5 Proven Tactics to Coach New Sales Development Representatives

As a sales manager, a huge part of my job is coaching new sales development representatives -- salespseople who act as dedicated prospectors for deal-closing reps.

Coaching SDRs is a two-part task. On one hand, I need to show them how to overachieve in their current roles and be rockstars for their sales reps. On the other, most SDRs don’t want to be SDRs forever, so it’s also my job to set them up for success if they get promoted into a sales representative position.

I espouse a mix of coaching, shadowing, and practical exercises to train new hires. The five activities below are some of the tactics I used to coach new SDRs.

1) Peer Competitions

An SDR’s primary goal is to book meetings with qualified prospects for their sales reps. On my team, whenever an SDR books a meeting, they send out an email to the entire team that includes basic information about the prospect and an explanation of why the prospect would be a good fit for a given product.

This is the template we use:

  • Company Name
  • Website
  • Contact Name
  • Job Title
  • Prospect Type (Inbound Lead/Target Account/Sourced)
  • Connect Type
  • What is the top priority/challenge/goal of the prospect?
  • How does [product] solve that specific priority/challenge/goal?

All this information is already in our CRM, so why do we have SDRs email the team when meetings are booked?

By their nature, SDRs are ultra-competitive. Seeing social cues from their peers is usually enough to kickstart an SDR’s activity. If an SDR sees that a teammate has booked three meetings when they’ve booked zero, it’ll motivate them to work the phones a little harder.

Peer competition is only one of the levers we pull to motivate SDRs. Periodically, we’ll hold a contest. The SDR who books the most qualified meetings in a given week wins a small cash prize or other incentive. These contests are a low-cost way to motivate your team. You don’t need to run quarterly competitions with giant prizes to get your SDRs excited -- small wins can be enough.

2) Group Call Reviews

We hold an “SDR film club” weekly. All the SDRs on my team and a sales rep who used to be a rockstar SDR meet and listen to two or three connect call recordings contributed by the group. We discuss the good and bad moments of each call and review alternative strategies.

Have each member of your team provide one piece of positive feedback and one opportunity for improvement before you contribute your own comments. SDRs will often have feedback I haven’t thought of, because they’ve recently had a similar call or have made the same mistakes before. Group feedback sessions are a great way to expose the team to a wide variety of perspectives.

3) Peer Mentorship

At HubSpot, all new sales hires complete “pre-week,” a period of shadowing and setup that takes place before training begins. We connect new SDRs with a top-performing peer who walks them through prospecting best practices, invites them to sit in on connect calls, and familiarizes them with the different sales tools we use.

The peer mentorship program allows new SDRs to learn from others who are still in the trenches. Current SDRs are the most familiar with our sales tools and know little tricks I’m not up-to-date on. They’ll also be able to answer one-off questions and act as a first line of defense before a question is escalated to me.

In addition, the peer mentoring program offloads some of the more commonly asked and logistical questions that inevitably come up during a new hire’s first few weeks, so my time can be spent providing SDRs with substantive feedback and coaching.

4) Manager One-on-Ones

I hold weekly one-on-one meetings with all my SDRs to review their pipeline and activities. I also ask them to come with a few connect calls that were extremely good or extremely bad for us to review and analyze.

When providing feedback, I always ask SDRs to give me a self-assessment first to get them thinking critically about their performance. Then, I offer two to three nuggets of actionable advice that they can use on future calls.

The most important thing I can do is to be absolutely candid. After all, honest feedback is the most useful.

5) Call Assists

Feedback after the fact isn’t always the best way for an SDR to learn. Once or twice a week, I book a conference room so an SDR and I can make connect calls together for an hour.

Not only is this a great opportunity for me to see a new rep in action, I can also provide instant feedback. In our one-on-ones, the call we’re listening to has already happened -- there’s no opportunity for me to influence the outcome.

In live situations, I won’t actually speak with the prospect, but I’ll make suggestions to the SDR about questions they should ask or answer questions they might have for me. In this way, the SDR is learning important skills and providing value to their prospects simultaneously.

The early stages of an SDR’s career are a formative experience. For a sales manager, these first few months are critical to ensuring SDRs excel in their roles and eventually become successful salespeople. The five steps in this post have worked in my coaching, and I have no doubt they’ll help your SDRs get off on the right foot as well. 

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