Psychological Safety for SDRs
How Jagrit Gambhir, Social Media Strategist @ Sybill, views psychological safety and its importance in the workplace (especially for SDRs).
Name: Jagrit Gambhir
What He Does: Jagrit is a novice chef, professional cat whisperer, and SDR turned marketer. Formerly an AE at Kula, he’s currently a freelance social media strategist for Sybill.
Company: Freelancer (currently: Sybill)
How to Connect: Jagrit’s LinkedIn
The role of the SDR has changed dramatically over the past 5 years.
It’s no longer a “spray and pray” type of job. You win by making long-term deposits, remaining relevant over an extended period of time, and being authentic and empathetic in everything you do.
And for that to be possible, you need a certain level of psychological safety.
The ability to be you – while prospecting, while posting on LinkedIn, or with your colleagues – without being punished or scrutinized for it is a key component of success for top performers.
Including our guest, Jagrit Gambhir.
A former top SDR & AE turned marketer, Jagrit thrived in environments that prioritized psychological safety. That allowed him to fully immerse himself in an industry and build up subject matter expertise & key connections – and that helped make quota attainment a breeze.
But it wasn’t always like that. His first role in the SaaS world almost chewed him up and spat him out. But after recognizing how important psychological safety was to his mental health and overall success, he made it a premium when looking for new gigs.
We cover how leaders can enable and encourage that safety within their organizations, how reps can take advantage of it, and the results you can expect to see.
We initially connected because you’ve been very vocal online about the importance of authenticity as an SDR. Why does that matter so much to you?
How has sales evolved over the past few years, and how does this “authentic rep” play a role in the modern sales environment?
Let’s define psychological safety. What does it mean to have it? What happens when you don’t?
You’re really active on LinkedIn, and you encourage others to do the same. What has it done for your career?
We know what’s in it for the rep – what’s in it for the company? For sales leadership? Why should they care about this?
Top 3 Takeaways
🌐 “…if you think about it, in the early 2000s, virtual selling wasn’t a thing…but in the early 2010s, the last decade, the early last decade, selling became virtual…technology enabled that. But with technology, you lose human touch. And it took the sales community a while to really understand, why are the strategies that initially worked for us maybe five, ten years ago, when we first started doing this, why are those strategies not working for us anymore? And the reason for that is people are tired.”
Prospecting fatigue is very real. Email send rates are at all-time highs, and response rates are at all-time lows. The sea of prospecting emails, phone calls, and LinkedIn messages continues to swell – and as an SDR, you can either sink or swim.
Choosing sink means you continue sending messages off into the void – hoping someone will respond.
Choosing swim means you craft relevant, novel messages with the notion that your prospects would be crazy to not respond.
Jagrit believes that to swim, you have to show your authentic self. Breaking through the noise is hard, but it becomes a lot easier when you shed the “corporate” version of yourself and inject some personality into your messaging.
But in order to do that, you need to have that net of psychological safety.
🔬 “And there has been a lot of research done on this, right? Your employee engagement levels, your team engagement levels, the output, the creativity, the motivation, when your team faces that safety, it goes off the charts. But if you don’t have it, then it has a negative experience on your team’s morale, your team’s performance, and a lot of other trickling effects.”
Jagrit is intimately familiar with working in an environment without psychological safety and with psychological safety. And he could see the difference in just his own attitude very clearly.
When he felt restricted or like he couldn’t be his authentic self, his mood and motivation were prone to dropping regularly. On the flip side, when he felt like he could be himself without fear of retribution from his manager, his motivation was through the roof.
Sales Health Alliance published a great article on why psychological safety is so important, and the impact safety can have on your sales org as a whole:
🧪 “You’re at a startup because you can experiment. You can try your hand at different things. If you go to a company with 10,000 employees, you’ll be put in a box. The reason you chose the hard startup life is because you have the room to experiment. You have the room to try out new things and fail and learn, iterate, right? So make sure you use that and make sure that the leadership enables you to do that.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of the SDR role is the ability to experiment – with new messaging, channels, or verticals. That growth mindset and long-term vision are tenets of high-performing SDRs, and can act as a strong catalyst for overall sales growth.
And when managers stymie that growth, they stymie pipeline growth.
Obviously, you need to establish guard rails – you can’t have reps doing whatever they want to try and book meetings. But if the rails are too tight and reps feel like they can’t deviate from the script, they begin to consider things like the impact they have at the organization and the consequences of coloring outside the lines.
🚗 “You know, buyers also have preconceived notions of salespeople, right? Everyone has heard jokes about typical car salespeople or insurance salespeople. So before you get in touch with somebody, they already have 10 to 15 to 20 bad experiences that they’ve already had. And your job is to be different.”
It’s hard breaking through the noise, and even harder to convince a prospect that you’re different from the other bad experiences they’ve (likely) had with salespeople like you.
If you don’t have the psychological safety to be you and inject personality into your outreach, your pitch will blend in with the rest of the noise. And that’s a death sentence for SDRs.
Jagrit kept hammering home this point. In order to win, you have to be different. And if you want to be different, you need psychological safety to stray from the path and know you won’t be criticized for it.
💡 We talk about this a bit in an older episode with Austin Fuller. Our main topic was around vanity metrics, but it spawned a discussion about “red teaming” for sales. Which is very cool, but impossible if the guardrails you have set up are too tight.
🥅 “So it was yes about my full-time job and how I can get that done, but it was also about how I can use social media to assist me with that full-time job while also building a safety net for the future.”
Everybody loves a win-win. Jagrit was able to use his LinkedIn strategy to not only build a book of business as an AE but to also build a personal brand that would serve him for the long term.
It doesn’t mean you have to post daily, but it does mean that you have to immerse yourself in the world of your prospects and really understand what they care about. Looking at this from a very strategic angle will serve you well.
And again, not possible without psychological safety.
Hey there! AJ here 👋
I’ll admit it – before chatting with Jagrit, I didn’t know the term “psychological safety” existed. I knew about the concept but never had a word or phrase to truly encapsulate what it meant. And I’m guessing I am not alone in that regard.
I invite you to ask yourself if you have psychological safety in your role. Or is it more like, “Do your thing, but remember – if you don’t hit quota, we’re fucked.”
And for the managers out there, I ask you the same thing – do you believe your reps feel safe? Or are they afraid to make mistakes and ask for help?
HBR Ascend published a guide to building psychological safety on your team, and it really digs into some of the topics and examples that Jagrit brought up in this episode. In particular, their points on letting reps make mistakes and avoiding blame culture speak to pervasive issues in the sales world.
I highly recommend giving it a read in conjunction with checking out Jagrit’s episode.
And if you’re looking for more workplace well-being content, our podcast with Quinn Underwood on Burnout Prevention is another good one (if I say so myself).