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SDR Onboarding: Building An Effective Ramp-Up Process From Scratch

Since the role of an SDR is usually considered an entry-level position in sales, many organizations choose to hire people with minimum experience and coach them in-house. 

Yet, with an average SDR tenure of just 1.8 years (and 17 months if we’re talking about the full productivity window), offering a lengthy SDR onboarding plan might seem to be a waste of time. As a result, most newbies would get thrown in at the deep end, forced to cold call prospects after a one-week drill.

SDR Onboarding help

If you want your new SDRs to unlock their full potential and start performing their best as soon as possible, you need to build an effective ramp-up process.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some aspects to take into account as well as a proven plan you can adopt.

The essential elements of an effective SDR ramp-up process

Coming up with an effective and scalable onboarding plan is always a matter of trial and error. You can’t get everything right the first time. Sometimes you might even need to change your plan on the go, depending on whether your new hires can keep up or not, their previous experience, or even personal traits.

This is what happened to me a couple of months ago as I was onboarding our 3 new SDRs. One week into my perfect plan, I realized that we had to adjust and improvise now and then to push the matter through and get the results we need.

That was a valuable lesson that helped me understand the key elements of a successful SDR ramp-up process, be it a one-week onboarding or a full-on professional training.

  1. Consistency and structure. Having a clear onboarding plan along with specific milestones and objectives is a must. This makes the process transparent and consistent, allowing you (as well as your new hires) to keep track of the progress and stay on the same page.
  2. Mentorship. As a manager, be prepared to stay in touch with the newbies daily for the next 4-6 weeks. You can also get other team members involved at different stages. For example, we have one experienced SDR lead the training on calls, another one — on video prospecting, and the third one —  on hyper-personalization.

SDR onboarding ramp up

  1. Communication. Some things that seem obvious to you might not be as clear to your less experienced colleagues. That’s why we have weekly recap and Q&A sessions to address all the questions or concerns as soon as they arise. Make sure to ask for (and give) feedback regularly. 
  2. Enablement. This includes tools and collateral aimed to help the new hires, i.e. ready-to-use templates, scripts, playbooks, checklists, etc. In some industries or roles, professional jargon might pose additional challenges for the new hires. In this case, having some sort of an internal glossary might be helpful.  
  3. Hands-on training. Let your trainees start applying what they have learned as soon as possible. It’s best to come up with practical tasks to be completed every day, starting from the 2nd week. This might be list cleaning, template writing, or direct outreach, depending on the current stage of training.
  4. Self-education. It’s vital that your new hires don’t stop learning and improving once they become full members of your team. That’s why you should build a culture of continuous learning within the team (and organization in general) and encourage your SDRs to get creative, experiment, and develop the necessary skills.
  5. Track and measure. This doesn’t mean you need to set a quota for your new hires from day one. But having some KPIs to track the progress throughout your onboarding is necessary.

Easier said than done, right? Well, not if you have a battle-tested, step-by-step plan you can follow.

 

6-week SDR onboarding plan

For me, effective onboarding means giving the new team members just enough time, information, and support to figure out the basics and let them learn by doing. Even if they lose a couple of leads along the way, the experience and knowledge they acquire in the process are more valuable than a dozen of workshops or playbooks.

That is why I’ve tried to find the happy medium in my plan, offering the right amount of theory and practice for both first-time sales reps and professionals to easily get the ball rolling. 

SDR onboarding plan

So, here’s a high-level plan for our 6-week SDR onboarding process.

 

Week 1 - Introduction

The first week of our SDR onboarding process is fully dedicated to helping the newly hired SDRs get to know our company and team as well as provide them with the tools, resources, and knowledge they can rely on down the road.

As a result, the typical intro week agenda looks like this:

  • Company intro, values and beliefs introduction
  • Tech setup - walk through the company-wide & role-specific tools
  • Knowledgebase - overview of the key SDR playbooks and other sales-related materials
  • The basics of the role — team structure overview, roles, and responsibilities, the standard SDR process
  • Buyer personas, stakeholders in the sales process, company ICPs (industries, locations, titles)
  • Product/brand introduction — demo, key competitors, pricing

 

Week 2 - Touchpoints deep dive

Next, the new hires dive into the basics of sales engagement and the types of touchpoints used in the process. Each day, we explore a different outreach channel, including its specifics, possible use cases, best practices, workflows, etc.

  • Email - types, examples and use cases, key elements of an effective email
  • LinkedIn steps in Sequence - types of LinkedIn touchpoints and best practices, social selling basics
  • Calls and SMS in the sequence - use cases and best practices, proven scripts, calling workflow
  • Video prospecting - use cases and best practices (playbook and samples), tools 
  • Other sales channels overview - SMS, Whatsapp, Direct Outreach - use cases, best practices, examples.

At this stage, our new hires should be ready to dip their toes into the outreach process by writing email templates, recording videos, shadowing the calls, etc.

 

Week 3 - Inbound sales process basics

Once the SDRs are aware of the available channels and how they work, we can niche down to focus on their more limited use case. And what could be a better starting point for a new SDR than working with inbound, warm leads?

During this week of training, we cover the basics of the inbound sales process, including:

  • lead qualification
  • existing sequences
  • response handling
  • meeting booking

It’s also at this stage that our trainees start actively applying the acquired knowledge in practice and should get their first responses. They research the incoming leads, add them to the existing sequences, engage with them using various channels, etc.

 

Week 4 - Outbound sales process basics

At this stage, our SDRs get familiar with the cold outreach process:

  • use cases, best practices, toolset
  • list building, cleaning, enrichment 
  • sequence structure and multichannel approach

Similar to the previous week, newbie SDRs should be able to actively participate in the outbound sales process, from researching the leads and finding their contact info to coming up with email templates, and actually doing the outreach.

 

Week 5 - 6 - Advanced outreach tactics and tools

We usually spend the last couple of weeks working on the regular SDR activities since there’s already some quota they have to achieve within the second month in training (usually 50% of the regular quota).

On top of that, we dive a little deeper into the advanced sales and sales engagement strategies. Some of the topics I’d recommend covering are:

  • Creative outreach strategies and hyper-personalization at scale
  • AI in sales development - use cases and tools
  • Sales automation - low-code and no-code tools
  • Personal productivity - recommended hacks/tools/resources

The onboarding process ends with a wrap-up call — a 1-on-1 meeting with the mentor/SDR leader where we discuss the feedback, introduce the quota for the next month (usually up to 80% of the regular quota), and prospective career opportunities.

SDR onboarding ramp up again

Conclusion

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to SDR onboarding. The process might differ from team to team, or even from person to person within the same organization. Some of your new hires might require more hands-on exercises. Others, more experienced ones, might want to focus on products and ICPs instead. 

The key to creating an effective SDR onboarding process is to never stop optimizing it. 

It’s very unlikely to find the perfect approach at the first attempt. After all, every person you hire comes with their unique experience, skillset, and personality. So, make sure to review and adjust your onboarding process often tailoring it to your needs and objectives.