Sales Follow-Up & Nurture for SDRs
Sarah is a growing sales influencer with a creative personality that activates audiences, motivates others, and drives positive change for the profession.
A former SDR and current Account Executive at Gong, her journey is a powerful example of how quickly SDRs can become an invaluable part of their organization.
At the core, the job of an SDR is to generate conversations, build trust with a market, and position future sales opportunities for their organization.
However, less than 5% of a market, on average, is in-market for solutions, meaning 95% (or more) of buyers require upkeep & additional outreach.
So how do SDRs succeed if a majority of their market is unwilling to start a conversation, not ready to trust a brand, or not interested in their solution?
Buyers dictate the journey they take with sellers, so reps need repeatable systems to build rapport, stay top-of-mind, and nurture future opportunities.
With reliable follow-up & lead nurturing processes, SDR teams can stand out from the competition for the 95% of buyers who aren’t ready to buy now.
Before You Start
Every account, decision-maker, and buying situation is unique. No two companies have the exact same people, processes, and problems.
Some buyers will respond to an initial touch and book a meeting within the week. Others will engage, but won’t be ready to purchase or attend a meeting.
Most won’t even acknowledge a brand until after months of outreach.
Follow-up & lead nurturing is so essential because it’s rare for an SDR to generate interest and book a meeting upon first contacting a buyer.
To make the most of every target account, SDRs need to effectively follow-up, nurture relationships, and manage leads at various stages of the buying cycle.
Buyers & Timing
Sales development professionals face constant rejection in search of the few golden wins that sprout from the right targeting, messaging, and timing.
A booked meeting is the common outcome SDRs crave.
However, the conversion from touch to meeting isn’t easy.
Whether it takes a single call or 18 touches, it’s the rep’s burden to align with a buyer’s specific situation and build the trust needed to setup a discovery call.
Unfortunately, a majority of SDR training is only focused on the first few sales touches and how to quickly convert the 5% of buyers that are in-market.
Not only does this hyper-focus make in-market buyers more competitive, it also causes SDRs to neglect nearly 95% of their market in search of quick wins.
The best in sales development aren’t just great at cold outreach: they understand how to communicate with buyers at any stage of their journey.
Top reps know the right type of buyers will eventually fall in-market, so they focus on creating positive experiences rather than always trying for a meeting.
Over time, situations change and open windows of opportunity for SDRs:
- Top-of-funnel prospects finally connect
- Stalled or cold conversations restart
- Previously out-of-market buyers move in-market
Instead of hyper-focusing on scheduled meetings, create a mindset of abundance and understand the importance of timing for the right buyers.
Managing Leads Over Time
Sales development would be much easier if:
- Qualified buyers were easily identifiable
- Starting conversations took fewer touches
- Every buyer was in-market to purchase
Unfortunately, the reality of B2B sales is very different: today’s reps need data, account planning, and multiple touches before ever starting a conversation.
Even after connecting with buyers, most won’t be immediately in-market to evaluate solutions, let alone purchase them.
So how do reps manage the 95% of buyers who aren’t immediately interested?
With so much activity involved in the role, it’s critical for SDRs to have processes, tools, and internal support in place to help them manage deals over time.
For example, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can be combined with a sales engagement tool to provide SDRs with the ability to track deals, prioritize activities, manage tasks, and identify buying triggers.
The right system gives reps visibility into how prospects were touched in the past, what next steps look like, and how buyers engage with their outreach.
Develop a System
Buyers have to expend energy on any interaction with a salesperson, regardless of whether or not it turns into an actual conversation.
Once initial contact is made, it’s on the rep to make themselves relevant and it’s their responsibility to manage the relationship from there.
A majority of conversations from cold outreach won’t convert into a meeting, so SDRs must continue investing time into those accounts until the timing is right.
But how do SDRs actually manage follow-ups and future outreach for buyers that aren’t yet in-market when they connect?
Beyond software, reps need the resources and processes in place to consistently keep in touch with buyers, stay top-of-mind, and nurture future opportunities.
For example, an SDR could create a semi-automated sales cadence to take buyers they’ve contacted on a more personalized journey than cold outreach.
If a buyer still isn’t ready for a meeting after the first cadence, the rep could follow-up with a different journey focused on building curiosity, sharing valuable resources, or simply staying in touch.
Meanwhile, this SDR could use data from the marketing team to help them spot buying triggers, identify in-market opportunities, and prioritize activities.
Some companies can take longer than a year before they progress through their buying cycle far enough to be in-market for a solution.
With repeatable systems to manage follow-up and nurture activities, SDRs can predictably build rapport, grow trust, and win hearts in their market over time.
Responses, Follow-Ups, & Nurture
When SDRs do cold prospecting, they often rely on clearly-defined, well-structured processes that their organization has proven to work.
A rep is in total control of their situation when prospecting, so it’s easy to make activities repeatable and outcomes predictable.
However, everything changes once a buyer joins the conversation: SDRs are no longer in complete control and won’t know what to expect from every situation.
Buyers are unique individuals with their own set of priorities, pains, and expectations, so every cold conversation will unfold differently.
If no two buyer interactions are the same, how can SDRs effectively navigate conversations, follow-up on responses, and position deals for the future?
Beyond cold prospecting, reps need to understand how to handle the wide variety of different situations that appear when buyers finally make contact.
Due Diligence & Persistence
When a rep is finally able to make contact with a buyer for the first time, the most common responses to the situation are often evasion or rejection:
- “Nope, not interested”
- “Can’t talk, I’m busy”
- “Everything’s covered here”
- “We’re not a good fit for you”
- “It’s not the right time to buy right now”
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to secure productive sales conversations with buyers that are genuinely engaged or at least willing to pay attention.
Why? Because buyers essentially get ambushed by SDRs, forcing them to react to ad hoc chats with complete strangers about unknown topics.
In response to rejection, many SDRs get discouraged and stop the conversation from there.
After all, they’ve just been rejected on their very first contact with the buyer!
However, a large number of the booked meetings SDRs create started with initial pushback, dismissiveness, and objections from the buyer.
Persistence is key for sales development: SDRs need to be diligent in getting noticed, being relevant, and finding ways to dig deeper into the buyer’s world.
It’s not uncommon for reps in some industries to spend more than 6 months of persistent, coordinated outreach to get booked meetings with the right buyers.
Beyond persistence, SDRs should do the due diligence to truly understand the context of a buyer’s response.
Are they really unavailable or just blocked by the fear of getting ambushed in a cold conversation? Are they really not interested or just unaware of problems?
Not only does professional persistence and due diligence help unearth more opportunities, it also helps ensure SDRs respect the timing of a buyer’s journey.
The quality of an initial sales conversation matters.
Buyers are often interrupted by SDRs, so the natural instinct when they do actually respond is to say whatever is needed to quickly remove the problem:
- “Sure, send over a proposal and I’ll get back to you if its a fit”
- “I’m too busy right now, but feel free to follow up in 3 months”
- “Not the right person, but send an email and I’ll forward it”
- “Can you send more info via email? I’ll need to think about it”
Before leaping to respond to every buyer that gives them happy ears, SDRs should understand how to truly validate a buyer’s interest.
Does a buyer genuinely want the conversation or are they simply blowing the rep off with a generic, misleading, or inauthentic response?
In the past, phone calls were the primary way for sellers & buyers to connect.
Voice conversations enabled SDRs to get real-time feedback from buyers and exchange massive amounts of information for qualifying and trust-building.
Today, SDRs communicate across multiple channels that range from visual formats like video to simple text-based formats like email, SMS, or social DMs.
While these digital channels make it easier to start conversations, they also reduce the amount of information exchanged between the two parties.
To ensure conversations are as productive as possible, SDRs should seek clarity about why a buyer is interested or engaging in the first place.
Follow-Up & Lead Nurturing Process
Even with their full attention, most buyers won’t be immediately ready to book a meeting or learn more about a vendor’s solution when they connect.
Ideally, reps can gain enough context in the discussion to qualify the account, prioritize the deal, and plan next steps for follow-up outreach.
After the chat is finished, it’s the SDR’s responsibility to maintain the line of communication, stay top-of-mind, and position for a future conversation.
However, it’s not enough to simply send reminders or follow-up with the same templated outreach that buyers would receive from cold prospecting.
SDRs still need to be relevant as they continue keeping in touch with buyers. Follow-up outreach that is too aggressive, generic, or repetitive can kill trust.
Instead of simply checking in for months until the timing is right, create valuable experiences that can help guide buyers in their journey.
For example, a rep could personalize follow-up journeys by queueing off sequences based on how buyers responded to an initial conversation.
Other examples include using specific account intelligence, use cases, and pain points to create follow-up touches that are memorable and influence thinking.
Combined with software and automation, SDRs can connect with buyers at any stage of the buying cycle and still nurture opportunities over time.
Building Urgency & Momentum
A potential sales deal with a qualified buyer is very fragile.
Thousands of SDRs succeed at generating a meeting only to find the conversation stall, get rescheduled, or be ghosted by buyers entirely.
Buyers aren’t beholden to just one seller or brand, which makes it a battleground for SDRs to win time and influence decisions.
To make things worse, reps must constantly combat against the desire for stakeholders in an account to maintain the status quo and purchase nothing.
Once an SDR has captured a buyer’s attention, they must understand how to maintain urgency moving forward and build momentum towards the next step.
Clarity & Next Steps
SDRs often fall into the trap of being too hasty when they book a meeting.
Rather than getting the full picture, they quickly book it, thank the buyer for their time, and go to update their colleagues in Slack about the exciting news.
When the prospect goes cold, reschedules, or no-shows a meeting, it’s a complete surprise and the SDR has no idea how to recover the situation.
There are so many different obstacles that can stall a potential deal: priorities shift, stakeholders weigh in, competitors disrupt, and markets continuously change.
Clarity is essential because sellers have to align themselves with a buyer’s evolving situation while often navigating off of limited information.
It’s one thing to get a prospect to agree to a meeting, but it’s another thing entirely to clearly understand why they’ve decided to book it.
What is the buyer trying to learn? What specific concerns, pains, or questions are driving their interest to connect on a call?
Ask questions before the meeting to ensure that the discovery meeting generates as much value as possible for both the organization and the buyer.
With a clearly defined journey in sight, SDRs can create urgency up to the discovery meeting and position future next steps for the conversation.
Be The Deal Champion
When delays and roadblocks inevitably appear in a deal, it’s the SDRs who are in the closest proximity to unblock progress and solve potential problems.
Sales development representatives are great deal champions!
While there will always be uncontrollable factors at play in a sale, there are many ways for reps to be proactive in supporting the buying journey.
Do other stakeholders need to be looped in? Reach out separately to get them up to speed and share context that’s specific to their role.
Are things slowing down because a prospect is busy? Take the initiative to help summarize previous discussions, recap next steps, and keep everyone aligned.
Even interested buyers can run into obstacles that slow or block their ability to go through a sales process.
Rather than wait and wonder about the health of a deal, become a proactive champion that stays top-of-mind and motivates action.
Cancelled meetings and no-shows are unavoidable.
Even worse, these situations often leave SDRs completely lost on why the buyer didn’t follow through. It’s the starting point of a stalled conversation.
To reduce no-shows or cancellations, there are a variety of tactics SDRs can deploy to create commitment and build momentum towards the discovery call.
Before ever sending the invite, reps should first get more information from the buyer about expectations, goals, and priorities for the meeting.
Not only does this help the buyer feel understood, it also gives ammo for SDRs to use in reminding prospects about why they accepted it in the first place.
From there, reps should be as diligent as possible about keeping the scheduled meeting on a buyer’s radar through reminders and recaps.
Should a buyer attempt to cancel or back out, SDRs can leverage the information they gathered to reinforce the value of the discovery meeting.
Unfortunately, some cancelled or skipped meetings can’t be avoided. However, the right planning can help mitigate wasted time for everyone involved.
Regardless of the amount of work it takes, sales development reps have to align with buyers and convince them to invest more time in a conversation.
Buyers ultimately control their destiny with a seller.
Because so few companies will be in-market at any given time, it’s not enough for SDRs to be great at cold prospecting.
With the right follow-up & lead nurturing systems, reps can stay top-of-mind and generate better outcomes in the markets they serve.