“With pre-COVID sales, the expectation that you would run yourself ragged. And that’s what was celebrated. Now we’re more thoughtful and mindful of the whole person.”
That’s the positive outlook Gabrielle Blackwell is taking for these “strange times” (as everyone insists on calling this year). And I love it.
Last week, I sat down (virtually) with Gabrielle to get the lowdown on the remote SDR onboarding program she built for Infutor Data Solutions. As Sales Development Manager, she knew that the SDRs she was working with needed a more robust onramp to become successful at the company.
So she set out to build that onramp.
Her goal: operationalize her successes and sales best practices to distribute success to the people around her.
In this interview, we break down the most important elements of creating a remote SDR onboarding program.
Let’s jump in.
Remote SDR Onboarding: A Conversation
First question, mostly to satisfy my curiosity. Have you only had positive onboarding experiences as an SDR, or did your drive for creating an effective program come from not so positive experiences?
I don’t think that I’ve necessarily had a negative experience. I think, more often than not, I really haven’t had an onboarding experience — or it’s really rushed through.
I don’t know what a fully built out onboarding program that runs for the first 90 days looks like.
So, I think there’s a degree of resourcefulness that has to come out. The SDRs are going to be the people who are going to let me know what they need to know. Each time somebody onboards, I ask the SDRs: “Hey, what do you want to do? What do you think is necessary? What do you think the gaps are? What else is needed?”
As a collective, we can create something that will be better suited for the next class of people who come in in the future.
I think that’s great. What does the program look like that you built?
I always like to start with objectives first. The whole objective of the onboarding program is for an SDR to be able to be fully ramped.
So, by their fourth month, they’re able to hold a full quota. Month one, this person is not going to be on the phones, really. They’re not going to be e-mailing. More than anything else, I want them to understand where success comes from.
The first week, they’re getting an introduction of Infutor. What is this organization that you just joined? Why did you join? Why does Infutor exist? That kind of information.
Then, we’re going into the accounts. What are the kind of companies that want to engage with Infutor, who find value out of something that Infutor provides? That’s when we’re getting into the ideal customer profile. We’re starting to understand a little bit more about the use cases.
The second week is all about the processes. You have this information. How do you translate that information into action?
Here’s our tech stack.
Here are the templates in messaging that you can use that align to what you learned in the first week.
Here’s how to use Outreach.
Here’s how to navigate Salesforce.
Here are going to be the main things that you’re going to be interacting with.
These are the foundational pieces that you need in order for me, as a manager, to have any expectations for you and for your performance.
And that’s all the first two weeks. You just focus solely on all of that.
Yeah. So, those are the first two weeks. There’s opportunities to shadow. There’s listening to Gong calls. There’s reviewing those calls and trying to identify: what’s an opportunity? What’s not an opportunity? Why is that?
And then, the latter half of the second week or the beginning of the third week, that’s when we start having the rep go live.
Between the two week and the four month mark, what does the coaching look like there? Especially if they’re already ramping up their pipeline in week three or four?
The expectation that I set with SDRs during months two and three is that it’s more observational. We’ve given you a baseline of how to become successful. We understand that that might not be the method that you have in three months.
The coaching looks like one-on-ones once a week. There’s, of course, shadowing experiences with the SDRs. They begin meeting with AEs. They start having their one-on-ones with the AEs to get insights on companies in a region, messaging, and all that.
But more than anything else, it’s like, let’s try and tackle any kind of challenges that would inhibit somebody from attaining quota in month four right now. We’re trying to fine tune their end-to-end delivery of being an SDR during months two and three.
“Understand there’s still going to be so much to learn. By the time you kind of release them into the wild, they’re ready to be on their own.“
That makes sense. That sounds great.
I’d love to talk through those four elements that you say are key to remote SDR onboarding. specifically.
These are your core competencies, feedback, open-mindedness, and collaboration. Some of those are, they’re pretty concrete, and some have a lot more to do with soft skills. So, I’m curious about the balance there.
First up: competencies.
I think competencies help for understanding how you should hire. I’m trying to articulate this point well.
The competencies that are needed here, I don’t necessarily think they are always going to be the same ones that are going to transfer over.
You have to think through: what am I expecting out of the SDRs? In order to hold those expectations and for them to be relevant, what do I need to hire for, exactly?
They have to be resourceful. They have to be strong communicators. They have to be proactive. And they have to be open to delivering back feedback and asking for help. That’s the only way that we’re going to get better.
I tell this to people during the interview experience. I say it every day. I’m like, being able to raise your hand and say, “Hey, I need help with something,” That’s a good thing. That’s positive. I will celebrate when people are shameless about asking questions.
The second element you mentioned is feedback. What does that look like? In a way that is helpful and moves them forward without being micromanaging, you know?
I think, during the onboarding process, thinking about: what are the main things that this person needs to understand? Kind of aligning back to the competencies.
After exposing this person to that content, see if they actually retain the information.
I think that the feedback part on this is more so to do with: are we delivering a learning experience that’s effective or not? I’m not going to put the onus on the SDR. It’s more a reflection on the onboarding program.
I think that’s just something that I saw happen because we didn’t have quizzes and assessments. You have your one-on-ones after they go live, and they’re asking the same questions. What? Didn’t we discuss this?
Being strategic with the questions being asked is also helpful.
The other part of it is something that I highly encourage reps, it’s not on the actual onboarding schedule, is to connect with, one, the top performing SDRs and getting exposure to what their workflows are, why they’re making the decisions that they’re making.
I love that it’s a constant feedback loop. It’s not just between you and the new SDRs. It’s starting them on the training, and then getting the input of more experienced SDRs, and then assessing even how the program is working and getting feedback on the program.
That sounds like it plays into a third element you had mentioned: open-mindedness. I imagine that’s both ways. So, I’d love to hear you talk a little bit more about what you meant by that. Having open-mindedness for the SDR onboarding process.
I think I got so focused on driving results: we need to hit our quota, we need to hit our quota., we need to hit our quota.
We’ve gotten results, and that’s how I get paid, so that’s kind of how I’m motivated.
But I think I used to believe that I had to do everything myself. If it wasn’t my idea, then what am I doing in my role?
It’s important to have an open mind for SDRs, people who are in the seat, saying, “Hey, I think there are some great points, but I also think there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Yes, we’re in a manager position. But at the same time, we can have an enhanced product or program when we get feedback from the end users. That’s really, I think, the essence of being open minded. It’s just being open to folks saying, “Hey, I think this can be better.” It’s being open enough to implement a new perspective.
That’s great. That sounds like a great perspective from a leader, so good on you.
Hope so. I’m working on it. I’m just working on it.
The last element you mentioned was collaboration.
What does that look like as part of the sales process and baking it into this collaborative culture, rather than leaving it up to the SDRs to figure out?
Collaboration is something that I really value.
I think back to the experiences that I had of being an SDR. I learned so much more from my peers than I ever did from my manager.
And I think that’s kind of something that I feel is still a constant. So, you have to ask how to facilitate opportunities for reps to have that ‘knowledge share’.
There are things that we can do. It’s not just the onboarding experience itself, but including the SDR team from the get go. In the interview process. Let them have their own time to talk about the tema and ask questions.
Even during the training, thinking about the processes, and the tools, and things like that, we’ll have the SDRs run those trainings, too.
The tone that gets set with somebody considering coming onboard as an SDR is: “I have a lot of options where I can get help from, and what would be most impactful is not waiting for my manager to figure something out, but to go to the people who have already figured it out over, and over, and over again.”
For something concrete, create opportunities for the new SDR to shadow top reps, too. “Why are you doing this? Why not this? How did you learn that?” Only top SDRs can provide that kind of insight.
Any last thoughts on the positives and challenges of working with a remote sales team? Or remote SDR onboarding?
Pre-COVID, there was this perception that you had to be in the office, you had to have a bullpen on sales. You couldn’t just have somebody in their house by themselves.
There was the expectation that you were just going to run yourself ragged, and that’s what was celebrated.
I feel like the positive has been we’re a lot more mindful and thoughtful of the whole person.
But the biggest challenge has really been around morale. How do you keep people’s morale up and how do you keep them encouraged when you’re not right next to them?
It’s a day by day kind of question.
Thank you, Gabrielle. This has all been super insightful for someone relatively new to the sales world.
Thank you, Brooklin!