Strategies for a World-Class SDR Program

How Do You Choose Qualification Standards For Your SDR Team?

Choosing qualification standards for your SDR team can be a daunting task. Qualification is viewed as the most basic, yet most important task that an SDR team is required to do every day.


However, I see team after team that struggles with getting it right. The result is rejected opportunities, frustrated account executives, and sales leaders who can’t accurately forecast their deal pipeline. All of this falls on your shoulders as the SDR leader at your company.


So you better not mess it up!


Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you make a smart decision when rolling out qualification standards to your team.


Consider if your product has a transactional or long-tail sales cycle

It’s great when you can easily qualify or disqualify a potential opportunity by following one of the many acronym-based qualification methods that are out there (which we’ll address shortly). But, a one-size-fits-all qualification model might not make sense for your SDR team.


For example, qualification for SMB deals is very different from qualification for enterprise or even mid-market opportunities. In SMB sales, a perfectly qualified prospect might mean a high likelihood of a one-call close – which is great. For an enterprise sales cycle, a “perfectly” qualified opportunity that checks all of the boxes for your favorite qualification acronym might mean that you’re too late in the deal. Now, your prospect has been having conversations with a competitor over the last year that’s helped them write the RFP you’ve finally received.


For larger deals, SDR qualification should be enough to ensure a good conversation with an account executive, but not necessarily mean the deal is qualified enough to result in sales-accepted pipeline. These deals take time and multiple meetings help build relationships.


The most important thing that you can do is pick and stick to a qualification model that works for your team. Consistency is more important than perfection. It’s ok to revisit qualification standards, but at the right time. Ideally, this happens at the same time that you’re setting pipeline goals for your revenue teams. Timing is important because mid-cycle changes to qualification standards can alter how easy – or impossible – it is for these teams to reach their goals.


What does your sales team need?

The number one customer for any SDR team is the sales team. If you’re not providing them with the deals they need to hit the company’s revenue goals, then your SDR program isn’t going to be long for this world. That’s why it’s so important to align with your VP of Sales on what kind of meetings your account executives need the most.


I like to break these up into two categories: more at-bats or highly qualified meetings. You should take note that you cannot increase volume and quality of opportunities at the same time via qualification standards.

There are companies out there that have the good fortune to enjoy both volume and quality simultaneously, like Slack and Zenefits. If you’re at a company that shares a similar situation, congratulations! There’s a name in Silicon Valley we use to describe these companies: unicorn.

If your sales team is struggling due to empty calendars, setting qualification standards lower, perhaps only based on authority and need, could make sense. Alternatively, if your account executives’ close rates are low and deal quality is suffering, consider tightening pipeline standards.


Don’t forget about your SDR team, though. The decision that you make here will affect their ability to meet quota, which is why you must make sure it aligns to your compensation model. Drastically increasing qualification standards but keeping the meeting goal at the same level it was when you were trying to increase at-bats will result in a nightmare situation for your SDR team. Impossible quotas and low commision checks are leading indicators for massive turnover.


Choose a qualification model that works for your team

Your SDR team is likely not that different than any other SDR team out there. There is probably an existing qualification model that you can adjust up or down in rigidity based on the needs of your team.

Some existing models you can work off of include BANT and ANUM, but I suggest that you carefully consider the types of deals your business needs the most.


At SmartRecruiters, we developed a customized qualification model that serves to rigidly qualify inbound leads. Because we receive many leads for customers that are a fit for our free version (SmartStart), it’s important to make sure that prospects actually need to enter an active sales cycle with an account executive before setting up a meeting.


We call this framework “MENTAP”, which stands for Money, Expansion, Need, Timeline, Authority, and Project.


PSA: Don’t use this at your company, because it’s only tailored for the SmartRecruiters inbound SDR team.


Money simply means that the prospect has funds to spend on technology and has their pricing expectations in the right ballpark.


Expansion means that the company is growing and hiring new employees vs. conducting layoffs.


Need recognizes that the prospect is experiencing pain with the problem that our solution solves, pain with their current vendor, or a combination of the two.


Timeline recognizes that the prospect has an implementation date in mind.


Authority is for signing authority or at least access to decision-making authority.


Project means that there is a plan to purchase and implement a new system.


Lastly, an opportunity fulfilling all of these criteria represents a deal that must move into pipeline.


Our SDRs often set meetings where they have qualified a majority of these criteria, but not all. That means additional qualification will need to be done before it is moved to pipeline.


You might recognize this qualification model as a modified version of ANUM with more rigidity built in to consider pricing, an active project, and hiring. It’s carefully tailored, but is not a unique qualification model.


Three Takeaways for Choosing a Qualification Standard


If there are only a few points that you remember from this article, pick these three:


  1. Choose a qualification standard that you can stick to.
  2. Enforce it ruthlessly.
  3. Choose wisely so that it works for your entire sales funnel, and adjust it at the appropriate times.

If you liked this article, check out more posts on the SDR Path Blog!

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Chris Bryson

Chris Bryson

Chris Bryson is a sales development leader that specializes in tactical execution, developing talent, and helping startups accelerate pipeline growth. He has held roles in both sales and sales operations in addition to his focus on sales development.

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