It’s an understatement to say that B2B sales has changed dramatically in the past few years. Technology has made it easier for buyers to research solutions on their own, changing their expectations about the buying process. Engaging with this new buyer requires a new sales approach, and that in turn requires a savvier seller. The talent pool for this type of demanding sales role has new demands and expectations of their own. They’re often looking for a starting point for a career in sales or, in many cases, to break into other non-technical roles in the tech industry. Sales development can be their perfect entry point, and this creates a great opportunity for companies to attract highly motivated talent.
So where should you start when looking to hire sales development reps (SDRs)? The bittersweet nature of running a successful SDR team is that team members, if good, are frequently promoted to higher positions. This is the case in my company, so I have a lot of experience finding and recruiting talent.
Start With Diversity
As always, I recommend embracing diversity and inclusion. Recruit sellers from different gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as a range of age and experience levels. Sales development may be the perfect first job in a corporate setting, or it may be a great role for an experienced worker to transition into sales or tech. Hiring from a diverse set of backgrounds is an excellent way to find the next generation of sales professionals and results in an incredible team with all different kinds of people.
At my current company, InsideView, we’ve learned that diversity makes for stronger, happier teams and better sellers. Our customers are diverse and our sellers reflect that. To put it another way, new people at the table leads to changing the table. With the help of two innovative talent sources, we’re building a whole new table.
One of the secrets to our success in hiring is our partnership with SV Academy. SV Academy offers an innovative education program that has become our primary source for hiring SDR talent. The organization empowers underrepresented job-seekers with the sales skills training, technology and support they need to enter careers in the tech industry. Essentially, they create opportunities for non-coders to gain access to high-paying technology jobs. Their graduates are top-notch sellers with a drive to succeed. As our HR Director Jenny Strauss says, “SV Academy is the best source of talent, bar none!”
Another unique source of SDR talent that has been incredibly successful for us is working with outsourced teams of sales development reps made up of talented, driven, bright and hardworking women who are currently or have been previously incarcerated. These women learn our tools and systems and achieve stellar results. We’ve hired several women as our employees upon their release. One especially bright star, through her dedication to our team, our customers and InsideView as a whole, partners with me to lead the SDR team. She was also a finalist for a Women in Sales award this year.
Keeping Your Superstars
Once you hire all that incredible talent, how do you retain them? How do you keep delivering pipeline when your most seasoned SDRs move on and you’re starting over with less experienced talent? One of our secrets is to build in room for promotion within the team, so they want to stay in the role longer. We use a four-tiered system that reflects increasing levels of experience and contribution to the team. With each promotion to a new level, the SDR gets a salary bump and greater commission potential and gets closer to promotion to their next role.
Still, because sales development is a beginning point for many careers, you have to be prepared for constant churn, especially if your talent is high-performing. SDR leaders need a new model for hiring and scaling.
First, make sure you have enough people to achieve your goals, otherwise your team will burn out quickly. I’m always hiring ahead in anticipation of losing my most seasoned reps. The key is to understand exactly how many SDRs you need at each level of training and experience to meet your pipeline goal, then hire to fulfill that goal. I make data-driven decisions, so I reviewed the past two years of my team’s performance to create a forecast model for recruitment. Include as much information as you can in your model, including average time in seat, ramp time, and performance. I have four performance levels in my model and can estimate with a high degree of accuracy how my new hires will be performing within 3, 6, 9, and 12 months time. Often by 12 months they are ready to move on.
Once you have your model in place, reevaluate the forecast on a quarterly basis and adjust as your pipeline goals change.
Embrace Geographic Diversity
Location is another key component of retention, as well as recruitment. Does geography really matter for your SDR team? SDR teams are built to interact digitally with prospects. Geography should have little to do with meeting their pipeline goals. In fact, geographic diversity can help you better engage buyers in different time zones. The pandemic has taught us that considering a geographically dispersed team can open the talent pool and give team members the flexibility to more easily meet and even exceed their personal and professional goals.
Give Them the Tools to Succeed
Finally, to make sure that your SDR team performs to their full potential, arm them with the best skills and technology. So many entry-level sales reps are thrown into the deep end with little onboarding or training. Take the time to create an SDR playbook. We have a ramping system that has become increasingly efficient over time and actually decreased the time needed to ramp an SDR to full performance from 6 months to just 2-3 months. We’ve found that starting new SDRs on inbound versus outbound leads alone, allows them to more quickly learn what prospects are looking for, and gives them confidence to tackle more outbound leads faster.
On the technology side, we introduce our SDRs to the full stack of sales tools as soon as possible and teach good data and research habits from the beginning. Both our hiring sources teach the skills to use these tools as well. From CRM to sales engagement platforms to sales intelligence, our SDRs use data and technology to learn as much as they can about a prospect before they ever reach out, and to engage through multiple channels, using email, social, chat, and phone. They learn to qualify leads to save account exec’s time and then pass on what they’ve learned to the AEs.
SDRs are the first point of contact for your future customers. Hiring, training and retaining your SDR team should be just as high a priority as hiring and retaining your sales leadership. With the right hiring, training and tools, your SDR team will crush their goals and go on to become leaders. Ours certainly have.