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The biggest mistake sales development reps make (and three things you should do instead)

Want to turn a prospect into a loyal client? To make it easy for a client to say yes, your entire sales team needs to work together.  

The sales experience affects a prospect’s decision to buy more than ever. It’s all about what your teams do; how well your sales development reps work with your business development and customer success teams.

I want to share some insight into a role we’re working a lot with at Flume: sales development reps (SDRs).

What does a sales development rep do?

The SDR can go by different names, so you might know them as account development reps (ADRs) or business development reps (BDRs).

A crucial part of the SDR’s role is to secure time for the business development rep with the right person in the right company – something that’s become increasingly tough.

Why? Because buyers have become a lot more sceptical about sales processes. They have hundreds of salespeople reaching out every month trying to arrange a meeting; it’s no surprise that people are picky about who they give time to.

The SDR needs to be best in class to cut through the noise and get a foot in the door. Let’s start by looking at where people often go wrong.

The biggest mistake SDRs are making

Here it is. The big, whopping mistake most SDRs are making: they don’t understand the real purpose of their role.

Misunderstanding what success looks like has a knock-on effect, causing the wrong approach in a number of different ways. 

First, the point of the SDR is not to sell the product but to sell the value of the next conversation. At the end of the call, success is the right prospect having said yes to a meaningful next meeting with the business development rep. 

Why is selling the value of the next meeting so important? Because 58% of clients don’t see meetings as valuable. That next conversation isn’t guaranteed, so SDRs need to be focused on selling the value and convincing prospects that a next meeting is worth it.

If you’re too focused on selling the product, your prospect will be making a decision about whether they want it off the back of your conversation. And because your conversation is unlikely to be in enough depth and they won’t necessarily have the right decision makers there, it will often be a no – they’ll look for reasons not to do it.

Second, there’s an element of validation for SDRs. It’s all well and good to set up meetings with prospects, but that will be wasted time if it isn’t the right person in the right company. 

Just because you’re talking to a CTO or CIO doesn’t mean they have the biggest influence. It’s about finding mobilisers not talkers – the right people you can push through to the next round of conversations and create a strong, meaningful relationship with. 

The three “Aha!” moments for sales development reps

There are four simple realisations that will help SDRs catch prospects’ attention and secure the valuable next conversation:

1. Prospects are more than a number

Every customer and prospect is not equal, so personalisation matters. Yet so many times, people think they don’t have enough time to personalise messages.

What I see over and over again is SDRs using generic approaches because their target is volume. They end up sending out hundreds of emails or LinkedIn messages and trying to secure as many initial meetings as possible.

Here’s the thing. Even if you think you’re being bespoke by adding a name and greeting at the top of a message, that doesn’t really show why you’ve chosen that buyer specifically. Worse, it can make them feel like just a number.

Each prospect believes they’re the most important person in the world. All they care about is saving time and achieving goals, so generic, poorly-thought-out messages are the perfect storm of the worst approaches when your clients really need the best. 

Want to learn how to shape your conversation around what buyers really care about? Book our workshop on tailoring client conversations.

Before you send that message, take two or three minutes to think: why would a client spend their time speaking to you? What’s in it for them personally? What can you really offer them that’s useful?

By spending that extra time to come up with a valid reason that resonates with each person, I guarantee you’ll see a much better conversion rate.

That brings us on to “Aha!” moment number two…

2. Buyers need a “because”

You need to show that you understand your prospects’ world. To do that, think about your ideal client profile (ICP) and buyer personas.

If you don’t have an ICP, a great place to start is with past client analysis. Look at successful partnerships (in terms of your profitability and their results) and pick four or five clients you liked working with.

What do they have in common? What made them ready for your offering at that particular point? Why were you a good fit to work with them?

The answers will help to build your ICP. Once you’ve got that, you’ll be in a better position to use the right language, lead the right conversations and nail the positioning for each company type. 

Giving companies a meaningful reason to work with you

Your ICP should inform the “because” that tells companies why they should work with you. 

That might be something like, “I’ve reached out to your company specifically because we’ve achieved X results with businesses just like yours”.

Once you’ve got a rationale for contacting the business, you want to define your rationale for the buyer themselves: what’s their “because”?

For buyers, it’s more about individual challenges. You want to show that you understand their ambitions and can tap into their desired outcomes: “We know that in X role you probably want to achieve X, Y and Z. I’ve reached out to you specifically because we’ve helped people in your role do just that”.

Buyers are much more likely to become invested if they can see the personal value of working with you.

3. Use a framework to control the conversation

There are a number of places where SDRs can take control and lose control when talking to a buyer.

Normally, SDRs will say their hello’s, fall into a conversation about the product, answer the buyer’s questions about the capabilities of the solution and then pitch another meeting. The problem is, it’s super easy for customers to say no in this situation.

Here’s an incredibly effective framework for SDRs to follow:

Set an agenda 

Set a plan so there’s an upfront agreement around what the conversation is about and where you both want to be by the end.

Get the prospect talking

There’s a big illusion that control comes from talking as an SDR. However, control is lost when you talk unless you know specifically what you’re saying is going to be 100% right for that prospect.

Control comes from getting the prospect talking, because then all you have to do is listen and take in the reasons why they should have the next meeting.

Focus on outcomes

We keep talking about outcomes and for good reason. Selling the product is a mistake – SDRs need to be selling the outcomes!

Customers can pick holes in products and see reasons not to buy. The challenges they care about overcoming are what drive their decisions, so focus on the outcomes you can solve. Give them a reason to have that next conversation they can’t say no to.

Agree the next step

Set out the next steps clearly, including identifying anyone else who needs to be part of the next conversation. Don’t leave it up to the prospect to arrange the following meeting – take control, otherwise interest can wane while you’re waiting around. 

High-impact sales training tailored to your needs

Are your sales team working together to deliver a first-class experience every time? 

Our bespoke training courses target the essential skills your company needs to drive ROI, including:

  • Breaking into big companies
  • Selling with stories
  • Speeding up decisions

 Find out more about our range of sales training workshops and programmes here.

The biggest mistake sales development reps make (and three things you should do instead)

Want to hold on to your customers? Stop looking at the past!

Your CS reps and account managers need to know: what are the client’s goals now? What are their short and long-term outcomes they need to achieve?

ONLY THEN will you get their attention and show how your product is crucial to their success.

Get more tips on customer success (and the five myths to watch out for!).

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