5 Quick Tips About Successful SDR – AE Relationships

Companies with Sales Development functions – where Sales Development Reps (SDRs) support Account Executives (AEs) – have an advantage: They efficiently tackle inbound and outbound efforts at scale, build fatter pipelines, develop a strong bullpen of future AEs, and close more deals.

When SDRs and AEs don’t work closely together (in territories, on sales calls, or day-to-day), big advantages disappear and deals are lost. If the team is located far from each other, they must coalesce via phone, instant message, text, or Skype. Proximity is power.

The late, great Chet Holmes wrote, “Most companies leave far too much of the sales process to individual salespeople.” He said, instead, “Work as a team, utilizing everyone’s brain power to drill down, perfect, and ‘procedurize’ each aspect of the sales process.”

If you’re lucky enough to have this function in your business, assign SDRs to two (no more than three) AEs, based on your business needs and marketplace. Use these 5 tips to ensure your SDR-AE relationships are on point:

1. Hold Multiple One-On-Ones (1:1s) Each Week

The best teams meet twice a week. They hold 1:1s that last roughly 20 minutes. Each meeting has a concise, action-oriented agenda to determine who’s doing what. Typically, the AE handles the following items:

  • Schedule a recurring, 20-30 min. 1:1 on the SDR & AEs calendar; Mondays & Fridays
  • Include the dial-in number both will call, unless one calls the other directly
  • Stick to an agenda; you’d be amazed how much you can cover in just 20 minutes

Most SDRs are measured and compensated on scheduling meetings and/or demos for the AE (between the AE and prospects) and qualifying buying opportunities. Make sure the SDR and AE are clear on the qualified meeting and qualified opportunity criteria.

  • Qualified meeting/demo = right type of company/contact + interest + next step
  • Qualified opportunity = company’s a fit + contact is one of authority or influence (can get you to someone with power) + company’s evaluating an offering like yours & considering a decision within the next x months

Regular 1:1s help for quick reviews of what’s on tap for the week (Mondays) and how to work smarter next week (Fridays).

2. Complete and Review Pre-Call Plans (Once the Initial Meeting is Booked)

Pre-call plans offer a snapshot of the prospect you’re about to call. Completed plans illustrate taking control of the process and are essential for initial meetings and discovery calls.

Pre-call plans include areas you want covered before the call

  • What company is meeting with us? (Inbound: How did they learn about us? Outbound: How did we get them to meet with us?)
  • What is current news about the company that’s relevant to our meeting?
  • Who are the most important people in the company? How can we speak to them?
  • Where are they in their fiscal year? (If public: How are their earnings to-date?)

…as well as questions you want answered in the call

  • How are they doing business today, without our offering?
  • Why does it make sense at this time of year to have this call?
  • Why did they agree to speak with us? Why right now?
  • What would life be like if they didn’t invest in us?
  • Where do we want to go from here? After this call?

Notice there are no ‘yes/no’ questions in the pre-call plan. Keep questions open-ended, so you can influence a conversation versus an interrogation.

3. Debrief (Immediately) After Each Initial Meeting

Sales leader Jeffrey Gitomer said, “It’s not just asking questions, it’s asking the right questions.” Whether qualifying at a high level or digging deep in a discovery call, SDRs and AEs must debrief afterwards, and assess if the right questions were asked (and answered).

This is precious time to strategize on next steps, discuss if/how the call could have gone better, and discern how a pipeline opportunity will take shape. The moment the sales call ends, the SDR and AE contact each other and talk about:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how well did the call go? How could we have done better?
  • Is there some “there” there? Meaning, does an opportunity to bring on a new customer exist?
  • Which of us will own the next steps? Who will send a recap email? Who is doing what?

4. Communicate with Each Other “In the Moment”

Nothing can prompt action like a sense of urgency. Regular communication “in the moment” inspires action, especially when AEs work remotely in the field and SDRs are working from the office. 

Use text, instant messaging, and mobile phones to ping each other with questions. You don’t have to wait for that scheduled 1:1 if you can give or get answers right now.

I think the next logical step in our relationship is speaking.


5. Consider CRM the “Single Version of the Truth”

“If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.” The AEs’ job is to sell, work the mechanics of deals, and get in front of prospects. While those are the top priorities, they also prevent adoption and usage of the company’s CRM. And when data isn’t consistently logged, critical steps in the process are missed.

There are several ways to ease this pain (integrated sales intelligence offerings, outsourced help, in-house CRM administrators, and mobile apps). Stop relying on notebooks, email threads, and scratch pads to capture vital information.

  • Use sales intelligence tools like InsideView to sync company and contact data in one-click
  • The fewer clicks, the better
  • Provide regular coaching and training for the entire sales team

These 5 tips will get your SDR-AE relationships on track. It helps to “get along,” too.

Establishing a friendship, as well as a business partnership makes everything easier and more fun. When SDRs and AEs sing from the same sheet of music, the company cultivates consistency and everyone wins.

Ralph Barsi leads the Senior Director, Global Demand Center at ServiceNow. He was named one the most influential inside sales professionals in the industry two years in a row. Ralph is also a frequent contributor to Sales Hacker, as a writer, speaker, and instructor to salespeople of all levels.

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