Over the last two and a half years we’ve seen radical changes in the way people work and interact. Just when things were starting to get back to normal, war broke out in Europe and the global economy headed towards a recession. The pace and volatility of change in the business world is unprecedented. Three months ago companies were fighting for new talent and making huge offers to attractive candidates. Today, these same companies are reducing headcount.
These trends have a profound impact on sales teams, who were accustomed to selling to companies looking to grow at all costs. This is no longer the case. Budgets are very tight and companies are scrutinizing every dollar to make sure it’s being allocated to the right place.
In this business climate, the need for strong and people-focused sales leadership has never been more relevant. As companies continue to cut their tech spend, many sales reps and SDRs are not hitting their numbers, morale is down and layoffs loom. Jeff Cooper of Yotpo says that now is the time for sales leaders to create an internal culture where SDRs can succeed despite the external turmoil.
Here are some actionable tips we learned from Jeff on how to lead your sales development team through tough times.
Create a Team Culture that Empowers SDRs
In a recession economy, sales leaders must find ways to help their teams succeed despite the external difficulties. Sales leaders can’t control the layoffs and other business decisions made by senior management in trying economic times. But they can take actions within their realm of control to help.
It’s the leader’s responsibility to create a stimulating culture that keeps SDRs engaged and drives performance. This culture should be based on making the SDRs’ daily tasks easier, automating manual processes and creating systems that guide workflows. Testing and trying new ideas and tactics, including suggestions solicited from SDRs, can drive better results and alleviate stagnation and boredom. All these steps will help boost SDR performance and job satisfaction, helping teams to retain talent and prevent layoffs.
ROI Inside the Sales Organization
Demonstrating ROI used to be the holy grail for tech sales. Now sales teams are not only competing against competitors, but also for internal budgets and resources within the companies they sell to. This means thinking about how to help your champion build a business case, and making sure your prospect really understand why a dollar spent on you goes farther than a dollar spent somewhere else.
Due to limited budgets, ROI has also become also an important internal consideration when it comes time to renew enterprise software licenses. For sales teams, that means your CFO is looking at user adoption levels for your current tools and tech stack.
Sales leaders must encourage their team to leverage sales tech that can help drive better results. Make sure your SDR toolbox is easy to use and top-of-mind through refresher training or creating a tool-specific playbook. Not only will such steps keep you one step ahead of the Finance team, they’ll also help your SDRs book more meetings.
Storytelling Has Become Storyselling
Gone are the days of the hard ask. Prospects are asking more questions via email or the phone before they feel comfortable enough to book a meeting. SDRs need to stop speaking about their products and start focusing on the challenges that prospects are experiencing. Storytelling is an emerging sales tactic that resonates with today’s prospects, who are doing more research before they agree to accept a sales call.
Adapt your sales processes to this new buyer journey. For a prospect less familiar with what you do, this may mean focusing more on education and providing more benchmarks or best practices. For more knowledgeable prospects, explain why your solution is a better fit than your competitors and what additional value your prospects will gain.
Keeping SDRs Motivated When Tactics Aren’t Working
The key to motivating anybody is to win their trust. SDRs need to feel that their managers are doing everything they can to make their jobs easier. Automating tedious tasks, for example, enables SDRs to book more meetings in less time – increasing their earnings and decreasing frustration. Another useful motivating tactic is to involve SDRs in decision-making or ask them for new ideas. When leaders implement a change suggested by an SDR, they should give the SDR credit and tell the team why that change is important. This will help foster an environment where SDRs feel motivated to contribute to the team’s success.
An additional way to motivate SDRs is to show them the light at the end of the tunnel. Most people don’t sign up to be an SDR for the long term, but rather as a stepping stone to other roles in the organization. Building a “ladders” program with mini-milestones can help keep SDRs engaged and motivated to hit their numbers, because they see an objective path for advancement.
Understand What Really Drives Your Reps
Discovering each SDR’s “why” – their unique motivating factor – is the emotional basis for keeping them driven. This is a question that should be explored with candidates during the interview process, and further discussed once they come on board. Leaders need to understand what intrinsically drives your reps to be successful in their personal and professional lives.
Most reps will say that they are money-motivated. While this is true, money motivation is always founded in a deeper “why.” The money might be needed to provide for a growing family, a new mortgage, or health issues requiring major expenses. Finding and harnessing that deeper “why” is the key to effectively coaching an SDR to be successful.
A by-product of these conversations is that they help create the trust needed to enable open and constructive communication. As SDRs provide feedback and share ideas, it becomes easier to foster a growth mindset and a strong collaborative culture across the team.
Turn Your SDR Team into a Talent Engine
Between the Great Resignation and the recession economy, retaining talent has never been more challenging. In this context, sales leaders should strive to make their teams a talent engine for the other hiring managers within the organization.
Hiring externally is expensive and hiring managers want to reduce the risk of a bad hire. Hiring an experienced SDR who already knows the product is a great way to de-risk that. Find out what positions in other departments (e.g., customer success, partners program or marketing) your SDRs are interested in and what new skills they need to learn. Coach them at each stage of their SDR journey and look for side projects to get them experienced in other disciplines.
Sales leaders need to talk to other organizational leaders and understand the traits and skills they’re looking for. This will help identify potential growth opportunities for SDRs within the organization. Like the ladders program, sales leaders can create a structured program for training SDRs looking to move outside the Sales department.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Leadership Style
The current economic downturn has highlighted the importance of resilient, creative and empathetic sales leadership. Yesterday’s tactics and management style aren’t going to work in today’s business climate. With sales figures down and budgets tighter than ever, sales leaders must go beyond the numbers to understand what makes their SDRs tick and to create a collaborative culture that enables them to succeed.