James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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The Moneyball Approach to Hiring Sales Development Reps

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

When you’re looking for sales development reps, the emphasis tends to be on quantity. But if you go for quantity, your lead quality is going to go down drastically. The “quantity” approach came through early iterations of how B2B sales is done. Salesforce used the volume approach: they went out and cold-emailed their way into getting a ton of customers. There was obviously more to it, but the point is that it was volume-driven. A lot of tech companies have used that approach too. In our recent interview with Sahil Mansuri, Vice President of Sales at SalesPredict, he argued that companies should see the volume approach as an earlier part of a chain of B2B sales evolution. Today, you can’t afford to sacrifice lead quality for quantity. And lead quality hinges on the capability of your SDRs.

To Sahil, there are three key factors to look for in the right SDR hire:

1) Intelligence

2) Passion for your industry

3) Career progression

Let’s dive a little deeper into each of those.

1) Intelligence

While it’s not the most PC thing to say, the best SDRs Sahil has worked with are incredibly intelligent.

It would be easy to break down intelligence into a bunch of categories to be rated (social intelligence, etc.), but as Sahil says, “Smart is smart, and not smart is not smart.” It’s very clear when you meet somebody whether they really get it or they’re trying to grasp things as they go along.

Most companies hire great communicators as SDRs, but there are poor verbal communicators who have become world-class SDRs. They can sit behind a screen, and they don’t need to be charismatic and charming and exciting. In fact, Sahil’s hired data analysts to be SDRs and they’ve crushed it.

You might also hire people who have high social IQs and send them to conferences. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one type of intelligence. You need to look at how you want your SDR to thrive and then find people who fit into that mold.

2) Industry Passion

An SDR should be someone who cares about the world of your industry, not just someone who wants to join you because you’re successful, fast-growing, or located in a great city.

It’s always interesting to ask why the candidate chose to apply for the job. They’ll typically say something about how your technology/service is awesome, because everyone knows that’s the right answer.

Then you ask, “What about our tech is awesome?” and pay attention to their response. They either give generic compliments (“It’s cool.” “It’s exciting.”) or they demonstrate recognition of how your business solves an important problem.

SalesPredict hired an SDR who had previously been responsible for scoring leads that came in from Marketing and sending the right ones to Sales. He was a human predictive analytics system, so he knew the value of technology that could automate what he did manually.

3) Career Progression

What are they looking to do after they’re done being an SDR? Why are they looking to get a job as an SDR in the first place?

The answers to these questions will help you identify the candidate’s motivation level—and you obviously want highly motivated SDRs.

SDR Bonus Tip

In our interview, Sahil talked about a cold call he recently received. The SDR was selling a hiring solution, and since Sahil was looking to ramp up hiring soon, he asked the SDR to call back the next month.

But the SDR pushed to get a meeting right then. Sahil realized the SDR was being compensated based on their ability to turn his no into a yes, but they hadn’t bothered to listen to the fact that a) he was genuinely interested in the product, b) he had given a very valid reason as to why he didn’t need it now, and c) he had even agreed to a meeting in a few weeks.

The majority of sales teams try to optimize with this tactic: “As soon as you get that person on the phone, don’t let them go without a meeting.” That’s ridiculous.

In reality, your SDRs need to first figure out if they are actually solving a problem that this business is facing. If the answer is yes, then by all means they should be persistent. If not, they are just being pushy. And nobody likes to buy from someone like that. There’s a fine line between persistence and pushiness.


The best SDRs leave the impression that even if the prospect doesn’t want to solve the problem today, they know who to call if they ever do.

Does that come out in pre-screening or through company culture? Nature or nurture?

The answer, as always, is “both.”

Put a different way, hiring a candidate and buying a product are the same thing. Every stage of the process is identical. There’s a natural correlation between the two. And the culture starts from the top, teaching how to stand out by example—and not in the annoying and intrusive way.


Ultimately, the best way to test a potential SDR in an interview is to see how self-centric they are versus how they will contribute to the team. Look for the candidate who asks, “What are the biggest problems on your sales team and how can I solve them?”

That’s the person you want to hire.

This post is based on an interview with Sahil Mansuri from SalesPredict.

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.