Why sales development programs fail. #1 Lack of Commitment.

Growth Orbit Insights

The need to drive more opportunities into the top of the sales funnel by delivering more qualified leads to the sales force never ends. Why then, do B2B companies selling complex technology solutions often fail to generate, qualify and nurture the leads they need? They plan, ramp up, and put forth huge efforts, but don’t succeed. So, why do sales development programs fail?

The number one reason why sales development programs fail is lack of commitment. By not recognizing that successful sales development is a time-consuming, complicated process, sales and marketing leaders are setting themselves up for sub-optimal performance.

The complexity of the products and services they sell means these companies have long sales cycles, which in turn means their sales organizations are challenging to manage. It’s not uncommon for insourced new hires to the sales force to take six to eight months to ramp to meaningful productivity, and in some cases, it can be a year or more to full productivity.

by Steve Schilling

Sales development program success happens, but not overnight

Given these dynamics, it continues to be surprising that these same organizations believe they can launch a lead development program and expect success almost immediately. Sales development to support a complex sales process takes time, commitment, and meaningful effort, for the following reasons:

  • First, it requires a solid handle on the part of the sales development associates working on your behalf to uncover potential clients pain points, connect those pain points to your product offering and convey what they can expect from your solution. They need to get up to speed on your business’ unique value proposition, the competitive landscape, your target personas, and your personas’ environments, challenges and priorities. All of this intelligence has to be documented in a way that it can be leveraged once the sales development process begins.
  • Next, your outsourced sales development team must complement product and market knowledge with solid selling skills—including cold-calling abilities, experience working through a structured sales process and supporting tech stack know how.
  • why sales development programs fail ebookFinally, their knowledge of your offer and their sales know-how won’t do them (or you) any good without sufficient quantity and quality of market data or sales prospecting list. Knowing who the most likely contacts are, and having access to that information is essential. Good, clean prospecting lists are required to get started, and to continuously supply the leads you need.

Beyond the foundational components necessary to begin a sales lead development program, as described above, are other considerations, including:

  • The effectiveness of your messaging. Is what the sales development professionals are saying resonating with the market?
  • The understanding of the verticals and market segments that are most receptive to your offer. Are the people being approached decision-makers in your addressable market?
  • The skills and experience of sales development associates. Do they have the capability to uncover pain points, share compelling insight to targets and properly position your unique business offering?

All these factors contribute to the ability of sales development to have quality business conversations with qualified targets to develop leads for your sales force. Getting all of this right doesn’t happen overnight.

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Build in time to test and analyze your sales development program

One reason why sales development programs fail is a lack of continuous improvement efforts over time. A fundamental tenant of successful sales development programs is testing and performance analytics

A/B testing is used to test alternative messaging strategies, alternative cadence strategies, and even alternative targeting strategies. By the very nature of A/B testing—comparing two versions of a single variable in the outreach approach—some efforts will be determined to be less than optimal, while others will prove to be the more effective in reaching goals of the sales lead development program.

comparing sales rep breakeven times

In addition to testing, program performance needs to be analyzed to determine which market data, list sources, and verticals are right for the company. For this analysis to be productive, a lead development program must be in operation long enough to gather base-line data needed for analysis. It needs opportunity to try alternative targeting strategies. And it has to compile enough history to provide valid data sets to analyze. It’s required work, and doing it right takes time.

As a rule of thumb, expect a new sales development program to take the same amount of time to ramp up as a new sales representative would. In the case of simpler, more transactional sales, ramp up should take a month or two. In a more complex selling environment, expect four to six months. Sales development is a multi-dimensional business function that requires quality inputs, prudent planning, and precise execution.

Positive outcomes are ultimately achieved by testing alternative strategies, analyzing the results, refining the approach, and testing again. Understanding the nature of process with many moving parts, seeking out appropriate expertise, and planning to work through early learnings and challenges lets you set the foundation for success.

Part 1 of 4

This is the first of a four-part blog series covering the top reasons lead development programs fail. The blog series is excerpted from Growth Orbit’s new eBook: 4 Reasons Why Sales Development Programs Fail (And What You Can Do About It).

About Growth Orbit

Growth Orbit is a full-service growth acceleration firm, focused on driving measurable value through growth initiatives that work. We excel at combining sound growth strategy with proven sales methodologies, supported by effective technology. We only consider ourselves successful when we deliver accelerated, measurable growth for our clients.

From developing smart insight driven sales messaging, to filling your funnel with qualified leads, we’ve built our foundation on meeting clients where they are and helping them achieve new levels of growth — what we call reaching Growth Orbit!