How to Improve Your Sales Process and Ease SDR-to-AE Lead Transitions

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  • Perfecting the sales process is one of the most effective things a revenue-generating team can do. One of the most crucial aspects of a great process is assigning (and refining) the roles of everyone on the team — from sales development rep to account executive (and anyone who happens to be in between).
  • CybSafe CRO Mike Simmons says customer experience should be at the forefront of any sales process, and that the “handoff” between SDR and AE is the lynchpin of the customer’s buying experience.
  • Mike shares insights about what tasks are best suited to each sales team role, how to best execute the handoff –– and why consistency is what matters most for your clients.

As a sales professional, you live and breathe the process. Your funnel is your friend. Your CRM is your confidante. But your customers aren’t privy to all that. They’re like the chorus in “Hamilton”:

No one really knows how the game is played

The art of the trade

How the sausage gets made

We just assume that it happens … 

Even though they’re usually in the room where it happens (the room where the deal happens, that is), they don’t need to know how the sausage is made. They don’t care about the machinations on your end –– including the handoffs between members of your team –– but they do need a seamless buying experience.

“The customer is the one who is going through the complete journey,” says Mike Simmons, CRO of cyber security and data analytics platform CybSafe and an authority on customer experience. “Our role is to help facilitate that transition, and that happens in a way that reduces risk.”

If that sounds easier said than done… picture a relay race. Any time the baton passes from one runner’s hand to another, there’s a risk it might get dropped. So you should design systems and processes that reduce the chance of the “baton” dropping.

That might be complicated by the new, expanding, or changing roles within your company. SDR, BDR, AE –– they can overlap and sometimes step on each others’ toes. 

Generally, a business development rep might “fit better on the marketing or demand-gen side of the revenue equation,” says Mike. “A sales development rep might fit on the other side. But I don’t worry too much about semantics. I worry more about the experience we’re providing for our customers.” 

And isn’t that what it’s all about?!

Back to the race analogy —  you don’t want customers to feel the clang of a dropped baton.

On an episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Mike talks about the buyer’s journey and how each sales role plays a part in each stage of the process, from prospecting to nurturing and negotiating. He shares his top tips for flawless handoffs every time.

No matter your role, it paves the customer’s path –– so make it smooth

Whether you’re a sales development rep, a business development rep, or an account executive, approach every meeting with a plan. Among the questions you should strive to answer before you call or meet:

  • Who will be in the room? 
  • What are our objectives? 
  • What do we anticipate are their objectives? 
  • What are our desired next steps? 

Establishing your goals is essential –– and so is clarifying the specific tasks of everyone on your team.

At CybSafe, an SDR is responsible for scheduling meetings and “all of the rapport-building stuff,” says Mike. That includes identifying prospects’ unique qualities, as well as finding ways to engage with them. 

SDR

Ideally, their prospects fit an ideal customer profile, meaning they’re part of an organization CybSafe wants to work with, and they’re in a role the company targets.

If the potential buyer demonstrates interest –– even just “some level of curiosity,” the SDR introduces them to an account executive (aka a sales rep). It’s crucial for the AE to be present for the initial introductory call because the AE leads the discovery. 

“They’ll ask the questions,” Mike says. “They’re the traditional questions you would expect anywhere: who, what, why, where, when, how.”

If (for example, in the case of an inbound lead), an SDR engages with a prospect, they can ask some of the same questions.

They make sure to enter that data in their CRM to ensure consistency in client communications across the team. Ideally, it adds up to a seamless experience for buyers. 

SDRs: Embrace and enhance your role

Sometimes we hear sales development reps called “glorified appointment setters.” But if you’re an SDR, you know you’re anything but. So be sure to demonstrate your value to the rest of your team.

Contribute with context

Before every call, talk to the AE about why you were compelled to engage with the prospect, says Mike. 

“Was it because of something they said publicly? Was it because of their role inside the organization and how it’s changed? Was it something they stated on their LinkedIn profile?”

Whatever it is, sharing that context is key. Account execs need to figure out how to frame the conversation, so “getting the connective tissue from the SDR is really helpful,” he adds.

If your team is on Slack, he suggests using it to communicate with the AE while you’re on the call if necessary. It’s all in the interest of streamlining the client’s buying experience.

“You don’t want to create confusion for the customer. If you ask a question, it could disrupt the flow. But you can share information in the background.”

Participate and collaborate  

“When you’re participating in a discovery call, actively listen and help with engagement,” says Mike. “You’re not just there to schedule the call and then disconnect, or do email and look for more prospects … You’ll hear things others may not. That extra set of ears becomes really, really powerful.”

He recommends helping with note-taking, too. In person, it “becomes part of my nonverbal communication,” he says. “I’m demonstrating that I’m actively engaged in the conversation.” 

But he warns against getting too involved in writing. Think of it as a “sketch” as opposed to a detailed drawing. The goals are to gather insight, transfer information and identify patterns –– not record the entire interaction.

Account executives: Prepare, plan, partner

In most organizations, account execs are thought of as the folks who generate revenue. But just because you’re the one who seals deals doesn’t mean you’re not deeply interconnected with others in the sales process.

Go “full-funnel”

One of the best ways to understand how to streamline the customer journey most effectively is to familiarize yourself with every step of the sales process. 

“If you haven’t had experience as a full-funnel rep, figure out a way to get it,” Mike explains. 

“Start prospecting. You know who your ideal customer is. Identify just one company you’d like to do business with and three people inside that organization you’d like to work with. Do the cold outreach on your own, and you’ll get a sense of what works from the perspective of the customer.”

Then –– don’t skip this –– share feedback with the other members of your team, including the sales development reps.

Many SDRs want to move into account executive, account manager, or marketing roles in the future. If you’ve already climbed the ladder, “find opportunities to help them on that path,” says Mike.

Strategy over script

Sales process

Mike is not a fan of developing, or relying on, elaborate scripts.

“A list of questions may land differently depending on who’s delivering it,” he says. 

But it’s important for everyone on a sales team to agree on the kinds of questions to ask and the information they aim to gather. 

He lives by the seven P’s: “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.”

If you collaborate on call planning with your SDR, “you’ll put yourself in a much better position to be successful,” Mike adds. “The process does not have to be long. It can be five or 10 minutes before you get on a call. But don’t just show up and throw up, so to speak.”

Gut check: The customer always comes first

That brings us to his next piece of advice: Stay humble.

“Don’t just come in and try to control the room. Because quite frankly … I don’t care how long you’ve been an account executive or what your experience is. You’re not as good as you think you are.” 

Remember, the person introducing you to a prospect is the SDR. You may think that because you’re the one who closes the deal, you’re the most important person in a meeting. But you’re not –– it’s actually the customer.

They’re the one who’s going through this entire experience. And we’re designing for customer experience.”

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