An old, withering woman with slightly bent bifocals answered the door. “Hi ma’am. My name is De..,” “Not interested,” she interrupted, closing the door almost immediately. I reopened a slightly damp umbrella and started walking to the house next door. This time, a middle-aged man, probably in his low-40s cautiously opened the door, staring intently. “Can I help you?” he asked. “Hi sir. My name is Devon and I’m responsible for the roof assessments in your neighborhood. Is this the Jones residence?” He answered with a question of his own. “Do you have a permit?” “Of course,” I replied as I held out the city issued permit I received a week earlier. After quickly scanning the permit, me, then the permit again, he finally gave an answer. “Not interested. Have a good day,” as he turned around, closing the door with the same haste as his neighbor. I continued to stroll through the neighborhood, and the doors changed but the responses from their owners stayed all the same.

As the hours passed and dusk neared, the temperature, alongside my enthusiasm, dropped to a daily low as I approached a modest-looking home. After ringing the doorbell, I was greeted by an energetic tribe of small dogs looking through the window, fighting for a view of this stranger at their door. An older gentleman with a hard gaze answered. “Hi. How’s it going?” “Good,” I replied, “you have quite the pack of guard dogs. You aren’t going to let those things loose on me, are you?” The man gave me a slightly confused look then smiled. “No, no, they are harmless. What can I do for you?” I went into my pitch, and a little over a month later, I was at this home again, talking about life with the man as a photovoltaic system (my first install ever) was being situated on his roof.

Like door-to-door sales, the sales development life can be challenging, but the experience as a door-to-door rep was incredibly valuable. The story above highlights a few things I want to touch on that I believe have contributed to success and growth as a sales development rep, such as dealing with rejection, “failing forward”, and standing out to prospects in a heavily saturated profession.

Let’s talk about rejection. In door-to-door, rejection is the name of the game, and the same holds true in the SDR realm. We write up what we believe is a fire email only to get an open and no response, or articulate a clean pitch on the phone with a clear value prop and are rewarded with a “not interested”, or “reach out in Q4.” A golden nugget of advice I received from a former colleague during my door-to-door days was, “Every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’.” Instead of viewing rejection as a defeat, I’ve learned to use rejection to fuel a childlike curiosity about what I could have done better. What did I do wrong during my outreach that didn’t resonate with the prospect? Is the prospect even our ICP, and would they benefit from the solution? Focused introspection and self-reflection after rejection, a practice learned at the doors, has been a key component to growth as an SDR.

“Failing forward.” What does this even mean? When I first started hitting the doors on my own, there were times I drove to a neighborhood and just hung out in the car for an hour, afraid to get out and start knocking. However, I soon realized that the longer I waited, the more anxious I would become. To combat this fear and anxiety, I started tackling that fear head-on by getting out of the car as soon as I got to the neighborhood. The result—an uptick in productivity and an increase in qualified leads (duh!). Accepting that I was going to fail, and being alright with this failure expedited my progress. I believe this concept also applies to the SDR role. There have been times I’ve prepped for a cold-call, got cold-feet and didn’t call the prospect. Just like door-to-door, addressing the nerves of cold-calling by just picking up the phone and calling has resulted in more productive days and expedited growth.

Lastly, both the door-to-door and tech professions are incredibly saturated with sellers. Homeowners are constantly met by salespeople looking to sell everything from photovoltaic systems to vacuums, and in tech, prospects are bombarded with emails and calls from SDRs  looking to get a meeting. While on the doors, I made a conscious effort to find one thing about the home I could bring up that would surprise the homeowner (ex. The dogs in the opening story). By implementing tactic in my pitch, I was able to stand out from the hundreds of other door-to-door salespeople. I have found this technique to be helpful during my time as an SDR as well. My team and I make an effort to separate ourselves standout by leveraging top of the funnel tools and the internet to make our outreach creative and tailored. Our unique, personalized method of outreach has effectively “shocked the system” of our prospects, resulting in higher quality outreach and more meetings.

In conclusion, life as a door-to-door salesperson was extremely difficult. There were days I would knock from sun-up to sun-down with nothing to show for it, and the number of “nos” always outweighed the “yes’” by a large margin. If I had the chance to turn back the clock and was faced with the decision to do all over again, I would opt to do it every time. Although the door-to-door life was challenging, at the end of the day, I truly believe the hardships I experienced paved way for a smooth transition into a career as a sales development rep, has played a huge part in my success as one, and will continue to help me in the role moving forward.

-Devon Gradford-

Currently a sales development representative at Gong.io, the market leader in conversation intelligence and based out of San Francisco, CA. Let’s connect www.linkedin.com/in/devongradford