Today’s modern reps move to new companies and roles every few years (or less). With this ever-shrinking sales talent lifecycle, enablement feels increased pressure to maximize productivity. That means finding better ways to focus and deliver readiness efforts (like training or coaching) when, where and how the sales force works.
In sales, whatever role you’re in – CRO, business development or account management – it shouldn’t affect your ability to show up, strive to be better every day, and dominate in your role. You should have the mindset that there’s always room for improvement.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned as a sales development rep (SDR) at Brainshark that have contributed to my success in my career so far.
1. Be agile and constantly evaluate your approach
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is especially true in sales. And even if a certain approach worked for you a few times, doesn’t mean it will work all of the time.
Instead, always look at your approach and ask yourself if it’s really working – especially during sales calls. For example, if you notice during a conversation that asking, “are you in the market for X?” isn’t effective, switch it up. If the prospect’s immediate reaction is “no, I’m not,” dig for pain points by asking the right follow-up questions. I almost never respond with a sentence during buyer interactions – I try to respond by asking another question. Let your buyers do the talking and the pain points will uncover themselves.
2. Use your (human) resources
Asking questions to buyers is obviously important, but so is asking your colleagues. Many people are afraid of asking questions out of fear of sounding dumb, being annoying, or appearing less than confident, and that’s a huge mistake.
Peer learning is one of the most critical ways to become a top performer on your sales team. Why learn everything the hard way when you can learn from those that have already been in your shoes? Ask questions like, “I saw you did this on the call – why?” By asking peers questions about their approach, you’re able to dive deeper and learn the reason behind why they handle objections or prepare for a call a certain way. This way you learn from someone else’s experience rather than learning for the first time when you’re the one on the phone.
3. Come in early
This tip speaks for itself, but I see a huge increase in my productivity when I start early. And with productivity comes a call back or a booked meeting with a potential buyer, which results in opportunities.
If your customers work 9-5, don’t call them at 9:30. They’re already in the trenches, heading to meetings and going on with their day. Call at 8 when they’re just getting their coffee and teeing up their day, or around 3-5 PM when they’re winding down. The last thing you want is for them to view you as an interruption.
4. Collaborate with your reps
Even if you don’t see your opportunities through to close, be there for your sales reps that do the closing. Take great notes (we’ll talk more about this in the next section) and be more proactive than reactive. If you think there are some key talking points or areas that your rep needs to focus on, make sure they know before they hop on the call.
From there, always ask your rep what the next step is, what do they need from you to push this deal through to the next stage? Is there any background work you can do for them to help make the close easier?
5. Take detailed notes
This was drilled into me by one of my colleagues, and it has made all the difference both on calls and converting quality opportunities. Your initial discovery calls should be 90% listening and 10% talking. This rule comes in handy when it comes to taking quality notes. You have plenty of time to transcribe what the buyer is telling you while also formulating follow up questions.
If you take poor quality notes, your rep will have to do discovery all over again. The more upfront work you do, the quicker the sales cycle will move. You will avoid the situation of the buyer being asked the same questions twice – which reflects poorly on your organization and is a waste of the buyer’s time.
6. Be open to advice and criticism
A lot of salespeople – especially millennials—are not as open as they should be to advice or criticism from peers or managers. Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned vet – sales is an art that no one has perfected. If your manager or peer suggests something, be open and try it.
I always like to say, if you’re not a billionaire, you still have room to grow or something to learn. Even billionaires are probably still learning because the best CEOs and entrepreneurs are constantly looking for ways to grow.
7. Ask how you can improve
This builds off #6, but there’s an important distinction. Being open to and inviting criticism are two different things. Everyone needs an extra set of eyes on how they operate so they can constantly improve.
Actively seek constructive criticism. Ask your manager or a respected colleague, “How can I grow?” Most importantly, ask those questions not only when you have a bad call, but also when you have a good call. For example, after jumping off a call with your manager, ask “what was the turning point in that conversation that changed it from a possibility to an opportunity?”
8. Receive objections and pivot
As an SDR you are often interrupted with, ‘it’s a not a good time to talk’ – which can be very discouraging. Turn that objection into an opportunity by hearing your buyer out. Really listen to them. This way you can either spin it in a way that can help them, or pivot to provide value in order to keep the conversation going.
People may have an idea of your product, but they don’t know it inside and out like you do. For example, at Brainshark, we help organizations with sales readiness. Buyers may think they have a great onboarding program, but when I ask if they’re hitting their numbers, the answer is often ‘no.’ Get your buyers to admit something they wouldn’t have thought of unless you asked the question. Help buyers see the full scope of your product and how it can help them solve their problems.
9. Make sure your tasks are complete
I don’t like seeing tasks build up. If I let that happen, the quality of the conversation suffers due to haste and lack of preparation. I have all of my activities listed out on a dashboard, and my goal is to have nothing left at the end of each day.
I also segment my calendar for time to get tasks done during the day, and often go into a different room to concentrate on getting everything done. But don’t overdo it – break up busy days by taking 15 minutes to get some water, coffee, or celebrate small victories with your coworkers to avoid burning out.
10. Stay motivated to beat, not just meet your goals
Whether I kill it in a certain month or put up a goose egg, I want to put the month behind me and start fresh. In sales, the clock (somewhat) resets.
If you had a bad month, learn from it, and move on. And as we discussed in #1, you can’t expect things to change if you don’t change your approach. This will prevent you from becoming discouraged and getting in your own way from achieving – and exceeding – your goals.
Interested in learning how to make your sales coaching program more millennial-friendly? Check out our eBook: Next-Gen Coaching for the Next-Gen Sales Force.