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  • Matthew Haller

Having Issues with SDRs? You’re Not Motivating Them Properly


I was attending a conference in Salt Lake City where I had the opportunity to chat with some sales leaders from LucidChart, the performance visualization platform, about some of the challenges companies have when scaling their sales organizations. Throughout the conversation, one comment really stuck out to me:


“Our SDR’s don’t feel valued - they say they want to be “real” sales reps.”

That comment got me thinking about the way that we prioritize and value SDR’s - after all, the reason sales reps can be so productive is if there is someone out in front of them, clearing the path of bad leads and unqualified opportunities so the rep can have access to the right buyers with a legitimate budget.


Yet, when we look at the way we both talk about SDRs (“your team just needs to deliver more sales qualified leads to the reps”) and pay them (in the Bay Area, SDR comp starts at around $65k base with perhaps another $10k-$12k bonus), it’s clear that we’re sending them a strong message:

"Your job is to serve the sales reps, and your work isn’t worth as much as theirs."

I’m certainly not an organizational psychologist, but that isn’t a particularly motivating message to young sellers. Instead of valuing their work and showing how they can provide value to sales organizations, we treat them as disposable resources and make them feel as though the only way to be valued at work is to be a “closer.” From there, all kinds of issues emerge - including SDRs that quit for the first “real” sales job offer they get, which leads to turnover - and that’s expensive.

So how do we need to think about SDRs differently? We’ve laid out the three biggest activities companies can take when working with SDRs to motivate them and retain the best talent:


Pay SDRs for Performance: Most companies are able to track leads back to individual SDRs - and see how the SDR’s contribution impacted a deal. When they uncover a great opportunity (and I mean above and beyond great), provide them with extra incentive compensation. After all, they’re watching your AE’s make a killing on their work, and the more connectivity you can provide between your SDRs and your AEs, the more performance you’ll get out of both.


Create an SDR Competency Model: SDRs see their roles as stepping stones to sales roles, and they need to see a realistic path in order to be motivated in the long run. By creating a competency model that shows SDRs the skills and competencies needed to succeed at sales, you’ll be able to motivate your SDRs to develop faster because they will understand the performance milestones required for promotion.


Provide a Path for Growth: In addition to the competency model, companies should consider letting experienced SDRs work leads further into the sales process and providing opportunities to shadow reps dealing with customer objections and opportunity closings. Not only will these opportunities motivate SDRs and get them excited about the next step in their careers, but it also shows them the skills required to be an AE - reducing the ramp time and dreaded productivity loss when promoting skilled SDRs to primary quota carrying roles.


Being an SDR is challenging work - and often is thankless - but it doesn’t have to be that way! By treating SDRs as a vital component in your sales machine, you’ll be able to not only create a more cohesive sales organization, but you’ll also grow your sales organization organically - laying a strong foundation for future growth.


Are you looking to establish an SDR program or tweak the program you already have? Our consultants have worked with many SDR leaders to compensation programs that work - so get in touch today!


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