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How Snowflake leads a next-gen sales development organization

July 11, 2023
Dan Morgese

Dan Morgese

Director, Content Strategy and Research

Generative AI. Tech consolidation. Rep productivity. 

All of these topics are top of mind for sales leadership in 2023, but what does the future of a high-performing sales development organization actually look like? 

During Gong’s last webinar, Lars Nilsson, VP of Global Sales Development at Snowflake chatted with Udi Ledergor about his journey, growing his team from 85 to over 250 SDRs and contributing 60-70% of Snowflake’s overall pipeline generation. 

Here are four takeaways from the session on what it takes to lead a next-gen sales development organization. 

Optimize your team’s process, technology, and tools

Gong’s recent State of Sales Engagement study identified that one of the largest challenges sellers face is having to switch between an overwhelming number of tools to complete their daily selling activities. This context-switching kills productivity and impacts an organization’s bottom line by both bloating spend and reducing revenue. 

Lars mentions that the unfortunate truth is that within every sales organization, there is an overwhelming amount of “technical and process debt.” In short, these are the costs associated with an inefficient or ineffective use of the tools teams are given to complete their selling activities. 

One way Snowflake has minimized this technical debt for their sales development team is by creating a distinct function to tackle this issue. This Sales Development Operations group oversees the selection and rollout of new technologies as well as the onboarding, training, and ongoing enablement of their SDRs. 

This oversight minimizes shelfware and reinforces what best-in-class workflows look like within each of the large investments Snowflake makes in technology for their reps. 

Creating a central team to own tech optimization ensures your sellers have what they need to be successful and how to effectively use it. 

Develop best-in-class engagement strategies

In the same Gong study, we found that the average SDR spends 12 hours each week personalizing their engagement with buyers. The unfortunate reality is that even with all of this effort, email reply rates still fall around a low 3%. 

Lars credits the success of his team on the “crawl, walk, run” strategy they’ve taken to personalization. 

When a new SDR is onboarded at Snowflake, they are given templates, scripts, and personalization approaches that have been proven to work. After effectively leveraging these tools and learning how to engage their target buyers, Lars and his leadership team begin to give reps more freedom to take their own approaches in creating their outreach. 

This maturity curve ensures that reps develop good habits, develop an intimate understanding of their personas, and learn from their more tenured peers what works and what doesn’t. He mentions revenue intelligence has played a major role in sharing these best practices across his global team, developing a library of “hall of fame” conversations his team can learn from. 

Gaining visibility into your seller’s personalization tactics allows you as a leader to set guidelines around selling strategies. This helps answer questions like: When is deep, time-consuming personalization really worth it? When should we take advantage of our approaches that scale?

Embrace generative AI and identify use cases

Whether part of their existing tech stack or looking to open source tools, most teams are already adopting generative AI in 2023. Snowflake is no exception. 

Lars’ operations team has always believed in solid foundations of outbound prospecting sequences and has doubled down on that investment in the age of generative AI.  By aligning the sequence step framework with targeted persona-based messaging, they maintain clear expectations across the team for daily activity metrics while also allowing for generative AI customizations by their 250+ person team. This also helps their team avoid the creation of thousands of rarely used sequences (made by individual SDRs) and transition to a centralized system of content everyone can experiment with.

Another implementation at the team level has been translation. As a global organization, Snowflake used generative AI to localize its outreach and content ensuring its messaging and value propositions landed with buyers around the world.  

Last, for individual reps there is tremendous value in expediting persona- or individual-based research to identify priorities, pain points, and initiatives of prospects and accounts. However, Lars acknowledged that the next step is to understand the security and compliance implications of his team leveraging this new powerful technology. 

In the next few months, he’ll be further evaluating his team’s use of generative AI to understand intellectual property considerations and other organizational concerns in using publicly available tools. 

Enable account-based selling 

Getting deeper and wider into accounts has never been more important. With an increasing number of buyers involved in purchase decisions and a surge in executive involvement, SDRs need to develop new skills to engage multiple contacts simultaneously to effectively orchestrate their opportunities. 

Two approaches Lars enables for his team are bottom-up account-based selling and account-based referrals. 

The first approach involves conducting discovery with a lower-level (and often easier-to-reach) contact at the account. This helps sellers understand what will ultimately resonate with the executives and decision-makers they’re trying to reach. 

The referral tactic allows SDRs to connect with the right individuals within the account based on the recommendations of other contacts they’ve already engaged with. For both of these approaches, Lars has developed data-backed templates sellers can use to create and accelerate more pipeline. 

Gong Engage users can access Lars’s high-performing email templates along with dozens of others from the industry’s top sales pros. 

As we start the second half of 2023, leaders have an enormous opportunity ahead of them. Leverage Lars’s learnings to transform your organization and close the year stronger than ever.

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