Strategies for a World-Class SDR Program

Plan Your Process Before Your First SDR Interview

Consistency is the way to sustain growth in any sales organization. Hiring managers tend to hire people they like for SDR positions, or they go with a “gut feeling” with no quantifiable data. The key to growth through consistency is to develop an SDR interview process that will allow your organization to view each candidate in the same light and make decisions that lead to the highest volume and lowest cost pipeline pipeline.

The role of the SDR is still being defined, but it has already become more of a high-level sales professional than its predecessor, the telemarketer. For a large team, a great SDR can add significant incremental pipeline. For a small team, a great SDR can change the trajectory of your company. Our goal is to help you consistently identify and hire great SDRs by using a carefully planned interview process.


What are the Traits of an Ideal candidate?

The first part of your structured interview process is to identify the traits that make a candidate a great fit for your team and market. There is no wiggle room on this concept. If you’re finding that you want to hire outside of the profile, either you are making an emotional decision or your profile is wrong.

We outlined the traits we look for when hiring SDRs in another article: 10 Traits of Great Sales Development Rep Hires


Your Interview Scorecard

You measure each of these traits using a scorecard that we have developed. Each trait is given a quantifiable number that you use to compare candidates side by side. It is highly unlikely you will ever find a candidate that scores a 10 out of 10 in these traits. But you can set thresholds and adjust them over time.


For example, you might find that a candidate worth pursuing is one who scores a six on the scorecard. But as your interview process and scorecard evolve, you might come to realize that it is worth it to hold out for a score of seven.


The scorecard becomes an integral part of your SDR interview process. It allows you to give hard numbers to important attributes, and that gives each interviewer and stakeholder the ability to talk about potential candidates in terms everyone can understand.


How do You Test for SDR Traits?

Each attribute must be verifiable—otherwise you’re introducing unnecessary subjectivity into your process. At Smartrecruiters, we have developed a variety of effective methods for testing SDRs against the attributes we’re seeking.


For example, we test coachability in two ways. The first interviewer gives the candidate advice about the second interviewer: “Chris is focused on metrics, so be sure to tell him what you told me about achieving 110% of your quota last year.” After the interviews are complete, I ask Chris whether the candidate did as instructed.


Second, we put them through a roleplaying exercise and give them feedback that includes clear instructions for how they can improve. The we run through the same exercise again. How do they react to constructive feedback? Do they take your advice or do the same thing again? A coachable candidate will listen carefully and implement the feedback. A candidate who lacks coachability will make excuses or respond defensively.


However, not all attributes require a complicated test. Sometimes you can determine if they have what you’re looking for by asking the right questions.


Developing SDR Interview Questions

The traits for which you don’t have a practical test, you will need a set of questions to create a comprehensive interview process. Along with paying attention to how the candidate answers each question, the content of those answers is also important.

One of the most important aspects of a good SDR interview process is that every candidate gets asked the same questions with the same tone and delivery. If you are not comparing apples-to-apples with SDR candidates, then you could make a hiring mistake.

Get A Consensus

Before you implement your SDR interview process, make sure that every person in the company who is affected by the SDR hire buys into the process. While I don’t suggest involving all stakeholders in each interview process, it is important that they agree on what “good” means within the context of the role in question. If the marketing manager feels that there is something missing, then that needs to be discussed.


At Smartrecruiters, we are constantly evolving our SDR hiring process to make sure we are getting the best possible people. Remember that the SDRs you hire will be highly specialized business growth professionals who will have a significant impact on your sales team’s ability to deliver high quality pipeline. You need the right interview process if you are going to bring in the right people.


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Taft Love

Taft Love

Taft Love is an experienced sales development and sales operations professional who has worked with dozens of startups in and around San Francisco in recent years. He now leads teams of SDRs and Sales Operations analysts for SmartRecruiters in San Francisco.

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