All reps, new and experienced, need to understand the evolution of their role over time.
This way, they can know when to prioritize certain developmental areas based on their tenure and time in-seat.
The pyramid below is a framework that reps can use to guide them along their SDR journey.
It's most useful to brand new reps who are just getting started, as they can plan their development and focus accordingly - but even for experienced reps, it can be helpful to reflect on where they think they are in their SDR mastery, and where to focus next.
1-3 Months: Quantity
This is arguably the most turbulent period of time for a new rep. Adjusting to a new company is never easy, but doing it remotely is that much harder. Feeling like the new kid in school, drinking from a firehose, and trying to make good first impressions with everyone across the team is a lot to keep up with at once.
Building relationships with teammates should be a new hire's #1 priority within the first few weeks.
Learning how to leverage your teammates for advice, support, and encouragement as an SDR is an essential skill that won't stop coming in handy throughout your entire SDR journey.
Plus, as a newbie, you do not want to feel isolated or like you don't belong.
New hires on remote teams may struggle the most here - remote teams already battle isolation and have to make an effort to meet up and talk, whereas causal conversations and water-cooler talk is the norm for teams working in-office.
Advice for SDRs: Accept the awkward "new kid in school" feelings, be bold, and reach out to your new teammates to ask for 30mins on their calendar to get to know them a bit better.
Advice for Managers: Don't put the burden on your new hires to connect - build connection into onboarding by scheduling a meetup with each of their teammates for them, having regular ride-alongs baked into their onboarding, and encouraging your tenured reps to reach out proactively to the new hire to help them feel included.
Understand Your ICP
Most onboarding programs focus on product. Platform demos, feature guides, and hour-long enablement sessions on how the tech behind the platform works.
While this is somewhat helpful to new hires, this should not be the primary content they are trained on. It is too technical and too overwhelming for a new rep.
Unfortunately, most companies are guilty of this approach.
Instead, a new sales rep needs to understand three simple things:
- What the product does (at a high level)
Watching marketing videos or reading marketing content will help them understand what the product does.
- How to pitch the product (talk tracks, messaging)
Listening to their teammates live on the phones will help them understand how to pitch the product.
- Why someone would need the product (understanding pain)
Talking to Account Executives, Customer Support Managers, and watching recorded product demos will help them understand why people buy the product and what pain points lead them to needing a solution.
This approach equips reps with what they need to do the job they were hired for (reaching out to prospects) much sooner than learning the ins and outs of product!
Advice for SDRs: Skip all of the technical deep dives, instead, go shadow your teammates as they make cold calls and listen to how they pitch the product!
Advice for Managers: Take the technical deep dives out of onboarding. Instead, build in regular shadow sessions for your new hires to be able to hear their teammates pitching. Follow these shadow sessions up with mock call scenarios where they can start formulating their own pitch!
Hit Daily KPIs
KPIs are the lifeblood of building pipeline in sales development.
Sales is a numbers game, and the only way to build a predictable revenue pipeline is to build a consistent outreach pipeline.
KPIs aren't created to punish or torture you, they are built around conversion rates and the math needed to hit the team's pipeline goals.
Example: If your Sales org's annual revenue target is $20m and your daily KPIs are 30 emails and 30 dials, this is because your sales dev leaders have done the conversion math to figure that reaching out to 60 people/day will yield X meetings, and of those X meetings, Y of those will be qualified, and Z of them will convert to closed won revenue.
When you are just getting started, skip the fancy sales guru advice you see on LinkedIn, instead, focus on hitting your KPIs daily.
Not only will you build the required muscle memory and discipline to execute your tasks efficiently, you will slowly but surely start defining your process, at which point you can refine to be even faster and more efficient.
As your prospect pipeline grows, you will start to get replies and gain experience, and the snowball will start to roll down the hill picking up the speed and momentum you need to hit quota!
Advice for SDRs: Learn to love your KPIs, they will sustain you through the toughest of quarters. Dive in, and get used to doing them every single day, no matter what. Just do it.
Advice for Managers: Make sure your KPIs are based on real conversion rates. Figure out what your revenue targets are, how many opportunities it takes to close a deal, how many activities it takes to create an opportunity, so on and so forth, and map your daily KPIs to these numbers.
3-9 months: Quality
With your pipeline growing, discipline muscles developing, a solid understanding the value your product provides, and a supportive team around you to help you find your way, you are ready for the next phase of your SDR journey.
Define Your Process
At this point your workflow is coming together pretty well - no longer are you huffing and puffing trying to hit your daily KPIs, you got this!
You're used to doing what you need to do on a daily basis and have had plenty of conversations with your teammates about what works for them.
Your own process is beginning to take shape.
This is when you want to be taking any wins you get and adding the behavior that led up to that win into your workflow.
Example: A teammate recommended doing a call blitz at 8:30 AM because the titles you are calling are more likely to pick up the phones then. One morning, you give it a shot, and huzzah! Success! 20 calls and 30 minutes later, you've had 3 conversations and 1 meeting booked. This is something that should become a regular part of your process, day in and day out.
Over time, you will find the right formula where efficiency and success are maximized based on how you've structured your day and your week.
Advice for SDRs: If something worked, do it again, and again, and again. This is the only way to know if it is worth building into your process or not.
Advice for Managers: Look at the wins your tenured reps are having and try to have your newer reps replicate those behaviors. There is no silver bullet in sales, but if something is working in one place, odds are it will work in another.
Refine Your Process
After a few weeks of consistently hitting your KPIs and having success with a defined workflow, you can now safely say you have found your process.
Now, you can refine your process - automating wherever possible, cutting out any efficiencies, and scaling your success by repeating behaviors that you know will yield results.
Think about your process like an assembly line, and your job is to figure out how to fill the assembly line with as many high-performing robots as you can.
The benefit of a clean and refined process is that you can see inefficiencies clearly and A/B test different approaches to see if the changes you are making to your process have a net positive or negative impact.
Refining process means everything from how you structure your day and leverage templates in your outreach down to different hotkeys you can use to save time when communicating or navigating your CRM.
Advice for SDRs: Continually run your process by your teammates, not only will it help them out, but they'll be able to spot areas of improvement you've become blind to.
Advice for Managers: Make sure your team is regularly sharing their process with each other - best practice silos are inevitable, especially on remote teams, but you can quickly fill information gaps by simply encouraging reps to show and tell.
Experiment, Analyze, Adjust
Now that your process is seamless and almost robotic, you will have more time in your day to get creative and thoughtful about your outreach.
Former Navy SEAL and Leadership Expert, Jocko Willink, coined the phrase "discipline equals freedom" - and this is exactly what he means.
Being hyper-disciplined about completing all of your tasks and hitting your KPIs may not feel very freeing, have built a repeatable formula for success and aren't desperate for booking meetings, you will have more freedom to do the "fun stuff" people on LinkedIn are always getting hype about.
The fun stuff works. It is SO easy to stand out with your outreach these days, primarily because 90% of the industry is spamming with subpar messaging.
Puppies in videos, sending gifts and GIFS, and betting a prospect over a sports game, offering them free lunch if their team wins or a meeting with you if your team wins... all of these are awesome ideas to get noticed by your prospects.
Try them all! Find what works for you. Be a trailblazer, be different. Something WILL stick, and because it is new, and it is yours, you will find great success with it.
What's the worst thing that could happen? You get a laugh and a "no thanks"?
If it fails, who cares, you tried! And as long as you haven't stopped executing on your process that is proven to be successful, you won't need to worry about not having enough pipeline, because that process will be working for you the entire time you are out trying new things.
Advice for SDRs: Follow the LinkedIn sales gurus and when you see them recommend a new way to do outreach, jump all over it, give it a shot, and have fun! But do not forget to continue executing on your process, so that failure doesn't sink you.
Advice for Managers: At this point your reps will start to become pretty autonomous, but you still want to make sure they are protected, in case they do hit a few bad weeks in a row. Keep a health check on their pipeline and conversion rates, ensuring the quantity piece of their process is still performing while they venture off into trying new and innovative ways to reach out.
9+ Months: Mastery
In just 9 short months, you went from not knowing a thing about sales to becoming a high-performing outbound machine.
Find Your Niche and Teach
By now, you've built a process that consistently produces for you, made that process as efficient and effective as can be, and started exploring exciting new ways to prospect and outbound,.
Your exploration of new outbound tactics has inevitably brought failures and victories. The failures are easy to shrug off, after all, you are trying to do things nobody else is doing. But, those victories, they feel good. Really good. And, nobody else is doing it.
Quickly, you realize that this new approach is your niche - you are the resident expert on the team regarding this methodology.
Examples of this include sourcing meetings with video selling, mastering social selling, or becoming a cold call ninja.
Lean in here - learn everything there is to learn about it and become the expert.
Then go teach it.
Not only does your team rely on you to consistently hit your numbers, at this point, they will be looking to YOU for guidance, coaching, and feedback.
You have figured out your formula for success, It's time to codify that formula and pass it along to your teammates. They are all wondering what the heck you are doing so well.
Now, your formula for success will not work for everyone, but just like your tenured teammates did for you when you first joined, it's your turn to help your teammates out by showing them your process and what is working so well.
And just like you did as a new hire, they will adopt certain behaviors into their own process, helping them master the SDR game much quicker.
Advice for SDRs: Don't be selfish. SDRs aren't selfish on purpose, rather, they are so concerned about being "humble" and not wanting to act like know-it-alls, they end up not sharing with their teammates. This is a travesty. If you are doing something that is working, proudly sharing that knowledge with your teammates is the most selfless thing you could do for them.
Advice for Managers: Make sure your top performers are mentoring your other reps regularly. You should be putting them in positions where their work is regularly on display to the rest of the team so that the best practices and formulas to success are common knowledge.
Prepare for Promotion
When it comes to promoting SDRs, SDR Managers look for two things:
- Performance: Have you hit quota consistently quarter over quarter?
Assemble a document outlining your performance quarter over quarter, along with various milestones and highlights, such as sourcing a large deal or having a high conversion rate.
- Leadership: Beyond your individual performance, are you adding value to the team in a meaningful way?
Be involved and make your team better.
Speak up, raise your hand, volunteer, identify problem areas and suggest solutions to leadership. Become a voice for your teammates.
Leadership can certainly look like coaching your peers and helping them with their outbound tactics, but it can also look like being a culture leader, helping your manager out with managing the team, or even doing things like improving the onboarding experience for new hires.
Once both of those answers to the questions above are a strong YES, your manager will be eager to help take the next step in your career journey.
Advice for SDRs: Don't wait until you are 9+ months in to document your performance, rather, start early so you don't struggle to remember your accomplishments when it comes time to put them down.
Advice for Managers: Give your reps plenty of opportunities to step up, lead, and share! Decentralized command is a great doctrine to follow here.
In terms of actually preparing for where you want to go next, you need to know 3 things:
- What you want to do
- How you can prepare
- Who is in charge
The beauty of the SDR role is once you prove yourself, you can do virtually anything within an organization - Marketing, Operations, HR, Customer Success, and of course Sales. As an SDR, you touch so many pieces of the business throughout your tenure, you really can do anything.
Work with your SDR Manager to identify where you might find the most success and fulfillment in your next step.
Once you've figured that out, you can start to prepare for the role you are interested in by consuming content related to the role, talking to people in that role, and seeing if there are any small projects you can help them out with to gain exposure to the role.
Lastly, you'll want to build your brand internally and find the decision-makers involved in the hiring process. Just like you would for a sales opportunity, you want to create relationships with the relevant stakeholders so that you build trust and credibility before making an ask. The first time a manager hears your name shouldn't be on a job application!
Advice for SDRs: Throughout your time as an SDR, set up meetings with people from your across your org regularly - meet new people and learn about what they do. This will expose you to different career paths, but also help you build your brand over time.
Advice for Managers: Don't let the first time you talk about your reps' career goals be 9+ months into their tenure.
With consistent performance, demonstrated leadership, and credibility with department managers, you will find yourself leaving the SDR world and moving forward in your career in no time.
The SDR Pyramid is simply a framework that reps can use to benchmark their growth and development as they progress in the SDR role.
The benefit of a framework is that it maps out a clear path to success.
The downside is that a framework exists in a vacuum and doesn't take external conditions into account.
Regardless, this framework will come in handy for new and experienced reps alike, as they consider their proficiency and development throughout their time as an SDR.