The role of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) has shifted from the cold-calling days of the past into a multi-channel juggling act. Successful SDRs are able to deliver personalized experiences across channels and leave prospects with a favorable, first impression of their organization. B2B brands such as Terminus, EverString and Dynamic Signal are leveraging SDRs to humanize their marketing efforts and drive customized conversations across new channels, such as video. The results speak for themselves with some companies seeing as much as a 215% increase in response rate.
According to Demand Gen Report research, nearly half of B2B buyers (45%) spend more time researching purchases than they did the year prior and sales representatives have taken on a greater role in the process. In fact, nearly 70% of buyers spoke to and engaged with a sales representative within the first one to three months of their buying journey.
“In most organizations, the SDR team is the lifeblood of demand generation and pipeline creation,” said Ryan Vitello, SDR Manger of Terminus, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “While AI and automation are great hacks for efficiency, buyers are starting to see through that more and more … People want personalized experiences [and] the mentality that someone must have in order to do this role well is that of a hunter — if they don't convert, they don't eat.”
Today's SDRs are struggling more than ever before to establish meaningful connections with prospects and convert them into customers. Research from Sales for Life, a social selling enablement company, shows that the average SDR performs 94 tasks a day, including outreach via email, phone, social media and more. Yet, these activities only create about 14 meaningful conversations.
A recent report from the relationship management platform Sigstr outlines top trends of a modern-day sales development team, with personalization positioned at the top. According to the report, combining personalization with video can be a great way for SDRs to successfully capture the attention of their target audience and start a conversation.
“Five years ago, it would take two to four touchpoints to get to a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but fast forward to now and it takes eight to 12 touches,” said Sarah Harbison, Sales Development Director of Sigstr, a relationship marketing platform, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “I think a lot of that has to do with just the sheer noise and the amount of emails, phone calls and channels that people are being spoken to on today … Personalized video can help you stand out from the noise and humanize the experience.”
Positioning SDRs As The ‘Human’ Element Of Marketing
When leveraged correctly, SDRs can help B2B brands break through to prospects and jumpstart meaningful conversations. Many businesses are therefore moving SDRs from the sales department over to marketing, so they are more knowledgeable around the company’s branding, messaging and content offers. The strategic move can better prepare SDRs for prospecting, increase their effectiveness and drive alignment between marketing and sales.
According to Matt Amundson, VP of Marketing at EverString, the company’s marketing team develops the branding, messaging and content for its target audience, and the SDRs then deliver these messages to prospects with a personal touch.
“There are levels of customization that a marketing department can deliver, but personalization resides with the SDR function,” said Amundson in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “If you’re telling a cohesive story that includes providing value and education to a market, there’s only so much that a marketing department can do in terms of making it about the company or making it about the prospect. So, it’s really the role of the SDR to sort of piggy back off that message and drive it a step further by making it hyper relevant to the prospect.”
Bringing SDRs into marketing can help bridge the ever-elusive gap between sales and marketing. Harbison of Sigstr also believes it’s a key step towards executing effective ABM.
“When I think about more SDR teams moving towards marketing, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that marketers are moving more in the ABM direction,” said Harbison. “As the noise is getting greater, your intentions have to become greater as well. The reason why we move to marketing is because we really need that alignment to our marketing team and with the way that we’re going to market on a daily basis.”
Achieving A Customer-First Approach With Personalized SDR Outreach
At the center of both ABM and SDR success is targeted messaging that is personalized to each prospect. According to the B2B Buyers Survey, nearly 65% of buyers said that whether the sales team demonstrated knowledge of their company and insights into their problems were key factors used to evaluate potential solutions.
Terminus, an account-based marketing platform, centers its SDR strategy around personalization. Since taking this approach, the company has seen about a 40% increase in both open and click-through rates, as well as a 215% spike in response rates.
According to Vitello, Terminus’ SDR team leverages LinkedIn, Twitter and other social channels to better understand prospects and engage in personalized conversations via phone, email and video.
“Personalization is not just saying, ‘I see you did this, that or the other,’ but tying those things that you have researched back to their key initiatives and then packaging the value that your solution provides them,” said Vitello.
For example, Vitello discovered that one prospect was a big Chicago Cubs fan and created a video outlining how Terminus could “make him a champ like Anthony Rizzo.” According to Vitello, it’s small details such as this that help to break down people’s walls and make SDRs appear more human and approachable.
Personalization is also paramount at EverString, where the SDRs are pushed to personalize all outreach to a potential prospect. According to Amundson, marketing provides about 80% of email and voicemail copy. SDRs are then expected to personalize the rest, including every subject line, opening and closing of an email.
“Marketing supplies the talk-track and content strategy, but then we enable the SDR team with that information and allow them as people to take the message and craft it very specifically to who they’re going after,” said Amundson. “The return that we see from our SDRs is so high and so strong that we know we’re doing something that’s working in a way that is far, far more efficient than what we’re seeing in the market.”
Driving Engagement With Personalized Videos That Showcase SDR Sincerity
Experts agree that video is a skill set that will continue to be a priority for top-performing SDRs. Personalized videos have been found to increase open rates by as much as 16X, and HubSpot listed video as the number one skill SDRs must master in 2018 to stay ahead. Still, research from Demand Gen Report shows only 29% of B2B companies are focusing on video in their lead nurturing strategies.
“For the most part, people buy from people,” said Darryl Praill, CMO of the sales enablement platform VanillaSoft, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “When I get a personalized video, I can see the individual, hear them and determine whether they’re sincere and personable or they’re reading a script. Plus, I am much more likely to watch a 60-second video than I am to read a two-paragraph email.”
SDRs can leverage personalized video at any time, but many are finding success by using it early on to introduce themselves to prospects and capture their attention in an otherwise static inbox. According to the 2018 State Of Video Marketing report, videos can act like handshakes — they are a good way to introduce yourself to a prospect and create a positive, first interaction.
“What I've found most successful is to use a personal video on the first outreach to a prospect,” said Dan Wardle, Director of Business Development at Vidyard, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Video immediately builds trust because you can see that the email is not automated and that there is a real human on the other end.”
Dynamic Signal, an employee communication and engagement platform, uses videos to follow up on demo requests, as well as introduce themselves to customers before a meeting or event. According to Lauren Wadsworth, Manager of Global and Enterprise Sales Development at Dynamic Signal, the company sees the highest meeting-to-opportunity conversion rate (66%) for videos, while more than 25% of its booked meetings from last quarter resulted from video outreach.
Video is a vital element of the company’s SDR strategy, but Wadsworth says it is just an extension of the company’s dedication to a customer-first approach. By leveraging personalized outreach and videos, the SDRs are better positioned to leave a positive, first impression with prospects across any channel.
“Everything that we do, all of our follow-up is personalized to them and their business,” said Wadsworth in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “It’s all about them. We realize that we’re interrupting their day when we call, and they don’t owe us anything. So, we really want to walk them through a beautiful, pre-sales journey and give them a favorable impression of our brand.”