“If you want to be successful, you have to do 3 things. Ask for help, don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’, and – most important of all – outwork, outlearn, and outperform every single person around you.”
This was said to me by my Regional Vice President, Matt O’Brien, at my initial job interview. After years of closing deals, managing quotas, and brand management, I sat there 24 hours away from being offered a position that I had never even heard of before — Sales Development Representative.
“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —Lolly Daskal
The Learning Curve
On the surface, the function of an SDR is a fairly simple one. Source leads, research accounts, qualify sales opportunities, and schedule meetings for Account Executives. The true recipe to success involves a combination of skills like time management, organization, and not being afraid to pick up the phone.
As SDRs, countless hours are spent working to hone your craft. Whiteboards, slide decks, role plays, demos, research – there doesn’t seem to be enough hours before, during, or after the day. While there are resources available to help with your development, it’s up to you to take the first step and say “I want to be successful! I want to be the best!”
To truly and successfully navigate through the waters of lead gen and cold calling, an SDR must become a master of their craft, as well as their industry. How?
- Study what successful SDRs are doing (“The Sales Development Playbook”, The SDR Chronicles)
- Consume sales books (“The Challenger Sale”, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”)
- Stay up to date on news in your industry, using an app like Flipboard or setting up Google Alerts.
- Be a resident of your territory by reading their local newspapers and keeping up with local news.
By building a knowledge-base and having the right resources to support your story, you will be able to build credibility with your prospects. This allows you to come across as a trusted advisor, as opposed to somebody calling down a lead list ready to regurgitate a sales pitch into the ear of whomever happens to answer their phone.
Asking for Help
A company works best when all the parts are moving in a fluid, effective motion. Sales, Marketing, Finance, Engineering, and Operations all need each other to be productive for the engine to run smoothly.
After 3 ½ years of working for my first start-up, I still find it amazing to be a part of company where everybody is working towards the same goal. Everybody wants to know how they could become a vital part of building the next great company. What story will each person be able to tell when it’s all said and done? Since everybody has the same mission and focus, it’s to the betterment of the company to help others be better.
Seek out those who you find to be impressive, and ask for help. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for 30 minutes of their time. If somebody is willing to spend some time with you, take advantage of the offer.
We all know that a champion is critical to a sales campaign. Your champion will coach you on how to best sell your product to their organization, and help guide you to the Executive Buyer to get the deal done. While your performance will ultimately dictate your success, it’s important to take the time to cultivate champions of your own. Not only will they teach you how to be better, but they will recognize your effort and dedication. This could be very helpful for you later in your career.
Your co-workers now will be part of your network later!
“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” —Chris Grosser
Paying it Forward
If you’re at a company experiences growth, you’ll likely go from a newbie to a veteran before you know it. While SDRs are paid to produce pipeline and AEs are paid to bring in revenue, leaders are a very valuable commodity.
After a year as an AE, I began finding myself spending more and more time with SDRs who wanted to grow into their next role. My company offered me the chance to be an SDM, to help manage, coach, and develop the next group of AEs. Another year passed before one of my champions (whom I had spent countless hours working with when I was an SDR) offered me the opportunity to run his organization’s Sales Development group.
Having worked with 70+ SDRs, many of whom have been promoted to different business groups across the company, I’ve learned that their success is my success. Their victories are my victories. Their challenges are my challenges.
When you get to the next level, think about the people who helped you along the way. Who supported your success? When you see a new SDR during their first week, excited to start their career and overwhelmed by firehose they’re drinking from, take them out for a cup of coffee. Share your knowledge. It makes them stronger, which makes your company better and you a little wiser.
Michael Shoer started at Turbonomic as an SDR, before being promoted to an AE, SDM, and becoming Director of Sales Development. Prior to joining Turbonomic, he has worked in the TV/Film, Music, and Defense industries. When out of the office, Michael likes to play music and closely follow his Mets, Seahawks, and Celtics.