A few weeks ago I received an email from Jason Lemkin. Jason is often considered the top writer in all of SaaS. His email asked this:

What is the most important metric in all of sales development?

His question got me thinking, “That’s simple, it’s the number of qualified opportunities created.”

But then I started to think about contribution to the pipeline, then revenue.

Finally I realized, I was barking up the wrong tree. Now I’d argue against both of those answers. While obviously we want to generate ops and deals, there’s something out there more indicative of a long-term healthy SDR team.

1. Determining the Important

Ok, so do we look at leading indicators? Such as:

  • Calls to appointments?
  • Number of qualified appointments set?
  • Overall activity?

These are all important, but I’ve got one better for you.

I’ll get to it, but first I want to share an insight from the email marketing industry.

You know this industry. It’s changed the minds of revenue generators (marketers) over the last decade. It’s been one of the most successful sectors of SaaS.

2. The MailChimp Way

There are over 30 companies who have been successful in email marketing, but one stands out in my mind as tops. That company is Mailchimp. Mailchimp turned the industry on its head by being the best company in the word at evangelizing the “opt-in” or “permission based marketing.”

When running campaigns, email marketers have a big decision to make. They have to decide between the following:

A. Email a lot of people, most who have not given you permission (the worst companies do this)

B. Build an opt-in community of people who grant you permission to contact them (the best companies do this)

The best marketers in the world know that people in the A bucket are short-sighted and not planning for the future. And thanks to authors like Seth Godin, we know that permission based marketing is the best way to grow a business for the long-term.

But why?

Opt-in list building is best because there is only one prospect universe.

3. There’s Only One Pie

There are a finite number of potential customers, users, prospects, people on the planet.

The more you trick, blast, approach with the insincerity inherent in non-permission based marketing, the more you harm your brand. There’s only one universe and the best way to approach it is with respect, dignity, honor, personalization, and trust.

Ok, ok, ok, but SDRs cold email and cold call, right?

Some do. Actually many do. Many approach their prospects coldly, with templates, and automation, and robotic outreach.

4. What The Best Do

The best recognize they need to come correct with prospects, when deciding between true messaging or blasting them with cold outreach, they choose the honorable path. They choose it because it’s empathetic, honest and because they will see results in the long run.

We’re talking about the best SDR leaders in the world. Like Steven Broudy at Mulesoft. Steven and his team have aggressive growth goals. They also know their market well. They’ve realized the importance of customization and the downside of full automation.

Personalization and semi-automation works for them. Full automation, would leave scorched earth behind in their prospect world.

In essence, Steven (and the rest of the world’s best SDRs) have figured out the number one metric in sales development: prospect to qualified appointment ratio.

Automation outreach puts thousands in the funnel for tens of results. Personalization puts hundreds in the funnel for tens of results.

5. Automation Fails And Personalization Wins

Personalization leaves all the other prospects untainted by the depersonalized nature of automation. It leaves so much more opportunity for you to reach out to the rest of the prospect universe. It protects your prospects and leaves them ready to receive genuine communication.

Automation outreach is short-sighted. Front-line reps may like it at first because it gets quick results (just like an email blast to 100,000 people who didn’t opt in).

But CEOs, Founders, stakeholders love personalization. Personalization sets the company up for years of loyalty, reputation, and success.

Is your prospecting short-sighted like the majority of sales development teams? Or are you thinking long term like Steven Broudy and the best SDRs on the planet?