The teaming efforts between Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and Account Executives (AEs), can make or break the success of your Sales Development program. You can have a team built of only all-stars but that doesn’t guarantee success. Getting them to work together, effectively, requires a sound strategy.
A quick note before we get too far ahead: Structuring your Sales Development practice with a bank of SDRs, as opposed to having them directly aligned to AEs, is also an option that’s having success. The ideas in this post primarily apply to environments where you have SDRs supporting specific AEs.
Getting SDR/AE teaming right, starts with creating the right environment.
Sales Development leadership (Managers, Directors, Executives) play a vital role in facilitating and managing this dynamic. I wish I could say it’s as easy as just hiring the right people and putting a little thought into how you pair them up. I can’t. The truth is, this is the hard part of building a Sales Development practice. You’re assembling a world-class team, not legos.
Sales Development adoption isn’t only about what AEs and Managers can do to facilitate good teaming. The SDRs themselves also need to be mindful of their role in the process. As an SDR, your “first sale” should be your AE.
The SDR/AE relationship comes down to trust. The sooner the SDR can gain the AE’s trust (the first sale), the sooner things will start to take off.
I also need to emphasize that while SDRs are working to help the AE, AEs need to remember that the SDR is not a secretary.
My hope is that through this post, SDRs, AEs, and members of the Management team, who are new to this model, will benefit from me sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned.
If you’re racking your brain, like I have, thinking of ways in how to help facilitate the optimal teaming dynamic… Keep reading.
- Try to start building the bridge in the interview process – include your AEs when you’re hiring SDRs. Your interview track should already be built in a way that is designed to be inclusive. Therefore, it would only be natural that a member of the sales team is part of the vetting process. Ideally, the AE(s) involved in the interviews would be who the SDR candidate might be working with. If your sales team is already bought-in on the idea of incorporating a Sales Development practice, getting them to participate in the interviews shouldn’t be hard.
- Do not force it on to AEs who are already killing it and growing the business. Instead, leave the resource available to them as a service. They can choose to ask for help when they have certain events or campaigns where they might need extra coverage.
- Leads passed from an SDR to an AE should be treated like gold. It’s far too common where an SDR will provide a warm introduction to the AE after providing the lead with an amazing experience, building on their interest, just to have the AE way hours (or even days) to reply/follow through on the handoff. You can imagine what this does for the buyer momentum, not to mention the inconsistent buyer experience.
- Weekly teaming calls between SDRs and AEs – get it on the calendar. It’s also wise to have a defined outlined for these calls to ensure the team covers all the necessary items and is completely aligned. Otherwise, these calls tend to be canceled.
- SDRs should be familiar with the AE’s account plans – divide & conquer. Most Account-based Sales Development models include dividing the account list where the AE takes the Tier 1 targets and the SDR takes the Tier 2 accounts. It can also be effective having both the SDR and the AE both prospecting into the same account. The SDR should take an active role in the planning process including quarterly business reviews (QBRs).
- Disposition records quickly in Salesforce – Sales Development is a data-driven sales model. Real-time reporting is key for tracking and managing the overall program. Including peoples incentive bonuses. Hint, hint… Look, Salesforce (or whichever CRM you have adopted), in many ways, is the glue to all of this. So, let’s stop making excuses for not making our updates.
- AEs must keep their calendars current – including travel time. SDRs should be able to book Discovery Meetings for AEs (if you’re not using a calendaring application), with confidence that the chosen time is available. I don’t think I need to tell you how rescheduling a time that an SDR was actually able to book with a target prospect, could potentially impact the likelihood of that lead converting.
- Communicate with each other “in the moment” – consistent communication is crucial. Bidirectional Information Transmission is the key to maximizing the program. Just saying “communicate more” isn’t enough. You need to get what’s working in the field back to the SDRs and get the SDR insights to the field, in near real time. This constant exchange is what leads them to become a dynamic and extremely effective team. AEs and SDRs should debrief after every Discovery Meeting, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Copying the SDR on the follow-up email to the prospect isn’t normally enough. Connecting after Discovery Meetings is an important step for providing feedback as you continually improve the process.
SDR/AE teams need more face-time. We focus a lot on the bonding of the SDR team, internally, and not enough on the bonding between SDRs and AEs. Get the SDRs into the field to spend time with their AEs and get the AEs to spend time in the office, side-by-side with the SDR. The best SDR/AE teams do this. Once a year at the Sales Kick Off (SKO) isn’t enough.
Incorporate the AE’s feedback into your ongoing SDR coaching. Often the AEs will tell you things they won’t tell the SDR, so it’s on you to know how to process this information in a constructive manner.
If you want interdependent behavior (teamwork), make their compensation interdependent. Shared incentive compensation models are pretty much a sure way to get the two groups to come together and find a way to win.
I want to encourage you to be the bridge. As a leader, think of it as your responsibility to facilitate the bond between the SDRs and the AEs. Help to create an environment where they can build up a rhythm and work together to grow the business.
3Link Consulting LLC
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