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The Blueprint for Hiring Sales Development Representatives

One of the key roles when you scale out a SaaS company for success is the Sales Development Representative (SDR), otherwise known as a Lead Generation Representative or Business Development Representative (BDR). They play the critical role of qualifying the leads generated by marketing activities and then handing them off to the Account Executives who run the sales cycle to a close.

Throughout my discussions with a number of VPs of Sales, I was surprised when everyone agreed NOT to use recruiters when building out a BDR team! Why? Because the success rate is the same as or worse than if they did it themselves, so don’t waste your money. Typically the candidates you are looking for to build out these roles are early on in their career, so instead of blowing through your burn rate for a 3rd party recruiting firm to search for them – why not own the process internally or better yet have your Head of Sales run with it.

I based this article on interviews with a number of VP’s of Sales that have spent decades building out sales teams, coupled with my experience recruiting for these teams. Many thanks to Jay Hedges at Uberflip, Milos Krsmanovic at Leonardo and Aly Saleh at Canopy Labs for sharing their insight.

This article will cover how to attract, identify, train, manage and ultimately increase your success rate in bringing on this most critical talent for your company to its grow revenues.

1. How Do You Attract Them?

Short answer: any way you can. You might need a bit of a blanket approach here, but you should flood social media, put some budget behind advertising these posts, promote on university job sites and popular job boards. You’re looking for candidates with potential over work experience, so it’s wise to cast a net to pull in as many prospects as possible. And because there is no guarantee that they will stay in the job after they start, you need to be constantly recruiting prospects so you have a pool of qualified candidates to tap into to add or replace on your team.

2. Qualifying and Selecting for Interviews

There are different opinions on who you should meet. Some make the argument that you need a college or university degree because it demonstrates the necessary discipline to be successful, along with the notion that they will have strong communication skills and a desire to achieve.

Now while it doesn’t entirely matter which program they stem from, having a business degree is desirable, but philosophy and psychology majors also bring with them a very transferrable set of skills. It’s a bit of an interesting line to finesse here, because some candidates might come in overqualified for the role and find themselves struggling with the grind of it and won’t tough it out – which brings me to our next point.

3. The Anatomy of a Quality Candidate

This has many varied approaches, but the common theme is identifying character. Are they driven, motivated, curious, engaging, responsible and intelligent? These are the most predictive characteristics of a successful candidate.

Some of the approaches that sales leaders employ to determine if they embody these traits are to look at the entire approach the candidate took from initial communication through to acceptance of an offer. Did they exhibit professionalism, urgency and a sense of purpose?

They also looked at:

  • What kind of part time jobs they had in high school and university?
  • Did they actually contribute to expenses or did they have both hands dug deep into their parents’ pocket?
  • Are they quick on their feet?
  • Are they goal oriented and driven to learn?
  • Do they have their eye on the next role?
  • Are they looking at the SDR role as a short stepping stone in their career?

The leaders I spoke to found a big correlation between the length of time spent in an SDR role and their subsequent success as an Account Executive.

One of the most important parts of the evaluation was having prospects do a presentation. In addition to the obvious level of comfort in speaking in front of others, they were looking to see how prepared they were – and did they care?

4. On-Boarding and Training

As the role is primarily to send an email and follow up with a phone call, the training shouldn’t run more than three days. During this time they will get product training, shadow senior team members and practice their pitch until they have it mastered and feel confident in the process.

During the first few months, the role will likely require a lot of handholding, micromanagement, accountability to targets and ensuring proper CRM use. Every company will differ on the metrics, but the benchmarks typically include the number of meetings booked and opportunities qualified. There can be small bonuses for these successes but the larger bonuses should be based on deals, so they are focused on effective needs analysis and qualifying.

5. Promotion to Account Executive

Just about every Sales Development Representative wants to run their own deals and manage an entire sales cycle. So how do you manage their career aspirations?

By the 6-month mark, you will know if they are ready for a promotion to an Account Executive. Some companies will take the approach based on when they hit the mark of qualifying fifty leads, or just their tenure in the role – but you will know when and if they are ready to champion the cycle and start to close business.

I’ve learned about the trials and tribulations of building out SDR/BDR teams when I sat down with the VP’s that have spent years developing their own approaches. The companies they work for made the smart decision to let them build it out, but if you don’t have that luxury, then this will give you insights into their best practices. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Accepting the Worst Parts of Your Resume

“Walk me through your resume.”

It’s the standard question that hiring managers kick things off with as their eyes dance over the bolded words on your resume. In the back of your mind as you start giving a boilerplate answer; you know it’s only a matter of seconds until they zero in on what you deem as glaring red flags standing out to them.

Gaps in employment history. Short job stints. Not getting into leadership positions. It can feel like hiring managers are already reading between the lines and noticing these variables.

Not everyone’s CV is one shining success after another. It goes back to the old adage, “be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s time to be comfortable with the uncomfortable parts in your employment history.

Come to Grips with the Uneasy Parts

When it seems that the spotlight is on you and you’re asked a pointed question about your employment history, you may be trying to dance around it. Hiring managers aren’t dumb, and they can see right through any sidestepping. Which is why it’s so important to come to grips with your work experience to be able to tell it confidently.

If your career path has been playing a bit of ping pong, rather than building a tale on why it hasn’t worked out – discuss the valuable experience you have learned from your journey to date. That’s what hiring managers want to hear. It might not have been the highlight of your career – but what kind of insight did you take from it? If there are gaps in your employment history, show how you used the time constructively. Did you join associations within your field or did you volunteer to enhance your craft?

Take Command of Your Resume

“Selling your experience is a vital skill, whether you’re on a job interview or wooing clients for your solo business.” – Fast Company

Your narrative is your story to own – and you need to be able to tell it confidently. If you were dismissed from a job, frame it as a learning experience. Leverage the positive aspects of it and how you bounced back. If an illness kept you away from work for some time, prospective employers might have a tendency to be wary because in their mind it might mean that you aren’t back to 100%. Keep it succinct as possible, but there’s no need to apologize or fudge the truth with something you’ve battled. The bottom line is that it’s time to come to grips with your career path to date. It might not be where you thought it would have led you early on, but you can’t always be looking back, because you aren’t heading in that direction anymore.

Accepting your story conveys confidence – and confidence is a major career-asset.

  • Leadership Concept

How Leaders Manage Their Emotions

Professional athletes are naturally talented, but they master their skill by spending thousands and thousands of hours beating on their craft. So when we see a veteran pitching on the bump in Game 7 of the World Series start to show signs of unravelling, we’re quick to jump all over him for cracking under the pressure.

When we think of managing our emotions, the example of professional athletes lends itself well to this topic; because of how high we view them and their insane ability to effectively manage their minds. Athletes can develop healthy and productive emotional habits to ensure their emotions can facilitate their ability to perform well and achieve their goals.

The best ones can build off of bad performances and learn from them while taking constructive criticism from all angles in stride. Psychology Today defines emotions as, “powerful social signals that send us quick, physical messages that allow us to respond to our environment.” But what happens when this influx of neural activity overrides our system and causes us to not think clearly?

Here’s how the top leaders manage their minds.

They Understand that Emotions Have a Ripple Effect

A leader who is not managing his or her emotions well can wreak severe havoc on an entire organization. This can send powerful shockwaves that seriously damages employee morale, retention, and ultimately the bottom line. In Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Meaning that emotions in the workplace will have a ripple effect enterprise wide – good, bad or otherwise.

They Don’t React Right Away

There is an old zen saying that we should “learn to respond, not react.” Immediately pulling the emotional trigger can lead to more issues down the road. It’s wise to take a deep breath and stabilize the overwhelming impulse for a few minutes to bring your heart rate back to normal, ride the wave of hormones and start to envision a positive path towards a solution. By understanding what’s happening to your body on a molecular level allows you to control it better on a macro level. 

They’re Aware of Their Awareness  

Being able to critically examine your thinking means you can decipher between negative and rational thinking. It means taking a step back and understanding that this is pessimistic thinking that is taking over the controls and is running the show. By being cognizant of this negative mental block is how you’re able to sidestep it completely and move forward. 

They Build off of Failure

In the corporate climate, making mistakes can sometimes seem like a death sentence. And instead of finding solutions to move forward, many of us are more worried about scrambling to play the blame game about who will play the role of the scapegoat. It’s time to have a shift in our mindsets and stop wasting time playing this destructive game, and instead start working towards a solution – because that’s what ultimately matters. 

They Have Healthy Outlets

Having a healthy way of releasing emotions is important to letting your cognitive pipeline flow effectively. All those pent up hormones have to be processed and released in a healthy manner. It helps to see things from the bigger picture. Ask yourself; is this going to be a huge problem one year from now? By putting things into perspective, it allows you to realign with understanding your higher purpose and not getting caught up in temporary roadblocks.

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