Author: Steve Maegdlin


Few professional sellers enjoy the challenge of business development — and even fewer excel at it. Generating high-quality leads is no easy feat, and as buyer power continues to increase, successful business development is only getting harder.

Recent studies from CSO Insights found that only 23% of B2B buyers prefer to engage salespeople to solve their business problems. Another 70% of buyers wait until after they have fully defined their needs to contact a salesperson. What can your business development team do with that stark reality?

A glimmer of opportunity comes from that same CSO Insights research: 90% of buyers are willing to engage salespeople earlier in the process if a selling organization can deliver more value by means of:

  • Sharing new insights and information
  • Supporting a buying decision that is risky for the buyer or organization
  • Helping solve a complex business need or one involving multiple areas of the organization

In order to provide this value, though, business development teams need to do better at prospecting and qualifying leads. Here I will share how your selling organization can improve its business development discipline, processes and techniques to deliver the most value internally — and externally.


The discipline of business development within a sales organization is crucial to driving revenue success. While integrating sales and marketing is critical to high-quality lead generation, sales must own responsibility for developing their own pipeline of opportunities in addition to what they get from marketing. Business development maintains and improves lead flow, while also allowing the sales team to engage in strategic selling earlier in the buying process, helping increase relationships and win rates.

There are typically two differing approaches we see at Mereo:

  • Business development (BD) is rolled into account executive / account manager (AE / AM) responsibilities
    When a BD function is integrated into the standard sales function, sales tends to apply the same principles and techniques that make them successful salespeople. They usually classify BD activities as “early buying cycle” and rely on a clean handoff between the two functions.
  • A separate and independent BD team is launched to help find and “warm up” leads for AEs / AMs
    When an independent BD team is created, on the other hand, professionals tend to slack on sales discipline and their focus turns to the volume of leads created, rather than quality leads with a higher probably of closing. Ironically, this is the same problem that sales often has with marketing leads — good volume but not high quality.

Regardless of who is responsible for prospecting and qualifying leads — be it AEs / AMs or a dedicated business development team — the winners will not just make it a numbers game. The winners will leverage proven techniques to find, qualify and nurture high-quality prospects that improve win rates and drive more deal flow and revenue.


Strategic selling requires your selling team to understand the needs of the buyer, personalize those needs for the key decision makers and then articulate how your solution addresses those specific buying needs.

Here are five core business development techniques that drive higher-quality leads that result in better revenue performance — not just more leads:

  1. Start by asking good questions and listening. Your goal is not to get through a conversation; it is to uncover real issues and opportunities — identify issues, intensify the pain and help the buyer internalize it. On average, people spend 60% of conversations talking about themselves and that number jumps to 80% over digital platforms. Stop talking. Ask good questions and listen.
  2. Uncover pains. Start the conversation by framing your questions around uncovering the buyer’s need and specific pain points. Do NOT start by talking about your product or solution. You cannot effectively evaluate an opportunity if you do not understand what problems you are trying to solve.
  3. Connect the dots. When it is your turn to talk, do not just read the features list off the data sheet. Be sympathetic to the issues a buyer has, and clearly explain how your solution addresses their specific needs and pains. If they do not have a pain that you can solve — move on to the next opportunity!
  4. Cast vision. Do not assume that the buyer knows how your solution can benefit them — you need to ensure that you connect the dots to how your solution helps them gain some benefit.
  5. Back it up. According to a Forrester Research study, 71% of buyers said that client value stories carried the most weight in creating credibility of the seller, yet 78% of executive buyers say salespeople don’t provide relevant client examples. Do not be part of that 78%.


To learn more about how to maximize value along your buyer’s journey for sustainable revenue gains, download our Complete Sales Organization Guide to Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™.



demand generation

How one company’s disciplined, targeted approach to demand generation delivered big results

All leadership says the same thing to their salespeople: “We want you to be successful.” Because when salespeople are successful, a company realizes that success through predictable revenue streams and increased profits.

Leaders want to help their salespeople achieve goals but many leaders either don’t invest enough time up front or they don’t know how to do so in a manner that will pave the way for the most success.

Let’s flash back almost two decades now. JD Edwards, then one of the top three or four providers of enterprise software, was reaching a critical juncture. The previous 18 months had seen investments in lead generation stop, all existing leads dry up and revenue drop by $200M. Something needed to change.

Through what we labeled the “Revenue Delivery System,” JD Edwards sales and marketing leadership invested in a strategic approach to drive demand generation and equip the sales team to effectively sell to targeted markets.

Market Segmentation and Past Sales Success Laid a Framework for Demand Generation

The intersection of where the company had success and where the market was headed determined where JD Edwards wanted to focus product investment, demand generation and sales enablement.

Led by the product and industry marketing teams, we ranked these two elements:

  1. Where have we had success in the past? (What products into what industries/market segments in what geographies?)
  2. Where are specific market segments headed, and where can we dominate (or at least win more than our fair share)?

The challenge we (and many businesses) had was falling into the trap of “sell anything you can to anyone” (and assume sales will continue to grow). The analogy we used was fishing. You can troll the lake hoping something bites, or you can fish in the part of the lake where the fish like your bait. The first fisherman goes hungry; the second succeeds.

The same holds true for sales. Just because you sold it once — good salespeople can sell anything once — does not mean you can sell it again. And in the software business, once you sell it once, your operational cost for building and maintaining the features that the otherwise untargeted customer in that untargeted industry requires is expensive — very expensive.

Also, it is important to focus your sales and marketing teams on generating leads and selling to customers in specific regions, in specific industry segments within those regions, and with problems your products specifically solve. For example, if you live in Houston, you are better served to invest most of your time generating leads and selling in the oil and gas industry, not consumer package goods.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Once we understood our markets, industries and geographies — and the competitive advantage we had in each — we got busy implementing an aggressive demand generation program.

We used a simple three-step process to help integrate sales and marketing:

  1. Marketing created demand around targeted customer pain points to generate interest in our offering
  2. Marketing qualified leads through a lead-nurture process to make sure it was real and worth our sellers’ time
  3. Sales reviewed each lead and turned it into a sales-qualified lead, subsequently adding the lead into their pipeline commitment

Once sales learned that marketing were highly targeting customers and were pre-qualifying leads to ensure it was worth their time — they got on board.

Three months after implementing the Revenue Delivery System, sales converted 54% of marketing leads to sales qualified leads, meaning they believed the lead was good enough to put in their pipeline. The 54% is beyond industry best practice, which at the time hovered around 15% to 20%.

Sales Enablement Completes the System  

While we spent countless hours and a lot of strategy and research dollars to generate high-quality leads, the strategy depended on the sellers’ follow-through.

We made sure sales was equipped to execute the strategy by implementing some critical sales enablement processes:

  • Identifying and prepping sales with specific buyer problems (by buyer role or persona) and explaining how our specific product solutions met those specific needs
  • Providing the sales team with industry-specific language that would resonate with the buyer (and in many cases, regionally different language across Europe, Asia, Latin American and Africa)
  • Practicing strategies for discovering pain points and selling in a way that addresses those pain points
  • Role modeling how to lead the conversation from pain points to JD Edwards solutions
  • Educating on how to reframe objections
  • Appealing to sales’ competitive nature with “How Do You Win” sheets for specific competitors

 The Results Speak for Themselves

With the Revenue Delivery System, JD Edwards grew $400 million in topline revenue in two years.

This significant increase in revenue positioned JD Edwards for a premium sale price when they merged with PeopleSoft.

All the work in identifying products, industries and geographies, and building sales enablement tools simplified the integration process after the merger — making clear which products should stay and which products should be sold by what sales teams in what geographies.


This article was originally featured in the world renown sales and marketing publication Top Sales Magazine in October 2018. Download the complete magazine here.

revenue performance predictability

The 3 intersecting components to building a long-term strategy for revenue performance predictability

Revenue performance is not as simple as hitting a certain revenue objective — it’s not about “one and done.” You can only achieve successful revenue performance with a comprehensive strategy and consistent execution.

When you truly implement a revenue performance strategy, you will be able to understand what products and services generate your revenue, plan for who and where you will generate it, and foresee future opportunities and/or challenges that will help you grow. Essentially, you will set your business up for revenue performance predictability. And can’t we all do with a little more predictability in our performance? Don’t rely on hope as a strategy — let’s get strategic!

The following three components of your business intersect to help you build a solid strategy for delivering predictable revenue performance.

Your Portfolio

Understanding what you are good at and intersecting that with what customers want and are willing to buy is just the start of a good strategy. The foundation of predictable revenue performance is understanding the intersection of product/service, industry and geography. Your entire organization needs to understand each to unite the three.

  • What is your vertical market approach? What products and services are you currently selling into what industries?
  • Have you built a segmented industry approach? (Hint: Not all segments within an industry are the same; high tech electronics is very different than industrial manufacturing.)
  • Do you offer a product or service your buyer wants, and is it differentiated from competitive offerings in your industry segments?
  • Do your current products or services align with the market segments you can effectively sell to? Are those market segments growing in a way that allows you to grow?
  • Are your sales teams aligned and equipped to effectively sell specific products into specific industries? Are they aligned with the differences that geography can create?
  • Are your products and services equally valued in all geographies? Do you have effective sales teams in each of those geographies?
  • Can you expand and/or diversify your products to meet future customer needs?
  • Are your offerings aligned with your buyer’s needs? Within the geographies you have an understanding of and access to? To the geographies and markets you want to break in to?

Be honest with yourself about the market segments your business excels in and be creative with how you can expand and tweak your products and services to meet different market and geographical needs. Be prepared to shape your solutions to meet specific market needs.

Your People

Every employee in your organization needs to be aligned to the big-picture goals for those goals to ever become a reality — because every person plays a part in delivering predictable revenue performance.

  • Can sales truly connect with the people in your markets? Can they speak the buyer’s language — and articulate your brand’s value to those buyers? Are they trying to sell everything to everyone?
  • Is marketing set up to understand and analyze the markets and industry segments and provide insights and recommendations to what each market needs and how your business can solve those specific needs?
  • Are your regional leaders clear on customer, product and industry nuances, and is that information communicated to your product and service teams?
  • Are you continuously analyzing what and where you’ve been successful, areas where you could improve and opportunities where you can grow?

Develop a culture that joins your departments in a unified team working toward the same goals. Consider a compensation plan that rewards aligned behavior. When people are aligned with a common strategy and common goals, good things happen.

Your Market

Your leadership team, your marketing and sales teams, and even your service organization need to be well versed on the markets you currently serve — and on markets you want to serve. This is not a once-a-decade exercise; since your markets (and customer needs) are constantly changing, your entire team needs to keep up with those changes to drive predictability and ongoing revenue performance.

  • How are you currently positioned in the markets you serve? What are your major differentiators? What are you weaknesses?
  • What opportunities exist on the horizon? Threats?
  • If you want to sell in a different country/region, are you selling what they want? Does your product/service address their unique needs? Are you selling and marketing in a way that is aligned with how they buy?
  • Are there markets you should invest in? Divest from? Double down?

Just because a product was successful in one market or you had success in a given market last year does not mean you will find success again without pushing the limits, analyzing your efforts, and making the necessary changes to be relevant and stay ahead.

Good strategy + team alignment + consistent execution = predictable revenue performance.


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