When I initially became an SDR manager 1.5+ years ago (feels like eons, though), I was fortunate enough to have the guidance and time of many senior people within our organization such as our CEO and head(s) of Business Operations.
After speaking with dozens of SDRs, SDR Managers/Directors, and Heads of Sales, I’ve realized that my own experience was the exception to what could unfortunately be viewed as an all-too-common rule. The rule being that many fast-growing organizations promote reps into front-line managerial positions and give them little advice or none at all.
While I may not be able to help you become an all-star Sales/SDR Manager in one post, I can in a series of them.
Below are a few pieces of advice that exponentially accelerated my own learning and allowed our team to not only achieve goals, but surpass them. I’m confident many of them will also help you:
1. Establish your team culture.
Regardless if there is only one Sales/SDR team within your Sales org or multiple (like we have at Grovo), your team needs an identity. This is important for a few reasons:
*NOTE: the identity of your team must also align with the culture and identity of the overall company).
People are naturally motivated when they feel they’re a part of something larger than themselves. This is true at any growing company, but is magnified when there’s an entity that’s larger than an individual rep yet smaller than the overall company and comprised of people doing the same thing as them e.g. a team of SDRs, team of AEs, team of CSMs, etc.
In the early days of an organization, training isn’t that good, but it’s also not very hard to deliver. You only have a few reps on a team and most likely only a few people in the overall company.
As any team scales, having smaller teams (or pods) allows those on that team to learn from one another in addition to the manager who may be busy with multiple ramping reps, recruiting, or something else that requires her attention.
Instead of having reps distract multiple people on the sales floor, have a dedicated team to lean on. It will increase the efficiency of the whole org and allow reps who have been around a bit longer to step up and work on their own professional development.
No two teams are alike (typically) and this stems from a manager’s particular management style. At Grovo, we have multiple SDR/Sales teams and they range from being very punctual and regimented to being a bit looser and cavalier on the phone. One isn’t better than the other, though (numbers confirm this, of course).
The “style” of your team is where its specific identity shines and is what they become known for. You’re doing your team a disservice if they can’t look at themselves and say they’re a part of the “(insert name)” team whose flavor is “(insert a few adjectives e.g. playful, stone-cold serious, etc).”
The key here is to achieve balance in a rep embracing and cherishing their individual team’s style while not looking down on another. After all, the entire Sales org/company is one team.
2. Create pipe discipline.
Pipe discipline is required for each and every single role within any Sales organization. SDRs have various types of leads, AEs have opportunities in different stages to manage, and AMs/CSMs have living, breathing (but hopefully not churning) clients to care for and grow.
If you’re a new manager and don’t have guidelines around how big pipes should be, establish them ASAP by either looking at what’s already worked for you or testing. There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to how big or small a rep’s pipeline should be. The only rule is that it has to be big enough for reps to achieve their individual goals…and then some.
3. Discuss new role with previous peers.
If you were previously peers with someone you’re now managing, you must address the new role head on in order to ensure that all will go smoothly and to clear the air if there is any lingering resentment or opposition to you being in this new role. It’s about treating those with whom you work (and don’t work) with genuine respect for what they do.
Schedule the necessary 1:1, grab coffee or a drink and move past this so that you can work on building your business.
4. Set expectations immediately.
This one is huge. Many of our problems at work, and in life, come from mismanagement of expectations e.g. It was assumed you/your rep was going to do something and they didn’t, etc.
Either do this in a 1:1 setting or with your entire team. No laptops, no phones, or anything else that can be distracting. Sit there and explicitly tell them everything that you, as a manager, expect from them (come prepared with this already done) and then ask them to let you know, verbally, what they expect of you.
This isn’t a pop quiz, so ask them to think about this beforehand to increase the quality of their answers. This also isn’t a one-time exercise. Expectations change week to week, month to month and quarter to quarter. Be proactive in asking if expectations have changed as time goes on and letting your reps know of new expectations that you may have, as well.
5. Transfer your pipe ASAP.
The funny thing about pipeline is that it’s alive. Meaning it’s born, grows and has the potential to die if not nurtured correctly. Leads, more so than opportunities and clients, have a half-life and become less valuable over time as they sit in an SDR’s view.
So, unless you’re specifically assuming the role of “player coach,” you need to redistribute your own pipeline ASAP. How you do it is another story. You can either bulk redistribute leads in your CRM or make the necessary intros between your reps and existing opportunities/clients.
6. Prioritize your goals.
As a new manager, you will have a lot on your plate and will want to do as many things as you can as soon as you can. This isn’t the way to go. If you spread yourself too thin, you’ll not only be highly unproductive but also become susceptible to burnout.
Take an hour or two and write down three (3) of your top priorities for the quarter and direct all your energy toward those three things. If you find yourself doing something that’s not advancing one of those three priorities, stop immediately. Stop the pointless meetings, creating pointless documents and sending pointless emails.
A few examples of priorities that new Sales managers could include:
- Achieving quarterly goal
- Increase morale
- Decrease ramp time by x,y,z
- Increase x,y,z conversion rate
- Hire ### new reps
7. Schedule all necessary meetings.
Yes, you have to do this as well. I doubt spending time on your calendar scheduling, then rearranging various meetings excites you, but it’s critical to making sure that you’re as efficient with your time as possible.
Take the necessary hour to schedule your 1:1s, bi-weekly syncs, weekly reminders, etc. It will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. Just remember that anything you put on the calendar has to be driving you and your team towards the three priorities that you set.
8. Draw out a checklist.
It’s very easy to not pay attention to the small details when things are going well. But when things are going badly, you need to quickly assess and diagnose why. This is where a checklist comes in handy. Each day, your reps will need to execute a variety of activities (make calls, send emails, set meetings, run demos, meet clients, etc.)
Whatever metrics you’re tracking, have them written out so that you can run a particularly good or bad week’s numbers against this checklist to better assess which levers were pulled that either led to your team’s success or failure. An example checklist:
- ✓Calls – Have we made enough calls?
- ✓Connects – Do we have a decent amount of connects?
- ✓Total MQLs – Are we in a good place regarding MQLs?
- ✓Lead Sources – Are we getting the right types of MQLs?
- ✓Time Spent Calling – Are we spending the right amount of time calling the right leads?
- ✓Demos – Are we running enough demos to move opps down the funnel?
- ✓Clients – Have we been meeting with all of our clients regularly
8.5. Take a breath.
Understand that you’re in this new role for a reason – your leadership team believes in you and you need to believe in yourself. You will certainly make mistakes, but it’s truly taking the time to learn from those mistakes and internalize those learnings that will lead to greater success in the future. Get ready for a wild ride and congratulations.