When you hire a new SDR, it’s important to get the onboarding process right. You may have a more detailed plan for their first few months on the team - but you should ALSO define a set of high-level objectives that will help you make sure you’re steering your new employee in the right direction.
As you work with your new sales rep on their sales positioning, cold calling techniques, and company knowledge, it can be helpful to step back periodically to make sure you’re hitting your main goals. If you keep the following three key concepts in mind as you show your new SDR the ropes, you’ll be more likely to focus on the right things during training.
1) Get SDRs Used To Rejection
Being an SDR requires tenacity, dedication, and thick skin. Especially when cold calling, a sales rep is likely to hit far more dead ends than active leads, and they need to be able to bounce back from being ignored, rejected, or ghosted quickly.
Getting your SDR used to these "failures" early and often can be one of the best ways to help them acclimate to the job. Most people need a little bit of rewiring to start seeing these non-positive outcomes as simply part of the game instead of a reflection of their personal success/failure.
New SDRs very rarely crush it right out of the gate. That’s why it’s so important to get them on the phone and speaking to leads within the first week. As your new sales rep faces a few waves of rejection, part of your job will be to let them know that’s okay. If their expectations are too high, that rejection may tank their confidence and get them off to a bad start that could take months to get past.
Some of the onboarding process might actually be counterproductive in this area.
For example, if you have a novice SDR shadow one of the best members of the team, they’re probably going to observe more success than they’re able to replicate early on. Even trying the same tactics your experienced rep used won’t always work out for them, so it’s important to make sure your new SDR understands how often people in this position deal with negative results.
The "failure-first" approach can have a fun bonus, too. If your trainee successfully books a meeting, take this opportunity to celebrate with the whole team by announcing it on Slack, bringing in lunch for the team, or even ringing a bell in the office.
Celebrating together will build your new SDR's confidence and make them feel like a valuable part of the crew, and it’ll be a fun morale boost for their coworkers as well.
2) Focus On The Problem, Not The Product
One of the most common mistakes managers make when they onboard new SDRs is focusing too much on product knowledge. This may seem counterintuitive, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time working with AEs, who need to have detailed product insight in order to have meaningful conversations with customers.
But SDRs are different. Their goal is to set appointments for AEs, not to sell the product itself.
When you onboard your new sales rep, they should understand your industry, your positioning, and your basic offerings, but don’t overwhelm them with too much product knowledge. An SDR’s job is to pique the prospect’s interest and intrigue them enough that they’re willing to engage in a sales conversation.
The first step to doing that is understanding if the prospect is experiencing the problem your product solves. Your SDRs need to know how to find a lead’s pain points and get them interested in a solution. To do that, they’ll need to ask smart questions, be empathetic, and convince their prospect that your solution is worth 15-30 minutes of their time.
Your SDR doesn’t need to know every detail about your product, because their prospect doesn’t need to either. Not yet. All they need to know is that you have a solution to the problem they’re facing, and that an AE will show them how you can help.
Often, new SDRs struggle in their first few months. After they become comfortable with your product, they may try to work in features and benefits into their sales call, which usually harms their performance.
To avoid this, limit product training and keep your reps focused on the problem and solution.
It can be helpful to remind your SDRs that prospects don’t book demos because of features, they book demos because you solve their problem. Take a few minutes during training to have your SDR roleplay with you. Every time they begin to describe the product in detail, hold up a card and stop them. Then, have them circle back and reframe their product description as a solution to your problem.
3) Support New SDRs With Active Coaching
One of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes. But mistakes only help us if we get the right guidance on how to correct them. That’s why you need to be an active participant in your SDR’s training. Be present on the sales floor, listen to calls, and explain your advice.
By actively coaching your new SDRs, you’ll get the chance to redirect their mistakes and build strong sales techniques. When you hear an SDR miss an opportunity, flub a cold call, or overwhelm a prospect, these are opportunities to demonstrate and explain a better approach.
For example, let’s say you overhear your new SDR open a cold call with a yes or no question. Predictably, this leads to a yes or no answer and a quick end to the call. This is a perfect opportunity to jump in and discuss how an open-ended question is more likely to keep a prospect talking and let you find their pain points.
Offering this sort of ongoing support to your SDRs is crucial to their success. It’ll decrease their ramp time and build their confidence faster.
In the early days of training, try demonstrating both right and wrong ways to deliver a pitch and engage with customers. And as your SDR progresses with their onboarding, be sure to jump in at various points to actively coach them. Having a lot of opportunities for roleplaying will also give you a lot of opportunities to correct mistakes in real time, so be sure to keep scheduling these sessions even after your SDR gets more comfortable.
Stay Focused On Quality
When you’re onboarding an SDR, you likely won’t be measuring their progress in terms of appointments set just yet. As they learn your company’s sales positioning and begin to develop their own techniques, they’ll deal with negative outcomes many times. Both you and your new rep need to be prepared for that.
In order to make sure you’re focusing on what really matters, keep the following in mind:
- Get your SDRs used to failure by allowing them to experience rejection early and often.
- Make sure SDRs focus on customer pain points instead of your product during pitches.
- Stay closely involved with your SDR’s progress and actively coach them during training.
During these first few months, when you’re assessing an SDR’s progress, focus on quality over quantity. Are they getting more comfortable on the phone? Are they asking the right questions? Are they focusing on solutions? In time, their numbers will reflect the hard work you’re putting in now.