Once upon a time, it was possible to scale a sales organization by being strictly top-line revenue focused. Many highly successful companies followed the approach of throwing as many bodies as possible onto the sales floor and experiencing hyper growth. But with the advent of sales automation tools, it’s become possible for small teams to do what required larger ones in the past.
Now we face a different challenge. Personalization of cold emails has become as simple as [first_name], and it’s easy to spam thousands of prospects in a single click of a button. I know -- I get spammed every day with “personal” emails that are replete with tokens and poor formatting. They are just as ineffective as if you had never emailed me in the first place; perhaps even less so, now that I have a negative opinion of your company for wasting my time.
Sales automation tools are making it easier to reach more prospects with fewer sales development reps (SDR). That means that employing a large SDR team is no longer required to scale your sales efforts, but it also creates an interesting dilemma. The ease of reaching more prospects with click of a button hasn’t translated to an increased ease in converting those same prospects into appointments. Today, rather than hiring for headcount volume, companies should instead focus on headcount quality … and that requires an entirely different approach to the SDR recruiting process.
Quality Over Quantity
If you hire SDRs for quality over quantity, then regardless of which tools you give them to use, they will find success. Too often sales leaders are lazy and only hire for the bodies instead of truly vetting an SDR candidate the same way they would vet an enterprise sales rep. But this makes no sense -- a great SDR gets you great meetings with great companies. That expensive enterprise sales rep you spent all that time hiring is wasted if you can’t get that person clutch at-bats.
In the baseball analogy, SDRs are your leadoff man. If a team has a weak top of the lineup, but great mashers in the middle of the order, they struggle to score runs on days they don’t hit four to five home runs. And no team hits four to five home runs every game, just as no sales team closes tons of massive enterprise deals every month.
If you need a consistent, scalable sales process, invest in great top of the lineup SDRs who set the stage for success. Think Moneyball for sales. Most of us are the Oakland A’s when it comes to budget, so we need to be scrappy.
Here are three tips to ensure you hire the best SDRs possible.
1) Hire for intelligence.
Too often I see SDRs who are aren't the sharpest tool in the shed get hired into an organization simply because SDR is the most junior sales position on the team. Your typical profile of “used to sell Cutco knives” or “captain of rugby team” gets hired into an organization as an SDR with virtually no screening, since many sales leaders see SDRs as high-volume, low-risk hires that can quickly be weeded out if they struggle.
Here’s the problem: if you are selling a mid-market or enterprise solution, your buyer is savvy and can sniff BS from a mile away. And the unfortunate harsh reality is if the SDR you’ve hired isn’t able to understand the nuances of the industry they are selling to, hold an intellectual dialogue with your buyer, or articulate your offering's value proposition within the context of each prospect’s business , they will not be able to excel at their jobs. Instead, they'll burn hundreds of potential customers with poor messaging and earn a reputation that your business is immature in its customer-facing efforts.
How do you test for this during an interview? Simple -- give the SDR enough time and information so that they can prepare a mock pitch of your services. Have them present to two to three folks within your organization that closely match your typical buyer. Ask them tough questions during the mock pitch that force the SDR candidate to showcase their ability to take disparate pieces of information and apply them to handling a customer’s objections.
The SDR who can do this -- and warm the crowd with her personality -- is one who is highly likely to succeed.
2) Hire for industry passion.
If your SDR candidate could easily jump from your company to another that does something totally different simply because the other business pays more or their friends work there, then they’re a poor fit. You need SDRs who are missionaries and who will strive to learn about their industry, inside and out.
It’s always a good idea to hire an SDR who wants to work in your industry. At SalesPredict, one of the first questions I ask every candidate is what they think about the future of machine learning and predictive analytics. Anyone who gives me a half-baked, generic response that belies an understanding of my industry gets a very short interview.
How do you test for this during an interview? Grill the candidate on why they want to spend the next three to five years in your industry. Ask them industry-specific questions throughout the process. If they don’t already have passion for your space, or at least an understanding how your company fits into their long-term career plans, they are going to flame out. They simply won’t be motivated enough to go out and gain the understanding necessary to set great appointments with top-tier buyers.
3) Hire for ambition.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “stolen” a great SDR from another company because I lured them with the promise of doing more in six to 12 months. They’re willing to take a lower salary and “start over” to come work on my team simply because they believe that if they succeed here, they will get to tackle a bigger challenge.
Here’s the reality, folks -- being an SDR is not sexy work for someone who fits the two criteria above. Anyone you hire who is intelligent and passionate is going to want more in six to 12 months … and that’s great!
How do you create opportunity for upward mobility? Be prepared to promote star SDRs into SDR management or inside sales roles, and hire more to replace them. If you don’t, you are going to lose them to another company. Be proactive, and get them into more challenging roles before they ask. You’ll be glad you did.
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Medium, and is republished here with permission.