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Career SDRs - The New Kingmakers of B2B Sales

February 14, 2022

Back in the day, salespeople wore three hats.

They were hunters, closers, and farmers who were responsible for the whole customer lifecycle. Their aim?

To build a book of business and … well … sit on it. 

But over time, this came to frustrate businesses who needed fresh as well as existing custom to scale. 

And, luckily for them, the status quo was soon to change. 

In 2011, Aaron Ross came along with his seminal B2B sales book, Predictable Revenue, introducing the concept of specialisation. 

Ross said that to drive growth, a salesperson shouldn’t fulfil these three separate functions, especially when each role required completely different skill sets. 

Instead, their roles should be split out into an assembly line 👇

career SDR

And, when deployed correctly, Ross’s approach worked well, dovetailing nicely with the workflows of salespeople who had to close and farm in person.

With SDRs drumming up all the business, travel became a less significant productivity drain and the assembly line was soon a well-oiled machine. 

But in 2022, is that still the case? 

The short answer is no. The process of digital transformation is all but complete and the normalisation of video conferencing means in-person meetings are no longer required in most industries. 

This has created an imbalance between how different components of the assembly line are compensated, with SDRs doing many of the hard yards for crumbs in return. 

What’s more, the meeting targets they’re forced to hit reward spammy and counterproductive behaviours, leaving huge gaps in the customer journey; particularly for those who aren’t ready to buy right now

The solution to this is two-fold. 

  1. Embrace the concept of the career SDR - one focused on educating the market over the long term, not on becoming an AE.
  2. Move towards the pod model - small groups of hunters, farmers, and closers who have an equal share of the spoils.

Keep scrolling or flick through the menu to learn more 👇

The career SDR | The what, how, why of sales pods | The future of sales management | Closing thoughts | About the author

The career SDR 👔

In the assembly line, SDRs are bottom of the pile, desperately trying to turn MQLs into SQLs

If they don’t hit quota, they’re either on a performance plan or moving on, because there’s no way they’ll make it to AE in the same organisation. 

This is insane. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

Identifying hunters who can get out to your addressable market and serve as a helpful first point of contact—rather than attacking it with rancid commission breath—is incredibly valuable. 

And when you measure them on net new, active, and upsell completions, rather than MBs, you start to incentivise these types of behaviours. 

Combining this with a better comp plan, which we’ll come to later, you can keep SDRs in your business for years rather than weeks or months. 

The benefits?

Your SDRs gain the business acumen they need to become trusted market experts, enabling them to build problem awareness, communicate the “why”, and establish market relationships.

As prospects move on to new roles and companies, the career SDR re-engages them, compounding on previous conversations to create new opportunities.

Meanwhile, they connect with partner companies who can refer prospects your way and vice versa, depending on their current requirements. 

The key to this nurturing, educational function is, of course, thought leadership, disseminated via channels your SDRs are strongest in and where your prospects hang out. 

And the end result?

You create ecosystems that open doors for the rest of the sales team and enable them to better do their jobs. 

The what, how, and why of sales pods 🙋🏼

So, what exactly is the pod? How is it different from the assembly line? And why does it align well with the concept of the career SDR?

career SDR

Well, like the assembly line, the sales pod has dedicated hunters, closers, and farmers. The difference is the roles are interconnected, rather than separated, to ensure the whole customer lifecycle is covered, as you can see above ☝️  

This means AEs aren’t possessive over leads once they’ve been passed over by an SDR. And the CSM isn’t the only one who can add value to the prospect once they become customers. 

Instead, the SDR is the core of the pod, circling back to prospects who are pre-purchase, in-purchase, and post-purchase, reactivating these relationships whenever needed.

This could be inviting prospects to a webinar, or sending them an ungated, value-adding resource to breathe new life into a deal. 

Of course, this changes the conversation about hierarchy and commission. 

In the pod, the SDR, the AE, and the CSM are one organism; each component of equal importance. As a result, they should split the rewards equally. 

But what the rewards themselves should be is a more interesting question. 

Prospects in every industry distrust salespeople because they’re paid in commission. So much so that the reps at Best Buy use the fact that they’re not paid this way as a value prop!

To help change this conversation and remove the objections reps encounter every day, the pod bases its incentives around revenue growth and bonuses. It makes them company partners and shares profits when they perform well. It gives them equity and dividend payments.

This means there’s no hidden agenda and no reason to think that the salesperson’s intention is anything other than to help the prospect.

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The future of sales management 🔮

So, if sales pods are less focused on hitting arbitrary numbers and more focused on building and maintaining prospect relationships, where does that leave sales leaders?

Well, for the whip-crackers, it’s bad news.

Without the need for relentless pipeline updates, it’ll be up to revenue and enablement leaders to, on the one hand:

  • Own the number and report to the CEO

And on the other:

  • Take charge of learning and development, best practices, and tech stack

Generally, though, functioning pods are self-sufficient entities, comprised of top performers who are committed to the success of their prospects and themselves. Which, in turn, benefits the wider business.  

Closing thoughts 🧠

Far from being a dying breed, the reframed, rejuvenated SDR is the answer to the broken assembly line. 

When part of a pod, career SDRs can help establish, build, and maintain trust with prospects, nurturing them through the whole customer journey. 

And because of this approach, SDRs don’t hit target this month at the cost of destroying countless future business opportunities. 

Instead, they keep a constant stream of prospects flowing towards your business who can be converted when they actually have intent to buy. 

About the author ✍🏼

Ryan Reisert is Cognism's Brand Ambassador and author of the acclaimed book, Outbound Sales, No Fluff. He has 14+ years of SaaS and startup sales experience, serving as a Head of Sales at Sellpoints, Booshaka, Uversity, and more. 


Ryan also hosts Cognism's Revenue Champions podcast and you can check out his second episode above! ☝️