how to succeed as sdr

How to Succeed as an SDR: Dos and Don'ts from Sales Experts [Webinar Recap]

25 March 2021

The Leadfeeder team was recently joined by several other awesome folks to discuss the challenges sales development reps face. Depending on where you are, this might be called an SDR, PDR, or business development rep. 

This is usually a junior position, folks might be just out of university or just skilled directly into sales. It can be a challenging role because there're a lot of expectations. You're reaching out to a ton of cold targets and trying to learn fast. 

I was joined by Michael Hanson, the founder of Growth Genie, a tool to help book more qualified sales meetings, Aurelien Mottier, the founder and CEO of Operatix, and he's got about 160 SDRs so he's got a lot of experience in terms of what works, what doesn't, and the best way to manage and structure a team. 

And last but not least, we were joined by Aaron Ross, the co-founder, and Co-CEO of Predictable Revenue. Aaron is also the author of several books, one of the sales bibles of Silicon Valley, "Predictable Revenue" and there's his more recent book, "From Impossible to Inevitable." Both very influential and excellent reads for the SDR team. 

Here are a few key dos and don'ts from our expert panel.

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Don't pitch straight away 

Once you find a lead that seems promising, it can be tempting to dive right in and start pitching. You're excited; you already have a solid understanding of how your tool or product can help solve a problem they're facing. 

But pitching straight away is a huge mistake. 

Why? Because you might not understand as much as you think about your prospect, and they don't know who you are. 

Michael Hanson shared, 

"When I was selling Growth Genie I wouldn't just call someone off and say, "Hey I can help you build a scalable outbound sales process."  I would first try to understand a little bit about how they're doing outbound sales." 

Instead, ask open-ended questions that allow you to better understand the challenges your leads face and customize your approach. 

Don't answer your own questions 

Questions are a common tool for SDRs, right? You are trying to get to know the prospect, you want to better engage with them, so you start answering questions. 

But the point of answer questions isn't just to change your speech patterns, it's to actually get more information. 

sdr questions confused dogs reaction

It's amazing how many salespeople do this — they'll ask a question, and then they will answer their own question with a pitch.

Take a deep breath, and let your prospect answer. 

As soon as you've asked the question, shut up, and just have a conversation with them. Remember, you are trying to start an interactive conversation, not give a speech. 

Do use a multi-channel strategy 

When it comes to sales, you'll hear sales folks talk about how they love making 70 or more calls a day. 

The problem is that you're not getting to know your prospects or hanging out where your buyers are hanging out. 

So you've always got to use a multi-channel strategy. Use video, use social SMS, mail, phone, events, forums, think outside of the box. 

multichannel strategy spongebob

Especially in recent times, with the pandemic, you'll find a lot had a lot of success becoming part of communities where your buyers hang out. Then you can use those channels on top of the traditional ones that might be within your sales engagement platform or your CRM. 

Don't just limit yourself to the channels that are in front of you. Slack channels, LinkedIn Groups, even Reddit can all be effective channels if you use them carefully. 

Do walk a mile in their shoes 

If you don't understand who you are selling to, then you aren't going to succeed. 

It can be hard to break through that invisible barrier and engage with someone if you really don't understand what it's like to walk in their shoes. Instead of assuming how their day goes or what challenges they face, go and actually spend a day with them. 

If you're selling to CMOs in retail, don't be afraid to ask that CMO to spend a day with you so you can understand what they do, what they care about, and what their problems really are. 

Find out the key questions your prospects are asking themselves and how you can answer those questions. 

When you walk a mile in their shoes, you can better understand what they actually need. And you will be prepared to make a far more compelling pitch. 

Don't automate everything 

We're living in the age of automation. In fact, that is one of the main selling points of Leadfeeder — it lets you automate part of the lead generation process

But sales is still about building relationships. So don't automate everything

Certainly don't just connect on LinkedIn, and put a sales pitch in and automate that as soon as that connection request has gone through.

The world is going mad with automation. It doesn't work that way. 

Alex shared: 

"I actually spoke to someone the other day and said they've got a thousand people that they add in per sequence per week, and they just automate it and that's to book 10 meetings. You're burning your market really quickly so don't just try and automate everything. It just doesn't work."  

Don't just make it about you or your product or what you want. Take the time to get to know your prospects, find out if they actually need what you have to offer. Don't just pitch and run. 

Don't focus just on quantity 

Sales has always been a numbers game. The more people you connect with, the more people you pitch, the more sales you will make. 

If you just go after one or two accounts at a time, you probably will fail. There needs to be some level of quantity as well. 

quality quantity lever

Try thinking of quantity and quality as two levers. You have the quantity lever where you have to pitch to a certain number of people, but you need to balance that with your quality. If you go too hard one way — say quantity — you won't be able to provide enough quality in your pitches. 

But if you sync those two levers, then you should be successful.  

Don't be impatient 

People always say that you need to be persistent, you need to be hardcore. Many look at movies like The Wolf on Wall Street and assume that is the only way to sell. 

wolf of wallstreet reaction

They push and push, thinking that persistence will pay off. 

If people don't want it, leave them alone. 

There's nothing wrong with asking why, but leave them alone if they give a good answer. Or nurture them, keep in contact and wait for when it is the right time

But respect the choice they've made and respect the time that they say no. There is nothing worse than someone trying and trying. 

You try to be nice one time, two times, and the third time you're going to get a door closed in your face. 

Which is terrible as an SDR, because that will impact your confidence, but imagine the impact on your brand. 

It is not a good look. Take your time, and let the prospect talk to you and understand their situation, and if he's not ready, if he's not right now, give it six months, give it 12 months, give it 18 months. You'll get them back. 

Add your own flavor 

We live in a world of copy-paste. Everyone wants a quick answer, and there's more information out there than ever before. 

Sample email templates, sample sales scripts, sequences; just Google anything and you can find examples. 

Or you might look at your team, see who's the best SDR, and just copy what they do. A lot of people are afraid to experiment with their own ideas, to add their own flavor in them because they don't work the first time. 

As a result, they give up, or they just copy what other people are doing. It could be new email ideas, the way that you speak, what you stand for, what you have to offer to people as a person because it's easy, especially, as a junior SDR or junior roles in SDR, to feel like you don't have a lot to offer — but you do. 

Get clear on the most effective tools from other people, see what techniques and lessons you can learn, but then add your own flavor. 

add flavor salt bae

Find the best way for you to write, a unique way to do videos, a style for your LinkedIn approach. It could be as simple as adding an emoji or something. It could be adding art

If you love poetry, if you love singing music, maybe there are other passions that you can bring into what you do even as an SDR role, either with clients or with the team. 

There are so many ways you can bring your own passions and interests into your work and not just be another copy-paste automated person.  

Everyone has something valuable to offer, and it is important to find that for yourself. 


The SDR position is a tricky one. You're still learning a lot about sales in general, about your company, about your coworkers. The core of success as an SDR is to keep it personal. 

There is a lot of pressure to churn out leads, to get those connections. But sales is always about relationships. No matter how many software systems are out there, it always comes back to building real relationships. 

Want to learn more? Watch the whole webinar here:

Note: Identify the best leads for your company with the right tool and technique. Sign up for Leadfeeder and try the 14-day free trial.

Anna Crowe
By Anna Crowe

Anna works as a SEO Consultant and writer for Search Engine Land. Over the last decade, Anna has successfully developed and implemented online marketing strategies, SEO, and conversion campaigns for 100+ businesses of all sizes; from the Fortune 500, to startups, and nonprofits. She enjoys burritos and puppies (in that order).

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