Sales managers can attest: Getting an account executive (AE) to pick up the phone as often as they need to for pipeline generation is tough — and costly. It’s much more cost-effective to have dedicated inside sales reps do the majority of this work instead of AEs, who could be using their time closing deals. But you also have to think about structuring the inside sales team to align with the buying cycles of your customer segments. At Salesforce, we split our inside sales team into sales development reps (SDRs) and business development reps (BDRs).
Our SMB pipeline generation tends to be primarily inbound. SMBs tend to do more buying of research online and inform buying decisions via word-of-mouth, and hence tend to respond to online advertising channels such as Facebook or Google ads. The most important variable in converting an inbound lead is time. Studies have shown that you can be six to 10 times more effective in converting a customer if you reach them within the first hour. By creating an inbound optimized around speed to lead, we have been able to maximize conversion of inbound interest.
For midmarket and up, where buying cycles tend to be more complex, we have BDRs who focus on outbound prospecting. Large companies don't tend to respond to digital marketing or advertising very quickly, and BDRs can be more proactive in their outreach. Unlike SDRs, for whom speed is the key variable tied to productivity, activity tends to drive higher activity. By eliminating inbound distractions, we allow the BDRs to do great account-based research and then drive activity across the account to generate demand.
The lesson here is that your sales development team should align with your customer buying processes and be segmented to optimize for the variables most closely linked with productivity.