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Why Marketing Should own the Sales Development Team

Olin Hyde

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In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, two seasoned marketing experts talk about why marketing should own the sales development team.

Hosts: J. David Green and Jonathan Greene

Topic: Lead Management

Guest(s): David McKie, Vice President of Marketing Operations, Medidata

Subtopic: Oversight of Sales Development Teams

Duration: 14 minutes


Tighter Connection to the Customer

A Sales Culture with the SDR Team Owned by Marketing

How Marketing Scales SDR Teams

The Sales Development Team Rep: a Bridge Between Sales and Marketing


Podcast Transcript



[0:00:03.7] ANNOUNCER:Live, from deep in the heart of Galveston, Texas all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene Show. Here are your hosts, Dave Greenand Jonathan Greene, ready to unlock the mysteries of scaling demand gen. The Green & Greene show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which has reimagined how to find B2B customers at scale.


[0:00:22.5]JG:Love that music; best of the best that we ever made. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Green & Greene Show. As always, I have my partner in crime, mentor and boss, David Green on the call with me today. I’m very grateful to have David McKie also, who is the Vice President of Marketing Operations at Medidata, which makes me want to say Metadata, but that’s not correct. It’s Medidata, correct?

[0:00:47.5]DM:Medidata. That’s correct.

[0:00:49.5]JG:Thank you very much for being with us today. Dave speaks very highly of you and that’s unusual. He usually hates everyone. I’m kidding. He’s a friendly guy.

[0:01:02.4]DM:The check is in the mail.

[0:01:05.6]JG:Welcome to the show. Thank you for being with us.


[0:01:10.0]DG:For anybody who’s hearing this for the first time, David was one of the first ones who did one of these, back when it was only a podcast and we didn’t do the video part. It was really one of the best ones of all the guests I’ve had. I’ve had some really fantastic guests on, but David was one of the best ones and probably the best one. If you care at all about demand gen, he had some very interesting thoughts in one of the earlier ones, if you’d like to tune in to another one.

David, thank you for coming on here. You and I chatted a little bit. One of the things that I thought would be really interesting to this audience would be to talk about the role of the sales development rep, the person following up on leads or they’re prospecting for leads on behalf of a sales rep. You have some points of view about that which I think would be really interesting to our audience, starting with the idea that that should be a marketing function and not a sales function. I’d l love to get your take on that particular topic, if you would.

Tighter Connection to the Customer

[0:02:16.7]DM:Absolutely. Now that you’ve given me a platform to talk, I’ll just keep talking and talking. As I was mentioning to you before, my experience may be a little bit biased, because the companies I have worked at have typically had the sales development rep as part of marketing.

There have been some acquisitions we have made where sales development was part of sales. When I first came to Medidata, we had just transitioned that function into the marketing organization. Having lived in a world where it was firmly embedded in marketing and now being in a world where we’re still trying to bring it together more cohesively, I think there are pros and cons to both sides, although I think that being in marketing brings a lot more rigor and structure to the way the teams do their business.

From what I can see, at least of being a part of sales, there’s a tighter connection to the customer in talking directly to the prospect and how they go about talking to the prospect. In terms of the programmatic approach to how they structure their business, how they decide who they’re going to go after, when, what they’re going to talk about, what initiatives they’re going to run, it’s a very, very different beast when it’s within marketing. I think that within marketing, we bring a lot of rigor and structure that you don’t see when they’re part of a sales organization.

In fact, we’ve been having some discussions internally about what it looks like when you have market development or business development as part of marketing. I would say we’re in the process of trying to build out programs that encompass three things. Before I go into the three things, even the idea of running programs is not something that you typically see in sales.

It tends to be more ad hoc, “Hey, I heard about this. Go talk to that person.” They’re not typically running programs that sit across all the sales development reps within the organization. That’s something we try to do, bring some scale and consistency to how the business development reps approach their work.

How do we do that? We do that in three main ways. The first thing we do is decide what it is we want to go to market with. What kind of a program? What topic? What solution? What pain point are we trying to address? We want to make sure that we have the right content, talk track, collateral, and that it’s all packaged together in a usable format for the business development team.

You don’t always see that marketing creates a lot of content. Oftentimes, it could be in the form of a 60-slide deck. You hand it to the team and say, “Hey, use this.” They’re going to say, “Which part?” The reality is, when folks are on the phone, when they’re trying to get someone’s attention, a 60-slide deck is not the right format for working with this team. That’s much further down the funnel when you’re really engaged with somebody and you’ve really got their interest. That’s the first part. What do you want to talk to them about, or what is the content?

The second part is who are you going to talk to? The one thing I can definitely tell you, even going back to my time at SAP, there was a lot more rigor in the marketing approach for selecting the right accounts. If there was any analytics or data science that was put on top of it, propensity modelling, that was actually incubated out of marketing. You tend to see the marketing operations function as working much more at scale than a sales operations function.

Marketing is able to segment out the right accounts, figure out who are the people you want to put in this program. If you don’t have the people you need to talk to, having a program to go acquire those people is something you do in marketing operations. You don’t typically do that as part of a sales operations function, or at least not in my experience.

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[0:06:42.8]DG:My experience with this is really does align with yours. I’ve often felt, for a lot of different reasons, including the ones you mentioned, that this ought to be a marketing function. It seems it’s more often, in most companies, a sales function. Part of the argument for that is it’s sales-related activity. It needs that sales-winning competitive culture in order for it to be successful. I wonder what your take is on the cultural element of that, where marketing is more collaborative, typically from a cultural standpoint, versus sales where competition is really encouraged between reps, who has the most appointments and all of that sort of thing. What’s your take?

A Sales Culture with the SDR Team Owned by Marketing

[0:07:33.5]DM:We try to foster the same competition when they’re in marketing. Actually, just this past week, we had our commercial kickoff for the year. We awarded President’s Club to three of the team members who drove the most business through the most pipelines through their activities. We try to foster that same sense of competition. The one thing I would say on the sales side of the house, which, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, can be a good thing, is that they’re very independent-minded. “I’m going to do what I need to do with my account to drive business forward.”

Sometimes, especially when you want to run programs at scale, you really need to be getting people rowing in the same direction, doing the same thing. That culture can really inhibit that.

Let me give you an example. Last year, we ran a campaign around a product we call trial assurance. When you run a clinical trial, one of the things you have to do is to make sure the quality of the data you’ve gathered is very high. Otherwise, the FDA will tell you, “Look, we don’t trust this data. We can’t approve this drug based on this.” Our trial assurance product is really about analyzing, using machine learning, analyzing the data to look for anomalies. We ran a program around that.

The reality is, when you run a webinar or you send e-mails out, you have white papers or infographics that people can download, trying to get the sales organization to participate, tracking the fact that they’re actually following up, going through the list of everyone you’ve provided is really, really difficult. You don’t have that culture.

That’s one of the reasons I think you need to pull that function out of sales to really start to incubate that culture of rigor and consistency. Otherwise, you just end up not really knowing what people are doing. That can be problematic.

[0:09:44.1]DG:Yeah, my experience is, if it’s part of sales, every SDR is a little bit of a marketing manager, where they create their own “campaigns”, to do whatever they think they want to do based upon whatever they’ve heard about in the last 20 minutes. It’s never ending. You can’t easily test things, right? If you have a hypothesis that this cadence, or this particular message would work more effectively, it’s very hard to get to the scale where you could get validation and say, “Oh, yeah. It does. This works better than that. I set up an AB split test. That thing is really out the window. You just don’t have the volume.”

How Marketing Scales SDR Teams

[0:10:28.8]DM:That comes to my third point. What does it mean to be part of the program? First, what’s the content? What do you want to talk about? Second, who are you going to talk to? The third, really wrapping the measurement around it, is creating a real program. It’s this idea of now that I have all the accounts and all the people I want to reach out to, how do I track that they’re all being touched in some way? Once you’ve made a decision on whether they’re actually worth following up or it’s going to result in pipeline, we need to be able to track that at scale, so we can get more insight on what’s working, what’s not.

As you mentioned, the way sales operates, there’s no tracking. I think it’s the sad joke about things like CRM and Salesforce. They’re great tools for management, but sales people don’t use them. That’s the reality. We even have situations where salespeople would come back to us and ask us why certain people weren’t being invited to our user conference. The reality was they’d never put them in Salesforce. I don’t know how we were going to invite them, but they don’t connect the dots that way.

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[0:11:45.8]JG:Wait. I want to make sure I understand. You’re saying you have to actually follow through and use the software. Just paying the bill isn’t enough?

[0:11:53.7]DM:Exactly. Yeah. Although, to be honest, with something like Salesforce, there are a lot of usability challenges with it. I think we don’t really put those front and center. I talked earlier about how Salesforce is a very a contact-centric model. Its lead model is contact-centric, whereas we’re trying to move to more of an account-centric lead model.

Then there are other things. I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately with your iPhone. There’s somewhere I go every Sunday night, and I’ll get an alert on my iPhone that basically says, “Hey, traffic is light. It’ll take you 10 minutes to get to your meeting. Do you want to leave now?” You’re getting all these technologies out there that are anticipating what you’re going to do and making it easier to use the technology. I think Salesforce is starting to adopt it, although we haven’t necessarily taken advantage of those kinds of things within Medidata. Not yet, anyways.

[0:12:54.5]DG:Yeah. I think the point around leads versus accounts is a huge one. You’re absolutely right. The best salespeople and sales organizations tend to focus on the account. The account is usually multiple people involved in the most complex decisions, but there you have the lead tab, right? Marketing is starting to catch up with account-based marketing, but the tools aren’t quite there yet, marketing automation, right? It’s the same thing. It’s one lead at a time, nurture them, score the lead. You have to do something different to get an account-based score for that.

[0:13:39.1]DM:Never mind an account-based score, talking about the way Salesforce is set up and why it’s difficult to actually use it, the way they track activities. There is a list of activities, you go in, and you have to go through them one by one. For the longest time, what I’ve been looking for is some dashboard that can show you, in a visual way, all the activities that are happening within the account, something that a salesperson can use rather than scrolling through screen-by-screen.

We talked about trying to put e-mail sends into Salesforce, so that the sales teams could see that. We got Eloqua Profiler, which is a different part of Salesforce nobody goes to look at. Even if we turn it on and actually pump it in, we’re just going to flood the list of activities in the Salesforce database. That becomes unusable.

There are things that the industry is moving in a certain direction with lots of data. We’re bringing together lots more data in one place, but the tools, the underlying infrastructure is not keeping up to make it usable.

[0:14:46.5]DG:That’s a great point. Your concept is for something like activities. There would be some more graphical view that would summarize activities or times or things like that. Is that the idea that you have?

[0:15:00.1]DM:Yeah. Maybe this is a little bit of a plug for an SAP software tool. They were trying to build out a platform where they could capture what they called interaction data. It was an open API. Any type of data that could be considered an interaction with the customer prospect, we pump it in and then we would provide a visualization. It’s like a word cloud of the different topics that the interactions related to, and you could drill into it to understand over a certain timeframe, or within a certain account, or within certain contacts, or certain types of interactions what was actually happening.

The idea is not only to give the salesperson a better view, a more readable view into what’s happening at their account. Ideally, it starts to give them advance notice. “Hey, the people are really starting to look at this product. I need to go and talk to them and set up a meeting.” To me, it would be great if we could do that. I haven’t seen the technology yet that’s capable of doing that.

[0:16:05.9]JG:A little bit of new tourism for you here on the Green & Greene Show. Dave, we probably have five more minutes or so. We do try to keep these short, because Millennial attention spans and whatnot. I’m kidding, Millennials. Don’t be mad at me.

It’s time for parting thoughts. We’ll start with you, Dave Green, and then, Dave McKie, we would love to hear what parting thoughts you have on this topic. I feel like we need to have you back, because I get this sense that you could unpack this for a really long time, and it would all be valuable.

The SDR Team: a Bridge Between Sales and Marketing

[0:16:38.8]DG:I have an expression about this function that it’s a bridge between sales and marketing. I think one of the things that happens when sales and marketing are not on the same page is that they really don’t understand each other. Sales is a very different activity than marketing, which has long timelines and a lot of structure and things like that, ideally. Sales is really one-on-one communication and lots and lots of activities with short shelf lives

The thing I love about this is it helps marketing really understand what’s selling—an aspect of selling, because this is that point when it’s still lots of volume, right? It’s not, “Here are my 10 opportunities that I’m trying to work this quarter or this month.” It’s, “Who am I going to get down the pipe in order to have a meeting with sales? Are they worth it?”

You still have very high volumes, yet it’s still activity-focused with a little bit of a short shelf life. It really does benefit from a lot more structure than I think the typical approach to selling and a lot  less of the individualism that usually is the hallmark of great selling. I would encourage people to revisit this and really think about this as a marketing function, rather than a sales function. Dave?

[0:18:07.0]DM:The thing I like about having the business development function within marketing, you alluded to it, is it really helps to give the marketing organization a sense of the urgency with which the sales teams are operating on a quarterly basis with their quotas and needing to hit their numbers.

In addition to providing the structure and rigor and the volume and scale that marketing can bring to that this function, this function helps marketing understand what’s going on day-to-day and why it’s so important to be waking up every day with a sense of urgency, “We have to hit some numbers today.” That, to me, is really the way you can bring sales and marketing together the best way possible through this function.

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[0:18:53.5]DG:Yeah. I think if you’re really doing this well, there’s a service level agreement between the marketing team that’s handing over leads out of the marketing automation system and this team, and then between this team and sales. You really need to play on both sides of that, to understand these handoff points and have a collaboration with both of these different scenarios in order to not drop too many opportunities on the floor in the process of generating demand. I really would encourage marketing people to revisit this at the senior leadership level and have this function be part of marketing. I think you’ll end up having a lot more success if you do.

[0:19:36.3]JG:Right on. Thanks very much, guys. A lot of value here, a lot of top-level, executive-level insights. If you guys aspire to that level of endeavor in the marketing realm, go get the transcript, dig into it. I’ve learned that there are two ways to learn things: mistakes and mentors. If you’re going to choose mistakes, that’s going to get really expensive. My advice would be to dig into that and also tune in to a future episode when we’ll have Mr. McKie back. Obviously, he’s a very well-taught, a very talented man. Thank you for being with us, sir. We really appreciate it.

[0:20:10.5]DM:Thank you very much.

[0:20:11.7]DG:Thanks, David.

[0:20:12.9]JG:That’s another episode of the Green & Greene Show.


[0:20:14.5]ANNOUNCER:Thank you for tuning into the Green & Greene Show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and want to start a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an e-mail to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides, www.leadcrunch.com.

Links to the prior podcasts with David McKie:

B2B Revenue Attribution:Known and Unknown Contacts in Your CRM

The Evolution of B2B Marketing Operations

Myths About Sales and Marketing Alignment