Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Wait, wrong song.
Who is a sales facilitator? Who connects two sides of a sales process? Who is prolific at outbound prospecting? A sales development representative (SDR).
While we’ve already compared data to oil in the sales engine and appointments to currency, an SDR is at the core of it all.
An overwhelming number of CIENCE employees are SDRs, a crucial role in scheduling appointments for hundreds of our client accounts. We know their value and have some SDR business insights to offer.
What Does A Sales Development Representative Do?
A sales development representative (SDR) is responsible for communication with potential customers (prospects) to set an appointment between the prospect and your company.
SDR communication includes outreach (by email, phone, or social media), personalization (crafting an individual approach to every lead), qualification of prospects (defining how likely it is that a lead makes a purchase), and nurturing (developing a relationship with a lead through the buying process).
Appointment setting, however, is not the only goal of SDRs—they are also in charge of first impressions and educating potential buyers on the services you provide.
Dig deeper into the definition of an SDR role.
What Skills Make a Great SDR?
We want all our workers to be goal-oriented, hard-working, and stress-resistant. But what skills define a good SDR?
ResilienceThis work is challenging, for sure. Sales development representatives deal with objections and rejections way more than average workers, but it’s a part of the job. An SDR must be resilient and ready to keep going even if something doesn’t go to plan.
Our advice: Keep your head up! Even if you face some minor setbacks, when the victory comes, it will feel so good!
AdaptabilityThere are so many components to this skill: being able to learn fast about the new project or client, listening actively to adjust sales pitch, and even controlling the tone of the voice to build a better rapport.
Our advice: Be human! Because there’s not just a prospect on that side of a table, there’s a person too.
An average SDR manages at least a dozen tasks in a day, and the ability to spare enough time for each of them is crucial. Start with the most urgent ones, but also keep in mind the time zones of your leads.
Our advice: Divide and conquer! Try to use the sales specialization principle and set aside a certain period of time for a certain activity.
Everyday SDR Work Process
The most common everyday activities can be separated into these tasks:
- Email send-outs and task management in a CRM
- Research on the prospects for personalization
- Crafting personalized messages (follow-ups)
- Social touches (mostly LinkedIn)
- Call blocks to prospects (optional)
- Reporting and statistics
These are the main components; however, the order can vary. This list also changes depending on the type of lead generation campaign.
5,000+ Activities per Month
To get the best out of the lead generation efforts, you have to find the best approach to the SDRs’ activities.
Since the average sequence used at CIENCE is five touches, and the mean number of leads pursued per month is 1,000, the average number of activities (including follow-ups) easily tops 5,000. It can go as high as 8,000, with follow-ups and multichannel approaches (phone calls, social touches).
Consistent training ensures flawless execution of these activities—necessary steps to build and fill your sales pipeline. Time management matters, too, as only through a focused plan-of-attack do we achieve the results our clients crave.
What Happens Before SDR Outreach?
Lead generation is a complicated process that needs thoughtful preparation. Before an SDR starts an actual outreach, you should clear up some questions:
What are your buyer persona (BP) and ideal customer profile (ICP)?It includes geography, economic sector, revenue, employees headcount, titles (e.g., Manager, VP, CEO), technographic data, industry, psychographics, or even trigger events. These two documents are the start of your outbound campaign, so check our detailed guide on this topic if you want to know more.
What is the purpose of your campaign?Usually, it’s to set an appointment with a potential buyer. However, we’ve had clients with services new to the industry. So CIENCE aims to spread the word, generate brand awareness, and set a couple of appointments along the way.
What outreach channels do you choose for the outreach?You can get a full package: cold emails, cold calling, pre-targeting ads, and social media. Some CIENCE clients prefer just emails or calls. It depends on your company and your target industry. Once you’ve decided on what channels to use, determine in what order to launch them.
How many touches should you have via various channels?Choose your primary outreach channel first. It will kick off your campaign and help you determine the number of other touches.
For instance, you may use email as your primary channel. Typically, email campaigns have three to five waves. You should then decide on the number of calls and social touches in between those emails (e.g., five waves of emails, three calls, and two social touches).
How should your SDRs overcome objections?In our experience, an objection is not always a rejection. To get the utmost out of a lead generation campaign, you have to be prepared for objections.
Start with calling scripts (if you plan to call your leads) and a list of common sales objections with examples of how to handle them. It will be an excellent base for training and guarantee that your sales reps leave no stone unturned.
As soon as you have answered these questions, you can outline the campaign for your sales reps and then base their schedule on it.
SDR at CIENCE: A Day in the Life
Anna, senior SDR, has kindly shared her schedule with us. She works in our external team and specializes in prospecting for software companies. Her current project is email-focused. Please keep in mind that the time on her schedule is specified for EEST (which starts at 2 p.m.):
4 a.m. PDT – Clock-in (Slack, CRM, mailbox, work mailbox, etc.). That’s when our SDRs turn on their computers and get ready to work. Anna checks her email first for new responses* from prospects.
*There are several types of responses: unsubscribe requests—negative, neutral, positive responses—and automatic notifications (e.g., OOO, inactive email address).
5 a.m. PDT – Fill in the stats from the previous day in the mastersheet*. Statistics are of great importance in sales. It enables us to evaluate SDRs’ performance, track various KPIs, and provide analytics to our clients.
*A mastersheet is a spreadsheet that's created and managed by a sales rep. It is shared with the client, team manager, and project manager. The mastersheet contains data and stats of all the leads that an SDR is prospecting at the moment. The stats include the number of leads, sent emails, opened emails, various responses, and appointments set. As for the KPIs, the document includes the response rate, open rate, click rate, and bounce rate.
6 a.m. PDT – Prepare and upload the send-out file to the CRM. Although our CRM, SalesLoft, automates tasks like clicking “send,” an SDR’s control is still necessary. Anna customizes the leads for today’s send-out, specifies the schedule* for each lead, checks if the names are correct, and inserts the personalization.
*The send-outs are always scheduled to start before 9 a.m. in the prospects’ local time. It works best because emails are usually read first thing in the morning or during a lunch break.
Illia, team manager: “SalesLoft has a great function of sending emails according to the prospects’ time zones, so it's easy to just upload everything at once, and schedule—CRM will do the rest.”
7 a.m. PDT – One-hour break. That’s when our SDRs enjoy their free time, relax, and socialize*.
*At CIENCE, we pay much attention to building a comfortable working environment and a robust and friendly team. An SDR’s work can be stressful; that’s why psychological support from the team is vital. Sharing similar stories, giving advice, or just having a laugh can be some of the methods to unwind.
8 a.m. PDT – Manage the inbox and update the data in the mastersheet: bounces and auto-replies are the first to come. Every lead’s response (even the bounce), along with its date, must be specified in the mastersheet for further analysis and reporting.
9 a.m. PDT – Time for studying and acquiring new skills.
- Anna searches for the best practices on social media and forums.
- Anna works on a training course. Our SDRs are encouraged to continue the learning process and take on new skills.
- Anna has a special file with “follow-ups*” for all the types of responses. She tries to look for new ways of writing a follow-up.
*A follow-up is an email to a prospect who sent us a response (positive or negative) or opened our send-out email.
Anna: “I would read the CEOs’ forums where they discuss different emails by SDRs and sales reps. They often complain about annoying guys writing to them and even go as far as to share what emails could catch their attention! That’s when I try to analyze how to write my follow-ups in ways that will connect with C-levels and capture their attention.”
9.30 a.m. – 12.45 p.m. PDT – Check the inbox and write the follow-ups. It is one of the most important parts of the day.
It is conducted in several stages:
- Send out the previously requested follow-ups. Some prospects ask to send follow-ups in several days or weeks. Every SDR has a record of such replies and sends them when the time comes.
- Read the responses and copy them to the mastersheet.
- Conduct the research on the prospects who opened or answered emails.
- Write and send the new follow-ups.
- Prepare follow-ups for the future (e.g., when a prospect asks to get in touch in one week).
- Write and send the follow-ups to ambiguous responses and “opened emails.”
Anna: “Newcomers often ask me why we write follow-ups to the opened emails. I work mostly with C-level titles and understand that they are very busy people. Though they might be interested in scheduling an appointment or receiving more information about our product, C-level titles often get distracted or just don’t have enough time for writing a reply. That’s why I get in touch with them after they open our email.”
As you can see, answering responses takes over three hours. It’s because, in most campaigns, our sales reps have the freedom to personalize the prewritten follow-ups. For it to happen, a rep should study:
- The website of the company (including the blog)
- LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media of the company and the contact person
- A general Google search for the mentions of the prospect on the Internet (e.g., participation in conferences)
- Local news and events
We teach our SDRs how to search, analyze, and personalize effectively.
Anna: “We have sample follow-ups, but I prefer to do the writing myself. I customize my email for a particular prospect and their company, which is a more objective approach.”
11 p.m. EEST (1 p.m. PDT)– End of the shift. Clock out.
The above schedule might vary to a certain extent depending on the lead generation campaign and the number of prospects’ responses on a particular day.
Guidelines and Insights for SDRs
- Guideline: Create daily goals. Usually, it just means following the quota. It depends on a particular SDR and campaign. At CIENCE, the quota is 200 emails per week, not more than 40 leads per day, which is a fair quantity-to-quality ratio. With a reasonable response rate and a fractional percentage of bounces, there are enough prospects for any SDR to work with. You can go further and create personal goals (e.g., get through three gatekeepers).
- Insight (from Daria, project manager): “When we have multichannel campaigns, it’s best to space out lead contact to regular intervals (same business days). However, if the prospect opened an email or responded, it’s best to answer them immediately.”
- Guideline: Keep in mind the business cadence of the week. Generally speaking, there are good days and bad days to contact a lead. The worst days for emails and calls are Mondays and Fridays. The best are Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Insight (from Olesia, SDR department head): “For the convenience of reporting, our campaigns start either on the first or fifteenth day of every month. We usually don’t start on Fridays since it’s the day with the lowest open and response rate, and since the weekend is coming, there’s a big chance our email will get lost in the prospect’s mailbox.”
How Do SDRs at CIENCE Manage to Fill Multiple Sales Pipelines?
SDRs have a lot at stake: They have to be likable and polite, yet convincing enough to set an appointment during the outreach. But the appointment is only half the battle; it has to be set up with the appropriate prospect.
The talented individuals at CIENCE perform a high volume of tasks for our clients daily. We use:
- Motivated, trained teams
- Human-curated targeted lead lists (research)
- Powerful content creators
- Multichannel outreach
- Consistent, non-stop processes to contact your leads
If you want some help with any of these components or would like to outsource an SDR team to facilitate your sales, you know where to find us.