SDR - you'll die if you keep eating Mcdonald's

SDR - you'll die if you keep eating Mcdonald's
Me at Mcdonald's

You know that feeling when you have a fantastic meal? Taste. Ingredients. Service. Ambiance and more. All combine to create that WOW moment. That's how buyers should feel when they hear from you.

Traditional sales development is more like Mcdonald's. Created on a production line. It may hit the spot but it's fast and cheap and you may feel guilty when you eat it. It’ll never create that WOW moment. Eat it often and it could kill you too ;-)

How did we get here?

Sales development was invented by Xerox and Oracle in the 90s, then expanded at Salesforce in the 2000s. It split sales into two specialized roles “appointment setters” and “closers”. The appointment setters would qualify inbound leads. Some would also outbound to those that fit an ideal customer profile (ICP) across accounts in a total addressable market (TAM). The goal - appointment setters book meetings for closers to accelerate pipeline generation. The SDR was born! Soon every tech company had an SDR team.

Most followed the same pattern.

Identify ICP and TAM.

Get the data.

Bombard buyers into submission with calls and emails.

Book meetings every X touches (meeting%).

Track how many pass to AEs (pass%).

Track how many AE meetings turn into opportunities (pipe%).

Track how many close (close%).

Track the average deal size ($).

That was predictable prospecting and don’t get me wrong it worked.

Then Sales Engagement platforms happened. Salesloft, Outreach, etc. I was an early adopter and their messaging and even their business case followed the same simple logic. More buyers + More Touches = More Meetings. Hustle. Hustle. Hustle. Grind. Grind. Grind. The more we grind the faster we grow. Simple right?

Turns out that this way of working leads to diminishing returns because as you increase the volume of your inputs you compromise quality. So meeting%, pass%, pipe% and close% all decline. So you have to further increase the volume of your inputs to catch up and the shitty cycle repeats itself…

Worse. To this day no one can measure the REAL burn% of this type of prospecting.

How many buyers are you turning off to your brand?

How many accounts are you blocked from?

How many buyers remember your first and last name and the shitty experience?

You’re destroying the chance to sell to your best buyers and best accounts. Today and in the future.

It’s a long-winded way of saying - we’ll all die if we keep eating Mcdonald's. AI will replace high-volume, low-quality, zero empathy prospecting. AND Sales Leaders who turn intelligent people into dodumbthingsfaster robots are setting their people up for failure.

Metrics that matter

We’ve all been given daily, weekly activity targets at some point in our careers. Usually delivered along with the phrase "predictable inputs lead to predictable outputs". Often activity targets lead to high-volume, low-quality, zero empathy prospecting, and bad buyer experiences. They can also lead to high burn%.

I stopped using activity targets years ago. Specifically, I will not ask you to do 750 touches per week for example. Instead to drive the right behavior (quality over quantity) we use Active Accounts and Active Contacts (number of accounts/contacts with touches in the last 30 days) to measure input volume. You must have a healthy number of active accounts so you have enough chances to win.

To measure input quality we prefer to use meeting% (touches per month/meetings completed). But we also look at email personalization%, email% rate, and pass% (SQLs (AE Meetings) / Discovery Calls). The goal here? Book meetings with the least amount of touches possible. It’ll take time but great SDRs can book an outbound meeting with the buyers at the biggest brands in the world every 50 touches.

Now for outputs where you have less control as an SDR. We look at meetings, opportunities, pipeline, and revenue. No difference there. But because we focus on quality inputs we aim to convert at a higher% than traditional sales development.

To measure output quality we mainly focus on pipe% (SQOs / SQLs or AE Meetings Completed). Just like our prospecting, we want less volume and higher quality. No AE wants to be a busy fool. You can see that small 10-20% improvements lead to massive differences in qualified pipeline and revenue.

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Again, it’ll take time but great SDRs can book meetings that turn into qualified opportunities 80% of the time. More importantly, 50% can turn into revenue.

To wrap it up - If we focus on quality inputs, we’ll get quality outputs. That means more pipeline, high close rates, and more revenue potential. Happier SDRs and better buyer experiences. Not rocket science.