How to Hire a Rockstar SDR

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Author photo: Kimberlee Meier

Kimberlee Meier


There’s a massive difference between an average sales development rep (SDR) and a rockstar SDR.

While some SDRs are in sales for the paycheck and bonus, others have a genuine interest in the industry. They’ve got a drive for sales that will help your company scale and drive your business to succeed.

But most importantly, a great SDR is amazing for your customers. They bring the right clients onboard by speaking their language, and they’re curious about their companies.

These are the types of sales reps that you want on your team.

So how do you find them? Below are seven ways to make sure you’re hiring a rockstar SDR.

But first, let’s take closer look at your sales hiring process.

Think of your hiring process as a sales funnel.

Start looking at hiring as you do with your sales funnel. All of your candidates will be at the top and your hires at the bottom.

You only want the best sales reps to make it to the bottom of your funnel, much like you only want to do business with good clients.

From the moment you start looking for a new SDR to actually hiring them, you’re looking at a two-week turnaround… minimum.

Don’t wait too long to hire new SDRs. Make sure you give yourself enough time to hire the right people, so you aren’t hiring out of desperation.

The downfall of the modern SDR:

No matter how much time and effort you invest in an SDR, chances are you’re only going to be able to reap their benefits for a short period of time.

Let’s get real. The average SDR will only be with your company for about 14 months:

And for the first time in the modern sales world, companies are starting to hire SDRs with less experience than ever. The average SDR now has, on average, just 1.3 years of experience.

With all of these numbers, it's more important than ever to be hiring the right SDRs. You need to hire sales reps who will add something tangible to your company (even if it's just for a short while).

Because when you’re trying to scale your company, you’re going to be glad you put the effort into hiring a great SDR and not just anyone that walked through your door.

Let’s take a look at how to hire a rockstar SDR.

1. Write down who your ideal SDR is.

We all use ideal customer personas to drive marketing strategies. But when was the last time you wrote down your ideal SDR persona before stepping into an interview?

When you open up a position for an SDR, chances are your inbox is going to be flooded with a ton of CVs. So, how do you pick the right one?

Make a list of traits that you really value in your current team members. And then add traits that make a sales rep stand out from the crowd.

This could be coachability, a curious attitude, a competitive (but not aggressive) personality or just a genuine interest in succeeding in the sales industry.

Don’t get distracted by a fancy diploma or a one-off deal that an interviewee has closed, either. If they’re talking the big talk, make sure they can back it up with traits that you genuinely want to see someone on your team have.

Once you get a persona mapped out, it’ll be easier to weed out the candidates that aren’t worthy of making it down your hiring funnel.

Learn more about how to build and train a stellar sales team:

2. Hire someone who wants to know more about your company.

This. This is super important.

Think back to all the interviews you’ve had with potential hires over the years. How many of them had a genuine interest and knowledge of your company?

Hiring someone who wants to know more about your company means hiring someone who has shown a genuine interest in moving forward with you. And that’s mega.

It also shows that they’re curious; a trait that’s underestimated in the sales world. Curious SDRs are constantly learning, asking questions and trying to improve in their role.

Think of them as sales rep sponges. They’re always soaking up new ideas, learning about new products and finding new ways to sell stuff.

And who doesn’t want that kind of enthusiasm floating around the office?

Image for post Hire the best.
Pro-tip 👇

Hire the best.

Learn how to hire a rockstar sales team with this sales recruiting handbook.

3. Hire someone who can hold a conversation.

This seems like an obvious point, but you really need to hire an SDR who can articulate themselves in a conversation.

A rep who can’t articulate well won’t be able to sell your product well. Simple.

Luckily, you can test them on this in your interview. Ask them to sell you something that they’ve recently purchased. If they’re having difficulty with this point, just ask them to sell you their brand of mobile phone.

And if they struggle, it’s not a good sign. Good SDRs think on their feet and jump over roadblocks with ease.

If they’re stumbling in front of you, they’re probably going to stumble in front or prospects too.

4. Pay them what they’re worth.

A lot of companies want to pay the bare minimum for SDRs. And guess what? They’ll only ever get the bare minimum in return.

High-growth companies have more growth than others because they invest in products and people that will get them to where they need to be.

This includes SDR hires. Just look at how much “high-growth” companies are willing to invest in their SDRs:

We don’t mean you have to throw mega bonuses and salaries at every SDR. But, you should be flexible when it comes to their salary.

What you’re paying them is going to be a drop in the ocean compared to what they can add to your business's bottom line:

One way you can avoid a rockstar SDR leaving your company for another is to top up their compensation, at least during the ramp-up period.

That way, if you’ve got an ace SDR on your team, they’re less likely to leave you for a competitor. You’ve consistently paid them what they’re worth, so there’s no reason for them to jump ship.

5. Only hire an SDR who’s actually interested in sales.

We know what you’re thinking: obviously.

But you would be surprised how many people are in sales who aren’t actually that interested in their job.

You need to hire SDRs who see themselves in sales for the long term. Maybe not the rest of their lives, but for the foreseeable future at least.

And the way you weed these SDRs out is by seeing if they have the drive and a genuine enthusiasm for the sales industry.

Does your rep show ambition and initiative in landing deals? Awesome, that’s a great trait. Or do they show a genuine interest in bringing the right customers into your pipeline? Or maybe they hate finishing in second place.

These are all good indicators that an SDR is genuinely interested in sales.

Ask your potential hire about the last time they found themselves in a sticky sales situation… and how did they come out of it on top? Their answer should show enthusiasm for their job, and for the industry.

If it doesn’t, they’re probably not that invested in this job.

6. Hire someone who is able to learn.

This is massive, especially for startups.

A lot of sales reps who are newbies, or who’ve worked for big companies, might not have a honed set of skills.

Either they haven’t had the chance to improve yet, or they’ve been thrown into a room with 100 other sales reps and been lost in the crowd.

But the ability to be coached and molded into a better sales rep is essential if they’re going to help your company grow.

A rockstar SDR will take your feedback, make smart adjustments to the way they sell, and soak up the culture of your company.

An SDR who isn’t coachable will find it hard to take constructive criticism and struggle when the company pivots and makes changes.

Ask yourself, which SDR would you prefer on your team?

7. Develop a benchmark for new SDR hires.

You should link this up with your ideal SDR persona, but creating a benchmark for SDR hires will save you a lot of time when it comes to the interview phase.

It doesn’t have to be difficult, either. There are loads of tools on the market right now that can help you figure out if an SDR is right for your company before you spend your time interviewing them.

Pull your top sales performers out and take a look at their traits and sales figures. From this, you should be able to set a benchmark that’ll help you build a survey you can send as a pre-qualifier to potential hires.

This can help uncover any traits (good and bad) that can sometimes be missed in a traditional 1:1 interview.

Tools like The Predictive Index can help you find out if someone works well on a team, takes feedback well, or is a good fit for your workplace culture:

A survey is also a good way to find out any underlying information about a potential hire, without putting them on the spot.

They’re much more likely to open up about what kind of management style or workplace they prefer in a survey rather than in a high-pressure interview.

Hire a rep who wants to actually work for you.

There are lots of ways you can tell a good SDR from a bad SDR. But if you want a rockstar SDR on your team, you’re going to have to search a little harder.

An awesome SDR will have a curiosity, drive, and coachability that will be noticeable in your first interview.

Hire someone who wants to know more about your company. Someone who you can see having the same curiosity about every prospect in your pipeline.

A great SDR can make your company millions, so make sure you're investing in the right person.

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