Make your SDRs the most knowledgeable, highly trained and longest-tenured people in your sales organization.
I enjoy the exercise of picking apart conventional thinking to see if a new, better way of achieving a goal is on the other side. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my “Why?” “How?” and “Says who?!?”, it can get a bit annoying. That said, my efforts are designed to help our teams avoid that well-traveled path littered with competitors, set plays and lost opportunities. One of my favorite targets is the time-honored role of sales development representatives or ‘SDRs’.
In the traditional sense, the SDR finds the right person to speak with, gains permission to have a conversation, qualifies that prospect as a person with a need, the money to address that need and the authority to take action. Then, the SDR hands that off in a nice bundle of information to one of your all-star senior sales reps so he or she can coach the person – now a Sales Qualified Lead (or SQL) – to sign on the dotted line.
That’s the way it has been since, well, based on this link, 1870 and the birth of sales role specialization in the insurance industry. If you’re like me, that’s where your skepticism starts. Can we really trust logic and a process developed nearly 150 years ago to address an exponentially more complex sale in the Internet-consumption age for many industries that weren’t even conceived at that time?
Here’s what I think.
Five Reasons The SDR Model is Broken
- Modern buyers often have very little understanding of what they need or why when first contacted. They just know this call is taking them off task.
- Your prototypical SDR – if you follow my lineage from IBM – is an educated junior sales rep fresh out of college with less than 1 year of experience in sales and an average tenure of 16 months. These high-energy, yet unskilled fresh faces are told to hammer the phones, qualify people and do so with very little if any understanding of likely business challenges, market complexities or ways to address them with the solutions they sell. Couple that with the fact that your overwhelmed rep not moving prospects through the funnel are likely looking for a new job within six months of being hired despite your initial investment.
- Today’s buyers, particularly in B2B engagements, are doing so as a committee with multiple departments represented with different reasons to buy – or not buy – a product.
- The person most able to break through to a senior executive purchaser, or multiple buyers and influencers in an organization to show the value of making a change is likely still on the bench, waiting for a handoff. Meanwhile, your junior rep is being fed objections that are hard to fend off and purchasing nuances that are hard to grasp.
- Those buyers who the SDR is lucky enough to catch at the right moment upon first contact are almost always, more informed on the business challenge at hand and the solutions available to them than the junior SDR on the other end of the line.
With all those challenges facing the SDR and every opportunity-seeking sales organization everywhere, I advocate flipping the conventional approach on its head by making your SDRs the most knowledgeable, highly trained and longest-tenured people in your sales organization.
The book, The Challenger Sale, speaks to a necessary evolution in the approach to selling by bringing data to the table to prove that the one who has the skills, knowledge, and experience to challenge traditional thinking with their prospects and articulately layout options or recommendations is your best shot at winning deals. The book is a great read, but here’s a solid summary from Hubspot here (PDF).
Now, with every tectonic shift in something with a century-and-a-half long stranglehold on people, processes, and technology, I know this is easier said than done for even the nimblest of organizations. To address skeptics, I’ve highlighted recent cost of sales research below to show you how and why you should partner your way to strengthening your SDR layer:
- The current compensation package of an SDR hovers around $70,000/yr
- The average tenure of an SDR before they get promoted or let go is 16 months.
- The cost of hiring and bringing that new rep up to the level of production of your previous hire is nearly $115,000. If you’re doing the math, that brings your still unrecovered investment to nearly $200,000 with no guarantee that the spending just get back to even is over.
Those expenses you incur are dubbed a “cost of doing business,” but I’d suggest that if you have a partner with access to a domestic and international workforce of uniquely skilled SDRs who can be easily ramped up or down based on your initiatives, you can manage sunk costs like salaries and benefits, reach more people, and maintain a steady-state positive return from your SDR layer. Oh, and with a partner managing this HR/Lead qualification exercise for you, you can benefit from a built-in succession and continuous training plan for when your needs or personnel change.
As an example with Televerde, we have more than 400 highly trained SDRs who know your industry, your products and your key buyers based on more than 20 years of experience and an average tenure of more than 4 years within our SDR talent pool.
There are reasons for this that I’m eager to talk to you about, but suffice it to say, we ask our customers and the people we want to be our customers to suspend their preconceived notion of a sales rep hire as a cost or risk to bear, and more of an investment that can grow more valuable over time.
If you want to have a conversation in person and see how we’ve turned the SDR layer on its head for Televerde itself and some of the most successful B2B organizations in the world, connect with me here 888-787-2829 or set up a chat with one of our SDRs to experience it for yourself.
Continued success and reach out if I can keep that going!