SDR Performance Gap: Bridging Top & Bottom Performers

In most of the organizations we work with, we typically see a significant performance gap between the top and bottom performers. In this article, we will focus on the SDR performance gap because it is an especially glaring problem due to the following reasons:

  1. The role is considered entry level, and companies invest very little in it in terms of pay, training, or support.
  2. Consequently, most companies tend to hire very junior people for the SDR role, typically straight out of college or with just 1-2 years of work experience.
  3. Because of the lack of support for the role, many new hires find it difficult to succeed.
  4. As a result, it has one of the highest attrition rates (at around 37%) and the average tenure is less than 18 months
  5. Which only causes companies to hire cheap and invest very little as they consider their SDRs as merely transient employees, perpetuating the problem.

What Sets Top Performers Apart

The ones that tend to be successful SDRs are those who, through their own efforts and initiatives, figured out what they need to know in order to say the right things to the right prospect—and get a quality meeting.

In this article, we will first examine the SDR performance gap and its adverse impact on sales. Then we will examine the potential reasons for that performance gap. And finally, we will recommend an approach to close that SDR performance gap.

The Adverse Impact of the SDR Performance Gap

To illustrate the impact that a SDR performance gap can have on sales performance, let’s start with some assumptions:

  • Average sales price (ASP): $100,000
  • Average quarterly pipeline target per SDR: $1.8 million
  • Number of SDRs on your team: 5
  • Below, we will show the performance distribution for the team of five as follows

In other words, the top SDR (1) is at 100% of quota, and has double the performance of the bottom two SDRs (who are at 50% of quota).

The result is that this SDR team currently produces an average of $5.9 million in quarterly sales pipeline, where the top SDR produces 30% of the quota (pulling more than his/her share).

Another Illustrative Example

Now, take a look at this new chart.

In this second chart, we increased the performance of the bottom two SDRs by 50% each, without changing any other SDR performance.

That alone increased the quarterly sales pipeline by 15% (from $5.94 million to $6.84 million). 

This is very significant. A 15% pipeline improvement typically translates into 15% sales increase from the same pipeline, all things remaining the same.

Assuming we are in agreement that closing the SDR performance gap between the highest and lowest performers is important, we will next examine why this happens.

Why SDR Performance Gaps Exist

In many of the companies we work with, we typically find that, while they provide exhaustive training to their new sales hires, they don’t necessarily invest as much in their SDR training.

  • They use the same training content, only removing parts that they don’t think SDRs need to know.
  • The training is typically about the company’s product(s), with minimal training in basic prospecting techniques, and training on the company’s CRM and call automation tools the SDR will be using.

That’s it.

And while most sales execs have extensive sales experience before joining the company, the average SDR typically has less than two years of experience if that.

In short, the average SDR is left to his or her own devices to figure out how to get qualified meetings. 

Therefore, those with the strongest work ethics and drive take it upon themselves to:

  1. Learn about the prospects they are calling (their roles, industries, pains, concerns, etc)
  2. Take extensive notes on each call and figure out why they weren’t able to get a meeting, what objections they received and how to overcome them in future.
  3. Figout out why a prospect who agreed to meet didn’t bother to show up and what they can do to prevent that in future
  4. Read sales books and learn better prospecting techniques
  5. Find a mentor on the sales side and discuss each call with them to see what words and phrases they can use to improve their pitch, and so on.

That’s why they excel. To the extent the rest of your SDRs do some of the above, they will find relative  success. Those who don’t will struggle to get any results, and either quit in frustration or are fired. Either way, back to square one for you in finding a replacement.

As the Head of Sales Development, the question to you is: how realistic is it that you can staff your SDR team with ONLY super-driven hires?

In especially very tight labor markets, you are more likely to find ordinary candidates. You just need to figure out how to transform them into high performers. 

Next, let’s explore how you can do that.

Fixing the SDR Performance Gap

Remember that practically every SDR you have hired is reasonably intelligent, presentable, and sufficiently proficient at basic (college level) skills, or you wouldn’t have hired them.

Your challenge is how to use that basic foundation and transform that individual into a high performer. To do that, ask yourself what your best SDRs know that enables them to excel. Do they…

  1. Know the industry that they are calling into pretty well?
  2. Understand the role of the person they are calling—what they are responsible for, what their pains and concerns are, what risks they face and so on?
  3. Know which competitors they face under which scenarios, and what the relative strengths and weaknesses of these competitors are?
  4. Have questions to ask and in a sensible order, to get the prospect to feel like this is not a waste of their time and keep them engaged?
  5. Know how to pitch their product to precisely this person in this industry?
  6. Know how to manage any objections they get and get the prospect’s interest piqued enough to agree to a meeting?

Situational Fluency

We call the sum total of the above Situation Fluency—the ability to customize a conversation based on who you are talking to in such a way that the prospect believes he or she is talking to an insider. Your top SDRs have high Situational Fluency, while your bottom performers don’t.

If you were to have some way of delivering Situational Fluency to every SDR, then even your most junior hires will sound like experts when talking to a prospect—and consequently book quality meetings on a regular basis.

Which is why we built the SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting solution (SIP) that delivers expert-level situational fluency for every product you sell.

Find out more about SOMAmetrics’ Intelligent Prospecting Platform and get free resources on our website at