When you stake your business on the quality of your leads, you quickly learn the importance of building out multiple sales roles. With so many irons in the fire, sales executives and account managers can’t waste time with dead-end accounts. And when prospecting starts to become too much for the sales team, quotas and revenues suffer.

At Modernize, for instance, leads are our life-blood. It didn’t take long for us to realize that our process only works with an efficient conversion rate, which means freeing up the time of experienced sales reps so they can focus on quality leads. And that’s much more likely to happen when those leads are first vetted for their likelihood of converting into sales. Enter our sales development representatives.

SDRs qualify outbound leads, evaluating each for its potential. They gather prospective accounts from multiple sources and move them through the top of our sales funnel. And that lets us concentrate more on the leads that count. But it didn’t come all at once. The role had to be carved out of the workload of our existing sales teams, and new hires had to be made. Here are five lessons we learned from our experience building an SDR team.

Make the Case for Your Team

The executive team may not exactly thrill at the prospect of hiring several new employees, especially if it’s to do work that’s already tasked to the existing sales team—unless you can help them see the end-game. In our case, it was helpful to use real-world test results to make our case for our team. We created situational testing to see how an SDR team might function once established. We built a list, created a quick process, and started dialing. We established a contact rate, demo set rate, and close rate. This was the business case we needed to justify creating a SDR team. It also became the foundation of our current SDR process.

Create a Team, Not Just a Role

When we first defined Sales Development as a role, it was important that we hire a robust team, rather than a single employee. The reasoning behind that decision was metrics-based. It’s incredibly difficult to determine the effectiveness of a new role by gauging one employee’s performance. Is your SDR underperforming? Over-performing? Without any historical performance rates to compare, it’s extremely hard to tell. By creating a small team, you’ll be able to understand the impact the role can truly have on your company. Then you can scale from there.

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Bring In Outside Help

If you’re a Sales Executive or Manager, your strengths probably lie in your leadership and people skills—but building a SDR team involves all sorts of process challenges that may feel slightly foreign to you. We tell homeowners not to be afraid to call in the pros, so why should our internal team be any different? That’s why we engaged a professional consultant to help us build out proper SDR practices from the get-go. That way, we could clearly identify and separate their workflow from the rest of the sales team, and rely on defined processes, rather than something nebulous or ad-hoc. When everyone understood their roles and their goals, the team could work much more efficiently. It’s worth the investment to get it right at the beginning instead of fixing bad processes and behaviors later.

Gamify It!

Research indicates that employee engagement and productivity can be significantly strengthened using gamification strategies. We leveraged those positive benefits and built a dashboard in Salesforce that is sent out to the entire team and management at the end of each day. It includes metrics like the number of calls and emails, the amount of demos set, a count of qualified opportunities, and more. The SDRs compete to have the best numbers on the dashboard. This also prepares them for moving up to self-directed, quota-driven positions within the sales team.

Build a Career Path for SDRs

Hitting the phones all day is tough work. If you’re not careful, employee burnout—and the resulting turnover—can sap your team of its vitality and productivity. We’ve designed our SDR role as a training ground to fill out our existing sales team. For instance, our SDRs sit in on every demo they set up. That way, they become comfortable with the sales process and can do it themselves when the time is right—which, for top SDRs, may be as little as six to twelve months. Of course, for this system to work, you need to have a well-articulated hiring plan in place. SDR teams will always have higher turnover rates than other positions due to the work volume, so selecting hires for their resilience, experience, and potential is crucial to retention levels. When you generate a career path for SDRs, the quality of your applicants naturally improves. Meanwhile, you also create a talent pool to fill open positions on other teams.

A well-defined SDR team has benefits that extend well past the sales team. When you fully integrate your SDRs into your company workflow, their actions not only grow revenue but may also increase employee satisfaction and loyalty across teams. At the end of the day, they’re well worth the investment.