As we have said many times before, there is no recognised route to becoming an Sales Development Representative (SDR). There is no university course or night class you can take that would help you to get your foot in the door. In many ways, this is a good thing as it helps us to attract candidates with diverse backgrounds which means that we are a company with individuals and personality rather than a collection of clones all acting in exactly the same way. On the other hand though, it means that everybody has to be trained, so that there is at least a layer of uniformity in the company message throughout the SDR teams. As far as training goes though, there are only so many things which can be taught. Outside of that and to be successful, an SDR must already have certain personality traits and qualities that will help them to thrive. While these traits are difficult to build from scratch, where they exist, they can be honed and fine-tuned to be more effective. In short, an SDR will need a varied set of hard and soft skills to really excel in this position, so let’s take a look the top ten skills that they really need to master.
Live to learn
At Aexus, every new SDR receives training and then moves to on-the-job training, working with live partners. Of course, all of our SDRs were hired because we were able to spot the potential in them but everybody knows that potential is nothing until it is realised. That’s why one of the things we look for in our candidate is their desire to learn. A new SDR should be actively seeking out training, asking questions and demanding genuine feedback from their managers. Apart from becoming better SDRs, those who are eager to learn are not just demonstrating their enthusiasm for the job but also their hunger for success.
This is one of the soft skills that an SDR must have at least a modicum of before they even apply for a role. It is a hard job and even success doesn’t end with the high of closing a deal. For many SDRs, their days are filled with research, trying to warm up cold contacts and a lot of rejection. This is where it is essential to have resilience. If you are getting discouraged by a hard day, that will come across in every contact you make and the negativity will tun off your prospects. Always stay positive, it will actually male your job easier.
It’s important for an SDR to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. And, providing their ego allows them to recognise that they’re not going to be brilliant at everything, then skill gaps can be put right with extra training or by adapting their style to suit their skill set. For example, if you’re very good on product knowledge but not so much on organisation, have a set of cue cards beside you when you’re explaining features and benefits to a prospect so you don’t miss anything out. It’s only when you are aware of your limitations that you can create a plan for growth.
It’s crucial to plan your day if you want to stay organised. Any company that you work for should have their own processes and procedures in place but find a way to make the system work in your favour. If you have a set target regarding the number of outreaches you have to do in a day, leave time for research, personalisation and then make calls. Alternatively, if it works better for you, do your research at the end of the day so you’re ready to get straight into outreach the following morning. Whatever you do, have a plan and stick to it, using applications and tools where needed.
Know your product
If you’re working in a particular niche, you’ll presumably have had an interest in that domain before you applied for the job. But having an interest is not the same as knowing the product or service inside out. And, that is something you are going to have to do. You will be asked questions by your prospects and they will expect you to have the answers before they agree to a call with the business development manager. Try to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and learn all about how the product or service can solve their pain points.
Regardless of what you are selling, if you are using active listening, you will be able to pick up on subtle phrases and information which may indicate that a prospect could be a good fit for your product or service. This is a much more relaxed style where you can gather vital information that will help you move the prospect further down the pipeline rather than just parroting off lead qualification questions and putting ticks in boxes. This is a skill that can be learnt but does take practice to master.
Customise your outreach
Whether you’re reaching out to someone over the phone, by email or in some other way, how you communicate is of the upmost importance. That’s why a good SDR will have done enough research to be able to customise their outreach to the prospective customer. This is where SDRs can reach the balance between moving quantity down the pipeline or moving quality down the pipeline. The difference is that a qualified lead is not as good a prospect as qualified lead who has been engaged with customised communication.
As an SDR, it is your job the get the prospect prepared to be closed by the business development manager. This means that when you are establishing the relationship, you must be able to build trust. You also must be able to do this with a wide variety of people, so if you are able to vary your communication style depending on who you are talking to then that will give you an advantage. Don’t forget that communication won’t always be over the phone so you must also be able to build rapport in an email, on social media or in a virtual meeting as well.
If an SDR can follow up with a prospect over the phone, then that is and ideal situation. Unfortunately, that is not always possible in which case a follow up email or a voice message is the next best thing. Both of these are a skill and need to be practiced. Leave dummy voice messages and have your managers critique them to see if you sound tense, are talking too fast or are simply not making the right points succinctly. If you can get this right though, it is a very valuable skill. What’s more, if it leads to a call-back, you can probably move that prospect straight down the line.
This last skill can make or break a deal and is a very real fear for many an SDR. In fact, according to several sources, a reasonably high percentage of SDRs say it is the biggest challenge they face. You will get better at handling objections over time but you can stack the odds in your favour by having impeccable product knowledge and a thorough understanding of how the product is the perfect and potentially only solution for your prospect. Being able to remove a concern that your prospect has builds trust and greatly increases your chances of a sale.