SDRs Catching Lightning in a Bottle

Pro-Tip: Don’t Do It.

Lee Baker, one of the Sr SDRs at demandDrive, put together this email recently. With the current state of the world I don’t think it could have come at a more appropriate time:

Here’s the thing – while this email was sent out during a tumultuous time, it’s applicable ALL THE TIME. Just because it’s extra-applicable during a viral pandemic doesn’t mean we should shun the idea of playing the long game when things return to normal. SDRs should be putting more of an emphasis on building long-term relationships, pipeline, and follow-ups to make their jobs easier and more predictable.

Catching Lightning in a Bottle is HARD

Let’s look at it surface-level to start. To catch lightning in a bottle means to accomplish a nearly impossible task, or to trap something elusive or fleeting. Capturing lightning in a bottle (literally) is a dangerous and (probably, don’t quote me) physically impossible task. It would require an extraordinary amount of luck to accomplish – a perfect storm of events that lead up to that single moment.

Catching lightning in a bottle is often likened to the surge of a viral video, or an amateur artist taking the world by storm with their rap/country song, or Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 season for the Tennessee Titans. The expression is used as a replacement for the “unknown phenomena” that created this final result.

That’s the last thing you want your SDR team to believe in. If they liken their job to catching lightning in a bottle, their focus will shift from developing pipeline to trying to win quick deals. Every SDR manager knows that teams can’t support themselves solely on quick wins, you need to mix in some long-term accounts and provide stability to the process. Otherwise, if you hit a dry spell or the lightning becomes too hard to catch, you’re out of luck.

How Do You Focus On The Long Term?

Shifting the focus of your team to prioritize long-term thinking is no easy task. It’s not immediately rewarding, and it requires a lot more work. It is, however, more stable than focusing on quick wins and will provide your funnel with some much needed balance. In the long-run, it’s a superior outlook to have.

Let’s break down Lee’s points to help you shift the mindset of your SDR team:

1. Let them know you understand they’re busy and have other priorities

2. Let them know you know you’re calling out of the blue and not trying to sell anything today

3. Let them know you’re looking to see what their timeline looks like for evaluating X

A lot of SDRs make the mistake of actually trying to sell something on a cold call. Whether it’s their product or a meeting, they’re trying to get the prospect to give something up in exchange for (in most cases) nothing. You simply don’t have enough time on a cold call or space in a cold email to dive into what your prospect needs and how your solution can add value.

SDRs shouldn’t be focusing on pushing meetings on people who might waste your time, nor should they be hard-selling someone before the prospect realizes the solution’s value. Doing either of those things reduces the credibility of your outreach.

What you do have enough time to do is create interest. An SDRs best weapon is their knowledge – about the product, the prospect, the industry, etc. Utilizing the information they have to make a case as to WHY the prospect should take the time to learn more is their biggest advantage, and they should be using it.

4. Let them know it’s an (informal) exploratory conversation around their current efforts and goals/plans for the future

5. Assure them it’s a brainstorm around best practices… Frame your org as the best practice partner. Talking through the info with your Sr. colleague *specific to the prospect’s current efforts/future goals* will be much more effective & helpful than just sending info.

This is the bread and butter of the SDR role (roll? Sorry, had to). When you play the long game and start setting yourself up with these exploratory conversations, you gain a lot more than fishing for quick wins.

  • You build credibility and trust. No one wants to buy something from someone if they feel like they’re being forced. Taking the time to understand your prospect’s needs, goals, and current situation will help you build the trust you need to make deals happen.
  • You learn. A lot. These exploratory conversations are chock full of valuable information. SDRs need to capture these conversations (ideally in their CRM) and use those notes to help build a more comprehensive understanding of their product, market, competitors, etc.
  • You sound more like a partner. Going back to the first point, by assuring the prospect that it’s not a sales call, but just a conversation to explore their goals and how they plan on achieving them, you sound more like a consultant and less like an SDR.

Filling up your pipeline with a lot of these exploratory conversations will not only make you a better rep, but your hit rate on passing over leads to the AE team will be much higher. You’re building up a case for your solution on an exploratory call vs. sending over information and hoping it has the same impact. Truthfully, if you’re just sending over info in the hopes that it resonates with your prospect you might as well be in marketing. Your job as an SDR is to show the value that isn’t visibly apparent on your brochures and datasheets, and you do that through conversation.

A solid example of how to do this is by “making deposits” as coined by Josh Braun. Illuminate something that your prospect might not even be aware of during your call, and they’ll be a lot more interested than when reps “ask for 15 minutes of your time.”

6. “So we don’t forget, I’ll send over a tentative invite to hold 20 minutes in Month X. We can always adjust the time, and don’t even necessarily have to connect then, but it’ll pop up and remind us to revisit this topic when this is more relevant.”

This is crucial to the whole process – memorability. Selling someone on a future call is incredibly difficult when you don’t give them a good reason to do it. If you convince them on a cold call that your solution deserves a look at a later date, make it as easy as you can to schedule that conversation.

Remember: You’re not selling the product, you’re selling them on the fact that the next step is not a sales call!

Leading up to that call you should remain relevant and send appropriate content as it becomes available. Build a case for your solution through content and don’t let your solution fall to the bottom of their priority list. These should be low-CTA (or even no-CTA) emails to keep your name fresh and to remind them of your upcoming meeting. Don’t bombard them, but keep yourself top-of-mind until your scheduled invite.

This isn’t a time to ambush your prospect with a surprise demo, either. This is a time for you to put together a pitch that addresses their situation, needs, and goals. You’ve had time to prepare, so come to that tentative meeting with value and information that your prospect can’t possibly turn down.

By following the above steps and painting yourself as a resource, consultant, and expert, you give yourself the opportunity to set-up more calls with interested prospects over the course of your SDR career. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fill my calendar with calls like that versus bang my head against the wall making hundreds of dials every day.