Strategic Sales Development & Types of Sales Channels
Collin has a passion for sales development that is reflected throughout his career. As a SDR Manager at Salesloft, he’s helped lead sales processes, best practices, and strategies at a leading tech startup. Collin’s mission is to educate sellers, empower reps, and help organizations grow with sales development.
In the past, sales professionals commonly relied on a single channel to generate leads: outside field sales, inside sales calls, or cold email prospecting.
However, buyers are now instantly informed, more involved in researching vendors, and are very selective of their time in a world full of overwhelming sales outreach.
Modern SDRs can’t survive on just a single sales channel or strategy. They must adapt to utilize multiple types of sales channels together in order to effectively engage with their prospects.
Managers have the tough job of empowering their team’s strengths, improving their weaknesses, and motivating them to combine channels to achieve consistent results.
However, some reps are better on the phone while others prefer email. The gaps, weaknesses, and training needs of a rep are not immediately apparent during the sales training process.
Managers have to train their reps on all of the different types of sales channels used by top-performing SDR teams. While this multi-channel approach might be tough to coach, reps need to evolve and be more strategic to survive in this competitive selling environment.
Before You Start
There are many types of sales channels available to SDRs these days.
So many that it can be overwhelming to think about all the different ways in which you can get in touch with your prospects. The combinations are seemingly endless.
To compete in today’s selling environment, managers need to identify the best channels to use, how to combine them to work together, and how to stick out and resonate on each channel.
What Is the Main Sales Channel for an SDR?
The evolution of technology and business software has unlocked a multitude of channels SDRs can leverage to get noticed, make introductions, and nurture potential opportunities.
However, the phone is still one of the most powerful, scalable channels for SDRs in terms of the quality and quantity of conversations they can generate for an organization.
If you want to effectively qualify someone, relay your value-adds, and understand if your solution can help, it’s best to have these conversations in person or over voice.
There’s something unmatched about the ability to have personal, rapport-building conversations at the scale that phones allow.
Other Channels Empower Sales Calls
If the phone is an SDR’s primary channel, then other channels exist to both expand an SDRs reach and empower their performance when they use the phone.
Other channels can be used to identify new buyers, warm up prospects, build authority, and create relevance before ever speaking to them on the phone.
SDRs will often generate leads across the different channels they use. However, the most effective, efficient method for connecting with buyers will usually be phone conversation.
By combining multiple types of sales channels together to add value and build rapport, SDRs can make phone calls more comfortable, convenient, and successful as a primary channel.
Combining Multiple Types of Sales Channels
Managers often have issues with adjusting their existing systems and incorporating new methods, channels, or cadences into an SDR’s workflow.
With reps of different skills, personalities, and preferences, it can be difficult to sustain or improve a high-performing sales development program.
The Fear Behind More Channels: Less Calls
With limited time, money, and team resources, managers often worry that new channels aren’t worth the opportunity costs of less daily phone calls.
The more channels that exist, the harder it becomes for SDRs to manage them. Especially for teams that rely on a particular channel, it can seem risky to change the status quo.
Managers have this inherent fear of losing productivity in the form of call volume because they measure the success of other channels the same as they would the phone channel.
With so many different technologies and channels, managers tend to shy away from new channels because some are immeasurable or operate differently from the phone channel.
Overusing the Phone Channel Has Diminishing Returns
The first few phone calls an SDR makes to a buyer has the highest connect rate.
After those initial calls, every additional call you make to the same prospect decreases your chance at connecting. It’s unlikely a buyer picks up on a 10th cold call.
Without additional channels to influence the deal, SDRs often end up overusing the phone channel and wasting time on activities that bring diminishing returns.
Pounding the phone repeatedly was an approach that worked effectively in the past. However, today you need to add new channels and sales strategies to make an impression with buyers.
Results Guide the Channels SDRs Should Use
Results speak louder than anything, which is why the types of sales channels you should use will depend on your unique situation.
If reps aren’t driving great results in a new channel or with a new tool, then it might make sense to shift back to existing channels.
Managers should be constantly monitoring the results of the different types of channels their SDRs use to find the most effective system for successfully connecting with buyers.
The more ammo you give to your SDR team to help them book meetings and/or win the sale, the easier their life becomes and the better your team ultimately performs.
Case Study of a Successful Multi-Channel Sales Cadence
To help share more context about multi-channel sales development, here’s an example sales cadence that was proven to outcompete other approaches.
The company InsideOut took a look at several sales cadences using different types of sales channels to see which approaches were most successful.
One of the top-performing cadences – dubbed “The Social Cadence” – involved 9 LinkedIn social touches before the first phone call or email was ever made.
While this might seem like a waste of your SDRs time, those 9 LinkedIn touches helped increase conversation rates by 34%.
By building a relationship outside of a direct sales channel before making the first outreach attempt, companies were able to generate more conversions with SDRs making fewer calls.
Measuring the Success of SDR Channels
Measuring success for activities outside of the phone can be both difficult and ambiguous.
For managers who are leveraging a multi-channel approach to sales prospecting, a major concern is limiting the amount of time and resources that SDRs waste across these channels.
Not All Sales Channels Are Easy to Measure
Time management is a huge component of SDR success. When a rep deviates from the norm or becomes overwhelmed, it can have ripple effects on the SDR team’s overall performance.
Phone is a direct sales channel that has simple inputs and outputs: make a call with a specific cold calling script to generate a specific sales outcome.
Channels like video marketing, social selling, and email are less simple because there are multiple ways to input into the channel and new outputs that SDRs can generate with buyers.
Measuring the success of activities outside of the phone can be ambiguous, which often makes it challenging for managers to decide how SDRs should best focus their time.
The only way you can answer these questions is through constant testing and measuring the performance of your sales development channels.
Measuring Sales Metrics Vs. Impact
A big distinction we have to make here is the difference between metrics and impact.
You can’t just look at all of this based on metrics because phone activities, social activities, and cold email activities all have different equations for creating successful outcomes.
Instead of comparing purely metrics, look at the overall impact on your SDR team.
Different channels have their own unique advantages and opportunities. Each empowers your reps and serves the purpose of helping your SDRs connect and resonate with buyers.
You might not book as many meetings on one channel, but that doesn’t mean the channel should be abandoned. What if that channel brings more awareness or total leads than others?
Tracking the end result on your process and how each channel impacts the overall strategy is the best way combine, test, and evaluate channels for your SDR team.
Measuring SDR Performance
Managers need to be able to track all of the steps involved in an SDR’s process and have the ability to compare the impact of different reps, sales development strategies, and channels.
This will illuminate whether the strategy or the rep is making more of an impact on the process.
One strategy SalesLoft implemented was the concept of a “Composite Rep” to measure the impact of changes they make to the sales development process.
The Composite Rep was the average of their top 5 SDRs over the last 45 days, showing their daily touches across different sales channels and the outcomes they delivered. This composite included metrics like talk time, posts, meetings booked, and more.
Based on this average, they were able to create a benchmark or standard they used to identify where SDRs are high-performing, struggling, or spending too much time.
When SalesLoft implemented the new LinkedIn cadence from InsideOut into their strategy, they used this Composite Rep model to track how the changes impacted overall SDR performance.
Sales Channels to Help Empower SDRs
While the phone is great for sales development, it’s only one of many sales channels available.
Buyers expect more from SDRs trying to start conversations with them, so managers need to equip their reps with modern sales strategies that combine multiple channels.
Here are a few of the many types of sales channels available for modern SDR teams.
Video prospecting has exploded recently and it’s easy to see why. Videos are a great way to capture attention while providing metrics for SDRs to track and reference.
The analytics around video gives reps the ability to see who engages with videos. Did they watch it? For how long? How many opens or views did it get?
Just like email engagement, SDRs can use these statistics to their advantage.
Based on how buyers engage, your reps can prioritize opportunitiess and reference the video to build context and humanize the conversation.
Influencing buyers on social is a powerful way for SDRs to create new relationships, build authority, and grow opportunities in a community-driven, non-sales environment.
It also allows your reps to connect, engage, and start conversations with prospects on the specific topics and challenges that matter to them.
Building this network and credibility is a solid way for your reps to demonstrate knowledge on the subject matter and become respected members of the industry.
If SDRs take the time to add value and develop trust with your buyers before a direct sales touch, their engagement rates and conversions across all channels increase significantly.
A good email is the unsung hero of the sales development role and is an incredibly powerful that enables personalized or automated outreach at scale.
However, email is an overwhelmingly busy channel. A lot of people get cold calls, but it’s nothing compared to the volume of outbound emails they receive in their inbox every day.
With so much outreach and overuse of automation, SDRs that can be creative, well-researched, and relevant with their messaging will stick out from the crowd.
Good emails allow SDRs to stay top-of-mind while providing content that they can reference on other channels to help start new conversations.
Depending on your buyer and industry, it might make sense to have SDRs spend time on non-business channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Quora.
However, be careful in using these channels for sales messaging because prospects often draw a line between their personal life and their business world. You don’t want to bother prospects by using channels they don’t appreciate.
Instead of using these channels for direct selling, these channels are powerful for finding information on your prospects, upcoming events, potential triggers, and their operations.
Training SDRs to Effectively Use the Phone
Not everyone is as comfortable or effective on the phone as they are with other channels.
Especially with so many personalities and generations in the sales profession, phone skills vary from team to team or rep to rep.
How can managers ensure that reps are effectively using the phone to their advantage?
Not all SDRs are Aces on the Phone
It’s no secret that some reps are phone-averse.
It can be intimidating, especially when they first start.
While some SDRs suffer through this learning curve, many reps hide behind other channels like email and social to avoid picking up the phone.
As traction or success in other channels grow, phone-averse reps often shift even further away from dials to compensate elsewhere.
If your reps are spending too much time on other channels and neglecting the phone, then it’s up to management to identify the issue and intervene.
The best way to get over the fear of the phone is to tackle it head-on. Managers need to sit down with phone-averse SDRs and understand the roadblocks to phone usage.
Are they just scared to pick up the phone or are there genuine obstacles in the way? Do they just need a refresher on cold calling tips or is more training necessary?
Calling is Easier When SDRs See Success
When you’re not seeing success over the phone, the fear of calling is reinforced.
Rejection after rejection can push reps to use less direct channels like email or social to get their activities in for the day.
The number one breaker of barriers is success. When reps start to see traction with a specific channel, they get more comfortable.
When a rep books meeting after meeting using the phone, it’s hard to be afraid of it.
The more comfortable reps are with a particular channel, the more likely they’ll keep using it. Managers should find ways to make the phone both familiar and preferred among SDRs.
Managers Should Make Calling Comfortable for Reps
Managers should prioritize making their SDRs feel comfortable on the phone because a comfortable rep is a consistent rep.
However, reps don’t become comfortable without the right support.
For example, aggressively calling down a list with little time for research is an uncomfortable feeling. Reps don’t know enough about the person on the other end to have a meaningful conversation, especially without a template to guide them.
Managers need to equip their SDRs with the right strategy, process, and technology to empower their reps to consistently perform with a repeatable system.
By combining multiple channels, reps can make their calling activities easier.
Rather than calling a cold list, reps could connect on LinkedIn, send an email, or share a video to warm-up prospects before they start calling..
There’s comfort in executing similar activities on a repeated basis, so help reps find a comfortable cadence they can use to consistently win with the phone.
Calling & Peers
SDRs often get overwhelmed by rejection and the fast-paced environment of the role.
With so much going on, many reps are afraid to make mistakes around their peers or leaders.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a manager is letting reps do activities away from their desks or in isolation.
If they seclude themselves and make mistakes alone, they’ll get comfortable doing things incorrectly or be unaware of the mistakes they make.
These reps starve themselves of feedback, which has long-term ramifications on their development and overall team performance.
An SDR that can’t fail in front of their peers likely won’t succeed in front of their peers either.
Managers should keep SDRs surrounded by other people using the same activities, channels, and talk tracks so they can observe and build familiarity.
Making Improvements to Your SDR Team
Managing strategic sales development across multiple channels is tough.
Effective change management to improve these sales development programs is even harder.
To drive and sustain success, managers need to understand how to effectively identify, strategize, and implement improvements across the SDR team.
Change Is Easier Said Than Done
A lot of managers understand what they should be doing or how to improve their team, but it’s difficult to implement changes, drive adoption, and keep the organization aligned.
Change management is easier said than done.
If SDRs aren’t generating the best results, managers need a reliable process they can use to drive change and continuously improve sales development operations.
Change Needs Management Buy-In
Managers need to reflect on their biases and gaps in knowledge because they can hold the team back on making the changes necessary to grow.
One common mistake managers make is leaning too heavily on one channel because they lack experience or experimentation with other channels.
Leadership and managers need to be open-minded to the changes that best fit their organization and lead the adoption process for the rest of the team.
However, managers must also collaborate with the other leaders in their organization to ensure all relevant stakeholders are aligned, represented, and bought-in on new changes.
Change Needs Buy-In from SDRs
Beyond management, you need rep buy-in as well to make changes stick.
Change often happens on their level, so a poor rollout can cause reps to ignore, resist, or even sabotage new changes. This is especially true when adding new channels.
To ensure reps buy into and adopt the changes you make, involve them in the change management process and individually capture support from reps throughout the rollout.
As buyers evolve, your SDRs have to evolve with them. Sales development is no longer as easy as increasing headcount and throwing reps to cold call endless lists.
Limiting the channels available to SDRs risks creating burnout, reducing performance, and sabotaging their development as sales professionals.
To survive in today’s selling environment, managers need to give SDRs the resources and channels to consistently generate new opportunities with a repeatable process.