Think Like a Salesperson

August 2, 2021

Ask pretty much anyone in sales and they’ll tell you:

“To be successful, it takes hard work and patience.”

But if you ask a new SDR with plenty of growth aspirations, they’ll say:

“Bah humbug.”

To the heck with patience, they want to move up and they want to do it fast.

In response, you see companies touting accelerated growth. “Expect to be promoted in 8 months!” They’re bringing candidates in with the promise of quick upward mobility, but most of the reps in those programs fall short and end up churning. Why?

  • Is it because they’re being sold a bill of goods about their chances of upward mobility? Yes.
  • Is it because companies aren’t built for that kind of growth, so they end up ‘churning and burning’ a majority of their SDR team? Double yes.
  • Is it because SDRs are going into the job with the wrong mindset? Triple yes.

It’s on leadership to set realistic expectations for their reps, but it’s also on SDRs to fill in some of the gaps on their own.

Growing up and out of the SDR role takes more than grit, making more dials than your peers, and “wanting it” more.

It takes a mindset of autonomy, curiosity, and growth.

It means going beyond the basic requirements of the role and building up the foundational skills to succeed at the next step of your career – whether it’s an AE position, sales leadership, marketing, or whatever else you want it to be.

That’s what we touched on in this webinar – what does “going beyond” look like? How can SDRs adopt the right mindset to grow within the role and see sustainable, predictable growth during their career?

Keith Campagna and Sam De Rosa broke it down over the course of our hour together. They talked about what SDRs can do to make sure they’re trending in the right direction, and how companies can build systems that encourage that type of behavior.

You can give that webinar a watch here:
Think Like a Salesperson – Event Recording

But if you don’t have an hour to do that, we cover some of the major points in our recap below. We also add some additional best practices to help flesh out those points and give you some tangible ideas to take back to your companies.

What’s an SDR to do?

No sugarcoating it – there are a lot of B and C-level SDRs out there.

You know the type. They get in their activities, come close to hitting their KPIs, and they coast in the role for a few months until they think it’s their turn for a promotion.

Sam brought up a common comparison – a lot of SDRs are former athletes. And just like they move up from the freshman team → JV → Varsity, reps are expecting a similar growth pattern. Put in your time on the freshman team, hang around on JV for a year or two, and when you’re a senior you can hack it on the varsity squad.

The problem with thinking like that is it represents growth by seniority, not merit. And seniority is (in a vacuum) not an indicator of skill.

Don’t you want that rep who made the varsity team their sophomore year? The rep who earned their spot, and didn’t take anything for granted?

Us too. Let’s dive into some of the ways SDRs can earn that upward mobility.

Proactivity, Tools, and Community

One of the biggest differences between The B and C-level reps and their A-level counterparts is how they approach their own learning and development. Instead of being told they should develop certain skills or absorb certain resources, they go out and do it on their own.

Sam talked about her experience in doing and seeing reps put in the work to grow and develop their skills without the help or guidance from management. She would block out 30 minutes each week on her calendar for self-development – whether it was reading an article about trends in your industry, listening to call recordings (this one is a must do), or using a tool like LinkedIn Learning, she always made sure to build time in her week to get better at the job.

Lots of the tools you’re probably already using have some form of university or learning center to help you master its capabilities. These are great options for you to help speed up processes like research (on LinkedIn or with tools like Zoominfo) or operations (on tools like Salesforce Trailblazer) to make your days more efficient and productive.

There are also some online communities dedicated to helping reps learn and grow within the role that are just a few clicks away. Groups like SDRevolution, SDR Nation, and RevGenius are more than equipped to help you better grasp and grow within the SDR role. Most even offer a form of mentorship to help guide you through your journey and prepare you for whatever role lies ahead.

Check out some online communities below to see which might be a good fit for you!

🌐 Online communities

The biggest takeaway here is this: If you want to create a pathway for yourself and you put in the time and effort it’s going to open up for you.

The Onus is on SDRs

And it’s on SDRs for a simple reason – sales leaders are being tasked with so many other responsibilities that, unfortunately, the development of their SDRs has fallen by the wayside. Projections were rocked by the pandemic, and sales leaders are still scrambling to pick up the pieces. That means less time spent developing the SDR function, and more time spent trying to close deals and make up the opportunity gap.

Plus, as Keith and Sam said, there are a lot of sales reps out there. Frankly, it’s easier for a company to churn and burn their SDRs and focus their attention on closing deals instead of building a sustainable team – a problem that deserves its own webinar (or article).

💡 Curious how demandDrive helps build sustainable SDR teams? Get in touch with us here.

So with a lack of support from management, a lot of SDRs have to take control of their own development. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Absorb as much information as you can. Leverage your peers, online communities, and sites like LinkedIn to learn everything you can about your role, product, and industry. Block out time during your day to make it happen. There’s comfort in knowledge.
  • Practice with your peers. Run role plays and call blitzes with other SDRs to perfect your value propositions and objection-handling skills. Listen to each other’s calls and give constructive feedback. Leverage online communities to bounce campaign ideas and new messaging off each other. The role doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t be) a lone wolf-type job.
  • Preparation is key. Take time at the end of each day to reflect on what you did that day and prepare for the next. Get your list in order, know who you’re going to call (and why), and plan out your day – when are you calling, when are you researching, when are you learning, etc. The better you get at preparation, the more time you have to dedicate to the above.

Sales Leadership Can, and Should, Help

Just because we’ve seen SDRs take self-development into their own hands doesn’t mean sales leadership should stand idly by. If reps on your team build themselves up to A-level status and you still refuse to support them, they’ll churn anyways. And without consistency on your sales development team, you’ll constantly be spinning your wheels to develop pipeline.

Here are some basic things you can do on the leadership side of things to ensure your reps have what they need to be successful.

Be Transparent – Especially when Onboarding

If you want to build a team of A-level SDRs, define what that means to you during the onboarding process. The more clear and direct you are with your team the easier it will be for them to work towards those goals.

-If you think A-level SDRs should be reading up on industry trends and absorbing that information regularly, point out a few helpful resources during the onboarding process.

-If you think A-level reps should sit in on discovery calls, let that be known early. Bake it into your process and have the AE include the SDR who uncovered the lead on the invite for that discovery call.

-If you think A-level SDRs should be testing and experimenting with new outreach ideas, give them creative license to do so. Show them a few examples to get their gears turning.

Communicate what you’re looking for early to instill the behaviors you want to see. It’s much easier to reinforce learned behaviors than introduce something new later down the line.

Don’t Skip Check-Ins

It’s common to see an SDRs first 90 days mapped out. It gives the leadership team an opportunity to check-in with reps after certain milestones – typically after 30, 60, and 90 days – to see how they’re adjusting to the role and progressing through the system.

It’s also common for leadership to miss one (or more) of those check-ins and leave the SDRs out to dry. Sam’s advice is to simply not do that (ok it’s a little more in-depth than that).

These check-ins are just as valuable for the SDR as they are for the management team. And each one should be associated with certain goals. For example:

  • After 30 days, your SDR should have a solid grasp of messaging and value propositions. They’ve spent enough time learning it on their own and getting first-hand feedback on prospecting calls to comfortably pitch your product.
  • After 60 days, your SDR should be creating their own messaging based on prospect’s feedback and have a solid understanding of your personas & ICP. They know enough about the industry and where your solution can add value to switch up the value prop based on who they’re talking with.
  • After 90 days, your SDR should be hitting their KPIs regularly, helping out other members of the team with their messaging, and working towards creating their own content (LinkedIn posts, trends recaps, etc.). They’re building up subject matter expertise and establishing credibility & authority in your industry.

Each of those goals should be accompanied by the right training and resources. If these are what you’re looking for in a rep, you have to communicate that expectation – especially if you can’t dedicate the time and/or resources to helping them develop those skills. If these are expected of your rep and they have to build it on their own, at least guide them in the right direction.

Make Time for Development

After explaining how sales leadership has no time to develop their reps, making a point about making time seems silly – but it’s true. Giving your rep some 1-on-1 facetime will help you both immensely. Not only will the rep have a chance to learn and grow in a personal & professional way, but you’ll gain insight into what really motivates them.

Even if you carve out a single 30 minute meeting each month to talk about personal goals, motivations, and career aspirations, you’ll have a more bought-in and engaged SDR. You’ll also learn about what really motivates them and how you can tap into that to elevate someone to A-player status.

💡 Get some tips on managing reps beyond just their numbers here.

A small gesture and guiding hand from the leadership team is sometimes all an SDR needs to start investing more in themselves.


A lot of you reading through this might be thinking, “how realistic is any of this?”

And you have a point. It’s easy to talk the talk, but for reps to really thrive we need people that walk the walk. Growth and job satisfaction is highly dependent on the expectations that the sales organization gives new reps and that organization’s ability to follow-through on the deliverables. No follow-through, no growth.

That’s why it’s so important for SDRs to adopt that growth by meritocracy mindset. It takes patience, self-awareness, and that desire for self-development to see where your career can take you. If you do that, it won’t matter if your manager is fully invested in your growth or if they’re taking a backseat during your career – nobody can keep you from developing the skills you need to succeed as a sales rep.

Control what you can control, and what you can control is your own destiny.

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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