- Setting SDR metrics starts with defining your approach — inbound or proactive — to determine the right goals. When outsourcing the SDR function, you need to help your agency understand how they can help, where you fit within your market, and which types of accounts you sell to.
- Aurelien Mottier of Operatix gets on the same page with new clients by defining key terms and emphasizing the importance of lead quality over quantity.
- The ramp-up time for an SDR depends on whether they are focusing on inbound or proactive leads, and the time frame for each function differs based on the nurturing process and training workflow.
Whether you’re building out the SDR function for the first time or fine-tuning your processes, it can be challenging to know what to measure, what goals to set, and how to achieve those goals day in and day out.
As CEO and Co-Founder of Operatix, Aurelien Mottier has seen firsthand how the right SDR metrics can make or break a pipeline. By providing incredible outsourced SDR teams, Operatix accelerates growth for B2B software brands by choosing the right approach and understanding how their clients fit into their market.
In an insightful Growth Month presentation facilitated by Growth Genie Founder and CEO Michael Hanson, Aurelien walks through key questions to build an SDR strategy, how quality leads lead to higher conversions, and what to strive for when setting your SDR metrics.
- Ask the right questions to set the right goals
- Defining your terms
- Ramping up SDRs
- SDR: outsource or in-house?
Ask the right questions to set the right goals
Ready to build your SDR team? Before you can focus on the right SDR measurements, you first need to identify your goals and determine your strategy. In his work at Operatix, Aurelien asks new clients several key questions about their businesses to help determine their paths forward.
1. Is your approach proactive or inbound?
Your sales outreach strategy will heavily dictate how your SDRs spend their time. Aurelien says that with proactive outreach, SDRs have a list of the accounts and a clearly defined Ideal Customer Profile. From there, “We’ve got to create our own luck.”
With a proactive outreach strategy, it’s the SDR’s job to find the right people, engage with them, and nurture conversations until they can compel prospects to set up meetings — becoming Sales Accepted Leads (SALs). Aurelien defines a SAL as someone who has engaged with a salesperson, wants to meet with them, and has accepted a meeting invite.
With an inbound approach, Operatix clients typically provide a list of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). The range of possible sources for MQLs is quite wide — and sources can indicate varying levels of interest and quality.
High-quality MQLs, for instance, often come from lead generation through software downloads or sign-ups for a free trial. These sources tend to indicate warmer interest. Other leads may have provided their contact information to enter for a giveaway at an event or downloaded a lengthy whitepaper, and they may not be truly interested in the product or ready to buy.
This variance means that SDRs like those on Aurelien’s team need to first qualify the need. SDRs can then pass truly qualified leads onto the client’s sales team.
2. What is the disruptive nature of what you’re selling?
Consider your product. Is it a commodity product that seeks to replace an existing budget line? In the B2C space, for example, this might look like selling someone a better cell phone or water bottle than the one they already have.
In the B2B space, your prospects have the necessary budget for these commodity items. Your SDRs and sales team will need to convince prospects to replace what they already have.
If you have a truly disruptive product, you are bringing something new to the market, so it’s not as simple as convincing the buyer to replace what they already have. You will need to take prospects on a multi-buyer personal journey.
Instead of a straightforward appointment-setting approach with one or several people, disruptive products need to take an account-based approach to influence lots of people in the organization.
3. What kinds of accounts do you address, and what is your average deal value?
Your account types and deal value can affect how your SDRs approach the appointment-setting process.
Depending on your product, you may address enterprise accounts with an average deal value of $1 million to $3 million. Or you may primarily deal with mid-market accounts and small-to-medium-size businesses, with an average deal value of close to $15,000 per year.
The types of organizations you interact with demand different appointment-setting strategies and they play a role in finding the right SDR fit.
Bonus: What language do you need your SDRs to speak?
While the question itself is straightforward, multilingual requirements can increase the complexity of your SDR needs.
The resulting rules of thumb
Once Aurelien has answered those questions, he can start to set key SDR metrics. He assumes approximately 20 working days in a month for a full-time, dedicated SDR.
When focused on qualification (rather than also demo-ing) with an inbound approach, he expects an average of around 300 to 400 MQLs monthly or a net of 15 to 20 new MQLs per day.
For a proactive approach, the rule of thumb for a full-time SDR is to generate an average of 10 to 12 SALs per month. Historically, this number was closer to 15 to 16 SALs monthly, but Aurelien has found attendance rates since the pandemic to be a bit lower, especially due to the decrease in physical meetings.
Defining your terms
In addition to understanding his customers’ business goals and sales approaches to determine SDR metrics, Aurelien notes the importance of being on the same page with his clients regarding key terms.
For example, some clients provide a list of hundreds of what they consider “leads,” but the list is made of contacts who aren’t leads at all. “We’ve got to be careful about what we call a lead,” Aurelien says. “It’s almost like trying to agree on the dictionary so we can speak the same language.”
A key part of this defining process is the strength of a prospect’s intent, which connects to their lead source. Understandably, higher levels of intent — typically from lead sources like trials or software downloads — are correlated to high conversion rates. But MQLs who are fishing around or leads who have aged might convert at two to three percent, worst-case scenario, Aurelien says.
Yet for these inbound-focused clients with lower-quality lead lists, his SDRs would likely convert at a higher rate with a proactive approach instead — more like 15 to 25%.
“We’re better off actually turning something proactive with a specific list of accounts that we want to engage with,” Aurelien notes. “Create a message where we can create the demands and actually go in front of those people.”
Quality is king. If your generated leads have weak interest or low intent levels, your conversion rates will be lower even if the list was longer. And those conversions are what counts.
Ramping up SDRs
When bringing in new SDRs, whether in-house or outsourced, it’s important to have realistic expectations for their early performance. And the metrics for an SDR differ based on the type of prospecting they’re doing.
For proactive outreach, Aurelien typically expects to see four to five booked meetings in the first month with a client, six to eight in the second month, and 10 to 15 from the third month onward. He emphasizes that these expectations are focused on meetings booked since the timeline between booking and attending the meeting can vary regionally.
This ramp-up timeline takes into consideration the many factors of a nurturing process. “It’s like running a farm,” Aurelien says. “Before you can collect your fruits, you need to plant the seed, [then] you need to water … You may need to go back two, three, or four times to water it a little bit more … and eventually you get your fruit.”
SDRs can expect to have anywhere from five to 15 contacts with a prospect before booking a meeting. But since you can’t have all of those touches take place within a short span, the process takes time.
With an inbound sales approach, in-depth product training contributes most to the ramp-up process for new SDRs. The keys to doing well at cultivating inbound leads are understanding competitors and knowing your product inside and out.
After that training process takes place, inbound-focused SDRs can quickly be considered up to speed in as little time as a week.
SDR: outsource or in-house?
Aurelien notes that many organizations opt to outsource at first and eventually bring the SDR function in-house. They might seek out an SDR agency like Operatix that services other clients in their niche since their expertise can lead to quicker sales development success.
The first step for an outsourcing relationship is defining your playbook. Build your strategy together, outlining your goals and key SDR metrics. The playbook then becomes a valuable conversation starter with your board to ask for more resources to close more deals. Outline your current output and how that would increase with the outsourced SDR function.
The playbook also serves as a guide if and when you decide to bring your SDR role in-house.
Aurelien recommends looking for a vendor who has a “build and transfer model.” In other words, if you outsourced a high-performing SDR for a certain amount of time and want them to come work for you, ideally the vendor would allow them to transfer in-house.
If you’re starting by outsourcing SDR, use that relationship when you’re short on time to assess what needs to be done and to get going. Once you’ve defined the need and started to see the increase in output after six to nine months, you have a business case to prove the need for the outsourced SDR function.
“Do we want to do it ‘cheaper ’[in-house] but we have to deal with the HR, the cost of recruitment, and the tech stack?” Aurelien asks. “Or do we want to leave it to the outsourcer?”
In his line of work, Aurelien sees more and more companies inclined to outsource. And because of the difficulty of the market, many are becoming more respectful of outsourcers rather than abruptly cutting off outsourced workflows to build an empire.
Each company is different, but it can be wise to not keep all one’s eggs in a single basket. For example, an organization might outsource specifically proactive prospecting and keep inbound processes internal.
At the end of the day, build your SDR strategy around what’s important: knowing the market and knowing your product.