Sales Development Representative: Must-Have Skills

Sales development representatives: Building the foundation

For high-value sales, the journey of a lead from prospecting to closing is one that travels through the hands of many sales representatives. For medium to enterprise-level operations, sales teams are composed of professionals doing highly-specialized work. For a sales development representative, a typical day can either be out on the field or calling up a number of prospects for a slew of different tasks.

Entering a company as an SDR means having to sponge up a ton of information. With how sophisticated sales operations are for a lot of companies, most of them have sales playbooks that were tailor-made for their respective companies. If you’re a first-time SDR, learning a new playbook can be a tough task—but being that you willingly entered sales, you must have expected that.

Now, we don’t mean that being an SDR is something to dread. No. Basically, any career in sales comes down to a certain battery of skills that you have to tweak and apply depending on the situation.

Companies put a lot of trust on their sales teams, and SDRs have one of the most crucial roles on that team. Besides, meeting quotas can come down to the quality of SDRs. For management, smashing quotas is the number one indicator of a good SDR.

Think being a sales dev rep is your calling? Or are you management needing help for what to look for when recruiting SDRs? You’ve come to the right place.

Here we list four must-have skills for sales development representatives.

1. Active Listening

Holding an SDR position means you have to be really familiar with the language of sales. What are the buying signals? What words make the customers buy? Which words work for which subset of your list? To pick up on these, you need to be able to actively listen–and listen a lot.

Research shows that people are generally poor listeners. If you want to be an SDR, however, that’s just not going to cut it. According to Professor Graham Bodie of the Louisiana State University, people often speed up conversations–giving quick advice, making impulsive decisions, quip up easy fixes–because we’re afraid of listener burnout. In everyday conversations, we’ve all experience that one time where the person we’re talking to just won’t stop.

So, given this, how do you become a good listener?

      Prof. Bodie said, “Good listeners overcome their natural inclination to fix the other’s problems and to keep the conversation brief.” Listening to management, to trainers, to peers, and most importantly, your prospects and clients are critical to the success not only of your team but of your career. Patience and being intently interested in what others have to say are essential to getting used to active listening.

2. Fast-Learning & Adaptability

Aside from the information SDRs have to take in during training, each day is a learning day for these professionals. They get used to their CRMs and CTIs. They try to retain as much information about prospects as possible. CTIs and CRMs assist SDRs in keeping prospects warm and taking off on prior commitments, but without learning the softer cues like which tone works for which prospect.

A key reason why fast-learning is important in being an SDR is the need for product knowledge. As they are responsible in pushing their prospects further into the funnel, they’re bound to catch most of the questions and further inquiries from prospects and clients.

According to Aberdeen Group’s research study, “Optimizing Lead-to-Win,” overall product and service knowledge are among the three components that make a sales professional on top of its class. The other two are understanding clients’ and prospects’ business challenges and the ability to map solutions to those challenges.

3. Self-Awareness

Sales is a high-pressure job. There is a need for SDRs and for all professionals in sales to have thick skin. Being sensitive to the needs and pain points of your customer is crucial—but what can be done to manage the pressures and possible anxieties that come with the job?

Self-awareness is being aware of your own character, traits, and accountabilities, whether on your own or within an organization. The concept is basic: If you do not know the point of origin, there’s no way to forge a path toward a destination. The sales process is one that requires constant testing and tweaking. Policing yourself, whether it’s a bad spiel you constantly use or your stubbornness when it comes to particular prospects, is eliminating a serious roadblock that has plagued many sales teams.

As an SDR, being self-aware means being open to criticism and being objective about your criticism of yourself. It is easy to be on the defensive when faced with a negative comment. Seeing that these comments will only help your team improve, being self-aware will help you be a better SDR.

It is pointless to constantly try to improve yourself–through productivity hacks, sales training, e-courses and what have you–if you do not recognize your current situation. Knowing and accepting your strengths and weaknesses will help you and management craft a better workflow and process to maximize your role as an SDR and push your career further.

4. Ability to Commit

    When an SDR has the ability to commit, this means they take responsibility for their actions and results. When an SDR can express commitment, this means they feel genuinely invested in getting the best results for their team. But how do we qualify commitment? Is it as simple as asking them if they’re committed? How do you express your commitment? How do you prove your ability to commit?

According to the Three Component Commitment Model published in the Human Resource Management Review, a person’s commitment to a company or organization is a psychological state that has three distinct components:

  1. Affective commitment —affection for your job
  2. Continuance commitment—fear of loss
  3. Normative commitment—sense of obligation to stay

Number one points to an employee’s emotional attachment to their job. For an SDR to fully commit to an organization, she must see herself identifying with the company’s goals and vision. If you see your place in the big picture of the company’s and your department’s goals, you’re likely to feel better about your job and develop affective commitment.

Continuance commitment works like this: You commit to your company because leaving or quitting will net you at a loss. Simple as that. If the company continues to give you value, and your work is rewarded and appreciated, it is likely that you remain committed to the company on this grounds.

The last type of commitment, and probably the worst one, happens when a person remains committed to his work and the company even when they’re unhappy, due to a variety of factors like feelings of indebtedness or loyalty.

Forging positive commitment with your company is crucial to being a good SDR. As an output driven profession, seeing yourself as one with the goals and aspirations of your team can only do you good in terms of drive and motivation to succeed. It is tough to find people who are committed, especially in the high-turnover world of sales

Foundational skills bring you long-term returns

These four skills are part of building a foundation for your sales career. For many, the position of SDR is a springboard for bigger opportunities in sales. Some, however, stay and become superstar SDRs who are immensely valuable to their organizations.

Developing these four skills will only help you be a better SDR and a better all-around sales professional.

Which one is the most important of the four? Let us know in the comments below!


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Dan Sincavage

Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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