I need a good SDR

Let me start this with a paraphrase of a quote from a famous Strugatsky Brothers novel “Monday starts on Saturday” (which, by the way, extols the virtues of working hard for an idea you believe in):

– Do, you, indeed need a programmer so badly?

– We desperately need a programmer – said the crooked nose – “but we don’t need just a programmer. We need a good one!”

SDRs are the infantry of Sales, your foot soldiers who establish the beachhead for you, and you follow in with your field execs to close the deal. It is a typical first step into the world of Sales for many, and a trial by fire: if you can make it as an SDR, and you still like it, then you know Sales is for you.

But if most people start in Sales Development, why is it, then, that good SDRs are so hard to find? Talk about early stages of lead development with any seasoned field exec or a Sales Manager, and chances are, they will tell you how hard it is to find and retain someone who’s really good at it.

Here for a Good Time

Part of the reason is that good SDRs don’t stay in Sales Development for long. These are usually bright young people, straight out of college, joining their first corporate gig. If they discover a knack for sales, and demonstrate ability to consistently convert cold leads to a warm invitation to the conversation at the table for your account execs, they will soon move into the account manager role themselves.

Your job, as a sales leader, is to create that path for them. You can’t keep anyone ambitious in the SDR division for long: they are in this for a good time, not a long time. Either you offer them a career path within your organization, or they will find a way to move themselves up the corporate ladder in another company.

You could say: “what does it matter, if I’m out of a good SDR either way?” – but that is not true. If you nurture your fresh grads and develop them into account managers, they will bring the energy, the ambition, the hunger for closing – and the knowledge of the product with them into the exec position. Now you effectively gained a trained account exec who is not afraid of getting down and dirty with the account if needed, and is thrilled with new opportunities you gave them by giving them extra responsibilities.

Whereas if you let your SDRs bleed, and continue to hire fresh talent only to keep them below the glass ceiling, you will lose on both ends: the gifted people will abandon you, leaving only mediocrity behind, while you will continue hunting for a seasoned exec, who will not only command a higher pay, but will also arrive with expectations of SDR support, and will take a significant time to ramp up.

Hold the Handrail

One of the common mistakes in managing SDRs that I see, is putting too much of an expectation on them without proper support. Your troops have the energy and don’t fear rejection of cold calling – a rare and unique ability. It is up to you to empower them and give them the tools to make them successful. So, what do SDRs need?

Training on the value proposition and the key talking points.

It takes more than a single product demo and an intro script to successfully engage the customer.

“Hello, sir, my name is Mike, and I am reaching out to you about your extended car warranty” – *Click*.

If the rep does not understand what you are selling, or doesn’t care, because they are outsourced anyway, and next week they will all be calling for another company, then you are just wasting time.

Spend time with your reps, make sure they are dedicated to your product only, invite them to the demos with your execs, so they can watch and learn.

Well developed engagement scripts

You need to arm your SDRs with engagement scripts that play out all possible situations.

  • What if the customer says he’s not interested?
  • What if they are already using a competitive product?
  • What is our unique proposition and when to mention it?

You can’t expect SDRs to know these things or to develop them independently. The answers for these questions and the scripts must come from you. Chances are, that in the process of developing these, you will significantly improve your own pitch and approach at the next-stage engagements when the customer is interested enough to invite you for a demo.

A clear list of targets to call

SDRs need to understand what segment of the market they are calling into, and who they are calling into. Once they have a list of names and accounts to call (compiled by you), they can unleash their massive energy into telephone calls and emails.

Just a list of names and their numbers won’t work, because calling into decision makers without a clear understand of what they do, and who they are is extremely ineffective. Teach your SDRs to use LinkedIn, give them tools that provide intelligence and data before they place the call. Here is a good list of various tools you can use to empower your SDR team. At the very minimum, give them LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It requires a certain flow of lead development built into your sales process, but when you align how you do things with what Navigator does, it is a very powerful tool.

There’s always a question of price for every subscription and lead development tool, and it is up to you to calculate the costs of subscriptions, the time spent by your SDRs on an average call, the conversion rate – and the resulting pipeline. Many tools offer you a trial period, so you can avoid a costly investment if your team can’t leverage the service effectively.

Over to you

Finally, the key factor to managing SDRs effectively – is to assign a designated exec to them. Your field exec and their SDR should be attached at the hip like Siamese twins. The moment the lead is qualified and converted by the SDR, the exec is brought in, briefed on all developments – and is taking over.

If there’s no follow-up because of the breakdown in communication, you just wasted all the effort you and your SDR team put into developing the lead. In return, in this symbiotic relationship, the seasoned exec coaches the SDR on the Sales process, gives them pointers on pitch, on calls, on qualifying the leads – and prepares them for the ultimate transition into the account manager role.