Is The SDR Role Killing Sales?

Sales for Life Admin
Sales for Life Admin

virus-sdr.jpgAttn: Sales Leaders + SDRs

I’m selfish. I’m always in need of two things to grow our business:

-Sales Professionals who can ship revenue

-Engineering Professionals who can ship code

(I posted previously about Ship Code : Ship Revenue parallels in engr & sales) 

I’ve been experiencing an alarming trend over the last 36 months and it’s becoming an epidemic. The pool of quality, properly trained sales professionals is declining and I can clearly see one glaring culprit: SAAC.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.24.07 AM.png Here’s one of numerous conversations I’ve had recently:

Candidate: “Hi Mitch, I’d like to apply for your AE role.”

Mitch : “Do you have any closing experience?”

Candidate: “Not per se, but I have been in Sales for 4 yrs so I do know the sales process.”

Mitch: “Why haven’t you ever gone into a role where you carry a direct quota?”

Candidate: “Well, I was a star SDR and promoted several times very quickly. Then after 2 yrs I was offered either to Manage the SDR team or to go into an AE role. I chose the Mgr role”

Mitch: “Why?”

Candidate: “Isn’t being a manager better work experience?

Mitch: “Unfortunately no. You don’t have any closing experience yet, so you haven’t done ‘Sales’. You’ve simply watched by the sidelines as others developed their Sales skills.”

Candidate: “But I can learn fast.”

Mitch: “I’d advise you get into any closing role ASAP. It doesn’t matter what you are selling or what ASP, but you absolutely need to be in role where you can close. You’ll likely need to take a step back in your career, at least in title, in order to get that experience. Call me after you have at least a year of closing.”


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Go back in your time machine into the early part of your career and honestly ask yourself, “Would I be able to pass up the offer of being a “manager” earlier in my career?”  

Unlikely. There’s too much pride in being able to tell your parents/friends that you’ve been promoted to “Manager”. It’s one of the big milestones in life and you certainly can’t blame a young aspiring SDR to not take the bait.

Now we have an individual who has still never been trained in the other 90% of salesmanship and they are training new SDRs. Automation has just exacerbated the problem so one SDR can send 1000’s of emails a week. We have the blind leading the blind. 

This is such a disservice to that young sales professional and the sales leadership who embraces this is to blame. On the flipside, SDRs can also protect themselves from being taken advantage of.

Solution Part 1: for Sales Leaders

1) SDR Manager should require at least a few years of quota carrying experience. The SDR Manager is a great career path for someone who tried sales but found that they didn’t excel or enjoy it. But they understand the role and they have seen peers around them be successful or not. They have lots of scars to share and most importantly they can identify talent that needs to be fast-tracked.

Solution Part 2: for SDRs or if you’re just starting in sales

You’re thinking, “uhh, i just want to get started in sales any way that I can”. Yes, but these are things to consider so you at least know what you’re getting into and how to protect yourself.

1) Ask for Specifics: Ask about the Sales career path and how long it took the last 3 AEs to be promoted from the SDR role. Ask for the specifics on what criteria must be met to be promoted to a closing role. Talk to these AEs and understand what they needed to show in order to get promoted (note: it may be different than what is outlined by the hiring manager)

2) Time Cap: Prospecting is a critical sales skill and you should hone this for at least 12 months (up to 24 mo). In parallel you should be spending time with the AEs and learning everything you can about how they learned the other 90% of sales. Buy them beer, stroke their ego, then learn everything you can about what they have tried that worked and more importantly what didn’t work, and why.

3) Work the Dead Leads: Ask your manager if you can practice on some “dead” leads. Do this outside of your normal SDR time and try to go through the entire sales cycle. You’ll fail a lot, but that’s good. Get anyone you can to talk to you and hop on the phone to develop your phone skills. Yes, it sucks, but verbal skills are a key component of sales as you move up in your sales career. Anyone making $250k+ in sales has outstanding communication skills in every medium: f2f, phone, video, email, SMS, chat, morse code. The hardest to learn by far is phone.

4) Develop Your Own Style: Every successful sales person develops their own style that works for them. Yes, you’ll have specific “plays” that you are trained to run, but experiment and find out what works for you. Ultimately, you’ll be measured by 1 KPI. The one your comp plan pays you on.           

Solution Part 3: for SDR Managers who haven’t carried a quota (yet)

1) Review the conversation from above

Note: Unfortunately your career earning potential is going to be capped very soon. How many VPs of sales have never held a quota? Zero. 

Find a way to carry a quota and ship revenue. If you are successful at it then your earning potential and career options are unlimited. Rip off the bandaid and get selling.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.24.07 AM.png

Ping me if you think we should make a shirt!

We’re hiring at Whalr if you’d like to help sales teams leverage data to sell more effectively.


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