Sales Development Series #1: The Anatomy of Sales Development

This is the first of a series where we’ll be diving deep into Sales Development — what it is, how it has evolved, what it looks like today and why it’s a critical function.

According to Salesforce, Sales Development is defined as a specialized group that focuses entirely on the front end of the sales cycle: setting qualified appointments and demonstrations.

We thought it might also be prudent to differentiate between Sales Development Reps, Inside Sales Reps, and Account Executives as they are sometimes interchangeably used. Sales Development Reps and Account Executives go hand in hand. While the former looks after setting up meetings with qualified leads, the latter looks at delivering demos/having meetings and closures. Inside Sales is remote sales. When a startup in India sells to a client in Timbuktu (now, wouldn’t THAT be interesting), it’s Inside Sales as no one is going across the Sahara to meet up in person (though that would be pretty interesting as well).

Sales Development’s history goes back by about 3 decades but the term has been most used over the last three years or so. The forerunners included Oracle. Sales Development started out with reps making calls, then came the ‘email first’ strategy post which was the calls+emails+social engagement phase. Sales Dev Reps today seek to maximize response rates by a multi-channel strategy to intrigue and invite a prospect to respond to their outreaches.

Here’s what Sales Development today does (though the exact role varies from company to company):

  • Understands deeply the product, current customers, pain points, competitors, and value proposition.
  • Identifies and qualifies leads that satisfy the ‘buyer persona’.
  • Gathers contact details and sends out emails and/or calls qualified leads. Engages with them on social to elicit a response.
  • Handles all conversations until the meeting/call is set up.

A sales development representative puts a lot of effort in the qualification phase since this involves a lot of research on the company and lead. Lead qualification and gathering contact details are time-consuming, yet necessary, steps. This is why many organizations get help on lead generation and qualification processes.

There’s a reason why David Cummings called Sales Development “the most important sales process innovation in the last 10 years”. Setting up meetings and closing deals require two very different skillsets. A team can spread itself too thin when it focusses on both of them. Companies such as Salesforce, Oracle, and Marketo have achieved much success from decoupling the two functions and creating Sales Development Reps and Account Executives. It’s time that you embraced this and created your own Sales Development function. How? We’ll tell you soon.