Throughout the whole sales process, the job of a sales development representative is definitely among the most difficult and valuable ones. However, despite this, it is a true wonder if a company manages to keep an SDR for longer than a year. The quality of SDR training plays a big role in this.
This may be blamed on the fact that the job is stressful, that SDRs want to advance to higher positions within a company, or simply start working for another company that may provide better working conditions. But one thing is for sure – a majority of SDRs give up on a company precisely due to the lack of proper SDR training.
This, in turn, leaves companies filling those empty chairs with young and inexperienced sales reps, which usually has serious repercussions such as harming the company brand, as well as leading to lower sales and profit.
One of the best ways to prevent this is to train your SDR team properly, give them as much knowledge as you can, and invest in them on a regular basis. If not, they will bid you farewell perhaps even sooner than you think.
Below you will find some of the most effective strategies for SDR training:
1. Set goals and expectations during the start of the SDR training
The goal of training your SDRs is to have them excel in their roles. But if you leave them in the dark about what is expected of them, they will have a rather hard time achieving their goals.
For this reason, the first thing you should do is to set clear goals and expectations. Every time you hire a new SDR (or any other employee, for that matter), they need to know what exactly you expect of them. This will give them something to aim towards each day, and also over a longer period of time.
Some KPIs you need to define include:
- How many emails are they to send each day?
- How many calls are you expecting them to make every day?
- How many leads should they find on a daily/weekly basis?
- What is their quota for the number of follow-up calls/meetings arranged?
And while you should make your expectations clear, you should also tell them that it is fine if they can’t hit these numbers right away. Naturally, they will have to go through an adjustment period, but the mentioned KPIs will help them stay on the right track.
2. Create a library of resources
No matter how small your business is, you should always behave as a serious company. This includes creating education materials for your new hires.
When creating your library, make sure you include the following:
- Sales/SDR playbook. This should include the best practices for CRM maintenance, prospecting, objection handling, and using sales development tools.
- Sales and industry articles. Provide your SDRs with the blogs, influencers, and trend sources that will keep them on top of their game. Focusing on new trends and technologies, email and cold calling, as well as social selling will be of great help.
- Scripts. To prepare your new SDRs for the real deal, give them the scripts they can use for voicemail, email, and cold calls.
- Competition overview. Business is a battle, so knowing as much as possible about your competitors will be helpful.
- Company updates. Make sure you give them timely heads up about everything that can affect the whole SDR process. This includes product updates, product training slides, and so on.
The benefits of including this library in your SDR training are multiple. For instance, your new sales reps will be able to go through all SDR best practices over and over again until they can’t get it wrong.
Plus, a collection of materials will help you stay on track every next time when you train SDRs, as well as have a set process so that you can pass all the knowledge to them without too much hassle.
Pro tip: Creating a library of resources in the cloud (e.g. Dropbox, Google Cloud) will make it easier for you to organize and share the information.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Keep in mind that a huge number of SDRs have no prior experience in sales development. Therefore, they probably won’t have all the necessary skills. But don’t let this discourage you. It only means that they will need a bit more time to get in the game.
Before they actually start an outreach campaign, set aside some time to work with them on the skills they will need to succeed. That will significantly increase their SDR efficiency.
For instance, you can:
- Work with them on handling rejections.
- Help them draft email drip templates.
- Share with them some effective prospecting practices.
When you make this an integral part of your SDR training, those first calls and emails will go much easier, keeping your reps’ confidence up right from the very beginning.
Practice makes perfect
Even though it is common for an SDR to leave after less than a year spent at a company, it actually takes about two years to learn the ropes of the whole SDR process.
That is why you need to make sure your sales development reps always practice, and you should jump in to help them whenever you have the time and opportunity. Also, you can go one step further by helping them master their craft not until they get it right, but until they can’t get it wrong.
That way, you will not only increase their confidence and chance of success. You will also show you care about them as a person instead of treating them like someone who is there just to bring profit to your company.
Record the calls
If you are an SDR manager, you know how important it is to be flexible and focused during phone calls. By recording their phone calls and listening to the recordings afterward, SDRs will have a more objective understanding of how they performed.
- What is my tone like?
- Do I sound confident or nervous?
- What kind of language do I use?
Recording the phone calls will help them answer these questions, recognize their negative patterns, and thus improve the areas where they are deficient.
You can also listen to the calls together and discuss what they could do better. This will give them direct feedback on their work rather than abstract suggestions.
4. Provide an example
Observational learning is something we all have been doing ever since we were children. That is why providing an example is a great way of showing an SDR how to do something.
There are quite a few ways to do this:
- Have an experienced salesperson hop on the phone and show your new SDRs how to make a call. After a few times, they will learn the ropes.
- Pair the new sales hires with some of your experienced SDRs for some time. This will benefit both sides. The new hires will learn much faster, while your experienced SDR will understand the process even better by teaching it and also appreciate the fact that you trust them to teach someone else.
- Finally, you can look into a mentorship program. For instance, The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals provides a free mentorship program to anyone looking to learn more about sales development. You could help your new hire get started with this program so that they can learn from an expert.
Having a mentor is crucial. Just remember how you went through life when you had a mentor and compare it with the times when you didn’t, and you’ll definitely understand.
5. Make sure they stick to your structure and processes
When we learn new things in life, we tend to take shortcuts or do things a bit differently than they should be done. And so will your new SDR do when they are first starting out. Especially because they have so many things to remember, which can be quite overwhelming.
But even though taking shortcuts may be easier for them, it is important that you point out they should stick to your established SDR process and structure.
Every company that wants to have an effective and successful sales team needs to have a solid structure and foundation. For maximum efficiency, everyone needs to be on the same page and communicate effectively. It is enough that one person doesn’t follow the guidelines for the entire operation to go to waste.
So, make sure you show the correct way to qualify leads, communicate with team members, and use email marketing tools. This will take some time to learn in the beginning, but it will ensure that they remain more productive in the long run.
6. Focus on customer persona, not the product
Sure, the whole point of hiring sales reps is to sell your product in more quantities. But if you can’t sell it to anyone, what is the point?
That is precisely why customer personas should be one of the most important SDR training topics. To be more precise, you need to give your new sales hires some kind of SDR training course in understanding the people they will be communicating with on a daily basis.
First, make sure they have answers to the following questions:
- What is your ideal customer’s usual title and level of experience?
- What are their goals and pain points?
- What is their day like?
- How do they get ahead in their career?
- How do they gain the necessary information that helps them do their job?
Once they are equipped with these answers, they should be able to get a better understanding of whom they should call and how to talk to them. Also, they will know how your product can address your customers’ pain points and use this to pitch the product better.
There is your company and there is your product. But customers are the third part of the equation, maybe even the most important one. Never forget your customers.
Pro tip: A sales manager or trainer should always document all the valuable information they find out during the SDR training process. This will help you get an insight into the patterns that reoccur as well as use the information to create templates for future sales development training.
7. Use coaching to reinforce positive behavior
If your new sales hires are inexperienced, how are they supposed to be the creators of a successful sales pipeline?
Only by benefiting from regular, monthly front-line coaching sessions where the sales development manager commits to the following activities:
- Observation. Observe what they do and how they interact with prospects.
- Diagnosis. By figuring out how they behave, you will be able to find out what they need to do to build their skills.
- Suggestion. Prescribe specific actions to encourage them to enhance skills and correct behavior.
The most critical skills coaches should focus on include outreach, messaging, and communication skills. Of course, the play cadence and metrics should also be covered in detail.
Perform regular reviews
By tracking your team’s progress and providing regular reviews of their work, you will help your sales development reps learn from their mistakes and correct them going forward. When you set aside some time to go over things they are doing well as well as discuss what they need to work on, you will also make a good foundation for a relationship full of trust and understanding.
8. Issue reminders
This last tip is here to let you in on the importance of regularly reminding your SDRs of all the things they need to work on. As they are going to have a lot of things going on in their brains, they will probably keep forgetting some small details.
For example, a sticky note on their desk that says ‘Speak louder!’ or ‘Talk Slower!’ can be a really good reminder. Also, in case you want them to mention some facts or statistic in their pitch, remind them to do so until they start doing it spontaneously.
Little reminders like these can be of great help while they are in the middle of a call. It’s best to focus on one or two things at a time until they have everything down.
SDR training mistakes to avoid
Now that you know what strategies to implement when training your SDR team, it is time to learn what mistakes to avoid during the sales development representative training.
Training SDRs as if they were Account Executives
This is one of the most common SDR training mistakes. If you onboard SDRs and train them like you would Account Executives, this will lead to a serious problem.
When a new SDR listens to the AE give a product pitch, they will learn most of its features and see the product in action. This will make them start pitching product features unconsciously during their own calls.
This phenomenon, known as the curse of knowledge, will make your SDRs unable to explain the product to someone who has never seen it before in simple terms precisely because they know too much about it.
Forgetting three crucial skills
No matter how knowledgeable you are, there is always something that you can forget while training SDRs.
However, no matter what you do, don’t forget to teach them the following skills:
- Time management. With so many different tasks to complete in a day, SDRs must know how to prioritize them. It is up to you to give your sales team a framework to organize their day.
- Mental resilience. Dealing with rejection is difficult, and SDRs get rejected quite a lot. Teach them how to overcome objections and not get discouraged by them, but also teach them how to push through cold-call reluctance. And all of that while reflecting on how it makes them feel and how to handle it – that is the only right way to turn the new hires into confident SDRs.
- Asking for help. Knowing when to ask for help is crucial as SDRs will often go through the first month doing things in their own way. The reason for this is because they don’t know when to ask for help or they are afraid to do so. So, make sure to create an atmosphere where new sales hires can ask all questions while emphasizing on the importance of finding the answers for themselves.
Not asking for feedback
Speaking of a healthy working environment, there is one more thing you mustn’t forget – asking SDRs to write post-training feedback.
By making them articulate what they have learned during the training, you will see whether you’re all on the same page. The simplest way to do this is to have them come up with three areas of improvement that were discussed during the session and outline their action plan for improving on each of them.
This way, you will not only see how clearly they understood everything but also their way of thinking and proactiveness.
The importance of continuous SDR training
When someone says training, what is your first association in terms of how long it should last?
The training should never stop. You need to constantly dedicate a certain amount of time to training SDRs so they remain up to date and on top of their game.
Effective lead research, prospecting, call preparation, internal processes, objection handling, releases, and market changes – these are only some concepts you should get back to from time to time.
This will help ensure that your team stays flexible and up-to-date on fresh sales trends, competitors, new product releases, and so on.
In addition, mental toughness, time management, and active listening skills are among the most important topics you should include in your SDR coaching cadence.
The importance of coaching cadence and professional development cannot be overemphasized. After all, solid training will not just improve the SDR efficiency, but also job satisfaction and employee retention.
Always dedicate time for proper training
In an ideal world, you could hire someone, and the next day they would be off and running. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it actually works.
If you want someone to deliver, you simply need to spend time training them, especially when they are new to sales development. And by taking the time now, you can ensure that your SDR knows the best way to handle things going forward and that they are all set for long-term success.
At the end of the day, this will only benefit your business by providing you with a happy and productive sales development representative.