Rethinking the R in SDR

Sales is changing rapidly. The skills and tactics that led to success only a few years ago don't cut it on their own today.

No where is this more true than for the role of the sales development rep, or SDR.

During the last few years, as more and more high-velocity sales operations divided labor between lead generation, appointment-setting and closing, hiring managers have filled SDR roles with energetic young sales reps, eager to pound the phones and do whatever it takes to make their numbers.

Making those numbers usually meant doing a lot of tedious digital labor — copying and pasting 60+ emails a day, dialing cold call after cold call and manually updating the CRM to reflect each touchpoint.

The Manual Side of Automation

Things have changed. All that tedious work? It's been automated. The time-consuming element of sending lots of emails is no longer the part where you actually send the emails — it's all the work that goes into setting up the campaign.

It's stalking each prospect within every account on every form of social media available. It's knowing what every one of them is interested and talking about. It's knowing everything there is to know about their business — beyond what a simple Google search can yield. It might mean making some phone calls to learn about that prospect before sending a single email.

It's research.

And all of this research needs to be thoughtfully incorporated into every touchpoint of every campaign.

The good news is the same energetic workers who grew up with their fingers glued to their phones, stalking everyone they knew or wanted to know on social media, already have most of the skills needed to thrive in this environment.

Weapons of Mass Development

Tools are available that can automate elements of this research. Being an effective sales rep not only means you have the ability to learn the latest and greatest technologies, but also find them. You have to constantly keep your eye out for the one things that will give you the slightest edge, save your valuable minutes and get more accurate data.

Finding these tools before your competition also takes work. My favorite place to discover hidden gems are Product Hunt, LinkedIn discussion groups and Quora posts. Product Hunt was built for this very reason. You can search tools individually or browse through collections, like sales tools and cold email tools. They key to tapping LinkedIn discussions is finding active groups with people like you who are constantly seeking ways to be more effective and efficient in their sales process. My favorite group is the Sales Hacker Community. The beauty of leveraging Quora is there are many thought leaders in the sales space writing on the platforms, and you ask specific questions directly to them. Want to know some great ways to generate leads in B2B sales? Want an alternative to ToutApp? Just ask!

Now, let’s look at specific technologies. When SDRs are doing their initial research, there are a few powerful and essential platforms. Sales intelligence tools like Datanyze give reps valuable insights about companies and prospects within each company. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is like a news feed with everything you want to know about your prospects, and is an indispensable tool for any sales rep.

Google Alerts is an obvious one, but there’s also Mention that offers a little more power and social media integration. You can easily monitor the chatter about your company, your competitors or any keywords, then swoop in and capitalize on the mention by commenting, responding, or engaging where appropriate.

One of the most powerful combination of tools is LinkedIn with PersistIQ. Collect all the data you need on prospects with Sales Navigator, then drop them into a live campaign in PersistIQ without ever leaving LinkedIn. Then let the power of PersistIQ’s campaigns follow up with multiple touch points at the right times until you get a response.

One of the last tools I want to mention is also one of my favorites. It’s a newer tool called Charlie App. It's designed to support meetings that have already been booked, and I use it all the time as an account executive, but smart SDRs can figure out creative ways to make it fit his or her needs.

Redefining the SDR = Sales Development Researcher

The stakes have never been higher. With this new power came greater responsibility. Small errors get amplified and potentially ruin a company's chance at success. First impressions matter, and you don't want to make a bad one with a terribly-written email, or an incomplete mail merge field that's repeated throughout a campaign. Reaching out with a generic message to a prospect immediately after their company has been featured as a customer success story by one of your competitors.

All this means that the skills necessary to succeed as an SDR aren't the same today as they were in 2013, and it’s highly likely that they won’t be the same in 2017. It's time to update the job description and title of an SDR to reflect this new reality.

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