5 Strategies for Building a Winning Sales Development Team

You need to keep your pipeline full, but it needs to be full of quality leads. No matter how big, or small, you are there is no getting around: garbage in, garbage out.

The lead driving engine today is a quality, all-star team of Sales Development Representatives. So how do you build that rock star team? Here are five best practices to add to your strategy.

Define Success For Your SDRs

Most companies slice sales roles into specialty groups, the jack of all trades sales model is dying. Even so, the definitions and responsibilities of Sales Development Rep (SDR), Customer Success Managers (CSM) and Account Executives (AE) vary from company to company. You can’t necessarily hire for experience: one SDR’s background may have focused on prospecting, another on account research.

SDRs are often starting their sales career and are eager and ambitious. Many see being an SDR as a stepping stone to becoming an AE where they can close. Set realistic expectations — maybe this is the career path in your company, maybe not. Set clear roles and responsibilities, let the SDRs know their job is to find the best leads. That means researching and prospecting accounts. For some companies, it means working lockstep with Marketing.

Hire Different Personalities

Sales Development Reps are salespeople at the beginning of their career, often eager but without tons of skills or experience. They won’t likely have a list of huge closed deals.

That’s OK.

SDRs aren’t there to close; they are qualifiers, prospectors, and researchers. Even these skills can be picked up quickly.

Don’t hire the same personality over and over again. Stock your SDR team with a diverse cast that compliments each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Different prospects will respond to different personalities.

Look for:

  • Trainability.
  • Determination.
  • Empathy.
  • Consistency with messaging.
  • A stomach for rejection.
  • Focus first on the company.
  • There isn’t a process doc for empathy, so hire for these personality traits from the start and focus on teaching scripts, technology and processes that matter.

Here are some interview questions to ask an SDR candidate:

  • Tell a story about how you handled rejection. See how they endured.
  • Roleplay a sales a call and see if their natural inclination is to sell you an item or ask you questions.
  • How do they relate to someone that has an opposite political opinion, or otherwise doesn’t mesh well with the candidate’s personality? How do they build a relationship with zero in common?
  • Ask them how deeply they dig around on Google before they buy something – are they impulsive or measured? SDRs need to have an instinct for research.

On the other hand, you can’t hire great personalities without the right tools, training, and processes in order. Otherwise, your efforts are not going to scale, and you’ll have a team of eager SDRs that fumble through prospecting and chase research rabbits down the wrong holes.

Don’t Scale Your Sales Development Team Too Quickly

You’ve got your sales process documented: from lead generation, setting demos, getting bookings and closing. You have a shiny new deck from marketing that tells a killer story. You have the whole quarter stretching out before you, and you’re ready to crush it.

Scaling fast can be a temptation, especially when you start running the numbers. But don’t. This is the most common pitfall for sales teams.

Onboarding new sales development reps require time and patience. It is likely they need to be immersed in your industry. They have to learn your technology, tools, and processes. Add to that the breakneck burnout speed for an SDR: 1.5 years on average, and you lose them right as they become an asset

Grow SDR teams slowly. Perfect your processes. Scale too quickly, and you may end up in deep water. That means layoffs, and there’s nothing like a slew of scathing Glassdoor reviews to make it harder to hire the next team.

Perfect the Sales Development Handoff

Sales Development Reps must know how to score leads. If your SDRs are cramming your pipeline full of garbage they aren’t doing their job. One way to put an end to poor leads is to structure the SDR compensation package so it reflects both quality and quantity.

A weight point system is becoming common, scoring points for a booked meeting, and more points for meetings that are attended, and even more for prospects that continue their journey. Even once the lead is several milestones removed from the SDR, you still reward the SDR for sourcing a valuable lead.

Compensation can provide the motivation but you need a process for scoring a lead. Lead scoring is different for every company, but here’s how we do it (we’re a medium-sized SaaS company, focusing mostly on B2B accounts).

We use the S.A.N.E. approach to make it clear for our SDRs how to score leads.

S – Size, is the prospect big enough? What about potential deal size?

A – Ability, can the prospect buy our solution and implement it?

N – Need, does the prospect need us and no one else?

E – Engagement, is the prospect properly engaged?

Give SDRs the Right Tools

SDRs, like anyone else, need the right tools. Every winning SDR team will have:

  • Email and phone scripts that make it easy to personalize a response without wrecking your brand messaging.
  • Clear discovery questions that help the SDR vet prospects into leads.
  • Easy access to content geared for prospects.
  • Processes for research, outreach, and handoff.
  • Tools that spark attention and interest, keeping high-value prospects engaged until they can be passed to the AE team.

So, here’s our secret sauce: we use our own marketing solutions to keep prospects engaged. Specifically SwagIQ. Our SDRs can send personalized, branded swag to our prospects. We don’t waste time and money on poor prospects, only those that have scored well but have gone dark.

Each SDR on our team has their own account, budget and the freedom to send swag when they want to, but they aren’t on their own. If a prospect pings up a good score – by engaging with our blog for example 😉 – their SDR is sent a real-time alert suggesting something hit the inbox.

We think SwagIQ makes prospecting and lead nurture way more effective, but only if it is working with a diverse team that has the right tools, the right strategy, and the right leadership.