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Sales Development Coaching Framework

For sales development teams, the activity of coaching is mission-critical, because it ensures continuous improvement of sales development representatives (SDRs). However, SDR coaching is seriously lacking in most organizations today and represents the largest gap in sales development enablement. In fact, according to our research, only 17.3% of high-growth organizations claim to perform SDR coaching. This leaves a lot to chance in the sales development process, particularly since 74.5% of SDRs have less than 1 year of work experience and most have no prior sales experience.

The underlying causes of SDR coaching deficiencies are easy to recognize. First, the majority of sales development leaders state that they have a limited understanding of what constitutes coaching. Second, a majority of sales development leaders incorrectly assume that the initial SDR training given in the first few months of employment sufficiently prepares SDRs for their role. A common refrain from sales development leaders is, “SDRs will figure it out as they go”.

TOPO’s Sales Development Practice recently published a research note on The Sales Development Coaching Framework which details a structure for establishing a sales development coaching program. This note covers:

  • Guidelines for sales development leaders on how to approach coaching as part of a sales development enablement strategy
  • Best practices for creating a coaching program
  • Tools to enable sales development leaders to implement a program immediately.

Sales Development Coaching Guidelines

Sales development managers should commit to 4-6 hours per month of coaching per SDR. Coaching has a profound impact on SDR behavior, but only if performed consistently. Managers need to remain cognizant of each SDR’s activities to: 1. observe what they are doing; 2. diagnose how their behaviors align to the defined process and tactics; and 3. prescribe specific actions to encourage correct behaviors and enhance skills.

Effective coaching requires a playbook. It is essential to have a structured sales development methodology with documented processes, tactics, and common terminology to reinforce key lessons. Sales development leaders and SDRs must have a reference guide to help them understand how to perform their role at an optimal level.

Coaching must be hands-on. Managers should expect to spend concentrated desk time with SDRs. To do so, the ratio of SDRs to managers should be no more than 6 to 1. If greater, managers should train team leads to take on coaching responsibilities. All SDRs need continuous coaching. Poor performing SDRs need guidance on specific activities they must undertake to improve skills, while top performing SDRs need nurturing to further develop their sales acumen.

Sales Development Coaching Framework

Distinct from onboarding and formal training, coaching is the practice of evaluating individual SDR behaviors against a defined process and prescribing actions to improve.

SDR Coaching framework

Coaching Through the SDR Lifecycle

The underlying purpose of coaching is to show progress against a set of objectives. When coaching efforts advance an SDR’s skill set and effectiveness, the goal then shifts to developing the SDR to a mastery level and preparing the SDR for advancement into other sales roles. When coaching efforts do not yield the desired results for an SDR, managers need to act swiftly to help the SDR raise their skill set to the target level or to manage the SDR out of the organization. Below is our recommended progression for SDRs based on their progress against coaching goals.

SDR Lifecycle


If you’d like access to The Sales Development Coaching Framework, contact TOPO at www.topohq.com. If you have specific questions for the lead analyst on this report, Kristina McMillan, you can reach analyst@topohq.com.

About the author:  Kristina McMillan, Sales Development Practice Leader, TOPO

Kristina has spent the past 10 years helping organizations build and accelerate their sales development efforts. As a consultant, she developed the sales development programs for successful SaaS companies such Taleo, Eloqua, and Coupa, along with many others. Most recently she was the Director of Sales Development for Five9 (IPO 2014). At TOPO, Kristina manages the Sales Development practice. She works with TOPO’s analysts to develop best practice frameworks and actionable research that help clients cultivate world-class sales development organizations.

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