Targeting & Prioritizing Leads as an SDR
Lee has proven experience growing and managing high-performance sales teams. A co-founder and former CEO at Reply IO, he’s helped take companies global and accelerate recurring revenue growth in the SaaS space.
Lee is currently the Co-Founder & CEO at Airborne App, the industry’s first Sales Engagement application purpose-built for sales & marketing agencies.
Time is precious in sales.
Among the millions of buyers out there in the world, only a handful are in-market for an organization’s solution at any one time.
Because of this reality, sales development teams have to be laser-focused in who they target and highly-efficient in how they spend their time.
Without this clarity, it’s easy for SDRs to get lost in a sea of conversations, overwhelmed by the mountain of activities piling up, and discouraged by their ability to consistently produce results.
Before an SDR can succeed in their role, they must understand why accounts are being targeted, how to prioritize, and how to manage leads as their pipeline grows.
Before You Start
Before diving into the deep end about targeting and prioritization, it’s important to step back and think about the bigger picture behind the sales development role.
Sales development has always been a challenging function and it’s becoming more difficult as buyers evolve and strategies become more sophisticated.
Despite these challenges, it’s also a very rewarding role for SDRs that can effectively leverage research, technology, and data in the modern era.
Today’s Sales Reality
Attention spans and tolerance are at all-time lows for today’s buyers.
Without clarity around the accounts and people a company wants, it’s easy for SDRs to get overwhelmed and lost on how best to spend their time.
Reps can’t focus on all accounts in their addressable market, so it’s essential for SDRs to spend time with the right leads and prioritize conversations at the right time.
The organization’s leadership should provide the right targeted lists, but the art of prioritization lies with a rep’s ability to optimize time for themselves and their buyers.
Back to Sales Basics
With the right type of buyers in a list, it’s only a matter of time before they move in-market and create a sales opportunity for the organization.
However, one rep can’t handle every account in a list at once. How does an SDR take a targeted list and understand where to focus their time?
This is where the basics of sales comes in handy: any solution should provide true value to a buyer in either time, efficiency, savings, or performance.
Not only should an SDR be relaying these core values in their messaging, they should also be using this information to categorize the leads in their list.
Is a target buyer struggling to get by with enough team capacity? Looking for ways to save money? Craving an innovative solution to boost performance?
Before a rep can review thousands of accounts, they need to know what to look for in a target account to properly prioritize one account among the rest.
The challenge with sales is being able to distinguish the good accounts from the bad accounts and the immediate opportunities from the slow-burners.
Somewhere out there, companies are hitting a tipping point and experiencing the exact pains needed to drive them to purchase a specific solution.
On the same dime, there are millions of other companies that will never be the right fit and would be a waste of space in a list.
As an SDR, it’s essential to gain clarity around what target accounts look like, the stakeholders involved, and how to find information on those prospects.
Understand Your Buyers
Sales teams get plenty of chances to close deals with bad-fit customers.
The purpose of a targeting strategy is to invest time in the best possible buyers while avoiding those that wouldn’t be a good fit.
Most reps should already have a list built for them by their organization, targeting accounts with specific characteristics that make them a great potential customer.
However, don’t overlook the important function of defining a market, building intimate knowledge about buyer personas, and identifying those types of accounts among others.
One way to ramp up into a targeting strategy is by being constantly aware and mindful about why an account is in a list.
Is it a list of small businesses in a specific industry? Did these companies recently receive funding? Do they lack a specific department or function?
Context behind targeting a list is important because today’s buyers expect sellers to have a clear, relevant reason for reaching out. And managers expect SDRs to spend their time with a list wisely.
Every second SDRs spend in one conversation is time that can’t be spent elsewhere, so it’s critical to know what makes a target account valuable.
This context also helps reps understand the different situations, workflows, behaviors, and priorities of their target buyers.
Data is Gold
An SDR needs information to effectively target, prioritize, and engage buyers.
In the past, building lists, doing research, and finding contact info was a manual, pain-staking process. Even when data providers appeared, acquiring the right information was expensive and with questionable quality.
Today, organizations can access, categorize, and collect targeted data sets on specific accounts or people that go well beyond simply a call list.
For any rep to adequately understand their buyers, they need data. Without it, SDRs are stuck doing two jobs: data entry and then sales development.
However, it’s equally important to understand what data is actually valuable. Companies all over the world carry terabytes of excess data points that are either lost, unused, or completely inaccurate.
A website development agency for example might find value from data on what specific site tech an account uses, but this would be worthless to an accounting firm.
Data is endless, which is why it’s important to understand what data matters and how it can help improve the outcomes an SDR produces.
Lead Management Infrastructure
The lists are built. Now what?
An SDR can grab a phone and start calling. They can pull up their inbox and start emailing. They can field inbound conversations.
But once a rep starts doing these activities, how are they managed? What gets tracked? How are leads organized? Who on the team has visibility into the process? How does it all scale within an SDR team?
Before an SDR can effectively evaluate, prioritize, and manage a target list, they need the proper infrastructure to support them.
Whether it’s through software tools, team members, or a dedicated part of their workflow, lead management infrastructure is critical to staying consistent.
The Need for Technology
The sales development role is fast-paced and constantly changing. How could an SDR possibly prioritize their time and manage leads with just a spreadsheet or a list?
So much is involved in managing leads within a sales development process: queueing leads into a cadence, completing manual tasks, research, updating information, handling responses, follow-up tasks, chasing down no-shows, and more.
Every part of an SDR’s workflow contains manual, time-consuming tasks that need to be organized, prioritized, and actioned.
In such a high-velocity environment, every second counts.
Without the right tools, it’s easy for SDRs to get overwhelmed in the day-to-day of the role and let things slip through the cracks.
Technology is a foundational component of today’s sales development function. Places to store and track data. Tools to empower team communication. There is software to automate activities and solutions to manage tasks.
Modern reps are still humans, but technology enables faster, smarter, and better-equipped SDR teams to hit today’s heavy sales targets.
The better a rep is at mastering new software and systems, the more likely they are to accelerate their performance in a sales career.
SDR Technology Stack
Endless software solutions exist for sales and sales development teams.
Some are simple and seamless to adopt. Others impact the entire organization, require an implementation plan, and involve training a team to use it.
Any technology fails without a rep’s buy-in, adoption, and understanding, so it’s important to start with the basics when looking at the SDR technology stack.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): The foundational software for documenting, managing, and tracking sales relationships. Organize, measure, schedule, and take action. Example CRMs include Salesforce or Copper CRM.
Account & Contact List-Building: Tools to target, organize, and access lists of accounts and contacts. Examples include DiscoverOrg or LimeLeads.
Research & Sales Intelligence: Information sources to do research, stay up-to-date on industry news, and gather valuable intelligence on target accounts. Examples include Crunchbase or Owler.
Sales Engagement & Outreach: The core solution where outreach, cadences, and sales development processes are managed. Examples include SalesLoft or ConnectAndSell.
Sales Enablement & Support: Tools to empower SDRs with knowledge sharing, marketing collateral, and skills improvement. Examples include Gong or Highspot.
Team Communication: Software to facilitate efficient communication between reps, peers, management, and leadership. Examples include Slack or Flock.
Trigger Monitoring & Predictive Analytics: Sophisticated data software that analyzes sales intelligence to help reps prioritize leads and improve conversions. Examples include EverString or Datanyze.
These 7 software niches are just a few of the many different solutions out there, so reps should focus on the categories most important to their organization.
Sales Development Playbook
Now that a rep has a list and the technology, where do they start?
Technology is one piece to the puzzle, but it doesn’t teach SDRs how to be better sellers. Without mastery of the process, software simply makes poor work easier.
The reason for a technology stack is to support the rep through automation, better visibility, and improved organization. However, SDRs need a repeatable structure they can rely on to consistently generate the right results.
To ensure an SDR team is effective at managing leads, organizations should have a clear playbook. This playbook educates them on the sales development process, trains them on the technology, and clearly guides their daily activities.
Rather than figure out what the process should look like, playbooks allow SDRs to focus on a workflow that can be regularly measured, compared, and improved.
Some leads respond quickly to outreach. Others take months. Some accounts can become six-figure deals while others are limited in their potential value.
What is the difference in value between one deal versus another?
There simply isn’t enough time to chase down every single deal, which is why prioritization is so important. Every second spent on an account can’t be dedicated to a different account, so SDRs must learn how to spend their time wisely.
Many SDRs spend the same amount of effort on every deal, even when some are unqualified, too early in the buying cycle, or not respecting the rep’s time.
Effective prioritization is about the balance of timing and value: which accounts are the most likely to convert today and how much time is that conversion worth?
Prioritization is About Value
Buyers dictate the amount of time and effort required to close a deal, regardless of how much revenue it produces.
This reality makes sales development difficult because the value of a potential deal isn’t always immediately known. Rather, reps gain a better understanding of their accounts after every research session, touch point, and conversation.
Workdays are often packed full with activities for an SDR, yet most reps have no idea how much their time is worth or how much time they spend on any specific deal.
Without clarity around the value of time, SDRs risk spending too much effort on each account, wasting energy on the wrong deals, and missing opportunities.
As a rep, do the math to figure out what an hour of work time is worth. While this time-value equation depends on business model and comp plan, it’s possible to reverse engineer an SDR’s performance to define a dollar value to their time.
Based on that value, an SDR can optimize their workload to focus on the most valuable activities and accounts available each day.
Prioritization is About Timing
SDRs manage conversations with inbound leads, cold leads, and existing leads in their CRM. Each audience brings different buyers, situations, and conversations.
For example, inbound leads are often further down the sales funnel but tend to create more unqualified deals than an outbound channel.
Meanwhile, outbound leads can be anywhere in the buying cycle but often generate more qualified deals because it’s more targeted than an inbound channel.
Beyond the value of an account, SDRs need to prioritize their time based on an account’s actual position in the buying cycle.
Even a top-tier account could take months to book the first meeting if they’re happily using a competitor, while other accounts are looking to buy this month.
How long would it take to set a productive meeting with one account versus another? Which accounts would convert faster?
To effectively prioritize accounts, reps need to be aware of a buyer’s situation and understand timing. Every second counts, so focus on what’s most efficient today.
Prioritization: SDR Use Case
Let’s create a basic example of an SDR that makes $75,000 in annual on-target earnings (OTE) with a $40,000 base and the rest earned through commissions.
For simplicity, let’s say the company’s average deal size is $10,000 and the rep gets a 5% commission ($500) for every sales qualified opportunity created.
A full-time job for $75,000 per year earns approximately $39 per hour. For 160 hours of time every month, this SDR can generate $6,250 for themselves.
If the rep wants to make $75,000 per year, they need to generate $35,000 in commissions. Let’s do the math on the number of opportunities needed:
$35,000 Variable Comp / $500 per Opportunity = 70 Opportunities
To hit OTE, this SDR would need to generate 70 sales qualified opportunities over the course of a year or a little less than 6 opportunities every month.
This SDR has 160 hours every month to create 6 opportunities, but not all of that time will be spent on those 6 conversations. To reach $75,000 per year, the SDR would need to prioritize their time to ensure they can meet their goal of 6 sales qualified opportunities generated every month.
5 hours spent on a single opportunity would cost $195. Unfortunately, the amount of time spent generating opportunities accrues over time based on the situation and is often difficult to accurately measure.
The maximum amount of time this SDR would want to spend on any opportunity in this example would be 12.8 hours. With a little more math work, this rep could work backwards to understand exactly how best to prioritize time to hit OTE.
Sales is difficult even after an opportunity gets created. Sales development has one of the most important and hardest roles in the buying journey.
Cold conversations. Inbound leads. Marketing lists. SDRs comb through entire markets to find qualified buyers, spark interest, and build momentum towards a future sale.
Because only a handful of buyers out of millions are in-market at any time, SDRs have to be very cautious about who gets targeted and how they spend their time.
When an SDR understands how to target, prioritize, and manage leads, they can better focus on the right conversations and shorten the time it takes to master the role.