INSIDE Inside Sales – Episode 1: How to Succeed as a New SDR

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Listen in to Lori Richardson and Darryl Praill as they talk through what it takes to succeed as a new Sales Development Rep (SDR). Not in the mood to listen? No problem, you can read the transcriptions below.

Host:  Darryl Praill, VanillaSoft

Guest: Lori Richardson, Score More Sales


Paul Roberts: Welcome, once again, to another episode of SLMA Radio. Brought to you on behalf of the thousands of thousands of members of the Sales, Lead and Management Association. If it has to do with sales lead managing or sales lead marketing, promptly starts here with the SLMA Radio Show. This week our host is Darryl Praill, who brings with him a new program, regular program on this show, Inside: Inside Sales.

Hey, Darryl.

Darryl Praill: Thank you, Paul. Paul is our announcer on the Inside: Inside Sales program, and our program today is all about what do you need to know if you are a brand new sales developing rep? How you doing, folks? My name is Darryl Praill. I’m your host. I am the chief marketing officer with VanillaSoft, and this is our inaugural episode. You are part of episode number one, so congratulations for that auspicious moment.

And I knew, with episode number one, I had to have both a topic that resonated with a large crowd, as well as a guest expert equal to the task of stepping up and joining us. So with that, guess what? I did that. I managed to secure the amazing Lori Richardson. Now, if you don’t know Lori, let’s multitask.

Go on LinkedIn, check her out. Follow her, same on Twitter. She’s huge. But let me give you the official background. Lori Richardson is founder of sales consultancy Score More Sales, where she helps company leaders fix sales team issues to grow more revenues. She’s the voice for More Women In Sales, and I love that. I so love this cause, and she’s also the president of Women’s Sales Pros, chartered to get more women into B & B Sales, and sales leadership roles in companies with male majority sales schemes.

Now, this is one of the main reasons I invited Lori today. In Lori’s technology in financial services sales career, she has worked for 23 different sales manager, and she has helped onboard over 1000 SDRs, BDRs, and AEs, in a 3-year period. Her new book, She Sells, She Leads, will be available in September. Lori, welcome to the show.

Lori R.: Darryl, it is an honor to be here. I am thrilled to be your first guest.

Darryl Praill: Right. No pressure, right? Don’t worry about screwing it up, you know?

Lori R.: Right.

Darryl Praill: You don’t have a legacy that’ll be out there forever and everybody in the industry will mock you. Other than that. Alright, so the show is Inside: Inside Sales, where we get really behind the scenes and we get down and dirty. We’re not really talking big picture strategy here, we’re talking about the day-to-day machinations of how you be successful.

And, you know, here at VanillaSoft, this was actually the inspiration for the show. We’re hiring like nuts, and it dawned on me, you know, I’m trying to put myself back in the shoes of when I first began my career. When you first begin your career, everything’s new, and you’re not quite sure, you don’t have enough world experience at the role to be successful, to know what’s right and what’s wrong.

And that’s why I thought, “We should tackle that,” and what I can do is I can make my new hires listen to this program. So that’s kinda making two birds in one stone. The question I had for you, let’s just start with the fun stuff that people play on YouTube over and over again because it’s just so crazy you wanna watch it, talk to me about some of the common mistakes that brand new sales development reps make, that you’ve seen over your tenure.

Lori R.: Well, I’d like to talk about successes as well as mistakes, but if we must start with mistakes, let’s do that. I would say that the number one thing that a new sales rep, and when I say sales rep, it’d be an SDR, a BDR, or account executive, the first thing that I hear, and I’ve heard this from so many people, is they’ll say, “Just tell me exactly what to do and I’ll do that.”


And I think the problem with that is that, you know, learning is a process, and you can’t just say, “boom, do exactly these things and you’ll be great.” We can definitely give guidance, we can give playbooks, you know, we can give instruction but there’s a certain amount of learning that just happens as you go along, and I think patience is what’s really important.

I also think that, if you asked ten people in the company exactly what someone should do, they’d get at least eight, nine, maybe ten different answers. So I think that new reps need to be selective about whose advice that they take. I’ll never forget, Tony Robins taught me that success leaves clues. So look for the most successful people in your job, and learn what they’re doing.

And I think that’s some of the best advice I can give, in addition to being a sponge and being open to learning, and new ideas.

Darryl Praill: So how do you define the most successful people? Is it purely the people who are generating the most sales activity, or closing the most deals? ‘Cause that could be open to interpretation.

Lori R.: Yeah, it could be open to interpretation, but usually people, they’ll point somebody out. Everybody knows who the top reps are in most companies, and it’s for a variety of reasons. It’s not just the numbers they hit, or, you know, occasionally there is that person that hits their numbers but has unbelievable horrible social skills and is just hard to work with internally.

So I think that there needs some guidance on that, but as a new rep, yourself, just look to see who is upbeat, successful, happy to be there, killing it, you know, doing really well. Those are the people I always look to when I was new in a company. You just can’t understand everything when you walk in the door, and so by looking at the people who I would like to see, are the upbeat, pleasant, happy to be working there folks that are hitting their numbers.

Those are the people I look to.

Darryl Praill: Now what about if it’s a smaller organization, perhaps a startup, and you may be the only SDR or there only may be a handful of you, and perhaps it’s too early to look for that person you should look at as a mentor. So what then, where do you get your inspiration from, then, to approach your job for optimal success?

You may have multiple people that you look to for inspiration, and ideas, based on what the item is that you’re trying to master.
Lori R.: Yeah, I think sometimes you have to look outside of your organization. Look for a peer that is in a role that you have … it’s never been easier than now, because you can find people in your neighborhood geographically who also are on LinkedIn, who are doing similar roles. Or, you can find someone in your company who doesn’t have that role but they have a leader mindset and they can help you with the culture of the company, help you with how to deal with internal issues, and things like that.


Darryl Praill: So, now, you talked about, there could be ten different opinions of what your role is. So how do you approach that? You know, do you identify just with your boss or do you actually go and say, there’s a variety of stakeholders in the organization. Maybe sales, maybe marketing, maybe support, I don’t know, and actually go and consult with them, spend time with them, break bread with them, have a coffee with them.

And ask them what their expectations are of you, like, how’s the best approach you’ve see work to figure that all out, and to figure out, perhaps, if there’s a disconnect, and it needs to be dealt with?

Lori R.: Yeah, I think that the more times you’ve done this, the more you have a bigger vision of who you should talk to, that there are multiple people in an organization that will impact your success, in the beginning, especially if it’s first job at a college, or you’re fairly new in sales, well, hope that your manager is someone who can give you the lay of the land, tell you what your job is.

Ultimately, in its essence, a sales position is to increase revenues, and so at the end of every day, you can look in the mirror, you know, you don’t need anyone else to tell you this, just to think to yourself, “What did I do today that’s going to lead us to more revenues in the near term?”

So that will help you to stay on track to pick up the phone, to make that extra call, to send an email. You know, to get connected, to get referred, to build your referral network doing things that actually will lead to more revenues in the near term as opposed to the long term.

Darryl Praill: Now, what about activity? Right? So one of the things, you hear a lot of people complain that a lot of the SDRs are taking way too long to research their prospects, before they reach out to engage them, and if they are, they’re hiding behind email, or social, and they’re afraid to pick up the phone. Talk to me about some of those common mistakes you see.

Lori R.: Yeah, I have seen it many times where people will say, you know, “I sent something out, and I didn’t hear back from anyone.” And that’s when I would say, “Well, do you have their phone number? Can you give them a call?” There’s nothing quicker, in a lot of cases, than to pick up the phone and call someone. And I would encourage people to learn about a multifaceted strategy in prospecting to be more successful, and to use tools such as VanillaSoft’s tool, for example, and others, to help them to maximize their time.

‘Cause we don’t wanna waste time, but we also want to have enough knowledge and insight to sound intelligent when you call someone, or when you reach out to them.

Darryl Praill: Do you see them making mistakes around objection handling? ‘Cause I had an experience just the other day, someone called me, I picked up the phone, and they were shocked to get somebody live on the call, you could tell. It was hilarious. And they-

Lori R.: Don’t you love talking to someone that’s prospecting you? I do.

Darryl Praill: I love it. It was hilarious, and they were flustered, but then they picked up the groove and away they went, and we had a brief conversation. And afterwards I reflected upon that, and I thought, “Good for him.” But now I’m curious to see, you know, will he follow through on it? Do you find a lot of the new SDRs have difficulty with, shall we say, making the scripts their own, and really making sure they understand the product, and their value prop, and their differentiation from the competition, before they engage?

Or do they spend too much time, focusing on that, as opposed to just getting out there and just learning by experience.

Lori R.: The short answer is, yes, I think it’s a struggle, and it goes more toward their training and onboarding than anything else. I mean, you can’t fault a sales rep for being new and not knowing all of the objections that they’ll be dealing with, and knowing the best strategies and the best things to say when they’re on a call, or they’re wording an email.

So I really hold the onboarding process accountable, in that, you know, ultimately it’s a leadership issue. Sales reps need to understand who their buyer is, and if I could say anything, you know, that people would remember, it would be to learn more about your buyer than you think you should know about. Learn who your buyer’s customers are. Learn what industries they’re in, the title of the people that you’re talking to. What are their issues?

And if you can do that, and work on that, perfect that over time, then everything else will come together. You know, you have to have a clear value proposition of what it is that you’re looking to help people buy, and if you have a clear understanding of that, and a clear understanding of the market, all the rest will fall into place.


Darryl Praill: Alright, so with that, all of the rest’s gonna fall into place. We’re gonna take a place right now, for a brief commercial message, but we’ll be back shortly so don’t go anywhere.

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Darryl Praill: Alright, we are back. When we left, Lori, we were talking about basically some of the great, important habits to establish, how to get yourself connected with, shall we say, the mentor that you should model in the organization. How to establish alignment with those who influence your success. That’s probably a segue. What can a new SDR do to position themselves for success?

So, perhaps it’s a little different than, shall we say, the blocking and tackling of actually making calls, and sending emails. Are there other things they can do that we’ve not talked about to make sure that they are successful? In other words, for example, is there a 100-day plan, or something to that effect?

Lori R.: Well, Darryl, we know that people who are lifelong learners turn out to be better at most positions that they’re in, and so if you can make time to be a learner, in other words, learn the things that you need to know to be successful in your job, I would have a notepad or an app open where I could record something that I didn’t understand today that I need to learn more about, and just keep kind of a running log so you don’t get tied down stopping and starting.

That’s another thing that’s really important, is to understand that every time you’re interrupted, every time you stop what you’re doing, which is very common in a sales role, you stop and start all the time, and start jotting things down. If you have a question for your boss, jot three of them down before you go and ask them so that you’re almost batching your answers, and batching your information, if it’s possible to do that, if it’s not extremely time sensitive.

Make time to review, make time to think. Bail fast, and like I said, I always thought of myself as a student of productivity, a student of psychology, student of selling, student of negotiation, if you can have that mindset that you’re learning, it makes it a lot easier to sell. And you can fail, and you can get right back up and, you know, “I’m not gonna say that to the next person I talk to, whatever I said that caused that conversation to go south.”

But instead, learn from it and do better as you go along.

Darryl Praill: You’re really hitting on an important part. You know, it’s like a professional athlete. So much of their success is not on their execution of the tactics, it’s more about what’s in their head, between their ears, and I’ve seen so many people, myself, there, when I was younger, who would hesitate to ask those questions for fear of looking unprepared, incompetent, not qualified, and I did myself a disservice.

Do you see this often? Like, how do you train new SDRs to have the courage, and have the conviction to ask the hard questions so that you have the answers, and next time, you hit a home run.

Lori R.: Yeah, I’m glad you said that. That’s why I named the company Score More Sales, because of the parallel. I had a professional athlete in my family, and I saw as many of us do, the parallel between successful sales people and professional athletes. And the mind is so important. If you lose today, you gotta get up tomorrow to play the game to win.

And I agree with you wholeheartedly that that is very critical. The problem is, you can’t teach everyone to change their attitude. And if someone has something inside of them that causes them to want to be liked, rather than be respected, if they have other issues inside them that have them … they have a hard time with rejection, I can’t train that.

I can only give them ways to work around it, and ways to improve, but ultimately, people themselves have to say, “you know what? I failed yesterday, I’m gonna get up today and I’m gonna have the best I ever had.” And that comes from within, with some percentage of the ability to change it.


Darryl Praill:  So how much of that lies in, maybe a full circle, here? If you know your product or your service well, then you really do value the impact it can have for an organization, therefore, you now have confidence to go introduce that to a prospect, because you know you can make a difference. Ergo, if I don’t know my product or service well, I don’t have that ability to be convincing and to have that self-confidence.

Lori R.: Yeah. As long as the product and/or service knowledge goes full circle to how it will help that prospect’s company, “I will help them personally to succeed in the company.” And it ties back to the value that it brings. A lot of us know features and functions, and, you know, it’s great stuff. In fact, when new reps come onboard, a lot of times, they get so much product knowledge that you really just wanna go and share it.

About how great all these features are, and how much you’re gonna like it, but if in fact you don’t need it, as a buyer, then, you know, again, I go back to really tying it into what the buyer needs and how it will help that buyer specifically.

So we need to be able to customize that product and service insight so that we can help every company, if it’s a good fit for them.

Darryl Praill: You know, it’s crazy to hear you say that, because I’ve had this conversation with my marketing peers before, where they’ll do a feature dump, say on a website or an email, you know, “It has A, it has B, it has C. Isn’t this great?” And I’m like, “So what. What does this matter to me? Connect the dots for me, because I don’t understand.” Which leads to the second part, which you alluded to there, was the ability to ask a question that’s qualified, and then shut up and listen.

Don’t be afraid to listen, and not be thinking about your next line in your script, genuinely listen. Do you see that often, when you’re training new SDRs?

Lori R.: Well, that’s our hope. You know, that’s our goal, and one of the things that I like to say to new people is that when you actually get and the phone, and you actually talk to people who may have very limited time, they may be speaking very quickly to you. They may want you to just spit out what it is that you have to say, it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers, and it’s okay if you end the call professionally. You can always call back.

You can always call back in a couple of weeks, when you totally get, “Oh, this would’ve been so helpful for that buyer that I was talking to, that potential buyer.” You can call ’em back, or you can send ’em an email. Say, you know, “We spoke a few weeks ago.” People usually forget conversations, and you can say, you know, “There was one specific aspect that I think really might help you in terms of the marketing research that your firm does, and I’d love to share that with you.”

So you don’t have to have all the answers, and that’s something we wanna have when we’re new. We just can’t have ’em all. I mean, I don’t have all the answers now. Do you, Darryl?

Darryl Praill: Well, I like to tell my wife I do, but she might disagree with me, so that’s great.

Lori R.: We’re learning every day, right?

Darryl Praill: Oh, my, are we learning? Alright, one piece of advice. One final piece of advice from Lori Richardson, who’s done this over and over again, who’s helped so many people start their SDR career, what would it be?

Lori R.: Don’t have too high of expectations too soon. In other words, pace yourself. Set some smaller goals for success. Maybe one goal is that you wanna close your first deal, and that’s not gonna happen your first day, probably, in most complex sales organizations, anyway. So what other goals can you set for yourself so that you feel rewarded?

You know, when we call people all day long, when we’re emailing people working to get answers, there are days when I’ll email people and I don’t get anyone to answer me, and it can be frustrating. So get some quick wins, you know, and be happy with attaining those goals, and then just keep building ’em and building ’em.


Darryl Praill: There you have it. Words of wisdom from Lori Richardson, founder of the sales consultancy Score More Sales. Check her out at scoremoresales.com Lori, thank you for your time today. I’ve had so much fun talking to you.

Lori R.: It was my pleasure, Darryl. Thank you.

Darryl Praill: Alright, guys. If you enjoyed today’s show, then stay tuned. We’re doing it again. It’s gonna happen ‘real soon. Please, track us. Bookmark us, follow us, subscribe to us. All the usual stuff, you know how it works. In the meantime, we’ve had a great time talking to you. We’ll talk to you soon next time, when we talk more about Inside Inside Sales.