2021 Forecast: Predictions For Your Sales Development Strategy

Posted by LinkedSelling in B2B Lead Generation & Sales Insights

One thing you can never predict is change. 2020 proved that to be true. For businesses, it means we have to adapt quickly in order to stay afloat because it’s times of volatility and uncertainty that determine who comes out strong. 

Looking at this past year, as businesses got used to virtual working environments, they had to adjust - and fast. Prospects were all the sudden reevaluating their budgets and pulling back. Sales cycles were expanded. Pipelines emptied. That’s the story for some people. 

In fact, in a 2020 survey of over 500 sales leaders, Hubspot found that 40% of the sales leaders surveyed missed revenue targets. For others, depending on a number of factors including what industry you’re in, the story was entirely different. Others kept calling, kept prospecting, and kept getting sales.

How did they do it? And more importantly, what do we need to know headed into 2021 so that our sales teams stay strong, motivated, and meeting (or surpassing) quota? 

That’s what we’ll discuss today. The good news is, even though the experts predict continued changes, at-home working environments, and prolonged social isolation, there is hope. It’ll take conscious effort, creativity, and planning.

Profound disruptions can also cause profound growth. It’s rough though, and frankly, it gives us no choice but to either recede or to push the limits. No industry or company is left untouched. When it comes to how this has affected sales and how businesses can plan proactively for the next quarter (let alone all of 2021), let’s first look at sales development specifically.

In this blog post, we’ll lay-down our predictions for a sales development strategy adapted to the times that delivers quality sales opportunities consistently. You’ll learn:

  • What every sales leader should know about managing their teams in times of prolonged uncertainty and volatility
  • What the best SDR teams are doing - and why
  • How client realities have changed and how that will define your priorities
  • And finally, why the focus for 2021 will be relationships, customization/personalization, and multichannel communication

Interested in learning more?

Schedule a time to talk with our Director of Client Strategy to get more qualified
sales appointments on your teams calendar!

What every sales leader should know about managing their teams in times of prolonged uncertainty and volatility

It Starts With Leadership

Experts predict that we will continue to experience market and economic disruption in 2021.  

Managers take heart! Sales people are arguably the group of people best suited to prosper in this environment because they’re already used to adapting, to fighting negativity, to being creative, and to managing rejection - on the daily. 

What you can do: To help boost sales, your sales teams need a sales growth strategy that will create breakthrough solutions during these demanding times.

That starts with mindset and leadership. Which means you simply need to remind yourself and your team that even when prospects aren’t responding to SDR outreach, that it’s times like these when people step up. Check in with your team with a few questions:

  • “Are my salespeople mentally tough enough to sell in this rapidly shifting economy?”
  • “Do my salespeople have the fire-in-the-belly drive to go after new accounts, even in a virtual selling world?”
  • “Can my salesforce sell higher-margin products and services, when competitors are dropping prices?”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to sales development specifically -

  • Pipelines are longer, so your SDR’s need to keep their chin up and focus on connection, personalization, and education 

Uncertainty brings volatility but it also brings opportunity. To adapt to changing buying cycles, consider moving from an annual planning cycle to a quarterly planning cycle. Teach your SDR’s to account for this when speaking pursuing and communicating with prospects.

  • Make sure your team’s focus is on service, not selling. 

You’re either helping solve problems, or helping people (businesses) achieve their goals. McKinsey Consulting shares that, “Organizations going agile must reimagine themselves around customer journeys, products, and other axes of value creation.” This has never been more true than now. It’s about aligning your process to the buyer journey - and providing what they need when they need it.

  • Business relationships are more important than ever, which means communication and consistent follow-up is more important than ever.

People have “Pandemic fatigue”. Your team has it. Help them find meaning and reconnect with their jobs, colleagues and purpose. Your prospects have it, too. There’s a need for greater empathy and compassion with more human-centered business practices. Make sure your prospects are coming first and that they’re not seen by your team as just numbers in an excel sheet. Practice “humanocracy.”

  • It’s critical to develop a culture of innovation, grit, adaptability, and agility

In a new McKinsey capability-building survey of more than 1,200 global leaders and teams, adaptability was one of the top two capabilities identified by senior executives as crucial for supporting their organizations’ growth and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

This may be easier said than done, but it’s not impossible.To help encourage traits like adaptability in your team, Danita Bye, business advisor and sales leadership expert recently gave a speech titled, “5 Bold Predictions for a Post Covid-19 World that will Impact the Sales Profession Drastically” at the Economic Times Sales Strategy Virtual Summit 2020

What she shares will help sales teams come out ahead as we enter 2021. In just one question she sums up 5 mindsets you need to make sure your team has in order to get through 2021 strong and create breakthrough results:

Get the gears of creative solutions turning when you ask yourself, and get your SDR’s to ask themselves, “What might I do to make a positive impact?”

Doing so embraces what she calls 5 “success mindsets” that we’ll all need going forward:

It’s worth taking the time to dive into each of these and think about how you can incorporate them into your daily work flows. I especially love what she relates about using the word “Might” in questions,

“The Har­vard Business Review in The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use points out the impact of this word.
The “how might we” approach ensures that would-be innovators are asking the right questions and using the best wording.

For those who love neuroscience, adding “might” to a question opens neural pathways and creates new connections. That’s where new ideas, products, and markets are born.”

Interested in learning more?

Schedule a time to talk with our Director of Client Strategy to get more qualified
sales appointments on your teams calendar!

What the best SDR teams are doing

It’s a fact, SDR’s deal daily with rejection, sometimes hundreds of times per day. To succeed in this profession, you need resilience, exceptional conversation skills, as well as listening skills and some really smart sales technology.

The good news is, recent data shows that the sales development departments now produce the largest percentage of the sales pipeline, at 38.3% on average. The Sales department overall followed closely with 37.8%, and Marketing produced 23.8%.

Those are numbers not a lot of people realize and a great argument for why SDR’s are so valuable. They need to be supported with the right tools. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

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Step Up Your MultiChannel Communication

This is obvious, right? 2020 became the year of social isolation and as a necessity, virtual tools ramped up big time. Virtual Communication is slightly different than communication in person however. For one, you have lighting, distractions, and wifi to think about, but when it comes down to it, it’s a replacement for face to face communication if you or if your sales team were used to traveling. When it comes to SDR’s however, they’re already used to relying on phone and email as the primary methods of communication.

The question to ask is, how can we make that communication even more effective?

One answer, thanks to a deep survey from XANT of some of the most productive sales leaders this past year, illustrates the importance of communication with your prospects - as they want to be communicated with.

That entails a few very important things:

  • Using multichannel communications (communicating on several different channels, including, social media, email, and phone)
  • Increasing clarity on knowing your prospects, what they need, want, and how they like to communicate
  • Following a consistent follow-up cadence
  • Try communicating using new means, including sharing videos

Xant.io asked several of 2020’s top performing sales leaders what differences they’re focusing on headed into 2021. Here are a few highlights:

Trish Bertuzzi, Founder & CEO at the Bridge Group, explains the approach her sales team takes to communicate with their prospects, as they want to be communicated with,

“We have done research that shows buyer personas want to be communicated with very differently. Salespeople want you to call them, while marketing people only want email. Salespeople love video, marketing people love white papers. You could go on and on. You need to think omni-channel. Omni-channel communication is one of the biggest trends coming out this year. Not only do you need to build a flawless cadence, you need to build it using the communication method and content strategy that each unique buyer wants to absorb.”

Mario M. Martinez JR. CEO, Founder of Vengreso and Digital Sales Evangelist, talks about taking a multi-channel approach to prospecting, especially using video,

“One of those channels includes the use of video. Using video for sales is critical for ultimate selling success – here’s why. 75% of executives watch business-related online videos every week – and 59% reported that they share work related videos with colleagues weekly. Using video for sales works because it communicates the authenticity of your brand and can create a more lasting “trust” connection with your buyer.”

On this multi-channel strategy, Jeb Blount, CEO of Gravy, says it’s the best way to keep your pipeline full, especially when your communication is sincere and relevant (especially important after months of social isolation). He emphasizes using a multi-strategy that must include phone calls, arguing that prospects today are actually answering the phone MORE, not less:

“Balanced prospecting methodology, in which you are leveraging all prospecting channels: email, phone, social selling, text, networking, chat, networking, and in person prospecting. By balancing your prospecting across all channels, you give yourself the best statistical chance to keep your pipeline full of qualified prospects.

The telephone, however, has always been, and will continue to be the most powerful sales prospecting tool. There is no other tool that will deliver better results, fill your pipeline faster and help you cover more ground in less time than the phone. Prospects today are actually answering the phone MORE, not less. 

People are burned out by impersonal, irrelevant and automated prospecting emails. The fact is that your prospect’s email and social inboxes are getting flooded with spam. Prospects are hungry for something different – a live, authentic, human being.

Double Down On Value

To get the best results, help your team focus on the work that matters most; prioritize, cut bureaucracy, optimize what you already have, and connect to purpose.

This means you’ll want to really question your system of qualifying prospects so that your sales team can focus on speaking with the best prospects. For the rest, develop a consistent follow-up system so that when they’re ready to reach out, your prospects know where to go.

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Client realities have changed. How do you react?

It’s important to recognize that things may not ever go back to “normal.” That’s a good thing. As a business community, we’ve seen incredible innovation and agility. A testament to human grit and innovation. 

A lot has changed. 

  • Your clients need security, they need confidence, and they need to move quickly. 
  • Your clients may have a preference for working with people virtually now, which is much more convenient. 
  • They have been forced to trust more digital sources online now. Many have adjusted their buying cycles. 
  • Their priorities have likely changed - which means that if you’re aligning your sales process to their buyer’s process, your priorities have also changed. 

It comes down to knowing exactly how the events this past year has affected your target market - and how you can address those things and make life and business easier and better for them.

Using an SDR team will allow your sales team to focus more on closing and not so much on prospecting. This will give you great agility in going forward and in creating a multichannel strategy to communicate with your prospects as they’d like to be communicated with.