How to Set Up an Outbound SDR Process

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First and foremost, congratulations! If you are looking to build a sales development team, this means you’ve developed a product and have seen results.  

Sales Development and marketing will be your two biggest drivers of client interest. In many ways you need to view them with the same lens: analyzing metrics every step of the way to optimize your efforts. Sales Development Reps (SDRs) will have the opportunity to grow within your company and become some of your most loyal employees and best Account Executives (AEs). By leveraging an SDR program, you will give your AE’s more qualified opportunities and have them focusing on what is most important, closing deals.

By setting up a repeatable outbound SDR process, you’ll get the data and insights needed to scale your outreach successfully. It will position your early SDRs as experts who will be able to teach it to new employees and assist in onboarding as you scale.

The Importance of a Scalable Outbound SDR Process

I’m currently the Director of Corporate Sales at Impact Radius, but I started my career as a member of Yelp’s first entry level sales class in their NYC office. In my career I’ve helped launch inside sales for LivingSocial and I helped build Yotpo’s entire outbound sales efforts from scratch. One of the first things I was told by the CEO when I started was, “Investors want to see that we can develop a scalable, repeatable outbound sales model.” It was something I’ve never forgotten and is still a piece of advice I carry with me today.

Most SDR articles will touch on the basics of how to build a team and the importance of the role. I’ll cover the basics but will also take a deeper dive into the necessary actions it takes to get buy-in from your employees and ensure you have a strong foundation. The more uniformed your approach, the better data you’ll receive to optimize your strategy.

Three Necessary Components for a Successful SDR Team:

  1. A uniformed scalable process (optimized by leveraging data and rep feedback)  
  2. Training and constant coaching   
  3. A horizontal line of communication

Welcoming new ideas and caring about your employees’ ideas will create a much stronger working environment. I cannot stress enough how important it is to leverage the talents of everyone around you, regardless of experience or tenure. If you are confident and comfortable in your position, you should never feel threatened by someone else in the organization. Having open lines of communication will only make your company stronger, and your process better. Your reps are on the front-lines. They will be able to identify areas of concern easier than a manager.  

Determine Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

From the start, it’s crucial you have a grasp of the problems your product solves and who your target market will be. This can adapt over time as you get more data, but in the beginning you need to identify an initial target market.

If you are tasked with building the team, I recommend you spend a minimum of three weeks in the role yourself. You should be cold calling, sending cold emails and continuing to figure out where you are having success before onboarding any new reps.

Start by compiling a list of target companies as well as the specific positions within those companies to outreach to. A common misstep of startups is to think they have the solution to everyone’s problem. Start with a narrow target audience and broaden it as you add features and functionality to your product.

Determine your Outreach Cadence /  Leverage a Sales Automation Tool

Gauge the length of your sales cycle. Is your product meant to be transactional? Or are you selling a more complicated product to a higher level client? Knowing this information is crucial to determining the skill set you are looking for in a candidate and the approach needed to achieve success. It will help to determine the number of leads worked at a given time, the amount of outreach per lead, and whether you want to work one contact or multiple contacts at the same time. Knowing these will help give you insights into your top of funnel metrics.  

Build a framework for outreach, and optimize the process as you get more data. Most public sales data reflects that it takes 5-12 forms of outreach before engaging a potential client. I’d recommend always building your framework to exceed that and you can optimize over time.   

Make it a Repeatable Process

How long do you want to work a lead? How many emails are you sending? When are you sending them? When are you calling? Is there a point you punt or look for a new contact? Start with a basic framework and use your data to optimize the process over time.

Build your salesforce reports to have insights into what is working within the process. What is your best form of outreach? At what point are you making headway with a client? How many leads should an SDR be working at a given time? What is the amount of outreach they can do on a daily basis without the outreach becoming generic?

A Uniformed Logging Structure in your CRM  

Uniformed logging ultimately leads to uniformed data. Make sure your outreach tool makes it simple for SDRs to log information correctly with the correct reports built in to gauge performance.

Don’t be afraid to hold a meeting or offer training sessions in order to perfect this process. It can be time consuming, but you want all of the members on your team to know how to operate the CRM properly.

Conceptualize Blueprinting and Prospecting Steps

Ask yourself: What are you looking for before doing outreach? If it’s just company and contact info, you won’t get very far. What are the key things you can identify by doing research that your product can solve for?  

Blueprinting is the stage where you will gain key info on your prospects and begin to understand their pain points. Without this step you’ll have a hard time communicating a real need.  

Order your blueprinting steps so they’re optimized for saving time. Once ramped, your SDRs should take a max of three to five minutes of pre-call research before any outreach to a potential client.  

Account Based Sales

Develop Personalized Templates

Templates are great for building structure. They are also a helping hand in increasing speed, avoiding errors, saving money and presenting your business in a professional manner. You will see an improvement in customer satisfaction by creating templates.

Once you’ve found pain points during blueprinting, leverage personalized templates that match specific pain. Unlike a standard template, a personalized template requires specific additions. A personalized template is simply a skeleton of an email where the SDR will add information they find in their blueprinting, personalizing it to the prospects specific situation.

Keep the subject lines uniformed to see where you get opens, responses and clicks.

You’ll also need an email tracking tool. I recommend using a tool that integrates fully with SFDC, tracks emails, does mail merges and provides the cadence structure for your team.

Example of a Personalized Template:

Hi [insert name],

I was doing research and I noticed [enter pain point you found]. While many companies in [insert vertical] experience this, it can be a real problem because [insert problem that is taking place].

Here at [your company], we’ve helped companies like [client 1, client 2, and client 3] deal with this by [insert explanation of product]. They’ve seen [insert evidence of tangible improvement] as the result of [your product].

Let me know if you have an availability for a call this week and I’d love to show you how we can help you fix [insert pain point].

Best,

[insert name]

By having your reps fill in templates with personal information, they will build muscle memory on what to look for when prospecting. Once they can conceptually understand the need to solve problems for the client, it will put them in a better position to find additional pain points.

Create Content that Aligns with Your Blueprinting

Build out pieces of content that can be easily inserted into your email templates. Essentially, you want to be able to pop information into an email when necessary. This will help make your emails more personalized to each brand and it will also gives you the ability to work at scale.

If you can answer these 3 things in a succinct personalized email, you will see better success:

  • What are you looking for in your blueprinting?  
  • What problems have you identified?  
  • How does your solution solve for it?

By having content ready to be added into your email templates, your reps will save time without missing out on the benefits of personalization.

Build Call Scripts

You should also build call scripts around this data. Start by answering some basic questions: How should you be leveraging data on a call? Are you leading with product features? Are you leading with who you work for? Your emails and calls need to answer the question: “why are you reaching out?” If it is just to sell something, you won’t get very far.

You don’t want to be scripted forever, it sounds unnatural. But you will need a script for the first couple of months to get your team comfortable with the messaging. Once ramped, the structure of your calls should remain the same but the more your reps can make it their own, the more natural and honest it will be.

Build an SDR Handbook

When building your own SDR Handbook, make sure to document every step of your process and use that to create an instruction manual. Afterward, provide digital and physical copies so you always have it on hand.

Your first handbook will undoubtedly change as you build out your team, but start documenting your steps from the beginning. By diligently recording your process, you’ll be able to ramp up reps faster and provide a foundation for future improvement.

Training: The “Why” First, then the “What”

Start training by introducing your reps to the market you are going after. For the prospects they are reaching out to, what information is important? What is their day-to-day like? How are they viewed in their organization? By providing an introduction to your market, your reps will have a better understanding of your solution.

Do not throw them into the fire. I’d recommend at least 2 weeks of training on calls, emails, prospecting, blueprinting, SFDC, etc. You should have lead lists prepared for their first couple weeks of outreach. I would recommend using low quality leads. This will get them in the habit of talking to real people but you won’t be burning opportunities.

Parting Thoughts

There are many moving parts that need to be considered when scaling out an outbound SDR process. View your process and training as a vital foundation for building something great. It is vital that you get enough data before making changes. And when you need to adapt your process, don’t forget to explain to your team why the changes are occurring. It’s okay to share data with them. It will help them better understand the need for change. One of the best things about data, is that it doesn’t lie and sharing that with the team will lead to employee buy-in when you optimize your process. Always lead with why: Why are you making changes, why is this necessary, why will this help, etc.

Most importantly, have fun!  If you aren’t having fun figuring these things out, your team will feel it. You need to be loose and play to your audience. It’s okay to joke with your reps and keep them positive. However, when it’s time to get serious, you’ll have to be an authority figure. The more trust and transparency you provide, the more likely your reps will buy-in. 

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David is the Director of Corporate Sales at Impact Radius. Previously he built sales teams at LivingSocial and Yotpo.