I got into sales for the same reason many others do. I had no other option. Yes, it paid well, but it slowly crippled the quality of many aspects of my life. My marriage was beginning to fail, my kids never saw me, and I kept gaining weight. I’m sharing these intimate details to shed light on the behind-the-scenes version of what working in sales is really like.
The culture was brutal, and the sales methods were old fashioned and direct: on the phone for hours, cold-calling with no Google search aids, databases, or anything resembling a system. I was a boiler room sales guy for more than 13 years, and those early years of my career taught me what to do and what not to do.
Understanding the issues with sales development representatives.
As my understanding of sales and marketing broadened, so did my realization that sales development representatives (SDRs) are an unnecessary financial burden. Their job is to qualify leads to assist sales reps in finding people who are more likely to close. However, in the end, SDRs simply complicate the task of actually closing sales.
If you look in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you will notice thousands, if not tens of thousands, of leads SDRs deem “hot prospects” for closing deals. Eventually all of those prospects morph into scores of data fields and reams of tabs, tags, lists — a blinding assortment of blinking, multi-colored sections that demand to be fed with new information. All of that data sits in a cloud waiting to be plucked down.
The problem with this unnatural number of prospect leads is that the human brain simply cannot handle it. According to Dunbar’s Number, the human brain only has the capacity to remember or develop meaningful relationships with 150 people. Once you pass that magic number, all hopes of developing a personal connection with leads is gone. The human touch has always seemed to be an obvious sales and marketing concept to me. But sometimes, I feel like I might be in the minority.
The irony of the SDR role is the position was created to make sales forces more powerful, but they have just made the process heavily layered, complex and time consuming. The role hinders, rather than helps, sales teams converting leads into sales. The national average salary for an entry-level SDR is $42,722. This is not an attack on the people performing this role — it’s on the people who created it. Many of the SDRs in today’s workforce would be valuable in other roles that do move the needle for a business, where their salaries and attention would be better spent. Think blogging, advertising, digital marketing, public relations and other methods to drive sales.
The consumer buying process has evolved.
The digital revolution, led by the internet and social media, has created a more knowledgeable, empowered consumer.
Today’s consumer wants a more consultative and hand holding approach to the buying process. The fact that 80 percent of customers nowadays are either in the consideration stage (they have done their research and narrowed down their choices) or in the decision stage (they have already decided they want to buy your product) is a game, and industry, changer. This is why sales reps must be experts, not salespeople. When a consumer is close to buying the first time you speak to them, it changes everything about the interaction. They ask more advanced questions and don’t need a sales development rep asking them qualifying questions because they have already qualified themselves by becoming a lead in the first place. SDRs are still starting their scripts on their own one yard line when the customer is already halfway down the field.
When a species doesn’t adapt and change fast enough, it becomes extinct. According to Forrester Researcher Andy Hoar, out of 4.5 million B2B sales professionals today, one million jobs will be displaced by 2020. It’s beginning of the end — an end brought upon by an inability to change old school methodologies.
Sales experts are the wave of the future.
If you’re listening, what I’m describing sounds like a death knell. But it doesn’t have to be. Listen closer and you’ll hear opportunity knocking.
Change is coming to the way a sales force is architected. SDRs with a primary focus on qualifying leads and assisting sales people represent the past. So what’s the future? Business owners and salespeople need to move beyond the old sales environment and gain control of their own success.
To overcome the barriers that leads put up when speaking to salespeople, they need to first make a conscious effort to dig deeper than the everyday sales call and connect on a personal level. The future belongs to experts who know their company, product, service and industry inside and out, and who can focus on helping people that are already partially or fully sold.
This evolution of sales requires business owners nationwide to truly evaluate the value of the SDR role to their overall business operation, and make decisions based on facts instead of the familiarity of a position.