My boss was going to fire me.
“You haven’t booked a single meeting,” he said. “3 months, 6,000 calls, over 1,000 connects, and not a single meeting.”
I gulped. This was my first “big boy” job, and I was about to blow it. I was an SDR at an enterprise software company. I came in thinking I’d be crushing quota out the gate. I’d be booking demos and collecting fat commissions.
But I was wrong. Big time.
“You only made 120 calls last week. What were you doing the rest of the time?”
My defense was pathetic. “Preparing for calls, I said. “Doing prospect research, connecting on LinkedIn, getting in the right mindset...”
He shook his head. Like all the prospects I’d spoken to that week, he didn’t buy it.
“Get it together, Kyle. Or you’re out.”
I spent the rest of that Friday afternoon passing through the stages of grief, mourning my SDR career.
Denial: I was working hard! Just because I wasn’t on the phones doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing valuable stuff!
Anger: WTF? He could’ve called out any of the other baby SDRs for probably the exact same thing, and I know I’m better than them with the script.
Bargaining: Okay, fine, I’ll just do the same number of calls, but I’ll double down on email and LinkedIn. That’ll work better!
Depression: I’m not going to live up to expectations. I’m sucking at this. I’m the worst SDR here. I probably shouldn’t be in this job.
Acceptance: Fine. He was right to call me out. I do need to get my shit together. I’ve been avoiding calls because the daily slog of rejection sucks. What’s my next step?
I decided to spend my commute home listening to my failed calls. If I was going to ruminate on every failure to the point of paralysis, I figured I might as well try to learn something.
The first call was brutal.
It was minute after minute of stomach-wrenching cringe. Listening to myself trying so desperately made me want to slam my forehead into the steering wheel. Prospects were almost literally telling me: “I can tell you don’t care about me or my business, you only care about this call going well.”
By the time I was close to my exit, I was yelling at my pre-recorded self as the drivers beside me cast concerned looks and carefully maneuvered away. I realized then that I was onto something.
I kept listening to my failed calls, and sometime that weekend I had a revelation. I don’t remember when, because it didn’t hit me all at once. It filtered in a little bit like this:
You don’t matter.
Your emotions, your concerns, your fears of rejection or failure, don’t matter. The only thing that matters is the prospect.
Whether or not they reject you has 0% to do with who you are. It’s 100% dependent on your prospect’s emotions.
You're just the interruption in their day; the disembodied voice on the other end of the phone line. And if they're like the 95% of cold prospects you'll talk to in your sales career, they'll probably hang up on you. No matter how good your pitch is.
When you were focusing on not messing up, you should’ve instead been thinking about the prospect. How are they feeling right now? How do they need you to show up? Do they need an anxious, approval-seeking sales body desperate to hit their quota? Or do they need a confident, helpful advisor who has a solution to the problem they're facing?
I’m fairly certain this is a conclusion that all great salespeople come to.
I went in that Monday with a humble plan.
- Stay under the radar.
- Make a few more calls than average to get my reps in.
- Maybe book a couple meetings by Friday.
It didn’t pan out that way.
I broke their record for most meetings booked in a single day. Ever.
Then I did it again the next day.
My blazing record-breaking streak cooled off, but I was booking meetings every day. I was off the schneid. I was crushing it.
Shifting my emotional focus had shut the fear out. My prospects had the challenges, I had the solution. What they thought of me didn’t matter.
By the time I left for another opportunity, I was so thoroughly immersed in the perspectives of my prospects I was converting on 1 out of every 3 connects (yeah, I know that’s crazy).
I’m not an SDR anymore. Now I train them. Over two hundred, so far. This is the technique I teach them - how I learned to stop worrying and love the suck.
It goes like this:
#1: Listen to your failed calls, and identify every moment when your emotions got in the way.
#2: Create a call log with two columns - “My Emotions” and “Their Emotions”. Write down the emotions you were feeling during the call. “I was afraid they were going to hang up on me.” “I was worried they were going to yell at me if I pushed harder.” Etc.
#3: In the second column of the call log, write what you think the prospect’s emotions actually were. How were they feeling while you were worrying about booking your meeting? How did they need you to show up?
The more you empathize with the prospect, the less your emotions will get in the way. Because you’ll realize your emotions don’t matter. You don’t matter. The only thing that matters is the prospect.
Over time, you’ll stop reacting to that fear and letting calls go. You’ll find yourself thinking more from the perspective of the prospect, relating better, and overcoming obstacles that used to be call-enders.
This isn’t a Jedi mind trick. It’s self-applied cognitive behavioral therapy, and you need it.
And if you happen to be looking for the sales job that’ll launch your career into the stratosphere, check out our sales job board.