What Qualities Make for Good SDR Skills?

Theres a lot of competition in the sales development industry, and companies are hiring like crazy. The problem is that this role is still relatively new, so many SDR leaders wonder what SDR skills will make an applicant good for the job.

There are many videos on YouTube that have been uploaded by people who want to express their opinions about the topics of diversity and inclusion.


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Go through a variety of filters to zero in on the leads you want to reach. This is crazy specific, but you could find all the people that match the following:Ā 

  • A company in the Financial Services or Banking industry
  • Who have more than 10 employees
  • That spend money on Adwords
  • Who use Hubspot
  • Who currently have job openings for marketing help
  • With the role of HR Manager
  • That has only been in this role for less than 1 year
Just to give you an idea. šŸ˜€

The question was originally posted in Sales Hackers LinkedIn group by Justin Dennis, VP of Growth at Breezy HR | @justrum

Im hiring our first SDR for a funded HR startup and I want to know what qualities you look for when interviewing them. What makes the best SDRs stand out? And how can I figure this out during an interview process?

Response #1 Josh OBrien, SDR Team Lead at Datanyze | @thejoshobrien

Personally, I look for people coming from a customer-facing role (Restaurant, Retail, Customer Service) whove dealt with and overcame bullsh!t on a day-to-day basis. Remember these guys are going to be the first ones to be hung-up on, cursed at, and berated. Youll want to look for people who think outside the box and have creativity when it comes to harvesting new accounts. You want these people to be subordinate, but also challenge the way you think while looking for better/more efficient ways to fill the pipe. At Datanyze, we prequalify our candidates with a questionnaire that includes three questions based on: culture, do you know our space, and are you capable of doing the job. After they pass that test, well give them a more thorough assignment that usually takes about an hour. This way, youll weed out the candidates who arent 100% committed to your company. The interview process is where youll be asking questions that challenge them to say negative things (you only want positive people), what are their goals, biggest accomplishments, what has a boss told you that you excel at, etc.

You want salespeople who are creative and will think outside the box. They should be subordinate but also challenge you to find new ways of generating more revenue for your company.

Datanyze prequalifies its candidates with a short questionnaire that includes three questions: do you have the cultural fit, are you know about our industry, and can you perform this job well.

You can weed out candidates who are not committed to your company by giving them a test assignment. This usually takes about an hour.

When asking questions during an interview, you want to ask about their goals and what they’ve accomplished. You also want to ask them for the names of past bosses so that you can call them later on in the process.

Response #2 W. Alex Turner, Head of Sales at PeopleLinx | @walexturner

For me, it starts and ends with PASSION. When I had my first opportunity to build a team, I naively spent the first few hiring rounds spinning my wheels searching for candidates that fit a specific profile, basically younger versions of myself and my high performing friends (former athletes, Type A, willing to take risks, competitive, LOUD, extreme sports, etc). Then I was forced to hire someone very far from this profile, based on their ability to speak another language that was mandatory to satisfy a client. This forever changed my approach to recruiting. Instead of snowboards and footballs, this guy was fashion and pet lizards, but man was he passionate about his gear and those geckos. I knew by the end of Week 1 that this rep would be at the top of the leaderboard month in and month out. I have been very fortunate through this journey to work with so many awesome BDRs, and the one constant through each has been a deep passion for what they do. I have heard such a wide range of passions along the way: snowboarding, cars, lizards, shoes, Broadway, dogs, beach houses, fashion, Elvis, the Eagles!!!!, Opera, World Wrestling Federation. Regardless of what it is, I love hearing about it all. Get them talking, and make it easy to start. When passion comes into their voice and they start getting charged up telling me about it, that is the moment I know I want them on my team. Conversely if they cant sell you on something they love, how can they sell a prospect on your offering?

The first time I saw him, he was focused on his gear and those geckos. He talked about them for a good 15 minutes before we got to the point of why he wanted this job.

I’ve been fortunate to work with many awesome BDRs, and the one consistent thing is their passion. They all have different passions: snowboarding, cars, lizards or shoes or Broadway or dogs or beach houses or fashion (Elvis) – they’re all passionate about something.

I want to have a conversation with them about what they are passionate about. When I can tell that person is excited, it’s usually when I know the potential hire will be good for my company.

Response #3 Sean Kester, Director of Sales Development at SalesLoft | @TheSeanKester

Great question and insights! I am not sure I will be able to add much more to the previous comments other than hire those who fit your existing culture. This seems like an appropriate time to share my favorite quote on hiring: Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Dee Hock, founder of Visa.

Great question and insights!

The best way to hire diverse employees is by hiring people who have SDR skills that already fit the culture of your company.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you get rejected. What matters is that one time when somebody says yes.”

Dee Hock, the founder of Visa, said that when hiring and promoting people for a job position: first hire based on integrity; second with motivation; third capacity (ability to do the work); fourth understanding (knowing what is expected in this role) fifth knowledge (having skills specific to your company or industry), and lastly experience.

Response #4 Trish Bertuzzi, President at The Bridge Group | @bridgegroupinc

Agree with all the comments and LOVE that quote, Sean Kester! I would like to add one more curiosity. You want your SDRs to be curious about the industries you sell into, the buyers they will be chatting with, and all the facets of how they could possibly help them build a better business. What you dont want is a rep who is either bored with their buyers or just plain uninterested in them as people or professionals. If your reps cant learn from your buyers they will never get better and to get better they need to be curious.

You want reps who are curious about your buyers. If they can’t learn from them, then they will never get better.

Response #5 Jim McDonough, VP of Sales at Attend.com | @jmcd42

The only thing I will add is to make sure they are active listeners. This isnt just to qualify leads either. As an early stage startup, think of your SDRs as your eyes and ears into the market. You need these candidates to demonstrate that they can process information and clearly feed it back to the rest of your organization. They should be tremendously helpful to your Product and Marketing teams.

Response #6 David Lyon, CRO at RoungPegg | @lyon_david

Resilience tops my list. Without it, the other qualities become irrelevant quickly and we all know that the best in sales/sales dev are going to hear no more than yes. The best SDRs Ive worked with are usually optimistic people who can quickly grasp the importance of the fact that theyre part of a selling team. Theyre competitive, but against themselves more than others. They understand the natural give and take of effective communication. They know that generating interest and obtaining specific information is the name of the game, not selling. The SDR sophomore slump sets in as people gain product knowledge and pick up the jargon of the folks on the other end of the phone. The best SDRs can adapt to most situations and people, but not everyone will be an a player. That being the case, matching some of the attributes of your buyers to your SDR hires goes farther than you might think. In my experience, your last question is where most sales leaders fall short. Once theyve established the hiring profile, they overlook the value of establishing an efficient process for finding what it is theyre now so enthusiastically looking for. As your company succeeds youll be glad that you invested in a process when you realize that you need to hire 10 SDRs in the next month and another 10 the following month. Below is an outline of the process thats worked for me. You end up spending less than 1.5 hours with each pre-qualified candidate and get plenty of information to make educated decisions. Resume sifting and phone screen (with a specific set of questions) by someone other than you, maybe its HR, a current SDR or one of your average AEs. A pass fail role play with you, by phone of course and having provided them with adequate instructions on how to prepare along with the rules for the 3-5 minute call. 30 minute phone interview with you. 30-45 minute face to face interview with you.

When people gain product knowledge and learn the jargon of those on the other end, they will have a slump in their SDR skills. There are some who can adapt to most situations but not everyone is an a player. With that being said, matching buyer attributes with your salesperson goes farther than you might think.

Most sales leaders don’t understand the value of hiring. They establish a profile, but they fail to find an efficient process for finding what the SDR Skills they need.

As your company grows, youll be grateful that you invested in a process for hiring new employees. Here are the steps I use to make sure it goes smoothly.

  • For each resume, have someone other than you look at it. Maybe its HR or one of your average sales reps.
  • I’ll provide instructions and a script for them to use, and we will do the call over the phone.
  • I interviewed you for 30 minutes on the phone.
  • A meeting with you for 30-45 minutes.

Response #7 Henry Schuck, CEO at DiscoverOrg | @henrylschuck

Hiring a team of SDRs is something youll need to do VERY strategically. Were really proud of the sales team weve built at DiscoverOrg, and can confidently tout that its one of the best SaaS sales teams in the world. Heres a couple of qualities we look for in an SDR: Intellectual Curiosity your SDR should always be asking questions. They should be genuinely interested in developing their skill-set. Coachability this can be broken down into two parts: ability and willingness. The SDR should be both willing and able to be coached. Hardworking or furthermore, the HARDEST working. Articulate they are representing your company, after all. Competitive top dog is a good place to be. Your SDRs should all want to be there. The last thing youll want to make sure of is that the SDR candidate has is a good culture fit. We really like The Canoe Test that the VP of Sales at Pardot introduced us to. Imagine being stuck in a canoe with the SDR candidate. Can you trust them to pull their own weight? And furthermore, will you enjoy that time stuck in the canoe with them? If you wont enjoy spending a few hours paddling around in a canoe with them, you surely will NOT enjoy working with them.

  • A good SDR feature is that they should always ask questions. They are in the sales profession, so they must be interested in developing their skills.
  • The SDR needs to be coachable, meaning they need both the willingness and ability. They must have a good attitude as well as an open mind.
  • Hardworking or more specifically, the hardest working.
  • One of the most important things about any salesperson is that they are articulate. They have to be able to represent your company well during their conversations with potential customers.
  • If you’re a top dog, your sales development reps should all want to be there.

One of the last things youll want to make sure about is that the SDR candidate will be a good culture fit. We really like The Canoe Test that our VP introduced us to. Imagine being stuck in a canoe with them for hours on end, would they pull their own weight? And furthermore, would you enjoy spending time around them while paddling around in your canoe together? If it wouldn’t be enjoyable spending several hours paddling through water with this person, then surely it won’t be pleasant working alongside him or her.

Response #8 Gordon Jen, Regional Manager, Sales Development at AgilOne

To keep it relatively short, I look for these following SDR Skills: Accountability Resiliency Passion Creativity Curiosity In todays noisy marketplace, SDRs really need to dig deep and cut above the standard email and phone call.

  • Accountability
  • Resiliency
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity

In today’s noisy marketplace, Sales Development Representatives need to do more than just email and phone calls.

Response #9 James McDonald, Account Executive at SYNETY

In terms of one attribute I didnt find on here that I believe should be is the strong ability to communicate, but also communicate concisely. Its sales after all. How are they on their elevator pitch? In a way, Clark touched on this hes totally right. Additionally, do they network? Its obviously an email and a call wont do it any longer. Generating a base and leveraging happy customers and those in their networks can be the determining factor in their success or mediocrity.

Additionally, does the candidate network? Its obvious that it won’t be enough to just email and call. They need to generate a base of customers and leverage their networks.

Key Takeaways

When hiring, you should look for these SDR skills and qualities

  • I have had customer service experience in the past.
  • Creativity is the ability to think outside of a box and come up with new ideas.
  • Passionate
  • Motivated
  • Integrity
  • Capacity
  • Understanding
  • Experienced
  • Curiosity
  • Active listeners
  • Resilience
  • Coachability
  • Hardworking
  • Articulate
  • Competitive
  • Culture Fit
  • Accountability

Need Help Automating Your Sales Prospecting Process?

LeadFuze gives you all the data you need to find ideal leads, including full contact information.

Go through a variety of filters to zero in on the leads you want to reach. This is crazy specific, but you could find all the people that match the following:Ā 

  • A company in the Financial Services or Banking industry
  • Who have more than 10 employees
  • That spend money on Adwords
  • Who use Hubspot
  • Who currently have job openings for marketing help
  • With the role of HR Manager
  • That has only been in this role for less than 1 year
Just to give you an idea. šŸ˜€
Editors Note:

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
Justin McGill is the Founder of LeadFuze - a lead generation platform that discovers new leads for you automatically. Get 25 leads free.