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In the Sales Development world, metrics can be finicky beasts.

What works at Google, LogMeIn, or Okta might not be transferable from one to the other, let alone work for you. Questions around how can I benchmark my team make leading an SDR group all the more challenging. In our 2018 SDR Metrics & Compensation Report, we analyze the biggest shifts in recent years and provide core metrics to measure these groups. We also break out findings by company revenues, ASP, and other factors.

About the Participants

This is our seventh round of this research project and I can tell you it's our best dataset yet. This year, 434 Executives from a broad range of B2B companies participated. (89% with HQs in North America, median respondent revenues of $24M, and median ASP at $28K).

New in This Year’s Report

Each time we’ve published this research, readers have asked how model, metrics, compensation, tech stack, etc. differ between high-growth companies and the rest of the pack.

But what exactly makes a company “high-growth”? If Company A did $2M in 2017 and projects $6M in 2018, that additional $4M represents 200% growth. Compare that to Company B who will do $290M in 2018 up from $200M in 2017, that’s “only” 45% growth—but an additional $90M in revenue.

Clearly, raw growth percentage doesn’t tell the whole story.

We decided to take an approach that separates that fastest growing companies by revenue band. Using revenues and growth rate, we marked the top quintile (top 20%) per band as “high-growth.” Throughout the report we called out comparisons between “high-growth” and non companies.

Download the full report

The report provides a comprehensive look at the data, trends, and metrics driving sales development in 2018. We couldn't do these types of research without this community. So thank you.

Get your copy of our 2018 SDR Metrics & Compensation Report. And let us know if you have any comments, questions, or improvements for the next round.
  
 

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We all know account-based (ABx) strategies are hot.

Search for “account-based technology” on Google, and before you know it, targeted display ads will fill your browser, vendor branded socks will arrive in your mailbox, and dozens of new SDR cadences will flood your inbox. 

No doubt, the technology behind ABx is amazing. But what gets less attention is how the SDR role needs to evolve to support it. I want to share one company’s journey. Meet Zignal Labs.

Zignal Labs, Inc. provides a cloud-based platform that analyzes social and digital media in real-time and delivers data-driven insights. By way of orientation, their average deal is six figures and the sales cycles run 6–8 months. Jamie Varley, Director of Account Development at Zignal, shared how his group integrates into the company’s account-based approach.

First Things First

Account selection was step one. Zignal knew that success hinges on their ability to focus. Their theory was that a smaller number of accounts would result in higher quality output. But which accounts were “worthy” of the target account designation?

Rather than just draw a line under the largest 50 accounts in their key verticals, Zignal pulled together a cross-functional team to build their list. This included the heads field sales, marketing, sales operations, and sales development.

Looking at their current customers, they divided them into a 2x2 matrix. If an account, required significant marketing and sales expense to acquire—but also delivered significant lifetime value—it was placed in the top right quadrant. If an account delivered high value—but was easier to win—they were placed in the top left. And so on. They were able to identify lookalike companies and map them against this framework. Those in the top right quadrant were deemed AB-appropriate, while those in the top left were better suited to traditional demand generation.

Next, they moved to mapping out prospect personas. Questions included: what departments are key to our sale? Which departments have the budget for a solution like ours? How can we best leverage internal champions? What content do we have/need that will allow for 1:1 communication with these buyers?

Zignal knew: no focus, no content, no personalization, means no ABx.

It Takes a (Committed) Village

Next, Marketing committed to building a rock-solid content and enablement strategy. They focused on creating both persona-related and industry-related content for the AEs and Account Development Reps (ADRs) to leverage. In a world of reps who’d "love to get 15 minutes on your calendar" and ubiquitous offers to "see a demo," it takes real work, real empathy, and real insight to stand out.

At the same time, the ADR team conducted a data “audit and verification.” They ensured that each account had the right contacts identified, populated, and enriched in CRM (e.g., 1+ contact for each of their personas). Rather than rely exclusively on third-party data, ADRs phone-verified each contact’s role. This was an upfront resource investment. But Jamie didn’t want his team conducting account-based outreach with faulty data. When prospecting the mid-market, it’s much easier to swap out contacts as needs dictate. Things gets a lot more complicated when conducting a total account, multi-department, multi-media, and tag team campaign.

What they did next is something far too many companies miss. Rather than passing the account list down to the AEs and ADRs to “have at it.” Zignal set rules for coordinating outreach between and across the teams. They built three “swim lanes” for their AB-strategy with the AE playing the CEO role for their territory. The AEs could:

  1. Designate accounts solely to themselves-
    ADRs were expected to stay hands off these accounts.
  2. Partner with their ADR-
    In this scenario, ADRs target more junior contacts while the AE goes after senior executives. Any intelligence and traction gained are shared and leveraged by both parties.
  3. Assign accounts to the ADR only-
    Only ADRs work to crack into these accounts, leaving the AEs to focus elsewhere.
     

Zignal knew: to run successful plays, everyone needs to know their roles and routes.

The BIG Question

One thing you might be wondering at this point is: how do the ADRs get paid? This a common question and ABx requires a small twist to the norm. Remember, compensation drives behavior. The behavior they were trying to drive was a true partnership between the ADR team and the field. At Zignal, the ADR is rewarded for building a strong relationship with the buyer.

Here is how Zignal pays out the ADRs quarterly plan:

ADRs are paid based on a meeting which happens and in which they take part. This is a Sales Qualified Appointment (SQA). For this they get a flat rate for the meeting and another flat rate if it is accepted as an opportunity. This accounts for roughly 40% of their incentive compensation.

If that meeting does not immediately convert to an opportunity, the ADR continues to work the account. At the point that it does become a Sales Qualified Opportunity (SQO) the ADR is paid an even higher flat rate. This is to reward the ADR for their effective nurture tactics. This accounts for roughly 60% of their compensation.

Finally, if a deal they have sourced/nurtured closes, they receive a portion of the revenue for the first year. This is over and above their target incentive number.

Zignal knew: compensation must evolve alongside of strategy.

Lessons Learned

Jamie offered a few general lessons learned along the way. He advises:

Expect to put in the time- ABx involves a lot of heavy lifting. If you aren't ready or able to make the investment in time, you may need to think about another customer acquisition plan.

Over-communicate your goals, plans, and roadmap. People will immediately doubt what you’re doing if they aren't in the know.

ABR is a "slow roast"- If you want the best results, you must have and use the best ingredients! Be obsessive about your contact data. This will speed the process of generating actual results. Have relevant content for the industry and the personas you target.

Build trust- Today, breaking into strategic accounts with only blunt instruments is an exercise in futility. Leverage every tool at your disposal to build trust and engage with your key accounts. Whitepapers, eBooks, webcasts, blogs, regional events, and annual customer conferences are all good reasons to engage, build trust, and accelerate a buy-cycle.

Reporting has to be on point- Visibility across all teams is key in helping people see the fruits of your labor. You can’t wait 2-3 quarters before seeing if things are “working.” Figure out the leading indicators and measure them from day one. At the same time, traditional funnel metrics are no longer relevant in an ABx world -- so you will need to recalibrate your executive and sales management team. For example, top-of-the funnel MQL metrics should be replaced with engagement metrics.

Be prepared to navigate lots of challenges and even some failures- Nobody has ever taken down the big game without getting a few bruises along the way.

So, what do you think? Ask your questions here and Jamie will answer them. There is so much to learn as companies shift sales development upstream, so let’s share that journey.
 

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If your company markets to, sells, or otherwise engages prospects in Europe, GDPR should be on your radar. 

I know these conversations are taking place in legal and IT departments, but I  haven't seen much awareness for SDR or AE VPs, Directors, or Managers.  So, this is your polite wake-up call. If you haven't paid much attention to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that is likely to change. And soon.

This brief post is my attempt to give you an assist.

High Level. What's GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets out a new, unified privacy law for Europe. The new law is relevant not just to businesses established in Europe; it will also apply to entities worldwide that provide goods and services to individuals in Europe, and online platforms and other website operators that are accessible from Europe. - McDermott Will & Emer


Net-net, GDPR applies to any organization that retains, processes, or profiles the data of individuals in Europe. Broadly, this seems to include the European Union and the European Economic Area. As you might suspect, prospecting (including cold, outbound emailing) most certainly involves profiling, processing, and retaining individual data.

Why Should You Care?

Fair question. GDPR includes substantial fines for non-compliance. Article 83(5)(a) states that infringements of the basic principles for processing personal data, including the conditions for consent, are subject to the highest tier of administrative fines. This could mean a fine of up to €10/20 million, or 2%/4% of your total worldwide annual turnover*, whichever is higher. (* It's complicated.)

Think about your revenue-tech stack.

You likely have marketing automation, CRM, email tracking tools, IP lead tracking on your website, and perhaps a BI tool thrown in there as well. GDPR includes a right to erasure should an individual withdraw their consent. Are you set up to handle those requests across all those systems?

What Should You Do?

First, talk to your own legal counsel. This stuff is complex. Second, check out this webinar featuring Daniel Barber that was put on by SalesHacker: How Sales and Marketing Can Prepare for GDPR. Daniel provides a great read in on interpretations and implications.

What's All This Mean for Outbound?

On the webinar, Daniel discusses "how to prepare for outbound in 2018." He brings up the concept of legitimate interest. From the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO):

There are three elements to the legitimate interests basis. It helps to think of this as a three-part test. You need to:

- identify a legitimate interest;
- show that the processing is necessary to achieve it; and
- balance it against the individual’s interests, rights and freedoms.


My key takeaway from what Daniel shared was that cold outreach (including email) appropraitely balances the legitimate interest of the vendor with the privacy interests of the individual being prospected. But the balance is delicate.

Emailing a prospect once as part of outreach?Likely permitted.

Emailing a prospect multiple times with an opt-out link?Likely permitted.

Emailing a prospect 10+ times whether or not they respond? Questionable.

So how should SDRs and AEs handle non-responses to their cold outreach? Should 50 emails without a reply be consider implied opt-out? What about 5? This seems to be the grey area.

If you or your legal team have done any work around GDPR, please share in the comments. I'll update this post to include your insights. This is a hot topic and one we all need to start paying attention to.


Additional reading:

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Last July, I posted a survey on this blog. My aim was to learn how most sales organizations are handing vacation for their selling reps.

  • When a rep takes a vacation, are they offered quota relief?
  • If yes, what are the policy specifics?
  • If no, how are leaders ensuring reps take successful vacations?

I thought a few dozen companies would respond and I'd have some interesting results to share with the community. It turned into something bigger. Over 200 sales leaders (team leads, managers, directors, VPs) and 340+ individual contributors (AEs, SDRs, CSMs, etc.) participated. I combed through more than 250 individual, anonymous comments. Additionally, I interviewed seven senior leaders on the topic—four on the record and three off.

I’ve compiled the results in our new ebook PTO and Sales.

DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK TODAY

The primary question the research answers is:

Do companies offer quota relief for pre-scheduled vacations? For example, monthly quota is reduced by 25% for a one-week vacation.

Our findings indicate a resounding NO. Whether or not relief is offered seems to hinge largely on four variables: rep role, sales calendar cadence, company revenues, and company type.

Part 1 of the ebook breaks down the survey findings and analyzes how companies handle PTO with their sales teams. Part 2 shares strategies and perspectives for blanacing making the number while also treating your people right. You can download your copy of the ebook below.

I hope you'll share what your thinking/seeing/doing in the comments. This is an important topic and one that's too often overlooked.


 

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BDRs, LDRs, SDRs - whatever you call them, the metrics that drive the SDR role are always in demand.

Today, I'm excited to launch our latest research focused on Sales Development organizations. This is our seventh round of research since 2007. The key themes we'll explore include:

  • Rep profiles: experience, tenure, ramp time, career path
  • Structure: in/out/blended, headcount, territories
  • Compensation: base, OTE, regional variations
  • Quotas: average quotas, components, % attainment
  • Technology stack: categories, adoption, impact
     

We worked hard to make this year’s survey easier and it will take roughly 4-5 minutes to complete. If you lead a sales development group, please participate

All answers will be aggregated anonymously. We’ll be sharing the results with you in the coming months.

I appreciate you taking the time. We couldn't do this research without your help.

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A few weeks ago, I shared my research on the failure rate of SDR-to-AE promotions. (Executive Summary: 26% of SDRs who take on an AE role fail. The shorter the SDR tenure, the higher the failure rate. The post-promotion failure rate for SDRs with 11 or fewer months experience was 55%.  The failure rate for SDRs with 16+ months experience was just 6%.)

A few dozen InMails and 1.5K+ social shares later, I’ve concluded that this topic hits a nerve.

The most common feedback I heard was “Yes! I’ve seen this too. What can we do to address it?” I wanted real practitioners to share advice so I reached out to Kevin Dorsey, Head of Sales Development and Enablement at ServiceTitan, and Natasha Miller Sekkat, VP of Demand Generation at ClickSoftware. Rather than post the full transcript, I’ve grouped their thoughts below.

 

Why risk promoting SDRs to AEs at all?

Natasha Miller Sekkat: Successful SDR-to-AE transitions are key to making sales development economics work. Unless you’re selling a high-ticket solution into the enterprise, I’ve found it’s hard to financially justify the existence of an SDR organization. But, when you factor in potential savings on AE recruitment plus productivity gains from successful promotions, the equation flips to positive.

You’re looking for the "the trifecta" from your SDR-to-AE promotions:

  • Lower attrition rates than external hires
  • Higher performance versus goal than outside hires
  • And a lower cost per $ sold than external hires

In the best scenario, an internally promoted SDR-to-AE will cost less, stay longer, and sell more.
 

How do you reign in the need for speed?

Kevin Dorsey: If you’re moving an SDR to AE in under 6 months, it’s too fast. I know your SDRs are screaming “NO, I’m ready!” But they just aren’t. It’s something I’ve witnessed working with hundreds of SDRs—watching some transition successfully and some unsuccessfully. At least 1 year as an SDR is a good benchmark.

Yes, it can happen faster, but only for over performance. And what over performance means needs to be outlined from the very beginning in black and white. Achieve X and Y and you can qualify for the fast track; if not, sorry.
 

How do you structure your SDRs' first twelve months?

Natasha Miller Sekkat: There are four quarters in a year and the focus for each one is slightly different.

  • 1st Quarter- new SDRs don't know anything (What is a lead? What’s Salesforce? What’s a gatekeeper? And so on.)
  • 2nd Quarter- the performing quarter (It’s time to take off training wheels and be a monster SDR.)
  • 3rd Quarter- start to pick up their heads a bit (Experiment with different approaches. Try more advanced qualification. Take on mentoring responsibilities.)
  • 4th Quarter- the earliest to start thinking about what's outside the SDR domain (OK, now what's selling? What does it mean to ask for an order? What does owning a territory look like? PLUS keep doing your SDR job.)

The next few months or quarters are about showing an ability to succeed while both doing the SDR job while also owning and closing smaller deals. The challenge is no one wants to hear "you aren't ready to be promoted." I tell reps, "Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve got another 30+ years ahead of you. What percentage is 6 more months over 35 years? It’s a drop in the bucket.”
 

What’s the biggest skillset mismatch facing newly promoted reps?

Kevin Dorsey: It’s often that from the outside looking in, being an AE is easy. No more cold calling. No 100 dials a day. Just taking meetings and closing business. SDRs have spent months, if not years, looking at AEs and thinking “I could do that sh*t.”

But they fail to realize that being an AE requires significantly more skill.

You can brute force your way as an SDR. Make more dials, send more emails, and results go up. Playing the AE game at the level needed to advance a sale, manage multiple decision makers, navigate RFPs is different. There are so many places that things can go wrong and most SDRs don’t realize this. Plus as an AE, the rejection is more personal. When you’re rejected as an SDR, there is always another fish in the sea to target. It’s nothing personal. When you’re rejected as an AE—after you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into bringing that deal across and it doesn’t happen—you start to question yourself. I tell reps, "Come in thinking it will be easy, you will fail. Come in thinking it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and are ready to work like it is, and you’ll succeed."
 

Natasha Miller Sekkat: The biggest missing piece is the blocking and tackling of selling. How do I go from “set a demo” to “signed PO”? There’s so much even the most senior SDRs have never had firsthand exposure to. They understand qualification criteria and pipeline categories, but not how to run a deal, how to identify the economic buyer, how to understand decision criteria, and so on.
 

How do leaders make SDR-to-AE transitions successful?

Natasha Miller Sekkat:  As a hiring manager, you have to ask yourself how do I minimize risk? One way is to only hire people who’ve done the job before. Another is to modify the SDR role to begin to include some selling activities.

Leaders should identify ways—even if comp and title don't change—to let reps run smaller deals on a non-commission structure. There are a lot of hard lessons in sales that need to be learned firsthand. Let your reps fail safely on the things that don't matter. Give them support (pre-sales, an AE mentor, their manager), but the SDR themselves must play quarterback.
 

Kevin Dorsey: AE training that starts after promotion is already too late. You need a 2-3 month transition plan to get them ready. Ours starts 2 months out with AE-related trainings. These aren’t optional. If they don’t complete them, they don’t get the promotion.

Also, skipping new hire training is a huge mistake.  The amount of SDRs that are expected to just “GET IT” is scary. Just because they’ve been at your company for a year doesn’t mean they know how to be an AE. They need to get the same onboarding training as an external hire. They need objection training, pipeline training, proposal training, closing training, pitch training, demo training, the works!

Ideally, they’ll have gone through some of this before they were promoted and you’ll test how well they’re performing before giving them deals to close.
 

Any advice for SDRs aspiring to become AEs?

Kevin Dorsey: You want to be a closer? Then start studying how to be a closer! Watch your current AEs. See how they manage their tasks. Study time management and how to time block (Jeb Blount’s Fanatical Prospecting has some great tips here). Think of how much further ahead you’ll be when promoted.

Also, start to think like a closer. Have you been creating just OK opportunities because that was your job? Or have you really taken pride in what you’ve created? If you focus on creating great opps, you will be a better AE because of it.

Finally, don’t wait for the company to train you. Start training yourself. Listen to calls, read closing books, watch demos, go for ride-alongs. Start doing all of that training ahead of time! Doing this, WHILE still maintaining your SDR quota will also set you up for all the multi-tasking you’ll need to succeed as an AE.
----

The post-promotion failure data are concerning.

But as you can see, there are steps you can take to address it. A huge thank you to Kevin and Natasha for sharing their thoughts on the approaches, actions, and investments Sales Leaders can take to set SDRs up for successful promotions. 
 

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The head of Sales Development for a $50M SaaS company recently shared some interesting team data with me. Excluding recent hires and the team currently in place, the group had 55 terminations, promotions, transfers, and quits over the last three years. A little high, but not too far above the median.

Breaking down the individual data, I found the following:

Roughly 60% of his SDRs were promoted or internally transferred. That’s great stuff! But on the flip side, and a concerning note, nearly 40% of the SDRs promoted to an AE role had been terminated. That surprised me.

I wondered if these results were above average, below average, or to be expected. I couldn’t find any public data on the post-promotion failure rate for SDR-to-AE transitions, so I turned to LinkedIn to do my own research.

How I Used LinkedIn

My search included AEs at companies located in North America. I then narrowed in on only those profiles that previously held SDR titles. A few notes:

  • SDRs and AEs go by a variety of names. I stuck with “Sales Development Representative” and “Account Executive” exclusively.
  • There’s a lot of selective truth on LinkedIn. A lot. When I ran a separate search for reps I knew had been terminated, at least a quarter of them spackled over that fact on their profiles.
  • I excluded reps who had made the jump within the last 12 months. A recent promotion doesn’t tell us anything useful about their future success or failure.
  • I counted it as a “promotion success” if the rep stayed 7+ months in the AE role. I counted it as a “promotion failure” if the rep stayed 6 or fewer months. I’m not sure what the right length of tenure is, but I needed a binary and this is where I landed.
     
What I Found

I built out a data set of ~205 reps – all 3rd degree connections. Again, only former SDRs who made the move to an AE role at least a year ago were included. Of these 205 reps, 26% failed as AEs.

That really shocked me. I expected the failure rate to be higher than an experienced external hire. But not that high. When I looked at SDRs who left their companies to take an AE role somewhere else, the failure rate climbed to 41%. Wow.

The Impact of Tenure

Along with success and failure, I captured months of tenure as an SDR prior to promotion. To say the impact is huge would be a huge understatement.

The post-promotion failure rate for SDRs with 11 or fewer months experience was 55%.
The failure rate for SDRs with 16+ months experience was just 6%.

That’s a massive delta.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t promote your SDRs to AEs. For many SDRs, that’s the goal and more power to them! But it takes time to learn how “businesses” operate, evaluate, and buy.

  • What does a buying process really mean?
  • What’s the difference between signing on the dotted line authority and the ability to scuttle a deal?
  • How do you arm an internal champion? How do you disarm an internal foe?
  • What’s a financial win for the organization? A career/political win for a person? How do they differ?
  • How do you teach, tailor, and take control?
     

These skills are hugely important for success as an Account Executive. I’m not convinced that 10, 12, or even 20 months as an SDR does much to develop them. You might disagree, but the one thing I hope you’ll take away from this is the significant impact of SDR tenure on future success as an AE.

I understand the desire to advance (and earn the real money) on the part of SDRs. I also understand the need to fill open headcount and the challenges of this tight labor market on the part of AE managers. But what I’m hoping to point out is that the two tendencies, if left unchecked, set no one up for success.

Not reps. Not hiring managers. And not companies.
 

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In the US, our approach to vacation is unrecognizable to much of the rest of the world. In Sales & Sales Leadership, our approach to Paid Time Off (PTO)  is incomprehensible to many of our own non-sales colleagues.

A quick trip to Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis tells me that workers in the US work ~11% more hours annually than our peers. That’s roughly an extra half day. Every week. 52 weeks a year.

I suspect you wouldn't argue against the benefits of time away--improved concentration, replenished performance, refreshed attitude-to name a few. But a quick trip to LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Slack, and LinkedIn tells me that taking PTO and making the number are in conflict in many sales organizations.

Search for yourself. You’ll find example after example of reps expressing frustration around taking even a week away. My reflective reaction was “kids these days” and “back when I carried a bag....” But I wonder if I was being too harsh and a bit short-sighted. I found a few examples of reps praising their companies for supportive policies and even a few job descriptions highlighting PTO with quota relief.

But the big question still looms: how are most sales organizations handling this?

After a fair bit of time googling, I realized there isn’t a great data set on how companies are handling PTO for their sellers. So I decided to create one.

If you’re either an individual contributor or sales leader, please spend 3 minutes on this PTO survey. We’ll compile the anonymous findings into a full report. If you’d like to share your experiences/perspective with me directly, please email me at matt (at) bridgegroupinc.com.


 

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Over the last few months, we published our latest research reports on the Account Executive role (AEs, ISRs, etc.). Both the SaaS and non-SaaS versions are currently available. The reports provide base and on-target earnings for the AE role—both averages and broken down by specific factors.

A number of readers have emailed in and the top three requests have been:

  1. Update the 2015 calculator with the latest data (allow tailoring by geography, rep experience, ASP, etc.)
  2. Add a sheet for manager, director, and VP compensation as well
  3. Port the calculator over to Google Sheets
     

Well, we've done all three. Welcome to our new and improved AE & Inside Sales Leader Compensation Calculator (now available both in Excel and Sheets formats).

What’s new and noteworthy?
  • Comp reached all time highs.
    On-target earnings are up across the board. This is particularly true at the high end (i.e., high ASP, most senior sellers).
  • Sell SaaS? Earn a 6% premium.
    Controlling for as many variables as we could, we found that SaaS sellers earn more. On average, about 6% more than technology or service-selling peers.
  • Several metro markets are off the charts.
    Looking for senior talent to close enterprise deals in the Bay Area, NYC, etc.? Get ready to pay. To avoid skewing results for entire regions, we remove a chunk of rows from the data set. Net net, expect to pay another 12-20% on top of the calculated results.

Where did the data come from?

Exec-summary version: Survey responses from 336 B2B companies + a lot of Excel. The calculator should give you a good target. You know your local market factors, so adjust up or down as needed.

Nerd version: Multiple linear regression using several explanatory variables (geography, ASP, experience prior to hire, delivery model, level of leadership) to predict the outcome of the response variable (OTE). R-squared = .61.

Note: if you are looking for SDR compensation, you want this one instead. 

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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Call avoidance. It was a problem in 1997, 2007, and most assuredly is still a problem in 2017.

Today, sales leaders are battling rep reluctance, generational preference, and vendor “thought leadership” blasting the phone as antiquated. This is both an easy sell and entirely wrongheaded. Great SDRs, great AEs, and great leaders have grit. Cultivating grit requires embracing tension, encountering pushback, and experiencing confrontation.

That’s why I’m happy to share this tongue-in-cheek post from Matt Amundson, VP of Sales Development and Field Marketing at Everstring. Mastering the phone is an out-of-the-box skill of exactly no one. Which is why it is so important that leaders help their teams develop these skills. Without further ado, here’s Matt.
---

You know when you read something and it really sets you off? Something you disagree with so deeply that you can’t help not responding? That happened to me when I ran across shared on LinkedIn as a reason to not make sales calls.

Let me save you a click and offer my rebuttal.

1. Phone calls demand immediate responses.

Of course they do, and that’s the best part. Having a live conversation allows for real-time thinking, objection handling, and SELLING. Yes, selling, the lost art of having a conversation about a business challenge you can address. If either party needs to step back or do research then all they have to do is say so. That makes the next call even more valuable as both parties are fully prepared with information that is “specific” to their last conversation.

When over-relying on email, too many assumptions are made and too many generic answers are provided. 
Phone = specificity.

2. You can’t go back and review phone calls later.

There are amazing technologies that record calls and use artificial intelligence to provide analysis. You can even tag parts of the conversation you want to refer back to. With email you have to read through long threads. Yuck! 
Phone = conversation intelligence.

3. It’s far more difficult to batch phone calls.

Not in my experience. There are two ways to do this: good old-fashioned time management and/or use technology. What’s more, bunching like calls together makes each subsequent call better. Every stumble, pushback, or win makes you smarter for your next dial. There is nothing that enhances productivity more than having your sellers having real conversations with your buyers. 
Phone = achieving flow.

4. Phone calls are an awkward dance of silence and interruptions.

I’ll give you that one. But so are first dates. That’s no reason to avoid them. Selling over the phone is a skill that has to be honed and practiced. Having horrible calls is how we learn. There's miles of difference in meaning between “maybe” as email reply and how a prospect says “maybe” during a live call. 
Phone = rapid learning.

5. Phone calls cause existential overhead.

I’ll be honest, I had to look that one up. The best definition I found was “distraction and stress from uncompleted tasks.” The theory goes if you have a call scheduled at 3PM, apparently that scheduled call will hang over you all day long and tax your productivity. While with email you can work through at your leisure. Huh?

A phone call has an agenda and desired outcome. Email is like your worst nightmare. You drop it into the void and then…. wait. I’ll take the stress of 100 scheduled sales call over 100 unreplied emails any day of the week. 
Phone = game time.

6. Phone calls kill productivity and work flow.

See #3

7. Can’t hear or understand the person speaking? Too bad.

Yes, bad connections are a real thing. Landlines, cellphones, and telephony can let us down. But email isn’t black and white. Beyond getting caught in spam filters or being lost in the flotsam and jetsam of inboxes, it’s easy to make a typo, misstate, or otherwise be unclear with the written word. Let’s face it, most reps aren't Hemingway. 
Phone = plays to reps’ natural strengths.

8. Phone calls don’t allow as much flexibility as email.

See #3

9. They necessitate small talk, the biggest time waster known to man.

Building rapport is not a time waster. Building rapport has led to million dollar deals. Showing empathy and understanding your prospect's professional dilemmas (and in some cases their personal dilemmas) is a great way to develop a champion within an organization. One day that champion just may help you get a deal across the finish line. 
Phone = human2human.

10. They’re inefficient.

I’d argue they’re actually far more efficient. Each party stays on topic and can deal with the issue at hand. There is no need for guesswork, translation of tone, or missed action items with multiple recipients. 
Phone = clarity.

Parting thoughts for those new to sales (and their managers).

As automation and AI continue to make email seem more and more life-like, sales professionals must do all they can to 'prove' they are human beings. The best way of doing that is to communicate through channels that these systems cannot. The primary channel for B2B personalized outreach has been and will always be the phone.

Don't fall victim to believing marketing and sales tech can replace the power of one to one human connections.
 

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