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SDR/AE Lead Management Processes?

Marketing “oldie” but SDR/AE process newbie here. I'm working on re-vamping our lead management process and am wondering if anyone out there would be willing to share their advice and/or how they do it. Here's some context:

We're a super small team. We outsource SDRs. Our in-house AEs are expected to do their own prospecting. As in, they’re expected to be hunters and anything that comes from SDRs/marketing is gravy. We're using HubSpot sales & marketing hubs (professional level on both). We're not necessarily doing enterprise sales here, we mainly sell into small/mid-sized public/non-profit orgs, but looking to move upstream + scale more efficiently (which is part of the reason for needing the re-org).

Currently, our lead management set-up is super simple. All contacts, no matter what stage, are assigned to the AE based on states in their territory.

From a marketing perspective, contacts are segmented and worked based on lifecycle stage and/or different content/email/online engagement signals. Basically anything that's not an active oppty is sent over to SDRs (outsourced, more on that later) to try to set meetings.

AEs are expected to prospect on their own but are more or less left up to their own devices regarding who to reach out to, when, how, etc. They do get notifications when one of their assigned contacts lands on specific "high intent" pages on the website, downloads content, etc. Most will follow up with those contacts, but usually pretty poorly/generically.

I've very recently taken the SDR function over to marketing from sales. I have one person on staff who came over from sales to marketing as part of this transition who is effectively an SDR manager in charge of managing the outsourced SDR team. The outsourced SDR team is local (not like telemarketing from the Philippines or anything like that—they’re truly SDRs). It’s a pretty high-performing vendor that we’ve been working with on and off for a while and overall we’re happy with them (I can share info with anyone who is interested if you want).

Additionally, SDR manager is also going to start being in charge of basically a strategic account development role themselves. So, working with AEs to develop a strategic accounts list and start going after those accounts very specifically, with the expectation of doing their own prospecting, emailing, calling, etc. to book meetings and open opptys with.

OK, so my main question is: Is anyone willing to share how they assign/segment their contacts between SDRs and AEs, specifically where AEs are expected to be prospecting heavily, so we’re not burning out contacts?

Additional/related questions: Do you only assign a certain segment to AEs and, if so, how do you determine who gets assigned? What accounts and/or contacts are your AEs expected to prospect into vs. SDRs? At what point in the process do you make the ownership switch from SDR to AE? What happens when a contact no-shows a meeting—is it SDR or AE that is responsible for follow-up (or does it depend on the account)?

Do you use any sort of process where an AE can “check out” accounts/contacts for their own prospecting or do they only get what you give them based on your assignment criteria?

I’ve read a bunch of books, articles, etc. on the idea behind SDR & AE relationships, but few discuss it in the context of when AEs are also expected to prospect (though, nearly everyone seems to agree that AEs should be doing at least some prospecting). Any practical/real-world examples and processes are greatly appreciated for this newbie. Thanks!

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    • 1
      Profile picture of Brian Smith Jr
      @bsmith
      ( 735 POINTS )
      1 week, 4 days ago

      Hey! There is a lot to discuss here. It would probably take a much more in-depth conversation. the easiest thing to do is allow your outsourced SDR team to cover as much ground as possible. Provide your AE team with named accounts. So each AE for example has 50 accounts they are responsible for and can use a more account-based prospecting approach with the companies/contacts. All named accounts are off limits for your SDR team. That should help with not burning through contacts and keeping things organized.

      Hope this helps!

      -B

      • 0
        Profile picture of Colin Campbell
        @colin-campbell
        ( 14.6k POINTS )
        1 week, 2 days ago

        Solid feedback. Block and tackle.

      • 0
        Profile picture of kfritch
        @kfritch
        ( 525 POINTS )
        1 week, 1 day ago

        This is great! Thanks so much 🙂 If you don’t mind my asking a follow-up question, do you put a time-limit on the AE’s 50 (or whatever #) accounts? What I’m thinking is, if they’re working 50 accounts and after, so a month or two or however long (and/or maybe a certain number of calls/touchpoints) X% of those accounts haven’t budged, do you have a process for swapping them out for fresh accounts?

    • 0
      Profile picture of Colin Campbell
      @colin-campbell
      ( 14.6k POINTS )
      1 week, 2 days ago

      First, would love to know who you’re using for those outsourced SDRs!

      How to assign/segment their contacts between SDRs and AEs, specifically where AEs are expected to be prospecting heavily, so we’re not burning out contacts?
      @bsmith‘s answer is the right one. @tito-bohrt is also a pro at this and might have a post about it somewhere here on Sales Hacker, or on LinkedIn.

      —–> Do you only assign a certain segment to AEs and, if so, how do you determine who gets assigned?
      Segment -> AEs?

      Yes, probably, depending on your sales process/cycle. If the purchase differs more between segments, do that. If it differs more between industries, and you have AEs with specific industry experience, do that.

      If you do it by segment, look at your AE’s historical close rates by segment (make sure your sample sizes are good. You don’t want to give enterprise to an AE who has a 100% close rate because they got lucky one time) and use that to determine who gets what segments. You’ll also likely need to change comp plans by segment, if the buying processes differ enough between them. As you do this, make sure you take input from your AEs, and get their buy in. Share your reasoning as you build, don’t just spring it on them when you’re done. Reorgs and comp plan changes almost always result in turnover, and the main reason is bad communication.

      —–> At what point in the process do you make the ownership switch from SDR to AE?
      Once the initial meeting is set. Just make sure you’re clear about the expectation there on how you’re setting responsibility for SDRs. Do they just have to set a meeting? Or does it need to be met?

      As for whose responsibility it is to follow up with a no-show. I’d be careful about putting too much effort into this, and it might depend on whether you’re having the SDR attend that first meeting. Since it should be a quick “hey where are ya” email and attempt to reschedule, it shouldn’t matter too much who does it, since it should only be a few minutes. It might not be worth it to chase those too hard.

      Do you use any sort of process where an AE can “check out” accounts/contacts for their own prospecting or do they only get what you give them based on your assignment criteria?
      My own personal opinion is that building the list should be done collaboratively with AEs. The more opportunities sellers are given to buy-in to your processes, the less likely they are to blame the process for any future performance.

    • 0
      Profile picture of Pawel Paluch
      @pawelpal2
      ( 727 POINTS )
      1 week, 1 day ago

      Interesting stuff over here.
      Definitely a place for a longer discussion.

      It is a shame that I can’t put a diagram over here that I have used on my previous event on prospecting, outbound and leadgen but…

      Overall few things that I could think about right now:
      1. Why AE’s are suppose to do prospecting? (We have named dream accounts that our AE’s try to get to, but it is far from heavy prospecting) – it feel’s like burning money to me
      2. SDRs suppose to do the heavy lifting and pass over HQ leads to AEs
      3. SDR should be responsible for meeting schedule for noshows and that should be a metric/kpi that you could contract – we simply return them to SDRs in the CRM with a note
      4. When we have leads in the system that are meant to have a demo – we use the round robin and assign opportunities to each AE based on their availability

      General principle would be:
      Use such a set up that makes sense (genius right?). What I mean is to see how much effort needs to be put in when doing the whole sales cycle from prospect to closed won.
      Next divide this into relevant stages and see which stage take most effort and see where AEs expertise is crucial. That’s the place they should focus their attention to.

      So if you have high ticket sales (ARR $100000 + then you need to leverage high quality and expensive AEs earlier in the process.

      Hope it makes sense to you.

      For example with Livespace.io we work with B2B SMEs where the ARR ~ $17000 which places us in the middle ground between low and high ticket sales. This is why having SDRs makes sense, we work with ~500 new inbound leads a month and we do outbound prospecting with around 1300-1500 HQ prospects. Putting all effort on AEs would be burning cash and wasting their time.

      SDR finish their work with a qualification note (we use MEDDPICC) and a meeting setup (chilipiper) – AEs pick it up, assess quality and disco/demo them.

      Hope this helps a bit 🙂

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