Ramping Up Your Sales Development Team

*Editors Note: This article is product of the conversations happening in the Sales Hacker Community on LinkedIn. Please come join the fun!

We’re only a few months into 2015 and the Year of the SDR is already starting to move in full force. More and more companies are ramping up their SDR efforts and can’t hire fast enough. We even got an article on Forbes recently calling Sales Development “the biggest trend in sales today”.

A few days ago the topic of ramping up your SDR team came up in the group, thanks to Josh O’Brien from Datanyze. He asked,

“As I continue to interview multiple LDR/SDR candidates per day, I am interested to hear your thoughts on:

  1. What’s the quickest way to get these guys/gals up to speed?
  2. Does the process change as the team gets bigger?
  3. What does your promotion structure look like?”

Here are some of the best answers from the group:

Taft Love, Sales Executive at LeadGenius

  • Be careful about setting strict performance-based promotion goals early on (you’ll be promoted as soon as you get ___ SQLs in one month).
  • Role play is a great way to speed up SDR performance. Set aside time each week to role play. Bring in people from other teams to participate. Nothing helps a new rep get comfortable like practice followed by coaching.
  • Create team goals so that there is incentive for SDRs to help one another. If the top performer of your team knows something the others don’t, give him or her a reason to share.
  • Our transition structure is still being refined, but the goal is to set up a 6+ month path from SDR to AE. The last two months of the transition are used as ramp months where a portion of the SQLs remain with the SDR so that they have some pipeline in place when they’re promoted. 
  • The day I learned that an SDR is a bouncer and not an usher, the job changed. Even on outbound calls, it shouldn’t be assumed that the person is a good fit. It’s surprising how quickly people will try to convince you that they’re a good fit when you stop pushing and express doubt.

Jonti McLaren, VP of Business Development at ConnectandSell

  • Have a strict onboarding and training process.
  • When role playing starts, present to peers first. Then graduate to senior folks, then execs, etc. As they continue they’ll gain confidence, training, and preparation at each step.
  • Take advantage of team selling – training and practice gets you so far, listening to dozens of real sales calls with real situations ramps reps quickly
  • Iterate on above as you see success. Your # of members (per your question) is a smaller input than what is/has worked successfully in the past. You should learn and iterate a la Lean Startup and continue to improve your process 
  • Lots and lots of conversations. The more they have, the faster it happens, and the more accessible coaching is….those are the keys to figuring out if they are going to be successful

Preston Clark, CRO at LawRoom

  • Get the SDR’s on the phone day 1! Get them to 20 calls per day the first week. Training aside, you have to assume they won’t understand the market until they’ve made 3,000 dials. The faster they get to 3,000 the better. Don’t ignore the other aspects of on-boarding, but don’t forget the calls!
  • Make sure the SDR’s stay put for at least 12-months– and that their expectations have been managed to this date. No matter what, 12-months. 6 months is too fast. They won’t get good for 2-3 months– and then you’ll want them training by example for a few months for the other guys you’re ramping up to replace them.

Scott Lorenson, Inside Sales and Lead Development at FirstRain

  • Underscore the importance of not being afraid to fail and to have fun with prospecting. I even ask my reps to share their *epic fails* with the team! But as they continue to dial, learn from past calls and not make the same mistake twice.
  • Lastly, the first thing I make clear on my initial phone screen is that I need a minimum 12 months (or more) in this role. And that I don’t want to hear whining 6-8 months in, “When can I become an AE?” If they can’t commit to that, I can’t commit to them.

Adam Chambliss, Sales Director at Achieveit

  • Start new SDR’s in pairs or groups whenever possible. Not only will it save your sanity from having to on board multiple times in a short span, but the SDR’s will enjoy the training more when learning with peers.
  • People learn in different ways, so mix styles throughout. Tell them how to do, show them how to do it, & make them practice/apply a great deal themselves. Also, mixing teachers/mentors helps.
  • Document all info that you want them to learn. We created a Playbook that contains scripting, processes, consumer profiles, best practices, etc. It helps you keep track of what needs to be taught. We also give them a soft copy of our Playbook on day 1 to start making them accountable for self-development. I message: “we will cover all of this, but LEARNING is on you. Everything you need to know is in this.” I’ve had several that take it home & start reading it religiously that night
  • And one tip on promotions: make them show some capability of doing the AE job before you promote them. We give them a metric to strive for in the SDR role to make them eligible to APPLY for promotion. As an AE applicant, they have to interview just like an outside hire. They also have to run a demo. If we aren’t satisfied, we do not promote them. The key here is to also give them very specific feedback on why they aren’t qualified yet & help them develop a plan to improve & re-apply.

There are a few instances where individuals were discouraged by not getting promoted & quit. Honestly though, we would’ve eventually lost those folks in the AE role by having to manage them out due to poor performance. Most SDR’s that “failed” promotion the first time end up taking the feedback, improving, getting promoted, & doing well as an AE.

Aaron Ross, CEO at Predictable Revenue

Why not start new hires someplace other than in outbound, or even sales? Outbound is just about the slowest place to learn your what you need to learn in sales.

Put them on the frontlines of Customer Service, Account Management or other areas of the business where they get to interact directly with customers. This way they can become extremely knowledgeable as fast as they can about the market, customers, and product.

They’ll be much more effective, much faster and this is true for anyone in sales.

Brandon Crawford, Market Development Leader at SocialChorus

Start your reps off by disqualifying prospects – counterintuitive right?

This does a few things for new hires:

  1. Allows them to have a lot of conversations off the bat (easier to get a hold of – we sell mostly to the enterprise, but we have a lot of inbound from small companies). This is key to a quick ramp.
  2. Has them run a prospect through our full qualification criteria in order to disqualify. This ingrains our qualification process into their mind.
  3. Puts them in the mindset of “you are not good enough for me”. This is the interesting one. I’ve found that it helps MDRs/SDRs who have zero experience quickly gain the ability to guide a prospect conversation.

If you know the prospect is not “good enough” for you, then you can mentally flip roles. The prospect has to sell you instead of you selling them. This helps give the reps confidence, which is the one thing that you need to build on very early  with zero-experience reps.

I recommend doing this in the first week and mix in with calling qualified prospects.

Kirsten Nelson, Strategic Communications Manager at NetApp

My favorite way to spin up SDRs quickly is to have them work events, especially booth duty. Hearing the questions that customers ask, listening to (and memorizing) answers really puts a lot of information in context quickly.

The best thing about it is that they get to learn who the customers are, what they care about, and how your company addresses those needs. This can perform much better, be more enjoyable, and soak up less resources than training on internal systems or policies.

Richard Harris, Owner at Harris Consulting Group

Hopefully as the team gets bigger you can leverage more senior people to help with onboarding. This let’s your team take on additional responsibilities and allows you to see additional potential in reps and your team.

I would also add that the process should not change only based on the size of the team, but also on things like shifts in target verticals, additional lessons learned. In general you should always try to “break” your process every few months so you don’t get stuck in a rut or potentially find a better way.

My advice on promotions is that they are earned, not structured. There should be a path with certain expectations and goals being met. However a promotion should also be based on initiative. Telling your reps that they have to do “Projects” to help the team and leave it purposely vague helps in many ways:

  1. It will help the cream rise to the top.
  2. It will make them become more self-reliant and not have to be spoon fed. (Which is the difference between good and great in my opinion.)
  3. It can help you get outside your own comfort zone and make you think.




There You Have It.

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Max Altschuler is currently the VP of Sales Engagement at Outreach. He is as passionate about the sales profession as they come. He created the premier B2B Sales media company for all things sales innovation, Sales Hacker, and ramped them up to over 150,000 monthly visitors before joining Outreach through acquisition. At Outreach, he leads all things marketing, along with the continued evolution of the Sales Hacker community. Max is a highly regarded sales thought-leader published by Forbes, Time, Inc, Harvard Business Review, and Quora. He wrote the book on modern sales called Hacking Sales: The Playbook For Building A High Velocity Sales Machine, which was published by Wiley.

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