Experienced-Based Learning for Business Development Reps

Posted by Mike Scher

Apr 29, 2015 11:00:00 AM

The Best Way to Beat the Competition

With the explosion of sales tools and virtual selling, the number of Sales Development Reps or SDRs is rapidly growing.  There is no greater evidence than the popularity of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP).   That group has done great work in raising the profile and professionalism of phone-based sellers.

Sales Development Reps perform arguably one of the most critical functions in a business. shutterstock_130940975 If there are no sales, there is no business.  If there are no leads for the sales team, there are no sales.  At the same time, SDRs are generally comprised of smart, aggressive and articulate people who are just beginning their sales careers. 

What boggles my mind is that companies don’t provide SDRs with the proper guidance, tools AND know-how to drive predictable success.  Typically, SDRs receive a good amount of product training, but they are rarely taught how to master the soft skills necessary to do critical things like navigating accounts, building rapport and delivering value-based messages. 

Great sales people are great communicators.  The SDR position is usually a stepping stone for a career in sales.  For SDRs to become great sales people, they need to communicate effectively.  SDRs want to do a good job and they spend a lot of time wading through on-line content (like this blog) in search of the right answers.

Too often, the lack of well developed communication skills and proven processes lead to frustration on the part of the company, management and most of all, the SDRs.  

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The key to making SDRs effective is to incorporate experience-based learning.  Audio and visual learning opportunities are important, but demonstrating the ability to master actual sales situations is paramount.  Experienced-based learning places an emphasis on direct engagement, and as Confucius stated, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”  

Airline pilots use experienced-based training or simulation to learn how to fly airplanes.  The military uses simulation to master combat situations.  Even golf simulators give players a familiarity with courses they haven’t previously played.

With SDRs, that “simulated” environment is usually the result of role-playing.   I am all for role-playing, but there are three major challenges with this approach.  Role-playing takes a lot of time.  The conductors of the role-play often don’t reflect reality and are generally inconsistent.  Role-plays are difficult to measure objectively.  Imagine if the aforementioned airline pilots role-played in their training the same way we role-play with SDRs?   Would you get on those airplanes?  I think not!

What if you could take the inconsistency out of the process?

What if you could do so in a time efficient way?

What if you could repeat that process for all you current reps and new hires?

You can by doing three simple things:

1.  Itemize all the situations you want to measure:  Examples would be handling objections such as, “We don’t have budget.” or “We are going to develop that internally.”  This can be done by role, job function or solution set.

2.  Develop/document best practices:  For each scenario, develop and document the optimal response and outcome.

3. Objectively measure and score each rep’s practice sessions:  Create a way to score how effective (or ineffective) a rep handled the situation.  Examples are pass/fail or scoring on a 10 point scale where an 80% or above is acceptable.  

Here is what we have done at FRONTLINE Selling.  We teach our own sales people how to prospect and sell using digitized call simulation.  Our sales people use interactive voice response technology -- a simulator takes them though prospecting and selling scenarios just as a flight simulator would navigate a pilot through takeoff and landing.  At the end of each scenario, the system scores the sales person.  Once they pass, they go on to the next scenario.  

After the reps satisfactorily complete all the scenarios, they are ready for “prime time” and (just like the airline pilot) they can handle every situation flawlessly. 

This experience-based learning is time effective because the reps can practice on their own time, and it takes the inconsistency out of the process by removing the bias of individual managers.  Results have been off the charts.  Our reps achieve competency in days versus weeks, months or never.

You already provide audio and visual training for your business development reps, and that’s good.  It’s just not good enough.  Involve them in experienced-based learning and measure their performance.  The results will impress you. 

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Topics: Sales Tips, business development

Open Letter to Sales Enablement

Posted by Mike Scher

Apr 27, 2015 9:05:00 AM


(from a Business Development Rep)

Dear Sales Enablement Professional,

I am writing to you in the desperate hope that you can protect me from myself.  You see, I am a millennial and this is my second job since I graduated from college.

shutterstock_164865716The first job I had sounded really good.  It was a couple of guys who were a little older than I am.They got some funding and had an idea that would change the business world with a new social media platform. It turned out the only systems they sold were to friends of the board members and there were lots of problems. The company struggled. I struggled and had to look for something else.

I found my current job through a friend.  I am confident we have a really cool solution – it solves real business problems and our customers love us.  The work environment is great.  We have a kitchen stocked with snacks, fruit, energy drinks and even beer on Friday. My co-workers are all about my age and a lot of us hang out together.  We formed a softball league and even shoot hoops in the winter.  It’s a great environment . . . except for one thing.

We don’t quite get the direction we need.  Make no mistake; they don’t throw us to the wolves. In reality, it is quite the opposite.   My manager is great. We received extensive product training when I started.  We met all the key executives and learned about marketing, product development -- even finance and billing (that part was boring). 

The issue is the day to day job.  I am a sales development rep.  My job is to find qualified sales opportunities and pass them to the three sales reps I support.  The reps are great to work with, but I get the feeling they expect more.  They are quick to help and give me advice, but the problem is much of the advice is conflicting.  One tells me cold calling is a waste of time.  Another thinks cold calling (like he did back in the day) is the only way. The third thinks I need to blog and troll Twitter and LinkedIn.

I am doing well.  I spend 50% of my time following up on leads and the other 50% cold calling. I am passing about 9 qualified sales appointments each month which is at or near the top of my team.

With all that said, here is where you can help me -- teach me stuff that is proven to work and make it simple.  I will work really hard, but if I have to figure it all out I get frustrated, my manager gets frustrated and the sales reps do not get enough opportunities.

Here are four things you can do:


  1. Teach me stuff that is proven to work - I am only 23 years old:  Surely you know what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t know, just tell me. I understand selling is hard, but I respect you.  If you give me a call script, make sure it is effective.
  2. Help me make sense of the tools:  This is where you can really protect me from myself.  I will always ask for the latest technology.  When I attend a webinar, I immediately want to try new stuff.   If you can reduce the number of tools I use, and show me the most effective way to use them, that would be awesome.

  3. Get your hands dirty: Don’t tell me to do stuff you won’t or can’t do yourself.  It would be great if you can jump in and make calls with us and show us how a 20 year veteran does it.  Believe me, it will go a long way.

  4. Track metrics that I can control and understand:  If you tell me one more time my “connects” are too low, could you for once consider it might be a bad list?  Help me do my job better.  Help me master my situations, but don’t do corny role plays that don’t resemble reality.


I think I am pretty smart.  I am good at using technology and multi-tasking.   I do work hard and want to work hard.  I believe in what we are doing.   Don’t spoil my enthusiasm by asking me to do things that don’t work.

Thanks for understanding.
Your Number One Sales Development Rep

To learn more, download one of our free ebooks today.
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FRONTLINE Selling can help you refine your client communication processes. Contact us today for more information on services that help you prospect more efficiently and close more sales.

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Topics: Sales Tips, business development

The # 1 key to prospecting success: situational fluency

Posted by Mike Scher

Apr 22, 2015 9:22:00 AM

. . . and four things you can do to improve it for your team

Sales development people are inundated with requests from lots of different directions. They have a sales manager that wants them to follow process and update CRM.  shutterstock_149681156They are likely paired with a few field reps that give them “direction” and are constantly vying for their time and attention.  Marketing wants them to follow-up on leads, trade show responses and other campaigns regardless of how valuable (or not) these leads are.

They have to wade through a myriad of tools for sales intelligence, dialers, data capture and email solutions armed with scant training -- and no one in the company really knows how to use them in an optimal fashion.

From a prospecting perspective, they get lots of conflicting information from reading blogs and the typical “tips and tricks” sales training they may get.   These reps are tasked with figuring out which “nuggets” to take away and how best to apply them to their daily job function.  To make matters worse, much of this information is contradictory.   I recently received an email about “The five best sales books in 2014”. One of the books proclaimed, “Cold calling is dead,” and yet the title of another was, “The art and science of cold calling.”

All of this happens BEFORE a single call is even made.   They have inaccurate lists to deal with, CRM systems to manage, value propositions to perfect, phone systems to navigate and administrative assistants (gatekeepers) to deal with.

At FRONTLINE Selling, we have developed the only proven, enterprise-level prospecting solution on the market -- called Staccato™.  Staccato was developed based on the scientific study of 1.8 million outreach efforts across every imaginable vertical market and solution set. Controlling for all other variables, the study revealed that the number one attribute that separated the good from everyone else was situational fluency.  Notice I didn’t say product knowledge or command of content.

Situational fluency is the ability to maintain command and control of each interaction and execute your prospecting strategy. This means managing every dialogue (be it with the administrative assistant, key player/decision maker, receptionist, etc.) and getting the most out of each discussion.

The difference between “good” and everyone else is dramatic.   Reps that are situationally fluent perform at 2X-3X those who are not.   What is the difference between getting 8-12 appointments per month and 20-25?   Answer:  situational fluency.

Here are four steps your team can take to become situationally fluent and increase prospecting outcomes.

1.  Take Situational Inventory - To create situational fluency, you must first define all the scenarios a rep would face.  The good news is there are surprisingly few.

2.  Architect Best Practices – There is a right way to do something and every other way.  Once you have defined all the scenarios, you need to develop the best practices for each scenario. A common scenario, for example is reaching a key player’s voice mail.   To establish best practices for this scenario, you’ll need to evaluate a range of questions/options such as:

  • Should your rep leave a message?    
  • If yes, what are the circumstances to leave that message?
  • What message should they leave?
  • How long/short should it be?
  • How do you document that in CRM?
  • When would you follow-up?  
  • How often?
  • How many times?

3.  Practice Like You Play – Role-plays are effective ONLY if they closely approximate reality and they are consistent.  The person playing the prospect must act like a prospect and not a caricature of a prospect.

If it isn’t a real and honest role-play, it won’t be effective to drive situational fluency. In Staccato, we utilize a digitized call simulator with interactive voice-response technology that mimics the scenarios a rep will face. It scores the rep in an objective fashion eliminating natural human bias.

4.  Measure and Coach – Inspect what you expect.  The best coaching of situational fluency goes well beyond the typical activity-based metrics -- you know, the obligatory “dials”, “connects” and “talk time”. It focuses more on the metrics that indicate the quality of outreach, for example, are your reps leveraging multiple touches to multiple people in an account?  

There are many tools available for sales development people.  The challenge is figuring out where, how and if they all fit. The manager of a large business development team recently confided that too many tools with too many options have been introduced resulting in a reduction in productivity for his team. He quipped, “We are like a golfer with a bad swing who goes out and buys new clubs.   The clubs aren’t the problem; it’s the golfer!”

Just like the golfer needs to learn how to hit all the shots, your team needs the situational fluency to handle all the scenarios they face; and to handle them flawlessly.

To learn more, download one of our eBooks by clicking here.

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FRONTLINE Selling can help you refine your client communication processes. Contact us today for more information on services that help you prospect more efficiently and close more sales.

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Topics: Sales Tips, prospecting, business development

AA-ISP Inside Sales Leadership Summit 2015

Posted by Fran Runner

Apr 21, 2015 11:09:00 AM

We are so excited to be a sponsor of AA-ISP Leadership Summit this year.  The 7th Annual AA-ISP Inside Sales Leadership Summit is on April 21st and 22nd will be held at the beautiful Hyatt Regency O'Hare, just minutes from O'Hare International Airport.  The 2015 Summit will feature all-new presentations and panel discussions from over 75 of the nation's leading Inside Sales Experts including our CEO, Mike Scher. Mike will be hosting a breakout session titled:  "Teach Your Team To Get An Appointment With Anyone” today at 2:00 PM.  

Think about it, if each member of your sales team could convert more leads and target accounts into appointments, would it impact your bottom line?  What about if each one of those conversations was with a decision maker?  Would that be even better? What if your team could double or even triple their current conversion rate? 

Mike will show you exactly how to make it happen in just three proven steps.  It’s predictable, teachable and repeatable. And, it’s measurable – you’ll have the opportunity to see a demonstration right on stage.

Also, come visit the FRONTLINE Selling booth (#19) to receive a free prospecting assessment for your sales team and receive a chance to win an iPad mini.  

AA-ISP Leadership Summit - Chicago
April 21-22 at Hyatt Regency O'Hare at Rosemont, IL

We look forward to meeting you there!

If you are not at the Leadership Summit but would like a free assessment click below.

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Topics: Sales Tips, business development

Appointment Setting: Even my dog knows you aren’t good at it… yet

Posted by Chris Duncan

Apr 16, 2015 8:30:00 AM

Meet Bailey. She is my adorable, quirky and loveable ball of fur. Although from outward appearances it may not seem like it, she can do all the things that your sales team can. dogBailey can sit, speak and even shake, but just like your reps, she’s not very good at getting sales appointments. There’s good news though! Unlike Bailey, your team can improve using a simple process that will unleash (pun intended) your appointment setting capability.

Instead of simply chasing their tails all day long or barking up the wrong trees, what if your team could turn 200% or 300%, more leads into qualified first sales appointments? What if they had the answer to their daily questions of, “Who do I call?”, When do I call them?”, “How often?” and “Why”? Lastly, what if they were able to avoid the distractions of every passing car (insert objection here) and stay laser focused?

Taking the guesswork out of prospecting is what FRONTLINE Selling does every day for hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of sales reps worldwide. These reps leverage our proprietary methodology and technology called Staccato™ to get more meaningful first conversations with people who are genuinely interested in speaking to them. They do not wait around for “treats” (MQL’s,SQL’s and hand raisers) to fall in their lap, because they don’t have to. They also don’t play dead or do tricks when dealing with administrative assistants, but rather let them take them on a “walk” through the company.

Call us today to find out more and see that prospecting isn’t so “ruff”.

P.S. I’m out of dog puns….

Download this free ebook now detailing how you can Dominate Your Sales Pipeline today.

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Topics: Prospecting Tips, Sales Tips


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