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6 steps to set up a high-performing SDR team

You want more meetings in Sales – so you want to set up an SDR team! But where to start and what to do? 

Step 1: Be ready to make an investment

To get your new SDR team up and running, you need to commit and invest – both in team members, tech stacks, and a solid foundation.

For many years, we tried with one or two people, but never really succeeded. To get the right start, you need a team: This means more than two SDRs, as well as a team manager as it requires focus and hard work to succeed. 

Create the right foundation 

Once you have the team and team manager in place, another necessary investment is the right tech stack, as well as an external coach to create the foundation. 

This means a high initial investment before you see the ROI: 

  • Salary cost
  • Tech stack 
  • Sales training/coaching
  • Possibly a recruitment agency

But in my experience, it’s essential. 

Step 2: Find a fierce team lead
An experienced team lead is a key to success. 

You need to have a focused person who works every day on the fundament (see step three) and make sure to keep the pace and momentum needed in the team. 

Do not spread yourself thin:

If you are already managing a team of sales reps and you need to setup a SDR team at the same time, you will spread thin and lose focus. 

During the first year, you will work hard to create a predictable meeting intake and when you have read about recruitment (in step four), you will see that this is an ongoing task that requires a focused team lead. 

Step 3: Create a solid fundament for the daily operations

Most of us have seen Wolf of Wall Street: Equipped with a phone and a phonebook, they bring in new orders based on skills of persuasion. 

Work smarter, not harder

Today, we have tools to help us work smarter, not harder. By having a strong tech stack that supports the daily work processes, the SDRs can book more meetings per day than with the old-fashioned way with just a phone book and a phone.

There are tons of cool SaaS systems targeted toward an SDR team. But you only need a few tools from the start. The rest you can add as your team also becomes more advanced. 

We have started with this tech stack: 

  • HubSpot as our CRM 
  • Vainu as data enrichment to save time on manual work
  • Aircall as dialler and reporting of the activity levels 
  • Hintly as plugin to our HubSpot database that shows which leads are closest to meetings

We have a lot of other tools in the “scope”, but to make sure you are not drowning in tools where you only use 30% of the functionality, get the basics covered and later evaluate extra needs based on your results. 

What could help you to the next level? A tip is to use KPIs (step five) to investigate where in your funnel you need to improve!

Research best practices

Besides a solid tech stack, you need to treat the skills of booking meetings as an area of expertise and science. This means: Do your research on best practices.

There are many valuable resources and reports to give you the basic knowledge to build a solid fundament. 

Look at the resources from e.g. Cognism, Outreach, Revenue, and various LinkedIn communities focused on country-specific Sales Development.


Step 4: Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment

Booking meetings is both an art and a science. Your job is to find the people that are not afraid of getting 50 no’s a day – but live for the few yeses. 

Research shows that an SDR stays on the job for 1 year and 4 months on average, so be prepared to always see recruitment as a part of the daily operations. 

Be prepared to recruit. A lot. 

You will quickly learn the signs of a good and a mediocre SDR, and you will have to recruit a lot – probably more than you expect when starting up. 

You will have to take chances and be willing to take the consequences if your performance is not as expected. You will know within the first couple of months if the person has what it takes or not. 

Take it from me: Do not be afraid of a bit of overhead in some months. So, hire people when they appear in your recruitment pipeline because almost no matter what you do you will have months when you are understaffed. 

We always have open positions to see if we get good candidates in our pipeline. 

Onboarding process

It is crucial to get SDRs onboarded quickly as you have them employed in a brief period. 

  1. Create a playbook with the process and the basic knowledge to understand your domain, industry, product, etc. 
  1. Hand it out before they start, so they are prepared for the first day. This will cut off weeks of their ramp-up time – and can result in a lot of meetings! 
  1. Make sure they get a mentor to help with pitches and support them in the first difficult calls until they have a routine

The ramp-up time should be a KPI (key performance indicator) for your team lead that they work on improving from recruitment to recruitment. 

A cultural change in the organization

With an SDR team, you will experience a new sub-culture emerging.

With the expected low employee retention rate, the organization needs to get used to people not celebrating 5 years anniversaries (unless they get another position internally). 

This requires adjustment time and understanding internally. It doesn’t mean your organization is a bad place to work, it is just normal. 

Step 5: Tracking KPIs is a daily operation and your motivation 

Now you have the team, and the tech stack and they have started booking meetings. 

It’s time to get control of your KPIs. 

For an SDR team, KPIs are a normal part of their everyday work. 

It is pure math to get your results – and of course competencies – but if you have good people and the activity level is high, you’ll get success. 

If you have good people but a low activity level – you will have poor results. It is really that simple!

Use your data for tracking your KPIs

Dashboards for daily and weekly follow-up are also motivating and enhance a competitive mindset which is part of having an SDR team. Here competitiveness amongst each other is healthy and the setup of competitions and the bonus structure should support that. 

Basic KPIs to track: 

  • Pick-ups – how many calls are made per day? It is THE most important KPI to understand if the activity level is as expected. If you have a low activity level, you will never get the meetings.  
  • Pick-up to conversation – how many conversations do they have? 
  • Booking percentage – how many pick-ups and conversations are needed to book a meeting?
  • Meetings booked – Here there might be a difference in the meetings e.g. inbound vs. outbound or target vs non-target customers. These sub-reports should support your strategy. 
  • Acceptance rate – how many of the meetings booked are accepted by the sales rep. This shows the quality of the meetings. You can have an SDR that books a lot of meetings, but with a low acceptance rate – then the meetings are not worth the effort. 
  • Cancellation rate – how many of the booked meetings are canceled or have no-shows? It will tell you whether you have SDRs pushing meetings down peoples’ throats. 
  • Closing rate – How many of the meetings booked result in actual ARR? It will tell you whether you are booking towards the right ICP. Of course, this is also affected by the sales rep taking over the meeting, but you will see a trend from SDR to SDR after a while. 

Step 6: The next level of Smarketing collaboration

Finally, you should make sure to set up a Smarketing team (sales + marketing). We all want inbound leads, but with a good Smarketing setup you can also collaborate and make strategies about your outbound processes that will end up in rebound processes. 

We have a weekly meeting where we discuss the inbound performance and the joined KPIs for campaigns. 

This feedback loop creates innovative ideas and fine-tunings for future campaigns. We remove the barriers as we are all accountable for the results together. 

To sum up, here are the six key takeaways to being successful with your SDR team:

  1. You should be willing to make a big initial investment before you see the ROI
  2. Find a team lead that is not afraid of setting the example – or afraid of letting people go!
  3. Do your research about best practices and invest in a strong tech stack
  4. Recruitment is an everyday task – it never ends…
  5. Track your KPIs and see it as a sport to improve these by not only hiring more people but by working smarter
  6. A strong Smarketing collaboration is needed to create a successful lead generation

And then spice it up with a lot of patience and you are secured success!

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