Sticking Out From the Crowd & Being Unique as an SDR
Jeremy is a seasoned sales development professional that’s well-known for his ability to stand out, be unique, & pioneer new creative sales engagement tactics.
A former SDR and recipient of the Tenbound BEAST Award, Jeremy is a top thought leader in sales development and respected mentor for SDRs.
Sales is a battlefield for attention: thousands of SDRs hunt for the same buyers and compete for their time, interest, and mindshare.
Unfortunately, many sales teams use similar tactics to engage with audiences.
When sales plays get overused, buyers quickly become aware and numb themselves to messaging that seems unoriginal or inauthentic.
As more sellers continue using the same strategies, it increasingly dilutes the value of these approaches over time for everyone selling in the space.
So how does an SDR stick out from a crowd with thousands of other sellers?
Beyond the basics of the role, where reps truly compete is in how effectively they build trust with a market compared to other SDRs in the space.
While process mastery is key in sales development, the world’s top-performing SDRs are those who can create uniquely compelling experiences for their buyers.
Before You Start
Uniqueness is centered around what others are doing.
If there were no other sellers in a space, a rep would have an easy time getting known, catching attention, and building trust regardless of their approach.
However, most markets are overflowing with competing sales teams. Every competitor in a space impacts the way buyers react to sellers over time.
To truly be unique, SDRs need to know how to stand out among competitors. Unfortunately, there’s a lot involved in getting ahead of the competition in sales:
First: Reps should already understand their role & day-to-day processes
Then: SDRs should gain intimate knowledge on target buyers
Next: Reps need visibility into what competing brands are doing
Finally: SDRs then make hypotheses about how to uniquely outcompete each other
Sticking out from a crowd is no easy task. Before a rep starts putting themselves out there and being unique, it’s important to understand what it takes to get there.
Uniqueness Takes Experience
Even at the most basic level, sales development is an incredibly challenging role.
SDRs live in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment that is constantly inundated with new relationships, information, and tasks.
To succeed in the sales development role, it takes dedicated, continuous practice.
While thinking outside of the box can help improve performance, it doesn’t replace the need for reps to be competent with their existing process.
Without a clear understanding of their sales development process, how could a rep possibly gather the knowledge and experience needed to stick out to buyers?
Experimentality without the right foundation of skills as an SDR can be dangerous.
First, reps can stunt their growth by experimenting too early. Instead of focusing on proven processes other team members use, SDRs get distracted with experiments.
In addition, experimentality can overwhelm SDRs with too many channels, skills, and approaches. Rather than mastering a few core channels and processes, reps spread themselves thin with experiments that leave them with unpolished skill sets.
Master The Basics First
Top-performing SDRs go above and beyond their usual processes to get results, but only because they’ve already built mastery over the key elements of their role.
If a rep isn’t consistently hitting quota with their existing process, then it’d be difficult to justify new ideas and experiments to the leadership team.
Before an SDR starts putting themselves out there and being unique, they need to already be effectively executing on the processes set out for the team.
Rather than learning little about a lot of different skills through experimentation, focus first on building expertise in the core channels and processes of the role.
What is the rep’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)? What is the brand’s value proposition? What pains, use cases, and personas are common for buyers in the space?
Once an SDR understands how to consistently perform with their current process, it’s much easier to think outside of the box and identify ways to be unique.
Phone Skills Are Still Key
Mastery comes with continuous practice. The more repetitions an SDR can get under their belt, the faster they can accelerate their learning.
While today’s reps have numerous ways to connect with buyers, phone conversations are still one of the best ways to effectively grow as an SDR.
Voice conversations offer benefits that other sales channels like email and social can’t: real-time discussions and massive information flow between two people.
Not only do phone calls accelerate learning compared to other channels, it’s also one of the most effective activities for eliminating a rep’s fear of cold conversations.
With a good cold calling foundation, it’s much easier for SDRs to master other sales channels and build the skills needed for experimentation.
Mastery of the sales development role is only the beginning.
Thousands of SDRs know how to do their job, yet so many still struggle to hit their numbers consistently.
Once the basics are down, how does an SDR get started on differentiating their outreach and separating themselves from other competitors in the space?
Uniqueness is not static, but dynamic: it’s determined by the rep, how they stack up against competing sellers, and how buyers perceive and react to the SDR.
To create uniquely compelling experiences as an SDR, it takes the right process to continuously refine skills, keep up with competitors, and stay in-tune with buyers.
Find Your Niche
A major component of uniqueness is individuality.
To stick out to an audience as unique, a rep’s outreach must be starkly different from other sellers. To be memorable, the rep must provide starkly unique experiences.
Since SDRs competing in the same space tend to use similar messaging, the real differentiators involve a rep’s personal brand and what about them is special.
Is it unique expertise? Their personality? Specific content? Industry authority?
To be unique, SDRs need self-discovery to understand what’s unique about them. Then they need to find a way to make their uniqueness resonate with buyers.
For example, a rep might be exceptional at doing magic card tricks and no one else in the space is using the idea.
With intimate knowledge of their market, this SDR can find ways to use his skills at card tricks to catch attention and stand out as a unique, authentic individual.
There is a fine balance between process and experimental creativity in the SDR role.
The activities and workflows driving a sales development program are so clearly defined because organizations have thousands of data points to support them.
While thinking outside of the box and being creative are invaluable skills as an SDR, that doesn’t mean reps should ignore the systems already put in place by leadership.
On the same note, SDRs shouldn’t experiment alone.
Not only do leaders have more experience to help polish ideas, they also provide opportunities to get the organization more invested in the rep’s activities.
Buy-in from leaders and support from team members are critical to making this journey valuable for everyone: the SDR, managers, and the organization.
Activity Time vs Value
Time is precious for an SDR: Every second spent on one activity or account is time that can’t be invested elsewhere.
In such a fast-paced work environment, it’s critical for reps to understand the balance between the value of an activity and the time required to do it.
Endless creative plays exist for sales development professionals to stand out, but that doesn’t mean all of them make sense for an SDR’s specific situation.
For the right accounts, out-of-the-box thinking can be a powerful way to turn extra effort into a valuable opportunity. For the wrong accounts, it’s easy to waste too much time on creative plays that don’t create the value to make them worthwhile.
SDRs simply don’t have the time to infinitely invest into every account in a market, so reps should understand their target buyers and how the value of deals can vary.
With the ability to prioritize certain accounts over others, reps can maximize the value of their time and help them stay focused on what’s important.
Best Practices & Actionable Tips
Finding a niche to be unique and stick out in an industry isn’t easy.
It can take years in a sales development role to master the basics and even longer to branch out as a top-performer.
However, any SDR can build a unique brand, create compelling experiences with buyers, and compete for attention within a market.
With the right best practices, even a brand new sales development rep can start the journey to building a distinct presence in any industry.
Don’t Overthink in Search of Perfection
A huge obstacle for SDRs is fear.
Not only are reps usually newer in their sales career, but they’re also (purposefully) placed in an environment filled with constant pressure, rejection, and competition.
Consequently, many SDRs get blocked by the fear of putting themselves out there.
In the search for perfection, reps often overthink and waste too much time trying to be unique: recording multiple takes for a video activity, focusing too much time on a social post, or nit-picking personalization for an email.
In reality, mistakes are inevitable and human. Not only do imperfections make SDRs more relatable, they’re also more authentic than any practiced script.
Ultimately, nothing can truly be perfect. Instead of getting caught up in the details, focus on actually doing it and let execution refine the process.
Formulaic vs Authentic
There’s a reason why some sellers are rock stars while a majority of sales professionals struggle to consistently hit quota.
A majority of prospecting activities out there are templated, designed for a one-to-many format, and automatically sent without a human touch.
Buyers receive hundreds of emails, calls, and solicitations every week. Each negative experience with a seller makes prospects more averse to future sales conversations.
When sales outreach doesn’t grab attention and isn’t aligned with target buyers, it also opens up opportunities for other SDRs to outcompete with better touches.
Rather than rigidly following the same pattern as other sellers, top-performing SDRs identify how to differentiate, be strategic, and stick out as an authentic human.
Review What Other SDRs Are Doing
An amazing tip to help keep SDRs ahead of the game is to regularly review the sales touches of other SDRs: the good and the bad.
Spam folders in an inbox provide excellent visibility into what buyers often complain about when they think of salespeople. Robotic messaging. Lack of empathy. Irrelevant information. False assumptions.
With a little bit of research and exploration, it’s possible to find a vast number of examples of outreach from other sales development professionals.
By comparing the good from the bad, SDRs can stay up-to-date with best practices, emerging strategies, and evolving behaviors from both competitors and buyers.
Millions of sales professionals race to hit their numbers, yet SalesHacker found more than 80% of outbound reps fail to regularly exceed even 75% of their quota.
In today’s competitive sales environment, mastery of the basics is often not enough to truly differentiate and drive performance as an SDR.
Even veteran SDRs can struggle to consistently hit quota, because sales development is simply that challenging and competitive.
To stand out from the crowd of other sellers, SDRs need to create compelling experiences with buyers that are uniquely memorable.