“It was the late summer of 2016 when I joined this team, we were a group of six Sales Development Reps (SDRs). We were all brand-new to the role, and still green to sales in general. We had a team lead, whose job was basically cheerleading. The role of ‘manager’ on the Inbound team didn’t exist.”

This is the story we tell to all new hires, to show how quickly we have grown and how far we’ve come.

Fast-forward three years later: I am the manager of Sales Development. I’m now responsible for training, daily coaching, revenue – and my team hitting our numbers – a lot more than just cheerleading!

My inbound sales development team has grown from 6 to 40 in the past 3 years (some of it by way of acquisition with RainKing and ZoomInfo), and our management structure has changed drastically.

Of course, one thing hasn’t changed: The majority of my team is still green to sales.

Scaling the team so quickly has come with it’s own set of challenges (beyond managing 40 different personalities). SDRs are the newest hires in our company.

With so much newness all around, we’ve had to create benchmarks so we can help these reps develop, move up, and know where they stand throughout the day and the month.

We have the following goals for each SDR:

how to create sales process for inbound leads

  • 40 dials per day to inbound leads
  • 90-second “speed to lead” response time
  • Schedule same-day or next-day demos (much higher chance of them showing up)
  • 35% conversion rate of lead to good fit completed demo

These are aggressive numbers, but they provide clear expectations and targets … and we usually hit them.

Here’s how we got there.

Align sales and marketing to boost lead quality

Aligning sales and marketing is extremely important for inbound sales, since 100% of the leads my team works are passed over from marketing.

The best way to find our sweet spot for lead quality is to agree on lead Fit. These are firmographic and demographic identifiers – like industry, company size, and individual title – that we know our sales team can convert effectively.

Once we identified what makes a lead a “good fit,” we addressed lead qualification: What does a lead need to do for us to consider them “qualified”?

It’s different for every company. My team breaks Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs) into two categories:

  • Hot MQLs: People who have requested more information about DiscoverOrg (i.e., to schedule a demo, sample our data, get a quote) and are expecting to hear from us. We call these “hand-raisers.”
  • Warm MQLs: These leads have shown interest in DiscoverOrg through behavior, like reading our blog, visiting our website, downloading content – but they’re not actually requesting more information.

Try one: 7 Quick Wins for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Hot lead qualification

Marketing saves my team a lot of time by filtering out crap on the front end. Because of their efforts, we are able to book demos with more than 50% of inbound leads; and 35% of our inbound leads go on to become opportunities. Marketing uses front-end processes to remove:

  • Free email addresses from Gmail, Yahoo, etc. (We want business addresses only)
  • “Keyboard smashers” and fake or made-up emails (We verify domains)
  • Students (No .edu addresses)
  • Competitors

This cuts out about 10% of bad fits, right off the bat.

My SDRs need to have confidence that the leads they get passed are going to be good fits, so that they get worked as quickly as possible.

Warm lead qualification

Is a “qualified lead” someone who reads one of your blogs? How about if they read five blogs? What if they attended a webinar, or download an ebook?

Inbound lead scoring requires sales and marketing alignmentThere’s no one right answer. But whatever the answer is, both teams have to agree. We’ve changed our lead score model many times in search of the perfect mix.

Our lead scoring is based on data. We analyzed the activities and behaviors that most often led to closed-won revenue (and those that did not) to prioritize the scoring of each of those activities. Not surprisingly, specific pages on our site – like Customer Testimonials or specific product pages – account for the highest likelihood to win.

Beyond website visits, we also score based on actions like email opens, content downloads, webinar registrations.

In addition to a contact’s behavior score, we have a demographic element to our lead scoring model. This is based on some of the criteria mentioned earlier around Fit. We prioritize a contact’s seniority level or area of responsibility based on their likelihood to lead to purchase. A variety of other demographic data points are included in our model, and a lead must hit both an overall lead score and a demographic score threshold, in order to be passed to Sales.

Not surprisingly, warm leads convert at a lower rate, but they are still important to reach because you’re likely getting in front of them earlier in their buying process.

Engaging warm leads is a way for a company’s sales team to influence the purchasing decision sooner.

The key is just knowing the conversion expectations so (again) everyone is aligned.

Speed to sales lead

Another very important metric for us is “speed to lead.”

Within two minutes of filling out a form on DiscoverOrg’s website, I expect my team to reach out with a phone call to those hot hand-raisers. Even faster is better.

We focus on such a quick speed to lead because we are more likely to connect with these people if we are top of mind. InsideSales.com has found that if you reach out within the first 5 minutes of someone filling out a form on your site, your chances of connecting with them increase by 900%.

To make sure my team stays on it’s toes, once every few weeks, we secret shop. Someone here at DiscoverOrg fills out a form, and we test my team to see how quickly they respond, and how well they handle some odd inbound requests.

Response time: Same-day demos

One major reason we have such a high conversion rate – beyond the great job marketing does – is our heavy push for scheduling demos the same day, or the day after after the initial outreach.

schedule same-day demos to increase inbound sales lead conversionThis is because of the much, much, much higher likelihood for those prospects to actually show up.

It’s a bad day when half of the demos we book are 3+ days out.

Just last week, we made a push for Same-Day/Next-Day demos, succeeded in booking over 75% for the same day or next day – and saw our conversion rate (lead to completed demo, again) increase from 33.5% to 35%.

My team avoids open-ended scheduling. A lot of salespeople schedule demos by asking, “What day this week works best?” or “How’s your schedule this week?” By giving them too many options (“some time this week”), prospects get paralyzed and often respond by saying, “Just send me an email with some times.” Or, worse, they lose interest and don’t respond at all.

My team asks, “Do you have time later today?” This forces the prospect to think about their calendar today, or at worst, tomorrow, and helps improve that Same-Day/Next-Day demo.

Finding optimum booking and conversion rates

As our analysis shows, the more dials our outbound SDR team does, the better … until it’s not. Each of our top performers made over 40 dials per day, with 60 dials per person; top performers each made 40+.

Two main points of focus for my team are booking rate and conversion rate. Both are relatively easy to calculate:

  • Booking rate = Demos scheduled / Total leads received
  • Conversion rate = Completed good-fit demos / Total leads received

sales and marketing alignment

Because we have a great relationship with marketing and our process is dialed in, we aim for a 35% conversion rate every month. Last month, we hit 38%.

Inbound lead flow ebbs and flows, and conversion rates change every day. Sometimes we know why (end-of-year is boom time, 4th of July is a bust), and sometimes we don’t … yet.

Ups and downs are part of the business, but without a broader data-driven strategy, we’re selling in the dark.

A year, a promotion, and 15k demos later, I (and DiscoverOrg) have learned a thing or two about converting inbound sales leads:

  • Set measurable benchmarks to evaluate inbound SDR performance
  • Align with Marketing on what a qualified sales lead is
  • Filter out the obviously bad leads to keep your reps focused on the good
  • Call fast. Faster than whatever you think is fast
  • Book the meeting today

And last but not least: Measure, iterate, and measure and iterate some more.

See what DiscoverOrg can do for your sales team – request a demo today!


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Chaz Knauft
About the author

Chaz Knauft

Chaz Knauft is the Manager of Sales Development at DiscoverOrg. He got his BA and MBA from Western Washington University, and has been working in sales and operations for almost a decade.