Whilst insides sales can take many forms, where I have seen it most effective in b2b SaaS businesses is in bifurcating the sales process – specifically in focusing the insides sales team on exclusively generating, and qualifying leads.
This bifurcation of roles is particularly compelling when dealing with long sales cycles and large contracts – allowing the road warrior sales executive to focus on managing the lengthy sales cycle, whilst turbo charging the lead generation engine feeding the pipeline. These roles are known by a variety of titles – Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), Business Development Representatives (BDRs), Market Developers, Partnership Managers, or simply insides sales – for ease I refer below to these individuals as SDR’s. These individuals have a number of characteristics:
- Efficiency and volume focused: office based, SDRs are exclusively focused on driving lead volume. Their time is optimised as they do not need to commute and conduct all activities almost exclusively remotely
- KPI’s are activity and lead generation: SDRs do not typically carry sales quotas. Their KPI’s are generally activity based (# outreaches, # first round presentations), and / or focused on the number of sales qualified leads (SQLs) generated
- Domain experts: SDRs are the first interaction a customer has with the organisation – the SDR needs to be a skilled expert, with strong product or domain knowledge. Unlike traditional outbound / call centre sales, SDRs do not necessarily have a sales script, rather their role is to apply the necessary, often consultative, sales techniques to tease out the context and drivers of the sale
- Leverage technology to generate leads: SDRs play a role in both inbound lead nurturing and outbound lead generation. SDRs will often use email, phone or social media to drive lead generation – the increasing prevalence of remote working tools (e.g. presentation tools, video conferencing etc), has enabled SDRs to drive increasing scale and efficiency out of remote lead generation
- Often paired with a sales executive: Often an SDR is paired with a Sales Executive / Field Sales / Partnerships director who is on the road focused on closing deals. This symbiotic relationship enables the Sales Executive to focus on qualified leads and in closing deals and obfuscates the need for often expensive sales executives to spend time prospecting
SDRs key responsibility is in generating Sales Qualified Leads. Generating a strong SQL typically means the SDR has completed an initial introductory call with an influencer or decision maker, have identified the drivers / needs of the customer, and have scheduled a specific time and place for a follow-up meeting, often in person, including agreement on a list of key decision makers that will be present at the meeting. It’s at this point that the SDR hands over the lead to their Sales Executive counterpart to drive the remainder of the sales process.
An inside sales team focused on building a lead generation engine has a number of advantages:
- Reduced cost per lead, increased lead volume: an SDR team lends itself to a leaner more automated sales structure – building the organisations capability to generate high volume qualified leads will enable a smaller, leaner sales executive team focused exclusively on managing the sales cycles. In a Harvard Business Review article it was claimed that using inside sales reps reduced the costs associated with customer acquisition and selling anywhere from 40% to 90%
- More responsive organisation: A team dedicated to nurturing and responding to inbound leads creates a sense of momentum around opportunities – the old adage of time kills deals rings true and a more responsive first line will quickly qualify opportunities in or out
- Efficient use of time and resources: As SDRs do not need to travel and can pitch remotely, they can handle a higher volume of leads in a shorter period of time
- Conversion at scale: Increasingly buyers are no longer interested in meeting ‘pitchers’ in person – they increasingly expect sales people to add value and insight throughout the sales process. Disaggregating the sales process, conducting remote introductory calls, means opportunities are qualified more effectively, and the buying process is more efficient
- A more engaged workforce: With a better work life balance, the SDR model allows ‘farmers’ to focus on farming and sales executive ‘hunters’ to focus on closing
In summary, as Australian software businesses drive towards scale, being increasingly scientific about the performance and structure of the sales team is a necessary requirement. Disaggregating the sales process, and building an inside sales leads engine will provide the discipline of focus and deliver commensurate efficiency in scale and conversion. I recognise of course, this is too simplistic a statement to apply to all b2b SaaS businesses, applicability will differ by stage, sophistication of the sales process, sector, type of sale etc. However, what the data suggests is that Australian software companies have an opportunity to do more to dissect the sales process to edge out performance gains and build sales scalability.