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Sales Best Practices

The 5 Most Common SDR Stereotypes Debunked

Don Torrance, Sales Development Manager's Avatar

Don Torrance, Sales Development Manager

Your prospects owe you nothing. Zilch. Zero.

When you hear the term “Sales Development Rep”, what comes to mind? For most of us we imagine a tired, overworked, low-level sales rep whose head has been surgically attached to the phone, and whose only goals are to harass you into a meeting and harangue you into seeing the value of their product.

We may even recall a bad experience we had with an annoying SDR who pitched us on a product we would never use, or maybe we worked with an SDR who wouldn’t leave us alone after we told them we weren’t interested in further conversations. And gasp! maybe we’ve actually been that annoying SDR and we didn’t even realize it.

Unfortunately, these stereotypes are somewhat rooted in truth.

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? What if the SDR is the most valuable role at your company? It’s time to change everything we know about Sales Development Reps. It’s time to leave our backward biases behind.

And for the SDRs reading this: don’t be THAT rep. Just don’t. If you are, I’ll teach you how to be authentic and agreeable to prospects.

But first, here are some of the most pervasive SDR stereotypes.

Sales reps are self-serving

All of us have gotten that call right in the middle of an important project — the exact time we didn’t want to be interrupted. An SDR makes a cold call, and we may even be semi-interested in what they’re selling, but now is not a good time. They ask us if we can talk now and we say, “No, but let’s schedule something for Thursday.”

Pretty reasonable response that should satisfy the rep, right?

The SDR should take the meeting and move on. Instead of doing what the prospect wants, they reply, “I think we really should talk now. It’ll only take a moment.” This one makes me downright angry.

This was done to me by a rep from a company that I saw myself doing business with, and I was completely turned off. They weren’t respectful of my time. They only cared about their agenda, their schedule, their product.

The fix: Spend a few minutes before each call or email to research the prospect. Qualify the lead to ensure that they need your product and find specific information you can use for talking points when they pick up. Introduce yourself and then ensure this is a good time to talk for the prospect. If they give you the go-ahead, then tell them the value you bring and then dive into your qualifying questions to put the ball in their court. If it’s not a good time for them, do as they ask and reschedule a better time that works for them and you.

Sales reps are liars

If you have experience interacting with SDRs, you may think their job is to reel in as many prospects as they can, at any cost, even if it means making promises they can’t keep.

I’ve heard it all before. I talked to “so-and-so” at “such-and-such” company and it was a bait and switch. The SDR said they could do something that was valuable and, after I agreed to move forward, they didn’t deliver.

I once had an SDR tell me, “We have a top-notch, 24-hour customer service team,” but in reality, after I used the product for a few months, I found out their customer success team is awful and they leave me on hold forever.  

The fix: Be transparent. Find out what past issues prospects had with similar products so you know what their concerns will be. Address those issues immediately and explain, truthfully, how you can (and will) do better.

Be human. And if you’re not able to get them exactly what they want, tell them why and explain how you can address their needs. They’ll listen and will appreciate your honesty.

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Sales reps never stop talking

None of us want to end up with the salesperson who doesn’t pause and let us talk. We’d rather be stuck with “Fred” in Finance at the water cooler for 45 minutes talking about the weather and his sick cat, Sprocket (no offense to Freds, Finance departments, sick cats or sprockets). It can be torture. We take the call and the sales rep jumps right into their sales pitch and won’t let us get a word in for minutes at a time.

Here’s an example: I took a couple of cold calls from radio stations that worked our company name into jingles. They think they’re being cute and creative, but they didn’t let me talk! I cut them off at some point because I’d reached my limit. It’s a fast way to get an “I’m not interested” and a dial tone. If they had just cared more about what I might need than hearing themselves talk, things may have gone differently.

The fix: Make the introduction, ask your question, and then listen. Yes, I know it’s hard. We have our scripts and our talking points, and we’re told to make sure we say “A, B & C.” Well, research from Sales Hacker found that top-producing B2B sales professionals speak 43% of the time (on average), allowing the prospect to speak 57% of the time (on average). And those stats speak volumes.

Sales reps are disorganized

We’ve all gotten that email from a sales rep at a company that came out of left field. It’s for a custom CRM software program geared towards Sales Ops Managers and you're a Sales Development Manager who doesn’t make decisions about CRMs. You're left scratching your head as to why this salesperson reached out to you and wasted your time.

I once had a CRM management company contact me to schedule a demo of their product. I don’t even work there and I know their target market is definitely not me. I told the SDR a couple of times that I wasn’t the appropriate person to speak with and told them I’d forward his note along to the right person. If they were interested, they’d be in touch. Instead of respecting my wishes, he continued to try to sell me on the product.

The fix: Do your homework. There are no shortcuts here. We need to take the time researching our prospects so that we know in advance they’re a good fit to potentially use our product. There are especially no excuses for not doing what the prospect is telling you. In regards to the example above, I bet the SDR could have found the contact info for our Sales Ops Manager (or even asked me for it) but they didn’t do the work. The best way to hone in on our target prospects is to create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs), which are to be used by Sales Development teams to identify what your target prospect looks like.

Pro tip: For more information on the importance of ideal customer profiles, check out Alex Lynn’s blog post.

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Sales reps are aggressive

If you haven’t met an aggressive sales rep yet, you will. They’re out there. I’ve personally had to call out an SDR who prospected me about a SaaS product. I had a couple of phone calls with him, which went well, and I agreed to have him come into our office to give myself and the team a presentation on how their product works. At that meeting, he didn’t convince me we needed what he was selling. It wasn’t anything personal — I didn’t believe the case studies he offered and that the product was a good fit for us. After telling him I wasn’t interested and assuming our communication would be over, he came back with an aggressive email blaming me for changing my mind and berated me on why I shouldn’t have said I wasn’t interested after our phone and in-person meetings. He even went as far as pointing out each step that he took with me in the sales process and was scratching his head as to why I wasn’t interested.

What went wrong is that he thinks I owed him something for his time. He assumed I might reconsider after he pointed out to me how I was initially interested in their product. But what he didn’t understand was that he was actually pointing out his failure to sell me on the product.

The fix: Listen, SDRs. If there’s nothing else you learn there, learn this. Your prospects owe you nothing. Zilch. Zero. Time is money and money is time. If they’re meeting with you then be grateful because time is the new currency. Next, use that time to convince them that they need your product. If they tell you they’re not interested, you can ask them why but be respectful and move on.

Final thoughts

The reason I’m calling out SDR stereotypes and how to fix them is because I know they play a vital role in the health of sales teams and companies at large. According to The Bridge Group, "nearly six out of ten companies front-end their closing reps with an SDR team. Excluding companies below $5M in revenue, that number rises to 67%." An SDR’s job is not easy. They’re the face of our companies. This is a huge responsibility! They’re the first point of contact for new accounts and sometimes the last. They’re constantly juggling marketing’s goals, which are sending the right message to the new accounts, and their sales team’s goals, which are putting new prospects into the pipeline. Not an easy task.

Yet, that’s why it’s exciting and more important than ever that we continue to dispel these stereotypes. Sales Hacker CEO, Max Altschuler, recently predicted a change in the SDR role, and I agree 100%. It’s not enough for an SDR to make 100 dials a day and fill the pipeline. People want trusted advisors, not annoying sales reps. We’re going to need to learn how to find the right target profile for buyers who will want our products, and we’ll need to be sophisticated in our outreach process by gaining the trust of our prospects. I’m ready for our role as SDRs to change for the better. Are you? Let’s get going! Let me know what you think in tbe comments below.


Don Torrance is the Sales Development Manager at Paintzen, a revolutionary residential and commercial paint service that makes it quick and easy to get your home or office painted by a trustworthy professional at a very competitive price. Don has over eight years of experience in sales roles across multiple industries. He has mostly worked for startups and has a passion for chatting and meeting up with other sales leaders to talk about how to accelerate team growth. He's a midwest-turned Brooklyn dad who's a film geek, Mets fan, and lover of all things fun. 

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