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Sales Development Leadership is a Calling, a Profession with Chris Pham

5 min read
Apr. 25, 2016

Sales development leadership enthusiast, and Sr. Director at Birst, Chris Pham is joining us on the Salesloft blog as part two of a five part series on trends in sales development.

There was a time not too long ago where college football coaches were seen as coaches-in-training for the NFL. College football was a breeding ground, a time for coaches to prove they could produce – that they could run a team.

But as college football matured, it became its own industry, with its own unique challenges. Coaches in the NFL didn’t have to deal with boosters, parents, local high schools, and young professionals early in their development. There was value in the Nick Saban’s of the world, who could identify, recruit, coach, and grow high-school talent into NFL-ready players.sales development leadership

Today, Coach Saban is paid more than most NFL coaches ($7 million a year). College coaches are choosing to stay in their profession for the duration of their careers, regularly turning down coaching vacancies in the NFL. We are entering a similar transition in sales development.

Personally, what drives me is recruiting, teaching, challenging, and witnessing the growth of young professionals. Raw talent, with that internal fire – that chip on their shoulder – is the clay with which sales development leadership works. Sales development leaders bring this talent to the highly lucrative – but under-marketed – profession of enterprise technology sales.

In order to predictably create demand and scale companies, sales development needs professional management, and it should become a profession in and of itself. Traditionally viewed as a temporary position (or passed between functions), there is a dearth of talent in sales development leadership because of its supposed transient nature.

‘Don’t waste your skills in sales development,’ they say.

But that mentality is so wrong because it fundamentally underestimates the impact of the function. The skills needed to be great at sales development management are related to, but very different from, those needed in sales, marketing or operations. And to develop those skills requires an understanding and acceptance that sales development leadership is a career – a calling to develop all-star caliber talent and to build the growth engine in enterprise technology companies.

Sales development managers have the opportunity to impact the growth of the next generation of industry leaders – at a time in their lives when they are most open to learning. Having that impact on their trajectory should drive sales development coaches every day.

*Side Note: The Story of Brigid
One outstanding example of the power of sales development to shape the leaders of tomorrow is the story of a hard-headed but highly motivated SDR out of London, Brigid.

Brigid would always crush her quota and lead the pack – but sometimes to the detriment of bruising others. Together, we worked hard to identify and work on the skills she needed to deliver with excellence while still positively impacting those around her. We spoke about communication styles, emotional intelligence and active listening.

In the succeeding years, Brigid went on to manage a SDR team and then to an enterprise closing role where she continued to kill her quota using the same skills she learned and worked on as an SDR.

A typical Sales coach wouldn’t have the infrastructure or process necessary to bring out the best of someone with such great, but unrefined potential. Most importantly, field Sales leaders don’t have the time. Their need to produce revenue today far outweighs the investment necessary to allow someone like Brigid to become an all-star tomorrow. But sales development does have the time.

Today, Brigid is the #1 AE at MuleSoft.

Just before winning the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, Nick Saban reflected on his development philosophy, “We try to get our guys to focus on what do [they] need to do to be a complete player…where can [they] be the best player three years from now.”

Coach Saban has the time to develop his players into the champions of today, and the professionals of tomorrow. So does sales development. And just like college football coaches, sales development leaders are more than the plays and tactics on the field. They are more than the X’s and O’s, the calls, and emails.

SDR leaders are educators, facilitators, mentors, coaches, team-builders and career launchers… they are the ones shaping the next generation of tech talent and fueling some of the largest companies in the world.

They should be proud to do so.

Sales development leadership has become so specialized that it should become a profession in it’s own right. The power of sales development has been a competitive advantage for SaaS companies for the past decade, but it has now become a necessity as the broader market has adopted the business model. Simply having a sales development team is now table stakes.

To continue to drive a competitive advantage, sales development needs mature and professional leadership. The call is out. Who will respond?

Want a deeper look at the planning process? Start today! Download the first section of our newest playbook trilogy, The Sales Development Playbook: Planning, where we discuss career path and structure, as well as how to efficiently create a process and find data to be successful in your execution.

Download our free white paper and optimize your sales efforts to start crushing your sales development goals today.