Is The SDR Model Broken?

Feb 13, 2020
Author: Aaron Ross

I recently sat down with Collin Cadmus, VP of Sales at Aircall, on a live webinar to discuss an interesting idea: is the SDR model broken? We connected on LinkedIn about this topic, and unlike quota-carrying salespeople, sales development reps don’t focus on closing business. Rather, SDRs focus on moving leads through the pipeline. 

After mastering retail management, Collin entered the world of software sales where he quickly went from being a top salesperson to building and leading large sales organizations. He’s trained over 300 salespeople, generating over $50 Million in recurring revenue, and I wanted to share his expertise with our listeners.

So after turning it over to Collin, we got right into this intriguing idea.

Collin explained that the discussion we were about to have was a “hot topic” for him because it’s something that he’s seen happening over the last five years of his career.

It’s something I talk closely with a lot of my friends who are VPs of Sales, Directors of Sales, development, etc, and I’m seeing a lot of things change in the industry.

Being that the ROI of an SDR and enterprise sales are completely different, he was sure to preface his statement that he was exclusively referring to SMB outbound space with an SDR and maybe a little bit of mid-market; his experience was not within the enterprise space. In other words, he was talking about smaller accounts, transactional sales, products costing less than $1,000 MMR.

Collin’s expertise coupled with Predictable Revenue being the playbook he uses, made for a great discussion. At the onset, Collin said there are people in this space that will say Predictable Revenue’s dead and no longer works. He sees things quite the opposite. In his view, he believes the strategies in Predictable Revenue worked so well that everyone is practicing this theory, which has made it incredibly harder. Literally every SaaS company is following this playbook. The techniques have gotten so popular that tools like SalesLoft and Outreach have been designed specifically to make it easier for people to follow this type of playbook.

And so what has happened, I think is that people have become numb to the cold outreach. Numb to being put into a cadence or a sequence.

Collin went on to say that he believes it has come to the point now that when a buyer gets an email from an SDR they know right away they’re in the SDR’s cadence. They expect to receive another email in two days and a voicemail the next day. This predictability is not the same reaction that people got ten years ago from those types of outreaches. And this predictability has made it harder for the SDR. It doesn’t necessarily mean the model’s broken, it just means we have to get more creative.

Everyone in this space has been talking about personalization customization and we know that we need to be doing more of that.

Standing out from the crowd and away from all the noise, in Collin’s view has changed the role of the SDR. He further explained what changed and why he thinks it’s ultimately leading to what we’re hearing is roughly sixty percent quota for SDRs in the SMB space.

With the SDR role getting harder, you have to get more creative, you have to be better at personalizing or customizing your outreach. The SDRs have to be engaging with people now on Social Media, that’s in mostly everyone’s cadence today. It no longer means making a hundred cold calls and several email blasts to hit the desired result, it’s getting harder and harder for that method to work.

When asked what he thought needed change, he clearly expressed in order for the role to survive, SDRs need to make better money and have more respect.

The role needs to grow. Today if you have four years as an SDR on your resume, I don’t think it’s respected nearly as much as it should be.

Expectations are high and executing is harder than people realize. We’re going to continue watching the data on this evolving subject.

What Does SDR Mean In Sales?

The SDR role focuses on cold outreach. Their job is to reach out to prospects via cold calling or email, qualify the lead, and book a sales meeting. Once the meeting is booked, the lead will be handed off to another salesperson, usually an account executive (AE). 

What Is the SDR Model?

In the SDR model, each salesperson has a clearly defined role. SDRs handle outreach while AEs handle closing. Rather than having one full-cycle salesperson who covers the entire customer journey, each role specializes in a distinct part of the sales process. This allows more experienced salespeople to focus on closing deals with pre-qualified prospects.

The problem from Collin’s point of view is that this model has become so popular that buyers are now numb to cold outreach. When every company performs outreach in the same way, it’s hard to stand out.

How To Fix the SDR Model

Just because it’s become more difficult, doesn’t mean the SDR model is broken. The best way to perform outbound sales isn’t the same as it was twenty years ago. If you want to stand out in today’s crowded market, you need to do things differently. 

The SDR model is no longer based on endless cold calls. Instead, the modern B2B buyer appreciates a more personalized approach. The more customized your outreach, the more effective it becomes. 

For SDRs to succeed in this market, they need to have an in-depth understanding of their customers. Research skills are essential, as are relationship-building and strong listening skills. SDRs are responsible for educating their prospects, crafting relevant messages, and moving qualified leads through the pipeline.

At the same time, social media is becoming a more common place to connect with prospects. SDRs need to navigate different platforms, anticipate the prospect’s needs, and work to stay top of mind.

The Changing Role of SDRs

In the past, an SDR’s only job was to pick up the phone and follow a script. Now, buyers expect more depth in their sales conversations. SDRs need to capture and hold a buyer’s attention and connect with their prospects on a human level.

For the SDR model to succeed, it takes time and dedication. SDRs need proper training, coaching, and a strong playbook to equip them for success. If you need help building your sales development function, reach out here to book a free discovery call with our coaches.

Conclusion

The SDR model may be changing, but it’s still highly effective for generating opportunities and expanding the top of your sales funnel. 

Like any other outbound sales approach, the SDR model works best when you adapt it to suit your market. If cold calls are ineffective at reaching your customers, try email or social media outreach. Train your SDRs in customer research so they can perform more personalized outreach. 

Lastly, don’t forget to treat your SDRs with respect and compensate them well–this job isn’t as easy as it used to be.

For more insight into how the SDR model has evolved and how to make it work for you, listen to the full webinar with Collin Cadmus.

 

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