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.
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.
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.
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.
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.