Help Your SDR’s Succeed

Many organizations have a love/hate relationship with their SDR (or BDR) team. On the one hand, they shower love on their SDR’s because (let’s face it) their job of sales prospecting is really, really hard! (Oh, and critical to the organization’s success.) But it’s so hard that most sales reps won’t even try to do it.

On the other hand, these beloved SDR teams often face criticism because, despite the agreed upon difficulty in their core function, their struggle to produce consistent results leads to:

  • Inconsistent sales pipelines
  • Suboptimal sales results
  • Lack of revenue predictability
  • Trouble recruiting and retaining talent

No matter how much empathy exists for the team, lagging pipeline and revenue make everyone downright ornery. From an organizational perspective, this frustration can lead to unproductive finger pointing and a bevy of unsolicited advice that assuredly culminates in the same predictable conclusions:

  • They need to qualify more and better!
  • They need more training!
  • They need more tools!
  • The messaging needs to change to (fill in the blank)!
  • We need new SDR’s because they aren’t producing!

If you really want to know why your SDR’s are struggling, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror.

“Love” and “Empathy” aren’t strategies!

Have you considered that what you’re providing them isn’t enough to positively impact outcomes?

I mean, I love praise as much as the next guy, but praise is short-lived if the results don’t continue. Tools can be a huge help, but sometimes they enable people to work faster, not necessarily better. And guidance? That changes depending upon who is giving it. One person’s guidance may contradict another’s, which is paralyzing for an SDR.

If your child was struggling in school, of course you would tell them you love and support them, but that wouldn’t help them improve their grades. Buying them a new computer could help, but that alone is not enough to impact their grades.  For them to truly improve, you’d need to employ some proven, tried and true solutions like getting a tutor or spending extra time with them on homework.

So, I would argue that empathy, praise, tools and guidance are not only insufficient to drive more opportunities, they may even be detrimental to the desired outcome. They are simply adding confusion to an already confusing task.

The Real Culprit for SDR Struggles

What do NFL Quarterbacks, fighter pilots and first responders all have in common?  They all are faced with split-second decisions every day.  They don’t have a “pause” button to survey the defense, check the flight manual or crack open an old med school book to figure out why a patient is dying.

In many ways, SDR’s are very much the same.  The reason their work is hard has nothing to do with their lack of intelligence or effort.

SDR work is hard because it is often the ONLY role in most organizations where you literally need to be prepared for just about anything on a moment’s notice.  A field sales rep gets days to prepare for a demo or a meeting. They have the luxury of saying “I don’t know, let me get back to you on that”.

An SDR never knows when a key player is going to answer the phone. Like the fighter pilot and the NFL QB, they need to rely on their reflexes and training for those split-second decisions, which are the difference between success and failure.

Even before that split-second decision, the prospecting effort is made even more difficult because SDR’s are constantly faced with many little decision points throughout the sales prospecting process.


  • What research to do and how much?
  • Who should I reach out to?
  • When?
  • How?
  • How often?
  • What do I say when I reach an Admin?
  • What do I say when a Key Player picks up the phone?
  • What do I do if they just want me to email some information?

The result of all these questions is that they largely ‘guess’ their way through the process. And who can blame them? They never know what approach worked (or didn’t work) so they keep trying different things.

If any other endeavor entailed so much guesswork, combined with instantaneous decision-making, you would never fly in an airplane, drive in a car or have non-emergency surgeries.

With the emergence of sales engagement tools within the tech stack, you can now standardize outreach efforts in Cadences, Sequences, Pursuit Models etc. It seems logical that these advancements would solve the prospecting puzzle…but they haven’t. In fact, they may have exacerbated the problem because now SDR’s have even MORE choices, which means more complicated guesswork!

The Two Things responsible for sales prospecting success

What really separates successful SDR’s from the rest isn’t their mastery of tools or how many automated emails they can send. It is their verbal acuity (ability to communicate value) and situational dominance (ability to engineer positive outcomes).

Those skills are not ones developed by simply following an approved cadence. A cadence just tells them WHAT to do. (ie Call them back in 5 days!) But what do they do when they actually get someone on the phone? If reps aren’t taught specifically how to handle those conversations, it doesn’t matter how perfectly they follow the ‘follow-up instructions’.

In other words, even if the ‘What to do’ and the ‘When to do it’ happens to be correct, what’s really missing is the ‘HOW’.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • If you use a dialer and the Key Player answers the phone, how you handle that call is the difference between a hang up and a conversation.
  • If the Executive Admin (aka the dreaded Gatekeeper) picks up, how you handle that conversation leads to success or failure.
  • If you leave a voicemail (automated or not), how you deliver that voice mail will have a positive or negative impact.

The Bottom Line

If you remain focused on automating the ‘What’, ‘When’ and ‘How Often’, you’re missing the most critical variable. Only when you create a repeatable process for the ‘How’ will your sales prospecting team reach their full potential.

Your SDR’s and BDR’s don’t have to struggle. Give them the ‘How’ and watch them consistently deliver the results your sales organization needs to be wildly successful.

Enjoyed this? Check out one of Mike’s Scher’s most popular articles of all time, “Consistency: The Common Denominator of Successful Organizations“.

FRONTLINE Selling has studied millions of sales prospecting outreach efforts and continues to analyze millions of touch points every year to validate our findings. We have a proven process for the ‘How’. Call me and I’ll tell you more. Mike Scher: 770-262-3009 (This is my cell number and I truly encourage you to call it!)