March 7, 2019
Everyone wants more pipeline, but few companies know how to get it. Thankfully, experts like Sally Duby of The Bridge Group, Inc. live and breathe this stuff.
Our last article recapped three of Ms. Duby’s best practices for building pipeline in 2019. In this last series of 3 articles, we’re exploring even more of Ms. Duby’s pipeline-building tips as discussed during our recent webinar.
Knowing where to focus your pipeline-generating energy can seem overwhelming, especially when your products or services have broad appeal. The temptation is to water down your messaging and spread resources thin in hopes of casting a wider net. Unfortunately, this approach can have the opposite effect on pipeline.
“The companies that focus are the ones that win,” said Sally Duby, Chief Sales Officer at The Bridge Group, Inc. “Utilizing a tiered account structure is a better solution because it provides clarity for everyone.”
A tiered sales structure organizes accounts based on certain criteria, such as deal size. For example, your first tier might consist of large, named accounts that are exclusively handled by account executives. SDRs could take second or third tier accounts, resulting in clear boundaries that reduce the potential for confusion and overlap.
High-impact communication sequences are also much easier to create when your accounts are organized into tiers. Large accounts tend to exhibit a common set of needs, goals, objections, and buying patterns that are unique to enterprise-level organizations. Likewise, small or mid-market accounts may exhibit their own set of uniquities. Understanding this reality is key to effective engagement.
“Strategic accounts in your top tier should be handled differently than those in lower tiers,” Duby said. “Larger accounts might require more resources, but they also have a bigger potential impact on pipeline.”
Most modern companies rely on a blend of inbound and outbound sources for pipeline generation. Relying too much on one source at the expense of the other, however, can be detrimental to your pipeline.
“High growth companies learn early on that you need a balanced approach,” Duby said. “You really need a healthy blend of sales, sales development, and marketing working together to build pipeline.”
So, how can your company achieve a “balanced” mix of inbound and outbound? Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, incorporating an objective, data-centric approach is a great starting point.
“Forecast your inbound pipeline based on historical conversion data and marketing’s current budget,” Duby said. “At a minimum, you’ll need to apply outbound resources to make up for any anticipated shortfall from inbound.”
Account tiers should also play an important role when refining your mix between inbound and outbound. Targeting enterprise accounts with thousands of pay-per-click ads, for example, may not be the most prudent use of marketing dollars.
“Buyers with a million dollar budget don’t want to fill out a form on your website,” Duby said. “Deal size is a major factor when considering the appropriate blend of inbound versus outbound.”
Even the best pipeline strategies fail in the absence of a highly engaged workforce. To build scalable pipeline, you need a purpose-driven staffing program that keeps people feeling motivated and appreciated.
“One big mistake is onboarding people without giving them enough to do,” Duby said. “New hires are excited about their jobs and raring to go, but that changes quickly when there’s not enough work to stay busy.”
Managers must continuously identify new tactics for keeping staff engaged – even if it means thinking outside the box.
“SDRs could jump in and help marketing follow up on inbound leads,” Duby said. “Even if they’re not the biggest or best leads, this gets them actively involved in the process and avoids downtime that might impact their motivation.”
Revenue-based compensation models can miss the mark when SDRs are part of the equation.
“Although revenue is a key metric that you should absolutely measure, SDRs don’t have any control over it,” Duby said. “It’s therefore unwise to base SDR compensation purely on revenue performance.”
Incorporating a pipeline-driven compensation model can produce better results – both for the company and the SDR.
“Tracking the number of meetings that result from your SDR team is a good place to start,” Duby said. “Actual pipeline value of SDR-generated meetings should also be considered.”
Objective Staffing Decisions
It’s not easy to go from being someone’s peer to being their boss, especially in a competitive profession such as sales. While promoting from within can work, companies should consider all of their options before making major staffing decisions.
“Promoting AEs or SDRs into sales leadership roles can be done, but you’ve really got to make sure that person has the right chops,” Duby said. “If it’s a new team, we typically tell our clients to bring in someone who has built a scalable, repeatable model.”
Few things remain static in business. To stay ahead of the competition, you must continuously experiment with new tactics that build pipeline.
Some of Ms. Duby’s ideas include:
Tweaking the Number of SDRs to AEs
“Generally speaking, we see a ratio of one SDR to three AEs,” Duby said. “Smaller companies and those doing account-based marketing may have lower ratios.”
Ratios that are too low can inflate your overhead expenses without generating sufficient pipeline. On the other hand, ratios that are too large can create their own share of problems.
“If you have a ratio of 1:5, your AEs might not get the results they’re looking for from the SDR,” Duby said. “This can lead to questions about the value of your sales development team.”
Testing Different Media & Messaging
“Many buyers already know about your organization before requesting information,” Duby said. “This can make it difficult to truly understand and engage the buyer.”
Multi-touch sequences can help overcome these roadblocks by personalizing the follow-up and engagement process.
“We’ve seen clients experience a 3x to 8x improvement in response rate by utilizing a combination of media in their outreach sequences,” Duby said. “Leveraging a mix of email, voice, video, and social can be an effective way to boost engagement.”
Applying the SDR Model to Existing Accounts
Leveraging SDR talent with existing accounts can be another low-risk way to build pipeline.
“Companies are starting to extend the SDR model to existing accounts,” Duby said. “Customer growth is a great use of sales development talent.”
As you formulate your next steps, check out how Mixmax can optimize the efficiency of your pipeline-generating teams, allowing them to personalize their outbound efforts at scale, track buyer engagement, schedule one-click meetings from Gmail and automate manual tasks that take focus away from building pipeline.
Sign up for a 14-day trial of Mixmax.