By Alex Ellison
I received a phone call from an SDR the other day and I noticed something didn’t seem quite right. Everything started off just fine. He introduced himself, congratulated me on my recent promotion, and went into his pitch - all of which were done concisely and in a professional manner. The only problem was that we never actually had a conversation. He gave his pitch. I confirmed who I was. When that was all said and done he asked for a follow-up meeting. But why? I didn’t share any new qualification information with him to warrant a follow-up call.
From his side, he probably came away feeling good about our interaction. I know when I was an SDR it usually felt good as long as someone picked up the phone on the other end and said anything more than “No, not interested, don’t contact me again”. He’s now able to log that activity into his CRM as a quality conversation with planned follow up because I requested he send some information over email. If you take a deeper look though, it’s clear that nothing new was learned through this conversation, and it’s not like he needed my permission to send me an email anyway.
This is why qualification is such an important part of the SDR role. Yes, the goal of an SDR is to set meetings for their Account Execs, but there are dozens of technologies out there that can do just that for much less than the average SDR salary. So - just like the product you’re selling - it’s important to differentiate yourself from other technologies (and other SDRs). This is why your ability to qualify potential prospects is so valuable. The most difficult challenge sales technologies and most bad SDRs face is dealing with personal, human interaction. This is where SDRs can prove their worth, and there’s no better conversation to have as an SDR than one centered around the potential fit of a potential customer for your product, even if it doesn’t immediately turn in to a meeting.
If you’re looking to go from being an average SDR to a great one, here are a few tips on how you can turn your connects into quality conversations:
Go into it with a list of questions
No SDR should ever be ‘dialing blind’, and that goes beyond finding a few facts about the prospect on LinkedIn. Confirming things like role and title should just be the initial step in a conversation that you want to get much deeper. Keeping a list of typical qualification questions handy is a simple way to keep them top of mind. Questions like, “How are you currently solving X challenge?” and “Do you handle X responsibility at your company?” are easy ways to open a dialogue between you and your prospect. Often once you start the conversation the prospect is happy to continue sharing as long as they see the potential for value with your product, but you’ll never get there without asking the right questions to get the ball rolling.
Be prepared for rebuttals
Unfortunately, not every conversation is going to go the way you’d like, that’s what makes it a dialogue as opposed to a monologue. Because of this, you have to be prepared for the answers that will come your way.
“No, we’re happy with your competitor”. Great, find out what they like about it and tell them what makes you different from them. Just because they’re happy with what they have doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. At the very least you’ll learn about their areas of interest for when you reach out in the future.
“I just don’t have the bandwidth to evaluate anything new”. Not a problem. Sympathize with their busy schedule and use the time you still have on the phone to learn as much as possible before scheduling follow-up down the road. Don’t be upset that you didn’t get the lead today, be happy that you made it easier to get that lead in the future.
These are just a couple of examples, but the point is clear. By focusing on qualification instead of scheduling a meeting, you’re able to glean additional information that can be used by your marketing team, your fellow SDRs, and your own future outreach. Even if you don’t get a lead, prospects are much more likely to pick up the phone if you have an actual reason for calling beyond “‘just touching base”, and that starts with the information you learned when they picked up the phone the first time.
If you treat a prospect as a potential sale, they’ll treat you just as coldly. If you treat a prospect like the human being they are, they’re more likely to open up and share new information. Take the time to ask them about something other than work (no, “how are you doing today?” won’t always cut it). Ask them about the weather or traffic where they are (people love to complain). Ask them about any volunteer/non-profit work they display on their LinkedIn. Just because it’s a business call doesn’t mean it can’t be an enjoyable conversation. SDRs need to be excellent at building rapport because they are the first introduction to their brand that a prospect gets. The pressure is on the SDR to represent the brand, and they should be trained in doing so. First Impressions matter, and if you come off robotic or insincere, there’s a good chance the prospect won’t open up to you.
Being an SDR can be a grind, and the urge to push for a meeting when you don’t yet have the proper qualifications is understandable, but you need to fight that urge. Setting meetings just to set meetings will eventually deplete your pipeline and can even reduce your chances at a future opportunity if you meet with prospects too early. Make your conversations matter by asking the right questions, understanding rebuttals, and treating your prospects like people. Once you’ve got all that figured out, then you can worry about follow up.
(By the way, I’m still waiting for that follow up email)