7 Killer Traits to Look For in a Sales Development Representatives


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Sales Development is your most important department in sales. Believe me? Take a quick glance at the Account Executives on your team that never hit quota. It’s probably because they don’t have the prospecting skills that SDRs excel at. Thankfully, you can get ahead of the curve by hiring great SDRs that can grow into great account executives.

Keeping it real, the SDR is the toughest role in sales. Doesn’t matter if it’s inbound or outbound. Since this is such a crucial recruiting the right people can be a big challenge. Hiring the wrong SDRs can be costly: one bad impression and you’ve burned a potential key account with long term revenue effects. Recruiting any position is difficult but let’s face it, finding sales people ranks in the #1 spot. Sales people are rare and not always easy to identify.

“If you suck at prospecting, you suck at closing.” — Kale Sims, VP of Sales

In order to define and find great SDRs, here are 7 traits to look for when hiring:

1. Creativity

Modern SDRs need to have the creative gene. They will not succeed as programmed robots waiting for the next instruction. Today’s modern selling landscape has evovled in the last 15 years. Back in the early 2000s, sending out thousands of emails asking for a referral was good enough. Now, we live in the world of hyper personalization and educated buyers. Great SDRs must be able to adapt to the changing landscape and think for themselves.

2. Grit

Top SDRs focus on winning — they have an internal quota that is higher than the one set by their manager. SDRs embody the Winston Churchill quote “When you are going through hell, keep going.” Failure is a common occurrence for SDRs. It’s how they deal with that failure that makes up their character. This is a self-driven mechanism with a healthy fear of big failure but a comfortability with rejection. Ask your candidates about a time they failed and what they did because of it. Real sales people will have a good story to tell.

3. Passion

Being a SDR can be draining. On a daily basis, you deal with constant rejection. To be successful, your candidate must have passion for the product and sales itself. Without this, the SDR will fail when the going gets tough. To screen for this, ask the candidate what they know about the product and why they want to sell it. If they’re not sure, or don’t have a satisfactory answer, move on.

4. Coachability

While the SDR role is an important one, it’s not a senior role. This means that you’ll be recruiting people with raw talent, but who need to have their skills honed to be great. On the SDR’s end, this means they must be able to accept and act on feedback. A good way to test for this in the hiring process is to provide them with constructive feedback. Have the candidate perform some type of sales pitch or task. When complete give them feedback on their work. Really pay attention to how they respond.

5. Competitiveness

You can’t be a successful SDR if you are not competitive. I used to look for former athletes for sales and SDR positions because of the competitiveness in them. There are a couple personal backgrounds that generally indicate high potential for sales:

• Did they play sports? College or former professional athletes are often strong candidates for sales development.
• Were they in the military or police? People in these roles succeed in environments that are hazardous to their health. Picking up the phone to make cold calls won’t seem so scary after that!
• Do they come from a competitive industry/company? Individuals who performed in high pressure careers are often good candidates for sales. They have a deep ‘bucket’ for pain and are well educated.

6. Articulate

Speaking skills improve over time, but the ideal SDR should already be at an intermediate level. This role is not for someone with a low level of mental organization. Mental fogginess when answering questions is a big red flag. Rambling answers, avoiding questions, and a high amount of verbal tics all point to low potential. Don’t get me wrong — we can all get nervous on interviews or when on the spot but run them through the pressure cooker a bit. It’s where they are going to live so you need to see how they handle it verbally. You can test for this in the interview by asking the candidate to teach you about something. If they can’t do this with something they are familiar with, they likely won’t be able to explain things to prospects either.

7. Listeners

Great SDRs actually listen more than they talk. The speaking side of the SDR role is asking questions and then providing value. To do this, the candidate should show that they are a great listener. It’s easy to test for this in the interview process. Note if they ask questions to each interviewer at each round of interviews. Sometimes candidates don’t actually have new questions if they’ve been through many rounds. But, if they are meeting a new interviewer, it benefits them to at least ask the same or similar questions. Why? The skilled sales rep can discover opportunities in the different answers of various contacts. Additionally, see if the candidate interrupts you when you answer their questions. If they do, you can be sure that they’ll do this to your prospects as well.

Building out testing for these traits and more during your interview process will assist you hiring great talent. For it to be effective, make each of these traits part of the interview scorecards that each of your interviewers complete. Collaborating around these traits will allow you to review each interviewer’s overall rating and their scoring for these ten traits.

When you find a candidate that embodies each of these traits, you should consider hiring them! It only takes a few great sales people to change the trajectory of your sales organization. This is an invest that yields a strong ROI. Don’t skim with your SDRs you’ll regret it later.

If this all sounds like WAY too much work to take on you should consider outsourcing your SDR positions to someone who is an expert in that area. It allows you to leverage their expertise and cuts down the costliness of the learning curve for you brand.

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Eric Sims
Eric is a Contact Center Outsourcing expert who specializes in helping businesses help their customers. He is the Cofounder & CEO of Leading Edge Connections, LLC, America's #1 fully remote outsourced contact center. He is also the host of Preventing Brand$laughter. A weekly podcast that helps business gain the insights and information to protect their brand from self-inflicted sabotage.


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