onboarding best practices

Onboarding Best Practices for SDRs

Successfully onboarding new SDRs is essential to the success of your sales team. A new hire who starts off on the right foot is more likely to stay with the company long-term. Yet evidence suggests that many companies are struggling to retain SDRs. The average tenure for SDRs is only 14.2 months. High turnover may be partly attributable to the fact that most SDRs are inexperienced. At startups, 72.5% of SDRs hired have less than a year of experience.

A new SDR can become a successful member of the sales team for years to come—but only if the onboarding process works. Since most SDRs are millennials, the onboarding process needs to meet their unique needs and expectations.

Here are some best practices for onboarding SDRs:

Initiate New Hires into Your Company’s Culture

Millennials don’t want to just show up to work and receive a paycheck every week. They want to feel like a part of a team. To that end, there are many things companies do to welcome new hires.

  • Invite new SDRs to participate in social events, such as company cocktail hour, before their first day. Getting to know the team in a social environment takes away some of the first-day jitters.
  • Make the first day memorable. Even a simple gesture like handing out a company mug or T-shirt can do a lot to make a new hire feel welcome. Taking out SDRs to lunch is also a great way to create camaraderie.
  • Provide opportunities for networking. Make sure new hires receive introductions to the entire team. New employees will be eager for opportunities to establish themselves professionally and will appreciate making new contacts.

Craft an Effective Training Process

While most SDRs you hire will be new to the job, with quality training they can become highly effective. Although the standard period for job acclimation is three months for SDRs, a great training curriculum can shorten the cycle.

  • Set a two-week training period. That’s enough time to provide comprehensive instruction without dragging the process out for too long. During the training period, it may be helpful for trainees to come in an hour later so that training activities are prepared when they come in.
  • Make sure training is specific to the SDR role. While SDRs do need some understanding of the entire sales funnel, overwhelming new hires with the specifics of closing a deal can be counter-productive. Focus on activities SDRs will be performing regularly, such as using the CRM and talking with prospects early in the sales process.
  • Use hands-on learning activities. Millennials respond best to interactive educational experiences, so you should incorporate role-playing activities and group discussions into training. Multi-media presentations are preferable to straight lectures.
  • Don’t info-dump. People take time to process new information, so be sure to provide regular breaks during the training process. Don’t think of it as wasted time, but rather optimizing the educational process.
  • Create an accessible library of resources. The “sales playbook” is an important resource that SDRs will be consulting regularly, so make sure that it’s well-written and comprehensive. Other important resources include sales scripts, product information sheets, and profiles of competitors.
  • Provide training on an ongoing basis. It isn’t possible to teach everything at once, so make sure that your SDRs are receiving new training regularly. Weekly sales meetings are a good opportunity to impart new information. When designing training modules, use the same guiding principles of hands-on learning. Good topics to cover include how to deal with setbacks on the job, manage time effectively, and listen to prospects’ concerns.
  • Implement certification programs to test SDRs’ knowledge. Human memories are notoriously leaky, so it can be helpful to provide SDRs with incentives to retain knowledge acquired in training. TOPO recommends developing certification programs that test SDRs’ retention of critical concepts. Earning certifications provide employees with positive reinforcement.

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Create a framework for setting and meeting goals

While most SDRs don’t have sales quotas like traditional sales representatives, it is still desirable to set goals for new SDRs and measure their progress.

  • Set achievable goals that align with company objectives. Goals should be possible for new SDRs to meet, so don’t start them out running at top speed. Create goals that align with company-wide objectives. If your goal is to reach out to more new prospects, give a new SDR a goal of contacting 60 new prospects by phone.
  • Steadily increase expectations. To get SDRs where they need to be, incrementally set higher goals. Like most employees, millennials enjoy taking on new challenges. Ramp up expectations so they can rise to the occasion.
  • Provide regular feedback. Not knowing where you stand can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Schedule regular intervals to provide SDRs with feedback on their performance. When giving feedback, provide both praise and suggestions for further improvement.

Smooth out transitions

Graduating from an SDR in training to a fully-fledged member of the sales team will necessitate making certain transitions. Pay attention to them to make sure all transitions occur smoothly.

  • Pair up new SDRs with experienced SDRs. Even the best training curriculum can’t match practical experience. As part of the onboarding process, partner new SDRs with more experienced employees. Give them opportunities to listen in on sales calls and other critical job functions. After a while, have them join in the calls. For maximum effectiveness, allow new SDRs to learn from two or more team members.
  • Establish a mentorship program. Since a new SDR is likely to have questions even after the formal training period has ended, provide them with a mentor that can help with ongoing education. Quota Factory offers additional tips for mentorship and training.
  • Introduce SDRs to existing clients. This will help them get familiarized with client profiles, stakeholders in the sales process, and make them feel more integrated with the handoff process.

Training and retaining top-notch SDRs isn’t an instantaneous process. But by implementing these best practices for onboarding SDRs, your company can buck industry trends and maximize chances for success.

Jordan Wan

Founder & CEO of CloserIQ. Previously Sales Strategy & Management @ZocDoc, Head of Analytics @PayPerks and Trading Strategist @Bridgewater Associates. MIT Bachelor’s & Master’s in Computer Science. CFA Charterholder.