Hiring Plan: Sales Development Representative

A framework for hiring Business or Sales Development Representatives (SDR)

BY: Jeremy Lyons

Jeremy Lyons is a Talent Acquisition/Recruiting Operations Leader. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

This article is a framework that can be used by Recruiters and Sales Hiring Managers to plan and execute the hiring of a Business/Sales Development Representative properly. It will provide an understanding of the role and suggested candidate profile for the Recruiters and an interview plan for the Hiring Managers.

Understanding the Role

Business/Sales Development Representative, shortened to BDR and SDR respectively, form the foundation of many sales organizations. These individuals are generally tasked with prospecting for new customers, the cold reachout (by phone, email, etc), and supporting multiple account executives to hit their sales targets. Depending on the company, there can be a subtle difference between the two roles with the SDR responsible for qualifying warm leads and the BDR focused on cold outreach.

They may target a specific region or industry depending on the company alignment. In many SaaS business, the BDR/SDR is not a closing role, meaning they are not responsible for the completion of a sale. Metrics around the BDR/SDR role tend to focus on outreach numbers, calls scheduled with account executives. Common tools that the role uses are CRMs (e.g. Salesforce, Oracle), sales execution platforms (e.g. Outreach.io, Hubspot, Groove, Salesloft, Zoominfo), and conversation intelligence tools (e.g. Revenue.io, Gong, Fireflies.ai).

Plan & Prep

Understand the Sales Style
It is important to understand the How and Why of the sales function. The How is important because some companies may have a preferred method of how they sell or reachout (e.g. email) so a specific trait (e.g. written communication) may have a higher premium than other skills (e.g. cold calling). The Why is important because certain people might resonate more with the product they are selling than others.

Business Model
Business-to-Business (B2B) has a different style and structure when compared to Business-to-Consumer (B2C) sales. It is important, as the recruiter, to understand the difference between the two, a loose understanding of the deal structures, and the differing sales tactics/methodologies.

Align Interview Process to Real Work
One of the best indicators of real life performance is to ask someone to attempt the work. To that end, give your BDR/SDR a real life example like “you see that XYZ Company has received a new round of funding. Write a three email cadence to the CTO to get them interested in our product.” You aren’t necessarily looking for perfection but many sales HMs will be able to tell if the raw material is there for them to work with. If you know that the role will require cold calling, you can even build off that exercise and do a role play during the onsite interview.

Candidate Profiles

Given that this is an entry level role, you will likely be hiring for skills rather than professional experience.  Some skills to look for are:

  • Storytelling
  • Perseverance
  • Coachable
  • Organized

Bonus points can be awarded for prior experience with the sales tools in use.

Interview Plan

Below is an example interview Structure you can use as a template.

1. Intro Call (30-45 minutes) 

Standard review of resume and assessment of soft skills

2. Email Sequence Project.

Send the candidate a prompt with instructions on how to complete the project. Be sure to include a deadline. Once you receive the project, there are two approaches. You can have a Hiring Manager or team member review the project and if it is good, you move the candidate forward. If it isn’t, you may end the interview at this stage. Alternatively the review happens during the Hiring Manager interview.

3. Hiring Manager Call (45 minutes) 

Emphasis of this interview should be to gauge the coachability, curiosity, and perseverance of the candidate. Prior to the interview, the HM should review the email sequence project. A portion of the interview could then be spent going over the email sequence with the candidate and providing feedback.

4. Final Round (2-3.5 hours) 

Behavioral Interview
1 or 2 30 minute interviews. This can be with a current BDR/SDR, or an Account Executive. The goal is to discuss the day-to-day and what the role is like as well as expectations and ways of working with different partners across sales team and broader team (product, eng, etc) partnership and expectations. These interviews are also an opportunity to sell the candidate on the opportunity and build a comfort level with working on the team.

Mock Call ( 45 Min) *If the role will requires cold calling
15-minutes: Coaching session between the HM and the candidate similar to what would happen in the company.  The HM should give the candidate the persona they are selling to and the candidate should be given the opportunity to ask questions for how to approach it. 
15-minutes: A mock call with the HM acting as the buyer or another BDR/SDR from the team.  During the call, the candidate should be evaluated for how they overcome objections and how quickly they think on their feet.
15-minutes: Coaching session between the HM and candidate to go over the call and give them an honest evaluation/feedback.

Sales Leader (30-45 minutes)
This could happen on the same day or another day and dependent on the organization.  At smaller companies, heads of sales groups might want to have a chat with anyone coming into their organization. Consider this interview optional depending on size of company, bandwidth and preferences of sales leaders. 

Example Interview Questions

  • Tell about the last time you were rejected for something you really wanted.  What did you learn from this experience and what did you do to improve for the next time?
  • Have you ever had to cold-call or cold email in a past role?  If so, what was the role?
  • Walk me through how you stay organized.
  • What was the last thing you taught yourself how to do?
  • How might you cover for a coworker who might have missed a key aspect of the job?
  • Describe a time when you were faced with challenge with little to no understanding of how to deal with it. What was the situation, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn for the next time?
  • When approached with a new tool or process that you are unfamiliar with, how do you go about learning more?

Hiring Plan is a series that provides frameworks and templates for use when recruiting specific roles.  

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