Effectively Enabling SDRs Without Hurting Your Brand

A question I get asked more and more is: How do we effectively enable SDRs (sales development reps), and is the enablement of SDRs even our job as sales enablement leaders?

Effectively enabling SDRs is a specific challenge, slightly different than engaging, equipping and empowering other customer-facing audiences. And yes, it should always be a sales enablement leader’s responsibility as, ideally, they serve all customer-facing roles and their managers along the entire customer’s path.

However, the challenge begins way earlier. In many organizations, the responsibility for SDRs is moved from marketing to sales and back to marketing and back to sales again. That happens more often than you might think – and not because there’s an outcome-based thought process behind it. It happens because headcounts are moved around from one leader to another and because the role is, apparently, not perceived as mission critical regarding sales results.

This assumption is wrong and should be cleared right away because, in reality, your SDRs are often the first impression your potential new clients get of your organization. And if that first impression is not a positive one, they will remember your organization for all the wrong reasons and probably never buy from you.

Even World-Class Organizations have challenges with effectively enabling their SDRs, as only 51% got this right, compared to 22% of all respondents. (click to tweet)

Figure this: These numbers mean that half of the World-Class Organizations have a serious challenge and are not able to effectively enable their SDRs to be effective at what they’re responsible for: building the pipeline with qualified leads. Looking at the entire study population, it is even worse, as only a bit more than one-fifth (22%) get this right.

In other words, 78% of all organizations apparently are not effectively enabling their SDRs. (click to tweet)

Again, as the SDR role stands at the very beginning of creating new customers (this is where a huge part of your future revenue should come from!), it doesn’t make any sense not to focus on making that role as effective as possible. Hurting your brand with bad email and messaging practices is a serious danger you won’t be able to fix later along the customer’s path, no matter what you invest in enabling your “real sales roles.”

So how do you effectively engage, equip and empower SDRs? Here are a few ideas:

#1: Make sure that the newly hired SDRs understand their role and its impact.

Most SDRs are young and at the beginning of their professional (sales) careers. It’s important to show them how important their role is beyond the KPIs they are measured on. It’s mission critical for them to understand that how they interact and communicate is not at all a “numbers game.” In fact, they have to understand that how they interact with prospects can literally make or break any future business with the organization.

It’s important for them to learn from Day 1 that their role is actually a revenue-contributing role that can only be effective if they can show prospects that they bring value to the table – insights and perspectives designed to help buyers solve their problems – as only that problem-solving capability will actually lead to a first call or meeting (their primary focus) and to revenue later on. So onboarding SDRs should start with providing 100% role clarity and insights into the modern buyer and their preferences. You may want to familiarize them with the 2018 Buyer Preferences Study.

#2: Develop their communication, messaging and foundational selling skills.

Sure, you hire for good communication skills and sales potential. However, effective communication is not a given; you should develop their communication and messaging excellence step by step in the context of your organization and the problems you solve for your buyers. There are two areas to focus on first: writing emails or LinkedIn messages and phone skills.

When it comes to emails, sales enablement should always make sure (in collaboration with marketing) that SDRs have a set of email templates they are required to use in order to ensure consistent value messaging and a top-quality prospecting approach that will give your buyers a positive first experience.

Email templates should always be specific and focus on the potential buyer problem, including some insights into why this is important and an idea of how to solve it. You want to teach them early on that only if there is enough value in that message will buyers make time for a call or meeting with them or another sales role. Show them bad email habits and how they hurt themselves and your brand.

#3: Collaborate with the managers to ensure a structured process, including preparation.

Another often-overlooked aspect is the need to focus on proper research before calling a prospect or sending an email. Have a look here and here to see what happens if activities are done without proper research. To get there, it’s important to collaborate with their managers first to better understand what they are asked to deliver. If you discover potential conflicts such as a pure focus on quantitative KPIs no matter what, you have a topic for your sales enablement advisory board. It’s not the managers’ fault, it’s a sales leadership issue.

The role of SDRs and the potential damage they can create if instructed and led the wrong way is way too important to the entire organization to be ignored. Let’s assume that the problem is not that big. Even so, ensure that they are required to at least check the potential buyer’s LinkedIn profile, even better if followed by a Google, Twitter or YouTube search. However, that’s only one part of the research.

The other part should be to check their own CRM before doing anything. If your organization is already doing business with the potential buyer’s organization, don’t treat them as a prospect. It’s absolutely annoying and proves to the buyer that your organization doesn’t have its act together and apparently is not able to make use of all of the available data. You don’t want to create that impression.

#4: Provide training and content services, and ensure that they are regularly coached.

If you have onboarded them effectively, provided role clarity and developed their communication and foundational selling skills, you’re headed in the right direction. Now, on an ongoing basis, make sure they know where to find the right email templates for different roles and industries and content they can use and share. Make sure they have enough practice, especially for phone communication, and learn how to excel at that. Also make sure that managers are required to coach them along those lines to improve behaviors and outcomes.

Effective sales enablement leaders know the huge impact SDRs have on their organizations’ future business. Following a strategic enablement approach, they know that the best they can do is engage, equip and empower them in the best way possible to ensure optimal future sales results and develop much-needed sales talent.

Questions for you:

  • Is enabling SDRs currently part of your sales enablement scope?
  • If enabling SDRs is currently part of your sales enablement scope, how do you do it?
  • If enabling SDRs is not currently part of your sales enablement scope, what are the reasons why, and who does it instead?
  • What would you like to change regarding the current process for enabling SDRs in your organization?

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  • Dave Brock
    Posted at 12:53h, 19 August

    Great post Tamara. One has to also think, “Are we assigning the right people to SDR roles?” So much of the challenge we face in SDR and sales performance is because we have the wrong people in place. The SDR position is typically an entry level position, yet we expect them to make calls that even very experienced sales people struggle with.

    As you suggest, we want to create the most positive first impression possible. Sometimes, that might mean assigning our very best people to the SDR role.

  • Tamara Schenk
    Posted at 03:57h, 22 August

    Thanks, Dave! You raise a crucial point!
    Yes, this is a great question to ask. And as far as I can observe it – and I know you, too – organizations hire for sales talent (looking at an AE role)and consider the SDR role as you rightly said as an entry-level role to get there. However, the SDR role and the AE role are very different and should not be considered a natural career path. I couldn’t agree more; organizations should assign their best people to the SDR role. It’s about the very first impression; how do you want people to be welcomed in your shop, restaurant, etc.

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