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What I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming an SDR

6 min read
July 3, 2015

In May of 2014 I started looking for a job in sales. I was excited and ready to find an entry-level position where I could learn the art of selling and begin a career. What I found was a job at Salesloft and the new world of Sales Development that I learned was just taking off.

I was hired as a Sales Development Rep and my primary responsibility would be to prospect for new business and set appointments for Account Executives to close deals. Excited and a little nervous, I hopped right in. But just like any new skill, I made a ton of mistakes.

I’ve compiled a list of things I wish someone had told me before my first day.

1. Focus On The Things You Can Control

My first day as an Outbound SDR I focused on how many demos I needed to schedule per day in order to hit quota. I kept thinking, “If I schedule 2 demos a day, I will make quota.” The problem with that mentality is that there were days where I didn’t schedule a single demo. The next day, I would feel pressure to schedule more demos to make up the difference. Mentally, my first two months were a train wreck trying to schedule demos.

Tyler, I can coach you all day long, but until you put in the effort and trust the process, I cannot help you. – Sean Kester

When I finally figured out that I should focus on the things I can control — like the effort I put in — the results began to appear on the board. We have a cadence at Salesloft of 7 touches (email and phone) over 7 days. We put 50 new people in everyday to go through the 7 different touches. I quickly discovered that if I put 50 new people in a day and called those people everyday like I was supposed to, the cadence would play out and I would schedule demos.

One of Salesloft’s top performing SDRs, Chris Smith, showed me that if I would make the calls, then the demos would start to flow. All of a sudden, I started hitting quota and I had more energy with less stress.

2. Time Management Is The Key To Success

Time management is something that your manager can talk about until they’re blue in the face, but can only be implemented by the individual. Poor time management yields poor effort every time.

I learned quickly that if I didn’t block off time for specific tasks, then none of them would get 100% of my attention. Most days I would come into the office and see that I had seventy-something calls to make. I would make a few in a row and then answer some new emails. I’d make a few more calls and before long I’d end up in the FIFA room.

After FIFA, I may come back to emails — because those are easier than making calls — but calls are what get me results. If I continued my days of doing something different every 10 minutes then nothing would get done. The end of the day would roll around and while I had won 2 FIFA games, I hadn’t answered all of my emails and still had 30 calls to make.

When I found myself in this situation, I had to learn to stick to a schedule. I wrote down my daily schedule and made myself follow it. There is time to relax and play games, but there are multiple hours blocked off to make calls. To this day, if I stray away from my schedule, everything starts to fall.

3. Find Ways to Motivate Yourself

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. – Vince Lombardi

When I first started as an Outbound SDR, I thought I was going to schedule X amount of demos and make X amount of money. But after the day in and day out of being an SDR, money is not always a motivator to make more calls.

Instead, I found what motivates me; I am extremely driven by competition. I am constantly in a friendly competition with the other people on my team. If someone makes 70 calls in a day I want to make 71. If someone schedules 10 demos in a week, I work hard to schedule 11. I found that this drives me to work harder and improve in order to beat the competition. That is what it takes for me to work harder and put in more effort to reach my numbers.

Find different ways to motivate yourself whether it is money, vacation, competition, etc. You will have to and use it to drive you through the day in and day out of being an SDR.

4. ALWAYS Stay Positive

Staying positive as an SDR is the most important skill to remember, but can be the hardest to implement. In my first two months as an SDR, I would have days in a row without a scheduled demo and I would walk around the office with my head low or talk to my colleagues about how bad I was doing. This killed my attitude and the effort that I put in.

Today, I push myself to stay very positive even when things aren’t going my way. I do this by laughing off calls with my colleagues or making jokes about how a week may be going. This helps me stay loose and keep a smile on my face. The top reps on our team at Salesloft are the ones that have a smile on their face even when the week is not going their way. I always have to know in the back of my head that if I continue with my effort things will always turn around.

Being an SDR is such a rewarding job — but it requires hard work and dedication. Provide your new SDRs with this knowledge and see their success come naturally.