Why Only 48% Of SDRs Consistently Meet Their Quota (And How You Can Fix it)


Yeah, you read that title right. Only 48% of SDRs consistently reach their targets according to TOPO’s 2019 Sales Development Benchmark Report,

48%… that’s it.

That means if you’re an SDR, there’s a 52% chance you’ll hit the phones hard, send tons of emails, and not even reach 90% quota. Couple that with an entry-level salary, and you’ll understand why most SDRs do everything they can to be promoted to AE or any position outside of sales.

So why is quota attainment so bad for so many SDRs? And how can you help your reps hit their sales targets?

Let’s dive in.

The Three Problems Holding SDRs Back

Traditional outreach channels are overused

When I ask prospects what tools they use for cold outreach, I get the same answer over and over — cold calling and cold emailing.

These two channels have been used for decades, but that means prospects have developed strategies to avoid being disturbed by pushy salespeople. They often won’t answer an unknown number or will mark you as spam as soon as the first email of your sequence lands in their mailbox.

By using the same crowded channel as everyone else, you reduce the chances of your message being noticed. Remember, it takes an average of 25 touchpoints to obtain an answer when running a traditional outbound campaign.

Emails and cold calls aren’t bad, but you shouldn’t rely solely on them.

Outreach relevance and personalization are declining

One problematic trend in cold outreach is the lack of personalization and relevance. How often have you received a cold email and immediately recognized it was a template?

It happens to me every day.

The problem is that most SDRs use the same templates as their colleagues. They are built from the same widely known blog posts. And so, we constantly receive messages that look very similar.

Our brains are pattern recognition machines. When you see the standard cold email with an intro, some bullet points, and a call to action, your brain immediately recognizes the pattern and dismisses the content.

That’s why so many people never read your messages.

And it’s the same with cold calls. When you ask, “Is it a good time to talk?” people know you are trying to sell them something, and they shut down.

That’s what Josh Braun calls “Being a white circle in a sea of white circles.

But what’s worse than a lack of personalization?

Lazy personalization.

When an SDR approaches me, congratulating me for attending the same school as her, my first reflex is to shut down and dismiss this person.

And that’s a critical thing to remember. Cold outreach and prospecting are marketing activities. And an important aspect of marketing is to catch the attention of a target audience.

Sending cookie-cutter emails or reading cold-call scripts doesn’t achieve that.

Sales development leaders are often inexperienced

In a lot of fast-growing companies, sales development leaders lack the managerial experience to run a successful SDR team. It is not uncommon to see a top-performing SDR being promoted to team lead based solely on a few quarters of over-performance.

The problem with this is that the traits that make a successful SDR (resilience, curiosity, and drive) are not always right for managing a team.

SDR performance is rewarded with commissions, trophies, accolades, and a lot of visibility inside the organization. Some salespeople love to be this center of attention. But when they become managers, this hunger for visibility can hurt the performance of those reporting to them.

Another issue with sales development management is that it’s not as financially attractive as other sales-related functions. Most of the experienced sales development leaders move to sales operations or marketing. And the result is a lack of seasoned leaders to train, coach, and inspire young and learning-hungry SDRs.

How to Help Your SDRs Increase Their Quota Attainment

The good news is that the problem of SDR quota attainment is solvable, and I’m going to show you three ways you can begin moving your SDR teams towards consistent success.

Use creative and diversified outreach channels

As I mentioned above, most sales organizations rely heavily on cold emails and cold calling. Some are slowly beginning to use social selling (mostly on LinkedIn), but this channel is quickly becoming crowded too.

The first step to finding creative outreach channels is to identify where your ideal customers are hanging out online. Are they communicating with their customers by phone, email, physical mail, or in-person?

When you understand what channels your prospects are paying attention to, you can start being creative with your prospecting.

Here’s a list of underutilized channels:

Fax: Some industries still rely on faxes to communicate. I bet these fax machines are not too crowded

LinkedIn voicemails: Yes, you can leave voicemails on LinkedIn. Just go on the LinkedIn mobile app, enter the message section, look for the person you want to contact, and hit the microphone icon to record a 60 seconds message

Conversational bots: Most SaaS businesses use conversation bots like Intercom or Drift. You can try to bypass the gatekeepers by chatting directly with a customer service representative and gathering information on your prospects

Physical mail: Sending letters or using customized gifts is a great way to grab the attention of a prospect

Walk-ins: Often used in field sales prospecting, a walk-in is a great trick to use with innovative companies, where prospects are not used to seeing people prospecting in person

If you keep trying new channels and diversifying them, you’ll start more conversations, prospects will appreciate your creativity, and you will reduce the risk of over-using a single channel.

Train your SDRs to be creative and relevant in their outreach

A lot of SDRs are in their 20s, as this job typically doesn’t require prior experience in sales. Look at sales organizations in tech, and you’ll see that the sales development team is mostly composed of millennials or Gen Z.

Millennials and Gen Z are communicating and expressing themselves on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. They are extremely proficient at creating content to share with their friends and family.

Related: How to Use TikTok for B2B Sales: 5 Winning Strategies

So why shouldn’t they use this natural form of communication to get in touch with their prospects?

You can ask your SDRs to use solutions like Vidyard, Videoask, or Soapbox to create prospecting videos. Hubspot even increased sales opportunities 4X with video. Another great tool you can use is Noms Bake Shop. You’ll be able to send a personalized cookie box with the logo of your prospect.

The point I’m trying to make is that asking people who have a native understanding of technology to use prospecting channels of the past is a waste of their potential. They are naturally inclined to use videos, pictures, and content to communicate with friends and family.

So, use that to start conversations with prospects (a lot of them are Millennials too).

Turn your sales development team into a lab

In the last few years, technology has dramatically changed the way people buy services and solutions. New technologies and tools make salespeople’s lives easier, but they also destroy repetitive jobs.

If your job can be done by a robot, you have a few years (or even months in some cases) before you are made redundant.

And guess what?

Traditional sales development organizations rely on small armies of young graduates to send hundreds of templated emails, read scripts over the phone, and enter data in CRMs.

Sounds like the perfect job for a robot.

But one thing that cannot (yet) be replaced by a robot is creative work. After all, generating opportunities is about starting conversations with humans who potentially have a problem you can solve. Humans like to be stopped in their day by something creative, well-crafted, and thought-provoking.

The best way to create prospecting masterpieces is to start experimenting.

Instead of using the same old cookie-cutter approach, SDRs should be encouraged to try new techniques, mixing content creation, traditional outreach, and using their creativity to create pattern interrupts.

For example, you could create a prospect-driven guide for your ICP. I have created a VP of Sales Guide to Navigating 2020, where I collected the opinions of major voices in sales. This guide was a good reason to get in touch with them and start conversations, and it allowed me to generate opportunities.

Rapid experimentation is one of the skills of the future. It’s key to train your sales development teams to use the right side of their brains (the creative side) if they want to have a job in 5 years.

What to Do Next?

SDRs are vital to a healthy, functioning sales team. Without good sales development, leads dry up and efficiency plummets as other roles have to spend extra time trying to make up the difference.

So, make sure your SDRs are being well-led, are creative with their outreach, and utilizing their natural abilities and skills.

So, set your SDRs up for success, and you’ll see huge returns. This is how you stay relevant in an accelerating world.

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