BUILDING AN SDR TEAM

learning to put our customers first,
the hard way.

Collin Stewart, CEO, Predictable Revenue

November 21st 2016

~20 min read

Since we started building outbound sales campaigns, we’ve helped generate millions of dollars in closed deals for our clients. We’re not talking about “meetings” or “pipeline” here.  Real. Closed. Deals.

Our number one focus when we engage with a client is helping them find a path to consistently closing deals. That’s not an easy thing to do and we, admittedly, didn’t always have such a precise focus. In fact, it took us longer than I’d like to admit to realize what we were missing.

In the early days, we focused entirely on generating positive responses and booking meetings for our clients. Each client was assigned a revenue color – red = danger, green = neutral, & super green = killing it – based on how well we were performing on these two metrics. After implementing our colors system, we noticed that some super green clients were churning while green or red clients were happy and loyal. We learned that our customers had a different metric they were measuring us against – ROI.

This realization marked the largest change to our organization since we decided to pivot our struggling (and generic) CRM company into the outbound sales space and merge with Predictable Revenue Inc..  In the months that followed, we pushed our entire team to revamp our offering and focus on two key areas: generating real value for our clients and building prospecting experts.

As part of the rebuild, we mapped out the journey from reading Predictable Revenue to closing your first deal from outbound. This is something our customers and prospects have been asking for since we started, so we thought we’d share.  Below you’ll find our 5 steps to generating Predictable Revenue, some benchmarks, and steps for advancing through each step.

Note, there is one step that precedes the steps below and that is making the commitment to invest the time and resources required to building – or rebuilding – your sales team around the principles of Predictable Revenue.  The journey will not be easy and there are plenty of pits and valleys that will shake your confidence; don’t let them shake you, ups and downs are normal.  At times, you will feel like you’ve invested months of time and thousands of dollars for nothing.  Just remember, this is a 12 – 18 month journey and anyone that tells you otherwise is either misled or is trying to sell you something.  Our Coaching or Accelerate team can help you cut this time in half. 😉

We’ve focused this article on your first 6 months with Predictable Revenue, but the journey doesn’t end here. And if there is enough interest, we’ll follow up with a blueprint for months 6 – 12 months. Also, we should note that these timelines are primarily focused on setting up your FIRST few outbound campaigns.  Readers with black belts in booking meetings will likely see faster results.

our blueprint for the first 6 months of a new Outbound campaign.

Blueprint to Outbound Success

Milestone 1: Getting your emails opened

How long should I expect? 15 days.

Why? In the first 15 days, we are warming up the various domains we will be sending your tailored messaging from. This is critical to establish the domains so as to not hit sending limits.  We’re also testing various messaging tactics to determine which subject lines are getting opened the most. 

We recommend setting up a new domain for your outbound sales team so you don’t risk giving your primary domain a bad reputation. This doesn’t happen often if you’re writing good and relevant content, but the potential downside is large so we recommend it just to be safe. Be sure to follow the proper domain ramping guidelines for (SPF/DKIM/DMARC).

We also recommend checking your spam score at least once a month using tools like Email on Acid, Litmus, or Mail-Tester.com.

Milestone 2: Generating positive responses

How long should I expect? 30 to 45 days.

Why? At 45 days, we’re sending at full capacity, and the messaging will be yielding positive responses from prospects. It’s important to remember, though, that positive responses come in many forms: requests for more information, or a referral to another contact in the organization. These positive responses are also a critical test for our messaging, as we are constantly testing and analyzing what’s working and what isn’t.

It is especially important to pay attention to all of the feedback loops in the process:

Looking for the presence – or the absence of – positive responses will tell you if you’re reaching your target audience with messaging that is resonating with them.

Looking at the neutral/negative responses will give you ideas for better tuning your email content to help it resonate with prospects and avoid confusion. In early campaigns it’s common for up to 50% of neutral responses to be from people that didn’t understand why you were reaching out.

Looking at the neutral responses can also help you craft better objection handling templates. Top Gear Top Tip: most SDRs don’t have great answers or content for helping them overcome objections. Considering a third of your responses are going to be objections, this is a huge opportunity to improve the results from your campaigns.

Milestone 3: Prospects are showing up to meetings

How long should I expect? 45 to 75 days.

Why? As the positive responses start flowing, so too will the good fits for your product or service. Those good fits will be scheduled for meetings with your sales team. But, just as was the case with getting positive responses, we will be continually testing our messaging to ensure that we keep matching your company with excellent prospects.

At this stage we should be generating Are We A Fit (AWAF) calls and our SDRs are either running them or attending them. Just as with our email responses, it’s important to keep your ears peeled for objections and misunderstandings, these meetings provide amazing feedback loops for honing our messaging. 

Feedback from your Account Executive team is critical at this milestone, if prospects are showing up but not generating next steps we can use that to refine targeting and messaging.  The goal is to make sure we’re setting up productive conversations for your team.

Milestone 4: Deals are entering pipeline

How long should I expect? 90 days.

Why? As your sales team begins to connect with and demo the leads Predictable Revenue has booked, those leads will be added to your pipeline and enter your sales cycle.

As with the earlier meetings, keeping our fingers on the pulse of the deals we’re sending to our AEs offers more feedback loops for messaging and targeting.

We recommend that every new SDR shadows AT LEAST the first 10 deals they pass to their AE to help them get a good understanding of what the customer and the AEs are looking for.

Milestone 5: Deals are closing

How long should I expect? 1-2 sales cycles after the above

Why?  It takes a few cycles of testing messaging, attending meetings and seeing your AEs accept or reject the deals you’re sending them before prospects begin to close.

Outbound deals will take longer to close than inbound leads and, as such, need to be treated differently. We’ve found that inbound leads tend to be motivated but not necessarily qualified. Contrast that with outbound leads that are qualified but may not be motivated to do something right away.  Understanding this nuance will help you get into deals earlier and shape your prospects thinking on the pain. See below image.

Expect deals to start entering late stage pipeline (sales accepted leads) after your first 90 days with outbound. Try not to rush because any SDR worth their salt can get you 20 meetings a month that won’t go anywhere. We’re looking for quality prospects for the sales team to work.

original idea for this sketch by Mark Roberge in “The Sales Acceleration Formula”.

If this post has helped you, I’d love to hear from you on twitter @CollinYVR or over email at my first name at our domain.

Collin Stewart

Hey, I’m Collin.  I’m one of the founders at Predictable Revenue but you might remember me from such roles as: serving as our CEO, the guy who broke wordpress (sssshhhhh), or the one practicing his guitar scales.

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