The State of Sales Development: My Takeaways from TOPO Summit

May 3, 2017 Allie Butters

I had the opportunity to attend TOPO’s 2017 Summit, and, as a new manager of account development reps, I took away a lot of wisdom from the panel of sales development speakers. Below, I’ll share some of the takeaways that I found particularly noteworthy:

Sales Development is having a moment.

“100% of account-based organizations that are meeting or exceeding goals are leveraging sales development.” – TOPO

We’ve all read the research behind the ROI value and growing adoption of account-based sales and marketing in B2B. I found this stat around sales development particularly interesting because it validated my belief that sales development is a crucial piece of the account-based puzzle. At BrightFunnel, we leverage the principals of ABM throughout our full-funnel sales strategy, so I love that sales development is now seen as a strategic and critical function for sales acceleration.

HYBRID is the move.

While the segmented model of separating your account development team into a team of inbound reps and a team of outbound reps has been recommended in the past, several leaders, as well as ones at TOPO, now recommend hybrid as the more productive and scalable model.

The change comes from the realization that inbound is often a result of outbound. When reps are focused on sending personalized outbound messages to their named accounts, and a prospect decides to request a demo rather than respond to the rep’s email, the rep who’s been prospecting that account should receive credit for the meeting. A hybrid account development model enables the fair credit distribution of inbound flow.

Additionally, inbound volume is ever-changing. With a hybrid team, a manager no longer has to worry about the inbound flow affecting the workload of his or her employees. Having personally worked as an inbound rep constantly asking my manager for side projects when lead flow was low, I’m a huge advocate for and have structured the BrightFunnel team as a hybrid model.

It takes a lot of “no’s” to get a “yes”.

It often takes 10 “no’s” before you get a “yes”. Today, managers are starting to assign reps less accounts than they were in the past, and teaching their reps that an account is not irrelevant if they initially say “no.”

This was one of my favorite learnings and a point I want to stress with my team. Thinking back to my first few months as a sales development rep, I bolted from an account when I received a no. It’s essential to learn that there’s typically an entire committee of buyers involved in a solution sale, and any member of that committee can be a point of entry for an opportunity. Plus, circumstances can change quickly within an organization–what might be a nice to have today might be a must-have tomorrow.

Process and orchestration is key.

The number one focus in account development right now is messaging. Historically, and in my own experience as an ADR, cold calls were the golden ticket to what we called “quick wins!” While it was a clear consensus that cold calling is not dead, it was also clear that thoughtful messaging and execution should be first priority.

In order to execute thoughtful and timely prospecting campaigns, account development and marketing need to be closely aligned. Prospects should not receive emails from both ADRs and marketing with the same message on the same day! Surprisingly, this happens far too often.

Following the TOPO Conference, our teams implemented a weekly meeting between myself, our demand generation manager, and our ABM programs manager to discuss weekly campaigns and ensure we have a clear orchestration plan in place.

Enabling your reps.

Playbooks are crucial. Several leaders mentioned the importance of documenting processes as soon as you start in management. Playbooks should be used as more than a ramp tool, and they will become highly important as you scale.

Leaders also stressed the importance of team meetings and transparency. They spoke to the importance of gathering a team together, sharing priorities and process changes, and being transparent about where their goals and metrics are coming from.

Career conversations generate motivation.

A structured career path is often overlooked, but it’s crucial when it comes to fostering a motivated team environment.

I learned that career conversations should take place as soon as a manager/direct report relationship begins. Managers should take the time to understand their reps’ short and long-term career goals, and outline the milestones required to get there.

It’s also highly encouraged to build out levels of promotion within the account development role—examples include senior ADR, enterprise ADR, and team lead.


The key performance metrics that ADR managers were encouraged to track are: daily activities, meetings booked, and speed of lead follow-up. TOPO also presented the metrics that they predict teams will begin to adopt and track: account engagement scoring and target account pipeline.

Account engagement scoring consists of a score assigned to an entire account (rather than a lead) based on the marketing and sales engagement across the account. My team tracks a similar metrics—% of account engaged by marketing. I empower my team to use a section of the BrightFunnel platform that presents a holistic view of all marketing and sales engagement on the account level, which they use for prioritization of their outbound efforts.

Target account pipeline is an interesting one to me. Rather than—or in addition to—tracking overall pipeline, TOPO encourages teams to track pipeline of the accounts their team has pre-selected as their ideal customers and decided to focus their marketing and sales development efforts toward. I’m excited to adopt this metric and compare with our overall pipeline.

Least consensus.

Compensation was without a doubt the topic with the least consensus. While all teams measure the number of net-new meetings, the disconnect stemmed from whether or not additional metrics should factor into comp. Some teams measure and compensate for a percentage of closed business sourced by reps, some teams measure and compensate on activity metrics and speed of lead follow-up, and some teams even compensate for “soft skills.”

Overall, I left the conference with an excitement around the sales/account development space. ADR’s are an incredibly valuable asset to organizations—generating promising pipeline, bridging the gap between sales and marketing, and oftentimes making your organization’s first impression on a customer. Thanks for the knowledge, TOPO—looking forward to the next Summit!

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