The First-ever Social Sales Development Team

January 12, 2015


A new day has dawned. Today, the Sales Development function emerges into the bright future of social selling and forever changes the way Sales teams introduce themselves to new buyers. To help usher in this new day, I’d like to share the story of the world’s first pure social selling Sales Development team.

In the B2B software world, Sales Development (SD) is the engine that powers new customer acquisition. Sales Development teams are composed of junior sales reps who master the art of making initial contact with new prospective clients, thereby enabling the Sales teams they support to focus on closing deals. The success of the SD function is based on the concept that customer acquisition is a volume game, and that SD can crank this volume on behalf of the Sales team via spamming calls and emails. But these cold tactics are steadily losing their efficacy, as business leaders tune out the cacophony of Sales messages they receive each day. Meanwhile, SD reps are getting lost in the noise. And while social selling offers a warm alternative to the cold call, most Sales leaders struggle to fathom that they can maintain their lifeblood of high SD volume with time-consuming social tactics. The time has come to challenge this thinking.

Over the past two years, I have witnessed the creation of an SD team that generates a high volume of new business opportunities without cold calling or mass emails. The social approach used by this team has delighted our customers and inspired our Sales Development reps. We’ve done this by perfecting a two-part social methodology that any SD team could implement tomorrow.

1. Selling through relationships with speed

One of the biggest consequences of the social selling revolution is the death of the rolodex. In the past, a Sales rep’s success was defined by the names in her address book that she could call on to spark up a conversation. Today, thanks to LinkedIn, that same Sales rep can see and ultimately sell through the combined rolodex of relationships across her entire company. The people who benefit the most from this are the most junior Sales reps, the SDs, since they haven’t yet created a Rolodex of their own. In fact, LinkedIn can serve up all the best connections at the company to the SD at the click of a button. This is a game-changing breakthrough for SD organizations. The catch, of course, is how to achieve this without grinding an SD's high-volume process down with fruitless introductions. The key is to prioritize relationships that will open doors, and use the right tactic to make the most of those connections. Those methods are:

Introduction - The Sales Development rep reaches out to the connection at his company to request an introduction to the prospect. This is by far the surest way to make contact with a new customer, however SDs should be prepared to carefully manage the introduction, since it can be a time-consuming process. Therefore, SDs should ask for these powerful introductions only for those key prospects who are likely to be decision makers or important influencers.

Name drop - This is the lightweight version of the intro, in which the Sales Development rep reaches out directly to the prospect and refers to the connection by name. This could read something like “I see that you are connected to Dominic Archibald. Do you know each other?” This approach is highly effective since prospects are much more likely to engage when one of their own relationships is involved, yet it requires much less legwork than a full introduction.

Simply put, SDs should ask for introductions to the most valuable prospects at their accounts, and otherwise rely heavily on the name drop to reach other contacts who could get them in the door.

2. Social outreach: right brain first, left brain second

When there’s no silver bullet relationship to sell through, SDs can keep their outreach warm by using a social form of outbound messaging. While most cold calls and mail merges fall on deaf ears, a personalized message hits home with high frequency. The issue is that sending individually personalized emails takes more time than pounding through phone numbers on a call list, so the trick is to get it down to a science to maximize the return from the time invested.

In this case, the science we have adapted is that of Neurolinguistics, the study of how the brain comprehends language. A key finding from this discipline is that the brain processes information best when it first connects emotionally (right brain) before it grapples with a logical statement (left brain). Put into practice, we find that outbound messaging is most effective when employing the following two-step sequence.

Right Brain - When contacting a new prospect, the first message should appeal to the emotional side of the brain, by referring to a personal or professional interest gleaned from the prospect’s LinkedIn profile: career passions, school pride, posts and shares, news articles -- even someone’s recommendations. I'd be willing to bet that most people will delete an email from a stranger entitled “Accelerate your Sales pipeline!” without reading it, but might open and read a message with the subject “Loved your recent post about leadership.” Again, LinkedIn (particularly Sales Navigator) makes this possible at speed by serving social triggers like these to the Sales Development rep on a silver platter.

Left Brain - After forging an emotional connection, the second touch should appeal to the person’s logical (left) side of the brain. This message introduces an insight about that person’s profession/company/industry that teaches them something and piques their interest to learn more about your products and services. But here’s the magic: this logic-based message will to resonate much more strongly if one has first made an impression with the prospect’s right brain. Combined, right brain-left brain messaging beats the cold call every day and twice on Monday.

A new day for Sales Development

As we enter this bright era of social selling, I believe that the Sales Development function has the opportunity to pave the way for the Sales profession. After all, the first interaction between a Sales team and a new customer is in the hands of the SD rep. By embracing a social approach like the one described here, Sales Development will ensure that this first impression is a warm one, ultimately leading to an enduring relationship for the company. It’s going to be a beautiful new day.