Last week, Jimmy Forbes, SendGrid’s Manager of Sales Development, joined us in the Bowery Capital studio to share SendGrid’s philosophy on personalizing sales in “Sales Personalization vs. Automation.” Jimmy has built SendGrid’s sales development team from the ground up, scaling and optimizing outbound global sales for the company. As technology continues to influence the next generation of sales professionals, the relationship between automating and personalizing sales continues to be a topic of interest.
Sales development and sales messaging is grounded in a lot of science and metric tracking, yet continues to retain a degree of required artistry. Jimmy’s team at SendGrid, keeping that in mind, developed a sales development framework that respects SDRs and drives conversion rates beyond what any automation algorithm can do. Whereas lead meeting to opportunity conversion rates typically hover around 40%, Jimmy’s team consistently reports figures of up to 90% lead meeting to opportunity conversion. Read on for Jimmy’s tips on how his team achieved such remarkable figures.
1) Empower SDRs w/ Product Expertise
When giving a brief overview of SendGrid, Jimmy was able to quickly point to the platform’s 25 billion emails sent per month for various enterprise clients, as well as their 80,000+ active customers, growth to 300+ employees, and pre-IPO revenue targets. Jimmy’s deep understanding of his company and its product mirrors the product domain expertise each SDR on his team develops over time. Sales automation tools don’t provide this kind of domain expertise. Because they are encouraged to pursue their intellectual curiosity in personalizing sales, SendGrid’s SDRs routinely consult a range of tools including LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Salesforce, Cirrus Insights, BuiltWith, eDataSource (for email metrics), and SendGrid’s own internal wiki. Email is a complex topic, and SendGrid offers a wealth of domain knowledge to its SDRs, including a curated list of common sales talking points. Yet, SDRs are empowered to run with what they’re given and craft their own sales messaging.
2) Instill sales frameworks over cheap tricks
In the past five years, Jimmy has noticed a “Moore’s Law of sales” resulting in an explosion of open-sourced sales playbooks and the publishing of lots of resources for sales employees. As a result of the latest sales trick catching fire and subsequently becoming overused, personalizing sales requires a willingness to pivot sales messaging every 3-6 months in order to drive results. Adhering blindly to an activities-based pipeline runs the risk of continuing to do what everybody else starts doing, with diminishing marginal returns. According to Jimmy, sales development cannot be 100% reduced to science; instead, it continues to be at best 75% science and 25% art. After all, what value does an SDR provide, outside of any automation, without the ability to be actively personalizing sales messaging?
3) Sales is 50% Lead Gen and 50% Talent Development
Jimmy points out that a fresh and hungry SDR can set out to reach out to 30 prospects a day and funnel each of them into an eight-touch outreach sequence. Automation encourages volume and quantity in lead generation, yet oftentimes at the expense of thoughtfulness and quality. If they’re not careful, said SDR will soon become overwhelmed and burnt out by a compounding stack of sales actions they must perform for an ever-increasing list of prospects. Taking the time to prioritize SDR empowerment leads not only to more creative and resonant sales messaging, but also generates long-term value in investing in sales employees.When overeager new hires or red-line focused managers question SendGrid’s approach, the excitement visible in SDRs over personalized sales is enough to pacify them. For Jimmy, squeezing a few marginal percentage points in response rates is not worth an increase in employee churn. Enabling a positive impact on a sales employee’s career development is more valuable than those marginal percentage points, and pays off for the company in the form of higher-performing internal hires familiar with the firm and its sales frameworks.