“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy, GE

If you’re starting a new sales development team from scratch, or expanding an existing department, finding the right people is critical to your success. The best SDRs, like the best AEs, are more like consultants than salespeople. They need to listen actively, solve problems and have a high threshold for objections and rejections.

Here are five key characteristics you need to look for in an SDR, along with a few tips on how to grow and maintain them once you’ve found them.

Listening Skills. First and foremost, your SDRs need to know how to listen. They need to be able to hear the nuances of your prospect’s conversations and listen for cues about their pain points. An ideal SDR will be able to comfortably listen more than they talk.
Active Problem Solving. After they hear these pain points, they need to be able to think quickly and creatively to help your prospect understand how your solution addresses their needs. For conversations to flow naturally, your SDRs need to think on their feet, not rely on a playbook.
Competitiveness. You’re not looking for mercenaries to join your team – because it is a team after all, but a competitive spirit helps keep SDRs moving toward their goals. Even if sometimes those goals are just making more connections than the week before.
Lifelong Learning or Curiosity. Successful SDRs don’t just ask the questions on their checklist. They have a genuine interest in learning about their customers, helping them improve their business, and developing their skills to improve their performance.
Integrity. Your SDRs are often the first point of contact that a new customer has with your business. Like everyone in your business – maybe even more so – they need to carry with them the highest level of integrity (along with passion).
Once you’ve found a great SDR, your next greatest challenge will be retaining them. Not only will they be striving to move in the organization, but they’ll have daily temptation from other companies also recruiting SDRs.

Beyond sales competitions and compensation packages, the best investment (and cheapest) that you can make in your people is training and coaching. For new hires, this can be an SDR boot camp. On an ongoing basis, engage your reps in role-playing exercises, listen to calls, and provide one on one feedback. We’ll cover more about sales coaching in a future post.

If you’re looking for a training program that works for existing or new SDRs, consider the next session of Predictable University. Your whole team can benefit from the hands-on exercises and feedback from industry leaders including Aaron Ross and Aron Placencia.

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