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How to Do Tiered Outbound Prospecting for SMB and Mid-Market Targets

Most companies with outbound SDR teams expect reps to do all of their own prospect research. This makes sense for teams selling exclusively to enterprise clients, but it’s an inefficient use of an SDR’s time when their targets are SMB or mid-market companies.

The purpose of an SDR team is to allow your company’s closers to focus exclusively on their job—closing deals. As an SDR manager, my job is to allow the outbound SDRs to focus exclusively on their job—prospecting. At PandaDoc, we have some larger enterprise clients, but our SDRs focus mainly on prospecting into SMB and Mid-Market companies.

One of my goals is to take as many low-value activities as possible off of outbound SDRs’ plates. However, I didn’t want to micromanage reps by dictating their every activity. To accomplish this, I created three “Tiers” that we use to categorize prospects.

Tier 1

If you hire solid reps for your outbound SDR team, then you should give them some autonomy to test ideas and pursue stretch opportunities. At PandaDoc, outbound reps can use up to 20% of their time pursuing any prospects they want.

SDRs generally use their Tier 1 prospecting for the following:

  • Prospecting into enterprise companies

  • Pursuing strategically valuable relationships (logo clients)

  • Testing ideas for new targets (industries, titles, verticals)

I make a point to never set limits on a rep’s autonomy for Tier 1 clients. They have surprised me several times, landing gigantic opportunities in verticals that I assumed were a waste of time.

Tier 2

These are the prospects that yield the most QSOs and should take up the lion’s share of our time (70%). Tier 2 is for prospects who are likely to be the DM and work for all but the most strategically important target companies.

I source all Tier 2 prospect info on behalf of the SDRs. However, they have some say in what targets we pursue as a team. It’s a collaborative effort, but they spend as little time as possible dealing with the raw data. The SDR Manager should be doing this.

This is the part of my strategy that is different from 99% of SDR programs. Most either source a cheap list of phone numbers and tell their SDRs to call or equip them with tools and send them off into the wild blue yonder to do their own research. Both extremes have some heavy disadvantages for our type of sales (SMB, mid-market).

Once the Tier 2 prospect information has been sourced, these prospects receive a mix of emails and phone calls. We apply different strategies depending on a prospect’s title, industry, company size, and other factors.

Tier 3

This is our outbound team’s “air cover.” These are prospects from small companies and those who are unlikely to be decision-makers. SDRs pay no attention to these leads until they respond to an automated email that I send out on their behalf. Tier 3 prospects only require about 10% of an SDR’s time.

All Tier 3 prospects receive automated email sequences with very simple requests like, “can you point me in the direction of whoever handles ______ process at {{company}}?” If a prospect responds with a referral to someone else, the SDR creates a Tier 1 lead for that person.

I outsource almost every part of Tier 3 prospect research. My goal is to create a prospecting engine that runs in the background while we focus on Tier 1 and 2 leads.

Whether you’re an outbound SDR yourself, or you manage an SDR team, I would highly recommend categorizing your activity in a similar way to draw clear frameworks for thinking about how much time to devote to a certain type of prospect in order to maximize your return given a limited resource (an SDR’s time) and a large number of potential prospects (SMB and mid-market companies).


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