How to Build and Manage a Successful SDR Team

By: Jack Reamer |
 August 2, 2021 |

Lucas reminds us to remain agile – there are times when the biggest value you can bring is NOT your core offering; you have to be more creative and think of a better way to serve your clients.” 

Lucas Mikelinich

VP of Sales

Building a killer sales team that actually gets results isn’t always an easy task. Stats have shown that 48% of salespeople never follow up with potential prospects. 

If you are the VP of sales for your company, you want to build and manage an effective sales team that’s way better than the competition.

Salesbread was lucky enough to interview Lucas Mikelinich the VP of Sales for a Saas platform called Negotiatus. 

(Side Note: Negotiatus was the company he worked for at the time of the interview, he has now moved over to ManyChat; a company that empowers businesses to create Facebook Messenger bots for marketing, sales, and support. He is helping them build their first-ever sales team.) 

Even during tough times, like with the Covid lockdowns, he was able to adapt his strategy, rewrite their sales development playbook, and still ended up with one of the best sales months in the company’s history. 

This article will share how this sales expert builds killer sales teams that get results. 

At the time of this interview, Covid happened. But what’s important to note is that even during such tough times, this business survived and flourished.

So if your sales team isn’t in the best space at the moment, try to apply what you read below.  

You might need to throw out your entire playbook and rethink your sales process to get results.

What do your SDRs need to close more deals and pivot to fit in with the ever-changing sales industry?

Here’s what to apply…

Have Constant Communication with your SDR Team

Lucas explains that the number one thing you need to do is keep in constant communication with your sales development representatives

He would constantly communicate with his SDR team and discuss the current climate. 

It’s important to ask your sales development reps what their current clients are saying. Then you need to discuss what their main objections were. 

This kind of “brainstorming” and open communication from the bottom up led to the next step. 

For sales teams to be successful they have to work as a team, from the interns to the sales development team, to the managers, and then to the VP of sales. 

In the interview, he calls it a “team win.”

Chuck out the old playbook if it’s not working and try a new strategy…

For example, Negotiatus initially tried to continue with its pre-Covid strategy, and it DID NOT WORK

So what did they do?

They changed their tactics. 

Negotiatus had to re-think their ideal customer and change their core value prop. 

How did they find a strategy that worked?

Negotiatus is a highly driven data organization that bases its decisions on data.

Therefore they decided to run tons of A/B tests on pretty much everything to figure out what would work. 

They tried one industry, and one message, and then tracked the efficacy of the prospecting

Eventually, they were running 5 or 6 tests side by side. As they didn’t have time to waste, they needed to run quickly and find new industries to target. 

So if your company’s playbook isn’t working, try to think of other effective ways to win more sales. Perhaps you need to rethink your target audience, or maybe your prospecting list isn’t ultra-refined. 

You might need to try other outreach methods. If you’re currently using cold calling, maybe try LinkedIn outreach

Do some testing and see which method gets the best results. 

Re-thinking the biggest value you can offer

One of the biggest reasons Negotiatus’s sales team was able to break into new industries was that even though they were selling the same software, it came down to pivoting on their value prop. 

Negotiatus had a unique advantage in the sense that because they are a purchasing and payment solution, they have a vast vendor network. So they decided to start pitching a PPE value prop. 

Why?

Because at the time (Covid pandemic) PPE was impossible to find, BUT Negotiatus could get it for their clients. 

Initially, their SDR teams were getting a ton of no’s from prospects because of costs, so  Mikelinich’s exact words were: 

Screw it, let’s offer PPE for free, for right now and see what we get.”

By changing their value prop and offering businesses free PPE, which many companies couldn’t get, they were in actual fact helping businesses cut costs. 

They were offering something that decision-makers could not say “no” to. 

It was a no-brainer. 

But you’re probably wondering, “ Negotiatus is a software company.

Why offer PPE?”

It came down to Negotiatus giving them a better way to purchase and pay.

Being an aggregator, they brought thousands of vendors across hundreds of customers that they had relationships with, thus giving them a massive network to tap into. 

So Negotiatus would take a business’s hundred suppliers and aggregate them into one catalogue, giving them complete control of their purchasing.

They asked vendors where they could get PPE for their clients, and it was constant communication with their salespeople each day to help these businesses. 

Not only was it about getting conversations for their sales funnel, but it was also about helping the community. 

This would eventually open the door to further communication with their prospects. 

And guess what? 

The plan worked, as later on, qualified prospects did purchase Negotiatus’s services. 

The takeaway from this section is: It all comes back to what value proposition is.

What can you offer your prospects?

Sometimes it’s not always about your core value offering but rather about getting creative and thinking of other ways to serve your potential clients. 

How Lucas manages his SDR team for ultimate success.

Step 1: Set up assignments

SDRs from front to back were doing a combination of account assignments, as well as prospecting

Step 2: Keep accounts fresh each week

They were getting around 250 accounts a month and were encouraged to prospect 40-50 accounts per week to keep their sales pipeline fresh. 

Step 3: Allow autonomy

SDRs were also allowed autonomy because Lucas found that if they just did account distributions, the SDRs were not reaching their full potential.

Step 4: Be creative and encourage the use of different outreach channels.

The SDRs were also encouraged to use various outreach channels to contact qualified leads. For example, Negotiatus is a very high-call organization (i.e.: cold calling), but they also got creative with messaging through various social media platforms, like Linkedin, Instagram, and even Facebook. 

Step 5: Humanize all messages.

Once the SDRs reach out to leads, they use personalization. The messages are not just automation templates but real-time messages that show that they are human too.

For example, by using Instagram and Facebook as outreach channels, the SDRs are exposing themselves as well to prospects. It’s almost as if they were saying,

Hey, I’m also on Instagram. Check out my profile.”

It’s not just a professional behind a LinkedIn page or a company behind an email. 

This type of sales engagement is received really well, as prospects are not typically used to getting contacted via these platforms. 

Step 6: Do not give up

One of the essential steps in any lead generation strategy is not to give up.

A commonality that the best SDRs share is that they don’t give up after contacting two or three sales-qualified leads. Even if they strike out and don’t close deals with the first set, they will continue reaching out to different accounts until they get a yes.. 

And do it again.. And again… And again… Until they are closing deals

Some pro tips for sales organizations:

Listen to the prospect

What sets the good SDRs apart from the best SDRs is that the great ones come across as harmless. 

There is no aggressive, sleazy sales pitch.. Instead, it’s about planning, asking some really intelligent and targeted questions, and then coming back with relevant value ads.

Listen to the prospect…

Listen to what their pain points are…

And then shape your pitch to what their needs are. 

Create an exciting company culture

Also, remember that an SDR should be happy, positive, chipper, and not all doom and gloom. 

So if you are managing an SDR team from an office space, it’s easier to create this exciting vibe between the teams.

With Negotiatus, they have a red carpet that leads to a whiteboard, and whenever an SDR gets a new lead or sale, they walk up the red carpet and add their lead or deal to the whiteboard. 

This company culture is vital for managing an SDR team; all the SDRs feed off each other’s energy and enjoy the competitive challenge. 

If you manage a remote team, this can be more of a challenge, but as a team lead, remember to try your best to create a fun work atmosphere, even if your team is working remotely. 

Never underestimate personalized messaging.

Lucas mentions in the interview that they did struggle a bit with cold email outreach at one point. 

Their open rates and response rate metrics dropped quite drastically, so they decided to cut the number of emails sent in a day and instead focus on a few personalized emails. 

So instead of sending out 30 emails a day, they would only send 15, for example, and make sure they were highly personalized. 

How do you add in personalization?

Well, it takes time and research. You might find a video of your prospect on YouTube playing guitar, and then you could mention that in your email. 

Always have a custom intro, as this will capture the prospect’s attention, making your email stand out from the thousands of spam mails.

You could also add a “PS” section at the end for some extra info or a clear CTA.

This changed their outbound game, and they did receive more replies and open rates.

But what they also did, was when they did get a response via email, the SDRs contacted the prospect on multiple channels. 

For example, they would text the prospect, become part of their LinkedIn network, and DM them. They didn’t just stick to follow-ups via email. 

This upped the benchmark and took the prospecting process to a new level.

Some of the more competitive SDRs used:

  • Cold calls
  • Instagram
  • Linkedin
  • Facebook
  • Cold emailing

“Going after one channel no longer works. You need to pivot and use various outreach channels.”

How to deal with “not interested.”

You get different types of “not interested” responses when outbound prospecting.

If someone says: “No thanks, I’m not interested.” 

You can conclude that that specific person is not interested, so you might try to reach out to someone else in the same account who might be interested.

But if someone says, “We are not interested.” You could conclude that their entire department is not interested in what you have to sell.

If this is the case, allow that account to go stale for a few months and try again at a later stage. 

Maybe after 3 -6 months, and try to engage someone else in that account.

Even if you do engage with the same person a few months down the line, the chances are that they probably already forgot about you, so there is no need to remind them that you reached out to them previously. 

Frequently, the prospect/ account executive who was not interested ends up wanting to meet six months later to hear more about the product. 

Why does this happen?

Sometimes you just get the person at the wrong time, and when you try again at a later stage, the timing is correct. 

Example:

Maybe you are trying to sell hiring software, and you reach out to someone, and they are not interested, but then a few months down the line, they have lost a great employee and are desperate to hire someone new, they will most probably take you up on your offer. 

How to hire top performers for your SDR team

Some SDRs are born, and others are trained before they enter the workforce. Lucas mentions how he has had great success with college athletes as SDRs. 

Why?

Because they are self-disciplined and have the sheer will to win, SDRs with a competitive spirit go a long way in the world of B2B sales. 

The number one thing that Lucas looks at when hiring a new SDR is coachability.

How do you know if someone is coachable before hiring them? 

Lucas suggests doing a mock phone call or even a few calls. The first thing that you will notice is that the new SDRs pitch will be terrible, as most of them have never sold anything in their lives. 

They then pause the interview and ask the candidate to try to say their pitch in a way suggested by Lucas or the HR manager. 

If the SDR candidate can implement this feedback, it means that they are coachable, which in turn means that they will be able to adapt to any changes in real time

Where to find top SDRs

There are different hiring platforms where you can find candidates. Lucas mentions that LinkedIn is one of the top platforms that he uses to find new hires. 

They have also used Angellist but have not had a ton of success on that specific platform.

What should the training process be like?

From day 1, get your new SDRs on the phone. Make them call 20 -30 people, as this will help them understand precisely what the role entails.

But during this time, they will also do intense training, like getting on mock calls with their managers and getting the product demo to understand what they are selling.

From day 1, there should be a ton of resources and support. 

It’s also important during the onboarding process not to give new SDRs the best prospects on a list because they are still learning.

Wait until they are adequately trained before handing over outstanding qualifying accounts. 

How to help new SDRs handle rejection

Remind them to have a short memory and thick skin.

They need to jump back on the horse again and remember that there will be good days and bad days in the sales cycle.

They just have to keep going and not give up. 

Which CRM tools make the process easier?

Negotiatus uses Salesforce to keep track of all their re-engagements. This streamlines the process and keeps their SDRs on top of all their inside sales and sequences. 

There are various tools that you can use. Check out our article on Pipedrive vs. Hubspot for some tools. 

Extra resources for managing an effective SDR team

Never Split the Difference, a book by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz 

The Sales Acceleration Formula, a book by Mark Roberge

Sign up for our course – Cold Email Outreach Masterclass (https://course.quickmail.io/)

The Takeaway

One of the most important assets that any SDR manager can have is the ability to assess the current climate and change directions to thrive. 

Remember, transparency is key with regard to communication between team leaders and SDRs, as well as trying to create an energetic company culture between employees. 

Train your SDRs from day one, and don’t give up. 

 You’ve got this…

P.S If you feel like you don’t “got this” hop on a free 15 minute sales strategy call with Salesbread. We would love to help you find more qualified sales leads. In the past 24 months we have generated close to 7000 qualified sales leads for our clients. 

Have a question? Get in touch.

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