EPISODE 18: TACTICAL SALES PSYCHOLOGY FOR SDRs
Episode 18 Transcript
Alex: Hello, and welcome to The SDRealness Podcast, brought to you by Sales Development Revolution, where we’re talking with practitioners about their take on important topics from the space.
I’m Alex Ellison. Here with me as always is my co-host, Greyson Fullbright.
Greyson: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us.
Alex: So we’re now into season two of this podcast, and the theme for this sort of lineup of episodes is “See Action, Take Action”, so our plan is to dive into a topic in sales development and learn specific tactics from experts who really do this sort of stuff every day.
So today’s topic I’m super excited to talk about is tactical sales psychology. Joining us for the conversation is Brian Smith Jr. He’s a Partnerships Account Executive at Vendition as well as the sales development community leader for Sales Hacker.
Brian thank you so much for joining us today!
Brian: Yeah, man. I appreciate you guys having me on. I think it’s going to be very interesting and a lot of fun to dive into this topic.
Greyson: Yeah, I definitely agree. I think there are many different directions we can take it and there’s a lot of interesting stuff we can dive into. And so to kick things off and kind of frame the conversation, I want to get your take Brian on why psychology in sales is such an important part of an SDR’s toolbox.
And what really makes it important specifically for SDRs who are having to face rejection, having to go through and cold prospect with the same process every day.
What really makes psychology so important in the sales development role?
Brian: Yeah, I think you got to start with the beginning of what is the climate that we’re in right now from the aspect of selling, right? Fortunately, technology is booming.
Unfortunately, it’s caused us to become robotic. And being robotic does not build relationships. Not building relationships does not lead to a sale.
And so psychology is important because if you look at psychology, it’s the study of – ultimately when I’m speaking of psychology – it’s the study of human behavior, right? And how we interact, what allows us to make decisions, right? Talking about cognitive dissonance, those types of things.
If we want to be impactful, if we want to put people first – what ultimately sales is about, it should be about putting people first – we can’t be robotic. And to me, for SDRs, you have to think about the person first. In order to do that, you got to think of it from a psychological standpoint of what makes this person tick? What’s their best style or form of communication, right?
And one thing I don’t think we talk about enough is what makes that person that you’re trying to sell to get up in the morning and how can I utilize that information to put them first and in a position to make the best decision possible for them, their company?
And something I think that a lot of us don’t think about – and I don’t want to say a lot of us because sometimes I forget – but this may impact their family if they have one at the end of the day. So I think that’s why it’s such an important topic for SDRs.
We tend to think of SDRs as a very short-cycle thing, the career path, right? This whole mindset of “a year then get promoted,” that doesn’t happen anywhere else in any other industry in the world, right? This whole mindset of “you’re just an appointment-setter,” everything’s so short, it’s a short stint, right?
So I think if you take a psychological approach first, it’ll be a longer play for you and build ultimate success for you.
Alex: Yeah and it sounds like you’re sort of touching on the idea to use the psychology not only for your advantage as the SDR but because the goal here really ultimately in sales is to help the prospect, right?
If you believe in the product you’re trying to sell them, you want to have that conversation. If it doesn’t help them, that’s when you step back and say, “Okay maybe not.” Maybe this affects your family negatively, right? Maybe this causes your job to, you know, become obsolete, something like that. Then you don’t want to sell to them because you’re taking them into account, right?
Brian: Yeah! And hopefully you have a product or you’re selling a product where there are multiple angles to where you can help sell them, right?
So I’ll give you an example at Vendition, right? We’re in the business… I sell professional services compared to a product, right? So our services are flexible from that aspect: it can look different depending on the customer.
And so the thing I think may be the best value for you once we dig in, once I really find out what’s making you tick, what are your end goals for you as a leader, there may be another part of our business that can help you compared to what I originally was trying to provide for you.
And again, if we’re robotic, we’ll never get to that place, right? So great point!
Greyson: Yeah and I think that’s a good callout about this idea that scale and automation has gone too far and that really the messaging out there – even when someone’s on the phone – can come off very robotic, even when it’s a real person having a live conversation with you.
And I think that gets to the point of there’s a ton of noise out there of other SDRs that are really rubbing people the wrong way. And I think what the psychology of sales is talking about is finding ways to actually get the buyer to see you as a human.
Because you talked about going through the discovery phase. You know you, as a seller, have to see the buyer as an individual human. But it’s the same way around. It has to be reciprocated. The buyer has to view you out of a group of other people trying to get their attention and choose you and trust you to kind of take them forward with the process.
So if you are robotic, it’s really hard to gain that trust or to stick out. And so I think that’s a really good callout on the fact that like… When we’re talking about psychology and how that fits into sales, we’re really talking about the nuances of when you’re reaching out, what are you actually saying? Why do you include these words and not those words? And when you’re on a call, how do you navigate different types of people? Different types of minds? I really love that.
Brian: Yeah, I think… In the beginning my career, I always felt like sales is a somewhat science and art. And I’m fearful that the technology is causing us to lose the art side of our profession, right?
There’s just some nuances that just need to happen organically from a human-to-human standpoint. Technology is supposed to give us insight to have better conversations and relationships, not dominate and control the conversations, right?
So I’m fearful that we’re losing the art of selling compared to having the scientific… And don’t get me wrong, I’m a nerd when it comes to figuring out like okay, how many actual dials does it take to actually get to somebody. Like that stuff’s insightful, my hair is standing up talking about it right now.
So I’m not like knocking that. But at the end of the day, it’s about putting people first. And so if we’re getting away from that, we’ll continue to see sales reps getting fired. We’ll continue to see the meeting set to close ratio continue to drop. So a very good point.
Alex: Yeah and I really like the way you phrase it, where the automation and the technology that exists and will continue to improve should be there to enhance that relationship you’re trying to build, not replace it or to circumvent it or anything like that.
So to sort of this segue to our next question, I want to talk a little bit about what SDR specifically can do to take advantage of psychology to improve their results. And that phrasing sounds a little weird because it sounds like they’re sort of trying to take advantage of prospects, right?
But that’s not what we’re talking about here, right? So what sorts of I guess things can they look out for from a prospect side that will tell them, “Hey maybe this person,” even if it’s as simple as like, “Oh this person clearly like doesn’t want to have a phone call, they’d rather talk over email,” right?
That’s a type of psychological tactic. Do you have any other sort of examples or tactical ways that SDRs can be using psychology and sort of figuring out who these prospects are in their day-to-day outreach?
Brian: Yes, I want to give some context. I’m in the Martech space, right? So SaaS products. So when I’m speaking about these types of tactics, that’s what I’m in reference to, right? Sales industry is huge. There’s logistics and stuff. I’m talking about Martech specifically. Most people are on LinkedIn. They have Instagrams. They have twitters.
So when it comes to tactics from that standpoint, you’ve got to figure out how to become what I call a “Walking Pattern Interrupt.”And what I mean by that is everything about you, the way your behavior is online, needs to get your prospects’ attention.
So I’ll give you a perfect example. Tara from Gravy. I think she’s blowing up on LinkedIn. If you haven’t heard of her, you should be following her. She took a meeting from me solely because she got to see my life outside of – and I’m not trying to put words in her mouth – but basically, I was the first person to not only connect with her on LinkedIn, but went and followed her on Twitter so she could see my family and see what I like to do. I like to barbecue, I like to… right?
So it takes me from being robotic, right? Because let’s be honest, like the noise we were talking about on LinkedIn, you’re just another robot that most people are just scrolling. The minute I followed her on Instagram, she went, “Wait this is somebody I’ve seen on this. Let me look a little bit further.”
So she took a meeting solely because I was the first one. I didn’t even message her. I just followed her on Instagram. And so part of that too, being a walking pattern interrupt, is being an early adopter. That’s a lot to the success.
We talk about psychology, right? Behaviors! When you’re the first one to do something, it’s naturally a pattern interrupt, right? She said, “Ah nobody’s ever done this. I like this guy. Like let me figure out what he’s doing.”
So I’ll stop that there because I can go on for days about that.
Greyson: Yeah, I think that’s awesome. I want to go into maybe specifically some situations that SDRs might face. Because as we all know, phone aversion is a big deal for a lot of SDRs, especially newer ones.
And then on the same dime, I mean some people just aren’t really good at written communication and it’s just not their favorite form of communication. And so they struggle with either direct messages on social or maybe via email.
So let’s say that someone’s trying to reach out to a cold buyer or a cold prospect, whether it be through call or whether it be through email. How should they equip themselves with some tactical, psychological stuff?
Like when you think about pattern interrupts, like is there a framework that you use? Or are there maybe some like kind of default ways that you kind of be creative and stick outside of the box when you’re like talking to a fresh prospect for the first time?
Brian: Well, that’s a great question. Let me talk about video for a second because there is a framework a lot… So a lot of people have. And the only reason why I’m saying videos is because I’ve had a ton of people reach out to me about how I had success with video, specifically LinkedIn video, so InMailing someone with a LinkedIn video.
My framework is one, calling out the elephant in the room is my favorite thing to do. And what I mean by that is cold call: “Hey, this is Brian calling from Vendition. I know I probably caught you off guard and I want to be honest and straight forward with you. This is a cold call. But if I could just get five seconds to share why I’m calling. If you’re interested, I’d love to set up another time for us to talk/chat. If not, there’s no hard feelings. I promise to go away.”
So my framework has always been honesty, calling out the elephant in the room, right? Because a lot of times it’s just natural human behaviors. You got to level set with people, right? You don’t just walk up to somebody in public and start just randomly chatting with them. You got to find some type of common ground. That common ground is calling out the elephant in the room, taking that awkwardness away.
So for video for me, it’s sending the video, let them know like, “Hey this may be the first video you’ve ever got, it’s a new thing.” I was kind of an early adopter. Now it’s kind of weird to say that. But, “Hey I hope this video doesn’t catch you off guard. The reason why I’m reaching out is x, y, and z. Is this relevant right now for us to discuss?”
And I love to back people, like get people… We’re humans. Give people a reason to back out if they’re uncomfortable. “Hey if this is not relevant, if this doesn’t make sense, it is okay.” I’m not going to harp on you about talking to me, right? Like give people… That’s human instinct, right? You never corner anybody and say, “Hey I can’t let you go until you answer this question,” right?
So I’m a huge fan of allowing people to back out if they like because then that kind of softens the blow. So always be honest about why you’re calling, call out the elephant in the room, because again, you need a way to level set to get on the same page. And then always tell them why you’re calling.
And then at the end, some people say Call-to-Action, I like to think of it as giving them a chance to make the best decision for them. I’m not trying to make you eat the ice cream. I’m putting an ice cream in front of you and giving you the opportunity to decide if you want to eat it or not.
So that’s how I kind of think about my framework and that helped me out a lot. It took pressure off of me. Like, “Wow I actually can’t make this person eat this ice cream. I actually can’t make this person sign this contract.”
What I can do is tell them, one, why I’m reaching out, I’m being honest about the situation and here’s the value prop I think, based on my research, may help you. What do you think?
That’s the same… It’s just like dating. It’s just like any type of human interaction we have. It’s the same thing, don’t make it difficult!
Alex: Yeah and I think that’s something that you can get lost sometimes as an SDR is thinking that this conversation – even though it’s a cold call, it is different from a normal conversation – that you should act differently than you would in normal conversation, right?
The ice cream… I love ice cream, so maybe that’s why the example got to me. But, right? Like, I’m not going to force-feed you some ice cream. You can’t do that! Like if I have the ice cream, I pick up a spoon and start airplaning it towards your mouth, you’re going to back away. There’s no way you’re eating that ice cream.
But if I leave that bowl of ice cream in front of you and then I back away, there you go! You’re going to go for it and I say, “Here you can have this, do whatever you want with it.”
Brian: Do you know what helped me realize that? I have a two-year-old, respect to the mother, and let me just tell you, if you try to make a two-year-old do anything, nine times out of ten they’re going to do the complete opposite.
But it’s weird. If I say hey – her name’s Georgia – if I say, “Hey Georgia, I need you to clean up,” and I walk out the room versus sit and hover over her, she’ll do it. But for some reason, if I try to make her do it, put the bin in front of her, she’s like… And I don’t know, I had this like epiphany like holy crap.
Like that’s it. Like put the ice cream in front of the people. Ice cream’s good. Vendition is great! I know it. I just need to put it in front of you in a way where you just take a bite. After that, it’s game over, right?
Like proof is in the pudding. It’s not like that for everybody. I get it. Make sure you’re selling a great product, a great service, what have you.
Alex: Yeah and one more thing… I love that example! That epiphany you got there, it’s a great story. When you’re putting the ice cream in front of people, one of the – if we’re going to get back into the psychology of things – you want the ice cream to look appetizing.
If I put a bowl of melted ice cream in front of you, I’ll probably just go buy some frozen ice cream down the street and I’ll be much happier than drinking the soup you gave me.
So to sort of bring it back to the psychology of things, are there different things you do, different sort of tactics you take to make sure that that bowl of ice cream looks appetizing, that what you offer, you’re making sure you like hit the value props, and sort of where does the psychology and understanding the buyer play into that?
Brian: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think let’s talk about SDRs specifically. Let me just reassure, we’re talking about SDRs only, right? Not just AEs, just SDRs?
Alex: Yeah, we’ll focus on SDRs.
Brian: This is really tough. I’m probably getting in trouble for this.
As an SDR, in most cases… Mmm I’m gonna get in trouble. I don’t think you can control that because in order to be able to control that, you have to do discovery. And a lot of times SDR’s responsibilities is not necessarily discovery.
Here’s what I will say to make sure you put the thing in front of them. I think you know you’re not trying to give them the entire ice cream bowl, you’re just trying to give them a piece of the spoon, or a piece of ice cream on the spoon.
That little bit comes from the research that either you’ve done beforehand on the person and kind of in that beginning of that intro, whether it’s a cold call or a video, you level-setting with them, softens the blow to where you gave them just enough of the ice cream for them to ask for more. I don’t think you try to position it in a way where it’s completely 100%. You don’t pull the curtains back completely.
Talking about psychology, some of that is just the tone of your voice and the way you position it. I’m trying to… I think Josh Braun is a guy that he, he talked about a certain situation where someone says, “Well this is expensive,” and you say, “It’s too expensive?” And you just sit and wait. You let them walk through what they’re supposed to walk through before you respond. It’s kind of that same thing.
Some of it… Your pitch is literally just in your tone to have them to want more, right? It could be as simple as like, “Hey I saw you were connected to Josh. I know he’s a competitor of yours. He checked us out last week.” Do different things with tonality and maybe you give them a little bit of sprinkles instead of the entire ice cream, right?
So it’s really hard to make sure you position that – if I’m answering your question correctly – it’s hard as an SDR. And that’s when we get back to the science and the art of it.
Sometimes it’s literally just that natural nuance, that instinct where someone goes, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I kind of like you, so I’m going to give you a shot.” Tara had no idea what I would possibly try to offer her or why I was contacting her.
But I did something different that was enough of a pattern interrupt for her to take a call. That’s your job as an SDR. I don’t know if I answered that question correctly, but it was tough. I didn’t want to get in trouble because I’m typically a rebel with stuff like that. I don’t need anybody coming after me on LinkedIn. “He said blah blah blah!”
Greyson: No, I love it! And I think the background kind of concept that we’ve been talking about here really relies I think in relationships.
Because when we’re talking about kind of initial touches with a fresh prospect, the way that they view you and the way that they view your words is very biased at first.
We talked to Chris Beall from ConnectAndSell in an interview and he talks about this idea that like really buyers fear the SDR. They’re the stranger hopping in and disrupting their life and potentially they have this unknown outcome that they’re bringing to them. Like they don’t know what’s going on and so you need to be very meticulous about how you present yourself.
And I’m going to get into a kind of the last question here, but I wanted to frame it because cold touches are one thing. And they’re so important because it starts the relationship. That’s when the buyer gets to know you as an SDR and gets to know your brand as an organization.
But then there’s follow-up. Everybody knows that it’s very rare that you’re going to connect with somebody on a first attempt with a call and it’s even rarer for you to then get a productive conversation that scores a meeting. It’s percentage points.
Which – what that means – is everybody else SDRs have to follow up with, keep in touch with, build that relationship that they’ve started.
So I want to kind of shift focus from that initial touch to the follow-up, that nurture game where you’re trying to plant those seeds, build those relationships.
Are there ways that you can use psychology as an SDR to kind of gain that relationship? Not manipulate, but kind of leverage the things that they know about the organization, about that person, and use the relationship they create to score that meeting.
Brian: Yeah. So from the tactical aspect, everything you should be doing is calling out their expectations, identifying it, right? So, “Hey I know you just said yes to this, but in reality what’s our end goal?”
And so once you get that end goal for them, whether it’s the next meeting, whether it’s, “Hey I promise to follow-up with you or get with you by next Monday.” Whatever the expectation is, you need to figure that out. That’s the number one tactical thing.
Because then, I mean… We all say we like to be held accountable, but do we really? It’s kind of a pain. Like damn! I’m supposed to… My kid comes and says, “We’re supposed to go swimming Dada,” and it’s like, “auughh.” But I know I committed to it.
So it’s kind of that guilt, I’m not saying you should make your prospects feel guilty, but again it’s holding somebody to a standard.
The second thing I think when we think about psychology for follow-up… For me, I think in general in the SDR world, relevancy is a big thing, really really big thing.
We saw personalization a lot I think the last couple of years. One thing I’ve been screaming is, “Does it have any type of relevance?” I hate to go back to Tara, but Tara’s super active on Instagram. I instantly became relevant because I was following her on Instagram and I came into her world on Instagram.
So that’s why my ability to get the meeting and stay in touch with her was relevant. So for follow-ups, I think you need to be wherever your buyers are. I don’t care where that is, like you got to figure out a way how to get there.
Let me give you a perfect example. If I sell to salespeople, I need to be a part of Sales Hacker, which you should be a part of sales hacker if you’re not, best online community. I’m not just saying that because I’m involved with them, they always have been.
If there’s like micro-communities popping up around the world, like get in those. Be where they are, right? And then once you’re there because they’re there, what you do is, “Hey there’s this cool event coming up,” right? Let’s just say I was prospecting Alex, right?
“Alex I’m supposed to follow-up with you in a couple of weeks. A week before… I know I’m in this community with you, I’m going to tag you in this cool… maybe Alex you and I just talked about ice cream. Here’s a new show on the top ice creams across the world and hey Alex, I think you should check this out. By the way, look forward to catching up in a week.”
It’s relevant, it’s personalized, and I’m still sticking to what we set in the very beginning from expectation, right? I’m still remembering I’m supposed to follow-up. So from a follow-up standpoint – just to wrap that up – is be wherever your buyers are and utilize different events and communities to stay in touch for your follow-up.
The worst thing you could do is say, “Hey just following up. Hey just checking in,” like and the reason why that’s terrible is because everybody else in the world is doing it. Not because that thing is actually bad, it’s because it’s become robotic now and so everybody’s doing it, so it’s not a way to break through that noise like we talked about in the beginning.
Did I answer that question?
Alex: Yeah, that was good. Greyson did you have any follow-up to that? I was going to say you made a sort of interesting point I guess in your point. It was interesting that you didn’t have to follow-up with your own content or sort of your own ask.
You just followed up, “Hey Alex, we talked about ice cream. I know you like ice cream, found this cool show about ice cream, thought you’d like it,” right? You stay relevant. Because at that point, if you’re in the nurture phase, it’s usually, “Okay, they’re maybe not ready yet. They said follow-up in two weeks, it’s only been one week. Let me just stay top of mind. Let me just throw this good idea out there, build a little rapport,” while still, like you said, making that pattern interrupt that you do stay top of mind.
So that way, in a week, he’s like, “Oh yeah, Brian!” I’d be like, “Oh Brian yes, the ice cream guy, yes, what did you want to talk about? Sure, whatever.” And that’s the goal.
Brian: People first at the end of the day. I promise you, if we keep doing that, other things will happen naturally. But when I’m sharing a new whatever about ice cream, I know that was kind of a silly example, I probably could give a better example.
But since we were talking about it earlier. Again, it’s not about me! I’m actually lactose intolerant. So I’m making it about you. Yes, it’s going to help me in the long run, but what I’m establishing is a relationship, trust, relevance, human behavior, right?
My friends all week… I’m not sure about your friends, but we send each other freaking memes. Like if they know I’m a big podcast buff, they’ll send me podcasts they come across. My co-worker does it every morning. Like if our friends are doing those things, why wouldn’t we do that with our prospects if we’re trying to make them a relational partner, or a business partner, or a friendship?
Like why would we not do things? Why would you not send a funny meme to… Well, let me back up. Maybe don’t send a funny meme depending on what industry you’re in.
But if it’s something helpful, something you know they would like, I’ll tell you right now if you need a meeting with me, you want to get me on a podcast show, send me something about barbecue. Send me something about sports. Send me something about how to be a better parent, because kids are crazy. I’m down! That’s enough personalization and relevance for me to do anything.
I know that was a little tangent, but….
Alex: No, that was good! The only problem I had is that you said ice cream was kind of a silly example and I’m a little offended by that.
But Brian thank you so much for hopping on with us today to talk about the psychology of being an SDR, pattern interrupts, getting in front of the prospects, and building that relationship with them.
If people want to find out more about you, more about conditional or sales hacker, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Brian: Yes, real active on LinkedIn. I mentioned I’m on Instagram @I_am_Mr. Smith. And then the biggest thing I really love for people to do, I run a barbecue brand called good life BBQ, and I’m all about building community man, it’s like what I do. Food brings people together. You see how long we were on the ice cream topic, it just does something for people, so they can follow me there.
Vendition, love being a part of them, we’re big on helping underrepresented minorities, people of color, women break into the SDR profession. And to be quite frank, there’s so many of us, anybody that’s willing to get on board with that mission like I’d love to partner with them.
And then I’m serious about Sales Hacker man, it’s the most forward-thinking, progressive, contemporary sales advice and community for anybody that’s in a Martech space or just sales space in general. Like, come holla at me there too!
Alex: Awesome, that’s awesome. I’m definitely going to check out that barbecue brand, by the way. So we’re wrapping up! That’s all the time we have, I guess. But this has been Alex and Greyson for The SDRealness podcast. Until next time SDRs, keep it real.