My First Sales Development Rep (SDR) Role: 7 Critical Skills You Need to Set More Meetings in 2021 and Win the Inner Game of Sales Success

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There are many great posts written about your first sales development rep role (SDR) which focus on anywhere from the best methodologies to the latest technologies to improve your sales development role. However, they all overlook a key critical component. Sales is an inside job. Your success in sales stems from the inside out. As good content on the above already exists, I will focus on helping you overcome any call reluctance and win the inner game of sales success.

A sales professional’s journey often begins with this first role, whether it be a business development or sales development role, before they become a full-fledged sales representative. Much of the time is spent on outbound prospecting, having sales conversations, helping build the sales pipelines, and optimizing their own sales performance. In early stage startups, the sales processes and sales methodologies also need to be defined. Developing strong prospecting skills can lay the foundation for a long-term sales career leading to become a sales leader in your own right.

1. Building a Mindset


It all begins with you. And more importantly your mind. And more important than that your specific mindset, the lens through which you view the world, your profession, your company, your product or service, your prospect, your customer, your industry, your colleagues, etc. Your mindset will influence your attitude. It will influence your intent. Your mindset will set you up for success or failure.

As a SDR, reflect on how you feel about cold calling? Does it excite you? Does it make you nervous? For many people, those two emotions exhibit very similar physiological feelings. Develop some discernment between the two. You may be more excited than you think.

How do you feel about the people you are calling? Are you excited to engage with them? Do their problems, their industry, their experience, their professional success, their lives interest you?

Two key areas to explore to uncover your mindsets and identify whether they support your intention or work against are:

  • Your Expectations
  • Your Beliefs
  • Your Decisions

Your expectations project out into the world how things should be from your perspective. Prospects should pick up the phone. They should return my calls. Open my emails. Respond to my emails. Give me a definitive yes or no. Your expectations form demands upon someone you’ve never met or spoken with. This does not set the stage for building meaningful rapport. Keep your expectations in check. Listen out for your “shoulds” as an indicator of your expectations.

Your beliefs whether about yourself or the people you are calling either make your job easier or harder. Do you believe your call in an interruption to the prospect’s day? Do you believe you should rush on your calls? Do you feel your call will be perceived as annoying? Are any of these really true? Could the opposite be just as true? Could your call be exactly what the prospect is looking for? Could you take your time and speak deliberately because what you have to say is important? Could speaking to you be the delightful surprise to an already mundane day for the prospect? Identify your belief and question whether it is really true and how likely could the opposite be just as true.

2. Setting an Intent

In sales, it’s quite common to focus on your income. How much are you making? How much can you be making? The way to ensure a great income is to have a strong focus on your outcome. Unlike other professions, sales offers a rather quick feedback loop. A yes or a no. A win or a loss. Knowing your targets and how to achieve those targets will help you achieve your outcome. There is a step that comes before all of this that is even more crucial. That is the step of setting your intention. Do you start your day off with the intention of setting a discover meeting or getting a demo? Or do you just start your day and hope for the best? Do you make each call with the intention of the prospect picking up the phone? Or do you secretly hope they don’t to avoid another possible rejection? Each of those is an intention. And each will manifest the outcome you seek, consciously or unconsciously.

The next time you place a call, listen for that little whisper, notice the feeling in your chest, stomach, and hands. Do you feel supported? Do you feel powerful? Do you feel in charge? Or do you feel meek and vulnerable? Your intention is fueled by the feelings you feel when you think of the action you plan to do. If your intention is that in the next hour of calling I’m going to set a meeting and you FEEL unstoppable in achieving that, you have feeling support of your intention. If you FEEL like “yeah right, I wish” then your feeling is not supporting your intention.

3. Picking Up the Phone

As a SDR, have you ever experienced a heavy phone, metaphorically speaking that is? Days when you didn’t feel like making any calls? How are those days different than the ones when you have no problem making calls?

For most people it’s their self-talk that makes the difference. Your self-talk can tear you down or build you up. It can get you psyched out or psyched up. Your self-talk can consist of scenarios where everything will go wrong, people will yell and hang up on you, and you will hear a day full of “no’s”. It can narrate this future filled with rejection that leaves you anxiety ridden.

However, your self-talk can also lift you up, empower you, build up your confidence, and help you feel unstoppable.

How many of you would prefer the latter? Well how do you achieve that?

Start noticing the words the self-talk uses, also known as the content. Next pay attention to the voice tone of the self-talk. Do the words and voice tone get your juices flowing, jazz you up, energize you? If not, start adjusting your self-talk so that it does. For example, what athlete or celebrity voice would leave you feeling totally empowered? Try that voice out as your self-talk. I’m personally a fan of Morgan Freeman. Who does it for you?

Leverage the self-talk that makes it easy for you to pick up the phone every time.

4. Listening with Both Ears

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sales managers often say this to their sales teams. The idea being to listen more. If you think of listening as a skill yet you execute it poorly, would doing more of it make you better at it? A little bit? Sure. Results-worthy? Probably not. So what if you improve the skill first and then do more of it.

How can a sales development representative improve their active listening skills? The simplest way is to have curiosity about the other person and about the topic being discussed. When you have curiosity, your focus shifts from yourself to the other person. You are not focused on what you will say next hence your ability to listen increases. Start by finding one thing about the other person or topic being discussed that you can become curious. Let that feeling of curiosity drive your engagement.

5. Developing Rapport

Rapport building is a sales skill important for anyone in the sales profession. As a SDR, gaining rapport quickly is crucial. This could be your next potential customer. Rapport can be gained by speaking like the other person. This means speaking at the same rate of speech, same volume, same intensity, and even the same tone. This elicits a feeling of “I am as you are”.

Another quick hack you can use is called the “Bubble Technique”. Basically, while the phone is ringing, imagine creating a bubble around you and the person who is about to pick up on the other end. Visualize the bubble in a color that feels calm and engaging. A bubble that feels comfortable allows the space for others to open up. A space where there is no judgment. A space where there is instant connection. One human to another human. Let all of this be represented in your bubble. Adjust this bubble, adding or removing as needed so that you get your desired outcome.

6. Leveraging Your Voice

Your voice, as a sales development representative, is your most powerful instrument. There are 8 different styles of speaking or delivering your communication. They are comprised of 3 variables. This has been adapted from the Laban Efforts created by Rudolf von Laban. Reviewing the different styles below, you can identify which style closely represents persontal style of communication. Understanding the different styles also offers an opportunity to build deeper rapport by matching the style of your prospect.

  1. Weight: Light or Strong (forceful) communication
  2. Direction: Direct or Indirect communication
  3. Speed: Sudden or Sustained communication

Think of weight as the intensity of your delivery. Think of direction as going from A to B either in a straight line or in a zigzag fashion. Either will get to B but the journey can vary and meander. Think of speed as in short quick phrases or long stretched out words.

Dabbing: (Light – Direct – Sudden)
Does your communication style come across as not forceful, yet direct and in short bursts?

Gliding: (Light – Direct – Sustained)
Does your communication style come across as not forceful, yet direct and in long drawn out delivery?

Flicking: (Light – Indirect – Sudden)
Does your communication style come across as not forceful, yet indirect and in short bursts?

Floating: (Light – Indirect – Sustained)
Does your communication style come across as not forceful, yet indirect and in long drawn out delivery?

Thrusting: (Strong – Direct – Sudden)
Does your communication style come across as forceful, direct, and in short bursts?

Pressing: (Strong – Direct – Sustained)
Does your communication style come across as forceful, direct, and in a long drawn out delivery?

Slashing: (Strong – Indirect – Sudden)
Does your communication style come across as forceful, yet indirect, and in short bursts?

Wringing: (Strong – Indirect – Sustained)
Does your communication style come across as forceful, yet indirect, and in long drawn out delivery?

If your natural style is “floating” and your prospect’s style is “thrusting” would there be a mismatch? Would the prospect become impatient waiting for the floating delivery? In this example, would you feel a lot of pressure to get the words out when speaking to a prospect who has a “thrusting” style?

Stretch your voice beyond what feels natural to you and meet your prospect in their world to build deeper rapport and ensure effective communication.

7. Approaching with Curiosity

As mentioned earlier, curiosity is an important state of mind to approach speaking with a new prospect. Why are your prospects standoffish? They are concerned about your agenda — your intention. There is no trust established at first. Sincere curiosity builds the bridge closing the gap of mistrust.

Approaching with curiosity means set aside your opinions, biases, judgments, expectations, and beliefs so you can be fully present to your prospect and learn about them and their business.

The Sandler Sales methodology offers a simple phrase to tap into and set the stage of curiosity.

“I don’t know yet if…”

This simple phrase communicates that the sales rep doesn’t have an agenda. It aligns with the prospect suggesting that the basis of the meeting is to embark on this journey together to discover if further engagement is needed.

Putting It Together

Whether you are the first person of a new startup or part of a larger sales team full of many sales reps and SDRs where the sales processes are predefined, the sales goal is the same — get in front of prospective customers and close deals. As you review these 7 critical sales skills to connect with your prospects take time to process each one and practice developing each skill. Enjoy the learning in the process.

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