In B2B sales, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with various metrics and key performance indicators. These include KPIs like the number of calls made, open rate, total pipeline generated, the number of minutes talking with a prospect, and so on. As a result, it can be tough to decipher what’s really important.

Unfortunately, there’s no single, stand-alone metric that we can depend on for sales development excellence and success. Here at AdRoll, we utilize a combination of 3. We aim to use this post to outline a combination of KPIs that will enable sales development representatives (SDRs), and their leaders, to run efficient, effective, and profitable processes. We’ll also briefly discuss how to create a bottom-up model for setting sales targets.

Before diving into these KPIs, let’s quickly run over some terminology:

What is A Funnel?

It’s common to compare the sales journey a prospect takes to a funnel—with marketing generating demand at the top and sales selectively driving the right prospects down through to a conversion point. Of course, these sales funnels will be leaky and you’ll inevitably lose prospects along the way. Marketing and sales departments need to work together to ensure these leaks are filled as quickly as possible.

When fit is identified, we can increase the speed at which the prospects travel through our funnel via intent. The level of intent a prospect demonstrates varies and we try to narrow this down by classifying them as inbound or outbound. At AdRoll, our definition of an inbound prospect is a prospect who performed a marketing activity (signed up for an account, downloaded a whitepaper, etc.) with no sales activity in the previous 30 days. An outbound prospect is everyone else.

Fit vs. Intent

It’s important to note that I don’t elaborate on prospect scoring/weighting in this article and will assume for intents and purposes that marketing and sales are targeting the right prospects (we use Infer for predictive prospect scoring). At AdRoll we do not differentiate at sales development stage by revenue potential, i.e. budget is not discussed. To be clear, the scoring system we have in place measures (i) fit, (ii) potential, (iii) relevancy of contact. If a prospect meets our qualification criteria and is deemed to have the capacity to spend above our required revenue threshold to be a managed account, we then endeavor to get them in front of our industry specialists/account executives. We assess revenue potential through a combination of Alexa and monthly unique site visitors (MUVs).

See here for more info: Why we don’t use B.A.N.T.?

Ok, let’s get to it. Here are the KPIs we utilize:

  1. # Of Prospects Touched (Efficiency)
  2. % Positive Reply Rate (Effectiveness)
  3. % Appointment Acceptance Rate (Salesmanship)

It’s not uncommon for Sales Development Managers to spend a lot of time analyzing the top of the funnel (i.e. # Of Prospects Touched) with little or no attention paid to reply rate and appointment rate. This is where, in our opinion, the real value can be gained. A small percentage point increase in reply rate or appointment rate can have a very significant impact on overall performance. At AdRoll, each of these KPIs triggers a very specific coaching moment. Let’s dive into the details:

1. Number of Prospects Touched

At the top of the funnel, we have both inbound (as described above) and outbound prospects. This means one of two things. Either sales were alerted of a prospect touched by marketing efforts (inbound), or our SDRs targeted prospects in a cold manner as part of a pre-defined account-based selling approach.

Levers Utilized to Improve the Number of Prospects Touched

  •      Process improvements
  •      Tooling improvements
  •      Improved leverage of supporting functions

From here, it boils down to process and tools. Having a clearly defined process for SDRs to follow will lead to increased efficiencies in relation to the total volume of outreach. We define a touch in this outreach as any communication with the targeted prospect, e.g. emails, calls, LinkedIn messages, twitter retweets, and so on. During this process, our SDRs utilize a multi-touch, account-based approach by selectively targeting key influencers within target accounts. 

Training Moment

If the number of prospects being touched is below average, we analyze the processes being utilized and help find efficiency gains. The following should be analyzed:

  1. Process Improvements (it’s easy to be busy in sales, the key question is whether or not we’re busy doing the right things?)
  2. Tooling Improvements (where can we leverage tools to automate repetitive tasks?)
  3. Leveraging Supporting Functions (how can marketing help to ensure we’re talking to the right people at the right time?)

Tools

There are many, many tools on the market to help with automated emailing and sequencing. We use Outreach.io and have a great relationship with Andrew, Manny, Mark, and the rest of the team over there. We were one of their first large customers and it’s been a pleasure seeing their business grow so fast—a perfect example of great people building a great product. Others of note in this space include ToutApp, Salesloft, and SendBloom. We recently started testing Chilipiper for scheduling. They have an integration with Outreach and appear to be extremely feature-rich. I’ll report back in a few weeks once we finish our test period.

2. Positive vs. Negative Reply Rate

This metric is not commonly adopted in a lot of sales organizations, but it’s tremendously important. When taking into account a binary outcome—prospect is interested vs. prospect is not interested—the data alone enables one to drill in on whether various messaging and sequencing approaches are effective.

The alternative approach of spraying as many people as possible in hopes of a positive response is risky. While difficult to tangibly quantify, this can be damaging and unprofitable when lost revenue is factored in from disgruntled prospects.

Levers Utilized To Improve Your Rate Of Positive Replies

  •      Targeting (intent/fit demonstrated)
  •      Channels utilized (email, calls, LinkedIn messages, etc.)
  •      Cadence of outreach (time between communication attempts)
  •      Number of touches (# of times a prospect is contacted over a period of time)
  •      Messaging (personalization, concise, 3rd party validation, value props)

It’s important to note that we measure reply rate at a prospect level and not on email deliveries or number of calls. This means that if we call and/or email 100 prospects and 10 respond our % reply rate is 10%. 

In this regard, deciphering the right number of touches, at the right cadence, is key. Contacting prospects and the wrong time with the wrong messaging will likely generate negative replies. It’s important to sift through and tag replies to learn from both positive and negative responses. Our SDRs utilize an account based approach with different messages and cadences for various stakeholders within an account. Our target prospects are typically in marketing, i.e. CMO, VP of Marketing, Marketing Manager, etc.

Training Moment

If reply rate is below average, we analyze the following:

  • Prospecting approach (are we engaging with the right people at the right time?)
  • Channels utilized (do we have the right blend of calls, emails, etc.?)
  • The cadence of outreach (are we contacting prospects too frequently or not frequently enough?) 
  • The number of touches (how many times do we engage with a prospect before giving up?)

Tools

We utilize Infer to help us with both company and contact targeting. We recently engaged with Zoominfo to provide contact details, which I’m excited about. The messaging and sequence structure (frequency/cadence) is maintained in Outreach.io. Outreach.io also allows us to easily track “sentiments” i.e. whether a reply was positive or negative.

3. Appointment Acceptance Rate:

Meeting acceptance rate is a strong indicator of salesmanship. This is when an initial response from a cold call is “not right now” but the SDR manages to pivot the prospect to “Ok, this sounds like something I should investigate further.” It is here where true salesmanship lies. It’s common to see lower meeting acceptance rates with less tenured SDRs and it’s also common to hear excuses that point towards product failings or “luck.” All great salespeople will tell you that you make your own luck in sales.

We calculate the appointment acceptance rate by dividing the total number of meetings accepted by the total number of replies. The best SDRs can turn an initial “Not sure” into a “Yes.”

Levers Utilized To Improve % Meeting Acceptance:

  •      Objection Handling
  •      Leverage Of Supporting Functions

Training Moment

We recently partnered with Jacco and the Winning By Design team to design, create and roll-out the AdRoll Sales Academy.

Tools

We have recently started using Chorus.ai to record calls and utilize artificial intelligence to identify key moments. We’ve also partnered with PFL to send direct mail during specific moments of sequences. These act as Door Openers for our prospective customers. This mail includes a variety of helpful content to educate and inform our prospects on our offerings.

Conclusion

For each SDR, the average monthly result of the metrics above should be as follows. These numbers are directional and vary depending on where you land between SMB and Enterprise i.e. SMB focused businesses will be higher, Enterprise focused businesses will be lower:

  • # Of Prospects Touched = 500
  • % Reply Rate = 10%
  • % Appointment Acceptance Rate = 20%
  • # Of Appointments = 10
  • # Of Activations = 2

Taking this one step further, the percentage of these appointments that close/activate is a great indicator of the health of the hand-over process and the salesmanship ability on part of the Account Executive.

From here it’s easy to calculate profitability per SDR. You can do this by looking at the average lifetime value of activations divided by fully loaded costs of SDR. A more sophisticated approach is to divide total revenue generated by total loaded costs of all sales folks involved in acquiring the customer with a weighting distributed by number of touches/tasks performed.

These numbers are based on North America only. Interestingly, reply rate and appointment rate vary significantly across EMEA and APAC.

Finally, this model is not for everyone and will vary depending on the number of inbound vs. outbound leads and the size of a target account list. If a company’s product and brand are strong, inbound demand can be higher, which will improve reply rates and appointment rates considerably. I know some companies have the luxury of focusing the majority of their efforts on inbound. But, in reality, this luxury is not common. The competitor landscape plays a role and the volume at which your target prospects are being engaged with by others can make an impact.

I hope you found this useful. I’d love to hear from folks if you have questions or want to chat in more detail about successes and/or challenges of running sales development teams. My contact details are: bor[at]adroll.com.