Why SDR Talent Management Is So Important

Jul 20, 2022
Collin Stewart

As an outbound sales leader, optimizing your sales development representatives (SDR) talent should be a top priority. Our latest podcast guest shares how managing sales talent impacts the growth of your entire organization. 

Julian is the VP of Revenue at Predictable Revenue. He has spent 10+ years in sales and has a passion for seeing his direct reports reach their full potential, helping them achieve what they once considered “impossible.”

Julian joined the Predictable Revenue podcast to discuss why SDR talent management is so important, including how to better manage your sales talent based on their unique skillsets, and how SDRs can put themselves on the path to promotion.

How to build a career path for the SDR role

Sales talent management begins during the hiring process, from the SDR’s very first interaction with the organization. Make career growth a part of those early conversations by sharing what a typical career trajectory looks like at your company.

Show the candidate what a career in outbound sales could look like, from SDR to AE and beyond–but remember not to guarantee anything. Be transparent about the fact that these are just examples, and you can’t promise a specific promotion or timeline.

Instead of promising a new SDR will be an AE in six months, outline what they need to do to set themselves up for success in the role. 

Ongoing development as an SDR

Those in a sales management position should check in with their direct reports through quarterly development plans. But don’t just set those plans and then forget about them; check in regularly at your weekly or biweekly meetings.

The most important thing to understand about your SDRs is where they want to go (and why). Do they want to advance into an AE position or sales management? Or are they hoping to eventually transfer to another department like marketing?

If an SDR on your team is unsure where they want to go, you can start by asking questions and providing opportunities for them to try out different tasks.

Once an SDR knows which path they’re interested in, work with them to develop a plan for advancement. Then have regular conversations about their short-term and long-term goals to check in on their progress.

Choosing the right SDR for promotion

If you’re lucky enough to have a team full of great sales talent, it can be tough to choose who to promote into what role. The most common path is SDR to account executive (AE), but there are often limited AE positions available. 

The key factor in your decision should be the SDR’s goals. Do they want to be a career salesperson? Are they committed to moving up in the outbound sales department? Or are they more interested in management or another department? 

Of course, you’ll also need to consider how well the SDR’s actions align with their goals. They may have great intentions, but if the results aren’t there, they shouldn’t be promoted.

The different paths for SDR advancement

Not every SDR wants to become an AE; some may be more interested in sales management. Being a sales manager requires strong leadership skills, and not every SDR is suited for it. 

If you have a direct report interested in a manager position, it’s your job to help them build those skills and identify any gaps they need to fill before reaching that next level. Walk the SDR through specific scenarios they might encounter as a manager.

Likewise, if you have an SDR interested in becoming an AE, start bringing them onto more calls and practice roleplaying. Prime them before the role becomes available, so when a position does come up, they’re ready to make the jump.

If an SDR on your outbound sales team is interested in another department, reach out to the leader of that department. Facilitate a one-on-one meeting between the leader and the SDR so they can discuss possible paths for advancement.

The impact of sales talent management on SDRs

Taking a genuine interest in your SDRs is one of the best ways to build a positive team culture. 

Be transparent with new hires from day one, and let them know you’re available to help facilitate their growth–whether that’s within outbound sales, another department, or another company entirely. This level of honesty facilitates trust, and in return, your SDRs will reward you with a greater commitment to you and the organization. 

Sometimes the best path for an SDR is at another company. If that’s the case, then wish them well and don’t try to force them to stay. When you’re looking out for your team’s best interest, they can sense that. The result is a much better working relationship on both ends. 

How talent management benefits the organization

Moving sales talent into a position that suits them isn’t just better for the individual, but the organization as a whole. People perform better when they love what they do; they’re more optimistic, motivated, and make better decisions.

Internal transfers in particular are great for collaboration and cross-department knowledge sharing. If an SDR moves into marketing, they bring their outbound sales perspective with them, offering new insights and ideas to the marketing team.

That said, you should aim for a mix of both internal and external hiring. If you only hire internally, you’ll miss that outside perspective. The higher in the organization, the more critical those external insights become–otherwise you can end up in an echo chamber of the same ideas. 

Mistakes to avoid in sales talent management

A common mistake outbound sales leaders make is creating a new role for someone just to retain them. The problem with opening a role for one specific person is that there are no clear expectations, which ultimately sets the individual up for failure. Wait until a real role opens up or help the SDR look for an external one.

Another sales management mistake to avoid is retaining an SDR even when they’re not a good fit. It’s never easy to let someone go, especially if they’re a nice person or hard worker, but if they’re not getting results then you need to make that tough call. 

Likewise, stay objective with your promotions and don’t advance those who aren’t getting results. If someone isn’t a great fit in outbound sales, transition them to another role.

How to put yourself on the path to promotion as an SDR 

Both sides of sales talent management start during the hiring process. If you’re interviewing for an SDR position, ask lots of questions to understand what your career path might look like at each company. Be wary of those that promise specific promotions or timelines.

You can also ask questions about sales management, and how your manager will help facilitate your success. What support will be available to you internally as you grow in your career?

Once you’ve started as an SDR, the best thing you can do is become a top performer. Give it your all, put the work in, and when an opportunity for advancement comes up, you’ll be next on the list.

From SDR to AE

If you know you want to advance within outbound sales to an AE position, start planting those seeds early on. 

Ask questions about account management, start reading about it on your own time, and follow thought leaders in the industry. Take the initiative to develop your skills for that next level. Be objective about what areas you need to improve and then work to build those specific skills.

If you’re not sure what direction you want to go in yet, volunteer to take on extra tasks that come up, whether in outbound sales or another department. Be the first to raise your hand to help. The more parts of the business you’re exposed to, the better chance you’ll find something you enjoy.

Final thoughts on managing sales talent

SDR talent management is a critical part of outbound sales leadership, not only for your team but for the entire organization. Managing sales talent promotes greater collaboration, better working relationships, and faster growth. 

If you want to connect with Julian to learn more about sales management, reach out on LinkedIn

Need support optimizing your outbound sales team? Click here to book a free discovery call! Our coaches can help manage the hiring process, reorganize your team structure, and provide an outside perspective to help accelerate your growth.

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