Building Your Sales Development Puzzle

August 31, 2021

A lot of SDRs get pushed right into the deep end.

They get one (maybe two) weeks of training & onboarding and *BOOM* they’re on the phones and expected to generate pipeline revenue.

And honestly…that’s ok. As long as they aren’t expected to hit 100% of their goal from day 1, I fully believe that reps should be hitting the phones ASAP. For a new SDR, there is no better learning experience.

(provided they have the support from management and aren’t left to flounder alone)

Think about it. Live phone conversations help SDRs…

  • Learn more about competitors
  • Practice diffusing common objections
  • See which value props resonate with their ICP

And so much more.

Each conversation is an opportunity to learn something new and further build out the experience needed to succeed in the role.

I look at it like this: the early days of being an SDR are like a puzzle.

When you first start out and you’ve been tossed into the deep end, you don’t have many (if any) pieces and no idea what your ‘final picture’ is going to look like. You need information, and the best way to get that is through experience (what I talked about above).

The more you do this, the more pieces you get. The more pieces you get, the clearer your puzzle becomes.

Eventually, as you become more comfortable with the role, you start putting the pieces together in the pattern that makes sense to you. You literally create something out of nothing (first law of thermodynamics be damned). Everyone creates their own individual puzzle from (essentially) the same pieces.

It’s kind of magical when you think about it.

So how can SDRs effectively put together their own sales development puzzles? Which pieces are the most important to overall success? And what impact does a finished puzzle have?

Let’s dive in.

SDRs Have to Hit the Phones

Almost all of this is predicated on SDRs hitting the phone early and often. Why the phone? Because even with the myriad of other channels available – email, social, video, etc. – the phone remains the most powerful. It has (in my opinion) the best balance of quantity and quality.

If you want to effectively share value props, learn about your prospect’s goals & challenges, or get anecdotal evidence, the phone is the way to go. It’s best to have these types of conversations live – there’s something unmatched about the ability to have personal, rapport-building conversations at the scale that a phone allows.

And those live conversations are the best place for SDRs to start generating puzzle pieces. Every new objection, competitor, and trend that they uncover is an opportunity to learn something new.

One of demandDrive’s SDRs, Jarad Spriggs, brought this up under the context of building confidence. During our SDR Symposium in July, he defined confidence as “all about trying something, recognizing where you went wrong, and fixing it for next time.”

Putting together your puzzle in your early days as an SDR follows a very similar pattern:




Or ELO, for short.

*Cue “Don’t Bring Me Down”* 

The more time you spend on the phone talking with prospects, the more experience you gain. Learning from those experiences allows you to see what works and what doesn’t. Knowing that, you can tweak your process and optimize it for next time.

Other Tips & Suggestions

Outside of spending a lot of time on the phone, SDRs can get similar results by sitting on discovery calls with their AEs. I cannot stress this enough – the handover process and subsequent discovery call are vital sources of information for SDRs (not just when you’re ramping up in the role).

Handing over and listening to your prospects on a Discovery Call with your AE can illuminate a ton of information:

  • How solid were the objections you heard, and how did your AE diffuse them?

  • Did they mention other competitors that you’ve never heard of?

  • Does the value proposition you focused on match up with their goals and challenges? How did your AE approach the situation?

  • What did you learn about your prospect’s day-to-day responsibilities? Can you start to form a more concrete persona based on that information?

  • Did they take next steps with your AE? Why or why not? How can you use that in your own prospecting efforts?

Handover calls are a gold mine of information that SDRs should have access to. It’s an efficient and effective way to uncover more pieces to the puzzle and envision how they start fitting together.

At the end of the day, The ELO method is really about figuring out your why.

  • Why would someone want to talk with you?

  • Why does your solution make sense?

  • Why are you worth their time?

Understanding this early really sets you on the right path as an SDR. The more calls you make, conversations you have, and leads you pass help you obtain more pieces to your puzzle. And the more pieces you have, the clearer your end result looks.

Managers Need to Reinforce Key Behaviors

It’s one thing if an SDR approaches the position this way, but it’s another if their manager plays an active role in helping them uncover and build their puzzle. This means encouraging them to build and tweak their processes, making sure they put in the right number of activities, and understanding their rep’s ultimate goals.

“The Next Best Thing”

Being an SDR Manager isn’t easy. SDRs are often immature, inexperienced, and idealistic. They’re also responsible for pipeline revenue, and for an SDR Manager’s job stability. A lackluster team means lackluster results. Lackluster results mean difficult conversations.

It’s no wonder that a lot of managers are all about “the next best thing.” Whether it’s messaging, a cadence, or value props, they’re looking to change and improve upon what they’ve tested to see how that impacts results.

Usually, that’s great! You don’t want a manager that stifles creativity or advancement because they’re set in their ways. You never want to hear the phrase, “well this is how we always did it.” 

That being said, you also need time for results to show significance. If a manager runs a campaign for one month and the results aren’t great, they’ll often pull the plug and try something new. Not only are they potentially cutting loose too early with the current campaign, but they’re repeatedly pulling a newer SDR in different directions. They don’t get a chance to Learn or Optimize if their experiments don’t last that long. No learning or optimizing, no puzzle pieces.

Managers have to work with reps to find that sweet spot between pulling a campaign or experiment too early and being a stickler with their “tried and true” methods.

Diminishing Returns

Like I said at the beginning of this piece, SDRs should be getting in a lot of activity as they ramp up in the role. But just like candy or bananas, there are diminishing returns associated with hitting the phones too hard.

I get it – you want your reps putting in as many activities as possible. After all, the more dials they make the more chances they have at uncovering and building puzzle pieces. But if you start demanding 90, 100, even 110 dials, then you’ll see days that look like this:

diminishing returns.png

SDRs that are tied to high dial goals will almost always drop their effort in favor of volume. Otherwise, getting their numbers in becomes an incredibly difficult task. The key here is to find that sweet spot (at the top of the curve) between enough dials to assemble puzzle pieces and too many dials that burn your reps out.

It’s like our CEO, Lindsay Frey, said:

“If a rep hit 110 calls but didn’t have any worthwhile conversations, did they consider that a solid day? I sure didn’t, so why was I using that as a barometer of success?”

As a manager, you don’t want to incentivize the number of dials as a job well done. You want to incentivize the results of those dials – quality conversations, learning opportunities, and leads generated. Otherwise, your reps will be spending the end of their days scrambling to make an extra 20-30 dials so they don’t get chewed out by management.

Besides, there’s no way they’re doing the right work on those calls. Just like empty calories, they’re empty activities. And empty activities don’t generate puzzle pieces.

Managing Beyond The Numbers

As their manager, you want your rep to finish their puzzle. It means they have a grasp on the value of your product and how to get that message across to their prospects. It also means they’ve built a process in which they continually experience, learn, and optimize that information to more effectively generate leads.

But reps aren’t just lead generation machines. They have goals beyond being SDRs.

Are they interested in moving down the funnel into an AE role? Maybe they’re interested in marketing? Do they want to step into a manager role? You won’t know until you ask, and that means talking about career development.

Why is this important? Because SDRs don’t often know what their finished puzzle is supposed to look like when they start out, but it starts to materialize after a few months on the job. And when you know what the finished product is supposed to look like, you can get strategic about what pieces you generate.

If your SDR wants to get into marketing, impactful pieces can be found through content creation and building out campaigns. If they want to move down the funnel into an AE role, pieces can be found by working smaller deals past the handover stage and creating opportunities in your CRM.

If you don’t know that because you’ve never asked, then your reps might get frustrated by the direction you’re pointing them in. If they want their finished puzzle to look like a marketing piece and you’re giving them sales pieces, you might start to breed some animosity or resentment.

Having 1-on-1 meetings with your reps about anything BUT their numbers will give you an opportunity to learn more about their future goals and how you can help them. The faster you can help them finish their puzzle, the better.

A Completed Puzzle Means a Confident Rep

So why are you racing to help your SDRs finish their puzzle?

Because when your SDR finishes their puzzle, they unlock the power of confidence.

I fully believe that confidence is a skill that’s learned, not innate. And the process of learning and building that confidence (the ELO method) is what elevates a good rep into a great one.

Your job as a manager is to build a roadmap that gets them there.

I know, as a manager you’re spinning a lot of plates. You have metrics you need to hit, revenue to generate, people to manage, bosses to report to, and deals to influence. Like I said before, it’s not easy.

But you CAN make your life easier by building a team of confident, A-level SDRs. Once you do, they…

  • Develop the autonomy to succeed on their own. That means less hand-holding for you, and more time spent on higher-value activities.
  • Take what they’ve learned and teach others. Fostering a community of learning on your team means less time spent training, and more time spent up-skilling and evolving your outreach, messaging, and processes.
  • Stay. Confident reps that see success and contribute more to the cause than activities & leads are likely to stay and develop those skills further. That means less churn on your team  – and less headaches & sunk capital.

In short, if you create a roadmap for your SDRs and show them how you plan to develop their skills, uncover puzzle pieces, and ultimately build up their confidence, they’ll return the favor tenfold.

If you want a more in-depth look at how demandDrive builds our programs and enable reps to build their own puzzles, contact our team to continue the conversation!

aj alonzo

AJ Alonzo is the Head of Marketing at demandDrive. A former SDR turned marketing leader, he's made it his goal to develop resources for sales reps who are looking to level up and for managers who are looking for guidance. Outside of work you can find him trying to shoot under par at his local disc golf course, sipping on a bourbon on the rocks, or continuing his quest to be the very best like no one ever was.
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