person still works in that company in that position
- Lead fits your buyer persona (ICP)
- All contact data is correct
Thus there are several indicators of well-done research: 1. Low bounce rate 2. Low numbers of wrong phone numbers 3. Correct social profiles 4. Additional data on companies and contacts that may affect campaigns (e.g. newly hired, technology used, org structure, etc) 5. Aggregate data accuracy
The greater the accuracy of contact data also guarantees that your sales team will invest their time and effort in working with good fit prospects. As a result, they can close more deals with more efficiency and less wasted effort.
Sales Development Role in the Sales Process
Once you’ve got an accurate contact list, you need to find out if people on that list are really in need of your product and service. Are they suffering from the problem you can solve or have they already resolved it? Do they understand they have a need you can solve? Are they in search for your type of product/service? Are there incumbents? Do they have more important things on their plate? Is it a good time?
Before demonstrating what your company can do, it’s a good thing to ask all of these questions and many more. That’s what the Sales Development Representatives do. They reach out, ask questions, start conversations and generate value for your prospects.
It’s worth noting that by going direct in the outreach process, SDRs are actually providing a valuable service to busy, distracted executives– the ability to introduce new ideas, products, and services that can help their organizations. Rare is the executive prospect who is not looking for an edge to get better.
To this end, SDRs use several channels of communication:
- Phone calls
- Social networking websites
- Web (especially web chat)
There are three models of how SDRs pass leads to account executives:
- Appointment setting
- Qualified opportunity
- A mix of the two above
None of these models is better than others. It depends on a company and its sales team - how they’ve established their sales process to fit their own buyers’ needs. As a provider of sales development, CIENCE subscribes mostly appointment setting model, followed immediately by a sales discovery call.
No matter what model your company applies, the fundamental tasks of your SDR are:
- Make sure that a prospect is a good fit for their company
- they experience a particular problem that your business can solve, and
- haven’t found (or are in search of) the solution, and
- have desire to learn more
- Inform and interest the prospect on how SDR’s company can help solve the problem
- Agree on further steps of the sales process
- discovery appointment, or:
- a call from sales executives
- Pass the prospect to sales executives
- Ensure that the prospect attends the next meeting, appointment, or demo
Obviously, not all leads will convert to appointments or opportunities. Sales Development Reps operate in probably the most emotionally stressful part of the sales process. They need to cope with a great deal of rejection and often negative attitudes on a daily basis. However, an experienced SDR knows how to handle most objections and communicate with enthusiasm and humor.
If you want to learn more about what an SDR at CIENCE does during the day, week and month, read our article Day In Life: SDR.
In summary, sales specialization of discrete tasks formerly performed by a single account executive encompass a wide variety of skills. The division of roles, especially research and Sales Development, enable teams to be far more productive than individuals independently. Which is why the rise of the modern, successful B2B sales specialized process is growing rapidly.