Knowing what it takes to be a successful SDR takes time. Nobody picks up the phone on day 1 and knocks it out of the park. You need to spend a significant amount of time building your own experience in the role before you hit your stride. All that being said, there are definitely ways to give yourself a head start, so why not learn from those who held the role before you?
Calvin Patterson asked his network of experienced Sales Development experts what they wish someone had told them on their first day as an SDR, and to say they came back with some great advice would be an understatement.
While everyone shared stellar advice, there were a few themes that could be found across the majority of them: Individual growth, professional self-worth, and authenticity.
Growing as an individual, both personally and professionally, was the most common piece of advice we received, and diving into the responses allows us to understand why. Tyler Cole, now a Senior Account Exec at Sendoso, wishes that someone had told him that, “ it is on [him] to seek outside resources, mentors, and ask the difficult questions without fear of repercussions”. As good as a lot of the resources are for SDRs out there (you are on SDRevolution after all), many orgs don’t have the infrastructure or processes to teach their SDRs everything they need to be as successful as possible. Being a self-starter when it comes to your own education is vital for success, especially on smaller teams that can’t afford to dedicate as many resources to their sales development program.
Daniel Klein, The Global Head of Sales Development at Namagoo, responded by taking it a step further: “What I wish I knew going in was just how important it is to be an active participant in your own education. Even the best bdr programs, even the best managers can only give you so much, can only teach you so much.” Even with all the support he could’ve asked for from his team, there was still nothing that could replicate the authentic, individual motivation that drives a great SDR to continue their growth.
When looking at this idea on a more actionable level, Business Development Team Lead Kayla Cytron-Thaler gives some simple, yet strong advice: “Follow/network with sales leaders. Listen to what they are using in their outreach and try it out.” If this were Buzzfeed we’d title this 3 Simple Steps to Help You Hit Your Quota and call it a day, because this does work. By finding and following the thought leaders you find online you’ll build up a constant flow of great advice and best practices that will show up in your newsfeed whenever you open LinkedIn.
One of the biggest hurdles an SDR has to overcome centers around their sense of self-worth in the workplace. They sit at the bottom of the ladder in an entry-level role, yet are tasked with having meaningful conversations with important decision-makers and C-Level executives at organizations of all shapes and sizes.
As Travis King puts it, “Always stand up for yourself, know your worth, and most importantly, don’t back down.” As an SDR, you need to know that your value is more than your title. You are the first impression and the face of your organization to anyone who you speak with. If that face comes across tentative and hesitant it doesn’t reflect the company well and can lead to certain struggles in your near future. By positioning yourself as a worthwhile, important member of your organization, prospects will respect you more and take time out of their day to speak with you.
But you don’t want to take things too far. Yes, you need to respect yourself, but you also need to respect your prospect and understand that, while you’re not beneath them, you’re not above them either.
“I wish I knew that not everything is about me, and it’s not about you either.” – Sarah Drake, SDR @ Slack
At the end of the day, sales development is about finding companies that will benefit from using your product. You and the prospect are simply the impactful parties in that decision. Whether or not they want to buy is a business decision, not a personal one. While it’s easy to get emotionally invested in an opportunity you put work into as it moves through the funnel, investing too much after it’s out of your hands will lead to more disappointment than happiness.
It’s important to note that self-worth and individual growth are not mutually exclusive. Galem Girmay’s advice touches on just that fact. Her lesson to be learned was the importance of “Continuously advocating for myself and my growth to develop”. Knowing your worth goes beyond just your role. You are a valuable piece of the team that you’re on, and as long as you are able to see your own value, using that to continue learning and growing should be standard for the course.
Once you know yourself and know what you’re worth, it becomes easier to use that to your advantage. Being comfortable in your own skin is something that most people in their 20s are still figuring out, regardless of how they make a living. But if you’re able to be yourself in your SDR role, success will follow swiftly.
Sean Kawaguchi told us that self-awareness was the most important trait she wished she had as a young SDR, but she also recognized that it was something that takes time to develop. Still, “The sooner you begin working on it, the better”. Being self-aware and understanding your own motivations is a prerequisite for being an authentic SDR, which should be one of the primary goals for any SDR.
But don’t be too serious about it. Tucker Hood made sure to tell us, “have some fun with it, other people want to have fun and to see your human side, even during a buying cycle”. While the product you sell is the main factor in a closed deal, people still prefer to buy from people they like, and there’s nobody anyone likes less than someone who’s “fake”. Unfortunately, this is all too common amongst salespeople because the business used to thrive on some…let’s call them questionable…practices.
Wesley Ulysse put it succinctly when he told us, “You’re not selling until you’re being yourself”. This is the attitude you should have when selling, otherwise you’re almost guaranteed to come off as inauthentic and pushy, a death sentence for any cold outreach.
If there’s one thing we learned from this exercise it’s that there is a lot out there for an SDR to learn before they become a master, especially when it’s one of their first jobs after college. More than anything, it seems clear that our respondent’s success in the role hinged on understanding themselves more than understanding their role. Any decent sales development program is likely to give an SDR the technical tools and knowledge to pass in the role.
The difference between good and great appears to be the difference between just knowing your role, and knowing yourself in the role. It’s important to note that the additional layer of learning about yourself is complex, and self-discovery works differently for different people. But as long as you work with an eye on your impact and self-worth, you’ll become as successful as you can be.