Do’s & Don’ts to Effectively Manage SDRs


The Do’s & Don’ts to Effectively Manage SDRs is a must read because B2B Sales Development Reps are a valuable and cost effective resource to new and expansion annual recurring revenue, when SDRs are intelligently managed.

Most B2B organizations by now have figured out that it’s a good idea to segment the sales process and align tasks with cost-effective resources to meet or exceed quota.  Specifically, organizations have embraced Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to prospect for qualified opportunities, make the first contact and set up initial meetings for the sales teams.  The bad news is that there are not enough qualified SDRs, SDR managers or sales heads that understand and respect the SDR function and that makes it hard to effectively manage SDRs.

Effectively Manage SDRs – 3 Issues That Can Decrease SDR Effectiveness

  1. Typically the first issue arises when marketing is involved in generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs).  Best-in-class demand gen, account-based marketers and field marketers follow up with MQLs to ensure they are properly assigned, tracked and converted to a sales qualified lead (SQL) or meeting.
  2. The second issue arises when the SDR has a conflicting set of priorities.  Specifically, SDR management may deprioritize MQL follow-up and instead prioritize outbound calling, driving attendance to a physical or online event or one of many other tasks that SDRs could perform.
  3. The last issue resides with the Field Sales Rep (FSR) because they  provide direct and perhaps the most important feedback. This is because they are the most significant voice when it comes down to determining the effectiveness of the SDR – i.e. did the SDR set up meetings that resulted in revenue?  Period.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Effectively Manage SDRs – Goals & Outcomes for an SDR

Goals and outcomes usually vary based upon where the SDR function resides in the organization.  If the function resides in marketing, the SDR is typically chartered with productivity, lead follow-up, driving attendance and setting up meetings.  Creating and managing to an SDR activity model becomes very important.

When the SDR function resides within the sales organization, each FSR becomes the boss or manager of the SDR assigned to them.  If the FSR understands and values the SDR, the SDR will usually be chartered with prospecting.  If the SDR is weak, the FSR may completely ignore the SDR.  If the FSR has a history of making their number on their own, then the SDR may end up becoming an administrative resource to the FSR – they typically arbitrarily decide if they want to assign meetings to the SDR which directly impacts the SDRs compensation.

The easy part is setting goals for the SDR.  A specific set of meetings in targeted accounts is the best quantitative metric and the one most highly correlated to revenue.  However, this metric has to be respected by both sales and marketing.  For instance, if an SDR is setting the targeted number of meetings in the right companies and with the right contacts, it’s not fair to complain that the SDR did not make enough phone calls or send enough emails.  Nor can the FSR invalidate the meetings.  The FSR can raise the issue that the companies or titles targeted need to be updated, but that is a management issue and not one that should be placed on the SDR’s shoulders.  Most importantly, the SDR can’t be penalized for executing against the goals and directives he or she was given.  If SDRs are penalized, then the demand management system is not providing the correct framework to effectively manage SDRs.


Effectively Manage SDRs – Types of SDRs

In general, there are three primary types of SDRs: fresh out of college, the lifer and the sales rep.

Fresh Out of College

With thousands of tech companies, everyone wants SDRs for various reasons.  As a result, there is a tremendous demand for SDRs. If objectives are met, a competent SDR can command a reasonable salary which is why so many twenty somethings jump into the SDR world.  Unfortunately, there is no real training ground except the typical one week onboarding – either in person or online — where 3,000 PowerPoints are shown in 40 hours of presentations.) This is not effective onboarding and as a result, it’s a real churn and burn role.

Do's-Don'ts-Effectively-Manage-SDRs-Career-PathsThe SDR Lifer

The SDR lifer is a conscious choice for some as they know what is required to be successful but often have a work to live mentality.  This is perfectly acceptable if the SDR is making their number.  The trick is not to tick them off but to acknowledge and respect their choice and the fact that they require “little to no watering” in order to produce.  Usually this person is likely to be in his or her 40’s or 50’s.

ISR or FSR Career Path

The SDR who wants to be a direct salesperson is the hungry raw talent who is a maniac – in a good way.  They are “coin operated” and excel when they can make money.  Acknowledge these folks for who they are and benefit from their aggressiveness but do not play games with their compensation.  Offering them an extra $100 per appointment or a small percentage of closed sourced deals is near and dear to these SDRs.  Enjoy meeting or exceeding your number as a manager as long as you have them on your team — but know that if you do not promote them to an Inside Sales Rep (ISR) or FSR that they will find the opportunity elsewhere.  And by all means, do not set them up to earn less in the next role than they did as an SDR or you will have a mutiny. And you will deserve it.

Effectively Manage SDRs – An Analytical or Qualitative Approach

An Analytical Approach to Determining a Meeting

Analytical is based on criteria documented in a Qualification Matrix that is jointly developed between sales and marketing.  A qualification matrix is basically specific criteria that is documented and adhered to determine if the opportunity is an organization likely to find value from the offered solution.  Criteria may include budget, authority, need and timeframe (BANT) or it could be as simple as right person (specific role/title) in the right organization (a predefined list of companies that have been targeted).

In this scenario, there is no “human decision” as it is a simply system verification.  Sales and marketing agree on the companies to be targeted and the titles to be called and a database is built.  In order to work though, Sales and marketing “have to” use the one database.  The accounts are divided through sales planning (territories, named accounts or a hybrid).  The qualification matrix is defined and the definition of a meeting is established and documented in the SFA system.  And, it should be as simple as verifying the company was in the database, the prospect had the right title and any other quantifiable information included to determine if the opportunity is worthy of a sales person’s time.

In addition, there should be no confusion whatsoever about whether something is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).  Everything in the database is an MQL.  Also, there are rules in the SFA to validate criteria to determine an SQL.  Note: it is a wise idea to perform manual verifications each quarter to ensure that what the system deems an MQL or SQL is in fact the same as what the sales and marketing teams mutually agreed.

A Qualitative Approach to Determining a Meeting

With qualitative, the extreme case is where the field sales rep (FSR) solely gets to decide if the meeting was of value.  While a qualitative solution can work, more often than not it does not work, especially in a large organization.  Why not?  Here are some reasons:

  • The SDR becomes subservient to the FSR as the FSR determines the SDRs compensation by agreeing to what is a meeting or not
  • The SDR becomes whatever the FSR so chooses – the FSR can decide that they want an admin to enter info into SFDC or do administrative work not necessarily aligned with the metrics the SDR function has been chartered to attain
  • FSRs (hunters or farmers) may decide they do not want an SDR in their accounts, but they do not want to engage in the politics of the organizational structure. Good FSRs are smart so they will play “the game” and assign accounts that are not in the target market for the SDR to chase – this will frustrate a good SDR, they will not make their number and the SDR will quit or be terminated.

To complicate matters, the hand-off of qualified opportunities to from demand generation or account based marketing and SDRs and the hand-off from SDRs to sales reps is crucial and needs to be a highly optimized process.

Effectively Manage SDRs – Intergate Into the Sales Process

SDRs can be instrumental in B2B direct sales when the average recurring revenue (ARR) or long-term value (LTV) of a customer is 6 digits or more.  SDRs should be laser focused on the efforts the sales and marketing teams delegate to the SDR function.  The most important metric to effectively manage SDRs is the number of meetings set.  Even though this metric sounds like it is straightforward and relatively simply, it is not and those that treat it that way will incur numerous problems and lots of frustration.  The database to prospect is one of the biggest challenges and still most B2B organizations do not understand the impact of building a database of the right companies and the right contacts.  If they did, they would not use terms like MQL and SQL and sales and marketing would not argue about whether an opportunity was relevant or not.  And, there would be minimal conflict around SDR compensation as their pay would not be indirectly controlled by whether an FSR “Approves” of the meeting.

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