I’ll give it to you straight — making the transition from an end-to-end sales process to an SDR-AE model isn’t easy. It requires a significant investment of time and resources, two things we never have enough of. The key is to stop thinking of this potential transition as a process or operational improvement, and think of it just as that: an investment. And as with any investment, before you take the plunge, you have to spend an ample amount of time assessing the advantages.
That being said, I’m a believer in the SDR-AE model. But, just because it worked for our business, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for yours. If you’re currently evaluating whether or not to make the migration, let’s walk through what I love most about it — and where we got caught up along the way.
At Fundera, after a few months of intense growth, and a strong feeling in my gut that my AE’s time wasn’t being used as efficiently as it could, I started exploring what it what take to migrate to an SDR-AE model. For those that don’t know what that means, SDR = Sales Development Rep, aka the people who identify the quality of a lead, and AE = Account Executive, aka the “closers”, or people who work with those leads identified as higher quality.
Given the “marketplace” nature of our platform, and the tendency of our users to shop, we thought the SDR-AE model would be a perfect fit. And, luckily, after implementing the process, we were right. Here are three successful changes in our sales process that we can attribute to the SDR-AE model:
We effectively embrace growing demand
Our intense increase in inbound demand had our sales reps struggling to carry all the deals from start to finish. By giving sales reps specialized roles, it helped ensure our customers were getting the best possible service, and were matched with the AE best suited for them. It also gave each member of the team more focus and, together, we’ve been able to seamlessly manage growing demand while minimizing our lost opportunities.
We assign roles based on skills and strengths
Not all sales rep are alike. I love getting to play to my team’s strengths and talents. Some excel at closing, taking deals through the finish line, while others are great at getting to know customers, and qualifying leads. Getting to see my team in roles where they’re utilizing their distinctive skills is rewarding as a manager, but more importantly, I know they’re happier getting to work where they shine.
Our efficiency is at an all-time high
Everyone wants to make their sales process more efficient. The SDR-AE model is a surefire way to do it. As each rep has responsibilities in a specific part of the process, they get to know those responsibilities well, which increases their effectiveness and moves customers forward faster.
Now, these are benefits my team and I are enjoying, but only after making many mistakes throughout the transition, and learning from those missteps. Be prepared if you make this investment, you will have your own set of challenges along the way. To help make your transition as smooth as possible, take a look at our three biggest challenges and how we resolved them:
The Challenge: It’s easy to define the job description for an SDR and AE, but it is going to take some time for each sales rep to focus on what their specific role calls for. Since all the sales reps started by having their own deals – which were at varying stages in the sales process – there was no way to instantly implement the role-specific responsibilities. It was a process.
The Solution: We had “transition period,” and this worked pretty well. During this time, our sales reps closed out their existing deals, while familiarizing themselves with their new roles, and as all the existing deals closed, they were able to solely focus on the new challenge ahead.
The Challenge: Our goal with the SDR-AE model was to increase revenue. But, in the beginning, revenue took a bit of hit. A lot of deals fell through as we were transitioning, but as we began to identify where the problem spots were, it helped us build a better sales process.
The Solution: We used lunch-and-learns to build out flowcharts to make sure every part of the process was outlined. This teamwork approach to make sure “no stone was left unturned” made a real difference. We dissected the larger issue of SDR-AE handoffs into smaller components, and resolved these smaller issues individually, which helped us move faster towards a streamlined process.
The Challenge: We quickly realized revenue loss was due to an inefficiency in the handoff process we had sketched out.
The Solution: We had originally thought handoffs would be scheduled for a later time. But what we found, especially when dealing with our customers who are busy business owners, that it was best for the handoffs to happen immediately. I’m not saying this is the exact solution for everyone — but it’s about understanding how your customers operate, and what will end up working best for their schedules. Secondly, we had to work to make handoffs seem less robotic. We had to develop a customer narrative, so each client got the feeling of a tailored experience, and had an understanding of why they’re switching hands. With the business we’re in, trust is the hardest thing to earn, but the most important important thing you’ll need, and we needed our customers to understand why, after opening up to one person already, they were being introduced to another.
From our experience, the benefits we found after switching to an SDR-AE model outweigh any of the challenges we faced in implementation. In fact, I think it would be naive to approach the process thinking you won’t have hiccups along the way.
Don’t worry about the bumps you might hit, think about the long-term effect of this decision on your sales process. If you can confidently say this model will solve the existing challenges your team faces, then you should go for it. If you find yourself facing similar challenges to us, just remember the light at the end of the tunnel: happier reps and customers, increased bandwidth, incredible efficiency, and what we all want — more deals closed faster.
Tom Sauer is the Vice President of Sales at Fundera. Fundera is an online marketplace that connects small business owners with the best funding provider for their businesses. Prior to building Fundera, Tom held sales and leadership positions at Livingsocial and Yodle.