How to Build an SDR Process and Introduce It to Your Team
Invented back in the 1980s, sales development practices still enjoy wide popularity among B2B companies as an essential element of their go-to-market strategies.
In fact, a Bridge Group survey found that, on average, 6 in 10 B2B SaaS companies have an in-house sales development team. And the higher the sales volume, the more likely the company is to have dedicated SDRs on board.
The same study, however, lists productivity as one of the top challenges SDR teams face. This means sales leaders should invest in effective sales processes to make their teams more productive.
Leading the SDR team at Reply for almost 3 years, I’ve had the chance to build the SDR process from scratch and implement it within the team, step by step. In this article, I will share the action plan for the SDR process to give you, as a sales leader, the inspiration and framework to do the same within your organization.
So, here it is — our 7-step SDR process introduction plan.
The SDR process starts with making sure the team understands their role and responsibilities in general. This is especially important for teams with entry-level sales reps (i.e. recent graduates or people who have switched to sales from a different field). In this case, you should start by introducing some basic concepts that all SDRs will face in their role: lead generation, CRM, leads, opportunities, sales funnels, the sales process, sales organization structure, the role of SDR, daily sales routines, etc.
If your SDRs have at least some experience in the field, you can focus primarily on how outbound lead generation works. Coach them on the basics, including best practices and methods for identifying the right companies to target, finding the emails and phone numbers of the contact person, cleaning up their lists and enriching the data, etc.
If you hire only experienced SDRs, you can skip this step altogether.
Now, you can dig a little deeper and introduce the concept of the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to your SDRs, so that they not just find leads, but also qualify them before handing them off to the account executives.
To start, have them analyze your current ICPs (i.e. who your existing customers are, where they live, what industries they are in, what titles they have, etc.). Along with the demographic data, your SDRs should also get to know the psychographic data. What is your ideal customer trying to achieve? What problems and challenges are they facing? What keeps them awake at night? Having a solid idea of who exactly they’re talking to will give your SDRs a distinct advantage.
Of course, this means you need to already have accurate and reliable ICPs in place. If your ICPs are based on guesswork and imagination, they won’t be of any use to your SDRs. Rather, they should be based on research and analysis of your existing customers. Also bear in mind that your ICPs will change over time. This might be due to internal changes at your company (such as releasing new product features or identifying a new market) or external changes with your customer. For example, any ICPs created in January 2020 were almost certainly out of date just a few months later, with the global pandemic changing the market practically overnight. As priorities rapidly changed, previously ideal customers were dealing with radically different challenges, meaning ICPs had to be updated to stay relevant.
Next, you can teach your SDRs how to expand your ICPs by introducing additional data points. For example, think about technologies used by the prospects, or even creating new buyer personas for your product by using social listening and making sense of various buying signals and intents online.
This one is not only the most important but also the most challenging aspect of the SDR job, so pay extra attention when introducing it to your team. Here are some of the essential activities you should address with your SDRs when introducing your prospecting process:
There’s a great deal of science in writing sales emails — from picking the appropriate variables, defining the perfect email length, or creating an optimal sending schedule. In the long run, it all boils down to how successful your SDRs will eventually be.
That is why you need to spend more time on this step; teach your SDRs how to write effective subject lines, create and customize email templates, follow up with prospects, A/B test and optimize their sequences accordingly. SDRs should also understand the importance of personalization and segmentation to effective email outreach. Rather than trying to use email blasts with zero targeting, help your SDRs use what they’ve learned about your ideal customers to send relevant messages that are personalized to them and their needs.
Encourage your SDRs to experiment with different ways of standing out in a prospect’s inbox. For example, with tools like Vidyard, it’s now easy to create and send videos with your email, adding a personal touch to an automated campaign.
They say that cold calling is dead but that's not true. Nearly half of B2B buyers still prefer to be contacted via phone, which makes "smiling and dialing" one of the most powerful outbound prospecting methods.
Teach your SDRs how to pick up a phone and start dialing. Calling a stranger isn’t easy, especially when it’s a sales call, so give your SDR the support they need. No one should ever have to pick up the phone without knowing what to say, so make sure your new SDRs have a script they can use to get started.
That doesn’t mean reading the sales script word for word from a sticky note though. As helpful as they are, sticking rigidly to scripts can lead to wooden and awkward conversations that go nowhere. Coach your SDRs on how to make their conversation meaningful and personalized, handle common objections on the spot, or act in a non-standard situation.
One method you could try is role play. Sit down with your SDRs and run through a series of mock calls. Go through the most common objections and throw them some unexpected questions until they’re comfortable and confident in their ability. Then, when they’re on the phone for real, this attitude will come through in their delivery.
Of course, many times the call won’t even connect. As a result, make sure your SDRs know how to leave a compelling voice message. In the event they are connected to a gatekeeper, coach them on what to say and how to increase their chances of getting through to the intended person.
It’s also impossible to disregard the impact social media might have on your sales. In fact, 78% of the teams who use social selling tend to outperform their peers who don’t. That is why more and more organizations integrate social selling into their outbound and inbound processes.
This means you need to coach your reps on how LinkedIn or Twitter can help them do their job — from engaging the prospect and booking demos to building their personal brand for consultative selling.
Lastly, you need to make sure the SDRs know how to effectively use all of the listed channels in combination, such as building multichannel outreach sequences that use a mix of different touchpoints. And that is exactly what sales engagement is about.
As a relatively new word in B2B sales, it's quickly becoming a new standard. As a result, SEPs (sales engagement platforms) like Reply that help sales reps bridge the gaps between different sales channels (emails, phone calls, SMS, personalized videos, manual tasks, and social outreach) can make SDR teams more effective and will be front and center in any sales stack.
To be clear, sales engagement means more than just using different channels. For the best results, you have to combine those channels in the most effective way. Your SDRs will need to work out the best cadence for their outreach. Having a clearly defined sequence that incorporates different channels with scheduled follow-ups on different days increases the chances of a successful outcome.
Scheduling a call
It might sound easy, but it often takes time to schedule a demo.
There are few things as frustrating as having an excellent call with a prospect and then never hearing from them again. Even with convenient meeting scheduling services, you might still need to put some effort into making sure that all parties accept the invite and actually attend a demo.
To increase the chances of successfully booking an appointment, SDRs have to prepare the ground in the initial contact. Rather than just adding it at the end, every word in that first email or call should be used to create the right environment for accepting a meeting. That means SDRs need to build trust with their prospects, while also showing them how they stand to benefit. After all, would you book an appointment in your busy calendar to sit in a demo with someone you didn’t trust for a product you see no value in? Done correctly, prospects won’t just say yes to a meeting; they’ll be looking forward to it.
Even then, your SDRs must follow up. It’s likely that the prospect is busy and faces a lot of different demands on their time. Even the most enthusiastic prospect might miss a meeting if they’re not reminded. Rather than relying on the prospect’s calendar, SDRs do well to follow up the day before the scheduled appointment to confirm it.
Having this process standardized among your SDRs will help you prevent any misunderstandings and make the process more effective.
Seamless collaboration between your sales reps and account executives is the cornerstone of a productive sales organization. To make it work, both teams should have a clear understanding of their respective responsibilities.
The SDR should know exactly where their role begins and when they should hand off leads to the AE. This means having an agreed definition of what a sales-qualified lead (SQL) looks like, as well as having an easy way of sharing key information on those leads between the teams. For most companies, this is where CRM software is invaluable as their single source of truth — as long as the SDRs keep it up to date.
Also, make sure to build mutual accountability between the two teams and encourage them to support each other (even if it’s beyond their basic responsibilities). To do that, I recommend holding regular sync-ups where they can share feedback and progress, discuss their current prospects, and align their efforts across the pipeline.
Sales tools and resources
Next, coach your team on how to make the best use of the available sales tools and resources, from CRM and SEP to phone calling and knowledge sharing tools.
As for the latter, I would definitely recommend using playbooks to organize and share sales-related knowledge within your team.
This is a very convenient format for creating manuals on every single process in your sales organization, whether it’s email research, demo scheduling, SDR to AE lead hand-off, objections handling, or sales tools tips. Anytime your SDRs have a question, they can simply open the corresponding playbook and find all the answers.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Once you walk your SDRs through the process from A to Z and make sure they understand it, encourage them to build upon what works to further improve the process. After all, there is always room for innovation and growth.
Rather than forcing them to blindly follow the standard process (or to start from scratch), give your SDRs some time to experiment and find new and better ways to do their job. Invest in education and training and motivate them to suggest new ideas.
A great resource is Almanac.io. The platform is a free library of open-source documents and templates contributed by sales professionals with years in the game. Your SDRs can find hundreds of templates from cold emails to objection handling scripts that they can copy, customize, and implement in your process.
If they prove to be effective, update your playbook and introduce the new process to your SDRs again to show how it works now, what you want to change or improve, and why.
Monitor and optimize SDR performance
If you want to build a strong SDR process, you can’t just set it and forget it. Even with the right training, the proper tools, and a proven cadence, success isn’t guaranteed. To get results, you must keep an eye on how your SDRs are performing and then make any necessary changes.
First of all, track how your SDRs are spending their time. This doesn’t mean you have to be looking over their shoulder all day, but you should be able to monitor their activities. How many calls have they made each day? How many emails have they sent? While there’s more to being an SDR than just pumping out calls and emails, it’s difficult to convert leads if those numbers are non-existent.
If activity is lower than expected, you’ll have to identify the cause. Are your SDRs using their tools correctly? Are they putting off making calls because they don’t know what to say? It might be that different tools or additional training are required.
You should also measure the actual results they get. Usually, SDR performance is determined by how many meetings they’re able to book. It would also make sense to check other metrics, such as positive reply rate and pipeline generated, to measure the quality of their outreach.
Building an SDR process from scratch is quite a challenge. But introducing it to the team and making sure they adopt and follow it is even harder!
However, having a formal process is a must for any high-performing sales team and a foundation for its successful growth.
Hopefully, these guidelines will help you navigate any struggles down the road and power up your SDR team.
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