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Ways You Can Use Sun Tzu’s Art of War Philosophies for Sales Development

3 min read
March 9, 2016

Day 2 of Rainmaker 2016 is coming to an end, and in case you missed it, we’ve been live blogging the keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions throughout the event. Yesterday, we had Kyle Porter and friends giving an overview of our history, what’s new, and what’s coming with Salesloft. The rise of the Sales Development Cloud is officially here.

Salesloft VP of Sales Derek Grant is divulging 3 sales development lessons from the 6th century on The Art of War.

First, a quick history recap:

Sun Tzu was a Chineses war general, strategist, and philosopher. He lived in the “Warring States” during the Chinese Civil War and served King Ho-Lu. And he probably would have had a few things to say about the Art of War of sales development.

Lesson #1: Be unconventional.

Sun Tzu says, “You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if only you attack in places which are undefended,” but we say:

You can be sure of succeeding in your communication if you communicate where you competitors do not.”

  • Personalize your emails. 78% of emails are never read. Make yours worth reading.
  • Farm from your own team. You want your SDR team to be your farm team. Your SDRs are the people who already know your talk track.
  • Add back the phone. You can use the phone to set up the emails you plan to send.
  • Mix in social touches. Why are you going where everyone else is? Find a way to communicate where you can stand out.

Lesson #2: Be Prepared.

Sun Tzu says, “He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared,” but we say:

He will win who, prepared himself, is able to engage the prospect perfectly.”

  • Listen to your SDRs. Have them bring their best and worst calls of the week to their 1:1’s and review them. Keep the best ones in your call “Hall of Fame” and make them repeatable.
  • Train your SDRs. Practice daily mock calls, run through training, and find ways to give your reps confidence in what they know and making them deep.

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Sun Tzu says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles,” but we say:

If you know the prospect and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred interactions.”

A level of personalization always matters. Find their interests, read their blogs, go down to a level that will make them want to answer.

Lesson #3: Don’t Back Enemies into a Corner.

Sun Tzu says, “To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape,” but we say:

When you encounter a competitor, you must leave a way of escape.”

When you think about this from a sales development perspective, competitors need a way of escape. Everyone says, “We’re using XYZ,” but you don’t know why.  Don’t let them be know-it-alls. Use what Derek calls a Sh!t Sandwich:

  • Say something positive about the competitor
  • List what they don’t do (and what you do instead)
  • Finish with another positive thing about them

What would Sun Tzu recommend for your SDR team?


Stay tuned — we’re live blogging the entire Rainmaker experience — right here from your one stop shop for all things sales development. Comment below with your thoughts on the keynotes, sessions, and events throughout the event!