Discovering and Developing SDRs – What’s in their D.N.A?

I’m consistently being asked questions about my process for interviewing, hiring and developing/training SDR talent in the Bay Area. So when I was asked to create a piece for SDR Huddle, I decided it was time to share my tips and tricks for discovering talent, developing talent and what to look for – or what I call, the D.N.A. of an SDR…

Discovering SDRs:

I started my career as an entry level telemarketer in San Jose, CA – prior to that I was a debt collector from upstate NY. And since someone took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity that catapulted my career into sales I’ve made it my mission to do the same for others who show signs of that same hunger I had nine years ago. When it comes to finding talent I’m always looking and I’m always thinking outside the box.

Over the years I’ve hired people from a variety of backgrounds; a welder, a journalist, a door to door salesman, an Amway business owner, a New York Mets draft. All of them have gone on to have successful sales and/or marketing careers and no two people were alike. I’ve used a number of resources to find talent (Ie; recruiters, craigslist, LinkedIn, malls, etc). I also provide a quarterly service to the community where I teach people to build their resume, their LinkedIn profile and develop their elevator pitch and I’m always surprised at the talent that shows up.

When interviewing candidates for the SDR role I make it a priority to understand who these people are and what fuels their passion. I want to be sure I’m not hiring someone who wants just a paycheck – the role of SDR should be a role that fits into their career path long term. And I make sure the candidate understands this is a two-year role and I want to assist in helping the candidate move up the ladder within the company or somewhere else in the Bay Area. Either way, it’s important to me that the relationship of employee/employer benefits us both. It should always benefit us both.

My interviews are less about asking “interview questions” and more about having conversations and getting to know each other. This is the person I’m going to spend 40 – 60 hours a week with and I want to make sure we’re a great fit. What type of culture fuels your passion? What are you looking for long term? What’s your thing? The thing that fulfills you and makes you happy? What is it?

I also ask my team to meet with the candidates in a group setting and I don’t hire anyone unless I get the thumbs up from “everyone” on the interview team. This includes the SDR team, the CEO and my boss – the VP of Marketing. Once we have the thumbs up we may go out for a happy hour to be sure before sealing the deal. If you can get someone into a comfortable environment they tend to be a bit more open about who they are, and you can be assured you are making the right decision.

Developing SDRs:

Developing SDRs. This is the most challenging part of the job. Training and educating someone with absolutely no experience to be the very best takes work. Hard work. It means rolling up your sleeves as a manager and teaching by example. I try to spend as much time as possible with my employees, especially my new-hires, which means sitting in a bull-pen-environment with them and assisting them every day, all day, to be better than they were the day before.

Once a new hire joins my team I make sure I send out a company-wide introduction welcoming him/her. Now it’s time to read the playbook and understand the work flow. And he/she will spend hours shadowing the team lead and understanding the basics of the sales tools. It’s not uncommon for a new-hire to hear me say the same thing every day, several times a day. Repetition is the mother of all skill, and I want to make sure I repeat the process over, and over and over again.

After two-weeks of training I put the new-hire SDR on the phones. I encourage my new-hires to grab an office and lock themselves in that office with their computer, the talk track and a phone. I want to make sure they are leaving voicemails and getting comfortable before they start prospecting marketing qualified leads. I usually give them a small number of cold leads to start.

My goal is to create a culture of transparency and integrity. Everyone’s work is visible – including mine. I encourage my team to let me know if/when they are falling behind and need my help and when that happens I assist. If my team has a number to hit and they are lacking meetings to hit that number I will jump on the phones to assist. I expect the best from each member of my team, and I give my best as well.

Constructive criticism is crucial to the success of an SDR team and I make sure each member of the team understands this before taking the role.

What’s is the DNA of an SDR?

Desire – The desire to grow personally, and professionally.

Contrary to popular belief, these two go hand in hand. A person who desires to grow professionally has no choice but to grow personally. I make sure I ask a lot of questions about my candidates to help me understand the kind of person they are and where they plan to go in life. I also look to social media to help me understand who the top candidates are. I run a search on Facebook, Twitter and Google to find what I’m looking for and from there it’s pretty easy to learn more about your candidate.

Need – The need to be challenged.

If a candidate doesn’t have a need to be challenged, he/she will not be a good fit for an SDR role. Let’s face it, this is a tough position that requires you to dig your heels in, handle objections and face rejection daily. Not only does this role require tough skin, it requires someone who has a need to be challenged and meets those challenges head on.

It’s not hard to determine if someone needs to be challenged. Have they had to overcome obstacles in their personal life? In their career? Talk to them. Get to know them. They’ll tell you.

I hired a single mother of two that spent nine years building a successful Amway business. That’s a challenge. She has a need to be challenged. Her name is Naomi Karake and she’s one of the best SDRs I’ve ever had working for me.

Ability – The ability to do the job.

Do they have the ability to do the job? Is he/she a clear communicator? Is he/she a problem solver? Do they have good discernment and/or judgement? It’s not always easy to spot these things in an interview. And some people interview well. But you should be able to get a general idea of someone will be able to do the job by talking to the interview team and getting feedback.

We’re always taking risks when it comes to hiring. It’s likely we’ll make a mistake. Learn from them quickly and don’t make the same mistake quickly. Hire slow and fire fast. Seek out candidates who are looking for a start in the industry and develop your SDR. He/she will be loyal to you, your company and your process – it’s all they know.

Sabrina Wood is Director, Sales Development at BigPanda. Prior to joining BigPanda she was Founder & Principal Consultant of Next Practices Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm with a focus on developing inside salespeople and creating sales process. Sabrina is best known for her desire to assist people with career training and advancement to aid them in reaching their goals and pursuing their passions, which shows in the Calvary Assembly of God’s free quarterly initiative she’s created, Hope4Hire.

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