Before I took a job in sales, I thought of the role as those familiar cliches: Pound the phones all day, send countless emails, and deliver on high-activity metrics until you eventually hit quota.
Once I took a seat as a first-time SDR, I found a far more nuanced job. SDRs were hired to do more than smile and dial—the role has evolved beyond just hitting high-activity metrics. Today, SDRs are strategic partners in the larger revenue team who are expected to take ownership of their territory and develop a perspective on their business to drive more qualified pipeline.
“I call every one of my teams a franchise,” explained Brian Conlin, VP of Sales at Nutanix,` at Clari’s 2021 Generation Revenue conference.
Empowering SDRs to think of themselves as business owners helps the company laser focus on its ideal customer profile, build more qualified pipeline, and win more deals. It’s difficult to shift mindsets away from the status quo. Here’s how sales managers can empower SDRs to become the leader of their franchise.
Build a point of view
Rather than calling into accounts just because they’re on a list provided by a manager or an account executive, become a student of your accounts, territories, and verticals. Research these companies to learn about their strategic growth initiatives and the challenges similar companies have faced en route to those goals.
“Having a strong point of view on accounts and prospects allows us to understand their SGIs,” says Alex Jagiello, Clari’s Head of Revenue Development. “At Clari, we expect everyone to learn about potential SGIs that exist in our ideal customer profile”. Understanding what these initiatives entail and why they’re important to our prospects allow us to start formulating a point of view.”
Key questions that can inform your account prioritization include:
- Have they increased headcount over the last year?
- How do they go to market?
- Have they received funding from investors in your customer portfolio?
- Which tools are in their existing tech stack?
At the beginning of a new quarter, each Clari SDR has dedicated one-on-one time with their manager to build their point of view and draw up a game plan for the quarter.
An SDR might have to dig for the information. But doing so means you’re engaging with the right accounts that can truly benefit from your product.
While prospecting into a top account last year, my research and cold outreach uncovered two key insights that helped us earn a meeting with the buyer after months without traction:
- I learned that the sales team was forecasting and inspecting the pipeline with traditional CRM and relying on their gut to call the number.
- The account had a strategic partnership with a Clari customer and champion.
This information allowed me and my account executive to craft a message that was relevant to their company and offered a perspective on how they could optimize their current processes.
Give visibility into metrics that matter
Activity metrics are a staple in the SDR workflow. Tracking dials, emails, LinkedIn connections, and contacts created in CRM are standard practice.
But sales development leaders can arm their reps with other important metrics to help them execute. Our SDR leadership uses Clari to provide his team real-time visibility into metrics like account penetration, target account whitespace, qualified sales opportunities, and pipeline coverage.
“Clari contextualizes these metrics by providing SDRs with actionable insights they can implement to make sure their business is optimized or gets back on track,” Jagiello explains. “If their meetings aren’t converting into qualified opportunities, Clari equips them with an understanding of why.”
Surfacing these insights helps SDRs take ownership of their accounts and understand where they are spending their time and which accounts need more attention. Without these metrics, prospecting is less intentional and less strategic.
Enable SDRs to be strategic thought partners at QBRs
Selling is a team sport, especially in a revenue operations structure. With this culture, there is an opportunity for revenue teams to have more holistic strategic sessions by including SDRs at their quarterly business reviews. SDRs are in the field every day talking to prospects and refining their messaging and tactics. Equipped with the point of view they developed for their business, the SDR team can collaborate with the entire revenue team to help penetrate the right accounts. Without SDRs at the table, revenue teams risk missing out on valuable insights from the frontline.
I’ve participated in QBRs where, as an SDR, I shared my perspective on one of the accounts I identified as a top priority based on industry, headcount, and business model. After reviewing my research, one of our solutions engineers volunteered that he was connected with their marketing director. Before the QBR call ended, the sales team drafted an email and set up a meeting that ultimately helped bring the head of revenue strategy into the conversation.
Provide space for autonomy
Armed with a tactical vision for their book of business, it’s important to give SDRs the creative license to execute on their strategies. The question is: How can management empower their reps to be autonomous?
One of the best ways to do this is to embrace trial and error. Some prospecting strategies will yield meetings and others won’t—both outcomes need to be celebrated. That’s why Jagiello thinks of the SDR role as similar to that of a scientist.
“SDRs need to have the freedom to flex their creativity and other superpowers to figure certain stuff out on their own,” says Jagiello. Being on the frontlines every day, no one is more qualified to understand what tactics are working and what adjustments need to be made to improve their top of funnel efforts. SDRs have more resources available to them than ever before, and giving them the power to try different strategies will ultimately put them and their team in a position to scale their successes.
The SDR position has morphed over the years from a smile-and-dial mentality to a strategic role that requires creativity, business acumen, and the ability to be a thought partner with account executives. When SDRs own their book of business, they gain the confidence to share a seat at the table with AEs, front-line managers, and C-suite executives, and determine the tactics to make top of funnel a strength for their company.