Effective SDR Onboarding: Reply’s 2-Month Action Plan
Back when I started my career as an SDR, no one bothered to explain what my role actually was. I was told to find potential users for our product — without any clear ICP, best practices, playbooks, or templates.
As a result, it took me around a year (and a great deal of trial and error) to figure it all out on my own. That’s why, as an SDR leader, I always offer as much support and resources as possible to help our new hires with smooth and quick onboarding.
Last year, we added 5 new SDRs to our team at Reply using our own onboarding process we created and polished along the way. And I would like to share some of our best practices (plus a detailed action plan) with you, fellow SDR leaders. So, let’s dive right in.
Why is onboarding so important in sales development?
In the world of sales, the role of an SDR is often considered an entry-level position. As a result, most newbie sales reps have little to no experience and understanding of sales in general. They require professional training and continuous coaching to achieve the hoped-for results.
According to The Bridge Group Report, the average SDR ramp-up time is 3.1 months. The average tenure, on the other hand, is just 1.8 years. This means your SDRs will only have around a year and a half to perform at their best.
You might be wondering: What’s the point in spending so much time and effort on your employee ramp up? Wouldn’t it be better to cut the onboarding and try to get the most out of your new hire before they decide to leave?
That is a common — but very dangerous — fallacy.
First of all, you should consider employee training an investment with guaranteed ROI. A well-trained SDR who has all the necessary tools and resources at hand can easily outperform any other sales rep.
Proper onboarding can also significantly reduce the overall ramp-up time. As a result, your SDRs will become productive and reach the quota faster.
On top of that, your hires will also be more likely to stay with you longer if you help them improve and foster their professional growth. The same Bridge Group Report finds that proper training and development offered by the employer will keep 86% of millennials from leaving their current position.
Another common mistake is to think that onboarding is only required when hiring inexperienced SDRs. Even if you’re not new to sales development, every business is different, with its specific ICPs, sales processes, tools, and preferred tactics.
Sure, the amount of time and training involved will be significantly different. But you will still have to familiarize your new hires with the product and target audience as well as break down the nuances of the existing processes and tools.
Key elements of a successful SDR onboarding process
Whether it’s a one-week crash course or a 3-month “advanced SDR studies” program, there are certain things that define a successful onboarding process. Here are some of the most important aspects of an effective SDR ramp-up.
An effective process is always well-planned and documented. Sure, you can adjust some details if needed, but the core should always remain intact. Having this solid foundation can help you build a consistent and scalable process for every one of your new team members. This will also be useful if there are other people involved in the process.
Regular check-ins with your new hires are nonnegotiable. This is how you stay on the same page and keep track of the progress. Feedback, on the other hand, is often overlooked, especially if it’s the employee’s feedback concerning your process. When onboarding your SDRs, give AND ask for honest feedback regularly and act upon it as you move forward.
Telling the new hires what to do and how to do it is a losing tactic. A better approach would be to offer ongoing guidance and coaching while also offering some freedom to try and figure things out on their own. In this case, consider assigning peer mentors to coach the new hires to avoid their feeling pressured by senior management.
Personal guidance is important, but so is self-education. Give your SDRs some sort of knowledge base to refer to when they have questions or want to revisit the things you’ve covered during your coaching sessions. You can as well include some collateral reading resources for those who want to dig deeper. In this case, also make sure to give your employees enough time to do that.
You can coach your new hires on how to find and dial a prospect. You can even provide a ready-to-use script and have them memorize it verbatim. Yet, picking up a phone and talking to a real human is quite a different story. Let your SDRs apply their knowledge and sharpen their skills in practice early on. Sure, they will make mistakes. But it’s only practice that makes perfect, right?
Is remote onboarding any different?
Technology has enabled us to effectively collaborate, work, and learn, all while staying miles away from each other. Yet, onboarding typically requires closer contact between the SDRs and their mentors. It also might pose some extra challenges for you.
But there are a few things to make your remote onboarding as effective as in-person training:
- Use video calls as much as possible. A quick text chat might seem more time-efficient, but it won’t give you an idea of how your trainee feels.
- Have an extensive shared knowledge base always available to everyone so your SDRs can first try to find the answers on their own rather than asking for your help.
- Invest in sales training tools, at least for things like call shadowing and conversation recordings.
- Set measurable milestones and realistic goals to keep track of the employee’s progress at each step.
But most importantly, don’t try to micromanage your new hires. Allow them some space to get creative and show initiative. Being able to work autonomously without close supervision is a must for remote workspaces.
Moreover, if you have to ask or remind your new hire to do basic stuff once, it’s a bad sign. If you have to do that again, you’re probably wasting each other’s time.
The 2-month plan for effective SDR ramp-up
You might have all the resources in the world, but simply piling tons of information on your new hires won’t do any good. You have to break it down into easily-digestible chunks and put them into a logical order. That is where an SDR onboarding plan comes into play.
At Reply, we’ve developed our own process to help ramp up our new hires. The process covers the first 3 months at the company. Let’s briefly go through the key milestones and related action points (listed under ✅).
Use this step-by-step plan to streamline the SDR onboarding process and help your employees ramp up their productivity.
Week 1 — Getting started
The first week of onboarding is completely dedicated to helping your new hires get acclimated, learn as much as possible about the role and company itself, and provide the required tools and resources for their future work. The process consists of the following steps:
Important: We recommend wrapping up every day with a Q&A session and starting every new day with a brief recap of the previous day.
Day 1: Start with the intro call to get to know your new hire, then move on to explain the general company info, including values and beliefs, as well as the current team structure and roles. Provide access to company-wide as well as sales-specific tools.
- ✅ Set up the required tools.
- ✅ Create the email signature.
- ✅ Meet the team (schedule quick 1-on-1 calls).
Day 2: Take a deeper dive into the team structure and the role of an SDR within the company. Walk through the CRM and explore the internal knowledge base.
- ✅ Go through the selected materials in the knowledge base.
- ✅ Set up a LinkedIn profile and follow the required influencers.
Day 3: Get familiar with the key ideal customer profile and the types of buyer personas. Walk through the sales engagement platform (key features, entities, touchpoints) and the rest of the tech stack.
- ✅ Generate one ICP using the provided resources.
- ✅ Watch educational videos on SEP.
- ✅ Go through the key sales tech categories (and 3-5 top tools in each one).
Day 4: Reiterate what your product is. Learn about the key competitors and product pricing.
- ✅ Conduct in-depth competitor analysis.
Day 5: Have a weekly recap meeting. Explore additional products (if any). Introduce the new hires to the key meetings and their agenda. Talk about the current state of sales development and its future outlook.
Week 2 — Sales engagement touchpoints
If the first week lays the foundation for the rest of the onboarding process, the second one is key to mastering the SDR role. This is where the new hires explore the basic aspects of sales engagement across different channels and touchpoints. This includes:
Day 1: Overview of the main types of outreach emails, their structure, and key elements. A closer look at the subject lines best practices, variables, snippets, and templates.
- ✅ Create 2 email templates based on the given ICP and variables.
Day 2: Learn about the use of LinkedIn for sales engagement and different types of touchpoints there, the basics of social selling approach.
- ✅ Update LinkedIn profiles according to the checklist.
- ✅ Create 4 LinkedIn messages — plain text, GIF, and 2 voice messages — for the chosen leads.
Day 3: Go through the phone calling and text (SMS) use cases, best practices, and workflow.
- ✅ Have a role play call with the mentor.
- ✅ Listen to and analyze 5 successful calls by another SDR.
Day 4: Explore the concept of video prospecting, including use cases, tools, and best practices. Learn to use Tasks in the sequences.
- ✅ Record 1 video to use with the email and message templates from the previous days.
Day 5: Recap the main types of touchpoints and multichannel sequence best practices in general.
Week 3 — Inbound prospecting
During the third week of onboarding, we focus on inbound sales development. Starting with the specifics of the internal process and key concepts (MQL and SAL), the new hires will get familiar with the structure of the existing sequences and get to create their own sequence.
This is when you give them a bit more freedom to implement what they have already learned and execute daily tasks slowly taking over the sales development process in general. As a result, you can expect your SDRs to book their first meeting by the end of the third week.
- ✅ Book the first meeting with the prospect.
Week 4 — Outbound prospecting
The fourth week is dedicated to the basics of outbound sales development. This includes:
- list building, cleaning, and enrichment
- outbound email structure
- channel-specific best practices
While similar to what they did the previous week, your SDRs should be more focused on putting their knowledge into practice. However, you shouldn’t expect them to start booking calls right away. Outbound prospecting has a slightly different pace than inbound. So, instead, the main to-do is build a solid outreach-ready list of 50 top-tier prospects.
- ✅ Build a list of 50 top-tier prospects based on the ICP.
Important: As you wrap up the first month of onboarding, you should consider introducing the quota for the second month. Of course, you shouldn’t demand 100% quota attainment at this stage. Just around 50% for the second month and 80% for the third month would be OK.
Weeks 5-6 — Advanced sales development
After the first month of onboarding, your new hires should be ready to take a deeper dive into the specifics of the role. That is why we recommend dedicating the next two weeks to exploring more sophisticated sales development tactics and elaborating on the tech aspects of the job.
In our onboarding process, we prioritize the following aspects:
- Personalization at scale and intent-based outreach
- No-code and low-code automation stack
- AI-based tools and the future sales development trends
Additionally, it’s a great opportunity for your SDRs to revisit the educational materials and best practices they’ve learned before — all while polishing their skills in practice.
Weeks 7-8 — Sharpening skills
The second part of the month is dedicated to preparing your SDRs for what they will be doing after the onboarding ends. Depending on their specific role of specialization (e.g., inbound or outbound) they will be prospecting for leads and running their sequences to try and book as many calls as possible.
At this juncture, you should still keep track of the new hire’s progress and offer situational coaching as they polish their skills. As the final step of the onboarding, your new hires have to join your regular meetings and take part in most of the processes.
- ✅ Reach 50% of the monthly quota.
Month 3 — Onboarding wrap-up
Moving on to the final month of your onboarding process, your SDRs should be confident enough to handle most of their daily tasks without close supervision. However, they still might need help in some situations, so encourage them to turn to their mentor with any questions.
It would also be a good idea to help your SDRs deepen their understanding of the ICP and the product they are selling. In this regard, shadowing discovery and demo calls by their AEs are great ways to get those first-hand insights.
I also try to coach our new hires on some basic personal productivity techniques and tools to organize their daily tasks and efficiently handle the workload.
- ✅ Reach 80% of the monthly quota.
What’s next: ramp up your SDR productivity
It’s no coincidence that we touch on personal productivity within the final stages of our SDR onboarding process. As a remote team, we put a lot of emphasis on our work efficiency, even more so when it comes to sales development.
Getting caught up in the daily routine activities, SDRs might risk wasting around 41% of their time on tasks that aren’t even related to sales. And it’s your job as a team leader to help them optimize their efforts.
For example, here are some of the tips and tools I am offering to our new hires to help them get up to speed.
- Document your ideas. It's so easy to forget them and get distracted. I recommend using Notion for this purpose. You can also use Airtable to store and organize more structured data (resources, templates, contacts, etc.)
- Automate manual tasks. This might be as simple as auto-copying the selected text or taking better screenshots on Mac — routine activities like this might turn into the main productivity drain.
- Organize your workspace. Tools like Workona or more complex “work OS” solutions like Slapdash can help you keep your virtual workspace in order and avoid switching back and forth between the apps to speed up your daily activities.
You can also encourage your team to try different time management techniques, e.g., time blocking. However, leave it up to them to choose how they want to manage their time. Unless there are some obvious performance issues, they can work at their own pace.
Use this step-by-step plan to streamline the SDR onboarding process and help your employees ramp up their productivity.
Sales development is a very dynamic market. There are new trends, tools, techniques, and channels emerging every month. Taking that into account, I would recommend these two things to all sales development leaders:
- Review your onboarding process and educational materials every 6-9 months to keep them up to date.
- Build a culture of continuous learning within your team and encourage your SDRs to come up with creative ideas, share their knowledge, and improve their skills.
That’s how to build a solid foundation for scaling your team in the future.
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