I spoke on a panel last week about perfecting the SDR <> AE relationship put on by the Enterprise Sales Forum. It's a topic who's time has come (probably a long, long time ago…)

One of the things we do far too little of, both as sellers and as managers, is to put ourselves consistently in the shoes of our prospects. If we're treating the role of SDR as transactional internally its going to sound that way externally as well. As a prospect if your first interaction with a company makes you feel like a notch on a bedpost you're not likely to be excited about the next conversation. All those demo no-shows are happening for a reason…

The shift we need to make is to acknowledge that the role of SDR is a professional one and it needs to happen tactically at every key step in the role.

Learn to speak the language. 

We need our SDRs to understand the industry they're calling from, and calling into, so they can bring a bit more to the table. The easiest way to sound professional is by sounding like a professional. Every buyer out there is receiving the same "who should I talk with?" email, going through the same screening, getting the same spin about "a product specialist who will be able to dive into that deeper…" The best cold call I ever overheard was 15 minutes of an SDR discussing how the consolidation and vertical integration of the optical industry made it harder for new players to gain space on the board in the shrinking independent retailer market. If that leaves you scratching your head, it's probably because you don't work in the optical industry. Neither did the SDR in that call, but he booked a meeting with a prospect who eventually bought from us, in part because of that call and how we "understood their industry" and specifically addressed their challenges

Abandon the rigidity of qualifying and don't forget the "Why."

Your SDRs (or you if you are an SDR) need to get out of the cycle of robotically checking the boxes on a BANT checklist, booking a meeting, sending a calendar invite and moving on to the next one. Have a conversation with your prospect and find out why they care about the problem you address. Buyers don't buy because they fit a qualification criteria set – that's what makes it easier for us, not what makes it compelling for them. Check out Sean Burke's NOTE qualification method which focuses on the buyer, not the seller, and forces the conversation to "Why."

Handing over the conversation. 

I've come to hate the clean break handover line, "you'll be talking with my colleague…" I've set this structure up a few times and have been a big proponent of it in the past, but I'm over it. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you're trying to sell to who just built some rapport with a stranger and introduced their company's challenges to. How much better does "I'd love to set up some time for you AND ME to talk with someone on my team…" sound than "I won't be on the call, but so-and-so will be?" The SDR spending five minutes introducing the AE and the prospect breaks the ice and lets the prospect know they're valued and you're taking them seriously. There's a lot of value in saying "it's been great working with you so far, I'll be available if you need me in the future…" 

Transfer the learnings.

Have your SDRs manage the checklist and put their notes in SFDC (if it's not in Salesforce, it didn't happen) AND encourage internal conversations. The devil is in the details and they rarely find their way into a SFDC field. We're seeing movement toward the POD organization where SDRs and AEs are partnered and this goes a long way toward ensuring all the details get shared. I don't think you can do too much of this. Have SDRs book a 15 minute meeting with the AE taking on a prospect they've qualified or encourage them to grab the AE immediately after the call to bring him or her up to speed. Explaining the demeanor of the prospect, sharing something unrelated to the deal that they may have mentioned, any of the details that will help the AE get in the right mindset before he or she is introduced to the conversation will help.

This one goes both ways too. You want your AEs funneling information back to the SDRs as the opportunity progresses as well. Direct feedback about the SDR and his or her process, as well as new learnings about the prospect's industry, often gets lost as we move opportunities downfield. Encourage your AEs to do the exact same things you encourage the SDR to do; book a review meeting mid-way through an opportunity's progression and after a win or lose. Have the AE grab the SDR immediately after learning something new on a call to share it. Encouraging a partnership here and the desire to keep improving levels up your entire sales org.

Make sure the SDR role is a planned path forward.

Most SDRs I've worked with expect that their role is a pathway to becoming an AE. Most sales managers feel the same way. This expectation rarely lines up with execution as well as it should. I hear from colleagues consistently that what usually happens is a rep hits the end of the SDR road and gets promoted to AE. The new AE has heard some calls, played with the product a bit, maybe passed a demo test internally, and then is expected to be hitting full quota faster than a new hire because "they've been here longer." Delivering on the "you'll be in this role for six months to a year," promise is also about capitalized on the huge opportunity to slowly and substantively prepare the SDRs to come out of the gates. Otherwise you've really just got a brand new hire with some basic understanding of the role they're in now.

By Brandon Gracey