Background: Kajol began her career back in 2017 as a full time seller and realized her true passion lies in the initial part of the sales cycle which is helping a company put their best foot forward and gaining interest from a potential customer. This led her to take her role as the first SDR at a high growth start-up in San Francisco. 

This experience allowed her to be a pioneer in the field by creating a differentiated perspective and set of processes. She now manages a growing team of sales development representatives at Linqia and works to set meetings with large brands and agencies in the marketing space. She spoke to Tenbound about her experience and what works from reporting within the organization, to hiring and scaling when ready while navigating the waters of this tough environment. 

Get Hired into a Company that Sells Something You’re Passionate About 

I cannot stress how important this is. I had interviewed an abundance of companies. As I was leaving, I realized that the product didn’t excite me. If it doesn’t excite you, how are you ever going to entice a stranger? This is the most important factor of being an SDR. Since signing up for a Facebook account at the young age of 14, social media has been a huge part of my life for entertainment and staying connected to friends and family. Have you recently checked your screen time in the settings on your iPhone? Writing this article led me to investigate my own. I spend an average of 7 hours on my phone each day with a majority of that time, 74% to be exact, dedicated to social media… I am still wondering how that is even possible!! 

Regardless, there are others like me. Especially with social distancing orders set in place, social media is an ever-changing way to stay connected. My current company – Linqia helps brands tell their story through the authentic voice of influencers. I truly believe this is the best way to market. It helps me in my role as a player-coach SDR manager as I’m genuinely enthusiastic when interacting with prospective customers. 

Reporting to the CEO Creates a Different Value for Time and Talent

From my experience, the sales development team usually reports into sales or marketing and I have been a part of both models. At Linqia, we decided to take a different approach and there is a reason for it. At a start-up, we are all constantly working towards one dream which is the overall success for the company. Furthermore, various teams do have some differing individual goals to ensure everyone remains on track. 

A marketing team in the B2B space has the main objective of gaining leads through forms for content, events, etc. and then converting that interest into new business. Contrarily, the sales team is mainly focused on the later part of the pipeline such as meetings, proposals and following-up. Oftentimes we see that if the SDR team is under marketing, outbound is ignored and the focus is mainly on inbound, which results in creating a huge gap in what can be achieved. When the SDR function is placed under sales, it will pivot into addressing lower funnel tactics such as following up with current customers. 

Our CEO is able to see that our talent and time is best utilized on bringing new and qualified customers through the ‘virtual’ doors that wouldn’t have existed without the combination of marketing and sales effort. 

When Hiring a Team, Look for a Variety of Perspective from Different Backgrounds and Personalities 

This is very related to a huge issue in our country right now. A lot of hiring manager’s are constantly asking the question: “doesn’t inclusion mean hiring the person best suited for the job rather than scrutinizing our diversity levels?” While this is a fair point, the idea is rather to source candidates in an effective way. 

All the teams I have managed and plan to grow in the future have a diverse mix of race, gender, and age. Currently,  the average SDR has about 1.3 years of experience. My theory has always been why not have both ends of the spectrum? Each team I have managed have included a combination of people with directly related SDR and sales experience, new grads, and those with non-sales backgrounds. You might wonder why I didn’t just filter the candidates and only interview and hire those with the most related experience in order to make training and ramp easier. My reasoning is that it is absolutely critical to have different perspectives. We sometimes get stuck in our ways… it happens to me as well! 

Having SDR’s with no experience of what works and what doesn’t allows for trial of new ideas which we are often closed off to. We have now tried things I would have never thought of, such as puns in subject lines or smiley faces in LinkedIn notes which have all yielded several huge meetings!

Scaling When Ready and Function is Productive and Proven by Revenue 

The first month I was hired on, the whole company was pleasantly surprised with the immediate results on the meetings side. I hit the ground running by booking meetings in my first week becauseI was in it to win it! Once the initial team was hired and began following the processes outlined in our playbook, the success was instantly multiplied. Because of this, there was discussion of hiring even more SDR’s almost immediately. This is a difficult decision that most businesses face because they can become presumptuous which can result in a swift, but irresponsible, growth and probable layoffs in the future. It is important to scale only when the function is actually proven. 

On the meeting setting side, we are undoubtedly living through tough times where reply rates have fallen drastically. Hence, what works for us is a data-driven approach. We look at each meeting set, then replicate that specific outreach. On the revenue side, it all comes down to dollars and cents. Your team can book a million great meetings, but if those aren’t turning into actual business with viable conversion rates – how will you ever prove the function? The average sales cycle can sometimes be as long as 90 to 120 days. 

If you do see revenue during that time period – great! If not, it is time to reconsider your processes and assess what can be adapted to become more prosperous. You can achieve this through constant feedback from the sellers on why each meeting hasn’t converted into an opportunity or why these specific opportunities aren’t turning into closed business. 

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