Best Practices for Growing Your Sales Development Team

August 5, 2014 Sam Laber

The following post was co-authored with Tami McQueen, Director of Marketing at SalesLoft, a SaaS-based solution that allows businesses to quickly and easily find accurate and relevant leads through LinkedIn. She serves as a marketing strategist where she manages digital and content marketing, drives social media engagement and oversees lead generation initiatives. Rooted firmly in South African soil, Tami now calls Atlanta home, a city she believes holds exponential potential and a distinct flavor of home.


At Datanyze and SalesLoft, we spend a lot of our time helping sales development teams. We’ve learned lessons from some of the best (and worst) efforts in sales development. Here are a few best practices we’ve gleaned from this experience:

1. Create an efficient and standardized hiring & on-boarding process (SalesLoft)

What to look for in candidates, managers etc.

One of the key points to hire around is culture. The best SDR teams are comprised of a team that meshes strongly and follows the same core values. At SalesLoft, we look to hire candidates who we’d classify in the top 1% of the following traits: positive, supportive, and self-starting.

A great approach when hiring a new rep is using the “canoe test”.

Let your current reps spend time with the candidate until they decide whether or not they would enjoy being in a canoe with them. Would they trust the new candidate to paddle? Did they enjoy the time spent talking with them? Answering yes to these questions is far more valuable than hearing that he or she is a “nice person” or “seems smart”.

Leaders such as JJ Imbeaux and Derek Grant, suggest hiring millennials who don’t exhibit bad habits and are willing to prospect, cold call and learn. The goal is to look for candidates who can “punch above their weight class”. It will grow your business while simultaneously allowing the reps a chance to build a sales career.

Pro Tip: Look to hire candidates from these three industries:

  1. Recruiting (they live or die by the phone and must overcome rejection very quickly)
  2. Financial services
  3. Call centers

What to cover in training

The key to developing a successful SDR is to create an on-boarding strategy and training process that focuses heavily on your buyer and your process. Below are the key on-boarding strategies that we implement at SalesLoft:

  1. Define Expectations: Make sure that new hires understand their role, what is required of them, who they report to and how they know if they’re doing it well. Outline your strategy for measuring success at the onset.

  2. Implement Best Practices: Leverage the best practices that have been successful for the company to date, and translate those into an on-boarding document that walks reps through all the steps needed for them to become great. The categories of on-boarding that are essential to SDR success are: team culture, technology tools, process implementation, significant time spent with role-playing and getting comfortable with the offering.

  1. Establish Measures of Success: An SDR is successful when they are consistently hitting their numbers, asking good questions and providing solid answers to objections from prospects.

A well-defined on-boarding process will position an SDR to have confidence, be focused and provide value to prospects. Sales is a game of confidence where two people come together, and the person with more confidence will have more influence.

Provide these tools, training and support to your SDRs so that they have the resources to be successful.

Devising ramping goals

Team goals are set knowing what can be accomplished based on historical success. It takes time for reps to learn the best way to connect with prospects and feel comfortable talking about a new product. You want them to become as confident as possible as early as possible. Give SDRs one month to gain experience and confidence before carrying a quota.

Outlining these goals at the onset will manage expectations from a leadership and team perspective, get results as fast as possible and eliminate micro-managing.

2. Support personnel growth with account growth (Datanyze)

Identify your addressable and available markets

A good way to forecast how many SDRs your business will need is to understand how many companies have the potential to buy your product and how many accounts each SDR can cover. The former I can help with — the latter is up to you.

First, let’s define addressable and available market. Addressable market is the total revenue opportunity available for a product or service – for SaaS, this typically translates to every business that has the potential to buy your software. By contrast, the available market includes every business with the potential to buy your software, but is limited to the companies that you have the ability to support (think geographic, technical and resource constraints).

There are a variety of ways for SaaS companies to quantify both markets, such as market research, journals and government studies; however, I find that a great place to start is LinkedIn.

I ran the below example search with the free LinkedIn ‘Company Search’ tool. It shows every business in a consumer-facing industry with 200+ employees on LinkedIn and 100+ followers. I have only included English-speaking countries, as this particular vendor does not have the resources to support other languages. In this case, there are about 10,000 companies in the available market.

Consistently grow your available market

One thing every SDR manager wants to do is add more companies to the list. It gives SDRs more shots at securing a meeting, which gives the sales team more at bats. But how can this be done?

 A great way to uncover new accounts is to look at web technology data. Let’s say the company mentioned in the above example is an analytics vendor that sells to large enterprises. The below search shows all websites in the Alexa 1 million that are currently using its two main competitors, Adobe Omniture and IBM Analytics (formerly Coremetrics). That’s over 12,000 accounts with the potential to buy the company’s product!

3. Give your SDRs the tools they need to succeed (Datanyze & SalesLoft)

Identify and capitalize on buying signals

A great way to empower your SDRs is to give them the gift of timing by helping them identify and act on buying signals.

The Datanyze Alerts feature enables sales reps to setup daily email notifications uncovering websites that have added or dropped a specific technology. By revealing when a competitor’s software has been added or dropped by a target account, your SDRs will have the ability to send a personalized email to their prospect, knowing that the company is experimenting with software in your specific category.

Leverage social networks to create lists with the right contact

SalesLoft leverages the power of LinkedIn for the most valuable source of accurate prospecting information on the Internet. Professionals update their pages because they feel the social pressure to keep their information fresh.

SalesLoft’s Prospector application leverages this valuable LinkedIn data to provide accurate and targeted lists of leads.

The tool provides you the ability to segment prospects by location, job title or industry to get lists that are tailored to your needs.

By quickly building accurate and targeted lists of leads, your Sales Development team can spend more time reaching out to prospects and setting qualified appointments and demos.

About the Author

Sam Laber

Sam is the director of marketing at Datanyze. He's a big John Hughes fan who occasionally fills the DZ office with the sweet sweet sounds of 90s rock giant, Creed.

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