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10 Steps to Effective SDR Onboarding

Last updated: November 4th, 2019

Sales development reps are probably among the most important people in your company. However, even though much effort is put into hiring them, SDR onboarding is almost never given the same importance.

An obvious consequence of this approach is that SDRs need much more time to adapt to companies, which costs money due to their unpreparedness to pick up the phone and talk to prospects and schedule appointments.

And the issue becomes even more serious when paired up with the following statistics:

  • The average tenure for an SDR is only about 14 months.
  • Only 4% of SDRs make it through the first 6 months in a company.
  • SDRs ramp time to hit full quota is generally 3 months.

Does any of this sound all too familiar?

And what exactly can you do to speed up the onboarding and ramp-up time?

Luckily, this SDR onboarding guide will teach you how to onboard SDRs, set an effective training process, and stick to it in the years to come.

The SDR Onboarding Process

Before we actually list the steps of the onboarding process, you should note that the SDR onboarding process may vary depending on the product or service you offer, your industry, and a number of other factors. 

A rule of thumb is that the more complex these factors are, the longer it will take you to train and onboard a sales development representative.

However, there are some steps that are common for most businesses.

1. Teach them about your company

The first thing SDRs need to know is the background of your company. You need to make them feel at home by sharing with them your mission, vision, and values. 

Why your company exists and who it serves are the two most important questions they need to be able to answer. The sooner they adopt your company’s values, the better they will do their job.

2. Define success to achieve it

Your SDRs can’t possibly achieve success in sales if they are not familiar with your idea of success. Explain to them the most important KPIs so that they know what to focus on in the future.

The following are the essential KPIs you should emphasize on during the SDR onboarding process:

  • number of calls, demos, or discovery meetings observed
  • number of coaching sessions attended
  • number of meetings run by your newbies

This will establish a cadence of transparency and accountability with every new member and prepare them for what is to come.

Also, introducing KPIs from early on will improve their:

  • efficiency (number of prospects touched)
  • effectiveness (percentage of positive answers)
  • salesmanship (percentage of appointment acceptance rate)

3. Make sure you speak the same language

Oftentimes, industry-specific terminology will hinder SDRs from doing their best. It is very simple – if they don’t understand your industry’s jargon or certain terms associated with your product or service, they will find themselves overwhelmed and, consequently, they will underperform.

To tackle this issue at the root, make sure to guide them through all the key terms they need to know so they can shine when talking to prospects. 

Creating some kind of SDR glossary may be the best solution in this case. It should contain an overview of the most relevant keywords and phrases that they will come across during the training and later on while interacting with prospects.

4. Define their target audience

Before an SDR can even think about prospecting, they need to know whom to target. Outreach onboarding will help your SDRs better target companies and people working in them.

They should learn as much as possible about a specific subset of the industry they will target and also know all the information that will help them target those customers. 

When it comes to personas, they have to be acquainted with the type of people they will reach out to. This means they need to know their goals, responsibilities, the major challenges they face, and of course, why they should buy your product or service. 

5. Make them fall in love with your product/service

Successful SDR training programs always teach the sales reps the ins and outs of the products and services they are going to sell. 

Your new SDRs need to answer all the questions that prospects may have about what you are selling, such as:

  • How is the product or service going to help your customers?
  • Why is it different from what your competitors offer?

That is why knowing the target audience is an essential step toward selling the product. This will help focus on identifying their pain and lead to value selling instead of feature selling.

6. Give them resources

You cannot possibly share all the relevant and necessary information during your SDR coaching sessions. Moreover, you can’t expect your sales newbies to absorb and remember everything they hear or read right away.

For this reason, it would be wise to get them to go through all the content on your website and blog, including support pages, case studies, and also your customers’ FAQs.

What you can also do is to create an SDR playbook that will include sections on the best practices for sales prospecting, objection handling, CRM maintenance, and productivity tools.

Finally, make sure to regularly share with them the trending industry articles as well as the sales articles that will help them stay at top of their game.

7. Teach them how to prospect

The very act of prospecting is not something that comes naturally to most people, especially in our digital and complicated era. That is why it is important to teach your SDRs the process and tools that will make them excel in their role.

Among the most important things they need to master are personalization and a multi-threaded approach to accounts. This will help them increase their efficiency by taking a unique approach to each prospect as well as contacting multiple people in a company instead of only one lead.

Also, they should know how to approach cold (outbound) calling, warm (inbound) calling, email prospecting, referrals, and other sales prospecting methods.

If you want to increase the sales levels, your SDRs need to excel in lead research and lead generation. This is simply a prerequisite for any effective sales process.

8. Get them to learn their lines

Sales interactions largely resemble a theater, so an SDR has to know their lines to perform well. If you want your sales development reps to convey the right idea and message to the prospects (which you most certainly do), then they need to go through a script and role-playing.

By studying the common lines and engaging in role-playing, they will learn how to:

  • listen better
  • deal with different types of prospects
  • act in extreme conditions
  • deal with frequent objections

9. Teach them the tools

Nowadays, every company uses a set of tools across different departments, including the sales department. You can’t expect a new member of your sales development team to immediately know how to use the tools your company has been using for years.

To make sure new SDRs are comfortable while prospecting, you should:

  • provide a demo of your sales stack
  • get them acquainted with the CRM you use (incredibly important)
  • introduce them to any other software tool that they will use or that may be useful to them

10. Provide a mentor

Finally, it is widely acknowledged that humans learn best by modeling others. So, why not use this knowledge when training your SDRs?

The first thing you should do is pair up new SDRs with the more experienced ones. This will give them the opportunity to listen in on sales calls and observe other important aspects of their job. Later, they can also join in the calls to practice for the future.

Another useful tip is to create a mentorship program where a new SDR will be able to ask questions even after the SDR training has officially ended.

How long should SDR onboarding last?

Since the average tenure for a sales development rep is so short (14 months) and the ramp time comparatively long (3 months), it is only natural that you want to make the onboarding process as quick as possible.

However, one of the common mistakes companies make is getting their new SDRs to cold call and email too quickly. This only impairs their performance and leads to them making mistakes. 

It is rather simple. If your new sales development reps are not ready to do their job properly, they will waste your leads. This, in turn, will cost you much more time and money than giving them an all-inclusive training.

To find the best solution, you need to make a compromise. The best SDR onboarding programs usually last for one to two weeks, with a focus on having SDRs go live in week two and hit quota in the second month.

Even though this still may seem like too long, you will agree that it sounds much better than the average three-month ramp time or wasted leads.

How to make SDR onboarding easier and more effective

sdr onboarding

It is not enough to just tick all the steps we mentioned above. Just like with everything else in business and life, it is not only what you do to onboard your new sales development representatives, but how you do it.

After all, they are the ones that will be among the most responsible people for raking in revenue for your company.

An important part of the onboarding process is that you make your SDRs feel like a family member. Also, you need to help them with everything you can while having a more-or-less set and automated process for every next time when fresh blood is about to join your team.

Company culture

Showing up to work and receiving a paycheck may have been enough for people thirty years ago, but not anymore. Nowadays, it is much more important to make your employees feel like a true part of the team.

That is why you need to focus on activities that will initiate them into your company’s culture, such as inviting them to participate in social events, making their first day memorable, and providing opportunities for networking.

Have a set training process

Regardless of the experience level an SDR may have, your SDR coaching process should be the same for all newcomers.

Make sure your SDR onboarding process always:

  • lasts for the same amount of time
  • is specific to the SDR role
  • uses hands-on activities
  • provides regular breaks
  • is based on a solid SDR training curriculum and useful resources
  • includes ongoing training
  • implements a certification program for testing knowledge

Help them achieve goals

Without setting clear goals, it is very difficult to track progress. However, even though setting achievable goals (especially at the beginning) is crucial, it is not enough.

To help your SDRs meet goals on a regular basis, make sure to steadily set higher goals, and also provide regular feedback where you will give both praise and suggestions for improvement.

Invest in their education

Apart from providing ongoing training and having them learn from in-house mentors, you also need to invest in the courses that will help them learn necessary new SDR skills as well as build on what they already know.

Not only will this facilitate the onboarding process and ensure their better performance later on, but it will also show that you care about them. This, in turn, will make them stick around for a longer time.

Wrapping up

Proper SDR onboarding is as important as hiring the right people for that role. Lack of good onboarding will undoubtedly cost you more money, as well as drag down the entire company.

Therefore, it is crucial that you invest in the onboarding process – not only money but also time and energy. Make sure you do your best to master onboarding and equip your SDRs with the right information, processes, and tools.

It is one of the most important investments that you can make to increase your sales figures and, ultimately, grow your business.

Marketing Manager @ TaskDrive Actively participating in the digital marketing world more than 5 years. Currently making sure that our website content is up-to-date and our blog is filled with easy and useful sales and marketing guides. Very passionate about dogs, topics on spirituality and Unicorns.

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