The role of Sales Development Representative (SDR) is a very trying first job to have. It can bring with it its fair share of stress and strain. There are quotas to fill, metrics that keep changing every time, and you also have to deal with a ton of rejections. It’s no wonder that this particular job has one of the highest turnover rates when it comes to first jobs.
Part of your job as a manager is to keep your SDRs happy. You have to confront these facts head on and figure out how to deal with them. How do you keep your SDRs happy, even when they’re facing so many challenges? What course of action can you take? How can you ensure sustainable growth in your team and that it is following the correct road to long-term efficient development? Most important, however, is the question of how you can stop your team from getting bogged down by exhaustion.
It might not be easy, as many managers and executives will gladly tell you, but it isn’t impossible. All you need is to have the right principles and you’re good to go. These will guide you in your daily interactions with your team, telling you how to respond to their needs as they come up. There are some helpful tips you can immediately put to action to save your team and get them on track. Here are some of our most effective ones.
#1. It all starts with the hiring process
If you’re going to build a solid SDR team, you have to start right at the root of the whole building process: the hiring. You need a group of people in your team who you’re already confident will flourish in the business before you begin to build them up.
Individuals who are already naturally inclined to being good SDRs are also likely to be in it for the long haul, making them more reliable assets to your company. In order to score the right people, you need to pay attention. Observe keenly the personality traits of the candidates during interviews and other parts of the hiring process to figure out who they are. They need to generally have dispositions that are aligned to the tasks that they will likely be performing on the job. Not just anyone can make a good SDR. It takes a very special kind of brain to be able to work its way through the everyday challenges faced by an SDR.
But what, exactly, is that special kind of brain? What kind of personality makes a great SDR, the kind that rises through the ranks to become an account executive?
To begin with, a good SDR is a problem solver. They will actively be looking for solutions to the challenges that face them on a daily basis. Sure, this sounds like a quality anyone applying for just about any job position should have, but it is especially important for an SDR, almost to the point of being paramount. Consider the situation where an SDR is facing competition. A normal person might be motivated by resentment and jealousy to overcome the competition. Now, resentment and jealousy aren’t good emotions to let motivate you, but they work well enough in a lot of fields to get people ahead. As an SDR, the last thing you want motivating you is resentment, or jealousy. They will drain you of your energy and lead to exhaustion fast. A good SDR would instead focus on personal excellence in such a situation. They would ask themselves how they can personally improve their skills and innovate, rather than how they can beat the next guy.
Another quality good SDRs have is being self-motivated. They are self-starters who can take the initiative when they need to. Something that every profession has to deal with from time to time is monotony. There are times when doing the same thing every single day just gets to you. A good SDR will find ways to automate little repetitive tasks without sacrificing quality so that their mental energy can be freed up to deal with other problems that need a more custom and creative approach.
An SDR needs to be ever curious and willing to learn. They should also be receptive to coaching. Consider the situation where an SDR keeps getting no response to their emails. Someone who isn’t willing to adapt will keep sending out the same email each time and wondering why nothing’s changing. They’ll keep doing the same thing over and over again and wondering why they aren’t getting a different result.
A good SDR will try to find out why. They’ll carry out tests, tweaking different parts of the email and sending it out to different groups of recipients until they find something that works. They will keep asking themselves: “What can I do to make my messages stand out and have a better chance of being responded to?” They will constantly experiment and seek to improve their techniques.
This is the most important step to take, and it is precisely because it is the most important step that it is the first one you should take. First, acknowledge that there is a special set of qualities that predisposes people to being good SDRs, and then actively seek out these qualities in candidates that apply to work at your organization. If you find people who fit the role like a glove, then you will have found people who will be able to withstand the challenging work environment of the SDR department. These are the kind of people you can achieve sustainable growth with in the long term. Slack on this and you will be setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.
#2. Transparency is key
One of the biggest problems facing SDRs is that they don’t have a clear path to promotion. A common piece of advice given to people in just about every profession is “trust the process”. It makes sense intuitively. All you have to do is roll up your sleeves, keep your head down, and follow the path laid out before you with determination. Think of someone trying to chop down a tree. They know that if they keep hacking, eventually, that tree will fall. So they commit themselves to doing five of their best hacks with their trusty axe every single day. That’s all they have to focus on every day: 5 good hacks. No matter how long it takes, that tree will eventually fall. That is someone who trusts the process.
It isn’t easy to trust the process as an SDR when the process isn’t even defined. This is where you come in as the manager. Make sure the path to promotion and mastery is clearly defined, complete with goals, major accomplishments, and systems for reward. The SDRs should fully understand what it takes to advance in your organization. When they can clearly see a light at the end of the tunnel, they’ll walk the tunnel with a lot more enthusiasm.
Define the benchmarks your SDRs should follow and try to emulate. As they achieve these benchmarks, reward them with increasing autonomy. You can do this by giving them very clear goals, such as booking a certain number of demos, sending a certain number of emails, trying different lead generation techniques and so on. The point is to reinforce productive behavior. Don’t give them tasks and goals that they can easily manipulate or game as this will only defeat the purpose. As they accomplish these goals, you can give them the freedom to tweak the standards a bit. That way they can have the motivation to achieve the goals as they will see this as a way to move up the ladder.
This transparency is a fundamental part of being a good leader. You’re basically giving them the rules of the game and telling them you’ll give them the autonomy to tweak the standards as they gradually succeed at their tasks.
#3. Stay aware of your staff
Fatigued SDRs won’t come to you for help that often. They probably won’t even tell you they’re fatigued. The thing about burnout is that it doesn’t just happen all of a sudden. It builds up over time, creeping up on the SDR, and your organization, till it’s almost too late. If you pay attention to the warning signs, however, you’ll be able to identify burnout risks early enough and do something about it.
Here are some things you can watch out for that will tell you if a particular SDR deserves more attention:
- They are complaining more of late, as compared to actively finding solutions
- Their productivity has gone down
- They interact a lot less with the rest of the team than they did before
You should also bear in mind that the position of SDR is an entry level position. As such, it should typically take one about 1.5 years at the maximum to land a promotion and climb higher up the ladder. If they’re taking longer than that, you might want to find out why.
#4. Take appropriate action
When you do notice that something is amiss, the best thing to do is take immediate action. Bring the SDR in for a chat so you can understand what the matter is. You’re not calling them in to give them a telling off, or to threaten them with a sacking if they don’t perform. That never gets anything done. Instead, have a polite and encouraging conversation with them to find out what it is that is standing between them and success.
Always focus on the positive in such circumstances. Each member of your team will have different strengths. They can use these natural strengths in different ways to achieve their workplace goals. Some of them might not be very good with phone calls and emails, but might nail it on socials. Encourage each member of your team to play to their strengths. Communicate with them every day and remind them that the organization cares about them and respects them. When you call them in for a chat, remind them that they’re not in any kind of trouble, and always remind them that their role as an SDR is the most important in the company.
#5. Foster growth, trust, and creativity
We already talked about how important it is to be transparent, but how can you leverage this transparency to promote the growth and development of your team?
A good place to start is mentorship. You’re ultimately looking to develop your team into one of the leaders. Why not show them what a leader still-in-development looks like? You can do this by sharing some of your own experiences with them. What did you do when you were faced with some of the challenges facing them today? Surely, you must have some anecdotes of people you know who’ve overcome the same challenges and solved the same problems and can share with your team what these people did that worked so well for them. There might be specific problems and challenges that you want to give your SDR team a heads up on as they join the organization so they can look out for them. With something solid to mold themselves, your team of new recruits will be so much better at their job.
You don’t have to do it yourself. You can mentor individuals, as well as groups, but you should also enlist the help of senior SDRs and account executives to help you in this endeavor. They can help the new recruits to adopt a mindset of leadership, which will help them grow and firmly entrench in their mind the comfort of working in an environment that is both safe and supportive.
As your new recruits spend more time at the company and cover milestones, encourage them to try new things. Encourage them to transition into leadership roles within their own teams, such as training new recruits and being innovative with prospecting, etc. Make sure to always align this freedom with their accomplishments, however.
The point is to celebrate the little victories as well as the big ones. Let your team always feel like they’re making progress, no matter how small. That way they’ll feel like they’re in control of their growth and they will be in a constant cycle of self-improvement.