What it really takes to get a successful SDR team off the ground with Aaron Ross
Collin Stewart, CEO
19 September 2018

How long should it take to see results from a new outbound sales team?

For many entrepreneurs, business leaders, and executives the answer to that question is often simple: not a second longer than it needs to take (and, hopefully, immediately).

This is an understandable response – new revenue is critical to the growth of any business. But while outbound can be a powerful source of incremental revenue, expecting too much too soon from a new outbound team is a trap businesses fall into, time and time again. Building a successful outbound function, no matter how you slice it, takes time.

In fact, if you’re starting from scratch getting an outbound team up and running, and, of course, producing can take between 6 – 12 months.

That’s right…6 – 12 months.

“Outbound, like any major initiative, won’t work until you give yourself to it. And that can can take a year to get an outbound program up and running,” says Aaron, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“There are some businesses that don’t need outbound – some in the consumer space, for instance. And some need to nail their niche before they even look at outbound. But, by and large, most companies need to do outbound, and they need to be prepared to go the distance.”

Going the distance

Of course, it’s easy to say you have to give everything you can when building your new outbound sales team. Any business leader worth their salt should work hard to ensure their company is successful.

Defining what a new outbound sales team needs to be a success, on the other hand, can be more elusive.

The first step to outbound success, says Aaron, is committing to having full-time sales reps working outbound leads. Part-time just won’t cut it.

“The magic happens when you get someone in full time. I know I’ve said this before, but I hear this time and time again,” says Aaron. “If you want the magic to happen, you need someone in full time. Everything else is a warm up.”

That isn’t to say that you can’t deploy a member of your sales of management team to explore outbound on a part-time basis, you absolutely can. But that’s an experiment – a fact-finding mission, really – and won’t produce the results you need to grow your company. Someone doing outbound off the side of their desk isn’t enough to get your outbound function up and running.

How do you define up and running, then?

Great question! The sweet spot, staff-wise, for a new outbound team is hiring one manager, and two SDRs. Depending on where your company is based, three new team members in those roles likely represents an investment of about $250,000 (more if you’re located in the Bay Area, less in other locales). Then there are investments in prospecting tools such as Outreach or SalesLoft, and a CRM system, if you don’t have one already, such as SalesLoft.

Your tech investment, however, represents a fraction of the cost of your new hires. As for the results of your new outbound team, it’s safe to say you’re up and running is when you are confident that you can make money from it, says Aaron.

That doesn’t mean you are making money from outbound yet, but you are seeing positive results along the entire outbound process:

  • Your team is sending emails;
  • Your team is getting responses;
  • Your team is getting positive responses;
  • Your team is having conversations;
  • Your team is booking meetings for AEs;
  • Your team is generating pipeline.

To get to the pipeline creation portion of this process, says Aaron, it may about 4 months. Then, depending on your sales cycle, it could take another 6 months before revenue starts to trickle in.

“You may not be seeing revenue right away – you may sell to the government, for instance, and have super long sales cycles – but you believe you will see revenue. The opportunities you are getting are confirmed,” adds Aaron. “And if you work your way through this, and make sure what you need to happen is happening at every stage, revenue will happen.”

Reactive sales culture

In addition to new business, revenue, and, likely, company growth, building a successful outbound team also has philosophical benefits. So much of today’s sales culture, says Aaron, has become reactive in nature.

The popularity of inbound leads, and the importance of renewals, has led sales professionals (and companies!) to depend heavily on inbound leads.

But inbound and outbound have entirely different rhythms (that’s why it’s always best to separate them). And the hunter mentality required for successful outbound teams is infectious. And when you have that kind of rhythm in the office, it can inspire other teams to follow suit.

“I spoke with a 10,000-person, famous company recently. Their sales function has been all about renewals, up until now. It’s all been reactive,” says Aaron. “But, not they are establishing outbound. They are doing that for new revenue, yes, but it’s also for a mentality change.

It creates a more proactive environment. And, as that sales team continues to develop, it will affect the greater company as well.”

The importance of auditing

Finally, once you have your outbound team up and running and producing an avalanche of new opportunities, it is critical to make sure they are documenting them properly in your CRM.

There can be a lof grey areas when a company if fielding both inbound and outbound leads. For example, cold inbound leads are often given over to the outbound team to work to see if they can rekindle some interest.

Likewise, outbound teams can prospect to one person in a company, while another person at the same company can sign up and become an inbound lead. In that case, it’s tough to know until your reps talk with the lead whether the outbound work was the catalyst for the eventual inbound signup, or whether it was all coincidence. And once they gather that information, it must be recorded in your CRM.

Because executives will have questions about the metrics – they will want to know how things are going, and what opportunities the outbound team is responsible for.

“If you are building outbound, and you aren’t the CEO, then it is critical that you can prove what you claim in incremental revenue is actually incremental revenue. It’s easy to claim something that was inbound was outbound. And what you don’t want is to have two years pass by and the revenue you think generated wasn’t the revenue you thought,” says Aaron. Marc Benioff used to do this all the time when I was at Salesforce.

He would email me and ask for proof about different opportunities. So be diligent, and make sure you are documenting everything. Executives need to believe in what you’re doing, and trust your results because outbound is an investment.

This is the ultimate test, so when you have the program up and running, make sure you are doing this.”

For more Aaron’s chat about building an effective outbound machine, check out the rest of his interview on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.