Four Fresh Ideas to Accelerate Your SDR Onboarding Program

Are your Sales Development Reps (SDRs) ramping too slowly?

According to The Bridge Group’s latest study, onboarding an SDR is taking a little more than three months, on average. If the typical SDR stays on the job for about a year, three months is a long time to ramp up.

Here are four fresh ideas you can use today to help speed up this process for your new SDRs.

1. Instead of Product Training, Start with Persona Training
Many SDRs are coming into the Sales Development profession with little or no experience in the field of selling, and also know little or nothing about the people they will be calling on to set up meetings.
SDRs are usually given a bit of product and company training, then cut loose to start calling on prospects, many of whom have 20+ years experience in the industry.

With limited knowledge or context, the SDR has immediate difficulty connecting with prospects, faces massive resistance and, to compensate for these deficiencies, onboarding gets extended longer than necessary.
Instead, give your new recruits a fighting chance by educating them on who they’re calling. Get them started with Personas — the people who are involved in the buying process of your product — versus going straight to product training.

By enabling them to grow into experts on the people they will be calling on every day, rather than going immediately to what your product or service does, you’ll help your reps build a foundation of success not only as an SDR but also as an Account Executive, if they choose to continue on to that role. It is with that context that they can begin to have value-add conversations instead of going straight to their product pitch and becoming just another cold caller.

For the first few weeks on the job, make it easy for your new recruits to “get into the head” of their target personas by giving them a crash course in understanding the people they’ll be calling every day:

  • What are their usual titles?
  • How did they get their jobs?
  • What’s their day like?
  • What is their usual level of experience?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their typical pain points?
  • How do they get ahead in their career?
  • What gets them in trouble?
  • How are they measured?

New SDRs should strive to understand the roles, the org chart (chain of command) and typical projects these people work on every day in their jobs. Your reps need to enter their prospects’ world.
Ideally, they should strive to know the typical goals and pain points of each of those personas like the back of their hands within the first couple weeks on the job.

Your SDRs should also gain a deeper understanding of the events, blogs, resources and other material that their target audience uses every day to gain information and intelligence on their the field, and begin to follow those as well.

The goal here is to ensure that SDRs are really inside the head of your personas and can understand their world — at least the surface level — so your reps can begin to understand where they fit into their prospects’ priorities, and how your product or service can potentially alleviate pain points and add real value.

2. Connecting your Solution to the Personas’ Goals or Pain Points
Now that your new SDRs have a solid understand your target personas and the world they inhabit, it’s critical for them to understand how your product or service can help these people alleviate their pain points and/or achieve their goals.

Based on what they know about the person they’re calling, they should be able to get a better understanding of whether their intended messaging is actually going to make an impact and get the person’s attention, or simply be deleted or ignored.

They will also better understand how important it is for them to get in touch with the person, to help them attain their goals or to help them alleviate pain, through the amazing product or service you’re offering. It’s important to teach your reps that they have an important job: helping companies succeed. Yes, they’re selling your product, but it’s bigger than that.

SDRs are in the business of solving serious problems for companies. This understanding should help build motivation and sense of urgency on the part of the SDR, helping them move faster and with more energy, speeding up ramp time. It also imbues reps with a sense of purpose.

They’re not just call and email machines, they’re bringing life-improving technology to those in need.

3. Persona Interviews
Next step is to delve deeper into the understanding of the target personas by conducting live interviews. Help new SDRs find at least five people each who fit their target personas, both within your company and in the market. From there, have your reps conduct 30-minute interviews with the goal of discovering more about their personas’ pain points and goals.

During the interviews, the new SDRs should ask questions about their background, their goals for the year, their current responsibilities, their top pain points, what they worry about, what would they do if they had a magic wand and could alleviate all their problems in one stroke, etc. 
The interview should also have questions about how they interact with their greater industry, what conferences they attend, what blogs they read, what podcasts they listen to, and how they keep up with the competition.

All of this is great intelligence on the very people the new SDR will be calling every day. The information gathered will give them some great conversation starters and ways to open with some great questions, speeding up the cycle.

For example, if you sell sales engagement software, and your target persona is a Vice President of Sales, have the new SDR conduct these interviews first with your own Vice President of Sales and their direct reports. Then make a list of five people outside your company who will give your reps 30 minutes for an interview to discuss their day-to-day.

You’re not selling here, you are simply asking them for help. They gain a mentorship opportunity with a young SDR, and the new SDR gets some great context. Outlaw sales pitches during these interviews. The last thing you want your reps to do is to burn bridges by turning an informational meeting into a sales pitch.

Record these interviews via Zoom video call to use as a training library for new recruits, and a refresher for veterans. Which leads to our next step…

4. Document, Document, Document
Throughout the process of educating your new SDRs on the target personas they’ll be calling, the Sales Development Manager or Sales Trainer should be capturing all of this valuable information and documenting it in a way that can be used as a template for further training, and for onboarding future recruits.

By collecting this information, date stamping it and revising it quarterly, the manager can ensure that new recruits have fresh information and the entire team has their finger consistently on the pulse of the market they’re selling to. Markets change, so it’s vital you revisit this information so your reps can keep up with how their target personas operate. 

Conclusion

While there’s obviously no way a brand-new SDR will suddenly become a sales leader with 20+ years of experience overnight, a new recruit can absolutely control the amount of focus and energy they apply to becoming masters of their craft.

By understanding the world of the people they’re calling on, understanding their goals, pain points, aspirations and how they fit in with the overall industry landscape, your new SDR can use that knowledge as a foundation of their sales conversations, and the sales skills necessary to achieve massive success.

And, by having this context and knowledge, the SDR can start having quality conversations a lot faster than the average, raw rep, and start to cut down on that 3+ month ramp time!

David Dulany has built high-performance Sales Development programs for Glassdoor, OpenDNS, Infer and Act-On Software. At Tenbound, he helps companies start, optimize and turn around Sales Development programs. For more information, visit daviddulany.com and tenbound.com.

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