Sales Development 1 Comment

32 Sales Development Leaders Share Their Best Hiring Advice

Alex Burkholder

June 25th, 2015

Scaling a Sales Development team

Editor’s Note: Guest post by Alex Burkholder, Co-Founder at Red Bridge.

We’ve entered an era in which sales development has reinvented and restructured the traditional sales process.

In fact, some argue that 2015 is “The Year of Sales Development.”

Sales development teams can be defined as specialized groups that focus entirely on the front-end of the sales process: setting qualified demos and appointments.

High-growth companies have used this form of professional appointment setting as the main driving force in their customer acquisition machine.

The Sales Development team works alongside the sales organization to set qualified demos and appointments, only.

It makes sense, right?

Software is being built for strictly for the SDR role. Sales development is a conversation that dominates the Sales Hacker Community on LinkedIn. There have been over 70 articles about sales development on the Sales Hacker blog, most of which have happened this year. Events are being held to cater specifically to sales development. Like the upcoming Sales Stack Conference. And some go as far as to solely focus on sales development with the Rainmaker conference.

The problem is that it’s a relatively new role that we’re hiring for, and resources are far and few between. This brings up a very important question that many SDR leaders are asking as they scale their teams.

To learn more about how companies are scaling their sales development teams, I reached out to some of the top up-and-coming leaders in the B2B sales space and asked each one:

What is a single piece advice you’d give to another sales professional who’s currently scaling or who is about to start building a sales development team?

Here’s what each of them said, in their own words:

See and treat your people as if they are one or two roles ahead of where they are today. What you believe, you become; and the best leaders start by believing in their people.

Ralph Barsi

Vice President, Field Operations
Achievers

 

Be Patient. You likely will not see an ROI on SDRs until month 6 (give or take). Don’t cut the cord too early.

Adam Lewites

Director, Client Partnerships
Insightpool

 

Build your SDR playbook before you hire. Have the tools, processes, and procedures in place before you interview anyone. This will help to ensure that you hire the right people & empower them to hit the ground running.

Drew Lawrence

Director of Business Development
FullContact

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SDRs are critical to the success of our sales team. In this new world of SaaS sales, leads have done extensive product research before interacting with the sales team. As our CEO often says, this has caused salespeople to “move up the stack” and be “smarter, more product-oriented.” The success of this type of selling begins with our SDR team. Below are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Treat SDRs like they are your future, because they are:
The SDR team is the first place we look to when hiring Account Executives. By promoting top internal talent first, we foster an environment where performance is rewarded. We hire smart and ambitious people and have made it a priority to let them know they have a place to grow at Intercom.

Quality vs. Quantity:
At Intercom, quality and quantity are equally rewarded. On most sales teams, the SDR that passes ten, $100 opportunities is rewarded over the person that sources one, $1,000 opportunity. We compensate SDRs on the total amount of pipeline they source, rather than the number of opportunities. SDR compensation is also tied to the overall team performance, not just their individual deals.

Don’t over-qualify leads:
In my past experience, SDRs were bottlenecks which slowed down the sales organization. SDRs felt like they had to over-qualify to get credit for an opportunity. Sales is a numbers game and we want our AEs to have as many at-bats as possible. If a lead wants to talk to an AE, have your SDRs use the tools available to them online (LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Twitter and Clearbit) to do basic qualification rather than acting like a sales bouncer.

Kelly Schuur

Account Development Manager
Intercom

 

Measure everything, always be training, and never stop looking for a better way to do something.

Eric Gonzalez

Senior Manager, Sales Development
Glassdoor

 

Start with the end in mind and be specific on your expectations and measurement. Is your team setting appointments or creating qualified opportunities? How will you segment inbound / outbound and how are you going to pair SDRs with field sales reps?

Colin McGrew

Manager – Sales Development
GoodData

 

Make sure that you have a comprehensive hiring, onboarding, and training program that is data-driven.

Jorge Soto

Co-Founder
Dashtab

 

Having a strong onboarding program that facilitates a short ramp time for new SDRs is fundamental to scaling. The program should clearly outline expectations for the SDR’s 1st 30 days, it should provide a peer mentor & it should test retention of key info & prospecting skills.

Noelle Alyassini

Director, Sales Development
Lattice Engines

 

Make sure inbound is healthy — your AEs are swamped with leads they don’t have time to follow up on — before even thinking about growing an SDR team, let alone doing outbound. Then start with MDRs, or inbound SDRs, and create a scalable process that triages these leads into qualified opps.

Make sure marketing (CMO or VP) is sponsoring or supporting this endeavor. You will get nowhere without tight alignment (meaning quantified metrics to hold everyone accountable). I would have SDRs reporting into sales management for onboarding and sales training. Do not have them solely reporting to marketing. IMO — this arrangement leads to SDRs who have no idea how to close, and will not be successful in AE roles.

John Malamud

Global Account Executive
DNN

 

It’s all about process. Don’t expect these more inexperienced teams to “wing it.” Invest in a CRM, sales prospecting/intelligence tools, and call scripts to help provide the framework for success.

Meghan LaTorre

Manager, Sales Development
Zendesk

 

Remember when sales development was the cheese that stood alone? Me too, and no longer is that the case, as I’d argue that it’s the lifeblood of your company.

Looking to start/scale your team? Hire the HUNGRIEST people you can find, those who WANT to be at your company, those who want to ASCEND but understand the TIME and COMMITMENT needed to prove themselves, and those who will engage in some good old healthy “coop-etition”.

One last thing…think of your team as a company incubator and not just a sales incubator despite the majority of reps taking that route. Give them exposure to the different roles made possible given their experience gained while on your team.

There has never been a better time than now to be a sales development leader. Good luck!

Ilan Kopecky

Director, Sales Development
Aria Systems

 

1. Create a hiring profile based on your top SDRs
2. Be efficient by establishing a hiring cadence: phone screens, interview day, and then onboarding day for class of new hires.
3. Develop team lead roles to help with ramping new hires

Margaret Weniger

Director of Sales Development
SalesLoft

 

People: Hire for attributes. You can’t coach “hustle”.

Process: Consider the right KPIs for you (meetings booked vs. completed, $$ of pipe vs. # opps, live connects vs. dials).

Technology: Increase output drastically with little incremental effort. Work smarter, not harder.

Jon Parisi

Sr. Director, Revenue Development
GuideSpark

 

Take notes in your CRM as soon as you start using one. Then reinforce it to the rest of the team. The four other members of the sales team may know about what’s happening with this lead or that prospect and not feel the need to take many notes because the universe is tiny.

But that’s now. Fast forward a year from now; I guarantee you’ll wish you had reinforced proper note taking practices in your CRM. Context is everything and a CRM can’t convey it. It seems simple but it saves future headaches. Take notes.

Sam Burns

SDR Manager
TechValidate

 

One of the most important factors of building a successful team is the talent you hire. Make hiring a priority. SDRs are an investment of time, resources and, of course, money. You want someone on the team that fits the culture, is motivated from within, and can make a meaningful contribution to the team and company as a whole.

Take a moment to think: Sales Development Reps are your future sales organization, do you want this individual working for you for the next 2, 3, or even 5 years? When implementing new strategies, ASK your team for their ideas and make the process together. They will feel more invested and will work harder to make the new process a success.

Katherine Andruha

Manager, Sales Development
SugarCRM

 

Two big things for me are:

  1. There can’t be growth without opportunity. (reps need a ladder to climb)
  2. Coach behavior, NOT attitude. The right behaviors lead to the right attitude.

Leo Cardenas

Manager of Business Development
Insightpool

 

Find candidates that have a record of being self starters and and a desire to grow with the company. The SDR role is a tough job! They are the first line of defense, the first impression of your company. You should hire someone you could see in a senior sales role in the future.

Sarah Enxing

Sales Productivity Manager
Influitive

 

Process, process, process, and reporting. Scaling an SDR team efficiently and effectively all comes back to having in place repeatable processes for everything from on-boarding new SDRs to SFDC workflow and Opportunity SLAs. And most importantly, nothing will work without being able to report on every little detail.

Brandon Crawford

Head of Market Development
SocialChorus

 

Create an ideal SDR profile and hire against it and create a standard on-boarding and training program to optimize the ramp time. Communicate goals and metrics to the team so expectations are set.

Be metrics oriented and understand key conversion rates.

Create a growth plan.

Lan Bui

Director of Global Sales Development & Sales Operations
Clarizen

 

Invest in the SDRs. Too often, companies treat the business development teams like naming a lobster and throwing them in the tank. Create the development path to enable them to do what their talents push them toward, but more importantly- what they want to do.

Erik Estabrook

Manager, Global Business Development
StrongView

 

Just like building out your Ideal Customer Profile – create your Ideal Candidate Profile. If you haven’t hired anyone yet and you don’t know what this would look like, ask other sales leaders you know if it would be ok to speak with their top reps – do the work to find the qualities that are important to you. If you don’t know what you’re looking for in a new candidate, you’re going to be flying blind.

Hire future leaders – Kyle Porter recently spoke about this and I couldn’t agree more. Find people that you want to have around for the long haul. People that can grow into leaders at your company. Don’t turn and burn, that creates the wrong environment and culture.

Create a hiring process that filters out for the qualities you’re looking for. Also have your hiring process incorporate aspects of the role they’ll be doing – it’s a great way to understand how successful they might be at the job.

Jason Vargas

Managing Director, Sales Development
Datanzye

 

Clean your account data. It will be incredibly difficult to build a team without understanding number of companies, industry, size of organization, etc. This is by far the most important thing you can do for the SDR team. Clean your data.

Andrew McGuire

Sales Efficiency Manager
Zendesk

 

In your weekly 1:1, take half the time scheduled for your agenda, but then be sure to have your reps own the second half.

James Barton

Director of Sales Development
Mixpanel

 

Hire what you can’t train (passion). Create an environment that can scale, think CRM and your contact strategy. Train what you can’t hire (product knowledge/professional salesmanship)

Michael Mansour

Director, Sales Development
Marketo

 

Invest in your people, and they’ll invest in you. Create an internal path for promotion, so that you can nurture top-talent into leaders within your organization.

Daniel Barber

Director, Sales Development & Operations
ToutApp

 

Recruit detail-oriented people. The modern SDR runs a suite of software tools and must triangulate information from a staggering number of sources. Use tools to aide in the recording of data into CRM. Configure and bend SFDC to your will. Clearly define your Ideal Customer Profile, and qualification criteria. Celebrate success.

Aaron Melamed

Director of Sales
Greenhouse

 

Hire Senior SDRs first. Don’t waste your time with hiring recent college graduates right out of the gate- they will suck up your closer’s time and drag your outbound down.

Kyle Poretto

Sales Development Manager
NewsCred

 

My best advice would be to clearly define your objectives for the team. If you want them to create opportunities, meetings, demos, whatever. They have to know what their directive is and how to make decisions that help move the company forward.

Kristina McMillan

Director, Lead Development
Five9

 

The most fundamental goal of the SDR team is to reach the right people at the right time and to deliver the right message. As your SDR team grows, it becomes more and more important to have a solid, repeatable and documented (key word) process in place to support that goal.

SDR world is a fast-paced environment, and with the ever-changing digital landscape, changes that your prospective buyers are undergoing, even changes happening within your own organization, it’s imperative that SDR’s have a foundation that they can rely on to be consistently successful.

It’ll take a combination of your own data and shared best practices to help you create a process that drives results, and just like everything else, it will probably undergo changes.

As long as you place an emphasis on tracking results and measuring effectiveness, the process should evolve into appointment-setting machine that really hums.

DJ Blough

Sales Development Lead
Kapost

 

It’s massively important to make clear roles and responsibilities. What is the SDR’s end product? When has the SDR completed their part of the sale, and when does that AE pick up? Are the SDRs on the hook for meetings? Qualifying calls? Opps? This incredibly hard to nail down, as it varies given differences in organizations & strategies, but critical to ensuring focus, clarity, and commercial cohesion.

Nick McGourty

Manager, Inside Sales & Operations
Docurated

 

1. Define your process early. Test. Fail. Learn. Track. Repeat. This will be key to tracking later.
2. Really truly understand your people and be patient. Get them exposed to as much as possible (presentations for execs, conferences, marketing, engineering) and push their limits.
3. Treat yo’self every once in a while and have fun!

Jeanne Marie Hood

Manager, Sales Development
AdRoll

 

Learn to interview with your gut. A candidate can say all the right things, but if you don’t feel it, neither will the prospect.

Bryan Beard

Inbound SDR Manager
Zenefits

 

Sales Development

What’s your best advice?

Join the conversation on LinkedIn and share your advice on how to scale a sales development team.

About the author

Alex Burkholder

Alex is the Co-Founder at Red Bridge, a marketing agency focused on helping B2B Tech Startups accelerate their growth.

  • @RalphBarsi love the words of wisdom. Give people the opportunity to step into their potential. Listen to them as leaders!

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