How and When to Pass an Appointment from the SDR to the AE

October 7, 2019

The sales development rep (SDR) has done their job. They finally scored a few minutes on the phone with a hot prospect they’ve been targeting for weeks — or maybe even months.

Now they face a new challenge: Expertly transitioning that prospect to the account executive (AE) so they can do their job — make a deal — without turning off the potential buyer.

There are a few strategies for making the critical handoff between SDR to AE seamless — while also bumping conversions and decreasing no-shows.

Becc Holland, Head of Sales Development, and Devin Liu, SMB Account Executive, at Chorus.ai, discuss this sales process challenge in a recent episode of our webinar series “Flip the Script.”

Becc and Devin explain why the SDR-to-AE handoff can be such a delicate dance: First, the SDR is the prospect’s only point of contact to date, so when agreeing to the appointment, that potential customer quite rightly expects the SDR to be leading the call.

“It’s a bit like ordering a drink at the bar and getting the wrong drink. It may taste fine, but at the end of the day, it’s not what you ordered,” says Devin.

Meanwhile, the SDR actually wants the responsibility of leading the call. After all, they did the legwork — and likely aspire to be an AE one day. However, the SDR team leader wants the SDR to focus on what they’ve been trained to do: find and bring in more prospects. And then there’s the AE, who is chomping at the bit, waiting for the opportunity to turn a hot prospect into a client.

So, how do you keep all of these parties happy?

Becc suggests using this three-step approach to seamless handoffs.

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Passing An Appointment from SDR to AE (ft. Becc Holland & Devin Liu)

Step #1: Send the prospect an “excited sandwich”

The SDR send the prospect an email that confirms the appointment and sets expectations — including the fact that a new party (the AE) will be joining the process. (Becc likes to call this email the “excited sandwich.”)

Try a greeting like this:

“Hi Devin, I’m really looking forward to our meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m.”

Try a “filling” to set expectations like this:

“If it’s okay with you, I want to include Becc Holland in our call. She’s an SMBA who is extremely adept in our platform and can help guide our time.”

Try a closing statement that reiterates their enthusiasm for the call like this:

“I’m excited for our time on Tuesday. Let me know if I can send over anything additional or be any help in the meantime.”

As Becc explains, “By asking if it is okay to have a colleague on the call, you give the prospect the opportunity to speak up if it is a problem. In my experience, it never is, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

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Fix Your Rollercoaster Handoff Process

Step #2: Decide whether or not the SDR should be on the call

To decide if the SDR should participate in the call, determine if the call is glamorous or typical.

“From an SDR’s perspective,” says Devin, “glamorous calls are those that a high-level executive will attend — someone like an executive vice president or a C-suite executive.”

Glamorous calls are typically defined as those with enterprise potential. Or, they’re a “competitive fish”—meaning, the organization is looking to replace a competitor. And typical calls are exactly what they sound like: routine.

“SDRs should always sit on glamorous calls,” Becc says. “SDRs aspire to be AEs, so it is important that they are comfortable in these conversations. And the only way to accomplish that is to practice and listen to how the AEs do it.”

Step #3: Make a smooth in-call transition

When it’s time for the SDR to actually hand off the call to the AE, Becc says they may want to open the discussion like this:

“Hi Sean, how was your weekend up at Tahoe? Great. I’d like to introduce Devin Liu. As I mentioned in my email, Devin is one of our account execs. I caught Devin up to speed on everything we’ve chatted about so far, so now I’d like to hand over the call to him. Devin can tell you more about our solutions and answer any questions you may have.”

This approach creates a smooth transition to the AE, while also allowing the SDR to go “live” with prospects and help them get comfortable in the sales conversation.

And Becc says not to worry about letting the SDR spread their wings: “Employees aren’t typically married to a company these days. So, I don’t think we should be afraid to let them grow their networks and potentially leverage those relationships in the future.”

The third and most important reason to have the SDR on the call is to ensure they get appropriate recognition — straight from the prospect — for all their hard work.

“If your SDR has done something especially well, you want to be able to give the prospect the opportunity to praise them on the line, and further develop that rapport.”

As for typical calls, Becc says the AE can just get on the line solo and say something like this:

“Hi Sean, thanks so much for jumping on the phone. I know that Malcolm was the SDR who reached out to you, but he got pulled into a meeting. Since I’m going to be your point of contact moving forward, if it’s okay with you, let’s go ahead and get the call rolling. If Malcolm can join us, he will.”

The excited sandwich email has already set the expectation that this might happen, so typically, the prospect is at ease. Meanwhile, the SDR is free to focus on their core mission: hunting for more prospects.

Using the simple three-step system outlined by Becc and Devin can help sales teams develop their up-and-coming talent, while also making sure everyone is firing on all cylinders throughout the sales cycle.

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