The Sales Development Rep (or outbound rep) whose main goal is setting qualified meetings – has the hardest job in sales, in my opinion. Here are a few of the major problems they face and some ideas on how to deal with them. – by John Barrows


Problem #1: Prospecting Sucks

No one loves prospecting – and if you do, then there’s something wrong with you. It produces the lowest conversion ratio of any stage of the sales process and it’s a total grind every day.

Solution: Make it interesting.

The best way to make prospecting interesting is to treat it more like a science than an art, and split test everything you do. Instead of making 50 dials a day with a generic elevator pitch, come up with two different messages to the same ‘persona,’ and call 25 of them using one approach and 25 using another. Even if you have trouble setting qualified meetings, you still had a good day by identifying two approaches that don’t work. Tomorrow, come in and try two more.


Problem #2: Technology Overload

There’s a new technology coming out every day, and companies invest in different tools to “help” the SDR be more productive. The problem is, they usually don’t get implemented the right way — and many have overlapping functionality, so it’s unclear on when to use one over the other.

Solution: Step back, standardize, and set up your systems.

Take an afternoon or weekend to step back and look at all the different tools you use, and figure out where the overlaps are, which ones are helping vs. hurting, etc. Once you standardize on a few, then learn how to really use them and get the most out of them.

Most of us use about 10-20% of the functionality of whatever tool we use. All of the companies I know who sell sales efficiency tools/technology are very interested in adoption and making sure you get the most out of their tool (so you don’t churn). Contact the company and ask for a personal training session, or search for their training videos online. I guarantee they have them on their website, YouTube or wherever else they might host videos. The more time you put into setting up your tools the right way, the more you will get out of them — and the more efficient you will be in the long run.


Problem #3: Data Accuracy

Most SDRs spend way more time looking for accurate information on who to contact than they do actually making calls or sending emails.

Solution: Find (or make) better data.

Most of the data tools and list builder are at best 60-70% accurate with the e-mail and call info they provide. The issue with finding better data is that reps tend to do it while they are making their calls which is what crushes productivity.

If you try to find the info first, and then make the calls or send the emails, you will be horribly inefficient.

My recommendation is to segment out some time to specifically do research and find the right contact information for all your accounts before making the calls. I used to have database clean up days with my reps, where they spent a Friday afternoon finding out the right contact information, and gathering information that we would use to call the next week. You can also outsource this to resources like Upwork to clean up your lists for you.


Problem #4: No Clear Process

The majority of SDRs get told to hit a certain activity target (50 dials a day), but are rarely given a good process to follow.

Solution: Develop your own process.

Any process is better than no process. Segment your accounts into Tier1 (great), Tier2 (average), and Tier3 (poor), and then take a specific approach to each. Create a morning routine and follow all your Tier1s on social listening tools. Develop detailed custom contact strategies for each of them each month.

My contact strategy is 6 unique touches in 30 days where I mix up my touches between emails and calls, and try to say something different of value each time. After 6 touches, I let that person go and try someone else. I go after five accounts a month with this approach, block off two hours on my calendar at the beginning of each month to do the research, then develop my messaging and schedule out the activities.

For my Tier2s, I take more of a quantity approach where I run a list of a specific persona (VPs of Sales in the SaaS industry who use Salesforce) and I come up with 5-6 different value proposition messages and send out 30-50 emails/calls/contact strategies at a time to get the volume up.

I split test everything I do trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.


Problem #5: Value Add

During a qualification call, if a SDR doesn’t add enough value, the client doesn’t see value in taking the next step. If they add too much, they take value away from the AE and frustrate the client.

Solution: Focus and tell a story.

My favorite way to run a call blitz is to reverse engineer a case study. I look at the bottom of a case study to find the result we drove for that client. I then turn that into my “Attention Grabber,” that sounds something like, “We showed XYZ Company how to drive ABC result using our solution.” The result usually speaks to a specific persona (VP of Sales in the SaaS industry).

With that, I can now come up with 2-3 qualifying questions specific to that persona, so I can sound more intelligent when I get them on the phone. Finally, I learn how to tell that story in the case study. Then, I run a list of everyone in my territory that fits that persona/profile and call all of them and say the same thing. If they pick up the phone, I ask the 2-3 qualifying questions and tell the story if it’s relevant and then close them on the meeting. This way, I’m giving some value but not too much.


Problem #6: AE Management

SDRs typically manage five different Account Executives with five different likes/dislikes as to how to standardize the process of setting qualified meetings (and with whom they are set).

Solution: Develop a specific game plan for each AE.

I recommend sitting down with each AE to learn what approach they want me to take. Do they want to go top-down, and me bottom-up? Do they want to manage the C-suite and I call everyone else? How far do they want me to qualify the opportunity?

Once all that is nailed down and agreed upon, I would write it up, send it to them in an email and get them to confirm it so I had a record of it. Then, as time and resources allow, I would spend one day on prospecting for each of them so I could get in the right mindset for each diverse need.


Although SDRs have one of the hardest jobs in sales by setting qualified meetings, it’s also one of the most important jobs. You can’t close something unless you open it first. #makeithappen

P.S. Interested in getting access to the same training I give to clients like Salesforce.com, Linkedin and Box? Check out my online portal here. Also, for free tips, tools and resources check out my Resource Center.

johnbarrowsThis post was written by guest, John Barrows, sales trainer to the world’s leading tech companies. John was a keynote speaker at this year’s Rainmaker Conference, and is known for his dynamic sales training strategies, as well as his 12 Guiding Principles to Success in Sales, Business and Life. 

For a more comprehensive look into SalesLoft’s internal SDR process, download the second section of our newest playbook trilogy, The Sales Development Playbook: Executing. In this section, we share the ins and outs of efficiently using SalesLoft to call and email prospects. Download our free white paper and optimize your sales efforts to start crushing your sales development goals today.

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