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Rethinking the SDR to AE Handoff Process for Modern Sales

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Rethinking the SDR to AE Handoff Process for Modern Sales

The standard SDR to AE handoff model passes a prospect to the AE as soon as possible. But in modern SaaS sales, should we rethink this process?

That’s right sales pros, it’s the great debate – when and how should the SDR to AE handoff occur? 🔥

But that question is only the beginning in a series of crucial decisions. For example, should the SDR stick around for the meeting they booked for their AE and prospect? And what meeting qualification standards will work best for your sales organization?

We asked some pro-SDR Managers about switching up or sticking with the standard SDR to AE handoff for the first sales meeting.

Summarizing our experts’ advice, here are five steps to creating a smooth handoff –

  1. Define Qualification standards
  2. Decide when the SDR to AE handoff occurs
  3. Make sure the AE can properly prepare
  4. Decide whether the SDR should attend the meeting with the AE
  5. Make sure your SDR comp plan reinforces a smooth handoff

1. Define Qualification standards

First things first – define what a qualified meeting is for your company and create a Service Level Agreement. This document clearly outlines the responsibilities of the SDR and AE within the sales process.

James Buckley, Head Of Business Development, shared with us that in Attest, they have a clear qualification checklist that the SDR needs to hit to book a meeting with an AE. Here’s an example of clear qualified meeting standards:

  • 1000-10,000 employee company
  • Company is in the IT managed services industry
  • The company offers SaaS subscription management services for their customers (clear on their website)
  • The company offers cloud-based services
  • The meeting will be with the Cloud Sales Manager or Procurement Manager

Clear, objective specifications for the meeting will hold both the SDR and AE up to their part of the bargain, and make sure that only quality pipeline gets handed off.

2. Decide when the SDR to AE handoff occurs

TLDR; usually, once the first meeting is set.

Typically, an SDR runs a qualification or discovery call and then passes the prospect on to an Account Executive quickly to hit their target.

“The handoff occurs when the lead has been qualified, and there is a clear business opportunity ahead: a clear time and date confirmed in the diary, i.e. a calendar invite,” commented Ted Stockton-Smith, the Head of EMEA Account Development at Cisco.

Kyle Vamvouris, the CEO of Vouris says, “This varies based on the type of sales process (SMB, Mid-market, Enterprise). But, the general rule is a handoff at the first meeting.”

When should the SDR hold the first sales meeting?

As mentioned above, there are always exceptions to the rule. Depending on your product and ICP, you may want to consider having the SDR run the first meeting with a prospect.

Tinesh Kansara, Account Executive at Yext, offers his perspective, “In the age of COVID-19, relationship building and smart insights are driving current conversations. And how can an SDR establish trust and educate if they’re looking to introduce a prospect to another colleague at their first chance? Let’s not even get into the confusing buyer experience.”

“In turn, we empowered the SDR team to demo stand-out features. Our SDRs can now have the confidence to engage in highly technical conversations with marketers to help them learn something new.”

Example of the SDR to AE handoff process in meeting two:

Neil Bhuiyan, Sales Development Manager at Happeo and founder of HappySelling.io elaborates this scenario with his step-by-step process:

“An outbound process I have implemented in different companies and use today:

  1. SDR reaches out to prospect via multi-channels to pique interest.
  2. Book introductory/ discovery call (15-30mins) to educate and qualify fit.
  3. Complete SDR Notes and Intel gained into CRM or prospecting platform and send to AE ahead of next meeting.
  4. Book Intro-meeting with AE, for AE to qualify further.
  5. SDR can either join second call for intro/ learning or the AE runs call on their own and debriefs with SDR post call.”

Using this tactic, there’s a natural flow into booking a meeting with the AE that offers real value based on previous conversations with the SDR.

3. Make sure the AE can properly prepare

For a handoff to go smoothly, your tech stack should offer support by providing information captured in a clear format for the AE.

All the relevant info for the meeting and all the conversation details between the lead and the SDR, like the call recording, should be easily available.

Javier Llorden, an advisor to numerous startups, shared his thoughts about the AE preparing the meeting upfront, “They should read all available info and perform thorough research on the account and the lead. In case of doubts, the AE should call the SDR.” He adds, “A written or built-in playbook that outlines best practices for handover is also crucial.”

Michael Hanson, the Founder & Sales Consultant of GrowthGenie, explains further, “Once the lead has pain points identified and is qualified, according to ICP, ensure that the AE listens or reads into how the SDR booked the meeting. So that –

  1. They are prepared and don’t repeat questions.
  2. They can determine if the meeting’s really qualified and support the Sales Development Rep to help them improve.”

To cement a trusting relationship between SDR and AE, Gibran Quezada, Sales Enablement Team Lead at Predictable Revenue, shares, “As an SDR, ask your AE – what’s one question or piece of information that you could ask or get from the prospect that would provide valuable insight for the meeting with the prospect?”

Also, A.J. Alonzo from demandDrive adds: “Something that we’ve done that works really well is implement a ‘lead card.’ When an SDR books a meeting they transfer all important information (prospect title, responsibilities, why they took the meeting, qualification info, etc.) into a templated doc (it also lives in the CRM). It allows them to emphasize certain points and make sure they deliver the most important and relevant info to their AE.”

Outside of what’s inside your qualification specs or SLA, any extra bit of useful information help an Account Exec’s pitch, and wins major points for the SDR.

4. Decide whether the SDR should attend the meeting with the AE

Most of our experts mention the SDR’s presence at the initial meeting between the AE and the prospect. Ryan Liubinskas; VP WW Sales Development at CoachHub- The digital coaching platform, thinks the handoff starts here.

This is helpful to do a formal introduction from the SDR; which has been talking to both of them, and “do a smooth transition in the eye of the prospect” says Gonzalo Hafner, Strategic Account Advisor – BVS Lead for Iberia at Salesforce.

Here at Bloobirds, we did a LinkedIn poll to get our audience’s thoughts on the subject. Over 43 sales reps and leaders responded:

SDR to AE handoff solved Bloobirds poll
95% of sales leaders polled said SDRs should attend at least some meetings

We found that over 95% of sales leaders polled think SDRs should attend at least some meetings with AEs. Important to note – SDRs attending sales meetings now and then shows them the consequences of their work, and how to improve from there.

5. Make sure your SDR comp plan reinforces a smooth handoff

Want to keep your SDRs involved further down the pipeline, attending or running meetings? Double-check that your SDR comp plan supports the rep behaviors you’re pushing for.

On that subject, Kyle continues, “We recently helped one of our clients change their comp plan because they had enough historical data to forecast accurately. In addition, we added a payout when a deal closes to keep SDRs interested past the initial meeting.”

In our latest SDR survey, we found that when paid additional incentives for deals, SDRs are slightly more motivated by their comp plans than their counterparts without the extra kicker.

sdr compensation in sdr ae handoff - level of sdr motivation

And every little ounce of extra motivation counts when it comes to meeting targets.


Want more sales development tips? Download our latest ebook featuring advice from some of the best SDR leaders in the game.

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