Here are 4 invaluable lessons that I learnt during my time as a Sales Development Representative.
1. Understand your motivation.
What drives you as an individual? When you experience months with little success, do you give up? If so, what will pick you back up?
A lesson I learnt early was a lot of sales peoples careers peter out because they lose drive and find it incredibly hard to get this back. Knowing this, it was important to understand why sales was the right career choice for me, what motivated me? What did I have to pull on to ensure my success?
For me, this was my competitive nature. There is always going to be someone better than you, someone who has achieved more, more pipeline, more sales, a better role, a nicer car, a nicer house, the limits of being competitive are endless when applied to the right scenario.
2. Fast progression isn’t always a measure of success.
When starting as an SDR it’s common to want to progress to an AE as quickly as possible, why wouldn’t you? I had the same thought process, but looking back, it resulted in me becoming a more well-rounded salesperson.
One, three or four months of good results doesn’t always mean you are ready to progress into a new role. This was a hard lesson for me. Joining a fast-paced start-up, I saw colleagues progress into roles a lot faster than I did even though my results outperformed there’s. As a competitive person, you can imagine the headache and frustration this caused, but after speaking to my AE’s, I learnt additional time in a sales development role leads to more preparation for the transition to an AE. You learn that lesson as soon as you become an AE. I can’t stress enough how big the jump is. The second you step into that AE roll, you are starting from scratch with a much heavier workload. The responsibility goes through the roof, new challenges come thick and fast, and if you fail to adapt quickly, it can result in a very tough 6 – 12 months. Again a very important time to understand your motivation and really dig into that.
Therefore, before you start the AE role, it’s important to understand as much about the role as possible and the more time within Sales Development, the better your experience in this area will be.
To gain this kind of experience, I’d highlight your desire to progress as early as possible to as many people within the sales team, especially your AE. Ask them what additional responsibility can you take on to support them. It will help you gain invaluable experience by getting opportunities to shadow on-site meetings, sit in negotiations, decisions, BPRs and more. All the different stages of the sales process.
When you think you are ready to make the jump from SDR to AE, really ask yourself do I understand the full process, do I understand what takes place at each stage? If not, what can you do in the short term to prepare yourself as much as possible?
3. ‘No’ is not a failure.
As an SDR I always wanted to be the best, perfect, but, that actually negatively affected my overall performance because I was scared of hearing the answer no. As I progressed within the role, my mindset changed from thinking ‘no’ was bad to ‘no’ is okay. If a business isn’t facing the right challenges for your solution, do you really want to be investing time talking to them?
At first, my competitive side made me believe that having more meetings than the others in my team was the most important metric to compare myself on. In reality, the most important thing is how many of those meetings are progressing to opportunities and onto ‘closed-won’. If you asked your AE, would they rather have five loosely qualified meetings or one well-qualified opportunity, I’m confident they would choose the latter. Not all businesses drive this behaviour which lowers the quality of SDRs across the industry. Knowing what I know now, that mindset switch is one of the most important things I help to implement as an SDR Coach
4. Finally, the importance of building relationships and a network early on.
The classic statement ‘it’s who you know not what you know’ comes into play here and even more so in the future. At first, I was blind sided and would invest heavily in building relationships with the people best placed to help me in the short term. I didn’t get this wrong but, I went wrong when I neglected relationships with others who have progressed to influential roles.
You never know who will end up where so every relationship is a valuable one in some way or another. I’d advise any SDR to start building out there network as early as possible and involve themselves in the communities around. The recent climate has really emphasised the importance of communities.