SDR Intent and The dD Academy

How Chelsea Leahy, Director of Training at demandDrive, is helping elevate the SDR role by focusing on foundational sales skills and an intent-driven mindset. Plus, a look at the new dD Academy!

Our Guest

Name: Chelsea Leahy

What She Does: Chelsea is the Director of Training at demandDrive and the brains behind the new dD Academy.

Company: demandDrive

How to Connect: Chelsea’s LinkedIn

“I would be laughed off the phone.”

To say that B2B sales has changed would be selling its evolution short.

The SDR role has evolved from a high-volume, ‘just get the meeting’ position to a more consultative and helpful guide. And it’s happened relatively quickly.

And nobody knows that better than our guest, Chelsea Leahy.

A former top rep turned SDR Trainer, Chelsea always has a finger on the pulse of the sales development world. The training program and coaching motion she built out at demandDrive has helped hundreds of reps learn the basics, master the role, and become experts in their own right.

And now, she’s rolling that program out to the public with the launch of the online dD Academy.

We talk with Chelsea about the evolution we’ve seen in B2B sales, how that’s impacted the SDR role, and what the dD Academy is doing to help support and enable salespeople as the changes keep coming.

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Key Takeaways

  1. What are some of the main qualities and skills you look for in an SDR? How do you help train for them? Is everything you need teachable?

  2. Talk about the difference between “role” knowledge and “industry” knowledge. Do you think the training split for those is fair?

  3. How important are self-certification programs to a rep’s overall development?

  4. What does it take to elevate a C-player into a B-player? Or a B-player into an A-player?

  5. What is the dD Academy? Why did you build it? What are some of your long-term goals and future plans?

Top 3 Takeaways

🎭 “There’s really two aspects to training an SDR, right? What does it mean to be an SDR and what foundational skill sets do you need to achieve that? And then there’s the product knowledge and the industry knowledge and really kind of learning what it is you’re selling and the value that it provides and all of that fun stuff, right?”

Chelsea brings up a lot of good points here, mainly around the foundational skills that SDRs need to develop.

Lots of organizations go heavy with the product & industry training early on. On some levels it makes sense – you want your SDRs to “talk the talk” and communicate with prospects like a peer vs. a salesperson.

But if reps lack foundational skills (like account mapping, diffusing objections, and time management) then even the most in-depth product knowledge won’t save them.


😴 “We want SDRs that aren’t just sitting in front of a screen and saying, here’s my list. I’ll just call down it. OK, Bob is next. We want SDRs that are putting a lot of thought and intention behind the work that they’re doing.”

Intent is a massive component of all successful SDRs. Knowing why you’re reaching out to someone changes so much about your outreach – from your tonality to your authenticity to how relevant the message is.

Prospects can tell if reps are “blindly dialing down a list. And nobody takes kindly to having their day interrupted by someone who isn’t prepared or thoughtful.

The best reps are asking themselves questions like:

  • Why would this organization need this tool or have a need for this tool?

  • If they didn’t have a tool like this already, what might their process look like?

  • What might so-and-so’s day-to-day look like? And if they did implement this tool, how would that change their day-to-day?

And that intention goes beyond the day-to-day as well. A lot of SDRs don’t truly understand their place or impact, and it makes committing to the job that much harder. When reps have that intention behind their work and they understand the impact it has on their organization and their career, they flourish.


🌐 “You don’t really get there with somebody until they have that really good understanding of how all of this works together…how it all ends up blending together from a sales perspective, a marketing perspective, and so on and so forth.”

When that holistic picture becomes clear to an SDR, they can start taking some management into their own hands. Beyond adapting their message and outreach, reps who exhibit that intent begin to understand their own career trajectories and what it will take to get them to that next step.

You can’t get there without teaching the basics, reinforcing those through continual coaching, and supporting your reps to do more than just dial down a list and book the 1-2% of people who are in-market for your tool/service.

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🎣 “I think a lot of, a lot of SDR training programs out there are just catching fish for their reps. They’re giving them templates. They’re giving them call scripts. Their job is just to execute what’s been put in front of them and not go beyond that.”

We all know the saying:

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime

And a lot of training programs out there are too focused on giving away fish vs. teaching reps how to fish on their own.

Use this script, use these templates, call these accounts, etc.

Those aren’t skills, those are rules. And while they might work for a while, the SDRs who consistently over-produce tend to figure things out on their own instead of act as order-takers.

“If I was managing SDRs, I would want to get my team to a place where they’re pretty self-sufficient, right?”

We believe that the goal for an SDR Manager shouldn’t be to constantly hold their rep’s hands – it should be to get them to the point where they can manage themselves, and their manager shifts into more of a coaching role.

That can’t happen if they don’t have foundational skills like time management or account mapping to lean on.


🤖 “As we continue to see more and more automated messages that are going to get closer and closer to looking like real authentic messages, I think being an individual SDR who’s able to show that in their outreach is huge. And I think having that understanding and eagerness about the role is, is super important to making that happen successfully.”

Authenticity and intent go hand-in-hand here. Like we mentioned above – reps that just “go through the motions” are easy to spot. You can just tell, either in their voice or email, their tone screams “I don’t want to do this” or “I’m a salesperson, buckle up.”

Now that authenticity is getting harder to point out as Generative AI tools become more common, it’s more important than ever to lean into that intent.

Final Thoughts

Hey there! AJ here 👋

There’s an obvious bias here, but I think Chelsea is spot on with her assessment of the SDR role today.

The more we can focus on foundational skills and helps reps really understand why they do what they do and the impact it has, the better.

Honing in on that intent-driven mindset and investing in reps that “get it” will produce a lot more pipeline than simply trying to do more of the “going through the motions” styled outreach that was popular in 2018.

Teaching that 👆 is crucial to the success of your reps and your pipeline.

And that’s why we built the dD Academy. Having an extra set of hands when it comes to training reps on both hard and soft skills is never a bad thing!

A rising tide lifts all ships.

Want to check the academy out for yourself? Jump in here!

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