In this article, we discuss the trials and tribulations of a new Sales Development Representative in a year as peculiar as 2020. Aleksandra shares her learning experience in the SDR role at Bloobirds.
Aleksandra Andree| Sales Development Representative at Bloobirds
Let’s jump on in 👇
I had the unfortunately fortunate opportunity to join the B2B sales industry as an SDR at the beginning of 2020.
Unfortunately, due to the gravity of the global crisis that we all experienced and are still overcoming. And fortunate due to the opportunity to witness the complete evolution of our industry throughout the pandemic.
Now, I’ll dive into what I learned during my first year as an SDR in one of the most challenging periods the sales industry and the world has ever faced.
I was lucky to have blue skies and smooth sailing during my three-month rookie period before the quarantine. In those months, I got the chance to get a sneak peek of the sales industry pre-pandemic and understand the more traditional sales approach.
I learned how to research the market and my prospects to provide context. I gained experience in differentiating between competitors and offering value. And I learned how to communicate with busy executives and ask for a small slice of their schedule.
It seemed as if we were all actively buying and selling to and from each other, and the numbers show it was a much more active market.
As everything was new to me, my main challenge was to ramp-up quickly and learned as much as possible. So during the first quarter of the year, I succeeded in reaching and exceeding my quota within the first two weeks. I was determined to learn as much as I could, so I dove in headfirst.
I learned how to land my research into a useful piece of information and adapt my communication for different prospects, based on their job function, role within the company, and interests.
When you’re a newbie in the SDR role with no previous experience, the hardest part is adjusting that mindset from treating your tasks, more specifically cold-calling, as an event. It’s the fear and insecurity you face that you have no business calling a certain person and the reaction that you’re gonna face because of it.
So the tip here is to try not to treat every single call as an event but rather as a process. You have to remember that you’re not going to learn until you try many times, and most importantly, experiment with different methods until you hone on your own personal style and approach that works for you.
Shortly before the first quarter ended, the global pandemic and world crisis hit. Like many people, I had to figure out a new way of working from home and adapting to the chaos and uncertainty as a remote SDR. But I felt relief knowing I was not alone. We were all facing the same challenges and going through the same pains – within my organization and globally across all other industries.
A roller-coaster of emotions is how I describe the hard months of the nationwide lock-down. It was the quarter that I faced feelings and thoughts I’d never experienced before.
It was when we were all challenged to take a hard look in the mirror and re-evaluate our lives. We discovered hidden talents, we learned how to deal with unpleasant situations head-on, and we engaged in a new digital connectivity experience.
I had to figure out a new way to keep motivated and balance my work schedule versus personal time – keeping up the activity from home, i.e., transform the home comfort zone into a challenging and motivating environment. Step out of my comfort zone within my comfort zone.
What helped me the most to adjust my mindset was the support and encouragement of my team. Whenever I was in doubt or even feeling a little down, I would slack my manager and jump on a quick call that would help me get pumped again to connect with prospects.
Prospects were in the same situation as me, meaning more prolonged and less aggressive prospecting cycles.
The first adjustment in my remote prospecting efforts was to use more informational content and use a less demanding CTA. Instead of asking for 30 minutes of their time, I would provide value first and then simply ask if what I was suggesting made sense or looked like a fit for further down in the future.
I learned how to understand the overall market situation and my prospects’ challenges to link my solution to their current and prospective pains and challenges. Find a connection that will help see the value in the long run and identify when it’s time to push for a meeting and when it is not.
Many companies had to forlay their employees, and of those who did not and promised to maintain all employees throughout the pandemic, priorities had shifted immensely. Finding the right balance between selling and supporting.
Tip – Do more research, show empathy and understanding throughout each communication step, provide comfort by offering value further down the future line. Invest now to gain later.
Use the content and more personalized messaging. Provide more educational content specific to prospect’s industry, business model, and competitors’ development. Demonstrate understanding of my prospect’s industry development in a post-pandemic world – anticipate the market development based on current data and scenario.
This is the time when your marketing team is your best friend (as they always should be). Ask them for help and tips on how to provide and build more consultative and informational messaging.
I managed to reach my monthly quota in the second half of the quarantine. Yaaay! It was really doable!
We invited our colleagues and prospects into our homes virtually. It gave us a chance to step out of our comfort zone within our very own literal comfort zone.
The Sales Development Playbook, my favorite book about the sales industry and Predictable Revenue.
Which led to unique opportunities further down the line. Like Neil Buyhan, an SDR coach at HappySelling, who invited me to participate in his DescoCall podcast series and share my experience and journey as I fulfill the SDR role.
Which led to widening my network and forming even more invaluable connections – OppGen, SalesHacker.
After a few months of total lockdown, it was back to work, with some adopted hybrid schedules. With all these challenges and changes we went through when September rolled around, I was somewhat optimistic about a new sales era.
Eager to get back on track and apply all my learnings into actionable results, I went back to work and faced a new exciting challenge. Part of my SDR role now involved exploring new lands and finding new opportunities outside of my target market and industry.
I had never done anything even remotely close to this. Sure I knew how to research news and developments within a market that I had studied for nearly a year. But undertaking a new project from scratch to provide my insights and input, which affected our whole organization, was an absolute challenge.
Here’s what I learned in my last three months of 2020 while targeting new markets–
The first month was getting acquainted with researching unknown sectors and finding the most suitable targets. I needed to understand the business model of target companies within the new industries, their organizational structure, and their job role functions. Suffice to say; I had to learn how to research from scratch.
Aside from the usual Sales Navigator search, I had to hit hard on google to find any practical information about the markets I was researching. This included looking into already available research from marketing and sales agencies, reaching out to user employees within the target markets to ask about their role responsibilities and insights into their industry’s sales process.
Identify leading companies within the respective sectors, and connect with thought leaders in the industry, to gain insights into their business priorities and their market developments.
Tip: When researching new markets some helpful tools and websites are: Owler, IbisWorld, anythingresearch.com, a16z Venture capital website.
The very first step after completing the ground research was to create a list of new potential target opportunities within a couple of new industries, and as the Spanish saying goes, “a por ellos,” go get them. This was the most challenging time throughout my entire (short) career as an SDR.
I was confident my research and insights were good enough to apply them in action; I was ready to hunt. As it turned out, it didn’t go even close to how I hoped and planned it to turn out. I hit a state of paralysis-analysis and spent the whole month chasing my list of opportunities that I thought were good and didn’t even blink to expand past that.
I was so focused and determined to turn my list into real opportunities that I got lost and unknowingly and unwillingly turned into Gollum (My precious)!! When the end of the month came, I was totally disappointed, discouraged, overwhelmed, and simply lost.
So I took my non-existent results and went back to my managers and asked for help. The simplest and most valuable advice I got was indeed what I wanted to do; move on! Things will not always go as planned, and you have to learn to adapt to each change as it comes in order to overcome a challenge.
All the setbacks and heartaches I experienced the previous month turned out to be invaluable lessons that empowered me to overcome the grand challenge – turn my list into real opportunities. Finally, it paid off. I did it! I managed to achieve all my ‘totally undoable’ targets because I moved on!
Tip: Even if you’re not a person who likes to plan every single thing in their life or work, like me, making a plan or, even better, a list of priorities will actually help you change and adapt your plan and essentially work more effectively.
How can you create an effective plan/list of priorities? Write down all the important tasks you need to complete and the deadlines you need to meet, so you know what is due by when. This alone will not help you adapt your schedule or plan to fit in unexpected events. You have to also add in the time it takes to complete each task. Factoring this in will allow you to adjust your tasks when needed.
You have to spin the wheel as much as you can before it hits the ground. Don’t stop your momentum because things didn’t go as planned. Just keep changing and adapting your plan to keep the momentum going, don’t let go, and move on when necessary.
A/B testing is your best friend when it comes to learning and growing. You have to take the risks and find new ways to move on and keep the momentum going.
Through this insightful roller-coaster ride of 2020, I hope my learnings can also help others new to the SDR role. However crazy last year has been, I’d like to view it as a revolutionary milestone for our society.
2020 was the year that challenged us to our very core, and I hope that the biggest lesson we all learned was that we cannot succeed alone. We work and thrive better as a team, and as a family or company, with common goals and mutual consideration.
Want more tips on how to stay motivated as an SDR? Check out the 3 Strategies to Motivate Your Sales Development Team.