These Sales Prospecting Strategies Help Successful SDRs Stay on Track

Perseverance is crucial, but it will only get you so far.
Brian Nordli
July 19, 2020
Updated: October 6, 2020
Brian Nordli
July 19, 2020
Updated: October 6, 2020

Fifty calls, 50 emails.

Every day, Matthew Plotkin scours the web for prospects, makes calls and slots contacts into email sequences until he hits those numbers.

As an enterprise business development rep at the digital adoption platform WalkMe, it’s his job to reel in seven high-quality leads for his AE every month. As long as he makes 50 calls and slots 50 emails, he doesn’t have to think about it. The leads will follow. In fact, he has only failed to meet quota once, and that was during his first month with the company.

That daily perseverance comes with the territory of being an SDR. It’s the first and most important step toward hitting quota, but it’s not always enough. A recent study from SDRDefenders, a community page for SDRs and BDRs, found that 83 percent of SDR teams fail to hit their quotas.

While some of that may have to do with reps not making enough calls, it also underscores how tricky it can be to convert prospects into sales opportunities. Often, managers don’t take the time to train or properly onboard reps, said Josh Roth, senior business development manager at WalkMe and co-founder of SDRDefenders.

As entry-level employees, reps need time to learn the product, automation tools and prospecting strategies necessary to find success. Still, there are steps an SDR or BDR can take to find the consistency in quota attainment that eludes so many in the field.

From experimenting with multiple outreach channels to incorporating customized messages into email cadences, here are five SDR prospecting tips that can help you hit quota.

SDR Prospecting Tips and Pipeline Maintenance

  1. Start with strategies that worked for experienced colleagues. Your sales team probably has a playbook. Use it.
  2. Try to hit your KPIs every day. The targets are there to help you reach quota. 
  3. Learn your buyer personas. Understanding who will benefit from the product can help speed up prospecting and allow you to cast a wider net. 
  4. Reach out across multiple channels and customize your messaging.
  5. Ask a high-performing colleague for help. They can probably tell you what works and what doesn't.

 

SDR calling a customer illustration
Image: SHutterstock

Ramping Up to the Quota

For many new reps, the daily numbers can seem intimidating at first — making 50 calls is a lot of work, not to mention the work involved in finding 50 people to call.

The best thing a sales rep can do in those early stages is to lean on what’s worked for their more experienced colleagues. Start with expanding into an existing customer account or with a customer base where the company has already built out a playbook, Plotkin said. Ask colleagues about what sequences or messaging they use, and then rely on that.

Leaning into those resources can be a good way to get some early wins, fill the pipeline with opportunities and learn how the sales process works from start to finish.

“No one’s going to come for you if you miss your KPIs one day.”

From there, it’s all about being curious and doing whatever it takes to hit those daily KPIs. Missing it once or twice in a week won’t hurt, but those numbers are there to lay the foundation for success, Roth said.

“Some people look at those KPIs like a big demon that’s going to come for them if they miss their numbers even once,” Roth said. “No one’s going to come for you if you miss your KPIs one day. For me it’s about whether you’re hitting your KPIs over the week. If you’re doing that, you’re probably going to hit your quota.”

But what if there’s not enough time in the day to hit the KPI? If a rep is doing everything in their power to hit their daily targets and still falling short, it’s usually a sign that their prospecting approach isn’t working, Roth said.

 

Understand Your Buyer Persona

Knowing who to call and finding them quickly is critical to a rep’s success. It’s also easier said than done in tech, where job titles can range from innovation sherpa to digital overlord to growth hacker and beyond.

A rep needs to be able to quickly scan a prospect’s LinkedIn page, find keywords that match with their buyer persona and add them to their prospecting list. The only way to do that is to have a confident understanding of who the target customers are and to know how deep to dig into a company’s hierarchy, Roth said.

“If you just make sure their role is aligned with your value proposition, it should be a good conversation.”

Identifying buyers involves understanding who stands to benefit from the product. Since WalkMe is a digital adoption tool, the buyer can be anyone in a manager or director role and above who adopts internal SaaS tools for their team. If a rep is selling a sales tool, their buyers would be sales directors, managers and vice presidents.

“If you just make sure their role is aligned with your value proposition, it should be a good conversation,” Plotkin said.

From there, it can be helpful to divide the prospects into tiers of priority. Roth recommends separating prospects into four buckets: Gold, silver, bronze, and fourth tier.

Gold customers are prospects in charge of their companies’ budgets, who have the power to make a deal, like those in C-suite positions. Silver customers are the regional vice presidents and executive directors, who are next in line. Bronze prospects go down a step further to managers and team leads, while the fourth tier would be low-level positions with little purchasing power.

Gold and silver customers would get persistent cold calls, customized emails and outreach across multiple channels, while a bronze or fourth-tier prospect might get a customized first email before entering an automated cadence, Roth said. The approach allows the rep to budget their time and determine how wide of a net they should cast.

Finding Customer FitWhen Should a Rep Turn a Customer Away?

 

Sales Reps on customer calls illustration
Image: Shutterstock

Perfect Your Cadences

So much of an SDR’s success is about walking the fine line between persistent and annoying.

If a sales rep only calls or emails a customer once, odds are, they won’t get a reply. It’s only on the fourth, fifth or sixth try that they have the chance. While tools like Outreach and SalesLoft have streamlined the follow-up process, it’s important to find ways to customize those messages efficiently. Otherwise, those fill-in-the-blank emails are going straight into the spam folder.

When Plotkin reaches out to a prospect, the first email is always personalized. It can often be as simple as letting the prospect know he follows the same charity organization or that he went to the same university. As long as it’s an honest connection, it can help the email stand out and trigger a reply.

“Tapping into that personalization will give you a good name off the bat and it will make the other person want to respond,” Roth added. “They may not want to see your demo, but they’re not going to give you the classic ‘No’ response, either.”

After that initial message, the customer enters a 27-day campaign. This is where persistence comes in. During that time, Plotkin connects with them on LinkedIn, schedules seven automated emails and makes six calls spread across the month. Since his prospects are on the East Coast, he makes those calls from 11 a.m. to Noon and 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., when Outreach data indicates they will be most available.

“Tapping into that personalization will give you a good name off the bat and it will make the other person want to respond.”

It’s also important to mix up the outreach channels, Roth said. Beyond the trinity of LinkedIn, email and phone calls, handwritten notes, Twitter messages and videos can also increase the chances of a customer response.

This can seem like a lot to manage when you’re reaching out to dozens or hundreds of prospects a month, but that’s where knowing how to build an effective email sequence can come in handy.

Plotkin suggests spending 20 minutes to an hour crafting an email campaign around a study or specific value-add that’s relevant to a group of prospects.

“The hardest thing is finding the reason you want to reach out,” Plotkin said. “Once you do that, it’s pretty easy to find content.”

For Fannie Mae, he incorporated a report the company released about its front- and back-end digital transformation. For customers that use Microsoft’s suite of tools, he built a campaign around WalkMe’s partnership with the company.

The first few messages are customized in accordance to that research, and then the remaining few are automated. Ultimately, the more customized the approach, the fewer messages it takes to hit quota.

 

Colleagues brainstorming sales strategies Illustration
Image: Shutterstock

Turn to a Colleague for Advice

The best thing a sales development rep can do if they’re struggling is to reach out to their peers and brainstorm.

While a manager might be able to offer advice on what worked for them, the people with the most relevant advice are the ones working next to you making the calls and hitting quota. Roth recommends identifying the reps who are finding the most success and asking them what they’re doing — and copying that.

“If you go to the source and say, ‘Hey, Josh told me that you’re really good at this, can you tell me how you do that?’ they’re going to give you a much better understanding of what to do than I will.”

“If you go to the source and say, ‘Hey, Josh told me that you’re really good at this, can you tell me how you do that?’ they’re going to give you a much better understanding of what to do than I will,” Roth said.

Plotkin is always asking his teammates about what they’re doing and looking for new ideas to try. From those brainstorming sessions, he’s experimented with video messages and come up with new strategies for his email cadences.

Success in this job is about hard work and perseverance, but it’s also about speaking up when you need help, Roth said. If something isn’t working, it can be easy to fall behind fast, no matter how many calls you make.

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