The World of Sales Development is Changing

And what are you doing about it?

In the not so distant past, many organizations, including Predictable Revenue, had very little difficulty generating sales meetings by sending routine, cold prospecting emails. Many of you probably remember those days rather fondly. 

As that email-heavy prospecting process took hold of the sales worlds, so began the days of creating processes and building software to automate some of the grunt work that supported this framework. The idea was simple: with the right foundation (training, tools, and support), more meetings could be booked, quota(s) would be achieved, and revenue targets would be hit.

And, well, the system worked. It worked really well.

As time went on, buoyed by that initial success, many companies continued to operate this way, but results eventually started to dwindle. It became harder to get responses, booked meetings dwindled, and pipelines began to dry.

So what did most of us do? How did we respond to the change we were seeing? We leaned in. 

That is right, instead of changing our approaches, most of us started sending more emails. We were trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it by dumping in more and more water. What a lot of us couldn’t see at the time, however, was that this repeated “pushing” took many of us down a path that exacerbated the gap between sustainable growth and false positives. 

But that wasn’t all. Simultaneously, there were other major shifts shaping the world of sales development: namely the push towards personalized outreach and a drop in email reply rates. A lot of us tested out the personalized approach to prospecting – more tailored emails, hand crafted packages sent in the mail, curated meetups – though few could make it work. 

That failure was likely due to the fact that most of us approached every problem through the lense of “will it scale?” Breaking that habit has proven difficult – that mindset, surely, shaped attitudes and destined any attempts to adopt personalization to fail. 

New tools… same challenges

As apps like SalesLoft and Outreach grew in popularity – thus helping companies of all sizes implement and grow prospecting teams – old methodologies became redundant. This growth of the prospecting discipline produced exponentially more sales development reps, armed with powerful tools that enabled them to send hundreds of email a day without consequence. Many of you, perhaps, were witness to that growth, whether as a sender, or simply by observing the number of prospecting emails in your inbox pile up.

Of course, as the number of reps increased, so did the number of executives receiving “Cold Calling 2.0” style emails. Couple that with Google and Microsoft doubling down on their anti-spam technology and the aforementioned glory days of simply sending a few hundred emails a month to hit your quota were officially over.

From 2016 to 2019, our average conversion rate from emails sent to meetings booked dropped from 1% to 0.01% – and open rates, replies, and click throughs also tanked. And although we still found ways to deliver the results our clients expected, we were sending at much greater volumes and burning through precious contacts to do so. This wasn’t exclusive to PR, of course, that drop was consistent across the industry. Naturally, those poor results took its toll and teams scrambled to find answers to combat the change in prospect behavior. Many of us are still trying to design effective modern outbound strategies.

Slow train coming

What a lot of us fail to acknowledge is that the sales world is an ever changing micro-organism. What worked in the past, likely won’t work today. Heck, what works today will almost certainly not work as effectively in two months. Historically, ours has been a ‘slow-to-evolve’ world. 

When was the last time you took a deep dive into your team’s metrics and tried to pull out trends you’re seeing? Have response rates held over the last 12 months? How many of those responses are positive? How many are negative? These are the questions you should be able to answer with ease – especially if you think it’s time for a change in your prospecting processes.

Moving forward

So… how do we make a change, if one is needed? How do we begin adapting our prospecting to suit the times?

The first step is moving from a leveraged approach to a dedicated resource model. No longer relying on automation or the mantra of ‘will it scale?,’ a dedicated model enables organizations to integrate a multi-channel approach that can be personal and relevant to your prospect (or account). If you are targeting enterprise companies, commit to a pure account-based approach. And listen to the information – the market and your customer’s are just that. Are your response rates taking a dive? Are your SDRs sending more emails just to deliver the same output? Give authority to that information and focus on where strategy can be iterated based on what you learn. 

In addition to those critical points, there are four key elements one should always consider (under any model) when tackling outbound sales:

  1. Validate your product market fit
  2. Grow the number of net new opportunities in that market
  3. Run perfect meetings
  4. Execute perfect follow ups

Test, test, and test again

This shouldn’t be the end of the journey. It is important to stay relevant and be proactive in trying to understand shifts in the market. Do this by testing out new tactics/strategies as often as every month to understand what is working and where there is opportunity to optimize. Schedule brain dump sessions with your frontline SDRs to understand and learn their perspective – you will find gems in those sessions. 

Follow up those conversations with anyone else who touches a client internally – whether it be Account Executives or Account Managers – to get a glimpse of what they are seeing. 

Finally, what is Predictable Revenue doing to continue being leaders in the world of sales development? First, we moved away from our leveraged model ‘Accelerate’ in which we had 1 team member supporting 5 customers. In its place, we have designed our new remote sales development team building service, in which we’ve combined our experience teaching companies how to build sales development teams with our ability to recruit, train, and develop talent in our Cancun office. While we are a 100% for-profit organization, this new service created a triple bottom line win – our customers received great value in the new service, we were able to create jobs that people were excited about, and the company found new long-term, profitable customers.

As we continue to push the Predictable Revenue methodology forward, we’ve developed an Outbound Labs team that tests out new tactics every month and publishes the results on our YouTube channel, as well as built a team responsible for new service design within Predictable Revenue. Our niche is sales development and we are committed to pushing the industry forward and sharing what we learn along the way. 

It’s only a start, but it feels like we’re finally marching in a direction that’s aligned with our mission to educate the world on how to grow a company. And that feels pretty good.


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