Any entrepreneur or leader who has ever been charged with building out a sales development team understands the immense challenges in finding, growing and empowering the right people for the job. It takes time and patience to get it right — and it is a job that is never done. Recruiting expert Jack Daly stresses that recruiting is an ongoing process. You should always be searching for talented, driven SDRs who can take your team to the next level — even if you do not have immediate vacancies.
But finding those SDR rock stars is difficult. Sure, first impressions and gut feelings play a role in the hiring process, but how do you know that the person you are interviewing is going to be a top producer and a solid cultural fit? Here are 3 critical attributes to look for in potential SDR candidates, along with some interview tricks I have learned along the way.
Concise: Because Nobody Has Time For Business Jargon
SDRs are notorious for overloading prospects with lengthy emails detailing product features and benefits, presenting far too much information at first pass. Or, when they are lucky enough to get a decision-maker live on the phone, they often get carried away and start spewing acronyms and ROI stats. Critical information that could actually help move the needle gets lost, along with any interest the prospect may have originally had.
Just as the most effective journalists write in an “Inverted Pyramid” style, prioritizing and structuring text from most important information at the top to non-essential details at the bottom, the best SDRs have mastered the art of selectivity. This means carefully choosing their “headlines,” or what is most important within a given set of information and conveying them clearly and concisely. Additionally, shrewd SDRs know how to communicate the most complex of topics in plain English — no jargon or fluff needed.
Interview Tip: When I interview candidates, I ask for a 90-second resume overview. Good candidates will focus not only on the “what” but the “how.” How they performed against a previous quota, how they were able to maintain a solid GPA while juggling outside activities, etc. It also forces them to be succinct and focus on the experiences they believe will be most relevant for the role. After that, I ask them to describe the company or product as they would to their grandparents. It is amazing how this simple, even silly, question can separate the great from the mediocre.
If Your SDRs are Not Passionate About Your Product, How Will Anyone Else Be?
Being an SDR is really, really tough. The job takes hours of preparation, constant hard work and a never-say-die attitude when things are not going as planned (and things rarely ever go as planned). Many SDRs get discouraged, burned out or, worst of all, complacent. As Thomas Edison so wisely said, “Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”
Truly passionate SDRs constantly strive to become better. This means they are up to speed on industry news and trends and can converse about them readily. They make time for networking events and participate in voluntary personal and professional development activities. They have mentors on whom they rely for guidance and inspiration. Peter Drucker, the “founder of modern management,” once said, “It is the willingness of people to give of themselves over and above the demands of the job that distinguishes the great from the merely adequate organization.”
Interview Tip: I like to ask SDR candidates how they would improve my product. As a founder who is constantly thinking about the business, it is often difficult to see it from a different perspective. This also gives the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate creativity and quick thinking on his or her feet, while proving they did (or did not do) their homework beforehand. If you are lucky, this will spark an engaging conversation that brings out your candidate’s passion for not only the job, but the company as a whole. Oftentimes, product development comes from customers, prospects and even interview candidates. Give your SDRs a chance to make an impact even before joining the team.
Sales is a Game of Confidence
SDRs face failure time and time again, yet they have to pick themselves up immediately and jump back on the phone, only to possibly get shot down again. It is easy for them to get discouraged and start overthinking the sales process and second-guessing their abilities. The great ones are able to learn from rejection and quickly get back into the game, by maintaining confidence and optimism through it all. For some this comes naturally, but for most, confidence takes cultivation, determination and hard work. With practice, preparation, positive thinking and a “coachable” attitude, it can be done.
Interview Tip: I like to put candidates on the spot for this one. I ask them exactly how they would create one sales opportunity before tomorrow — no guidance, no leading questions, nothing. The goal here is to get a feel for the candidate’s thought process and level of confidence. How well do they organize their thoughts? How well can they execute under pressure? The best candidates I have interviewed will discuss the tools and process they would use to find a qualified company to pursue, locate the decision-maker, get their contact information and reach out.
By zeroing in on these three attributes as you talk to SDR candidates, you will be well on your way to building a killer sales team.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by MIKI_Yoshihito