6 Key Traits to Look for When Hiring an SDR

The toughest part of closing a deal is finding one.

Sales Development isn’t a new function. In fact, its inception goes way back to the 1980s and over the decades, sales development has evolved along with technology and processes.

Today, the role of a Sales Development Representative (SDR) is one of the hottest emerging jobs according to research from LinkedIn.

Earlier, SDRs were on the phone all through the day with the intent of gathering information about a prospective customer and booking appointments for Account Executives (AEs). The strategy back then was simple and the skills required to be an SDR weren’t complex.

Today, with an overload of information available on the internet and changing buying behavior, it’s getting increasingly difficult for SDRs to identify their ideal customer profiles, generate curiosity, and meet their targets.

Moreover, there are several companies focusing on building products that provide information and insight into the prospect’s current infrastructure and projects. And SDRs from different organizations use that information to build their messaging and reach out to prospective customers. With the prospect’s information available to all, it becomes crucial for SDRs to stand out from the crowd and get noticed by doing things differently.

A single mode of communication does not work anymore. SDRs need to diversify their outreach by getting in touch with prospects through multiple channels like phone, email, social media, text messages, voicemails, and more. This requires the SDR to have specialized skills, giving them an opportunity to move into different roles rather than being looked upon as an entry-level role and becoming a sales closer someday.

Future Roles for an SDR

A lot of SDRs in my organization have explored roles in marketing, customer success, and training, and have been extremely successful. Here’s how an SDR can fit in these roles:

  • Marketing: SDRs get their creative juice flowing by spending a lot of time on planning and executing sales campaigns. That makes them a natural fit for the role.
  • Customer Success: Certain companies have an SDR team that sells to different business units from their existing customer base. This helps them learn various aspects of customer engagement which is a key trait required for a role in customer success.
  • Training: Developing and coaching SDRs within an organization or in a different organization is a popular choice too. Sales development coaching is an industry in itself which focuses on helping companies train SDRs to build a healthy sales pipeline.


Traits to Look for When Hiring an SDR

Whether you are hiring an experienced SDR or a fresher, there are six essential traits to look for when assessing your candidates. We’ll also give you tips on how you can go about evaluating them during the interview process.

1. Curiosity

This is one of the most important traits of a good SDR. A curious SDR tends to ask the right questions to convert a cold outreach conversation into a meaningful one.

Tip to evaluate the candidate:

Pay close attention to the kind of questions the candidate asks throughout the interview process. Assess whether the candidate is curious to know more about the company, the role he or she is applying for, their growth path, the current team’s performance benchmarks, expectations, etc. This helps you evaluate if the candidate is asking the right questions to understand the role and if he or she can develop a meaningful conversation with you. If yes, you know the candidate is capable of making engaging conversations with prospects in the future.

2. Coachable

It’s difficult to find experienced SDRs since most of them naturally progress into AEs. So, you hire people with fewer years of work experience, or hire people from diverse backgrounds with skills essential for the role. In such cases, being coachable becomes an important trait that an SDR should possess.

Tip to evaluate the candidate:

One of the best ways to assess this skill is by conducting a mock call. Give the candidate a situation and evaluate how they go about handling it. Share your feedback on the areas they can improve in, tell them what they need to avoid, and offer some tips that will help them do better. Then ask them to do the role play again, and check if they are able to incorporate your feedback. Of course, they may not be able to include all your inputs to the T, but if they have made an effort to learn and make changes, it should work for you.

3. Articulate

Communication is one of the most important skills for an SDR. But having strong communication skills isn’t good enough today. SDRs should have clarity in their thought process and should be able to convey that with the right words. Since prospects receive hundreds of cold emails and calls each day, it’s important for your SDRs to make conversations that leave an impression so your company is on top of the prospect’s mind when he or she is ready to make a purchase.

Tip to evaluate the candidate:

Ask the candidate about an exciting event or adventure from their life. If the candidate comes with work experience, you can ask them why they chose to work at their previous organization, and how they went about pitching the company to a prospect. The idea is to see whether the candidate has a structure to their storyline, and if he or she can make you think and imagine the scenarios in a way that you will remember it for a long time.

4. Time Management

SDRs have a series of activities to do before making that first cold call or sending that first email to the prospect. They have to research the prospect, the company, their competitors, the market and so on, to understand the value your solution would bring to their organization.

But most often, SDRs are overwhelmed with the amount of information available on the internet that they don’t know how much research is enough to establish a connection. So, an SDR must truly excel in self-management and have organization skills.

Tip to evaluate the candidate:

Ask the candidate about a project or initiative he or she owned at an organization they previously worked. The idea is to evaluate if the candidate was organized, and if he or she had an execution plan and could prioritize the activities. You can ask questions about how they managed deadlines and overcame challenges related to internal dependencies.

5. Empathy

In sales, it’s difficult to succeed if SDRs fail to empathize. We often make the mistake of pitching our product and selling it rather than solving a customer’s problems. No one is interested in knowing if you have won an award or have the best product in the market. What they really look forward to is seeing if the SDRs can help solve their current challenges.

Tip to evaluate the candidate:

You can evaluate this with a mock call. Throw in a sales objection and see if the candidate can steer the conversation in the right direction. Ideally, the candidate should ask questions to understand the reason for the objection and respond to any concerns, rather than ignoring the objection and pushing prospects for a meeting.

6. Persistence

Since most of the outreach is cold, it’s difficult to generate interest in the first few touch points. On an average, it takes upto 8-10 attempts, sometimes more, to get a response. This makes it all the more important for SDRs to be persistent. One way to do this is by creating a sales cadence with value-added content that generates curiosity and interest.

Tip to evaluate the candidate:

This trait can be assessed throughout the interview process when the candidate talks about how they dealt with challenges and dependencies while trying to accomplish a certain project in their previous organization. You can also ask the candidate about their goals, and find out how they overcame obstacles to pursue that goal. This will give you the sense if they are persistent and can overcome any challenges that are thrown in their way.

There is no silver bullet to hiring a rockstar SDR. These traits combined with hard work will enable SDRs to become rockstars.

Every sales manager approaches the hiring process differently, and I’d love to hear about some of the qualities you look for and how you evaluate candidates. Let’s talk in the comments below.

Cover Illustration by Ashna Liza Sunny

Thanks to Radhika Bhangolai, my co-author on this blog

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