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How To Structure Your Sales Development Team: The Navy Seal SDR Framework

Steve Ross

February 13th, 2018

sales development team structure

In this article, you’ll learn how to structure your sales development (SDR) team for maximum efficiency and scalability. Sales leaders, read on!

“The only easy day was yesterday.”

-U.S. Navy SEALs

This is one of the most famous principles of the U.S. Navy SEALs. From a business perspective, to me, this means you have to constantly improve your game. You have to find your competitive edge, and then continue getting stronger and smarter.

The Story of a Top-Performing SDR (Who Asked for a Week Off)

I recall a time earlier in my career as an SDR Manager, where Kevin (one of the top-performing reps) came to my office one day and said:

“I have maximized Oscar’s calendar as far out as possible. Would it be better for the company if I just clock out and take a week off?” 

I had two reactions to Kevin’s statement. The first was “I don’t believe you.” The second was, “If it is true, why would I want you to go home? Let’s take a look.”

Kevin had indeed killed it–he had filled up one Account Executive’s calendar with meetings for the entire month.

I said to him:

“Great. Why don’t you go do the same with Eli’s calendar? You’ll be able to make more money and you’ll really help the company.”

Kevin did, and he crushed it again.

I thought, “Why don’t I do this with all my top SDR’s?”

That was the birth of the SEAL SDR program, a unique model that allows you to point your best resources exactly where they pay off the highest.

The Birth of the SDR Navy SEAL Program

The SEAL SDR approach is simple but unique: create an elite team of your top reps (in this case SDRs) to execute strategic missions on behalf of your business.

Identify your high-performing Account Executives and strategically unleash your SEALs.

This flexible approach allows for remarkable return: by securing more meetings for high-performing AEs, your company can see 1.5x, 2x, or even 3x the return.

How? Your top AEs will close at a higher rate, and by putting additional SDR resources against these AEs, the results will grow exponentially.

How Do You Identify Top Performing Reps and Enable Them To Lead?

  1. Identify top performing reps.
  2. Separate the pack.
  3. Define their missions.
  4. Assign them to your most important accounts.
  5. Measure, adjust, double down on what works, replicate.

First, start small. Do as I did with Kevin. Identify top-performing SDRs and separate them from the pack. Then, figure out how to motivate them.

Create and present the opportunity for your best SDRs to generate more personal income. Salespeople are partially money motivated so you need to present your reps with an opportunity to cash in. This should feed into your strategy for building out compensation plans across your organization.

Once you have your team, the next step is to define their missions. Do you have an AE who is on a hot streak, turning everything they touch into sold? Have your SEAL move over to that Account Executive and double down.

The SEAL program can bolt on to traditional models like pods, round robin or regional inside sales structures and give those structures superpowers.

At Outreach, we run a territory model but give our SEALs accounts across the country. We want our best SDRs on our best accounts, wherever and whatever those happen to be.

We also want to keep the team flexible and by ensuring our SEALs are loaded with national accounts. This way we can literally shift a mission instantly without missing a beat.

Third, measure and adjust or replicate. Like anything that matters, you need to measure it. Make sure that the resources you are dedicating are paying off. Make adjustments if needed or continue to pile on resources if it’s going well.

Keep in mind, not every SDR gets to be a SEAL. Make your program is something earned (and rewarded). Like the real SEALs, this team is the best of the best. Not just the best soldier but a team member who can think big, buys into the importance of strategic initiatives, and can deploy anywhere, on any mission at a moment’s notice.

SDR Special Operators: Rescue Missions and New Programs

As stated above, the top mission for your SEALs is to place them against your highest performing AEs. This is the biggest return for the resource allocation.

You can also choose to send your SEAL SDRs on a rescue mission.

For example, a new AE may be doing the right things and hustling, but not quite firing on all cylinders yet. Point your SEALs at these AEs to give them a boost and build confidence.

Lastly, a SEAL team is helpful when piloting new programs.

Your SEAL Team is comprised of your top performers. If you roll out a new program, you can trust that they will follow the right protocol and that the execution will be strong. They will also shoot you straight before you roll something out and poke holes in your plan before you get too far down the road, allowing you to refine and improve. When the SEALs knock it out of the park, the plan has credibility across the whole team when you roll it out on a broader scale

There are so many benefits of the SEAL SDR model. Of course, headcount is always a sensitive topic, so start small to show your executives what is possible. If executed right, the headcount is truly an investment. Once you’ve proven the model with a few of your current SDR’s, you’ll easily justify your business case.

What’s your secret recipe for SDR success?


Also published on Medium.

About the author

Steve Ross

Steve Ross is a seasoned sales leader with over 20 years experience in the areas of sales, sales development, marketing and operations. Steve is passionate about helping teams achieve optimal effectiveness.

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