How to succeed in sales development as a complete newbie
Contributor, Sell to Win
Contributor, Sell to Win
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Picture this: You’ve just started a new job working for an awesome company. Your coworkers seem easy to get along with, and you’re excited to be a part of a new team.
Sounds like the ideal new setup, right? Well here’s the catch—your new role is “sales development representative,” and you’re in for a wild ride.
As a sales development representative (SDR), your main focus will be prospecting for new leads, making initial contact with them, and preparing them to be handed off to account executives, the members of your sales team responsible for nurturing those leads into customers.
Even though you won’t be the one closing all the deals, your role is still critically important. You’ll be the point-person for your team’s lead qualification process, making sure that the potential customers your account executives jump on the phone with actually have the interest and ability to buy your product.
Starting any new job can be tough, and being hired for a role that you’ve never had before can make the transition even more stressful. But working in sales development doesn’t have to be scary. There are plenty of strategies and tricks that you can learn quickly so you can become an amazing sales development rep without having to work yourself into the ground.
Here are some of the best ways to succeed in sales development when you’re completely new to the role.
Before you show up on day one, you should read as much as you can on sales development best practices. Whether you were just hired or you’ve already been working in sales development for a few months, there is always something new to learn.
When I first started out as an SDR, I dedicated an hour of my workday at the office to reading about sales. I asked for sales book recommendations from my manager, found blog posts written by other SDRs, and asked my coworkers for their favorite resources. My manager encouraged me to take the time I needed during the day to do my research and learn about my new role, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Read blog posts and articles about how to succeed in sales or the best calls-to-action to send in a cold email. Read books specifically about sales development and learn about the tips and tricks that professionals swear by. You may not have it all figured out right now, but as a newbie you’re not expected to. Do your research and always look for something new to learn so you can improve your practices every week.
2. Seek advice from the people around you.
You were hired in this role for a reason: Your company sees your potential and wants you to succeed. And while you are fully capable of doing so, nobody finds success without receiving help and advice along the way.
Schedule one-on-one meetings to check in with your manager. Chat with your coworkers to gain their perspectives and ask them what helped them the most when they were first starting out in sales development. Share your concerns and ask as many questions as you need to as you transition into your new job. The people around you are there to help you succeed, so take advantage of the great resource they provide.
You can also spend some time making connections with other sales professionals. Connect with salespeople in your industry and chat with other sales development reps on LinkedIn. Follow people who inspire you and who create content geared toward other people in sales. This is a time when you can utilize your resources and seek guidance from those who can offer valuable advice.
3. Ask to shadow your coworkers.
When you’re first starting out, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to communicate with leads. Ask you coworkers if they can help you by allowing you to shadow them. Listen to their calls with leads and potential customers. This way, you can get an idea of how they open a call with someone they’ve never had a conversation with.
Read their email cadences, and even ask if you can see some of the individual emails that they send out in various scenarios. What does a rejection email from a lead look like? How to they continue an email thread with someone who sounds interested?
During the first two months of my role as an SDR, I jumped on as many calls as I could in order to gain a grasp of how my colleagues spoke to potential customers. I let my teammates know that I was eager to learn and grow, and they began forwarding me some of their emails so I could get an idea of the conversations they have with leads. It’s important to read about the SDR role, but it’s even more important to see what the role entails firsthand.
Shadow your coworkers in whatever way you are able to so you can get the clearest idea of what working as a sales development representative is actually like.
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As a salesperson, you will face rejection...a lot. Rejection is inevitable, and when you’re just starting out as a sales development representative, chances are rejection could feel a lot worse than it actually is. You may feel frustrated and want to change every person’s mind when they say they don’t want to buy from you (or when they email you something particularly nasty, which will probably happen eventually).
When I was first starting out as an SDR, I came into the role wearing my heart on my sleeve and had a positive spin to put on anything. But the more rejection emails I received, the less motivated I felt to continue.
I eventually learned something that would shape my entire sales development process moving forward: Most people don’t like salespeople, and they don’t want to be sold to. I started to take my rejections as signals that I was coming on too strong, I caught someone on a bad day, or they simply just weren’t interested. And even though most people don’t want to be sold to, I could be the one salesperson they actually buy from if I focused more on the relationship and less on the sell.
You could let rejection get you down or ruin your day. You could feel totally defeated whenever you get a rejection in your email inbox or over the phone. Or, you could let rejection motivate you. Maybe you came on too strong on your first call with a prospect. Maybe your email call to action was weak. Or maybe the person who rejected you is just having a bad day. Rejections are not reflections of your personal character or integrity, so let every rejection fuel you to succeed. As long as you know you’ve done your best every day at work, you shouldn’t let rejection make you feel lousy.
Every time you write an email or make a phone call, ask yourself how the prospect will benefit from replying or answering the phone. If you were one of your sales leads, what would make you say yes to a demo or reply with more questions about your product? What sort of call to action or information would make you want to learn more about your company?
Putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes is a great way to figure out whether or not your sales process will be effective and successful. This may be difficult at first if you consider yourself to be detached from the product you are selling. But try to figure out the type of person who would want to buy your product. What makes them tick? How do you think they would approach a conversation? Thinking about the prospect will make your sales process that much easier to master.
6. Create a schedule that works for you.
Your time is one of your most valuable assets at work. You don’t want to feel so overwhelmed with your tasks that you spend more time thinking about how you will get everything done and less time actually working.
To help ease your stress, speak with your manager about creating a schedule that works for you. If you know you work better earlier in the day, speak with your manager about whether it is possible for you to arrive at the office before 8 a.m. so you can get a head start on your work day during the time when you are most productive. If you know that you’re not a morning person, still show up on time, but plan to complete your more difficult or time-intensive tasks later in the afternoon when you feel you can brainstorm the best. Plan to tackle your responsibilities during your work day at the times that make the most sense for you, while still giving yourself enough time to complete your goals.
While you should schedule time for work, you should also schedule downtime. Have blocks of time on your calendar when you focus on yourself. Maybe you really value your slow-paced morning routine, or maybe you like to end your day catching up on your favorite TV shows. Schedule your day in a way that works best for you so that you are fully present, engaged, and energetic during every work day.
7. Don’t let your colleagues’ success define your own.
In sales, it's very easy to become ruled by numbers and fueled by competition. But constantly comparing your own progress to your coworkers’ is one way to get sales burnout, to feel as though you’re not good enough, and to let your job affect your emotional wellbeing.
The truth is, sales is hard work. In sales development, you are on the frontlines: You are most often the first person your potential customers will ever have contact with before they eventually buy. And constantly having to meet a quota, set meetings, and book the greatest potential deals for account executives can be extremely draining. Comparing your success to your colleagues’ won’t help you become a better salesperson.
Instead, compare your success today to what it was yesterday. Always work to achieve more than you did last week. And strive to be a better sales development rep than you were last quarter.
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