We’re back with our final post from our hiring and onboarding your first Sales Development Representative (SDR) / Business Development Assoc (BDA) Series. In our last two articles, we went over both prepping to hire your first SDR and Interviewing your first SDRs. In this article, we’ll discuss the onboarding process for your first SDR hire. Let’s get started.
In typical Sales Method style, we’re going to break the onboarding process down into step-by-step components. The components outlined here will cover prep, tools, goal definition, and finally a sample schedule.
Like with everything else in life, successful SDR onboarding begins with preparation.
You’ve probably heard of Bridgewater’s baseball card style manuals for team members. Since you’re still in the early stages, it’s hard to assign scores to different categories of team performance, it also may not be your company’s culture. Instead, consider having your team put together manuals for working with each other. It is a VERY helpful exercise to do, whether you have a new teammate or not. You can take a look at our template here.
We suggest revisiting these manuals regularly, they’re a great way to reflect on how you and your team’s work styles and roles have changed. Eventually this type of information will live in an HRIS or Intranet, but for now something as simple as a Google Doc or Notion page will suffice.
You’ll want to create workshops around the essentials of the job. This doesn’t mean that you need to put together complex decks. It just means you need to take some time to think through and outline what you need to share for the SDR to do their job. I suggest recording these workshops, though the content is likely to change, you might be able to reuse some of them for future hires. Here are several we think should be in an effective onboarding:
- Company History: Use this time to share your Founding Story.
- Team Overview: This should include reporting and responsibilities. It’s important people know who to go to when they need help or have questions.
- Where to find everything: Notion, etc.
- Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Workshop: Characteristics of the company. Characteristics of the personas. What are your ICPs’ responsibilities and what does their day to day look like? What do they care about? What problems do they have and how does your product help?
- Product Workshop: Walk through the product. How do your various personas use your product? Talk through various customer sales cycles, end to end. Show your new hire how your product addresses the problems uncovered by the product.
- Data Upkeep: How should your SDR be tracking their activity? Make sure they know how to enter data into your various tracking tools, even if it’s just an excel spreadsheet. All activities should be tracked in sales. If you don’t track it, you can’t improve it.
- Tools: How to do things in various tools
For any workshop that is taught, I highly recommend there be a follow up activity to complete. This will solidify learnings. For example after your ICP workshop, give the new hire an ICP worksheet to fill out. If they do a great job, you will have a future database of all your ICPs and Personas outlined for marketing, demand gen and sales use.
With the explosion in content being produced by industry experts and oftentimes, direct competitors, keeping up with the latest news in your industry is a must. Create a list of industry-leading and role-specific content sources that you read. To help you grow the list, encourage your team to add their own. This could include:
Add anything an eager new hire can use to get up to speed quickly on the industry.
In sales, when you’re new at a company, quickly learning the language of your customer and how your product is positioned is essential to success. One of the easiest and fastest ways to get new hires up to speed is to have them listen to customer calls. Hopefully you cover this in your ICP and Product workshops, but to reinforce this training, be sure to record customer calls for your SDRs to listen to. Some people have a hard time imagining things in an abstract sense. Recording your calls will help solidify everything you’ve taught them so far about your customer, product, sales process and positioning.
In our first and second articles in this series we warned you to refrain from hiring an SDR until you’re ready and will do what it takes to make them successful. This is where you’ll start to feel that.
During your SDR’s first week, you’ll need to budget at least 2 hours a day to work with them. This doesn’t mean that you will be in workshops 2 hours everyday, but you should assume at least an hour of workshopping, having them sit by your side on customer calls, taking time afterwards to review and answer questions, as well as 30 mins – 1 hour reviewing the work they’ve done and providing feedback. Setting up an early employee for success is not a light lift, but if you’ve done the prep, it’ll take a lot less time than if you try to wing it.
The time commitment during Week 2 reduces to 1 hour per day. After those initial weeks, let them begin to do the job and pare down your meeting times to a weekly 30-min 1:1, and a 30-minute pipeline/process review while continuing to check in to ensure they feel supported.
A good employee learns best by doing. Be available and supportive, but give them time to learn on their own and make mistakes. If an early hire makes a mistake on something they didn’t know, this is your responsibility, not theirs. Chalk it up to a lesson, and build a system for managing and training to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and move on. You made plenty of mistakes yourself when you were learning.
Your SDR will need tools to get started on the job. Below are a few we recommend considering before you make the hire:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Customer relationships are everything in the B2B market, so invest in software to help you track them. Check out tools like Salesforce, PipeDrive, and HubSpot CRM to get your SDR set up for tracking their customer interactions.
Email / Message Automation: The goal for any hire is to maximize output. For an SDR this means customer interactions to drive meetings. Why should they send emails when there is relatively inexpensive automated technology that could do it? Take advantage of tools like Outreach, SalesLoft, Yesware, or Drift for emails, and Cleverly or Duxsoup for Linkedin messages.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator: We’re gonna let you figure out why this is important.
Contact Info Tool: As an early-stage startup, it can be hard to get all of the contact information you need to sell into your prospects. Don’t waste your team’s valuable time searching for email addresses. This is why tools like ZoomInfo, Hunter, and Lusha exist.
Define, Define, Define
In our first article we talked a bit about compensation. The most common measure we see for SDRs/BDRs compensation structure is a quota for Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). If you’re planning on compensating based on SQLs, you better have a clear definition of what an SQL is. You may have the SDR setting up appointments for you, or they may be taking the first call. This is up to you, but you need to define what they’re getting compensated on clearly because nothing demotivates your team like changing definitions on the fly when money is involved. If you need to do this, take care of your team. Morale and trust is more important than a few dollars.
Have your SDR listen in on all your customer calls for the first few weeks. If it is inappropriate for them to dial in themselves, as defined by your buyer, dial them in on your line and have them mute. Review the call afterwards and field any questions that come up.
Forward customer emails about the value of your product. This will help them contextualize things as they prepare to convey your product’s value to customers themselves.
The First Week(s)
The time has come to really commit to your new hire’s success. It all starts with the first couple of weeks.
We’re going to start with a structure we recommend you stick to throughout the training process.
- Teach / provide context
- Share examples
- Have the new hire do it themselves / practice what you taught
- Review work
- Feedback / Fill in the gaps
It is really important to set expectations for working together from the beginning. We’ve put together four principals we’ve seen work well for early stage companies in the past.
- You are here to help. You don’t know what they don’t know. If they don’t ask, you won’t be able to help.
- Open door policy. If you’re on Slack or your door is open, feel free to reach out with questions or say hello. If for any reason you’re not available you’ll let them know or get back to them as soon as you’re free.
- Set the bar high. Let them know they are going to train the next person coming in alongside you. They are going to be setting the bar for the next hire – joke about setting it high.
- Document. Encourage them to document everything you are doing with them during the training so they have it as a reference guide, and you both have it for the next hire.
Day by Day Breakdown
Below is a simple day to day breakdown you can use as a guide for onboarding your first SDR hire(s). We’d love your feedback on anything that is missing!
While your new SDR is onboarding you’ll want to include them on as many customer calls as possible. After each call, take 10 mins to answer questions and review that customer with the new hire.
Day 1: Getting to Know You & Tools
- Company Manual
- Founding story
- Team User Manuals
- Team Overview
- Welcome Lunch/Drinks
Activity: Have them put together a User Manual for themselves to share with the team. Here’s an example.
Day 2: Company + Product Overview
- Have either the product or technical team walk them through the product
- Go through positioning in the market / competitive landscape / differentiators
- Share helpful readings about your market / industry / company / product
Activity: Have them walk you through the product as if they were a customer success rep onboarding a new client. Complete readings + competitor research
Day 3: Customer Use Case
- Do a company / buyer persona workshop: Ideal Customer Profiles / Why / Positioning
- Talk through 4-5 customers: Who was the buyer, how did you get in touch, what were the pain points, what was the decision making process?
- Review the product with 1-2 customers in mind and talk through how those customers use the product and the benefits to them and their business in detail
Follow-up Activity: Fill out an ICP worksheet (there are TONs of examples online to pull from). Review with them, provide feedback. If well done, have them build a list of 50 target companies and 100 buyers within those companies that match the ICP they outlined. Review the list with them and provide feedback.
Day 4-5: CRM / Contact Database Training
If you are going to use a Contact Database (ZoomInfo, Hunter, etc), this is when you’ll need to provide training on how to use this tool. Follow the structure previously outlined. Once you’ve showed them how to look up contacts, it’s time to enter their list of leads into your CRM.
- Walk through the CRM structure
- Show the new hire how to enter the leads
- Talk through what information you expect them to enter on each lead and why
- Talk through why it is important to track all of their activities.
Activity: Have the new hire enter the 00 contacts they researched into the CRM. Review their work and provide feedback if needed.
Be sure to celebrate their first Friday with a lunch or drinks. Ask how their first week was, what they might need, how they are feeling, and most importantly, how you can better support them.
Days 6-8: Value Propositions / Drip Campaign
If you are going to use a Demand Gen (Outreach, Yesware, etc) or Linkedin Prospecting tools (Sales Nav, Duxsoup, Lusha, Cleverly, etc) (both are recommended for efficiency), this is when you’ll need to provide training on how to use these tools. Follow the structure previously outlined.
Have the new hire listen to 3-4 customer call recordings (these should have been pre-recorded and selected for variety of use cases + needs)
Activity: Create a drip campaign for the ICP outlined. Encourage the new hire to use a min of 3 channels. Review the drip campaigns. Provide feedback if needed.
Share your prior drip campaigns with the new hire (after they have created their own).
Activity: If the new hire’s campaign looks good, have them load the campaigns into the demand gen tool and linkedin prospecting tools. Review their work to make sure it was done correctly.
Tips for Managing a new SDR:
- Have the new hire cc you on their campaigns from the beginning. You can filter them into a folder so they don’t crowd your inbox. This will help you avoid micromanaging them, while keeping you in the loop on their progress and productivity.
- Bcc them on your responses to customers so they can learn positioning from you and pull best practices.
- Include them on all the customer calls they schedule so that they can continue to learn about your customer profiles, pain points, needs and positioning.
It’s important to have regular 1:1s with all of your direct reports. I personally recommend weekly meetings. In these meetings I like to focus on:
- KPIs / Metrics / Pipeline
- What’s working
- What’s not
- Things that are slowing them down (opportunities for innovation)
- Two way feedback for improved communication and relationship
Remember, if you aren’t willing to do what it takes to make sure your new hire is successful, you likely aren’t ready to make this hire. Be sure you’re ready to give them the time, resources, and support necessary to ensure your new hire is successful. Optimizing every team member’s potential is critically important, and this hire is the first step in achieving a high bar of team and company performance.
Growing your team in any way has a huge impact on any early-stage startup, but hiring your first SDR(s) is an immense milestone for your organization. New sales hires signify that your organization has a repeatable demand generation process and you are ready to start scaling your sales organization. This does not mean that you can disassociate yourself from the sales efforts of your organization, as a founder you will be the Chief Sales Officer for years to come, but it does lighten your load so you can focus on interacting with and selling your customers vs getting in touch with them.
If you have any additional questions about hiring your first SDR, don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then, remember you can’t optimize it, if you don’t measure it.
Interested in learning more about Fundraising, Entrepreneurial Sales, and Leadership from Pre-Seed to Series A? Check out Whitney’s blog, sign-up for my newsletter, and follow me on Twitter @thesalesmethod.
Whitney Sales is the creator of The Sales Method and a General Partner at Forum Ventures Venture’s Seed fund. Prior to The Sales Method and Forum Ventures, Whitney helped four companies gain entry to the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies list, including LoopNet (IPO), Joby (acquired), Meltwater (acquired), and Tallie (acquired). The Sales Method is Whitney’s winning analytical process that looks at Sales-Market fit to align to a target market’s buying process, to ultimately help companies scale to market faster.