SDR Best Practices: Why You Have to Get Them Out of Salesforce (Kind Of)
Tom Stearns, Sales and Marketing Strategy and Training Consultant
Don’t get me wrong, I love Salesforce. It’s fantastic! I’ve been using it forever and even teach a session on it at The Startup Institute. I subscribe to the notion that “if it’s not in Salesforce it doesn’t exist,” and I believe all SDRs should know how to use it. However, over time and countless hours trying to get reps to log their activities, schedule the next ones, and keep that cadence consistent — I’ve found they don’t consistently do it. Saying, “We need the data. You need the process.” doesn’t work.
Then I realized it’s not them, it’s Salesforce. For the process they’re trying to follow, Salesforce is not ideal for SDRs.
SDR best practices require a repeatable, testable process of high-activity sales outreach with the goal of having great conversations that lead to meetings or opportunities. In this role, the rep typically emails, calls, and engages in social 4-20+ times before getting a prospect to convert. Doing this outbound process repeatedly with hundreds of contacts can mean thousands of activities a month. And to be successful, the process needs to be repeatable, consistent, and measurable.
Historically, many followed the process I outline in my “How to manage your sales process efficiently with Salesforce” post.This approach requires manually setting the next task every-time you complete one and remembering what that task should be, when to execute it, what approach to use (call, email or social), and what message to use. That’s pretty challenging for anyone to do consistently.
If you’re trying to understand the effectiveness of your SDR team and you’re using Salesforce alone you’ll most likely find:
The team is inefficient
The process is inconsistent
The data is unreliable
The reporting lacks insight
So what do you do? You need the reps to follow the process. You need that data in Salesforce and you need Salesforce for all the other aspects of selling and managing your relationships.
How to get your SDR team out of Salesforce for their outbound sequencing and into the future of sales technology
This realization isn’t new, and it’s not unique to me. That’s why new companies are popping up in the sales tech sector and creating a new category called Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs). These tools with SDR best practices in mind are specifically designed to enable a repeatable, testable, high-activity outbound sales process for SDR teams in modern account based selling orgs. They’re truly the best of all worlds! SEPs tightly integrate with Salesforce and your email client, while providing analytics and insights into how reps are working.
“When I discovered SEPs I felt my prayers had been answered.”
But, I also learned that SEPs on their own aren’t the magic solution to solve the problems sales teams are facing. However, using the tool effectively and in tight coordination with Salesforce will. If you choose to use a Sales Engagement Platform to get your reps out of Salesforce (my favorite happens to be Outreach) be sure to do the following:
1. Integrate it properly with Salesforce
When you think about how to integrate a new tool with Salesforce, it's important to have a clear understanding of what you purchased and why it’s important for each role. For instance, SEPs are designed to create a more streamlined and intelligent workflow that's simpler for reps to use than Salesforce. You want your SDRs spending their time in your SEP. Salesforce is your ultimate system of record for data — everything your team does in an SEP or other platform syncs back here. Salesforce is a critical part of the sales stack, but it's where your ops team — not your reps — spend their time.
The Salesforce integration itself is pretty straightforward, but be thorough as there are likely integration needs specific to your organization. Two of the most important considerations are the reliability of your sync and the ability to sync bidirectionally. You want Salesforce to be your system of record and your SEP to be where your reps complete their tasks. Just like your SEP needs to pull up-to-date data in real time from Salesforce, changes your reps make in your SEP need to push back to Salesforce. Also, your SEP needs to be able to resolve conflicting data in the two systems intelligently so you don’t lose important data.
Once you nail down the data sync, make sure your SEP can help advance inbound leads (if those are important to your business). Make sure to set up triggers in Salesforce to drive actions in your SEP or alert your reps to high priority new tasks: i.e. a lead over a certain lead score comes inbound. There are other technical considerations your head of Sales Ops needs to consider when evaluating and setting up an SEP (Outreach’s CTO highlights them here). You should make sure your new tool checks all the boxes for your team’s needs. And, definitely make sure your Salesforce admin and Sales Ops leaders are a part of your buying and onboarding process.
2. Develop sequences at the management level
It’s not enough to give your team a tool like this and hope it’ll work. An SEP supports a disciplined and data-driven process. Without one, your team won’t be nearly as effective than just sending emails and maybe logging them into Salesforce. You may have gotten away with less discipline in Salesforce because you can’t really see or measure the results, but with sales engagement, your process or lack of process will be transparent.
A sequence is a series of outbound steps, including calling, emailing, and social touches (i.e. looking at a LinkedIn profile). Thinking through those steps and the timing for each is important. Don’t put that burden solely on the reps to figure out. You can create sequences that your entire team can use, and you can even A/B test sequences or subject lines. All of this ensures consistent and measurable outcomes (more on this shortly). Don’t simply hand this off to the team to figure out without guidance.
3. Train Your Team How to Use it
Obvious, but not always common.
Imagine getting your first smartphone in 2008 and only using it to call or text and not taking the time to learn its most powerful features. That’s what many organizations do with their sales tech. Then they blame the software for not doing what it was advertised to do. You can’t say, “it doesn’t work” if you don’t know how to use it. SEPs are very sophisticated and can do amazing things, but your team needs to be trained thoroughly to get the most out of them.
The best way to train is in stages. Context is important. Get some basic training and then let the team use the new tool sparingly for a while. This will give them context to make future training stick. Then have more advanced training to get them to full speed using all the firepower, and be sure you have training ready for new-hires down the road. Having pre-made sequences, whether created by your team or built into the product, will also help your new reps hit the ground running from day one.
4. Create a Messaging Team
Writing good sales email is a significant challenge every sales org faces. This may fall under sales enablement or marketing, but in my experience, the email messaging support for most sales teams is almost non-existent or it’s way off base. Build out this dedicated function in your org or find 3rd parties to support you. If you’re reaching out to prospects at scale, you don’t want to reach them with a message that doesn’t land — which brings us to...
5. Test, Measure, Improve, Repeat
If you set your team up properly, use a solid Sales Engagement Platform, and have SDR best practices in place, you create the ability to A/B test entire sequences, email messages, and subject lines. Run tests continually, and remember that subject lines and email messaging can get stale quickly. What’s working now may not be working in a few months. Continue to constantly reevaluate and keep improving, using the messages your sales team is already sending as your baseline test.
Salesforce is still the essential CRM every sales org needs, but if you have an outbound team working solely in Salesforce and their email client, you’re going to lack consistency, efficiency, and visibility — not to mention the frustration your team will have. We’ve specialized sales roles and now we can specialize their toolkit. Get your reps out of Salesforce, mostly, and into a Sales Engagement Platform, and when you, do be sure to invest fully in what it takes to make it work well. Great tools alone don’t make great sales teams, but when you use the right ones and use them well, they sure can help.
Tom Stearns has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing in both domestic and international markets, for multinational and start-up companies. He currently consults on sales and marketing strategy, alignment, training and team development.