Although the idea of Sales Development has been around for over thirty years, it has become mainstream in the sales world in the last fifteen years, thanks to new technologies and advances in business processes.
Speaking of definitions, Sales Development is the department within the organization between marketing and sales that is responsible for the initial phase of the sales process: identifying leads, establishing relationships with them and qualifying them. But to simplify, Sales Development is in charge of arranging meetings between Sales Managers and potential clients who are likely to buy your product. A lead that meets this criteria is called a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and is taken over as such by a Sales Manager, who continues the sales process with them.
A lot of literature related to this field can be found online, but I think that anyone new to this should read Predictable Revenue by the American author Aaron Ross, whose sales philosophy has helped Salesforce become a leader in the CRM market and one of the leading companies in the world. The book discusses how to set up business processes in a systemic and disciplined manner, and concludes that the key to creating productive, modern sales departments lies in specialization. Sales Development specialization is what creates the foundation for continued success.
Business processes vary from company to company, as do the ways to qualify leads, but I will briefly explain how Sales Development works in HSM informatika and how we identify and qualify leads.
What does the Sales Development process look like in HSM?
STEP #1: Creating a potential customer base.
The first step is to agree with the Sales Manager on which segment of the marketing we will address in the coming period. There are a number of criteria for creating a potential customer base and they also depend heavily on personal preferences. In HSM informatika, we use these criteria the most often: geographical area, industry, number of employees and financial indicators. The sources that help us find leads are Bisnode and LinkedIn. Keeping in touch with various business portals is also recommended, as there is always the chance of quality companies passing under the radar. From our experience, we can confirm that we have closed several successful projects this way. Some of the portals I personally regularly follow are job search portals, business portals and specialized portals for specific industries / audiences (for example, MojPosao, Lider, Poslovni.hr, Netokracija…).
STEP #2: Initial contact.
After creating a potential customer base, those same customers need to be contacted. The best way to do this is to try and find out who the decision-makers within the company are. Once you know that, you try to make contact with the person in question. Personally, I prefer to send an e-mail as a first step, outlining the company, myself and why I’m contacting them, as well as requesting the contact information of the person we think is relevant to the conversation. It is very important that the e-mail is short, direct and without redundant information. In most cases, this approach has worked well. If you do not receive the information you are seeking by e-mail, the next step is a direct phone call. Before making a phone call, put a lot of focus on preparing for the conversation. Investigate the company and the person you are contacting in as much detail as possible, to help open a conversation and to gain their trust. Personally, I think it’s better to have one quality phone call than dozens of unsuccessful ones.
STEP #3: Summarizing your potential customer base.
After contacting everyone in our potential customer base, we can immediately see which companies have shown interest in working with us and which companies have not. The interest shown by companies can range from “very interested” to “barely interested”. The bottom line is that we build long-term relationships with each company, including those that have shown minimal interest and to keep in touch periodically. In practice, we had a lot of contacts that initially showed a minor interest and ultimately became our clients. We try to arrange meetings with those who have expressed interest in our services (the first step is usually a video call), in which we discuss their business processes, business needs and how our solution could help them improve their sales process. If, after the meeting, they remain interested, the next step is a meeting that includes a demonstration of our solution. If after the demonstration the potential customer is satisfied with what they’ve seen and if both parties think Salesforce would help their business, then our lead becomes a qualified one and is taken over by the Sales Manager as such.
And in the end…
As I mentioned, the Sales Development process will not necessarily look like this in every company, but it is still very important for every business. Sales Development will accelerate the process of qualifying leads and personal communication will improve their quality, as well as begin building a quality long-term relationships, which opens ups a sea of opportunities for the development of the whole company.