August 20

The Biggest Contributor to B2B Revenue

Inside Sales


In most B2B companies with complex products or services, marketing-sourced leads rarely account for even half the revenue and often it is much less. To keep valuable field sales resources productive, many of the more innovative sales and marketing departments build “sales development” teams. Oracle. Marketo. HubSpot. HP.  Just to name a few.

Very quickly, these teams contribute more pipeline than any other lead source.

Those sales development teams might follow up on inbound marketing leads or use outbound prospecting to set appointments or develop opportunities. They then turn over the appointment or the opportunity to a salesperson. The benefits of such sales development teams are many:

  • Better conversion and ROI on marketing qualified leads
  • One of the most effective – if not the most effective – sources of pipeline deals
  • Improved sales productivity
  • A deep bench of talent to replace inside or field salespeople who underperform, get promoted or leave.

Five Key Considerations for Creating the Best Sales Development Strategy

If ytrishbertuzziour company does not have such a team or the team you have is not optimized, getting the model or strategy right is key.  After reading her outstanding new book, The Sales Development Playbook, I asked Trish Bertuzzi her thoughts on creating the model right.  Her company, The Bridge Group, has helped over 305 companies design and optimize various inside sales operations.

What are those key factors?  “Every situation is slightly different,” she said, but these five are among the most critical.

#1: Your brand

To start with, your brand matters a lot.  When you’re calling from IBM or, most of the people you reach will be familiar with – or at least think they are familiar with – your company. That credibility opens doors and buys a few more seconds of attention from prospects than does the brand of a company no one has heard of.

#2. Your Product Lifecycle

Another key factor is the lifecycle of your products or services.  Are you trying to reach innovators or early adopters about predictive analytics?  Guess what?  Most of them won’t have any idea what predictive analytics is or why they should care.  In contrast, if you are selling anti-virus software to IT managers, they all know what anti-virus is and why they need it.  So your phone conversations start in a very different place.

Five Key Questions Buyers Ask During their Journey. The Sales Development Playbook uses this simple graphic to distinguish between appointment setting and qualified opportunities. Meetings answer the question, why listen. Opportunities answer the question, why care?

For an emerging solution category like predictive analytics, you might have to provide a provocative insight into the amount of money wasted on leads and accounts that will never buy. For anti-virus software, you need to say why your product is better than what they are using now.

For products or services early in their lifecycle, it often makes sense to stop the qualification process short of an opportunity.  Rather, the opportunity development team would qualify the person and the account and set up a meeting.  This gives the salesperson lots of chances to develop the buying vision with the customer early in the process.

#3. Your Buyer Ecosystem

Do you sell to a single buyer persona or more than one person within a company?  Is the ideal outreach top down or bottom up or both? Obviously, the more complex buyer ecosystems create the need for the ideal sequence and priority of outreach to the buyer personas, the messaging and questions for each buyer type, and how many conversations to have before turning the opportunity over to sales.  Obviously, the process, messaging, metrics and event skills sets for a team calling a single buyer persona would differ significantly from a more complex buyer ecosystem.

#4. Revenue Per Account

Some companies serve a broad market and generate lower revenue per account.  Other companies are focused on larger enterprise accounts and so generate much more revenue per account.  In the first case, often an inbound model works best, with reps following up on marketing leads.  In the second, an outbound team either developing qualified opportunities or setting up appointments can be highly productive.

#5. Scale of Operations

Generally, the larger your operations, the more possible it is to have divisions of labor. Inbound versus outbound reps are the most common example.  Generally, such divisions of labor can accelerate the time-to-ramp because reps will have less to learn and because you can hire people with skills specific to the role.  For example, for companies selling a new category of product (i.e., earlier in the product lifecycle), especially when the monthly recurring revenue or deal size is larger, hiring reps just to research accounts can increase the overall return on sales development resources.  After all, the skills required to spark conversations with decisions makers are very different from those needed to find trigger events or key talking points about the account or the person.

While there can be other factors that matter, these five are generally the most important.

What about all the new technologies, you might wonder.  Don’t they impact your sales development strategy?  While technologies have made inside sales more productive, Trish adds one caveat. She believes that having the right process and message impact results more than anything else. Once you have defined those critical success factors, then you can look to automation to scale success.

You may also like:

Getting Sales Enablement Right to Increase Results

Growing B2B Sales with Trust and Empathy

How to Improve Lead Routing for Better Sales Conversion

2 Tips to connect and build rapport immediately

How Sales Hustle and Automation Can Hurt Customer Experience

How Customer-Hero Stories Help You Connect Better

About the author 

J. David Green

J. David Green is the CEO of PipeAlign, a company that helps B2B companies tell a winning story, scale that story across sales and marketing, and measure and improve what matters most. Among other accomplishments, Dave generated a billion dollar sales pipeline in 20 months for Avaya, increased SMB revenue for Symantec from $2MM a year to $25M a year in twelve months, wrote a book on scalable lead generation, and has spoken at the DMA, MarketingSherpa, the BMA, the AMA, and many other events.

  1. Thank you for the article. I believe that one has to try and find what works best to improve the company’s revenue. Also, to keep track of what is going on in sales. If something isn’t working, the quicker one knows, the quicker it can be fixed.
    Richard Benchimol

  2. Hi Dan
    Great question. I told Trish Bertuzzi about your question so that she could reach out to you personally. But let me take a stab at answering your question, but first let me ask one myself. What does your “sales support” rep do? Outbound prospecting, inbound follow up, researching background info for others, clerical support, all of that and more? What that function does would influence my answer.

    To answer your question generally, many companies hire people into sales development roles as an entry point and stepping stone into other sales and even marketing careers. And yet within a sales development team, you might have different hiring profiles for inbound vs. outbound vs. research. All of those hiring profiles might depart from your field sales profile.

    In other words, it depends.

  3. A very helpful blog! One question: we find that the skills to be successful as an inside sales support rep at 180 degrees from the skills sales executives must have. When evaluating “General Reasoning”, “Rules Following”, “Creativity” and “Details” and “Assertiveness” (just to name a few) we find that the scores for inside sales support professionals is very different than the scores for sales executives. Put a “beater” (inside sales) in a field sale… it usually does not work. Try keeping a “Hunter” in an inside role and they will likely leave you before you move them “up?. Thoughts?

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