As author Jeb Blount says, “If you suck at prospecting, you suck at closing.”
Which means that Sales Development is your most important department in sales. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the account executives on your team that never hit quota. It’s probably because they don’t have the prospecting skills that SDRs excel at. Thankfully, you can get ahead of the curve by hiring great SDRs that grow into great account executives.
Whether they are an inbound or outbound SDR, these roles are the toughest jobs in sales. Therefore, recruiting the right people for this “A Team” can be a big challenge. Hiring the wrong people can be costly: one bad impression could burn a bridge at a key account, or turn a great deal into a lost opportunity.
In order to define and find great SDRs for your organization, here are ten traits to look for when hiring:
Modern SDRs must be creative. It’s not enough to blindly follow a process: the modern selling landscape has changed drastically in the last 15 years. Back in the early 2000s, sending out thousands of emails asking for a referral was good enough. Now, we live in the world of hyper personalization and educated buyers. Great SDRs must be able to adapt to the changing landscape and think for themselves.
Being a SDR can be draining. On a daily basis, you deal with constant rejection. To be successful, your candidate must have passion for the product and sales itself. Without this, the SDR will fail when the going gets tough. To screen for this, ask the candidate what they know about the product and why they want to sell it. If they’re not sure, or don’t have a satisfactory answer, move on.
SDRs must have a Jeff Bridges-at-the-end-of-True-Grit level of…you guessed it, grit. Top SDRs focus on winning – they have an internal quota that is higher than the one set by their manager. These reps embody the Winston Churchill quote “When you are going through hell, keep going.” Failure is a common occurrence for SDRs. It’s how they deal with that failure that makes up their character. Ask your candidates about a time they failed and what they did because of it. Top candidates will be honest and have a good story to tell.
You can’t be a successful SDR if you are not competitive. Your candidate will be doing the toughest job in sales. There are a couple personal backgrounds that generally indicate high potential for sales:
- Did they play sports? College or former professional athletes are often strong candidates for sales development.
- Were they in the military or police? People in these roles succeed in environments that are hazardous to their health. Picking up the phone to make cold calls won’t seem so scary after that!
- Do they come from a competitive industry (ie: finance, consulting, law)? Individuals who performed in high pressure careers are often good candidates for sales. They have a deep ‘bucket’ for pain and are well educated.
When you hire passionate, gritty, and competitive people, you run the risk of hiring a jerk. This person is deadly to the sales culture you are trying to build. Respect is the cornerstone of success on the sales floor. Without it, you’re on the route to creating a boiler room and not a modern SDR team. Check in with your team after the interview to see how the candidate treated them. How was their personality with the front desk, or in emails and phone calls?
While the SDR role is an important one, it’s not a senior role. This means that you’ll be recruiting people with raw talent, but who need to have their skills honed to be great. On the SDR’s end, this means they must be able to accept and act on feedback. A good way to test for this in the hiring process is to provide them with constructive feedback. Tell the candidate that the point you told them to focus on is important to the next interviewer. Afterwards, see if they changed their behavior for that interview.
For a SDR to be successful, they must have innate intellectual curiosity. In simple terms, you shouldn’t hire people that are looking for a quick buck. The people you hire should care about the problem your product solves. Additionally, that level of curiosity should be the beginning. Does this person have interests outside of their immediate job skills? The more unique experiences or interests the SDR has, the more likely they are to connect with prospects on a personal level.
The best SDRs are aware of their ability and what they are going to do in a particular month. This is what integrity is when viewed through the sales lens. Integrity is two parts – honesty and accountability. Great SDRs are honest with themselves, their team, and their manager about what they can get done. They then hold themselves accountable to that ability. Top performers know how they will do in a particular month before they begin. The best will find a way to overachieve no matter what.
Speaking skills improve over time, but the ideal SDR should already be at an intermediate level. This role is not for someone with a low level of mental organization. Mental fogginess when answering questions is a big red flag. Rambling answers, avoiding questions, and a high amount of verbal tics all point to low potential. Don’t get me wrong – we are all guilty of these at some point, but the SDR job is not the role to develop a basic speaking ability. You can test for this in the interview by asking the candidate to teach you about something new that they recently learned. If they can’t do this, they likely won’t be able to explain things to prospects either.
Great SDRs actually listen more than they talk. The speaking side of the SDR role is asking questions and then providing value. To do this, the candidate should show that they are a great listener. It’s easy to test for this in the interview process. Note if they ask questions to each interviewer at each round of interviews. Sometimes candidates don’t actually have new questions if they’ve been through many rounds. But, if they are meeting a new interviewer, it benefits them to at least ask the same or similar questions. Why? The skilled sales rep can discover opportunities in the different answers of various contacts. Additionally, see if the candidate interrupts you when you answer their questions. If they do, you can be sure that they’ll do this to your prospects as well.
Testing for these traits in your interview process will help you hire better talent. For it to be effective, make each of these traits part of the interview scorecards that each of your interviewers complete. Collaborating around these traits will allow you to review each interviewer’s overall rating and their scoring for these ten traits.
When you find a candidate that embodies each of these traits, you should hire them! It only takes a few great sales people to change the trajectory of your sales organization. Invest in sourcing, screening, and hiring top talent with these traits and I guarantee you’ll see a major increase in revenue.