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How to Hire Your Next SDR

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Finding the right SDRs is an important, uphill battle. While recruiting, it can feel like you’ll never find the right person to serve as the foundation for your sales organization. We’re here to help with this guide, written by our Creator’s Guild Member: Daniel Kleinowski. This guide from Daniel will have you recruiting, interviewing, and hiring the right SDRs with confidence.

The role of Sales Development Representative (SDR) has a reputation for being a high turnover position. There are a variety of reasons why. Some are the fault of the company, while others come down to the individual hired. Let’s take a deeper dive into two common scenarios.

Scenario One: Hiring SDRs in Bulk

An organization hires SDRs in bulk, assuming that they need to hire ten to get to the six or seven that will make the cut long-term. This can be beneficial since it gives young professionals with little to no experience a chance to get their hands dirty in business and develop new skill sets. The organization knows ahead of time that only some will work out, and those that do can move onto other roles, becoming a pipeline for other teams within the business.

While this approach has its benefits, there are downsides as well. Most notably, the training and ongoing support will usually be lacking since it is a “throw them against the wall and see who sticks” approach. This might be a struggle for SDRs who need more tailored training and support to reach their full potential.

Scenario Two: Hiring 1-2 SDRs at a Time

An organization hires SDRs one or two at a time, focusing on finding the best candidates to make the cut long-term before they get started with onboarding. The benefits here favor the company as the time and resources spent on the employee have a higher likelihood of providing value to the organization. This also means the employee has a significantly higher chance of succeeding in the role and moving up within the company.

The potential negative here is that if the employee does not work out, then the organization goes back to square one and has to start all over again. On the employee side, some new SDRs like being part of larger groups to build camaraderie and competition as they progress. This is not possible with one or two hires at once, as compared to a group of five or more.

So what’s the best fit for your organization?

In determining which scenario is best for you, there are a few items to consider. Both scenarios can work for some of the upcoming insights, but hopefully this helps shed some light into what other organizations are doing. Here is a breakdown.

Scenario One: Hiring SDRs in Bulk

  • Investing in explosive growth
  • Processes and responsibilities well-defined between marketing, demand generation, sales development, and sales
  • Have well-established SDR team in place
  • Management lacks the time to fully train and onboard on personal level

Scenario Two: Hiring 1-2 SDRs at a Time

  • Focused on building steady, consistent growth
  • Building out key functions, processes, and responsibilities for the role
  • Have a small or non-existent SDR team today
  • Management willing to invest time and resources in the right candidate

Hiring SDRs

When hiring an SDR, whether it’s your first or fiftieth, it helps to break the process down into three parts. This being the Foundation, Interview, and Post-Hire stages of the process. Here is more detail on what each of the stages looks like and best practices.

One: The Foundation Stage (pre-interview)

This stage is built solely by the organization offering the SDR position. The goal is to have a well-defined role with clear priorities, objectives, and expectations. The more documentation, examples of success, and structure the better, as there are a lot of SDR roles out there that are vague and generic from the job posting through the interview process.

Some key items to determine include:

To whom will they report?

Marketing? Sales? Other?

What are you looking to pay in base and OTE?

Check your market to make sure your offer is truly competitive and would motivate an SDR to join the team. Good SDRs are in high demand, so it benefits you to pay well.

What will the SDRs day to day responsibilities be?

Include all activities expected such as phone calls, emails, LinkedIn messages, etc.

What will the tech stack be to help the SDR to do their job?

Include any tool used to make calls, send emails, research prospects, find data, etc.

What will the SDR be judged on for bonus compensation?

Common examples include calls and activities per day, meetings set and held per quarter, and opportunities created.

What processes and procedures does the SDR need to follow?

This involves how to bring in contacts, record activities, hand off a lead, etc.

How will you find the best candidates?

Who will be responsible for reviewing resumes and leading the process?

If you have an SDR team in place already, these might be easy answers. However, there might be variance that changes how these questions are addressed. For example, an SDR team might be split within an organization based on territory or product, which makes certain roles tougher than others. If this is the case, changing base pay, OTE, and structure of bonus compensation would be ideal to better match the complexities of the day to day responsibilities.

When trying to find the best candidates, there are many options available. Internal and external recruiters, LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job boards are the most common. What works best for you will vary based on your internal resources and budget, but all can be effective if the recruiting team you work with is good and/or you have a professionally written job posting designed to attract top talent.

Two: The Interview Stage (interview through the offer)

Once you’ve established a foundation for the SDR role, now is the time to set up your interview process. Typically, it requires 3-5 interviews depending on the size of your organization and how involved management wants to be. At least three are recommended, as it gives enough opportunity for a variety of interviewers to evaluate the candidates. Here are three steps to set up a strong interview process.

Step One: Finding Talent

Establish who is involved and what they are responsible for. This includes everyone from HR (write job posting, review and screen candidates), Marketing, Sales, and Sales Development team (interviews), and management (interviews). 

Here is an example of the process. First, a Recruiter will write and post the SDR role on the website and LinkedIn. Second, they will review resumes and do first interviews with the selected candidates. Third, they will pass on the best candidates to SDR’s eventual manager. Lastly, the manager passes on the top two-three candidates to a VP of Marketing or Sales, or even a CFO, for a final round. From there, make a group decision.

Step Two: Know What Qualities You Want

Know what qualities you are looking for. There may be some fluctuation here based on the role’s responsibilities and your expectations, but there are a few universal qualities that SDRs need to be successful. Here are four that are crucial to picking the right candidate.

  1. Resiliency. SDRs live in a world of rejection. Being thick skinned and able to handle rejections and rudeness without taking things personally is crucial to keeping up motivation and willingness to continue with the day with optimism.

  2. Coachability. Even with an experienced SDR, coachability and willingness to learn is crucial. Regardless of where they came from, there are always new product and process knowledges to gain within a new organization. As far as prospecting strategies and ideas, the environment changes so being able to adapt and focus on continuous improvement is necessary.

  3. Quick Thinking. This is something you can get a sneak peek at during the interview. Being able to think and respond quickly to unexpected questions, objections, and responses is a huge part of the role.

  4. Passion. If you can see a sense of passion, it likely comes with pride in their work and a desire to be the best they can be, not settling for average. Attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile are common attributes of passionate people, which is important for an SDR.

Step Three: Ask the Right Questions

Have strong questions that include ways for candidates to show those four qualities. There are plenty of basic questions that you should ask any candidate but getting specific is crucial in determining which candidates should make it to the next step. Basic questions include how they found out about the job, what attracted them to the role, what they know about the company, and what their career goals are.

Questions specifically for the SDR should focus on previous experience (good and bad), past examples of how they’ve managed a specific situation, actions they’ve taken, and general thoughts on the industry. Here are some quality questions to ask for a SDR role.

  1.  What is one of your biggest successes and how did you accomplish it?
  2. Tell me about a time you failed to accomplish a goal or achievement. What did you learn from it and how did you use that moving forward?
  3. Tell me about a time you heard multiple objections from a prospect and how you were able to overcome them?
  4. What motivates you in your day to day, especially when you are getting nothing but rejection?
  5. What are your favorite strategies to use in prospecting?

Once you’re able to get through the entire process and decide on a candidate, you’re ready to put your offer in writing and present it. Hopefully, the candidate will accept because of the appropriate pay and opportunities the position brings. From there, you need to have a prepared onboarding and training program to maximize the effectiveness of the ramp time and overall performance, which brings us to stage three.

Three: Post-Hire Stage (after accepted offer)

Once an SDR is hired, the fun part begins. It should be noted that onboarding and training are different. Onboarding is the entire process of bringing on a new employee, while training is one portion of that, which focuses on the job responsibilities. In a typical organization, you might see five different areas of onboarding.

  1. HR Orientation. This includes introduction to the handbook, company values, and policies, as well as completed forms like W2s, Benefit Elections, and everything else HR needs to get them into the company’s systems.

  2. IT Setup. New employees will need equipment like computers, monitors, and keyboards, as well as items such as email addresses, direct lines, and access to internal systems like Slack or Teams.

  3. Company Training. Not only will this include the background of the company and complete product offerings, but it should also include introductions to colleagues and others they’ll interact with.

  4. Processes/Procedures Training. This is where we get to the nitty gritty of the job, including administrative tasks. Typical items might include how leads are categorized, how to enter data properly in systems, and what the lead flow looks like between marketing, demand generation, sales development, and sales.

  5. Job Training. Now we enter the true heart of the SDR role. Job training will include learning about what companies and personas are targeted, call scripts and objection handling, email and marketing content, and what the expectations are for activity and performance. They should be aligned with what was discussed in the interview so there aren’t any surprises.

Who’s responsible for each stage might vary based on company size and resources. However, the direct superior should be responsible for a majority of processes/procedures and job training. We will elaborate on onboarding and training in the next article as it deserves more attention, but hope you enjoyed this big picture overview on hiring SDRs!

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About the Author

Daniel Kleinowski is the Business Development Manager for by EverAg, the leading provider of technology, services, and intelligence platforms to the Dairy industry. He was born and raised in Wisconsin, spending most of his time in the Milwaukee area, but moved to Dallas, Texas as fast as he could. Daniel’s professional career has always focused on prospecting and lead generation, including his last two roles where he championed Business Development departments to increase pipeline and revenue growth.

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