The reason for your long SDR ramp time that you hadn't thought about, and what to start doing about it.


This blog post first appeared on LinkedIn.

I met with an Inside Sales leader in London this morning. We were talking about his team of SDRs, his plans for expanding the team this year, and naturally - his own personal challenges of wanting to improve his coaching capabilities. He’s in the process of doubling the number of reps on his lead generation team, and with this comes a number of common challenges. Firstly, the length of time it takes to find good quality candidates who are going to represent him well, and ultimately dictate how successful he will be this year. Secondly, once he has been through the arduous recruitment process, how is he going to get these new blossoming reps up to speed as quick as possible and booking appointments?

For the majority of SaaS companies, the SDR role is typically the entry point into the world of sales. Speaking from my own experience, my first sales role was as an SDR, fresh out of University (admittedly without a clue as to what I wanted to do with my career!). As someone with no sales experience, knowledge, or refined skills, there is huge pressure in getting ‘sales ready’ and creating qualified opportunities as quick as possible. The budgetary strains on a business attached to hiring and on-boarding (particularly in sales) is ginormous. In fact, lets do some quick ‘back of a beermat’ calculations of the cost of hiring and ramp time to start to understand the commercial impact to a business here. Assumptions made on an A-Typical SaaS business selling to mid-market:


SDR salary - £27,000 (London,UK) = £2,250 per month

Recruiter Fee - 20% of salary - £5,400

Time to full quota - 6 months

Quota - 20 qualified opportunities per month

Average deal size of converted opportunities: £10,000

Demo to Deal ratio: 1 in 5

Lets assume that it takes three months to get the new SDR creating predictable meetings, and that this sits at 10 meetings per month (ramp).

Out of ten qualified opportunities they create, this may result in two deals equalling £20,000 for the business.

At half-quota, the SDR has cost the business in raw cost - £12,150 (monthly salary plus recruiter fees)

In missed opportunity cost due to not being at full quota, the business has missed out on a potential further £20,000.

Other less tangible (but real costs) here include managerial time spent during the recruitment process, as well as other more material things such as housing the rep in the office, laptop, coffee/tea etc.

Consider that even after the expected 'to quota' period of six months, that less than 50% of reps will actually hit quota, then the actual cost of missed opportunity is HUGE.

Now multiply the above costs by the number of SDRs you are hiring in one go, and suddenly you have a significant deficit to start paying back in sales.

Ok these sums are somewhat arbitrary, but it paints a picture of the pressures on Sales Leaders to reduce ramp time as much as possible and get their reps contributing. When assuming that half of your reps don’t work out and are let go, the cost of replacing those reps is even more significant.

"WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THIS RICHARD?!" I hear you all scream.

Well the reality is, for most organisations, the on-boarding process for SDRs is designed to create long ramp times. Companies, through sticking with old fashioned approaches have ultimately settled for accepting that it’s going to take 6 months plus to get their reps up to speed and contributing to the bottom line. Companies and their sales departments aren’t changing or innovating to solve this massive company wide problem. They are setting themselves up for failure or problems. Heres why...

Does the following situation sound familiar?

You hire your SDR, you give them their initial product/company training, you cover off the sales skills in the classroom, and then….

You sit them next to one of your reps for two weeks and ask them to ‘listen in on their calls’. The result? The rep sits there for hours on end each day. Listening to voicemails. Listening to awkward receptionists. Making incorrect phone connections. Sales reps fluffing their lines. It’s quite possible that in the space of one working day, the new sales rep may have only listened to two conversations. Furthermore, there is absolutely no guarantee that when that conversation finally does take place, that the call actually goes well or the new rep hears a good job being made by their experienced colleague. Call shadowing sessions become the ultimate game of chance.

How many calls does it take for a new SDR to listen to before they start getting confident and comfortable making dials themselves? 50?100?200? How many days worth of call shadowing does that add up to? This is all BEFORE the rep has started to have their own sales conversations and getting their own appointments scheduled.

Here's the truth. Call shadowing is stale, inefficient, and is one of THE biggest factors as to why your ramp time is hurting you in the pocket.

That might surprise or even anger Sales Leaders reading this, who follow this approach in their sales team. But this is the reality. If you aren’t exposing your reps to lots of conversations and call scenarios early on in their tenure, then you are holding them back. If you aren’t playing the ‘game-tape’ of your top reps and setting the benchmark for success to new hires, then you are putting the brakes on the fast learning curve.

Why wait for a sales conversation to take place in a live shadowing setting, when you could have previously captured those conversation weeks before you even began the recruitment process?

Here’s what to do instead:

Start recording and capturing the calls being made by your SDRs. As many as possible. Its important to get both the good and the bad.
Start breaking down the calls (like game-tape), and give context as to why calls are so great or not so great. Tools like Refract are ideal to be able to do this.

Try and collect calls from as many reps as possible. You want to ensure you are showing different styles, approaches, and behaviours. Sales is never a one size fits all.
Add your best and most successful SDR calls to a repository that is easily accessible by sales reps. This is where they can start to listen to ‘best practice’ en masse. Imagine as a new SDR on week one of starting the role you get to listen to 50 great calls made by peers? Now thats what I'm talking about.

Coach your reps through every step of the process relentlessly. Role-play with them. Measure their ability at handling the same scenarios they have been listening to on call recordings.

I GUARANTEE you, moving to this approach will see you getting new sales reps confident and hungry to start selling quicker. You will have confidence that they are able to handle phone scenarios faster than before. You will find out faster which reps will work out and who won't. You will shave weeks if not months off your ramp time.

Less call shadowing, more listening, faster selling.

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