The onboarding of sales development representatives (SDRs) is one of the most challenging, and sometimes underserviced parts of a business.
Sales development roles are commonly treated as entry-level positions. SDRs are given as little as a week of onboarding, and are expected to get by with on-the-job learning. This, combined with steep quotas, mean the SDR role faces some of the highest churn in the company.
TOPO research reports that the ramp time is 3 months on average, while the tenure is only 14 months:
“Three months is too long to reach full productivity with such short tenures. Furthermore, the inexperience of new SDRs coupled with the lack of a stringent, SDR-specific onboarding program, often leads to underperformance down the road.”
The natural question to ask is how do you reduce the three month ramp time? Additionally, how do you do so in a predictable, reliable way, while avoiding information overload and burnout for new hires?
The answer lies in a better, more advanced process for call preparation, mixed with a smarter plan for sales onboarding. At ringDNA, we draw on the latest psychology research to solve this problem.
Repetition priming is a mental process that can be harnessed for training new sales hires faster. It is a psychology term describing preparation of the brain for a task. The American Psychological Association defines repetition priming as “cuing a response to a stimulus through prior exposure to the same or a related stimulus.” In simpler terms, repeated exposure reduces the time or effort it takes to actually do something right.
Before looking at how you can use this process to your advantage, let’s consider a few examples.
This little brain exercise is an easy example of representation of priming in action:
Say FORT 3x
Say PORK 3x
Now – quick question: what utensil do you eat soup with?
It is likely that your mind served up the word FORK before you could even react, even if you quickly corrected the thought and answered with SPOON. The repetition of similar words primed your mind to say something that bridged the gap to the concept of a utensil.
In the real world, professional basketball players use repetition priming to their advantage by watching past game film to prepare for competitors. If they watch film of the opposing team a few days before the game, their minds will already have some recognition of new plays and moves, and have anticipated some responses. This makes success more likely than if they had not watched the competitor game film and been surprised on the court by new plays.
The simple math is that if we hear something or experience something before actually needing to perform, we are more likely to be successful. Repetition priming is strongly supported by psychology research to make humans better at tasks immediately following the priming, with cumulative effects that add up over time.
For sales, smarter call preparation, or optimizing the critical moments before dialing through a list of prospects, harnesses this natural mental process to help sellers build automatic reactions and in-call responses.
While advanced call preparation can benefit salespeople of all experience levels, we strongly recommend that new hires do this in their first 6 weeks on the job. For more detail, check out our comprehensive sales onboarding plan for new salespeople.
The best fuel for advanced call preparation are best practice call recording libraries. This is a technology that allows you to categorize your team’s best performances on sales calls. Over time, teams can develop a library categorized by key topics such as objection handling, strong product pitches, competitor discussions, and other scenarios where your best sellers have executed your playbook and messaging perfectly. This is an incredibly powerful tool for sharpening your team’s overall call performance.
To harness best practice libraries and repetition priming, we suggest scheduling “call preparation blocks” (meaning time set aside just for sales calls) that follow a repetition of several minutes of preparation, followed by around 10 minutes of dialing.
This allows you to prescribe the following pattern for your newly onboarded sales reps:
Listen to 2 best practice calls
Execute 10 minutes of dialing
Listen to 2 best practice calls
Execute 10 minutes of dialing
This process will prime their minds and communication to align more closely with your best talk tracks, and help them learn more about your product and how to sell in a shorter amount of time. When they hear how an experienced member of your sales team answers a common objection, they are more likely to use the same response when they hear the objection from a prospect on the phone. As they hear the best versions of your product pitch used in real call situations, they can incorporate those versions faster into their own call situations.
Additionally, pairing this process with a strong role-playing approach is an even more effective way to instill confidence, reduce stress, and ultimately help your new sellers reach quota faster.
Advanced call preparation is a major part of a more efficient onboarding process, but its effectiveness is limited as your salespeople become more comfortable in their roles and knowledgeable about the product.
Relative to standard call blocks, advanced call preparation blocks are less efficient, which is why it is crucial that these sessions happen in the first 6 weeks of calling. As the SDR becomes more experienced and proficient, call prep blocks should become less needed, until they eventually are only used when new features, new campaigns, or other information becomes relevant that the SDR needs to learn.
There are three absolutely crucial elements that are required to introduce advanced call preparation to your sales team. You need a method of recording sales calls, a best practice library, efficient dialing software. By design, ringDNA offers all three of these elements in a single sales engagement platform.
First, you need a mechanism by which you can automatically record sales calls. This way, you ensure prime examples of best practices and positive outcomes are captured and easily available for your sellers.
Then, you need a best practice library. This is where you store call recordings of all of your most successful calls. In an ideal situation, the calls are organized by key topics relevant to your business, such as strong objection-handling, great discovery questioning, or smart pitching. This is the absolutely crucial element to making advanced call preparation happen, as sales reps need to listen to two calls from this library before each dialing blitz.
Finally, you need seamless sales dialing with DialNext functionality: Any friction between the repetition priming activity (listening to best practice call recordings) and the customer interaction (actual dialing) reduces the effectiveness of advanced call preparation.
Ideally, your new sales rep will use your call libraries to find and sort calls pertaining to the types of calls they plan to make (i.e., cold calling). They listen to several examples of excellent cold calls, then immediately place outbound dials for 10 minutes, using the dialer to make as many calls as possible. Once they reach 10 minutes, they listen to new examples of good calls, and continue the process.
With an average of only 9 months of maximum productivity, new sales development reps can be a difficult hire. However with the right methodology and tools, you can easily decrease their ramp time and increase their tenure to build a more effective and successful sales team.
Alex Lamascus is the Sales Content Manager at RingDNA. He has previously scaled and managed an inside sales team and has supported B2B sales in various industries for the past 5 years. When not writing or buried in the latest sales book, he can be found repairing vintage turntables in his garage or honing his grilling skills.