Why Your SDR Team Is Leaving Money On The Table

When your SDRs are at optimal performance, it drives improvement throughout the sales process.

Account executives have a pipeline full of warm leads ready to close, leaders find forecasting easier, and your prospects enjoy interacting with you. The problem is most SDR teams aren’t running at full output. Organizations are wasting their SDRs’ potential.

Let’s discuss two ways you can make your SDR team more productive:

Are SDRs unsung heroes?

The way we talk about sales development has to change.

The work SDRs do at the top of the funnel is essential for a smooth sales process and increasing the number of deals closed-won. They’re the face of your brand when customers first interact with you. SDRs are also the AEs and sales leaders of the future.

So why do most companies not give them the management, coaching, attention, and respect they deserve? And why, instead of fixing it, are we making it worse?

Let’s talk about the four essential components for sales development success:

  • Skills: Ensuring SDRs have all the training they need to succeed
  • Structure: The right people in the right roles
  • Strategy: Doing the right things
  • Systems: With the right technical infrastructure

Bringing an SDR manager into your team helps you improve in all these areas.

What is an SDR manager?

Creating an SDR manager role isn’t just finding your top-performing SDR and giving them a vanity title. The role of an SDR manager is incredibly nuanced and complex.

Your SDR manager should have responsibility for improving the following areas for your development team, including:

  • Hiring and onboarding new SDRs
  • Sales messaging and cadences
  • Selecting new tech tools

Your SDR manager will also work with your SDR team on a day-to-day level, helping them get better through coaching. It will be the SDR manager, rather than the VP of sales, that SDRs will go to if they need help. They will also represent the sales development team to the rest of the company.

Why you need an SDR manager

An SDR manager makes your SDR team perform better, which has an effect across the team. When your SDR team can hand a higher number of better quality leads to your AEs, they will close more deals.

You need someone who lives and breathes the day-to-day success of your SDR team. You want a manager who has the time and bandwidth to get to know each SDR on a deeper level and understand what makes them tick. When you have this, SDRs improve faster.

Having an SDR manager boosts retention for your SDRs. It also frees up time for your VP of sales who probably doesn’t understand SDRs anyway.

Who do you choose?

The critical success factor for an SDR team is the person who leads it. A team can have the best tech stack and a world-class playbook, but without the right person in place driving the SDR team forward, they don’t achieve the results they need.

Rather than hiring someone externally, you should try to promote from within. Someone who has lived the life of an SDR in your organization will always be better positioned to drive quick improvements, especially with coaching.

These are the qualities to look for in SDR managers:

  • Passion: Do they have that unshakeable drive to turn SDRs with raw talent into consistent achievers?
  • Expertise: Can they demonstrate innovative thinking around sales development?
  • Accountability: Are they process-oriented? Can they carry the responsibility of running operations at the top of the sales funnel?
  • Emotional intelligence: Does the individual demonstrate the soft and interpersonal skills necessary to manage a team?

Promoting from within

If you feel that you must promote from within to fill your SDR manager role, look for someone in your existing SDR team who fits the profile above and appoint them on an interim basis. Make it really clear what they need to do before you can promote them to a full-time manager. Is it time or results-focused – or both?


A mistake many companies make is promoting an SDR to become team lead or player-coach, but expecting them to do both jobs, and not reducing their quota.

A manager can’t spend 40% of their time coaching reps and still hit their individual target as if nothing has changed. Something has to give, and it’s usually the coaching as it doesn’t pay the bills. Make sure you reduce their quota by the proportion you want them to spend managing reps.

SDR managers – your competitive edge

Bringing in a world-class SDR manager could deliver the marginal gains you need at the top of the funnel to get ahead of your competitors. If you don’t have one in your team, you could be leaving money on the table.

To introduce the next section on onboarding, I want to tell you a quick story.

I was promoted to an SDR manager role at the age of 22 at one of the world’s largest fintech companies. They were not short of resources or expertise. However, I was the first person to hold this role, so they were just as new to it as I was.

I asked for some management training as I wanted to master the fundamentals – running a 1:1, attracting top talent – those essential parts of running a team. Unfortunately, the company sent me on a sales managers course where I learned about account planning and compiling reports. Sure, it was all exciting stuff, but not relevant to me at all.

The SDR manager’s role should be regarded as unique and onboarded as such. The same is true for new SDR reps – and currently, in many companies, onboarding is failing them.

Why onboarding is essential

When you take on a new sales development rep, you need to get them up to full production as quickly as possible. Currently, the average time it takes to ramp up a new SDR is three months, while the average tenure is 15.4 months. You get 12 months of total productivity, so every month (or week) you waste is money left on the table.

A comprehensive, efficient, and ongoing onboarding program is the key to getting the most from your SDRs during their time with you. A strong onboarding process also makes your new starter feel valued as a team member and can reduce staff churn.

Onboarding is broken

In so many companies, onboarding just doesn’t work. It takes too long to get the rep to full productivity, and the company loses revenue as the rep ramps up. Plus, reps don’t have the right skills or confidence to be effective when they hit the phones.

Why? Because onboarding programs aren’t tailored to the needs of SDRs. SDRs aren’t like other salespeople; they need to be treated uniquely, especially if you want them to be the face of your brand.

The main problem is that onboarding programs spend too much time building a rep’s product knowledge. So when a new rep hits the phones, they lead with their product, initiating feature or function-based conversations. They haven’t been shown how to lead with the value or the problems their solution solves.

Another drawback is that after three months, the company declares that onboarding is done, and that’s that. The issue is, reps only retain 15-20% of what they learn in onboarding if you’re lucky. Most get forgotten. Onboarding cannot be ‘set it and forget it’. Companies need a strategy for ongoing training and coaching.

Companies don’t devote enough thought to onboarding SDRs because they don’t think it’s worth it for someone who will only stay for 15 months. The problem with this approach is that you could have 15 months of top performance from your SDR rather than 15 months of wasted potential. Companies need to recognize the ROI of onboarding.

How to onboard better

Designing an onboarding program isn’t easy. When devising your SDR onboarding process, think about your goals. Where do you want your SDRs to be when they finish each part? Here are four tips for better onboarding.

1. Start with industry

Instead of beginning with product knowledge, go back a step further and start with the industry you operate in.

On the program I designed for the fintech company, day one for new starters was ‘What is a bank?’ We did a deep dive into the industry, talking about a day in the life of a trader. When you lay these foundations, it’s much easier for your new starter to understand when you start talking about trading solutions.

2. Get out of the classroom

Too many onboarding programs are rooted in the classroom. It’s day after day of reps being told the best way to do things. It’s no surprise when their eyes glaze over, and they don’t absorb the information.

We remember 70% of what we learn when it’s experiential – learning by doing. So, get out of the classroom. Make your onboarding as practical as possible. Roleplays are ideal for this.

Instead of product knowledge, focus on building skills that will help SDRs when they start on the phones – building rapport, identifying pain points, and moving prospects on to the next stage of the funnel.

3. Test and consolidate

Onboarding should be the beginning of your new starters’ learning, not the end. At the end of the bootcamp stage, give them a test with an accreditation or certification. Remember, the goal of onboarding isn’t to be perfect. Instead, it’s to master the fundamentals. A test like this lets you isolate and identify the areas you need to focus on in ongoing training and coaching.

4. Evaluate and iterate

You should also be evaluating yourself and your onboarding program regularly. Always look for ways to improve. At the end of the program, make sure you ask your new SDRs to give their opinions on what they thought was good, and what they didn’t.

Tech can help you here too. Use the data in your CRM to find where you can make improvements. How long is it taking new starters to get to full productivity? Are your new SDRs achieving better results than the SDRs were before you implemented the new program?

Think about the impact of your new onboarding program. Does it create long-term, positive changes in the behavior of your SDRs? Is it leading to tangible improvements in results? Your answers will show you if you are on the right track.

Next steps

Here are three things you can do now to lay the foundations for the future:

  • If you don’t have an SDR manager on your team, get a working group together to draw up a job description for your ideal candidate
  • Talk to managers about what they would like to see more of from their SDRs, and recent onboarding graduates about what you could improve for the future
  • Look at technology that can help you coach your SDRs more effectively

Implementing a strong SDR leadership capability and building an onboarding program that sets you up for success is paramount to your sales development efforts. Some companies will be able to manage this internally, but most will need to find the right partner to build out this initiative efficiently and effectively.