The 5 W's for Successfully Ramping Your SDRs

5 W's for Successfully Ramping SDRs featuring John Dowling, Wilder Parks and Mimi Alperovich

The Bridge Group just released their annual Sales Development (SDR) Metrics & Compensation Report, which has benchmark data from 434 B2B companies. There's a ton of great data in the report, and it's clear that SDRs (also frequently referred to as BDRs and several other titles) continue to grow in importance for today's B2B go-to-market teams.  The Bridge Group data says it takes an average of 3.2 months to ramp an SDR, and it says this number has been remarkably consistent since 2010.  Given the time and expense of recruiting SDRs in the first place, the big question is how can sales leaders increase the number of reps that make it up to the top of the ramp.

SDR performance is critical to the achievement of business goals.  To win, SDRs must hit and maintain the level of performance that the CFO or COO has built into the business model. The challenge is that business models happen on paper, and sales management happens on the sales floor, which is the real world. 

The Bridge Group report paints a pretty scary picture of the real world of SDRs.  Experience levels have dropped from 2.5 years to 1.4 years since 2010.  Turnover remains high, with 39% annual turnover overall, and 54% in businesses with less than $20 million in revenue.  In spite of junior teams and high turnover, sales managers need to hit and maintain performance levels or the business model simply doesn't work.     

When it comes to ramping your SDRs, there are 5 W's that will keep you on the right track.

  1. What are the goals?
  2. Who is succeeding and who is failing?
  3. Why are they succeeding or failing?
  4. When is coaching needed?
  5. Where should coaching happen?

1. What are the goals

The Bridge Group survey broke it down to three primary goals, which vary from company to company: 

  1. Set up meetings (no qualification) - 37% of companies surveyed
  2. Set up qualified meetings - 31%
  3. Generate qualified opportunities - 32%. 

This covers SDRs that handle inbound leads, generate outbound leads or deal with both.

My colleague Greg Keshian always starts with the goals when it comes to managing SDRs.  Greg has recently written two great blog posts on scorecards for BDRs, one for inbound reps and one for outbound reps.  Greg's recommendation is that the high level goal should either be setting up qualified meetings or generating qualified opportunities.  

Regardless of which high level objective you choose, it's critical to identify the targets that lead up to the high level objective.  Greg describes these as the "quantity" goals and they include metrics such as accounts sourced, leads/contacts sourced, emails sent, calls, connects, demos set, opportunities generated, and opportunities accepted.

Equally important is to identify the "quality" goals.  These are the ratios that help managers zero in on why performance is better or worse than target.  More on the "why" below.

2.  Who is succeeding and who is failing?

The business model has thresholds for the necessary performance.  When ramping up reps, it's critical to identify these thresholds for each stage of the ramp up. 

In order to figure out how to ramp your weekly goals, the best thing to do is to look at historical data.  Ideally, you need to look at the cohort of all your SDRs from their start date and calculate the average weekly improvements in performance until they reach the steady-state performance level.  If you don't have a lot of operating history, then you can estimate weekly increases.  But, if you do estimate, then you should regularly reassess the actuals and adjust as needed.

3. Why are they succeeding or failing?

Because there are multiple targets that lead to the overall objective, the challenge is to figure out where things are going well or going wrong and then make an assessment of why.  As Greg describes in his posts on inbound BDRs and outbound BDRs, the ratios between the target metrics tell the story of where things are going wrong.  Greg refers to these ratios as quality metrics.

So, if the overall goal is qualified opportunities that are accepted by the account execs, there can be any number of break downs along the way.  Example ratios include contacts sourced per account, emails sent per contact, unique contacts called, calls per contact, connect rate, calls per opportunity and connects per opportunity.

4.  When is coaching needed?

Coaching needs to occur when the problem starts.  If the average ramp up time is three months, you need to look at performance relative to goals more frequently than monthly.  If your managers have one-on-ones with SDRs every week, then they need weekly reports in order to be able to coach or make adjustments before it's too late.  This means you need to have the quantity and quality metrics available on a weekly basis.  

5.  Where should coaching happen?

Let's say you've got an SDR who is not hitting the qualified opportunity number and you've figured out that their connects per opportunity is way too high.  This may mean that the SDR is working extremely hard to get good connects with customers but is failing to handle customer objections. 

Of course, when you talk with the SDR about this problem in your one-on-one, you can give them a few suggestions and pointers.  But the best approach is to spend time with the SDR on the sales floor and listen in when they connect with customers.  You'll have a better chance of discovering the problem, and real-time constructive feedback is much more likely to be retained. If the objection handling happens in an email thread, you can ask the SDR to send the email exchange to you right away so you can create better email responses. A great way to teach SDRs how to write good emails is to literally stand next to the SDR and create the email together.  You can talk about why they should be highlighting certain points, and also showing them how to make their emails concise but informative.

What are the best ways to get this done?

First of all, you need to work with your CRM admin to make sure that it is set up to collect all the data for your quality and quantity metrics. Once you have the necessary data, you will probably need to export the data to a different system in order to do the necessary analysis. Many people think think that they can use Salesforce to generate the necessary reports, but Salesforce is not a good solution. In Salesforce, it's difficult to aggregate data at the rep level, and it's hard to see how these metrics are changing over time.

To do your analysis, you can use Excel, but Excel will take a lot of time, and sales managers can't afford to spend all their time generating spreadsheets.

If you have a data analytics team, you can ask them to generate these reports for you, but your company may not have the bandwidth to generate what you need on a timely basis.

This leaves you with the alternative of looking for a tool that has been developed with your needs in mind.  Of course, we would encourage you to work with a Customer Data Platform like Rekener in order to automate your sales reporting.  

With the success or failure of your business model hinging on successful SDRs, you will have a strong argument to get the budget you need.

Erin Conrad, Brian Glassett, Sean Ryan, Sean Roche, Steve Bouley

Things to do next:

1.  Read Greg Keshian's blog posts on sales rep scorecards for inbound and outbound teams;

2.  Download and review The Bridge Group's 2018 SDR Report.

3.  Contact Rekener to find out how our sales rep scorecards can solve your sales rep reporting problems.



Shayna W

1 year ago

Nice read!

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Alex Laats

Alex is CEO and Founder of Rekener. Previously, he served as President and COO at ZeroTurnaround and as President of the Delta Division of BBN Technologies. At ZeroTurnaround, he grew high velocity inside sales by 6x in 3 years. At BBN, Alex co-founded RAMP and AVOKE, both recurring SaaS businesses based on BBN's world class speech recognition and natural language processing tech. Alex started his entrepreneurial career as founder and COO of NBX Corporation, which led the transformation of business telephone systems to Voice over IP. Alex’s companies have generated $500M in liquidity events and more than $1B in sales.

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