How to standardize your sales development funnel

Posted August 30, 2018

I recently spoke with an SDR leader who knew she needed additional headcount to hit upcoming goals, but had no idea how to justify it to her executive team. She knew instinctively that her current team of about a dozen SDRs wouldn’t be able to hit the next quarter’s pipeline goal, but she just couldn’t justify it using hard metrics.

Roughly a quarter of her SDRs conducted all of their outbound prospecting via LinkedIn. Of the remaining reps, most relied primarily on email while a few hit the phones hard. This inconsistency led to a few reps crushing their goals while the rest struggled to keep up. She found it impossible to gauge the skill level of reps based on their performance when they all employed different strategies. That doesn’t scale.

This is a common story in SDR land. Few teams have built the infrastructure necessary to connect effort to outcomes. Instead, they rely on vanity metrics like email open and response rates.

Until recently, Sales Development has not had a seat at the proverbial table, so the pressure to provide data to back up strategic decisions has not existed. However, this is changing as more and more Sales Development leaders—myself included—report directly to C-level executives (usually CRO or CEO).

There are two simple steps to understanding and measuring your Sales Development funnel:

  1. Clearly define how Accounts and Contacts enter your funnel.
  2. Use outbound automation to ensure every account requires the same amount of effort to move it through the funnel.

Define The Top of Your Funnel

Clearly defining what it means for a prospect to enter the funnel is a must. For the SDR team at SmartRecruiters, we created a concept called “Activation”. Once an Account or Contact is activated, they have entered our outbound SDR funnel.

The definitions of activation for contacts and accounts are clear and simple. This makes them easy to understand and track within Salesforce.

For keeping track of activation, we use a tool called Rollup Helper. It allows us to automatically mark accounts and contacts as activated and get other valuable insights via Salesforce reports. I’ll dive deeper into how we use Rollup Helper and Salesforce together in the next post.

Standardize Outbound Effort

Now that you know what it means for a company to enter your outbound funnel, the next step is to create a template for outbound prospecting that is applied to every target. I use the word template because the messaging and content can change, but number and types of activities should always remain the same.

In order to make sure that reps adhere to the outbound template, we use sequences in Outreach. A sequence is a series of touch points (activities) that are managed within Outreach to ensure that reps follow up at predetermined intervals. One of our sequences is our activity template. It is a blank sequence that serves as a skeleton into which we add content:

Consistent follow-up is only part of sequences’ value. They are also a great way to control the resources required for a prospect to move through your funnel.

Here is an example using one of SmartRecruiters’ funnels:

Knowing that each account activation requires 120 activities makes resource planning possible. Now that you know what an activation costs in terms of bandwidth, you can reconcile your two funnels (accounts and activities).

Here’s a visual that will help you explain how to reconcile the two funnels. In this example, your VP of Sales asked you, “How many SDRs do we need to have in order to generate $1m in outbound pipe next quarter?”:

Understanding the funnel metrics is important, but that knowledge is only valuable if you can measure every piece of your funnel. Guessing the metrics in the chart above is a mistake. Proper planning requires understanding the average numbers across both of your funnels.

Understanding what’s really happening in your SDR Activity Funnel is especially important. Just because your template has 20 activities, that doesn’t mean that every prospect will receive 20 touches. Prospects fall out of your funnel for lots of reasons—they may respond to your outreach, agree to a meeting, or opt out mid-sequence.

Building the infrastructure necessary to track everything in the chart above can be challenging, but in the next installment of this series, I’ll show you exactly how to do it.


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