Your sales team needs standard operating procedures (SOPs) even when they feel unnatural

Your sales team needs standard operating procedures (SOPs) even when they feel unnatural

How do you get new hires performing at the same level as your best-performing sales reps without having to wait 1002.2 days? Use standard operating procedures (SOPs). Why? Your sales rep churn.

According to a 2021 study of 406 B2B companies by the Bridge Group—the 2021 Sales Development Metrics and Compensation Report—the average tenure of an SDR is 21 months. And among the companies surveyed, SDRs spend a median of 17.5 months before they’re promoted to AE, with a median annual turnover of %20.

So what? Well, in less than two years, most of the hard-earned knowledge of your high-performing SDRs will either be gone or be buried deep in an AE. Creating SOPs will help your sales team retain its knowledge.

Here is a simple framework to create sales SOPs. 

SOP Rules

  • Your first SOPs should be an overview of your critical processes.
  • When creating your first SOP, remember that the aim is to document your processes, not to optimise them—that comes later.

Step one: most valuable processes (MVP)

Think of all the processes your sales team has and mark out the most important—the ones that would cripple your sales team should the people responsible for them quit.

Here’s some of what a typical sales team does:

  1. Prospecting and list building
  2. Cold emailing and LinkedIn DM’s
  3. Cold calling
  4. Discovery calls
  5. Demos
  6. Crafting contracts and signing 
  7. Handing off customers to the customer success team

Within these high-level processes, there are mini-processes that you should keep at the back of your mind.

For example, we know that an SDR team that relies on cold calls, could have:

  • A process for obtaining prospects for numbers
  • A device for calling and steps unique to it.
  • A process for recording calls for future reviews.

Step two: assign champions to take charge of each process

One person can not drive the SOP-making process, this has to be a team effort. Identify leaders within the different groups within your department. The SDR manager, for instance, could be the champion in charge of capturing the team’s insights on cold emailing, cold calling and prospecting.

If you’re an agency owner and have divided your team into pods, your pod leaders will be your process champions.

Step three: create a list of tools your team uses

You first have to create general SOPs based on the software your team uses in the most valuable processes, e.g. how to login into each tool and how to use them according to a team’s strategy.

These general SOPs will be linked to inside your other SOPs so that you don’t have to suffer the pain of repeating “how to log into Salesforce” for the 1,000th time. Eventually, you’ll have a web of SOPs linking to each other.

Step four: identify top performers

In each of your most valuable processes, identify the top performers—which will vary based on how you evaluate performance—and get them to record their screens while doing the task they excel at.

Your top performers shall be talking while doing the MVP tasks as if they’re teaching their grandmothers. 

Remember, if you are the VP of sales, you will not be the one facilitating the capturing of MVP tasks. The process champions you selected will be identifying the top performers and getting them to record their processes. They need to own the SOP creation process.

Solo founder section: 

If you’re a solo founder and want to make documentation part of your culture early, you can record your processes before you hire. Alternatively, when you bring in your first sales hire, screen record yourself showing them your processes and turn those into SOPs for future hires.

When this is all done, you should have screen recordings of your most valuable processes—according to your top performers. And that’s the end of what your sales team has to do.

Documentation

The next step will involve listening to the recordings, taking screenshots, chopping up longer process videos into shorter 2-5 min clips (easier than having to watch 30-minute recordings), transcribing and turning them into written SOPs that your reps can skim when they want a quick glance at a process.

However, this part won’t be done by your sales team, separate the people capturing the processes and the people documenting them, so as not to overwhelm your team.

You can bring in colleagues from other departments or hire contractors to do the documentation. As your team gets used to following the SOPs and seeing the efficiencies, they can take part in updating the processes but this will come later.

Concerns about SOP

Hm, those things stifle creativity”

Truth is, not everyone loves following processes and some of them will say that it stifles creativity. New team members that come into the company and find your processes established will have no problem adopting them, but you’re bound to have existing team members that will struggle with this. 

However, you’ll have to weigh the benefits of having a consistent way of doing things (which will also give people the bandwidth to be creative) vs giving leeway to the team members struggling with following your SOPs.

(It’s more of a change management process that will need plenty of communication from the SOP champions and leaders.)

What to watch out for when exploring SOPs

  • Don’t try to capture everything at once, it will be overwhelming. Start with 3 to 5 valuable processes and expand from there.
  • Avoid the urge to be perfect. When your top performing team members are recording themselves doing the MVP tasks, perfection will whisper in their left ear—both ears if they’re unlucky—this stifles the process. Resist.
  • Make speed your goal. If you’ve never created an SOP before, aim to get the first version out. You will update them later; a rolling stone gathers no moss.
  • Don’t put your SOPs in your project management tool. Clutter overwhelms me when I’m starting a new process and I know I’m not alone. So host your SOPs in a separate place (Google Docs, One note, YouTube, SOP software) and link to them from your project management software. 
  • Don’t assume your team will remember to follow your SOPs automatically. Create checklists in your project management software that everyone will have to tick against when working. Checklist:

 All prospects in your list are in companies that are hiring

 Did every prospect on your list attend Money 20/20

(These checklist items will all have ties to an existing SOP that can be accessed through a link in that day’s task)

Conclusion

Though they may feel unnatural to many of us, SOPs help maintain consistency, make it easy to track inefficiencies and fix them, allow team members to take vacations without having to check emails while scuba diving and allow new hires to quickly ramp up to the same level as their best-performing teammates.

PS: If you need help documenting your SOPs, we offer that as a service. Sales rep records their screen while working and explaining what they're doing. You send it to us and we turn it into an SOP (text and video).

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Gabriel Onyango
Gabriel Onyango
[email protected]

About Me

A writer, in a marketer's skin, wearing a cold emailer's floppy socks. The unorthodox combination of these is what you've probably experienced in this blog. Freelance cold email manager; open to working with teams on cold email campaigns, copy, ICP research (snooping()and custom list building. Connect with me on LinkedIn

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