Sales development is the process of warming up leads or prospects and readying them for the eventual buying decision. When sales development is used effectively, prospects are primed for decision-making when they’re handed over to sales closers, making the close of the deal easier to achieve.

“Simply stated, the function of sales is to sell directly to the end customer. The function of business development is to work through partners to sell to the end customer, in a scalable way,” says Andrew Dumont, who advises several early-stage startups. Of course, the better your sales development process, the more deals your sales team will close, and the more time they’ll have to focus on selling activities.

Sales development processes are most effective when they contain several strategic elements, carefully designed to advance prospects through the buying journey. Here’s a look at what your sales development process should include.

5 Essential Components of Every Sales Development Process

A CRM That Supports Your Workflows

Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are only as useful as their ability to support your sales development representatives’ working methods, rather than create additional administrative requirements that don’t make efficient use of time.

Choosing the right CRM that supports your initiatives enables sales development reps to efficiently gather lead information and conduct prospecting activities. “From a sales perspective, sales development is a formalization of how the team reaches their customers with their products or services. It is all about ensuring that the method used to reach new prospects is cost-efficient and effective in terms of producing the right type of long-term customers,” says Mark Hunter of The Sales Hunter

A Robust Lead Qualification System

What qualifies a lead? At what point does a lead become a prospect, and a prospect become ready for transition to your sales closing team? Sales development requires clear definitions and processes for qualifying leads for the greatest efficiency. Sending non-qualified leads to sales development wastes valuable time; likewise, sending prospects to sales closers who haven’t been adequately educated on the product or service can result in the loss of otherwise targeted prospects who would have converted with proper lead nurturing. 

These definitions, and the processes for qualifying leads and nurturing processes, represent the movement of a lead through the buying journey. Marketing, sales development, and sales closing teams all require a comprehensive understanding of these concepts.

“With the mindset of specialization in place, build specific processes for your reps to follow. It helps onboard reps quickly and effectively defines best practices for your team. The playbook you build will be a soup-to-nuts guide that includes your hiring strategy to the cadence you use to reach out to prospects,” suggests Greg Klingshirn in an article on Forbes

A Central Content Management Portal

Sales development representatives make use of a variety of collateral and content assets to educate prospects and qualify leads. Often, these assets exist in silos, forcing sales reps to waste valuable time searching for the right content assets for various prospects or to educate leads on a specific selling point. 

Often, because assets are challenging to locate, reps resort to using materials that are less effective but suit their general needs. When you manage a central database that includes approved sales collateral that’s clearly tagged and classified for various buyer personas and various stages along the buyer’s journey, you’re arming your sales development team with the resources they need to impact buying decisions. 

Sales Analytics

In addition to providing easy access to content assets to support sales development teams at every phase of the buying journey, sales analytics provide data to inform sales development representatives on the most effective sales materials aligned with buyer personas and the various stages in the buying journey. 

“Marketing can only optimize programs if they have the data they need to be successful. Sales reps are notoriously bad at maintaining good data and sales leadership cares about sales forecast data (with good reason). On the other hand, well managed sales development teams are remarkably good at providing data. Sales development teams literally ‘live’ in the CRM application all day and are incented to get good data to marketing to make their lives easier,” says Craig Rosenberg in a post on the TOPO Blog. By arming reps with the right materials, for the right prospects, at the right time, your lead qualification process is streamlined and your reps can spend more time doing what they do best: selling.

A Means for Collaboration and Feedback

Sales development is truly the bridge between marketing and sales, and ongoing input from both sides of the equation is necessary for continuous improvement. The most effective sales development processes contain a built-in feedback mechanism. This enables marketing teams to inform sales development representatives of nuances and specific challenges related to sales leads, while enabling sales teams to provide feedback on the readiness of prospects and the ease of converting prospects passed on by your sales development team. 

Whether or not you define it as such, all sales organizations utilize sales development processes in some form. The more carefully you construct your processes and the more thoroughly your marketing and sales teams are trained in each element of the process, the more qualified leads your teams will generate and the more sales they’ll close. It’s worth your time to develop a strategic, data-driven sales development plan to boost efficiency and achieve greater returns.

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Originally published Dec 10, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated December 03 2019


Sales Process