In TOPO’s 2019 Sales Development Benchmark Report, 88% of respondents cited SDRs as an important channel in their outbound strategy. Combined with an increasing emphasis on the importance of live call execution and conversational skills, it’s clear that the role of a sales development rep has changed.
This change necessitates a shift in the skillset and qualities needed to be successful as an SDR. The problem lies within the fact that sales development reps are typically at the bottom of the sales hierarchy and are the most junior sales reps within the organization, meaning the SDR talent pool will have the least amount of sales experience. Therefore, SDR hiring is somewhat different than the talent acquisition process for other sales roles, as there is less real-world experience an proven performance to rely on.
So what skills should you look for when hiring an SDR? Obviously each organization will have its own set of requirements, but in general, there are key traits that everyone should look for.
Coachability is perhaps the most important factor when hiring any salesperson. When someone in the workplace is coachable, it means they are receptive to feedback, open to constructive criticism, don’t take feedback negatively, and use that feedback to improve themselves, regardless of who or where it comes from. If a sales rep is coachable, it means they can openly accept feedback and suggestions from peers, managers, and even other teams and that they act on that feedback in an attempt to improve.
If a rep is coachable, they have the potential to be incredibly successful in any position, as they are capable of exponentially improving their performance with the help of others.
You can tell if someone is coachable if they:
- Are truly open to feedback
- Are excellent listeners
- Take ownership and responsibility for their performance
- Are humble
- Are self-aware
- Seek input from others
- Are accountable
Sales is a very hard job. No matter how good or experienced a rep is, they face rejection all day, every day. Contacts hang up the phone, demos fall through, opportunities get lost, and it’s very easy to become dejected very quickly.
Look for reps that never back down and have a “never say die” attitude. SDRs are at the front lines of the sales process, and therefore must make cold calls, perform prospecting, and find their way to leads. This exposes them to a massive amount of rejection and frustration. But the best reps will not stop, and will not get rejected, no matter what. They are impervious to the word “no,” find ways to work around blockers and maintain optimism.
Sales is becoming more and more conversational. Email inboxes are full to the brim with spam messages and templated emails that everyone has seen again and again. The true way to forge personal connections and move deals forward is over the phone. However, this means that development actually have to speak with contact or leads.
Modern-day sales development reps need to be excellent communicators, capable of having meaningful, relatable conversations with strangers whom they have never seen. They need to forge relationships while simultaneously diagnosing problems and presenting solutions to garner interest.
Desire to Grow
In order to be successful, a sales rep must have a desire to grow. Especially with the average SDR tenure hovering around 16 months, the best organizations will align their SDR’s career growth plans with progression through the sales team. This will increase rep retention, which generates a greater return on investment on the hire, and more importantly, keep tribal knowledge within the organization. Sales reps who know their products and have seen how it is used are better prepared to sell it as a solution.