SDR Candidates: Best Interview Questions to Find the Right Fit

Best Interview Questions for SDR Candidates

As I mentioned in a previous blog (“How Difficult Is It to Generate a Meeting?“), most of the companies that I have consulted with hire people who have never been in a sales development reps (SDR) role. I advocate hiring SDRs with at least 1 to 2 years of relevant SDR career experience. You want to hire the right SDR candidates who understand that they will hunt for qualified prospects to qualify them for pain and need.

Setting SDR Candidate Expectations

During the interview process, you want to qualify candidates for their willingness to call cold into prospects and find those SDRs who aren’t afraid to speak to decision makers. A good candidate who goes above and beyond the SDR role will prove they are willing to:

  • Make a lot of dials (70-100) per day. This is crucial, as it is more difficult than ever to get professionals on the phone.
  • Hunt for prospects in your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) using tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, for example.
  • Call decision makers and sales managers. Most of your Sales Reps will not want to speak to a person who has been assigned to “research” a topic. This is a bone of contention that I have seen many times between SDR’s and Sales. Sales Reps want meetings set with “Decision Makers” or someone involved in the “Decision Process”. They don’t want meetings with non-decision makers. It is easier, however, for SDRs to get the non-decision makers to take their calls. Unfortunately, as meetings with these prospects are not an appropriate fit, the SDR has wasted time with a non-viable prospect.
  • Manage a set of Target Accounts which may require cold calls and emails to prospects
  • Understand how to use a call guide and speak to the benefits or value of your offering in a manner that shows how your solution fills a prospect’s need. If you don’t identify these traits early on in the interview process, you will build an unproductive team. In short, you won’t hit your meeting quota, nor build a quality pipeline. Your team’s job is to build a sales pipeline. Highly qualified meetings are the vehicle that SDRs use to build pipelines for your sales team.

Hint: I recommend that you use the phrases listed above in your SDR job description to clearly identify your expectations for this role.

Rating SDR Candidates

The next item for hiring managers is to build a set of interview questions to ask SDR candidates (Top SDR Interview Questions Resource). Once done, assign a score for each question. For example, in one of my top SDR interview questions, I ask candidates to walk me through their resume. If the candidate can tell me about some key wins and metrics that they hit at each job, I give them a high rating (my score would be a 10) for their answer.

The Interview Process

During the interview, the SDR candidate should be able to outline key areas where they had goals to attain and metrics to meet. This is especially important if the candidate has never been a SDR.

As they answer your questions, SDR candidates must show that they have done the work. One of my questions is: “How do you manage your daily activities?” Their answer should show they took initiative, unprompted, at their previous jobs. For example, the candidate might say something like:

“I get in at 7 AM, and the first thing I do is review what I have to accomplish for the day, like tasks that have popped up, etc. Next, I like to make my calls early in the morning and late in the afternoon, which is when executives are more likely to be available”.

Note: one of my SDRs asked to start work at 10 AM because they had great results by calling through 8:00 PM. He was my top rep and is now a VP of Sales at a major tech company.

A poor answer would sound something like:

“I think most people start their day by looking at their tasks and making calls.”

In this example, we don’t care what “most people” do. We only care about what they do each day. If it seems like their answers are guesses, they probably are.

After you find a candidate that has received a high interview score, you will need to vet them further, following along these guidelines:

  • Give them your value proposition and see if they can create a suitable call guide.
  • Ask them to do a role play, making sure that they call you at the appointed time.
  • Have them interview with at least 1 of your SDRs to get their take on the candidate
  • Have a Sales Rep or VP of Sales interview them so that they can give you their thoughts about how effective this candidate will be in the role. Remember, Sales is your customer and they should have some say in the hiring process and overall business development.

Building a Winning Team

This process should take at least a week to complete. Even if you have a desperate need, you don’t want to skimp on the interview process. This is an important role:

  • The right SDR will generate a valuable pipeline and help you achieve your quarterly goals.
  • Excellent SDRs can be the pipeline into your sales organization. They will know your solution and will have proven that they can call decision makers and generate interest.
  • Some of your best SDRs may become managers as your SDR team grows. The best ratio is 5-8 SDRs per manager.

When you include these fundamentals in your hiring process, you will build a winning team! (Top SDR Interview Questions Resource).

Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.

The Radical Pipeline Strategy Book by Alicia Assefa

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

How Difficult Is It to Generate a Meeting? Common Misuses of SDR Teams in Appointment Setting

In my book, The Radical Pipeline Strategy, I discuss the strategies and best practices I have used to build effective Sales Development organizations with regards to appointment setting. These teams, commonly known as Business Development (BDRs); Account Development (ADRs); and Sales Development (SDRs), consistently help your sales teams to achieve pipeline and revenue targets.

How difficult is it to set a meeting?

Over the years, Sales Development has come a long way. It is no longer disparagingly thought of as “Telemarketing”—a group of junior people whose primary role is appointment setting, or register people for seminars and events.

The SDR role is, however, still considered an entry-level position: their job is to generate a sales qualified meeting otherwise known as an SQL. The reason why companies hire junior-level people is because they think, “how difficult is it to set a meeting”? This is a pivotal question that I explore fully in my book.

In this blog, I will outline common misuses of SDR teams as appointment setters that I have encountered while retooling client SDR teams at over 65 companies.

Role of SDRs

To start, consider this: companies hire junior SDRs as their first line of defense. Their job is to call valued prospects who have 10 or more years of experience in their field. However, most junior-level SDR’s haven’t acquired the skills to speak to these seasoned professionals in a meaningful way, nor have they been given the tools to support their qualification efforts. In other words, “junior” SDR’s are the first point of contact with the most valued prospects of your company. This is an ineffective strategy for appointment setting that simply doesn’t work.

Junior SDRs don’t know how to speak to executives, and executives—who receive hundreds of calls from the same type of people—will tune them out. As a result, few qualified meetings are set and pipeline goals simply aren’t achieved.

To make up for the lack of quality meetings, companies hire more SDRs to help them squeeze out more appointments needed to meet their qualified meetings quota. In doing so, companies just build larger, more unsuccessful teams. This, in turn, costs companies a lot of money and frustration as they continue to miss pipeline targets month after month.

Next, consider this: billions of robocalls (over 50 billion in 2021) are made to the same seasoned professionals which lowers your SDRs chances of getting the target to answer their calls. And when they do actually answer, SDRs aren’t prepared to talk to the potential prospect. SDR’s need extensive training—in B2B appointment setting—to have conversations that provide prospects with the “valued” information for making informed decisions. Without this training, no one (prospects or sales) gets what they want or need.

Below are some examples of how SDRs are misused.

SDRs are NOT:

  • A panacea! If your company doesn’t have a viable solution, or your executives haven’t identified your best targets, or if your messaging is off the mark, SDRs won’t be able to generate a quality sales process and pipeline. Don’t force your SDRs to make up your messaging—they will fail.
  • A cold-call engine. Our research shows that it takes around 2,000 cold call dials to generate one closed deal. I don’t know any company that can afford a resource just to make dials. Instead, give your SDRs enough MQLs (marketing qualified leads) to meet your stated objectives. Then, set up a Target Accounts program, which are key accounts that your Sales Executives want to close, during the year. Market to these specific accounts using ABM, for example. Next, assign a handful of these accounts to your SDRs each quarter and arm them with content to give to prospects as they work to make contact. Finally, provide your sales reps with SDR marketing solutions, like FrontSpin and, to enable them with the skills to send personalized and targeted messages.

They are also NOT:

  • Your Chief Marketing Officer or VP Marketing/Sales. Every team I retooled allowed their SDRs to create emails and sales tools, which were not effective. SDRs are not product marketing executives or writers. Effective SDRs are good on the phone, but most are not good at writing. Marketing and Sales should consistently provide the right tools and fresh content with the desired messaging to their SDR team members. I tune out emails that are regurgitated and sent to me week after week… your prospects will too.
  • Your Sales team. Don’t expect your SDRs to close deals. Instead, educate them to uncover basic needs and pain. In addition, let them focus on generating quality SQLs and appointment setting with viable prospects. Have your sales and inside sales teams close the deals.
  • Admin support for your sales team. Many of the companies I have worked with loaded their SDRs with admin work. When this happens, SDRs who don’t enjoy making phone calls focus on admin work, and the SDRs who like making phone calls won’t do the admin work. So, SQLs are not being generated, nor is admin work being done. Remember, SDRs are there to develop a quality pipeline for your sales organization. Give them one job: generating highly qualified SQLs and sales appointments.
  • An after-thought. The SDR operation works best when it is considered an integral component of a company’s overall marketing and sales strategy. Companies that just “plop” in a SDR team without providing the right infrastructure, or with effective marketing or sales strategies in place, waste a lot of time and money. It takes careful thought and planning to build a SDR team that will generate a quality sales pipeline.

SDRs are:

  • Often the first live personal contact your prospects will have with your company. This first conversation needs to be spot-on and meaningful in order for your prospects to stay engaged with your company.
  • An effective method for delving into your prospects’ needs and building pain for your solution. Teach your SDR’s how to ask the right qualifying questions that build pain and need.
  • A sales pipeline development engine.
  • Most effective when supported by MQLs, or have an effective Target Accounts program in place.
  • Opportunity builders. Every communication with a prospect increases your company’s chances to create a viable opportunity. Make sure every call counts. Train your SDR team to take full advantage of every prospect interaction through efficient lead generation. Provide them with the right tools and proper training. Help them learn how to keep your prospects engaged throughout the qualifying process.
  • A great way to stay in touch with key or Target accounts. While field reps are closing deals or chasing warmer opportunities, someone needs to stay in touch with the key accounts or else you may lose them to the competition. (Some years back, one of SOMAmetrics’ clients had Comcast™ listed in their database as a Target Account. Comcast™ had been in their database for a while. Our SDR discovered that Comcast™ was going to acquire NBC. She called them and generated an enormous opportunity for our client. The field rep was unaware of this new information. This might have been a missed opportunity if our SDR had not contacted Comcast™ when she did).
  • In touch with the same prospects every month. These prospects often provide useful market intelligence which your company can mine to perfect its messaging and targeting.

Building a quality sales pipeline

To answer the previous question, “How difficult is it to set an appointment?”: it is very difficult to set an appointment. This is why so many SDR organizations fail. Every connection with a prospect needs to be treated like gold. Today, most people don’t pick up the phone to speak to anyone who is not on their contact list. When they do, the SDR needs to be armed with the right messaging and understanding of both your targets and your ideal customer profile (ICP). They must know how to qualify for pain and how to identify compelling prospect events, which align with your solutions.

In short, the role of your SDR team is to build a quality sales pipeline. They do this by setting highly qualified meetings with the right targets in the right market. Pipeline is always king. If you view this team as a strategic part of your pipeline build and set it up properly, you will hit your pipeline and revenue targets consistently.

Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.

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