EPISODE 11: SDR SELF-STARTER - HOW TO STAND OUT IN THE ROLE
Episode 11 Transcript
Greyson: Hello and welcome to The SDRealness podcast, brought to you by Sales Development Revolution, where we’re talking with practitioners all over the Sales Development space about important topics that matter to everyone.
I’m Greyson Fulbright, and here with me is my co-host, Alex Allison.
Alex: Hey Greyson.
Greyson: We’ve been focused on becoming a leader in the SDR role for season one and this will be the actual last episode of the season.
Today’s topic is about becoming a self-starter and mastering the sales development function and standing out as a rep by using this idea of becoming a self-starter.
Joining us today to talk about it is Will Frattini, who’s the director of new business sales at ZoomInfo.
Thanks so much for hopping on with us, Will.
Will: Thanks, Greyson. Thanks, Alex. Psyched to be here with you guys!
Alex: Yeah, we’re excited you’re here. To really kick things off, I just want to dive into your definition of being a self-starter in the SDR role.
What does that mean and why is it so important in sales development to have that sort of self-starter attitude too?
Will: Yeah! So, I think if you’re lucky enough to be working with a company or for a company that provides a lot of enablement and training and support, consider yourself lucky, number one.
But I think it’s so important to make sure that you don’t take that luck and take that enablement and turn it into something that kind of takes your tenacity away from always wanting to learn more.
And I think sales is such an exciting profession to be in right now more than ever, especially with all the transitions to more of a digital, virtual kind of experience, that things are moving so fast and people are being asked to be more and more competitive than ever before.
It’s really important that we remember that the best people in sales are usually the ones that figure out their way of doing it and kind of taking things from the other best people in the company and making them their own.
I think no matter how much you’re partnered up with your sales executive colleagues, your account managers if you support the customer side of your business, how much coaching they give you, your manager gives you… Like, at the end of the day, the way you start to stand out is you take the extra step and you do this self-learning.
We talked about this guys, a little bit, I try to think about the sales development world is kind of like when you’re in college or any kind of self-learning, secondary education thing, it doesn’t have to be college. It could be a certification course, just to use the analogy, you don’t have to go to college to be a good salesperson.
But it is what you make it. So you can go and punch the clock and go to classes, and go show up, and get the piece of paper that says you graduated and yadda, yadda. But if you want to be the best, it’s on you to take that extra step.
And so for me, the definition of a self-starter in the SDR role is like whatever you’re taught is literally the tip of the iceberg and it’s on you to really dig deep within and figure out what are all those extra things that the best performers are doing and try to make them your own.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, I like that. Go ahead, Greyson.
Greyson: I was going to say I really love that and I love that you brought up this idea that sales development is often in the trenches at all times, just constantly heads down, focused on your activities, when you’re not looking back at what you’ve done, you’re looking forward to what you’re about to do, and it’s easy to kind of get into this state where you just have a failure to learn.
You almost feel like you don’t have the mental capacity and energy to just add that one more thing. And yet, you bring up such a good point that sales development is already a fast-paced role, but the world in general is getting faster.
People are adopting the digital age at a much faster rate thanks to generations that are digitally empowered, starting to become older and entering the workforce. But at the same time, COVID has kind of forcing all of these companies, and even those who aren’t maybe digitally savants, but trying to force them into actually adopting the technology.
And what that’s done is it’s empowered everyone. Everyone has instant information. Everyone has instant access and instant networking abilities, just like you or me.
And so, I think that’s something that people need to keep in mind, is when Will was talking about becoming a self-starter, it’s not just this thing like, “Oh, it’s the time. It’s hip.” It’s about the fact that the world is getting so fast and so rapid, and so competitive, that every little thing you can bring into your job counts.
I think that the people that are in the background, even if it’s just a little thing every day, maybe learning a new trick or practicing a cold call a few times whenever you’re at home, just those little things can add up over the course of a year and kick you, leagues, away from the other SDR space. I really love the framing there.
Will: And then think about it… So like, I’m trying to think of some things ahead of time, so I’m a practitioner still, right? I’ve led some sales teams for ZoomInfo after IPO, I took on a smaller team. I still do some selling now, which is… I love selling them Zoom Info, so I’m paired up with SDRs all the time.
I’m spoiled enough to even be able to say that statement- that can help me kind of book meetings and break into accounts. But I’ve noticed of the best SDRs that I’ve had the pleasure of working with that were promoted into, do the next thing that they want to do, whether it’s managing teams or becoming a sales rep, is they take very little direction and do a lot with it.
So, start off with a path like, “Hey here’s an account that I really want to get a meeting with. I had this one person that I talked to. They’re not a decision-maker, I’m going to need to talk to this, this, and this person,” right?.
Not because I’m trying to be obtuse or a jerk or difficult, but that might be the only direction I give. Because like you said, Greyson, you got a million things going on. We’re all juggling kids and families, and demos, and team meetings, and trainings.
I mean, there are literally very few openings in my day that are open as a salesperson at ZoomInfo and a manager at ZoomInfo. So when I’m with my SDR, I might have a quick sound soundbite for sixty seconds, via Slack.
The best SDRs I’ve ever worked with are like “got you,” and then I don’t hear anything until that meeting shows up on my calendar. Or I hear when, “I tried to get this person and I found out about this, What else should I do?”
So it’s a nice dovetail for what you were starting to talk about, Greyson, is like if you don’t feel like you’re getting enough from your account executive as an SDR, or your account manager that you’re supporting on the customer side, you have to speak up.
And you can’t assume that, “Alright well, Will only gave me two sentences via Slack, so he must not really want me to do anything,” right? Or, “I’m just going to go try to figure this out without asking him questions.”
It’s on the SDR role to say, “Hey I don’t understand what you’re asking,” or, “I talked to this person and I didn’t get the answer I wanted.” And that transcends into any role that you’re going to be in sales. Our number one rep in the company, has sold twice as much here to date than our average reps. Literally!
And if you ask our VPs, he is the most verbal, vocal, outgoing person internally about things that he needs and wants to learn more about. And it’s just no surprise that six years ago he built out our SDR team, right? He was one of our first SDRs. So, that’s how that starts to come about.
Alex: Yeah and I think I really like something you touched on there, which is taking that initiative upon yourself, which is something that SDRs a lot of times don’t always do.
If you’re entering the role, maybe say out of college or whatever program it is and you feel like you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, it can be hard sometimes to say, “OK look. I need to get this done, I need to go out and do it,” as opposed to, “OK I need to get this done, so I’m just going to wait for my manager to get back to me on this and then I’m going to wait for the AE to either get to approve this so that I can start reaching out to the account,” things like that, right?
Where really what you’d want as, you know, as an AE or manager, what you want the reps to be doing is saying, “OK let’s figure out how to reach out to this account. Let’s figure out the three or four people I need to talk to there. Oh, I need a little guidance. Let me reach out.”
But it’s that initial step that the SDR needs to take themselves before touching base with their manager about maybe how better to go about it because, obviously, you do want to learn and you’re not going to know everything.
You’re going to ask those questions. But a lot of it is… it’s asking the right questions. It’s instead of asking, “Hey can I reach out to this count?” It’s asking, “Hey I’ve tried reaching out to this account. It’s not working. What can I do better?” Right?
Greyson: Yeah, I think it kind of goes to the heart of being proactive. I think you made a really good point, Will, that – just like reps – managers are people who have kids and have chores and half personal life things, and so what that means is like you can’t always expect a manager to be at their A-game, especially if you are relying entirely on them to be your source of growth.
I think it’s an important point that you, as an SDR, need to be responsible for your own growth. Yes, the managers are there to help you. Yes, you should have mentors. Yes, you should have enablement and support from marketing to make sure you can do the best that you can do.
But you are your own project manager for your career and for your job. And you need to be the one that’s proactively being prepared in trying to get that just extra bit of information or that extra learning so that you can level up. Because if not, it’s very similar, I feel like you said Will, to college, where it’s like if you just want to show up to classes, not take notes and never be known, Professors aren’t going to care. They’re going to let you do it.
And I think it’s the same for SDRs because it’s seen as an entry-level role. So, oftentimes, I think the organization can kind of pick and choose those that they have identified aren’t really motivated and aren’t really trying to get good and aren’t really interested in integrating further with the team. And I think that will set you back.
Cause not only are you missing out on learning, but you’re kind of disrupting the culture and kind of building this brand within your company that, “Oh I don’t want to spend time on that guy or I don’t wanna give him advice on this because, like, he won’t take action or he’s just going to fall flat on it.”
So I think that’s a really good point there. And I wanted to kind of transition, Will, into some of the common mistakes that get made. Because, I mean, SDRs are all expected to be hustlers, they’re all expected to be go-getters, and so being a self-starter I think goes a little bit beyond that.
You know, always trying to get the extra. So, of course there are good ways and I think bad ways to do that. So in your experience, you know, when you’re working with a rep on both ends, either someone that’s hungry and ready to go or maybe someone that doesn’t have the motivation but wants to learn it, what are some common mistakes or challenges that you’ve seen reps kind of go through?
Will: So, it’s funny, it’s like perfectly what we’re just talking about. So, there’s a finesse to being vocal and being a self-starter and just being full of hot air.
As a manager, my favorite reps that I manage, even account executives, are the ones that are always coming to me talking about, Alex, you nailed it, “Here’s what I did. Here’s what happened. What do you think?”
Love that. I love that. Love that. Love that. Can’t say enough. That’s your definition of a self-starter. I took action. Here’s the outcome. Here’s what I think about it. What do you think?
The common mistake is tugging on the shirt sleeve every Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday, at eight-thirty in the morning and say, “Hey so what should I do today?”
You can’t… that’s the mistake. like don’t confuse being verbal and vocal with being productive. The last thing you want to do is talk to your manager, your account executive, or account manager that you’re supporting every day, and ask them what I should be doing.
There is a difference to saying, “what do you want me to do today,” or , “here’s what I did yesterday. What else can I do to get that meeting,” and, “Hey what do you need me to do today?” Because like… And again, I started in sales ten, eleven years ago. Not too long, but ten, eleven years ago in a call center where I was just asked to make 20 calls and book meetings all day. That’s all I did.
So when someone asks me, “what do you want me to do today?” My initial reaction is, “What the hell do you mean what do I want you to do today? I want you to book meetings in my accounts and let’s go make some money! I want to make money for you and me. Let’s go! I want to help customers solve problems,” right? When you ask me that.
But if you think about it as well, a mistake that someone can make is just not making a decision and taking action and measuring an outcome.
Sales is about failing. The SDR job is about failing, getting hung up on, getting told no, getting told why it’s not the right time. The sooner that we embrace that and I hope that everybody in our community that this podcast reaches that has a manager that’s at least prepared them to understand that, or at least a colleague or a mentor that’s told them that at least once before if you haven’t heard it, your job as an SDR is to fail.
As soon as you learn how to fail, you can overcome the objections, you can get a great rebuttal track down, you can get a sweet pitch down that gets people more excited to talk to you than to tell you, “Who are you again?” Those are the things that we all do. So if we’re trying to be a go-getter, bringing a – I made a call and made a decision, here’s what happened.
The other flip side of that too is asking for too much guidance within an account attack plan can sometimes paralyze you. So even if you ask your… “OK so hey, I called this person yesterday, there’s three other people.Who do you want me to reach out to,” and then trying to get that perfect email, the perfect message down, like really trying to stand out and not telling your partner, your AE, your AM, your manager, what you’re doing every day is also not a great thing.
So if you are stuck, like speak up! And it’s okay to speak up and we have a motto at ZoomInfo, “Never fail alone”. I don’t want you to come to me every time I just ask you what to do. But I certainly also don’t want you to not talk to me for a week until I ask like, “Where are you at? What’s going on? Like, what are we doing?” Because we measure outcomes.
I’m giving you a couple different mistakes that I see are most relevant, but you know that I think the key, ongoing dialog is just so important, so important.
Alex: Yeah, I like the way you touched on with… You sort of touched on just a little bit there, but talking about giving sort of too much guidance, right? If the rep comes to you and says, “These are the three people I found, how do I reach out to them?”
And if you were to say, even as their manager, which, your job you’d think would be like, OK, reach out to this person this way, this person this way, based on their persona, ICP, whatever.
But on the flip side, it’s kind of like the teach a man to fish idiom, right? If you give them exactly how to reach out to those people, they will do exactly that for those specific people. But then next time they have another account where maybe the people are slightly different, they’re gonna do the same thing.
Whereas if you just say, “Reach out to these three,” give them a little bit of guidance, but then leave it really up to them how to like craft the email, what sort of message they’re trying to leave. Then they start to develop that ability to think on their own, which is something that a lot of us, every SDR should be doing, but a lot of SDRs don’t. A lot of SDRs, it sort of comes from the dial down the list, “do exactly what you’re told,” and that’s not what the role is anymore.
Will: Now to your point, and I don’t want to give cheap, empty advice. So one of the best ways to start to learn this on your own and it’s an easy trick and hopefully, your organization that you work for gives you tools to go measure this stuff.
But look in the CRM. If you have a call coaching software, go listen to calls. Or if you don’t have those things, just plant yourself on calls all day. And don’t just say, “Hey if you have any calls, can you invite me to them?” Because that’s not going to happen, right?
Get in the best reps faces and ask them to invite you to their calls or ask to listen to the calls and Gong or Chorus or whatever the tools are that you guys have, because then what you’ll do is you’ll show, “Hey, you know Greyson, hey, so I was listening to the deal that you closed in September and I noticed on this call that you brought up this thing and I think it would be really cool if I led with that on this account that we’re working together.”
That’s just like… You’re going to get promoted probably tomorrow kind of thing if you’re already talking like that. But that’s how the best AEs usually come from an SDR background. The best managers of SDR teams come from in-the-trench SDR roles.
And they’re taking the extra step to say, “Hey I’ve looked into this. I actually studied this thing up and I’m able to now apply that,” as opposed to just making my pitch over and over again and hoping I get a result.
It’s a really underrated, simple, simple thing if you just take an extra 30, 60 minutes a day to do it. I used to do it at night while I was watching the football game that was on. I literally just put on the recordings and listened to stuff in the background while I was prospecting. You know, it’s easy to do that.
Greyson: Yeah. I think that example you gave is day and night compared to the situations you were describing with these common mistakes. And I think it boils down to a few things.
Like one, you made a really great point about basically analysis paralysis, where it’s like you can’t learn if you don’t make the decision. I mean, you kind of can, but you’re really getting your handheld there. So like, take action!
And then the second piece is be aware of your actions, because I think the implicit lesson that you’ve been speaking about this whole time is like you can’t really get learning unless you know what you want to learn and you’re prepared. And you can’t be prepared and you can’t know what you need to learn if you aren’t aware of your surroundings, aware of what your management is telling you, aware of what other reps on your team are doing to outperform you. It takes awareness in the office and awareness in your role to actually grow.
And then three, I think it gets to project management so, so hugely because I think that like as an SDR or as someone in an entry-level role that’s expected to kind of sprout and grow into a larger part of the sales career, I think you have to be able to manage your own growth. You know, you have to be able to say, “OK what do I need to get this outcome? I need to talk to this person about this thing to unblock this so that I can do this.”
And you need to map it out. Because if not, it kind of goes back to what I said earlier, people are just gonna expect you to fail or not want to spend as much time on you because you’re not prepared and you almost kind of rely on them to manage you when you should be managing the basics yourself.
You should be coming to managers for the extras, for the meat, you know? For the really awesome, juicy stuff that you can use to win the deal. So I just wanted to say that that’s really good advice.
And to everyone out there who is an SDR, I would say take action and do not let fear stop you from learning because it’s much better to do something and, even if it’s a negative outcome, have something to show for it to the management, and then say, “Can you teach me?” Rather than kind of letting fear stop you and say, “I have this account and I want to do this thing, but I’m not sure how to do it. And, you know, what do you think? How do you think I should move forward?”
I think if you do that, it’s going to stunt your growth because fear is an important part of learning and like you said, Will, SDRs, it’s all about failure. And if you have fear in your way, I mean, failure is not going away in this role. So you’re just going to constantly be stressed out and constantly overwhelmed.
Alex: Yes. It really comes down to having the way I like to phrase it is having that confidence to fail. Right? Anybody… If you knew you were gonna succeed, if anyone knew they were going to succeed at anything, they’d be confident about it.
But that’s… The lack of confidence usually comes from that fear,like you’re talking about, that fear of failure. But what happens if it doesn’t go right, where you sort of pause and you don’t know what to do?. So having that confidence to know that failure is OK. Failure is an option. And as long as you take that failure and you learn from it, then it’s really… It’s not a negative thing at all, in that sense.
So before we wrap up here, Will, we just have a few minutes left, I’d love to hear any sort of final advice, top tips, actionable items that you can leave us with that an SDR can take away from this podcast to immediately start working on becoming a self-starter and accelerating their career that way.
Will: So I have a couple. We won’t go through every single tip, but just a couple, right, that we’ve talked about.
So, number one: get more joy out of a little win than a deal winning. I always would say, especially when I first started at ZoomInfo, I would be more excited about booking five meetings a day than I would be about closing a deal. And today, actually, five meetings is like not even that great at ZoomInfo. Our best reps closed or book like 10 to 20 meetings in a day. It’s crazy. They’re unbelievable. We’re so spoiled.
But be more excited about generating and opening the door than you are closing a deal because you can’t control the outcome, especially as an SDR. So be more excited about that. Build that confidence, that stream.
Number two: when you fail, the best thing you can do is go pick up the phone and call the next person, right? Early in my career, I was like an SDR and I would also close deals too. So I was in a combo role. I had a deal committed. I self-sourced it, I did all the hard work. I found it myself. I broke through the door. I got everything done. The deal was supposed to go through. The day itwas supposed to go through, it completely fell apart.
And I didn’t really have the context to failure and I have an ego, which helps me drive myself. Like I was like, “Forget this job! It’s horrible. This is never going to work out if I did everything right.”
So I call my dad. He’s been in sales for 40 years and he did the best thing a sales mentor could ever do, “Go pick up the phone and call somebody else.” Like, that’s literally all he said. He’s like, “I love you and I’m sorry that happened, go pick up the phone and call somebody else.” That’s always been my mentality when it comes to this stuff.
And then lastly, as an SDR joining a company, hopefully there should at least be someone else who has been selling the products that you’re selling or service already working at the company. If it’s not the founder or an AE or somebody else and you have a benefit by being able to go study up what they do. So make sure you’re doing that.
If that’s not the case, then even I would argue still make sure you’re investing time into content like this. Not because I’m on it, I’m saying for Greyson and Alex and the SDRevolution guys and any other content that’s out there, be obsessed with learning about how to be better.
That will always take you to the next level. Don’t ever think that you have this stuff figured out, because you don’t. I even doubt myself on a daily basis and I know what the heck I’m doing. And that’s what makes me want to be better.
So, be excited about little wins more than outcomes of deals because you can’t control them. When you fail, pick up the phone, call the next person, and always keep learning and seek out learning and information from other people that are successful and you’ll level yourself up.
Greyson: Awesome. I love that. This is… Gold nuggets everywhere. This is invaluable advice, Will. So thank you so much for joining us today to talk about what it means to be a self-starter in the SDR role.
Before we close out, where can people find more about ZoomInfo or get in touch with you personally?
Will: Check out our website. We got some exciting stuff going on. Just had another acquisition last week, so we’ve got a brand new streaming and intent product coming out this quarter, which is like, we already kind of lead that space, we’re humbled enough to say we lead the space in intent. But we’ve now rolled out a new offering that’s going to deliver it in real-time. Kind of like a stock-ticker. So the second somebody searches for something or reads content, you’re going to get an alert on it. So reach out to us that way.
I try to be decently active on LinkedIn when I’m not on demo calls and doing other stuff, so reach out to me there. But reach out to ZoomInfo, if you guys ever need anything, I’m obviously happy to help.
Greyson: Awesome, well cool, thank you so much for joining us.
This has been Greyson and Alex for The SDRealness podcast.
Until next time SDRs, keep it real.