Are You Promoting SDRs Too Fast?

Are You Promoting SDRs Too Fast

When Aaron Ross and Marlou Tyler authored the book Predictable Revenue in 2011, segmenting workloads across the sales process became popular among cloud and SaaS companies. In a nutshell, the book said the sales process should be segmented into sales development (qualifying), account executive (closing) and account management (expanding). The reason: Sales organizations achieve better analytics (clear metrics to diagnose issues), increased focused (role specialization) and talent development (career development and progression).

While many cloud and SaaS companies have adopted the workload segmentation model, many sales leaders under pressure to fill roles or retain talent have set false or wrong expectations with sales development representatives (SDRs) about the time in role necessary for both the company and the individual to be successful. Many SDRs new into their career are told that if they perform well, they will be promoted to an AE role within six to 12 months. While this can happen successfully, more often it does not due to timing, performance, needs of the business, etc.

Research by The Bridge Group found a high failure rate of SDRs promoted to AE too soon. SDRs in role 1-10 months had a 55% failure rate; SDRs in role 11-15 months had a 39% failure rate; and SDRs in role 16+ months had a 6% failure rate. Success was defined as being an AE for six months or more and failure as six months or less. The Bridge Group also found that while the average SDR had 1.3 years of work experience when hired, nearly 20% had less than one year of experience. Promoting SDRs to AEs too quickly negatively impacts both performance and success.

How then can sales leaders attract and retain SDRs, often impatient for advancement and increased responsibility, while helping them develop the knowledge and skills necessary for long-term success? Below are five strategies.

  1. Be consistent and set expectations. Communicate and set forth the knowledge, performance, skill, time, etc. needed in the SDR function and role, especially during the hiring process.
  2. Foster a culture of development and growth. Being a SDR is more than call time and dials. It involves growing as a sales professional; e.g., product knowledge, sales methodology and process, social selling, etc.
  3. Role promotion in current function. Define the requirements to advance within function; e.g., Inbound SDR to Outbound SDR. Help SDRs increase the breadth of their experience.
  4. Step promotion in current role. Define the requirements to advance within role; e.g., SDR to Senior SDR. Help SDRs increase the depth of their experience.
  5. Stretch assignment in current role to enhance career goals. Help high-performing SDRs develop practical AE experience. For example, have a SDR give a product demonstration and lead the Q&A session during a webinar.

When business needs and career goals align, another effective strategy is to “export” sales development talent to complimentary, adjacent functions; e.g., sales development to customer success or sales development to marketing. The key is to build the knowledge and skill necessary to ensure continual engagement and long-term success.

All contents copyright © 2017, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.


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