Flip the Funnel: The Science of Onboarding SDRs


The Orientation Funnel

You have literally spent hours getting to this point. You worked the phones. You met in person. You showed them everything you have to offer. You have negotiated terms. They signed on the dotted line.

Sound familiar? I bet you thought I was talking about a prospect. Nope. I am talking about (drum-roll) your new hire to your sales development team. The difference: culture. How you go about the process of preparing for your new SDR’s arrival speaks to the culture of your business. Think about this:

  • When a new SDR starts, do you have the desk set-up? Simple things like a welcome sign and company-branded swag go a long way in communicating that you care.
  • Is the computer and phone ready and pre-loaded with your sales tools?
  • Do you have an assigned “mentor” who reaches out in advance of the first day and serves as a point person to the new SDR during their first few weeks?

Getting a new hire ready is both an art and a science. Once you have done your work around fit, or the art, you can then start thinking about training. And with training, enter the science.

The Onboarding Funnel

The McCall Model of Learning and Development calls for 70-20-10 (Challenging Assignments, Developmental Relationships, and Coursework/Training). Known for flipping the funnel, DiscoverOrg’s L&D team took the same approach on McCall’s Model and applied where 10% classroom training is coupled with 20% mentoring then 70% on the job.

The 10% classroom is broken into 2 weeks of seminars focusing on things like – DiscoverOrg 101, Sales 101, Finding the Fit, Prospecting, Knowing our Buyer, Competitors, Systems/Tools and a series on understanding the IT space. Each of these sessions is approximately one hour and each have a 3-5 question test for comprehension. The culmination at the end each week is a ‘final’ on the things they have learned in onboarding.

Script/talk-track training is the other major focus of classroom training. There are about 7 pages of pitches and talk tracks. These are memorized verbatim. The expectation is by the end of the first week the new hire takes/passes an oral ‘final’ for memorization and tone. This is deconstructed in week 2. New hires are encouraged to make the talk tracks their own through roleplaying. Week 2 is concluded with an oral final where they cold-call 2 Directors of Sales, 2 Vice Presidents of Sales, and our CEO.

The 20% mentoring overlaps classroom training for 2 weeks but carries on throughout the ramp period. The Friday before the employee starts, a welcome email is sent out to the entire team, including the new hire and their mentor. The mentor is a tenured team member who volunteers to take the new employee under their wing. They help to reinforce classroom training, provide a consistent point of observation, and help cement the cultural fit.

The Training Funnel

The 70% on the job starts in Week 3. Reps handle the inbound team’s bad-fit leads. Their mission: determine why the lead is a bad fit, then call and explain it to the customer. It gives your manager a chance to hear the new rep and provide call coaching. It is also a learning opportunity discovering more what a good fit looks like by disqualifying the bad fits.

Reps are live, with real leads in Weeks 4-6! Starting out, we prescribe our new SDR’s a fixed number of leads per day. They are afforded the opportunity to preform and be coached at the same time. They will hear plenty of new questions. During this 2 week period their teammate follows up regularly to check on talk tracks and make sure the rep is staying on top of follow up. New reps must be able to convert their leads at 40% and have 30% complete before they are on their own.

Closing the Gap

A couple quick notes: hire in pairs – it builds comradery and the new employees have a training partner. Additionally, exposure to executive management helps instill culture, set expectations, and build a sense of connection to their team. Many of our seminars are taught by their Manager, Director, and their VP. Final testing is done with those same individuals, but also includes the Training Manager and Mentor.

Selling has both an art and a science. We practice it with our prospects. We practice it with our team members. We have to start practicing it with our new hires. How people learn is a science. Apply it to what you do and your ramp time will be faster, easier, and more productive for the new person you are bringing onto the team.

-Tom Studdert and Benjamin Loria-

If you are in tech sales, you know DiscoverOrg is growing like wildfire. DiscoverOrg has invested heavily in both the customer and employee experience. This investment includes the creation of a Learning and Development team, headed by Vice President Dr. Tom Studdert. He and his Manager of Sales Training, Ben Loria, have on-boarded and trained 30+ SDRs as the team scaled over the past eighteen months. 

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