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Breaking Into Sales: A Day in the Life of a Successful SDR

In the “Breaking Into Sales” series, you’ll learn actionable tips and fundamental sales techniques to climb the SDR ladder and close more deals. 


Qualified leads are essential to a sales operation. There’s no point in talking to people who aren’t a good fit for your product. However, qualified leads don’t just appear out of nowhere. The process begins with thorough research and careful nurturing, and that’s where sales development representatives, or SDRs, come in.

In this article, we explain what the SDR role involves, why it’s so important, what a typical day looks like for an SDR, and actionable sales advice from Ernest Owusu, sales leader and senior director of sales development at 6sense.

 

What is an SDR?

An SDR is an individual who specializes in finding and nurturing new prospects, and determining whether those leads are a good fit for the company.

SDRs research potential customers and reach out to them to see if they’re interested in the company’s products and services. However, they don’t actually close the deal—it’s only about getting qualified leads ready for the next stage of the sales funnel.

 
Sales funnel and sale pipeline graph
 

What does an SDR actually do?

An SDR’s job is focused on lead generation and qualification rather than making the sale. Their primary responsibilities are to connect with and qualify as many leads as possible.

SDRs use a combination of market research to define the target audience or ideal customer and individual prospect research to learn about a specific lead. This can include checking social media profiles or running a Google search on a company’s background and latest news.

By doing this, the SDR can decide if the prospect is a good fit. They will base this decision on the prospect’s expectations and challenges, and whether it matches pre-defined buyer personas. Careful research also shows prospects that the SDR has taken the time to understand their needs.

SDRs then reach out to prospects across multiple channels. This includes phone calls, voicemail, email, social media and in-person events. Short, personalized videos are the latest tool used by SDRs, and some tech-savvy reps are even using augmented reality to show what their company can offer. In a recent Crunchbase interview with 6sense’s Ernest Owusu, he shared,

“The prospecting techniques that I used before to get meetings would absolutely not work nowadays. It’s important to align myself with tactics that are working nowadays and always test and experiment with new tactics.” 

 

Using insights from their research, SDRs can educate the prospect to solve a particular pain point. Plus, SDRs answer questions and send out helpful resources. For example, if the prospect is seeking digital solutions for a legal firm, you might send it an electronic signature software comparison article.

 

Where do SDRs fit into the sales structure?

A hugely important part of the sales team, SDRs move leads through the pipeline and lay the groundwork. Without the lead qualification process, the sales cycle would take much longer, and senior reps would waste time talking to people with no intention of buying.

SDRs nurture prospects until they’re ready to make a purchase. When this happens, the SDR schedules the next steps, often by setting up an initial meeting between the lead and an account executive. The senior rep will then take over and close the deal.

   

What skills do SDRs need?

A great SDR has great communication skills, can adapt quickly to different situations, and maintain a positive outlook—even when told “no.” Below, we’ve listed four skills successful SDRs need to excelin their careers. 

1. Product knowledge

If you don’t know your product inside out, it’s going to be difficult to convince a prospect they need it. SDRs have to familiarize themselves with everything their company offers, including technical details and pricing. That way, they’ll be prepared for any question the prospect asks.

SDRs need a commitment to continuous learning, too. That means collaborating with senior reps, talking to other departments, reading about industry developments, and using the product yourself. If you’re selling a communications solution that lets users bring their own carrier, they may want to know more about the BYOC meaning, for example.

2. Organization

SDRs also need to be highly organized and great at time management. They’ll connect with a lot of different prospects in a day, as well as follow up with people who’ve already shown an interest in the company. Every interaction needs to be logged and reported, to help SDRs identify common questions and objections and prepare for them.

It’s important to have a robust system with repeatable actions, but the flexibility to change things if something’s not working. Blocking out specific times in your calendar for calls and emails is a good way to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.

3. Resilience and adaptability

As an SDR, you need the ability to handle rejection without taking it personally. You might have to speak to a prospect who’s annoyed by your call or who deliberately plays hard to get. It’s vital to remain polite and calm and to recognize where things are going wrong. Self-analysis is an important part of the job.

SDRs must also be able to adapt quickly, such as moving away from a prepared checklist if the prospect has some unexpected questions. The best SDRs can spot opportunities to dig deeper, and they’re always ready to demonstrate how a product or service can meet the prospect’s needs. Owusu shared,

“The four main traits of a successful SDR are business acumen, curiosity, conscientiousness and grit. The business acumen piece is critical. If I see a company and I learn about what that company does, it’s important to have the ability to take that piece of information and tie it back to your product.”

 

4. Great communication

Sales development representatives are excellent communicators. As well as highlighting the company’s benefits without giving it the hard sell, they need to really listen to what the prospect has to say. It’s important to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues, while not interrupting, taking a moment to understand, and remembering what’s been said.

SDRs should focus on gathering valuable information. In a future conversation, showing you’ve remembered the prospect’s challenges and preferences will prove you care about their needs. We’re not suggesting you actually learn MLOps in order to discuss machine learning, but they’ll be impressed if you’ve read up on their industry.

 

Is it a stressful job?

Well, more than 40% of reps say prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process, and SDRs have a lot of responsibility. They’re typically the first point of contact with the company, so it’s essential they make a great impression.  

As an SDR, you’re going to hear the word no a lot, which can dent your confidence. Part of the role involves learning to overcome objections and stay positive. If you have a strong desire to improve, you’ll find the job rewarding as you start hitting your targets.

You do need to be aware the job can be quite intense, though—you’re communicating all day long, and you’ll be expected to put in the hard yards. You’ll probably have to check your messages outside of office hours and do some prep at home before another day of prospecting.

You don’t even get the glory of closing the deal, as that’s done by the senior sales reps, but if you have the ability to manage your workload and the desire to smash those targets, being an SDR doesn’t have to be stressful.

 

How much do SDRs make?

The national average salary for a sales development representative is $64,000. However, SDRs have the potential to increase this figure by between 50% and 150% through bonuses, commission, profit-sharing and other perks. The commission is usually determined by the number of successful leads they pass along compared to their target or quota.

 

What does an SDR’s day look like?

Every organization is different, so there’s no single template for an SDR’s day-to-day routine, but let’s take a look at some of the tasks an SDR would carry out on a typical day.

6:30 a.m.: Start the day

Don’t press that snooze button—if you’re in a rush first thing, you’ll be racing to catch up all day. That isn’t the right mindset for talking to leads. You could even get up a bit earlier and fit in a quick run or swim before work. And make sure you take time to eat a proper breakfast.

8 a.m.: Use your commute

SDRs who commute often use this time to catch up on the latest industry news, browse social media, or do a bit of research on potential customers. If your commute is a five-minute walk or you work from home, it’s still worth starting early.

9 a.m.: Get organized

After saying good morning to your colleagues, it’s time to get organized. SDRs start by checking their emails and messages so they can respond to anything urgent. This is also a good window for checking social media and launching your tasks for the day. You might already have a list of prospects lined up.

9:30 a.m.: Meet the team

In many organizations, sales teams hold a brief stand-up meeting each morning. It’s a chance to set priorities and goals for the day, share any essential information, and recap what happened yesterday.

9:45 a.m.: Coffee time

Grab yourself a coffee and get ready to dive into some serious prospecting.

10 a.m.: Research

SDRs spend time seeking out new prospects or researching those on an existing list. It’s all about checking who’s a good fit and who isn’t. Do they have specific needs that will be addressed by your product or service? What’s their budget? How many employees do they have? Who is the decision-maker? Owusu shared that the use of intent data plays a big part in his team’s outreach,

“A big piece of advice is to not reach out to any prospect or do any kind of outreach unless your messaging is going to help them improve their functionality in their job. By searching for keywords and what they actually care about — it makes it a lot easier for us to provide value to help them do their jobs.”

 

11:30 a.m.: Take a quick break

Regular breaks are important—you need a few moments away from the screen or your phone.

12 p.m.: Prepare

Now you have a list of prospects, you can prioritize them according to who’s most likely to bite. Set up a schedule of calls to make, and ensure you have all the relevant information to hand in before you pick up the phone. You can use scripts to prompt you, but always keep the conversation natural. Think about the common questions a prospect is likely to ask and be ready to handle common objections. If you want to prove your company sells the best affiliate marketing tools, be prepared to provide full details and testimonials.

1 p.m.: Lunch

Time for a proper break. Don’t be tempted to eat lunch at your desk—sit outside, pop into a nearby café, or meet up with colleagues. You might have time to fit in a quick power walk too.

2 p.m.: Respond and follow-up

After lunch, SDRs often continue to make first contact with prospects before moving on to follow-up calls. They’ll also keep checking social media and responding to comments, as well as sending emails to thank clients for their time.

You could use this time to create short videos for prospecting; a great way to personalize interactions. Late afternoon probably isn’t the best time to send them though, so schedule them to be sent first thing in the morning instead.

   

Good SDRs are always on the lookout for resources that will be useful to prospects. For instance, if you’re chatting to someone who works at a marketing company, you could send them an interesting article on account-based marketing.

3 p.m.: Take a quick break

You’ve earned it! According to BetterUp, “Stanford researchers found that after employees work 50 hours or more, their output falls dramatically. It nearly plummets after 55 hours. These researchers also found that workers who reach 70 hours a week don’t produce anything more with the additional 15 hours.” Taking a break can improve work performance if you focus on your overall well-being. 

4:30 p.m.: Wrapping up

Use the last hour or so to prepare a new batch of leads for the next day and update the CRM. This is important because it enables you to log details of every interaction and know where you stand with each lead. As well as providing reliable customer information, SDRs can use it to prove their role in the acquisition and get the credit they deserve.

Before you leave, let your manager know about any urgent matters, and make sure your calendar is up to date.

5:30 p.m.: Commute home

This time, use your commute as a chance to switch off and listen to some music. Once you get home (or step away from your home desk for the night), you should still keep your phone handy—people might be responding to your emails, and it’s good to know what’s waiting for you in the morning. However, don’t spend all night checking messages—relax!

 

Is being an SDR the right choice for me?

The life of an SDR isn’t an easy ride. Prospecting and outreach take time and effort, and you have to be resilient enough to handle objections. But in this role, you’ll become a valuable part of the wider sales team—and if you have the skills and the mindset to succeed, you can seriously enhance your salary by earning a commission.

If you’re a natural communicator with great organizational skills, you’re keen to learn, and you know how to turn a negative into a positive, a career as a sales development representative could be the perfect choice for you.


Severine Hierso is EMEA senior product marketing manager for RingCentral, the leading cloud PBX provider, and is passionate about creating value, differentiation and messaging, and ensuring a better experience for customers and partners.


This article is part of the Crunchbase Community Contributor Series. The author is an expert in their field and we are honored to feature and promote their contribution on the Crunchbase blog.

Please note that the author is not employed by Crunchbase and the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect official views or opinions of Crunchbase, Inc.

  • Originally published June 28, 2022, updated June 29, 2022