SDR Hiring Strategy: How to Acquire the Best Sales Talent in 2022

SDR Hiring Strategy: How to Acquire the Best Sales Talent in 2022

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For most businesses, consistently procuring high-quality leads is a top priority. While there are different inbound sales tactics you can use, you will still need a dedicated team of Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to engage those leads. But when it comes to outbound prospecting and cold outreach, the SDR role becomes even more important. 

In most cases, the quality of leads will highly depend on how good your SDRs are at their job. As a result, sales managers need to carefully consider how they go about finding (and retaining) the best SDRs. 

This post will take a closer look at some of the challenges when hiring top-performing SDRs, what qualifications and skills to look for, and how you can retain your best SDRs. 

What makes hiring SDRs a challenge in 2022

An SDR is one of the most demanding sales roles out there. Their main task is to generate and qualify leads, typically through outbound prospecting — cold calling and sending cold emails to prospects that match the company’s buyer persona.

Even with the best outreach, SDRs have to get used to hearing “no” a lot. As a result, finding the right person for the job has never been easy. However, sales managers who want to hire their next star SDR in 2022 have new issues to deal with.

COVID-19 drastically changed recruitment. Overnight, remote work went from a perk to a necessity. While some have now returned to working from an office, sales managers may need to hire and lead a remote sales team without ever meeting them. 

In addition, the “great resignation” has shown that employees aren’t going to settle for a job that isn’t right for them. Gen Z workers are switching jobs at a rate 134% higher than in 2019, with 25% saying that they hope or plan to leave their employers in the next six months.

What to look for in an SDR 

Before you start your search, you’ll need to first know what an ideal candidate looks like. Each new hire is an investment, both in terms of the salary you’re paying and the time it takes to onboard them, so it’s important to make smart choices here. What qualifications and skills are you looking for? What’s essential and what’s a bonus? 

You might think that you need an SDR with several years of sales development experience and a university degree, but that might not be realistic. Most SDRs with that amount of experience will likely have moved on to more senior positions. 

Being an SDR is often seen as an entry-level position — one of the most appealing aspects of the role is that it’s a good way to get into a sales career, even if you don’t have any previous experience. In fact, focusing on those kinds of qualifications could mean that you miss out on real talent. Instead, look for the qualities that successful SDRs possess, for example:

  • Self-discipline. Are they able to get on with the job, even when a manager isn’t around? 
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills. This includes actively listening to the prospect, not just reading a script.
  • Empathy. Do they understand their prospects and adjust their approach accordingly?
  • Coachability. Are they ready to accept feedback, or are they already convinced they know best?
  • Grit. Can they keep on going when things get tough?

It also makes sense to look for examples of how they’ve shown those qualities and skills previously.

The SDR talent acquisition process

Once you know what you should be looking for, you can implement your SDR hiring strategy. To start with, identify 3 things:

  1. where to look for the SDR talent?
  2. what to write in your job posting?
  3. how to pick the right candidate?

Let’s go through each of these aspects in more detail.

Where to find your next SDR hire 

There are many resources available to help you find the right SDR for your sales team. Here are some places to look for your new hire.

  • Job sites. Websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster are some of the most popular examples. Many job sites allow you to post a job for free while giving you the option to pay to promote the job and get it seen by more people.
  • LinkedIn. There’s plenty you can do on LinkedIn to find your next SDR. Along with job listings, you can go headhunting for ideal candidates that match your requirements and reach out to people in your network for referrals and recommendations.  
  • Sales groups and communities. To find your next SDR, go where SDRs hang out online. There are plenty of online groups supporting sales professionals where you can find potential hires. Many of these communities, such as Sales Hacker and Rev Genius, also have dedicated job boards for their members. 
  • Existing sales team. You should also consider asking your current sales team members if they know anyone who would be a good fit to join the team. As they already have first-hand experience of what the job’s like, they’ll know what’s involved and can recommend suitable candidates. Incentivizing good hires with a referral program can be a win-win for you and your team. 

How to write an effective job description

The first step in any hiring process is to write up a job description. Besides advertising the job, the process of writing the description can help you clarify what your ideal candidate looks like. 

Along with the job title, the description typically has five sections:

  1. Job summary. This is an opportunity to sell the role, describing not only what you’re looking for in an SDR but why you’d be a good company to work for. 
  2. Responsibilities. What will your SDRs be expected to do on a daily and monthly basis? 
  3. Required skills and qualifications. What experience and certifications do people need in order to apply?
  4. Preferred qualifications. What qualifications would your dream candidate have? 
  5. Salary and benefits. While some employers choose not to include salary information, including these details can help you stand out to candidates.

Regarding skills and qualifications, some companies expect SDR candidates to have university degrees or many years of sales experience. However, that might not be realistic for an entry-level SDR. As a result, some choose to focus on the qualities they’re looking for in a candidate. 

For example, our ideal candidate at Reply should have the following qualities:

  • internal locus of control
  • high degree of emotional intelligence
  • team player
  • good learner (able to self-educate)
  • ready for challenging tasks
  • not afraid of responsibility
  • creativity, always suggesting new ideas

If you’re hiring locally to sell to the global market as we at Reply do, you might also want to highlight fluent spoken and written English among those qualifications. When hiring tech SDRs, having at least a basic understanding of the IT and software industry would be preferred (although not necessary).

How to make the role appealing to candidates

In the current market, it’s not enough to offer a job and expect to get the best candidates knocking on your door. As we’ve already seen, people aren’t going to settle for a job that doesn’t meet all of their needs. 

Just as salespeople have to consider their prospects and their needs before pitching a product, sales managers need to seriously think about what candidates are looking for in a job. Why should they pick you over another company? As a business, what is your value proposition to employees?

While some companies offer perks that show a place is “fun” to work at such as ping-pong tables and free beer, consider what candidates are really interested in. In many cases, making it easier for them to do their work remotely is more beneficial than having a fancy office space. 

Other popular perks include insurance and parental leave, unlimited PTO and sabbaticals, home office stipend or co-working space reimbursement, flexible schedule, etc.

How to assess your SDR candidates

The next step is to qualify the job applicants. While every team will have its own process, Reply has developed the following process for SDR hiring:

  • Initial assessment. At this stage, we review the applicant’s CV and cover letter. It’s worth mentioning that we do not consider candidates without the cover letter attached to their application. At all. Even if they have the necessary background and years of experience.
  • HR screening. Next, our HR will have a brief call with the candidates who seem to meet our requirements. Although it’s just a basic check, this call often gives us an understanding of whether the candidate is a good fit in terms of culture and personal qualities.
  • Pre-interview screening. Before we get the candidate on a call with the team lead, we usually ask them to do some research on our product/company and write 10-15 sentences explaining what we do and how people could benefit from it. Additionally, the candidate should make a 1-2 minute video talking about their hobby (to check their English).
  • Interview with the team lead covers a variety of questions that assess both the candidate’s hard and soft skills as well as how they qualify for the job. Some examples of good questions to ask an SDR candidate during an interview are:
  1. What’s your research process?
  2. What questions would you ask to qualify a prospect?
  3. How do you deal with rejection?
  4. What do you love about working in sales?
  5. What’s the hardest part about working in sales?

Ideally, we try to encourage the candidate to share specific examples of how they’ve dealt with similar situations in the past using IEI (intelligence, energy, integrity) questions, for example, “What’s the hardest you’ve ever worked on anything?” or “What values do you appreciate the most in a team environment?”

Important: Pay attention, not just to what they say, but how they say it. Do they communicate effectively, or do they struggle to make conversation? The way they act in the interview is a great indicator of how they’ll act on a sales call. It’ll also help you see whether they’re a good fit for your company’s culture.

  • Post-interview tasks. If the candidate passes the interview, we ask them to complete two more test tasks: objection handling (come up with responses to 5 common objections) and email template writing (based on the given context and parameters).

Once the test tasks are complete, we will review them along with the results from the previous steps and shortlist the top 5 candidates. Out of those 5 candidates, we will ask our CEO to talk to 2-3 and we make an offer to the best one, considering his feedback.

Lastly, it’s important to note that we ALWAYS provide exhaustive feedback to every candidate, along with recommendations on what to improve. If a candidate is really good but doesn’t fit our specific criteria, we’ll always consider referring them to another company in our network.

Retaining your top-performing SDRs

Hiring an SDR doesn’t guarantee they’ll stick around. When U.S. workers were asked why they quit their job in 2021, the top responses were:

  • Pay was too low
  • No opportunities for advancement
  • Felt disrespected at work

If you’re trying to retain your talent, paying a fair wage is far more important than any other perks you might offer. Ensure that you’re using a compensation plan that rewards your top performers for their hard work. 

After that, make it clear how SDRs can grow and progress their career within the company. Most commonly, SDRs will be promoted to the Account Executive (AE) role before moving into more managerial roles, eventually reaching the VP of Sales role. However, your SDRs may have other goals in mind. 

Rather than waiting for them to ask you, make time to regularly sit down with your SDRs and ask them where they see their career going. Margaret Rogers, vice president at Pariveda Solutions, recommends using the following questions to kick-start the process:

  • What parts of your job are most interesting and rewarding?
  • What parts are you finding most challenging?
  • What are you doing to reach your career goals?
  • Are there any other projects, committees, or additional responsibilities you would like to be involved in?
  • Is there anything else you’re curious about that you haven’t been able to explore yet?

By helping your SDRs reach their full potential, you can demonstrate that you value their work while strengthening your sales team.

Looking to streamline the SDR onboarding process and help your employees ramp up their productivity?

Final thoughts

With people now more willing to jump careers and the increased popularity of remote work, sales managers have to rethink the way they hire SDRs. 

Whether you’re advertising on job sites, searching on social media, or asking your current sales team for referrals, you need a clear idea of the skills and qualities you’re looking for in an SDR.

From there, you should make the role as appealing as possible by offering relevant perks and treating candidates with respect. Then, by helping your SDRs grow within your business, you’ll retain your highest performers and build a stronger sales team.

Need more help with the recruitment process? Reply helps you automate the hiring and recruiting process, from candidate sourcing to booking interviews, all while keeping communication 100% personalized. Try it out for yourself with a 14-day free trial.

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