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The future of sales development

September 22, 2021

Last month, we shared an article from inspirational sales consultant and thought leader, Collin Cadmus.

In it, he identified why outbound sales is broken - and outlined some steps to fix it.

The blog proved to be very popular, sparking some debate on Cognism’s social media. So, we booked in more time with Collin.

This time, we wanted to hear about his thoughts on the future of sales development - what’s going wrong with it and how it needs to change.

Scroll 👇 to read our Q&A with Collin. Starting with...

Is cold calling dead?

No - but we’re killing it!

The cold hard fact is that most people don’t want to receive a cold call. There’s a default feature in phones now to block numbers that aren’t saved to your phone.

That’s a loud announcement to salespeople. “Please stop calling us!”

If you look at the history, the first-ever cold call was made in 1873. The phone itself wasn’t patented until 1876. Salespeople were early adopters of this new technology - but the process hasn’t evolved in over 100 years.

Fast forward to 2021. What’s changed?

The success rate of cold calling is anywhere between 1-10%. And that’s just the connect rate - it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re booking a meeting.

Even over the last 10 years, success rates have been declining steadily. If you think back to those cold callers in the 1800s, they probably had almost 100% success rates! But back then the phone was new, it was exciting. People with phones wanted to answer them.

That isn’t the case nowadays. If you’re picking up the phone in 2021 and calling someone who has no idea about your brand, your chances of success are just so enormously low.

Why is this happening?

In my opinion, it’s because salespeople have become accustomed to doing what they’re taught. All we’re doing is repeating ourselves, with greatly diminishing returns.

Sure, we’ve innovated a bit. We’ve started using tools and tech. We’ve brought emails and social selling into our cadences. But really not much has changed in the process.

Take a look at the inbound model. It’s evolved hugely in the last 10 years. There are things like retargeting, lead nurturing and pinpointing buyer intent. Those are all relatively new innovations.

In contrast, the outbound model hasn’t changed and all it’s doing is performing at a lower rate every year.

The reason for that is something that’s really obvious, but no one in B2B sales talks about:

People don’t like it!

Prospects don’t want that cold solicitation and too many companies are doing it at too high a volume. Automation has just made it easier to increase call volume, but it’s still rare for someone to even answer a cold call.

Why are we investing so much money in making our first impression on these prospective customers such an off-putting experience?

I think it’s time to think differently.

How do people want to discover products?

Look again at the inbound model for any product or service. I think that shows you how people want to discover them.

Let’s go back to the 1800s. Back then, if you wanted to buy a product, you’d go to a salesperson. They were like consultants, trusted advisors for people. They had the knowledge that others didn’t have.

But in the 21st century, what do people do?

They turn to the internet first.

People don’t go to a salesperson first for their first dose of information on a problem or a product. They go to the internet.

It works outside of sales - if you have a cough, are you going to your doctor first? Or are you going to Google?

Of course you’re going to Google! We’ve all done it, because:

  1. It’s easier.
  2. It’s faster.
  3. You don’t have to deal with human interaction.
  4. If you don’t like the information you get, you can run another search!

Smartphones and the internet have just become extensions of our brains. So the way people discover products and solutions is going to be internet-first.

Outbound sales - the idea of calling someone who’s never heard of you before - doesn’t align with this.

Today, people research companies and brands thoroughly. By the time they speak to a salesperson, they’re already 80% of the way through the decision-making process.

The psychology of discovering a brand doesn’t match what companies are telling their salespeople to do.

SaaS sales leaders always talk about their culture and ethics. It’s all about having empathy and maintaining great customer service - but then on the sales floor, they’re telling their reps:

“Go interrupt everyone’s day! Don’t stop calling them! Send them more emails! Let’s get tools to fake personalisation! Let’s deceive our prospects and make them think that we typed this email.”

All we’ve done is just look for hacks and ways to deceive our prospects. And that’s led to a loss of trust across the industry. if you’re talking to someone you know has a financial incentive to sell you something, it’s hard to trust them.

And if you think about that alongside call blocks on phones and spam blocks on email, we’re on the edge of not being able to get through to people at all.

But I don’t think it’s time to give up just yet. There are a few things we can do to turn this around.


How should the SDR role evolve?

I’ve identified where people find brands in today’s economy - on the internet.

And where are people spending most of their time online? On social media. People spend an average of 2.5 hours a day on it.

Now think about where SDRs spend most of their time. Most of their working day is spent on the phone.

Why are SDRs spending all their time on a channel where their prospects don’t want to be?

We know that people want and love content. They search for and engage with it all day long.

Here’s a thought for all the sales leaders out there: we’re not creating enough of it and marketing can’t do it all. The SDR team has to be involved in content creation and distribution.

That’s where I see the future of sales development going. The SDR will become more of a marketing function.

We’ll be bringing salespeople into entry-level roles, and we’ll be teaching them things like B2B marketing and personal branding. We’ll be helping them to establish their personal brands, create content and build a community around themselves and their industry.

I’ve seen for myself the enormous difference this approach can make.

Some time ago, I tested posting my own content every day for 30 days. I was surprised at the traction; my organic reach was massive, so I decided to go all-in and make content the bedrock of my sales strategy.

By delivering value without actively selling anything, you’re setting yourself up as trustworthy. People will come to you to solve their problems. You actually end up selling more, because people know you and respect you.

And if you’re not sure where to start, there are 3 things that helped me in the early days:

1 - Start engaging with your prospects’ content

Like, comment on and share your prospects’ posts! Don’t try to sell them anything. Just be natural.

It builds rapport and helps you understand their personality and company culture. It will also give you ideas for creating content of your own.

2 - Start following thought leaders and decision-makers

Almost everyone in any B2B company is on LinkedIn now and is reasonably active on it.

LinkedIn is a great knowledge hub as well as a platform for selling. So use it! Follow high-level people in your industry and learn from them. Study their posts. What gets them such high engagement? Copy their ideas, but make them authentically yours.

What value can you deliver that no one else can?

3 - Just start posting!

This is the most difficult part.

Don’t overthink it. Every day, post something - it doesn’t always have to be incredibly insightful; it just has to be something that you’ve experienced or thought about.

Once you start posting, you’ll find there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of like-minded people who are experiencing the same as you.

And if you keep posting and providing value, those thousands of people will keep coming back and engaging with you. They’ll want to hear from you. In time, they’ll want to buy from you.

A LinkedIn post has the potential to reach far more people than a cold call ever will.

So put the phone down! The future of sales development is here.

Sign up for Collin’s sales training course

Want more insight and inspiration from Collin?

Then check out his new B2B Outbound Sales Training course and community at, where he’s teaching salespeople and leaders how to prospect and sell into the future.