Half Your SDR Team Left for Coachella! A Checklist for When Reps Are Away

May 17, 2017 Mark Emmons

Hard-working sales reps need time away from the job. It’s good for them and for the business. Recharged batteries help them bust their quotas. In a perfect world, vacation time gets spaced out evenly on a sales team. But in the real world, that’s not always possible. Things happen.

Like the annual Coachella music festival. And a sizable portion of your millennial-heavy team is attending.

“The joke around Coachella is that SDR organizations in San Francisco and Los Angeles disappear that week, and typically they’re working a little slow the week after because there’s a residual effect,” said Pete Kazanjy, the founder of the Modern Sales Pros community for Sales Operations.

Kazanjy researches sales productivity and he found, for instance, that on the day after last year’s presidential election, there was a 20-percent reduction in customer-facing activities at organizations where he consults. So imagine the drop-off when reps aren’t just distracted, but out of the office.

Maybe you, as a sales/inside sales leader or SDR manager, should have held firm against the relentless pleading. (“But boss, Lady Gaga is headlining!”) But there’s no need to panic when you have a skeleton crew. Your operation can continue to Rock and Roll.

Here’s a helpful checklist for harried SDR managers out there:

Anticipate Short-Staffing: A public calendar in Salesforce is a good way to limit unwelcome surprises. It also helps in building a coverage plan. When reps aren’t in their seats and booking meetings, it creates a ripple effect downstream in the funnel. The way to avoid what Kazanjy calls a pipeline “divot” starts with knowing when your team will be understaffed and preparing ahead.

Set Expectations: Explain to reps how the business will run while they’re away. For instance, SDRs need to know that colleagues will handle their incoming leads. Whatever the process, it needs to be fair, transparent and consistent. You never want reps to feel like taking time off is somehow a punishment.

Out-of-Office Replies: It’s common sense, but always give the option to speak with someone else. Here’s another suggestion from Kazanjy: “When I was a sales manager, my reps would write, ‘This correspondence also is being forwarded to my manager in case you need immediate attention.’ The idea is to be able to take care of anything that’s on fire.”

Change Marketing Automation Send-From Email Addresses: If you use platforms such as Marketo to personalize outbound marketing emails from an SDR’s email address, you’ll want to switch it temporarily. That way, prospects won’t be replying to a vacationing SDR.

Pause Outbound Drip Campaigns: Sales acceleration tools such as Outreach and SalesLoft allow SDRs to create sophisticated email sequencing cadences. But you don’t want a prospect surfacing . . . and then getting no response. Another solution would be to keep the drip campaign going, but set up a BCC recipient so that any responses go to another SDR and can be followed up.

Round Robin Distribution: Remove SDRs from the round-robin pool for net-new leads so they don’t sit unattended in their queues, growing ice-cold.

Website Activity: If the absent SDRs are tasked with monitoring the website chats, make sure someone is covering for them.

Stick to the SLAs: Service-Level Agreements are written in stone. Marketing spends a lot of time and money generating leads. Not following up on “hand-raisers” immediately can mean missing your number down the road. “If you have an SLA that says you’re going to respond in a certain time to a demo request, it doesn’t matter that someone is at Coachella or not,” said Christine Maxey, director of enterprise solutions at LeanData. “Create a route-on-update where the hot lead is automatically sent to a manager who can address a lead while it’s still warm.”

Lead Triage: All leads are not created equal. Prioritize lead types to make sure the most important categories get the quickest follow-up. High-priority leads can be based on target accounts, campaign type, geography, and so on. Decide what segment has the greatest urgency — enterprise, mid-market or SMB. Also, establish a pecking order based on the kind of lead activity. It might look like this:

  1. Demo requests
  2. Filling out a Contact Us form
  3. Downloading content or signing up for webinars
  4. Clicking on nurture emails

Adjust Salesforce Assignment Rules: Out-of-the-box Salesforce allows re-assigning leads to reps covering for vacationing colleagues. But it is an extremely cumbersome, manual task requiring a Salesforce admin or developer assistance. (Small plug here. There are solutions like LeanData that streamline the process – giving control of these changes to managers.)

Backup: Vacations shouldn’t slow deal momentum. Before Account Executives are away from their smartphones, establish who will be covering their opportunities. They should confer with their SDR partners about what activity needs immediate attention and what can wait. Decide the course of action if a dormant account awakens.

Post-Vacation Reports: Inbound lead reports identify what may have fallen through the cracks. “Reporting is the ultimate backup,” said Brian Birkett, vice president of sales at LeanData. “Even if you have a plan in place, you want to double-check to make sure everything was covered.” For instance, a helpful report would be one that shows demo requests and “hot” leads older than two days that haven’t been followed up on.

When Reps Return: Maxey suggests not just throwing them back into the round robin and turning on their inbound lead spigot full blast. Instead, limit their number of new leads until they’ve addressed the lower-priority leads that were not followed up while they were away.

“You can never make up for lost time,” Birkett said. “One of the core metrics you can track in sales is butts in seats. You need people doing their jobs.”

But he added that with smart planning, the pipeline won’t grind to a halt, either. And when reps return from Coachella — likely exhausted and their ears still ringing — the organization won’t have skipped a beat.

Was this helpful? Are there any tips we missed that you want to add? Please join the discussion.

Illustrations by Gary Markstein


About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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