Want to Hire the Best Damn SDR? Don’t Read Another Resume Without Seeing These Tips

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One of the first steps to building an effective sales team is — *drum roll, please* – hiring sales development representatives (SDRs)! Here’s the thing though…hiring SDRs can be an excruciating process.

These are the people who do the work that scales your business: reaching out to your prospects and communicating with them.

That means they’re at the forefront of your sales efforts. Pick the wrong SDRs, and your bottom line is kaput.

If you hire unqualified or inexperienced SDRs, you’ll find yourself wasting time and resources trying to onboard and train people who won’t contribute to your company’s growth.

That’s exactly why you need to hire the right people to increase your sales development team’s efficiency — let’s show you how to do that. (You can send me the bill when you hire your rockstar. 😉 )

You can’t make just any hire 

Before you dive headfirst into hiring SDRs, don’t just assume it’ll be a breeze because you have hundreds of applications from eager candidates in your inbox. 

Trust me — unless you have a penchant for wasting your time and money, you need to be extra careful about who you bring on to your sales development team. 

hiring process

If not, things can get pretty expensive. In the Harvard Business Review, Frank V. Cespedes and Daniel Weinfurter say the average annual turnover rate for employees in sales is 25 to 30%. Wowza.

They did the math: “This means the equivalent of the entire sales organization must be hired and trained every four years or so, and that’s expensive.” What does that look like in dollars and cents? 

It ain’t pretty: Direct replacement costs for a telesales employee can range from $75,000 to $90,000, while other sales positions can cost a company as much as $300,000. And those numbers don’t even account for the lost sales while a replacement is found and trained. 

Back to the hungry hippos in your inbox. Here’s a trick Kimberlee Meier shared with Copper Chronicles that’ll help you see the process from a perspective you understand: 

Look at hiring the same way you do your sales funnel. All of your candidates will be at the top and your hires at the bottom — you only want the best sales reps to make it to the bottom of your funnel, just like you only want to do business with good clients. 

Tips for building the best damn sales development team

*Cracks knuckles* Ready to go through lots of fluff? 

Because the SDR role is entry-level, there are many hopefuls out there who have the best intentions, but aren’t the passionate salespeople you want to mold into leaders. Follow these tips to bypass the duds.

1. Build an ideal customer candidate profile

To be successful in sales, you target specific clients that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP), right? Why not do the same for hiring SDRs?

Especially for this role, hiring someone with talent is more important than hiring someone with experience, so define exactly what traits you’re looking for in an SDR

Those traits might be:

  • A desire to pursue sales as a career
  • A track record of achievement
  • Goal-oriented
  • Naturally curious
  • Willingness to learn
  • Organizational ability
  • Competitive nature
  • Cool as a cucumber under pressure
  • Competitive and driven

But you’re not off the hook yet — to pull these attributes out of your candidates during the interview, you need to ask the right questions. 

build a sales development team

Interviewers get too easily distracted by what Hubspot’s Director of Global Business Development Justin Hiatt calls the “woo” factor — AKA, a candidate who talks a big game about their work ethic or skills but can’t prove a lick of it.

Be open to different types of candidates. Don’t discount someone because they’re not an extrovert. Introverts are great in sales, so don’t miss out on the perfect candidate because you got stuck on the “woo” factor.

Beat out the smooth talkers with a grading rubric: Ask, “What’s the one thing you’re most proud of in your lifetime?” If they say something about the year they studied abroad, they get the ax. 

(…Sorry, it’s not an achievement. But you’re doing great, buddy!)

2. You don’t have time to waste – spend your interview time wisely

Let’s cover the questions you can’t leave out in your process of hiring SDRs. 

Interviews are your opportunity to see if the candidates you loved on paper are just as impressive in person, so don’t waste time with questions that don’t highlight whether they’ll be a true asset for your sales development team

Use questions to identify the best and the brightest:

Questions:What you’re gauging:
How do you deal with rejection?Their primary motivators: whether they learn from their “nos” as much as their “yesses.” 
What’s the worst customer interaction you’ve ever had?Their durability: how that experience impacted their work going forward.
How do you feel about cold outreach?Whether they’re ready to take full responsibility for cold call outreach.
If you had to teach a beginner an advanced concept, how would you approach the task?Their ability to explain potentially tricky or confusing topics in clear and simple terms.
Pretend I’m a prospect. Describe our product or service to me.If they came prepared and researched before the interview. Plus, the interviewer can preview their ability to speak clearly and persuasively.
What are some questions you’d ask prospects to evaluate if they’re qualified or not?Listen for inquiries that indicate a deep understanding of your target buyer’s problems and your company’s solution.

3. Tryout time: Test your candidates with a practical task 

Done with interviews! The next step in the hiring process to build your dream sales development team is to test their skills with a practical task. 

What you want from your SDRs in this portion is a high level of clarity, persuasion, and great attention to detail.

Since emails and voicemail tend to be SDRs’ preferred form of communication, use these two tasks to narrow down your choice:

  • Prospecting email – Have your SDR candidates identify a company or person they think would be a good target for your product or service. 

Instructions: Have them conduct research of the company and find the decision-maker you can contact, draft a personalized email to them, use a simple and effective subject line, then add a clear CTA to book a phone call with this person. 

  • Voicemail message – Say the person they emailed responded and left their number. But they call back and get the voicemail. Use this as an opportunity to check out your candidate’s voicemail pitching skills. 

Instructions: The voicemail should be 45 seconds or less, make sure to mention the email you previously sent, have a clear next step in the voicemail, and remember to leave your phone number.

Don’t forget to take notes on their performance!

4. Money Talk$ – don’t be cheap!

sales development reps

Want to pay the bare minimum for your SDRs? You get what you pay for!  

There’s a reason high-growth companies are more successful — they invest in products and people that get them to where they need to be.

To reign in the right sales talent, let your benefits do the talking. And I’m not talking about a beer or snack fridge — to get the best, you need to offer the best. 

What benefits set your company apart from other sales employers? 

Your potential SDRs will want to know about your compensation package, commission structure, bonuses, sick and PTO days, 401(k) options, health benefits, autonomy over their work, and more. 

With the right approach, you can make talented SDRs eager to work at your company. And once you’ve hooked them, get ready for a bigger pipeline for a broader sales team. 

5. The final part: “You’re hired!”

You’ve read hundreds of resumes. You’ve held dozens of interviews. You’ve heard way too many life stories to count — it’s finally time. 

At this point, you should have a pool of worthy candidates to choose from. Here’s what to consider as you decide who will be crowned as your next SDR:

  • Go over all the interviews and see which candidates stood out from the pack. 
  • Decide what skills are crucial for you and what is a deal-breaker.
  • Quality always trumps quantity — don’t be afraid to choose the candidates who excelled or maybe the ones who showed good sales DNA. 
  • Hire people who are motivated to continually develop their skills.
  • Hiring an SDR means investing in them long-term — if you’re unsure that they can fill the position successfully, you might have to pass.

Here’s your final step: Call all the candidates who advanced to the final stage and let them know whether they made the cut or not — yup, call the ones who are getting the boot, too. Doing so should be an integral part of your hiring process and business culture. 

Ready to start hiring SDRs?

Apply these tips to your hiring process to weed out the candidates that won’t be a good fit for your team. Remember your bottom line is dependent on the people you hire. So, don’t be fooled by the “woo” factor and start hiring SDRs that will make the best damn sales development team.

After you hire your successful SDRs, download our sales coaching guide to get those newbies in the right direction!

sales coaching guide