Why Sales Leadership at SmartRecruiters Invests Heavily in Training and Developing its SDRs

Collin Stewart, CEO

18 Jan 2018

Training your staff – I mean, really training them – is hard.

Sure, you may have an onboarding process (a detailed one or, in some cases, not) and a person in charge of training new hires. But just having the basics in place, while a step in the right direction, is only the beginning of training and coaching your people. It’s more than welcoming new hires, showing them where everything is, and teaching them how to discuss your product or service.

To really develop and inspire your team takes consistent and nuanced effort.

“It certainly is a lot of work. But, as a manager, you have to ask yourself ‘where am I doing my hard work?’” says Chris Bryson, Head of North American Sales Development at SmartRecruiters, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“Sometimes, we can get bogged down in doing some of the sexier things like going to meetings with executives and discussing the future of the company. But, does that move the needle? Where your time is best spent is always with your people.”

SmartRecruiters’ Training Journey

It all started with a compliment.

An executive at SmartRecruiters complimented Bryson on the activity the SDR team engaged in each day. They were calling like crazy.
But something wasn’t right.

And once the management started digging into the numbers, says Bryson, they started to see trouble. The company wasn’t getting the opportunities we needed. And ‘calling like crazy’ turned out to be 120 calls per week, spread across 4 reps.

“This is not what you want,” says Bryson, with a chuckle.
“So, we started on a journey to find out why we weren’t motivated to call. Why was this the case?”

At first, Bryson thought his team might just need a bit of inspiration. But, as Bryson and his boss Taft Love (a previous guest on the podcast as well) began to build out their reporting infrastructure to analyze where the team was falling, they realized it wasn’t an issue of drive or interest in the job.

The team needed some training.

“So, once we had the reporting infrastructure in place to understand what is going on, we identified two things – reps were having trouble opening up calls. Or, they were talking way too much. On some calls, we had reps talking for 10 or 15 minutes, and not setting up meetings,” says Bryson.

“So, we realized this was a skill gap. And, we realized we needed to put training infrastructure in place to address that skills gap. That’s when we started to get the idea that we needed a framework and an actual certification program for our reps to go through.”

The Framework

When you embark on a project as important as designing a framework for training your reps, it’s easy to slip into designing a lengthy, complicated process.

There’s always more to teach, right?

But, says Bryson, a training framework can, and should, be rather simple. And that’s exactly how they approached the training framework at SmartRecruiters. For all new training topics, regardless of what they are, reps at SmartRecruiters follow a four-step plan.

Step 1: Talk to the team. SmartRecruiters sales leaders discuss what the particular problem(s), identify issues and set specific next steps for training from there.

Step 2: Presentation time. It’s at this point that training is conducted, and homework is assigned.

Step 3: Review. Each rep goes over his or her homework with a manager. And, where necessary, management discusses where people did well, and where there is room for improvement.

Step 4: Analysis. Once everyone has been worked with, leadership takes all the results (from the entire team) and analyzes it. At this stage, they make sure to make the results anonymous so they can pinpoint any trends in the work and highlight overall strengths and weaknesses. From there, management will address what it needs to address.

Training Topics

As mentioned above, this straightforward framework is applied to any and all training topics for SDRs at SmartRecruiters. But, as well know, there’s a lot of potential areas on which to train an SDR.
So, what are some of the training areas tackled by leadership at SmartRecruiters?

1) Opening up a cold call.
“If you can’t get past the first 15 seconds of a call, you’re not going to go anywhere. So, this is a great place to start,” says Bryson.
2) How to transition to qualification.
“The focus here is to teach how to not make this transition jarring. That can be difficult for people, and we spent quite a bit of time on it,” adds Bryson.
3) Building interest in the call and establishing pain.
4) Objection handling.
“In our industry we have a fairly specific set of objections that generally come up, so we review the in depth,” says Bryson.
5) Training SDRs on how to seamlessly loop in customer stories for social proof.
6) The close…and next steps (either setting a meeting for an AE, or a follow up call for themselves).
“When we onboard people we have the run through a mini bootcamp of that. And, those topics come up every two quarters as part of standard review. We also have special sessions on issues like pricing, and how to handle brush offs. We’ll do those every 1-3 months,” says Bryson.

“Our reporting infrastructure allows us to determine how often we need to revisit these topics. It always come back to the data. It will tell us whether we need to coach the entire team on a certain issue, or whether it’s an individual coaching situation.”

Keeping It All On Track

As simple and straightforward as SmartRecruiters has made their training process, when you have a big team of reps, all of whom have aggressive quotas to hit, finding the time to review and coach your team can be challenging.

You don’t want your reps learning, and not not having enough time to implement that knowledge, right?

At SmartRecruiters, training sessions are booked around call times – either at lunch or in the afternoon. Generally, SmartRecruiters holds 2-3 team training sessions per month, each of which lasts between 45 minutes and one hour. That said, as the quarter draws to a close, management may only schedule one session in the final month to make sure reps are full steam ahead on closing the quarter strong.
The company also started hosting fireside chats with its CEO, about one year ago. The fireside chat, hled bi-monthly, is a chance for the SDRs to ask about topics such as varied as product vision or objection handling.

“The reps are required to come up with questions based on the topic of the chat. It’s great for quick learning, and to give reps confidence asking an executive questions,” says Bryson.

“The impact on our team has helped them speak to executives better – more confident and more concise. That’s been great.”

And, ultimately, that confidence Bryson mentions is what this is all about. Yes, the more you train your reps, the better the chance they have at making numbers. And making numbers is a good thing.
But, stresses Bryson, this is also about helping people. It’s about giving them the tools to succeed, for themselves and for the company.

“The goal is to make your people great. In sales development, there is so much opportunity for those folks. So, you should want to create sales people for the organization. You are the steward of that journey,” says Bryson.

“We’re advancing our craft in the best way we know how.”

For more on Bryson’s detailed SDR training methods, check out his recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.