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Building a World Class SDR Training Program

July 6, 2020
by
Kyle Vamvouris
Teacher teaching students in a classroom

SDR’s (Sales Development Representatives) are responsible for a very important part of the relationship with your customers…

The first impression.

The first impression is so vital and yet so many organizations leave this responsibility to new employees who are early in their career and are provided little to no training. In this article we will discuss the importance of SDR training, my philosophy for developing world class SDR training programs, and finally a template you can use when building your own program. Lets dive right in!

Using SDR training to Spark Massive Growth

To repeat myself from before, the first impression you have on your prospect is incredibly important. Having a positive touch point with your brand is always a good thing but there are three other reasons why SDR training is especially vital.

It's easier to improve SDRs than Account Executives

SDR metrics vs. AE metrics.

SDR reps are typically early in their sales careers, so they are still learning. It is much easier to shape the behavior of a fresh SDR than it is a hardened Account Executive with years of doing it “their way.”

There is also a large skill gap between a new SDR and a properly trained one. To make it even better, this skill gap is faster to close than the skill gap of your Account Executives. This is because Account Executives are working sales cycles that are more complex and the cause of a lackluster metric can be hard to diagnose. On the other hand, the cause of an SDR's poor metric is much easier to diagnose. In fact, I can typically tell where an SDR is struggling within 10 minutes of analyzing their metrics.

Small improvements have a large impact on sales

Let me run some numbers for you, I will use cold calling as an example but this works with email too. Let's say SDR 1 speaks with 10 decision makers a day and converts at 5%, booking .5 meetings a day. There are 261 work days in a year so for this example SDR 1 booked 130.5 meetings in a year.

Now, lets say the Account Executives close 20% of those meetings leading to 26.1 deals for the year. Plug in your own average deal size but for this example lets use a $20,000 annual contract value. That's $522,000 in sales from one SDR converting at 5% BUT I have news for you…

5% is low.

Let's say the example company implemented some SDR training and that 5% turns into 6%, not an extreme increase. Well, they just increased sales attributed to SDR 1 from $522,000 to $626,400 which is an extra $104,400 in sales by improving conversion by 1%. If they continue that training and SDR 1 hits a 9% conversion rate they will be generating an extra $417,600 on top of the original $522,000. Keep in mind that we are only talking about conversion rates. There are a few other levers you can pull to increase SDR output but that's for another article.

Example data before and after SDR training.

Here is a graph of these two compared

Graph of increased revenue generated from a trained SDR.

Better SDRs mean better meetings for Account Executives which means… higher close rates.

As Sales Development Representatives get better at prospecting the quality of the meetings they book will increase. With higher quality meetings we have, you guessed it, higher conversion rates. Let's stick with the above example and say SDR 1 is booking higher quality meetings at that 6% conversion rate and the close rate for the Account Executive team goes from 20% to 22%, again, not an extreme increase. The revenue increase for the year just went from $104,400 to $167,040, an additional $62,640.

Table showing the impact of a 2% AE close rate increase from higher quality SDR Meetings.

Did I mention that I like math?

Here is the bottom line.

In our example SDR 1 was trained and increased their conversion from 5% to 6%, generating an additional $167,040 in sales… If the close rate increases from 20% to 22% because of higher quality SDR meetings that would generate $62,640 extra in sales attributed to SDR 1.

So… is SDR training worth it? 

I think so.

The 4 Keys to a Rock-Solid SDR Training Program

I have always taken training very seriously. I see it as a way to invest in my employees, giving them the skills they need to hit quota but also get them to the next phase in their career. I believe that every SDR has the potential to be great if they are willing to put in the work and hone their craft. I also believe that the better an SDR is, the higher potential they have as an Account Executive. I train all SDRs with the end goal being a high performing SDR who is primed to be a high performing Account Executive. There are 4 things I have identified as core to building a strong Sales Development training program.

Consistency

When developing a training program it's important to set a schedule and STICK TO IT. This is where I see most SDR teams struggle. The manager says they are going to do a training but the date gets pushed back or totally forgotten. If you value your team and genuinely want them to improve, always make the time for training.

In addition to training, SDRs need consistent support to be successful. During the work day SDRs will come across situations that they are unprepared for. When these situations arise they need someone they can ask for feedback. If that person isn't around or never responds the SDR misses out on an opportunity to learn and improve.

Action Tip: Have consistent training with an emphasis on ongoing SDR support.

Multiple learning styles

A major component of all of my training programs is the support of multiple learning styles. Everyone learns differently and teaching concepts in multiple ways is a great way to help everyone internalize the information. The best way to do this is by switching between traditional role playing, cold call games, and live call feedback. This way, every SDR gets to interact with the training differently, increasing retention and adoption.

Action Tip: Implement different learning styles in your training program.

Real world missions

My favorite type of training to implement is something I call “real world missions.” Like how it sounds, this is when the SDR has to physically go out and do something in a public setting or they must use a technique they learned in the real world. For example, after teaching the SDRs a technique to overcome when the prospect says “not interested,” I instruct them to send me a call recording of them using the technique on a cold call.

Another fun one I do is have the SDRs go to a local public area with a clipboard and a pen. While there, they must approach strangers and ask them “what is your first impression of me.” The reason why this exercise works is because oftentimes SDRs get nervous on the phone because they lack confidence and are worried that the prospect is judging them. After doing this exercise they realize that most people have a positive first impression of them and that increases their confidence.

Action Tip: Give your SDRs a task that they must complete and hold them accountable!

Progression

The last part of my training programs that I think is mandatory to include is having a progression system. Outbound prospecting is difficult to master and If you give advanced prospecting techniques to SDRs who are still learning the basics they stop doing the basics. I have seen it time and time again, SDRs beg to know some cool advanced technique and next thing you know they are messing up simple cold calls in an attempt to try something new. Don't fall into this trap. Build a training program that builds on itself and only advances SDRs to the next stage in the progression when you are confident they are ready. Personally, I have exams after each major milestone in my SDR training programs and tie a raise to their base salary when they pass it.

Action Tip: Add a progression system to your training program and avoid teaching advanced techniques too early.

My Framework For Developing Top Performing SDRs

Alright, at this point you are probably wondering, “is Kyle going to tell me how to structure my training?” The answer is… YES! I will outline the first three months of my SDR training Framework here and if you would like an interactive version you can download it by filling out the form below.

Sample of SDR Training Framework

There it is folks, in all its glory! This is the basic framework I use for structuring all of my training programs. I have populated it with part of my basic training program, called Prospecting 101.

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