Top Tips for New SDRs

January 28, 2021

Starting your career as an SDR can be exciting and daunting.

On one hand, the experience you gain as an SDR sets you up for success in several different fields. You can continue as a sales rep, leverage your skills into a marketing position, and even work your way up the management ladder.

On the other, starting your career as an SDR is often likened to ‘“drinking from a fire hydrant.” The job has evolved well past the ‘sit a college grad down at a desk and give them a phone + list.’ It’s much more complicated and nuanced than that – and that means those first few months of onboarding, training, and ramp time are more crucial than ever before.

So, as a manager, how can you make the best of those first few months with a new SDR? We asked around for some advice! The Sales Hacker, SDRevolution, and LinkedIn communities delivered a lot of actionable advice for managers looking to build and grow their teams.


This guide isn’t meant to tell you what to do. It’s not a blueprint for success. You shouldn’t try everything you see on this list.

It’s simply a collection of advice from people who have done the job and done it well.

Not all of it will apply to your situation. It’s up to you to look through the advice we’ve collected and see what speaks to you. Then, action it!

Communicate Goals Effectively

The primary goal of an SDR is to book meetings for their sales rep. But how they go about that is more important than the result itself.

AJ Alonzo (hey, that’s me!) talked about the importance of helping, not selling, and keeping the human element of sales development alive and well.

“How would you like someone to interrupt your day, tell you what’s wrong with your company, and ask for 15 minutes on your calendar? You probably wouldn’t. So don’t do that to your prospects.

If you focus on helping your prospect instead of trying to sell them something out of the gates, you’ll build trust and credibility earlier in the relationship.

Have human-to-human conversations, not seller-to-buyer conversations.”

SDRs who are new to the role often ‘lose themselves.’ They forget that the person on the other end of the phone or email is…well, a person, and their outreach becomes cold and robotic. And we know that people don’t like buying from robots, they like buying from people.

A great way to combat that is illustrated in Daniel Pink’s book, When. He mentions Adam Gant, a professor at the Wharton School, who motivates himself not with ‘How can I continue?’ but with ‘How can I help?’ A similar mentality can help SDRs who find themselves getting rejected over and over again. Instead of focusing on the short-term and getting a meeting on the books, think about the long-term and how you can really help the person you’re speaking with. It breathes new meaning into the conversation and acts as a pattern interrupt to standard processes.

Making that shift isn’t easy. The SDR role is historically focused on the short-term. Whether it be goals or tenure, nothing about the life of an SDR seems long or drawn out. We don’t incentivize reps to think about long-term opportunities – either because they won’t get paid for the work they do now or they aren’t tied to closed-won deals.

Jake Dunlap has a great system – 80-15-5 – to hit short-term goals while also setting up future success. As a manager, you’re helping everyone by reinforcing the importance of future success. Your SDRs will be more successful (helping them AND you), their tenure will increase (helping the company), and your brand will start to build a stronger reputation (helping everyone).

Here are some other ways you can communicate goals to your SDRs and get them to focus on the long-term:

  • If your SDRs really want to help prospects instead of go for a hard sell, they need to develop their listening skills. Sudiartono Hakim mentioned the importance of listening to prospect’s stories and understanding when to help, when to add value, and when to sell. Working with your SDRs to improve their active listening skills will help tremendously.

  • Macky Bradley follows up on that and says that SDRs should be learning from every conversation they have. It helps them make connections and visualize company hierarchies, better understand business functions, and become a subject matter expert for their brand/product. Encourage your SDRs to build up a knowledge base! Consider exploring the T-shaped SDR format.

  • Macky also noted the importance of transparency when it comes to compensation. Ultimately, SDRs aren’t doing the job for free (nor should they). If you want to establish trust with your reps, make sure they’re fully aware of how & when they get paid. Encourage them to track it on their own as well so there’s never a lead that slips through the cracks. Not only will reps appreciate the fact that you’re looking out for them, but you can bet they’ll be more motivated to hit goals when they know exactly how much their comp is.

Help Them Establish a Routine

Time management is one of, if not the most, important aspects of an SDRs job. Morgan Ingram talks about the importance of a consistent schedule – it yields consistent results. And if you can ingrain that mentality early and often with your SDRs you’ll set them up for success.

Joe Latchaw agrees, and reinforces the importance of diligent time management:

“Just like your prospects, be diligent with your time. Create blocks to prospect/blocks to admin work/breaks etc.

Forming those habits early will help set you up for success.”

As a manager, you must relay the importance of time management early and often. It helps your SDRs establish a strong foundation to fall back on when things go awry (as they so often do), and it starts to create a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency.

It also helps establish a long-term approach to the role. If you’re always putting out fires and don’t have a consistent schedule, you think short-term. But if you have consistency in your processes, you can afford to take a long-term approach.

Manuela Franco mentioned the importance of taking the longer term, slowed down approach to the sales development role:

“Slow and steady wins the race! if you stress yourself out too hard about deliverables you’ll burn out much faster.

Trust your work, trust the process; and keep doing your best everyday slow and steady!”

Greyson Fullbright agrees:

“Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

It’s important to keep the long-term vision in mind and not get caught up in too much too fast.”

As a manager, it’s your job to reinforce these ideas and get your SDRs ready to attack every day as efficiently as possible. Not only will they benefit, but you’ll also be able to take a less ‘hands-on’ approach with your reps. That frees you up for more revenue-generating activities and coaching sessions.

Bonus Tip:

Are you a morning person? Bryan Elsesser talks about the value of getting an early start to the day:

“New salespeople:

The most successful people I know have an early routine.

5am starts. Gym, read, meditation…anything that gets the brain up and at’em.

It takes two weeks to get the brain into the habit of waking early and being productive.

But I’ve found over the years of doing this that it isn’t always easy to do this. But on the days I do, I always have a faster start and more productive day.

Take a look at your work from home routine…

What could you do if you started just a little bit earlier?”

I’m NOT a morning person, but waking up 30 minutes earlier each day sounds like a great way to improve my morning routine.

Get Them Over the Fear of Cold Calling Early

At some point, every SDR has to make a cold call. And in this world dominated by buyers, you can’t just rely on email to get the job done. Any successful SDR has cold calling built into their outreach strategy, and it’s up to you – their manager – to get them over the fear of the phone early in their career.

Simon Polakoff can attest.

“I hated cold calling when I first started and now it’s like my secret weapon 💥

Build a habit, so that if you’re like me, cold calling will become part of your routine. That means, make a consistent amount of dials EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.”

He hits on a big point there – habits. It’s no secret that some reps are phone-averse. But allowing them to hide behind other channels like email and social will only hurt their long-term growth and your current prospecting efforts. Getting them used to cold calling early will help them form the right habits to make it part of their daily routine.

This doesn’t mean you can’t fix a fear of the phone with more tenured reps. Sitting down with these reps and tackling the problem head-on can illuminate the issue at hand. Are they genuinely scared to pick up the phone, or are there obstacles in their way that you haven’t considered? Do they just need more training? It’s up to you to find out.

Why do you think reps find cold calling to be so…scary?

According to Joe Latchaw, it stems from rejection.

“Don’t take calls personally. I think this was really hard for me at first as I wasn’t used to rejection. Getting constantly hung up on can wear on you so don’t let those moments affect your day.”

It can be easy to fall into a rut as an SDR, especially when you’ve been hit hard with rejection after rejection. Each “NO” or hang-up is reinforcing that little voice in the back of your head telling you to stop picking up the phone and opt for a safer route – like email. But, as we said above, you can’t rely on just email to get the job done. Getting over that fear of rejection is crucial in helping your SDRs become top-performers.

On top of getting over rejection, you have to help your reps get over the “what could have been” mentality to their calls. AJ Alonzo (me again!) touches on that:

“Look, don’t stare // It’s ok to mess up, learn from your mistakes

As an SDR, you will mess up. You will find someone who’s having a bad day and they chew you out for no reason. You will look back at a call and think about what went wrong.

Don’t dwell on it. Take stock of what happened, what you think you could have done better, and what you learned from the experience. Then, move on.

Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Someone’s Waiting.”

Sales is (mostly) a numbers game, and dwelling on past calls that ended up in dead ends won’t do you much good. Your reps have to learn from their mistakes, but you can’t let their mistakes dictate how they go about the job. Impart a certain attitude of resilience and optimism on your team to get them rowing in the right direction.

And here’s our super-secret tip courtesy of Ryan Reisert:




Phone ☎️

Then Follow Up”

Help Them Find Their Own Way

At the end of the day, you can only control so much. Eventually, you have to let the bird out of the nest (after training them how to fly, of course).

But not every SDR flys the same way. And success is success, no matter how they get there. Give your reps the chance to spread their wings and figure some things out on their own and they’ll probably surprise you.

Plus, as Nick Birlingmair points out, there’s a chance they’re suffering from ‘analysis paralysis’ of some kind:

“Do. Don’t Think.

I often see newer reps paralyzed by the amount of sales tools, advice, or “what’s worked for others”.

Don’t get ready to get ready, just go. And you’ll figure out what works for you by doing, and pivot accordingly.

Top secret cheat code: (pick up the darn phone!) 📞”

Communicate that to your SDRs. Let them know that you’ll provide them with everything they need to be successful, but at the end of the day, it’s up to them to make it happen.

Macky Bradley has a few more tips on how to nudge your reps out of the nest when they’re ready to take flight:

  • Make yourself available to them. Having a regular 1:1 meeting about career advancement and their goals will help you understand what they’re looking to accomplish and how to help them get there. This is incredibly important in lengthening the tenure of your reps and building up a good reputation for your sales team.

  • Encourage your SDRs to create a “ME” folder. When somebody says “great work” or sends an email thanking them, tell them to put it into their ‘ME’ file. It gives them something to refer back to when things are trending down, and it serves as a great reminder for SDR best practices.

  • Make sure to give them plenty of research material – books, podcasts, etc. Direct them to communities like GTMNow, SDRevolution, and RevGenius. Help them help themselves.

  • Above everything, let them have fun and be creative. If they come up with a new value prop, see success with a new channel, or have a piece of content they want to create, encourage them to document its results and share it with the team at large.

Building, training, coaching, and managing an SDR team is no easy task. Take these tips and get your SDRs ready to tackle their prospecting with a renewed sense of energy and purpose.

And if you want to see how we build and manage SDR teams, feel free to contact us for a 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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