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How to become a Successful Sales Development Representative (SDR)

October 15, 2020
by
Kyle Vamvouris
SDR Thinking with text "how to become a successful SDR"

Becoming a successful SDR is a fantastic journey that will stay with you through life. To start as an SDR, you need ambition and drive to learn from the bottom up. To become a successful SDR, you need these key traits:

  • Work ethic 
  • Lifelong learner
  • Resilience 
  • Positivity

To make it big, you have to be ready to work for it. Relying solely on personality and natural talent to carry you through is not a strategy for consistent success. Instead, you must be humble and take each day as an opportunity to learn and improve. 

This is easier said than done, especially during the repeated blows from a prospect saying “No.”

As a new SDR, success is learning and development.

In the first month, your main focus will be onboarding and training. In these onboarding and training sessions, the average SDR will ask a few questions and take some notes. At the end of the day, they shut their laptops and go home. Given that most people forget 50% of what was presented within 60 mins this is the first opportunity for a successful SDR to distinguish themselves.

If you want to be a successful SDR do what successful SDRs do…

Successful SDRs don’t “shut their laptops and go home.” They take time to revise their notes and do deeper researching. Even after working a full work day, the most successful Sales Development Reps prioritize learning quickly.

Part of learning quickly is asking questions. When being trained, there is a common fear of asking ‘silly’ questions. The average SDR does not want to put their hand up for worry of embarrassing themselves with something they think everybody else already understands. 

Don't be average.

Successful SDRs are the ones who are quick to ask a question and are always proactive in identifying and filling their knowledge gaps.

Action Tip: Dedicate time each week to review what you learned and read or listen to a sales book.

What should you spend your time learning to help you be a successful SDR?

It can be easy to go down rabbit holes on topics that don't have that much impact on your success. There are realy 4 things you should make learning a priority.

Product 

Learn WHY it exists, not just how it works. Spend your energy developing a deep understanding of the problem your product solves and how your prospects may be trying to solve that problem without your solution.

Customer Case Studies

Memorize customer names & job titles (make sure you have permission to share) and drop them into conversation. Learn to tell a story about why somebody like the prospect you are speaking with is already benefiting from what your product/service does. People are curious about what their peers are up to, so make sure you know.

Target Market

Immerse yourself in the world of your prospects. Read their industry news. Go to events. Join all the LinkedIn groups and follow the hashtags. Use the knowledge you gain to think about what the prospect is likely to be doing before they pick up your phone call and how this might affect your approach to them. A successful SDR is informed and empathetic.

Sales Skills 

An average SDR will occasionally read sales content to help them learn, most likely on a Friday afternoon as they procrastinate, waiting for the weekend. 

A successful SDR identifies their strengths & weaknesses and creates specific development goals. They are not afraid to ask their Manager for role play practise, or pitch family members.

Action tip: Write up a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Seek material & opportunity to enhance your strengths and firm up your weaknesses.

What should you do to ensure consistency as an SDR?

Being a top performing SDR requires consistency in your activity and consistent growth. There are three things to pay attention to while in the SDR role.

Time Management

Prospecting is always the priority. 

An average SDR starts work by checking their email for 30 mins before making a call.

A successful SDR blocks out the start of every day to fill their pipeline with new prospects. Less important tasks are scheduled for the end of the day when energy levels are lower.

Build Rapport, Ask Questions, Listen & Close

Sales conversations should be based on the needs of the prospect, as opposed to repetitive script-based dialogues. 

An average SDR will tell the prospect about their product or service.

A successful SDR will have a natural conversation allowing the prospect to speak freely and when the time is right, they will ask for a meeting to show how they can solve a relevant challenge.

Knowledge of Conversion Rates 

You must know how many dials/emails you need to book a meeting. 

An average SDR has a strategy of hope and gets increasingly desperate as the month goes on. 

A successful SDR knows their numbers and focuses on doing the daily activity to achieve forecasted results. 

Action Step: Do the math on how many calls and emails it takes you to book a meeting. Use that to set clear daily expectations for yourself that will lead to hitting quota!

Attitude > metrics

Yes, metrics are important. That being said, having a poor attitude will make hitting your expectations near impossible. Do be a successful SDR, here are a few things you should do. 

Be at your desk early. Take extra time to prepare your day, create prospect lists and read industry news.

Keep your CRM up to date. You never know when senior management might dip into CRM to check the results. If your activity and metrics aren’t properly logged, even if you are successful, nobody will be able to see it.

Treat your colleagues as customers.  Sales is a competitive environment, and passions can run high, but it’s really important to treat everybody at work with courtesy and respect. Having a good internal brand will contribute to your success.

Have a hunger for success. Saying you want to exceed your target is one thing. Showing that you want to exceed it is another. Stay focused when prospecting. Go the extra mile and always make an extra call.

Don’t just say you want to be the best, show it.

Longevity in the SDR Role

Writing an article about being a successful SDR would be incomplete without discussing what happens once you have been at it for a while. 

For the typical SDR, fatigue of the ‘daily grind’ will set it around the 10-12 month mark. It is not uncommon for experienced SDRs to expect a promotion simply because they’ve hit their number. If that SDR isn't promoted, they can become demotivated. 

Being a successful SDR requires you to keep your attitude positive. stay well rested and take time outside of work to unwind. Start each day fresh with a positive attitude and conduct a high volume of work enthusiastically.

Context matters, so without knowing the situation I cannot suggest leaving a company because they wont promote you. That being said, here is my rule of thumb.

  1. Keep a positive attitude.
  2. Exceed expectations
  3. Ask for a promotion
  4. If it looks like a promotion wont come, commit to giving it all you’ve got for two more months. If the situation doesn't change, then start looking for a new company.

This process gives your company time to do right by you and it prevents you from making a reactionary decision.

Action step: Ask your manager for an opportunity to take on more responsibility and some clarity on timeline until you could move into the next role. 

You have everything you need to be successful! 

You will become a successful SDR by never giving up and always working hard. Within the profession you will have tough days, weeks and even months. It happens to everyone, it is unavoidable. The true marker of success is not how you manage the good times, it’s easy to do well when you’re on a high, it’s how you deal with the tough times that will really set you apart from others.

Action Steps

  1. Dedicate time each week to review what you learned and read or listen to a sales book.
  2. Write up a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Seek material & opportunity to enhance your strengths and firm up your weaknesses.
  3. Do the math on how many calls and emails it takes you to book a meeting. Use that to set clear daily expectations for yourself that will lead to hitting quota!
  4. Ask your manager for an opportunity to take on more responsibility and some clarity on timeline until you could move into the next role. 

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