How is sales development like Fight Club?

You do not talk about sales development.

Or, more specifically, many members in the sales development club don’t talk about what is (and isn’t) working in sales development.

Why not? It's the year of sales development. Sales development teams are refining the art of turning raw leads into sales meetings, quickly and at scale. Growth hacking is great, but in B2B markets, you need sales development to bridge the gap between marketing and sales.

So why not talk about it?

Because the sooner everyone is doing the same thing in sales development, the sooner it stops working.

Here’s a great example. The best performing email subject line in the Obama 2012 Campaign was: “Hey.” It was so incongruous to get “Hey” from the President of the United States that people just had to open it to see what it said.

It was an awesome idea.

And it totally doesn’t work anymore. Subject lines containing 'hey' now underperform.

Why? Because tons of salespeople and marketers started sending emails with just "hey" as the subject. And, of course, outright spammers copied it, too.

People have seen it enough times now that they subconsciously recognize it as a ploy.

And that’s the trouble. The next tactic that starts to work for salespeople breaking through the noise will also be copied and hijacked until customers begin to see it as just more noise.

This helps explain all of the seemingly contradictory advice about sales dev. Someone figures out that if you send an executive a request to be referred to the right person, that often works. So this idea starts making the rounds and showing up in blog posts.

But now, some senior execs tell us that they get more than one of these requests per day. So they ignore them all. Now, some recommend that SDRs look for mid-managers and ask for a referral up the chain, the exact opposite of teh other advice.

So, sales development is all about agility and context.

In fact, most sales development managers call their list of tactics a “playbook,” like in football. The analogy is apt, since once the other side figures out your plays, you need to start designing new ones.

This is why the best folks out there offer ideas for your playbook, but emphasize that sales development is not one-size-fits-all. Take a look at The Funnelholic, for example. (At Selligy, this is why we think sales development teams need better tools to figure out which plays are working, and when they begin to taper off.)

So, if you have something that works, don’t talk about it.  It’s worth noting that the Obama campaign didn’t tell us that “Hey” worked until well after the election.

Why? Because the second rule of sales development is:

Don’t talk about sales development. 

About the Author

Headshots-chrisChris van Loben Sels is director, marketing and business development, at Selligy, an AppExchange partner making next-generation sales development applications for companies using Salesforce Sales Cloud. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter: @chrisvls



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