You are a brand new SDR at some cool up-and-coming tech company.
You've signed on to join at a $75k OTE, almost $20k higher than your peers entering the workforce with you.
You've heard stories about the money you can make in Sales, received your swag box and a brand new laptop, and even have a fat company-sponsored stipend to buy some nice equipment with.
Your friends think you are crazy for going into sales, but deep down, they respect the heck out of you - and best of all? The role is 100% remote.
Yup. You've officially made it.
So...money, gadgets, extreme autonomy, and flexibility, "what's the catch?" you wonder.
Week 2 of your onboarding rolls around and your manager says, "alright, let's hit the phones!"
And like a foot sliding into an ice bath, your body floods with chills from head to toe. The anxiety is immediate - your voice cracks, your hands get clammy, and your breathing slows to a halt.
"You mean...I have to call people? Like, cold call?" The reality of what you signed up for sets in, and you realize you have no choice other than to begin your journey to become a highly effective, highly efficient outbound machine.
“It's supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
- Tom Hanks
You jump on a Zoom with your manager to cover the basics of what a cold call should sound like and run through a couple of mock scenarios.
Once your manager feels like you are ready to go, they send you over a list of phone numbers and a script to follow.
"Alright, you got this! Good luck and have fun! Holler if you need anything." your manager says, as they scurry on to their next Zoom meeting.
The hype of getting into Sales and the glamor of the cool perks and swag fade to the background...they won't help you here. Now, it's just you and your dialer.
If you're lucky, a teammate reached out offering to help you, but failing in front of someone else would be even more embarrassing.
So, alone in your home office you sit, with a mere hour of cold call training under your belt, mustering up the courage to hit "call."
Why SDR Training Programs Fail
Managers, why do we do this to our new reps?
To be fair, the example above probably sounds a bit extreme to you – I hope?!
Surely you have a much more robust plan to onboard your reps and help them break the ice and hit the ground running.
But, the reality is your training program is not enough in today's remote environment.
If you've ever managed a sales development team in person, you know how important it is to have your new hires shadow, interact with, and absorb everything they can from their more experienced teammates.
The key to a successful ramp is osmosis and exposure.
So, why do we put even less into our onboarding programs for remote teams?
It's a fact that hiring, training, and managing a remote team is harder than it was in person.
Maybe that's why, because we know it's harder, so we'd rather breeze through training and hope our new hires stay afloat.
But I believe we can do better.
How to Create an SDR Onboarding Strategy
When it comes to onboarding new reps and helping them become high-performers, there is no silver bullet.
That said, there are some practical steps you can take to better support your reps as they learn the ropes.
Elements to Effective Onboarding
- Encourage failure
- Provide a framework for success
- Build a culture of teamwork
- Leverage technology
Reps need the freedom to fail. Your new hires don't want to screw anything up, it's because they care, and it's because they want you to feel confident you made the right choice by hiring them.
Our entire lives we were taught that success and failure live on a report card; A, B, C, D, or F, what kind of person are you? But we know that this mindset doesn't work, this is a fixed mindset, allergic to failure and inevitably growth.
Welcoming, celebrating, and embracing failure is a growth catalyst. This means boldly sharing losses, proactively seeking feedback and advice, and *gasp* even you, the manager, making cold calls in front of your team.
This is a growth mindset.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Carol Dweck) is a great read on these two mindsets.
Provide a Framework for Success
Your reps need to know what "good" looks like, and you need to be able to, very clearly, call it out. Tribal knowledge is a given in today's working environments, and especially in a remote environment, but your job as a manager is to assemble that tribal knowledge, organize it into a simple and digestible framework, and cement it into the foundation of your program.
There needs to be your singular source of truth and benchmark of success when you are coaching your reps. This way, where they are today, and where they need to be tomorrow is very clear.
Support from Teammates
Let's be honest, you are rusty. The last time you hit the phones with the team was (hopefully) not too long ago, but the fact that you had to count just now proves the point. It's okay! Release yourself from the pressure YOU need to be the expert.
I'm sure you were a top performer, hence why you are now leading and managing, but don't let your ego get in the way of empowering the next generation of sales leaders.
Let your reps coach each other. Be there to certify the coaching and stamp out any bad practices...but odds are, your reps will get way more out of coaching each other than having you coach them. They will be more open, more creative, and have more fun with each other. And that's okay!
Your job is not to be the know-it-all or top performer anymore, your job is to make sure your team has the resources and structure it needs to be highly efficient and effective, and your leading KPIs as a manager should be both pipeline generation for the business, but even more so, the quality of reps you are developing for future roles within the organization.
So, move out of the way, or at least open a space for more tenured reps to jump in on the onboarding fun and help their new teammates out.
This could mean group Zooms for Real-time call coaching, ride-along sessions, and rep-led training.
The other benefit of this, as it relates to helping new reps break the ice, is that they won't feel like the new kid in school anymore. They will build genuine bonds with your other reps that will encourage them to step out and take risks. Yes, even with something as scary as cold calling.
Why? Because they won't be alone.
Humans are social creatures, we need community to feel confident and supported.
Your brand new sales rep who is home alone in the corner of their apartment struggling through cold calls?
Yea, that environment isn’t going to breed a high-performer.
There are way too many good tools out there to not at least try, and training your reps without tools is like sending a handyman to a job site without a toolbox.
Now, don't get me wrong, we have a budget, and we must respect the budget. But, back to the fixed/growth mindsets, what if spending $10 upfront led to a net gain of $90 on the backend? Purchasing technology is an investment - but it is an investment in your people.
Tools like dialers, real-time call coaching software, gamification plugins, and email automation platforms are a must in today's remote selling environment.
At the end of the day, if a SaaS tool will make your rep's lives easier, your team more efficient and effective, and help you book more meetings, you'd be crazy to not at least try!
SDR Onboarding Matters
The real beauty of sales is that is an art as much as it is a science.
You must have frameworks, processes, and data to build and scale a program on - but it's that science and math that informs the art of sales development - training, coaching, crafting unique messaging, and ultimately trying to convince people who have never heard of you or your company to buy your product.
The worst thing you can do is hire a rep full of zeal and determination and throw them into the SDR arena with no resources, tools, or support.
Don't be that manager. We can do better.