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Speed to lead: How to ramp SDRs quickly and effectively

September 9, 2021

There are 3 key ingredients to ramping your SDRs at speed:

Enablement, coaching, and motivation.

In this Sales Hacker webinar:

Discuss each of them, touching on SDR onboarding challenges, hiring best practices, leadership tips, targets, tech stacks, and more. 

They conclude that treating your SDR org like a call centre is a bad move, that single-threaded learning programmes fail, and that empathetic leaders get the most out of their teams. 

And that's just scratching the surface.

Scroll or flick through the menu below to discover all their insights 👇

SDR onboarding challenges | Hiring your SDR team | Setting up the SDR function | Empathetic vs Challenging leadership | Configuring your tech stack | Setting and hitting targets | The 10-step SDR training checklist

SDR onboarding challenges 🧗🏿‍♂️

MG: The idea of what an SDR function does should be viewed holistically. If you think your SDRs are there to book meetings, hammer phones, and are essentially a very well-paid call centre, then I think it’ll be an uphill battle. 

Whereas:

"Leaders who see the SDR org as pipeline and opportunity generators will be able to set their teams up for success."

This is a small mental shift that trickles from the top down and bleeds into the culture and standards of the team. 

When I speak to SDR managers, I see whether they value the SDR team or not, and see how integral the role is. Do they get that these SDRs are bringing in opportunities from thin air?

SDRs are also an amazing talent resource for a company to pick from, and this is often taken for granted, especially when you look at turnover rates.

It can make or break someone’s career if they have a bad experience as an SDR because they weren’t valued, especially given that they’re often at the beginning of their sales careers.

SS: There’s this classic tug that you need to get to grips with when you’re hiring your SDR organisation.

Like, what’s the purpose of this org? Is it to generate pipeline? Is it to set up meetings? Is it to create a talent funnel into other parts of our org?

If you look at the engineering sector, engineers don’t even touch the code base for a while. Even when they do, they’re not expected to be at full capacity for anywhere between 6-12 months. 

By no means am I recommending you wait as long for your SDRs to start cold calling and emailing, but I think the biggest mistake a lot of orgs make is thinking that hiring a bunch of SDRs will suddenly get you more pipeline and more meetings.

"Without scalable functions, your SDR team can’t be successful."

Just giving them a week of training, a phone, and access to your database and expecting them to make successful calls isn’t going to work.

Because even if the SDR starts finding pipeline immediately, they’ll burn out incredibly quickly because they’re not set up for long-term success.

And by doing that, you’ll lose the amazing talent you’ve hired to a competitor. 

So I think a mistake that a lot of people make when starting out these functions is not even asking why they’re doing it and how they’re going to set up for success for the long-term success of this role’s function. 

PC: Understanding your SDRs’ "why" is important. But you also need to know whether you have the right accounts and customers identified.

You need to know whether you’re targeting the right pain points and that you know your customers. If you don’t have that, table stakes, it doesn’t make sense to even have anyone to pick up the phones.

Because even if they luck into a meeting, if you don’t have your sales process outlined and that operational piece, they'll fail. 

"The biggest two mistakes I’d say when ramping SDRs are single-threaded learning and keeping them off the phones."

The sooner you get them on the phones, the more they’ll get out of the training.

If you do in-depth competitor training and just talk at them for hours, they can’t take it in. Whereas when you put them on the phones, they hear about some of your competitors, they get shut down and then they go to an interactive learning course about how to sell against your competitors. 

You bet that they’ll listen to that versus only retaining 10% of the stuff you said in a lecture. And that comes back to single-threaded learning. 

Having a lot of different pieces thrown at them in the form of reading, listening, and watching material and combining that with quizzes, shadowing, and role play means there’s a much better chance SDRs will be able to retain the information. 

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Hiring your SDR team 👶🏼

SS: My hot take is:

"I don’t believe you should hire someone with previous sales experience as an SDR."

The asterisk I attach to that is that one of our top-performing SDRs had been in an SDR role previously. 

But the question that goes through my mind when I’m interviewing someone for an SDR role today and they have prior experience is: Why are you still an SDR?

Because, in my mind, if you’re such an exceptional seller why are you still in this role? And why do you want to do the role again for me?

MG: A lot of the time, you see underperforming SDRs in organisations that aren’t enabling them properly.

And under different circumstances and different management, they’d perform a whole lot better. 

PC: I agree with Sam in the sense that if you’re such a great SDR, why are you still looking for roles as an SDR? 

But if there are mitigating circumstances like bad pay or a bad boss and you want to move, I want to see you acting like an SDR for my time. 

If I’m looking to fill SDR roles, I want them to InMail me, listing their qualities, how it matches what my org is looking for, and why I’d be an idiot not to hire them. 

"In my mind, if you’re a former SDR, you better be that exceptional former SDR."

Of course, if you’re a manager poaching SDRs from a company with bad Glassdoor reviews, that’s a different set of circumstances.

But if an experienced SDR still has the same mindset as a grad, that’s not a good sign. 

Setting up the SDR function 🤓

SS: If you don’t know how to do it, don’t do it.

"Hire an expert - either a consultant or a specialist org will do the trick."

Hiring an SDR leader is also a good avenue to go down because there are tons of talented people out who want to become millionaires but they can’t in their existing org because they don’t have significant equity. 

If you find that talent, make things clear. Say that you can’t offer them a sexy management role or a giant base and that you’ll need them to pick up the phone for a bit.

But also offer them a ton of equity and essentially make them a co-founder of the organisation because they’re scaling up the function for you.

MG: You need to give the sales function the respect it deserves.

"I stopped SDRing around a year ago and even now when I’m jumping into prospecting, I have to ask about things like videos and LinkedIn voice notes."

These things just weren’t around when I was in the job because things move so quickly. This is exactly why you have to be willing to learn about the space. 

Empathetic vs challenging leadership 🌱

SS: Start with the why. Why is this person here? Are they here for financial success? Are they here for growth opportunities? Once you understand that, it’s so easy to tie the hard parts of this job to the empathy portion. Because guess what?

"Cold calling sucks."

But if you want to have financial success because you’re the first person from your family to ever graduate from college, and the way to do that is to make more than 6 figures per year, you’re never going to get to that stage unless you do the cold calls today. That’s when it becomes fun. 

MG: When I first became a manager, I struggled with this because I’m quite a direct person. So I found it difficult to stop for a second and be more empathetic. 

Originally, my view was that to be a good manager and have a team that listens to you, works hard, and has that grit and determination to hit their goals, you have to crack the whip and there had to be a separation between you and them. 

That all changed when I started reading about sales management. One of the books I read was called The Trust Triangle, which said:

"If you trust your SDRs and you get to a point where you know each other on a human level, the results will come."

PC: It comes back to knowing your people and caring about them on a human level rather than treating them like numbers on a spreadsheet.

Do you know what their motivations and personal/career aspirations are? If you can tie their personal goals to the goals of the business, that’s the sweet spot. 

"One of the hardest things to do is to transition from being an SDR to a team lead to a manager."

Like you used to be friends with them but now you’re their boss. When that happened to me I got overwhelming appreciation and support and it was clear that if I had their back, they’d do the same for me.

Configuring your tech stack 👩🏻‍🔧

SS: A mistake a lot of orgs make is focusing on the tools. For example, the majority of the customers who churn from Postclick are people who use the tool incorrectly. So:

"When I think about my tech stack, I want to know that we have the selling fundamentals down first."

Because if we start layering tools on top of how to sell incorrectly, you’re not going to be able to use the tool effectively. 

MG: Sales enablement and sales engagement platforms are there to ensure that when you’re onboarding you’re team you’re onboarding them with the best practices.

"I know how to teach my SDRs what value propositions are appealing to our sales leaders because I rely on the data and analytics from my tools."

PC: Connecting it back to this subject of this webinar in terms of effectively onboarding SDRs, there needs to be an internal resource that allows SDRs to learn about the tech you have.

In our case, that’s a content syndication platform called HowNow where we assign tasks to reps. 

"Another part of scaling your SDR team effectively is making sure you’re not spending ages doing the same repetitive task every single month."

What can be recorded and transcribed into a video? What are the really important skills? And have a quiz to test them. 

Don’t just have Gong. Have a library of 50 Gong calls that are assigned to SDRs and they’re expected to listen to. Once you’ve created that ecosystem, you’ll be surprised at how little work you have to do. 

Setting and hitting targets 🎯

MG: Mindset is really important in a job where you spend most of your day facing rejection.

When we first came to EMEA we intentionally had SDR targets set low. That's because we'd rather our SDRs overachieve and overexceed as opposed to falling short.

"I don’t understand why companies have SDRs who are constantly missing quota."

And when the pattern is throughout the whole team it’s a problem.

Ultimately, quotas should be a minimum expectation. And from a management perspective that helps with your forecasting.

Rather than your team being quotad at XYZ and that’s what their OTE is, but actually they never reach it because their quota is too high, that creates disillusionment with the SDR, doesn’t make them feel valued, and they’re not going to get job satisfaction.

Of course SDRs shouldn’t be hitting quota 2 weeks into the month, but if everyone’s missing it, you either need to lower your quota or focus on coaching.

SS: Paying an SDR a few hundred extra bucks to give them the confidence they need to be successful is a drop in the bucket.

It’s a question of deciding whether you want reps to be overly successful and confident or unsuccessful and looking for a new job. That’s what your thought process should be. 

When we experimented with higher quotas, for example, we saw lower performance. But:

"This quarter, when quotas are lower, we’re seeing our reps outperform last quarter's higher targets." 

The 10-step SDR training checklist 🪜

Looking for more SDR onboarding inspiration? Then download our 10-step checklist. In it, you'll find: 

  • Tips on new starter welcome emails
  • Buddying scheme best practices
  • Knowledge-sharing hacks

And much more! Get your copy below 👇

Ramp SDRs