It’s More Than What You Say

A Close-Up View of a Microphone on a Stand with a Black Background


It’s How you Say It

The day in the life of an SDR is pretty similar across the board. Send some emails. Make some dials. Get hung up on. And finally set a demo. This is a pattern all of us are a little too familiar with. This is why cold calling is a game of numbers. You have to make the dials to have the conversations. While the number of dials to get someone to pick up is partially in your control, the quality of conversations you’re having is fully in your control. Maximizing the quality of conversations that you have as an SDR is the most important thing you can focus on. The only way to maximize these conversations is by learning how to have great conversations.

One of the first things many of us do is look for conversation playbooks. I won’t try and build one for you here today. and Outreach have articles on their blog with the best cold calling scripts you can find. Go out and use those. I use them. They really are great.

All I will say in regards to what you say in a conversation is that it’s best to be honest and transparent. When you are honest and transparent, people aren’t suspicious of you. Better yet, they can give you a direct answer because you’ve been direct with them. People can smell out used car salesmen from a mile away. All of their tactics stink. So do the opposite by being honest.

While what you say is important, there is much to maximizing your conversation. Getting your prospect to listen is hard. A lot of the time, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

Comedians all know this. Think of your favorite comedian. They usually gear up for the joke by slowing down while telling a story. Then they come in with a nice rousing and commanding voice while dropping the bomb. The delivery of a punchline is almost more important than the punchline itself. Everyone listens not because of the line itself, but because of the delivery.

As SDRs, we need to be more like comedians. We need to think more about how we are delivering our elevator pitch just as much as the structure of the pitch itself.

Julian Treasure is a business speech and voice coach. In a recent TED Talk he noted the elements of voice:


This is how nasally you speak. Are you speaking with falsetto or from your chest? Both have very different uses. Speaking slightly higher than your normal talking voice can come off as more friendly when you’re talking to a prospect.


This is how your voice feels; how smooth the words come out of your mouth. Think of the scratchy voice of a coal miner or the crispness of Joe Buck. The more crisp and clear your voice, the more intelligent you’re perceived to be. As an SDR, this manifests itself in your confidence in the role. Mentally tell yourself you deserve their time, and this will come naturally.


This is the pattern of stress and intonation. Someone who speaks in a monotone voice uses no prosody. Prosody is very important when being ironic or emphasizing a word to make a point. As an SDR, you can easily stress the value propositions of your elevator pitch.


This is simply the speed of your voice. Quickness indicates nervousness. Slowness indicates power and emphasizes your point. Silence can be a powerful tool. Pace is also great for carrying emotions. As an SDR, this has to be a conscious effort. I had a sticky note on my second monitor with the word “SLOW” to remind myself. It’s exciting to get a prospect live, but staying slow keeps you calm and shows them that you’re ready for business.


This is the sharpness in your voice. It is how aggressively you move from one end of your vocal range to the other or how aggressively the words come off of your tongue. Having a tight pitch indicates that you are cool, calm, and collected. As an SDR, this is not super applicable (outside of not getting angry, of course). If you are even keel, this one will take care of itself.


This one is self-explanatory. It’s also the most obvious. Speak softly to get people to really pay attention. Speak loudly to get attention or show excitement. As an SDR, I start out a little loud to show I’m excited to speak with the prospect, but I quickly drop it down to a 3 or 4 so that the prospect is required to intentionally listen to what I have to say.

There are two SDRs I used to work with that fully embrace the elements of their voice, but they come from very different backgrounds. Jon is a good ol’ Boston boy – heavy accent included. While some might see that as a distracting factor, think about how that accent plays into the elements of voice: it has all the positive aspects! It’s smooth, loud, clear, and honest. Many of the qualities of a Boston accent are also psychologically perceived as confident. Jon will credit a lot of his success to his smooth-talking. He openly admits that the accent helps him break the ice and get any prospect to chat with him. Once you’re having a real conversation, it’s easy to book a demo.

Remember how I said comedians know this stuff already? There’s only one salesperson I’ve ever worked with who would chat with me about the importance of voice for a comedian, because he is one himself (an amateur one, at least). Phil is one heck of a comedian. He always has jokes, and can always play the room so his jokes are just a tad bit too far. The most successful comedians require a mastery of punchline delivery. Quick-witted one-liners leverage pitch, volume, timbre, and a heavy dose of prosody. Phil told me that he would record himself practicing stand up just to make sure he got the timing right. When he started doing that with his work pitches he instantly noticed ways he could improve how he sounded.

If there’s one piece of actionable advice here, it’s this: Record your pitches. Listen to your cold calls. There are nuggets of information in there. Not only will you find phrases you want to cut and words you want to drop from your vocabulary, but you will finally hear how you sound when you talk. With a little bit of practice and half a dozen audio recordings reviewed, I am sure you will find some ways to improve the sound of your pitch.