10 Traits To Look for When Hiring SDRs

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Sales Development Reps (SDRs) play a crucial role in the sales process, but they’re one of the hardest roles to hire for. Because it’s often an entry level position, you don’t have the luxury of looking at past sales performance as an indicator of future success.

When assessing candidates without formal sales experience, you’ll need to identify key personality traits and skills that you want on your team. Here are ten traits to look for when hiring SDRs as well as some tips on how to vet for these qualities:

1. Curiosity

Curious SDRs are driven to learn more about prospects, the industry, and selling techniques. They enjoy learning new technologies and are always on the lookout for a smarter way to do things. They’re not content to do the same thing every day for ten years.

At bare minimum, candidates should come into an interview having done background research on your company. They should display knowledge of your product, industry, and competitors. When you ask them for questions, they’ll have plenty of well-informed inquiries.

2. Willingness to learn

The best SDRs put time into learning their craft. They are enthusiastic about improving and are willing to incorporate feedback. Good SDRs are capable of adapting their approach to the prospect.

Watch carefully for signs of arrogance and rigidity. Although confidence is necessary, an unwillingness to learn and grow is one of the worst traits a sales rep can have.

3. A team player

The days when sales teams relied on a few superstar performers are over. Successful sales teams are able to collaborate effectively. To build a team, you need people who work well with others.

Ask candidates to discuss prior work experiences in which they worked as part of a team. If they struggle to answer, that may be a sign you have a diva on your hands. Pay careful attention to how candidates treat everyone at your company, including receptionists. Good team members are friendly to everyone, regardless of rank.

Some companies use the elevator test when hiring: Would we want to be stuck in an elevator with this person? If the answer is an unequivocal no, this probably isn’t someone you want on your team.

 4. Organizational ability

Data suggests sales representatives spend only 39% of their time actively selling. Hiring SDRs with strong organizational skills is one way sales managers can increase that percentage. Organized SDRs develop efficient systems for performing tasks and know how to manage their time effectively. They have more time for sales-generating activities such as cold calling and cold emails.

To assess a candidate’s organizational abilities, take a look at their prior experience. Candidates who worked a job during college have shown the ability to manage time effectively. If they have previous administrative experience, that’s also a plus. Beyond that, look for candidates who are prompt and professional during the application process.

5. Can keep their cool under pressure

Sales is not a career for the easily frazzled. SDRs face more than their fair share of rejection and irritated prospects, so they need to be unflappable.

A job interview is itself a high-pressure situation, so candidates who are able to remain calm and collected throughout the interview should be viewed favorably. You should also consider candidates with backgrounds in other customer service jobs. Someone who has worked for a year as a barista has experience in dealing with grumpy customers.

6. Commitment

With the expense of hiring, you want to hire SDRs who are interested in careers in sales. Don’t assume that everyone who submits an application for your job listing fits that profile. Ask candidates questions about where they want to be in five or ten years. Candidates committed to a career in sales will have done the research and understand the career trajectory.

If a candidate has shown the ability to stick with another activity, that’s a strong point in their favor. Someone who was an Eagle Scout or part of the marching band in college for four years has displayed the ability to commit in the long-term.

7. Confidence

When an SDR walks into a meeting, they’ll need to exude confidence. A young SDR may be trying to sell to senior executives twenty years older than them. That requires confidence and nerve.

To test candidates, ask them to role-play a cold call with you. If they can’t project confidence within this format, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to do so in a real-life sales situation.

8. Drive

Sales expert Dr. Christopher Croner says that “Winning salespeople always share one critical psychological trait, and that characteristic is drive.” Drive is what propels sales representatives to strive for more. It’s what compels them to make one more phone call to a prospect when another representative would have given up. In the best-case scenario, drive will help a talented SDR to ascend to leadership positions within your company.

Ask potential candidates when they’ve had to persevere through adversity or specific situations when they went above and beyond to complete a task with excellence. A track record of drive is a good indicator of future performance.

9. Passion

Passionate people care deeply about everything they do. They don’t settle for second place, and will give everything they have even on bad days. They’re not just here to collect a paycheck. They’re willing to work long hours to close the deal.

When a passionate SDR talks to a prospective customer, their enthusiasm will shine through on cold calls, presentations, and even emails. For success on this job, passion isn’t optional. As sales representative Trish Bertuzzi says, “It isn’t the medium as much as the emotion that matters.”

Look for candidates who can speak about their work with genuine enthusiasm. Give them opportunities to ask their own questions. A candidate who is passionate about the job will ask questions that reveal excitement about the job.

Passionate candidates will also be able to express passion about outside interests. It doesn’t matter what those interests are so long as they are able to communicate that passion. If they can talk enthusiastically about football or fashion, it’s likely they will be able to talk about your products with the same kind of passion.

10. Optimism

Success in sales also requires an above-average capacity for optimism. Optimism can carry an SDR through lean days and weeks. Sales representatives who become discouraged easily are likely to quit—or worse, stay and become disengaged.

Be on the lookout for candidates with a positive attitude, and see how they respond to less than favorable information.  

Though there is no fool-proof method to finding the best SDRs, these skills and traits can act as a good indicator of an SDR’s future performance. Decide which traits are most important to our team and sales process and structure your interviews to find those candidates.

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Marketing Manager @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.