Good sales development reps hit goals. Great sales development reps smash them.
What makes the difference? Great sales development reps go beyond learning certain skills. They master critical skills so they can fill the pipeline with highly qualified prospects and make revenue grow.
Here are 15 skills sales development reps (SDRs) want to focus on mastering:
Sales development reps have to work hard to build rapport: It’s more difficult to connect over the phone or via email than it is face-to-face. Even people who are naturals at connecting find it difficult to create instant rapport with sometimes hostile strangers.
The best way to build rapport quickly is to find common ground before the initial contact is made. Knowing what customers face – for instance, an industry or company situation, unseasonable weather, a sporting victory or loss – and chatting about it goes a long way in building rapport before trying to make an appointment.
2) Active listening
Getting the word out about your product or service is vital to sales development. But understanding prospects’ pains and needs is the top priority. That entails listening well.
SDRs are inclined to speed up conversations and fix problems because they think if they take too long they’ll lose the lead. You might be hasty with your side of the conversation. But be patient when listening. Listen with intent and interest.
“When customers feel that a salesperson is listening to what they are saying, it enhances their trust in that salesperson,” say Rosemary P. Ramsey and Ravipreet S. Sohi, authors of the study Listening to your customers: The impact of perceived salesperson listening behavior on relationship outcomes. “Our results also show that perceptions of listening have a significant positive effect on a customer’s anticipation of future interaction.”
When sales development reps master active listening, they’ll be in tune with prospects’ pain points – many of which aren’t exactly in line with their checklist or script. So they need to become more adaptable, ready to pivot with prospects.
To dig deeper, you want to let the conversation keep its natural flow: Respond to prospects’ questions or concerns with spot-on answers. Follow with a question on what customers think of what you’ve said: What do you think of that feature? How do you feel about the technology behind what I’ve explained? What can I clarify?
Sales development reps won’t qualify leads if they’re strictly script readers and writers. Sure, they want to reach as many prospects via phone and email as possible, so quantity matters. But quality rules.
SDRs want to spend more time on customizing their outreach – researching prospects, so they send personalized messages that speak directly to and about prospects’ businesses and current situations.
5) Voice animation
Sales development reps reach more voicemail boxes than actual voices. So they need to master the skill of leaving outstanding voice messages.
SDRs need to leave voicemails that are more than their name, contact information and the reason for calling. They need to perfect a message the entices prospects to call back. The best way: Customize it and say it with enthusiasm. For instance, I’m June with XYZ Co. I saw X on your site. Here are a few best practices that I’d like to share with you … Please call me at …
It’s important for SDRs to be confident. But not so confident that they aren’t open to improvement. They need to be coachable – able to listen to their areas for improvement and the ways to get better, then implement those new strategies.
Even better, SDRs want to proactively go after candid feedback from their bosses and veteran colleagues. Reps want to request one-on-one time to review accomplishments and setbacks. Then plan time to try new strategies each week.
7) Critical thinking
Sales development reps usually have an ocean of information at their fingertips – more than they or their prospects will ever need. However, none of it is useful if SDRs can’t quickly process and analyze it to apply only what they need.
That’s critical thinking, and it’s a vital skill for SDRs. They don’t need to know everything, but they need to know how to find out everything. One of the best ways to Improve critical thinking is learning more about what happens behind the scenes – why and how things occur. Then when it’s time to answer questions off-the-cuff, it’s easier to fit the pieces together.
8) Time management
The best sales development reps make the most of their time. They can identify leads that aren’t going anywhere early, so they don’t waste time on them. Then they can spend more time gathering information on and building rapport with the prospects that are promising.
Good time management happens over time. SDRs want to log their time. Then they can start to eliminate or reduce the low-value activities and increase those that pay off, moving the high priority activities into their most productive part of the day.
Sales professionals need thick skin. They experience rejection, rudeness, and frustration every hour of every workday.
That thick skin is gained through experience and a high level of self-awareness, which is being aware of and understanding your character, traits, susceptibilities and ability to overcome setbacks.
The sales process gives sales development reps plenty of opportunities to test and tweak their abilities. One way to master self-awareness is to look closer at victories and setbacks for your strengths and weaknesses throughout them.
Ask for feedback on what you believe are the weaknesses. But recognize that self-criticism and negative feedback aren’t about beating yourself up. They’re meant to help you know and accept your weaknesses and strengths – and become more aware of how to best use them.
One of the often-overlooked skills SDRs need to master is self-control – also known as “knowing when to shut up!”
SDRs sometimes follow a script, focus on a checklist or are so excited about their product or service they want to go on-and-on. All the while, prospects might have questions or want to explain more about themselves and their situation.
SDRs also have a natural tendency to plan a response while prospects talk rather than listen and process what’s said. So their mouths may not be running out of control, but their minds are.
To master self-control, remove distractions (such as extra screens, colleagues in the line of vision and personal devices). Add natural pause points in what you have to say to check if prospects want to ask or say anything. Take notes when they speak.
No way around it. SDRs need to be technologically savvy – and continuously up those skills. Sales and CRM software, social media capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) and the technology behind your products and services change quickly and often.
Reps want to stay on top of changes through vendor training opportunities, online video tutorials, company-led training and regular use of the technology.
Sales development reps need to do more than collaborate. They need to do it effectively and systematically. SDRs want to align their personal goals with colleagues’ (most especially salespeople) existing workflows and schedules. Equally important is establishing agreed-upon goals, priorities, and processes that ensure team successes.
To improve collaborative skills, SDRs want to communicate clearly and often. Whether it’s through email, shared calendars or conversations, include what needs to be done, who is responsible for each task and deadlines.
The softer side to effective collaboration is using the same strong communication skills you use with prospects with colleagues. Listen to what they have to say. Consider their ideas, emotions, and opinions. Share your clear ideas and feelings. Ask questions to clarify and understand.
13) Thirst for knowledge
SDRs need to know a lot. So it’s important that they want to know a lot. In sales, inadequate product and service knowledge is an immediate deal-breaker.
Almost 75% of customers say that product knowledge is what they need most from sales professionals, according to a Wharton School of Business study. And when SDRs are well-versed, results are real: Sales pros who get targeted product education sell more than double those who don’t get the training.
SDRs want to continually pursue and absorb information on products and services from in-house literature, sales colleagues, training sessions, practical use, product development experts, industry events and online sources.
14) Social media savviness
These days, social selling is as much a part of the sales cycle as signing a contract. SDRs will have more success if they master social selling skills. That starts with being active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other networks important to your industry or business.
Follow and interact with more prospects every day. Find relevant information to share with them. Pay attention to what’s important to them by watching what they share – and then use that to be creative with rapport-building.
While it’s important to follow best practices and protocol in the sales process, sales development reps need to be creative to be successful.
In sales, creativity hinges heavily on personalization. SDRs want to make interactions as personal as possible – and that takes the creativity to find something that’s unique about prospects and/or their situations and how your solutions fit into those.
To hone creativity, write (or type) more. Note your ideas on solving problems, generating sales, finding prospects – or whatever your biggest issues are – no matter how implausible or impossible they seem. The more options you create and see, the more likely you can develop one or some into creative solutions.