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Do Account-Based Sales Reps Really Need SDRs?

account-based salesHere’s how to land and expand outside the box.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to say this.”

That was the subject line of an email I received from my daughter. She explained that my granddaughter, age six and in kindergarten, wanted to wear high-heeled play shoes to school. My daughter, of course, said no.

The response was a kicker: “But Sally wears them to school.” Her now-wise mother responded: “If Sally jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you?”

We live in San Francisco, and that was the exact question I asked my daughter in many similar situations over the years.

What does this have to do with account-based sales? Well, I’ve been waiting my whole life to say this: Account-based sales reps don’t need SDRs. OK, not my whole life … only about six months. But I’ve just been dying to put it out there.

I know what you’re thinking: What’s her beef with sales development reps (SDRs)? After all, they make life easier for account executives. They do all the cold calling and nurture all the leads from marketing—getting prospects primed and ready before passing them off to the sales team. Thanks to them, experienced salespeople don’t have to worry about prospecting or relationship-building, just closing.

And therein lies the problem: Success in account-based selling is all about relationships.

There’s No Role for SDRs in Account-Based Sales

Smart account-based sales reps don’t wait around for cold leads from marketing or nurtured leads from SDRs. They take responsibility for their own qualified lead generation. They get in early before prospects even know they have a need, solidify relationships, and develop bonds that can’t be broken by any competitor.

Some “experts” say buyers don’t need salespeople, because they have access to information online. Nonsense! Our prospects still need us, but their needs have changed. They don’t need us to give them demos, because they can get all that online. But they do need our expertise, industry experience, and insights about what does and doesn’t work.

The best account-based sales reps aren’t reactive. They’re proactive, disciplined, insightful, and great at building relationships with everyone they meet throughout the sales process. Then they ask those people for referrals to other departments within their enterprises. Because referrals are the #1 way to land and expand within named accounts, they put in the time to nurture those relationships. They stay in the know about what’s happening with their customers, both personally and professionally. Clients will always take calls from these sales reps, because they provide insights and guidance. They make themselves valuable, trusted business resources, because that’s how to generate leads and get bigger deals from repeat customers—in other words, how to do account-based selling.

So, why do companies insist that SDRs should be the ones sourcing leads for these “expensive” account execs?

Granted, someone needs to free up time for your account-based selling team so they can focus on what they do best: selling. They need help doing research, monitoring social media, contributing to online conversations, keeping track of their calendars, determining who should be on the team, poking holes in a competitor’s approach, identifying other influencers in their target accounts, and identifying strong connections that leaders in their companies have with target buyers.

Yes, that’s a long list. But nothing on this list says that SDRs should be setting appointments for your account-based sales team. And they certainly shouldn’t “own the relationship” with prospects. That’s the role of account execs.

How to Generate Leads (Hint: It’s Current Clients, Not SDRs)

Sales organizations today have their priorities all wrong. They task account-based sales reps with pursuing sales leads, building qualified pipelines, and closing deals. It’s all about driving revenue in the short-term. So, as soon as salespeople sign a new customer, they move on to the next target—whomever predictive analytics has identified as the most qualified prospect. Meanwhile, SDRs source more leads.

Do you see the gap here? Current clients are the best source of new business. They know the value of your solution and can help your account-based selling team get referrals to other divisions within their organizations or to their vast networks of colleagues.

Just as importantly, they know what challenges their colleagues in other departments face. They can give your team the inside track on prospects before they ever make the introduction. That way, your account-based sellers go into meetings with prospects knowing exactly which needs to address.

Your salespeople connect with many people during the sales process, but they leave money on the table when they don’t continue to build those relationships and get referral sales leads.

If current clients—i.e., potential referral sources—haven’t heard from your reps since the day they signed on the dotted line, your team is missing out on its best lead generation opportunities. And these aren’t just any leads. Referral leads are always qualified.

When you adopt referral selling as your #1 outbound prospecting approach, your account-based sales reps get every meeting with one call, build powerful connections your competition can’t touch, and use those relationships to land and expand throughout client companies.

Let your SDRs take incoming calls, conduct research, and provide relevant insights to your account-based selling team. But leave the relationship-building and outbound lead generation to account execs. That means your compensation model must change, too. This isn’t hard to do, but it means giving up what everyone else is doing and creating your own path. And that’s exactly how you achieve every single one of your goals and stay steps ahead of your competition.

Want to help your sales team land and expand with the one-call meeting? Check out No More Cold Calling’s #1 Referral Selling Program for Account-Based Sellers.

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