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Here’s how one SDR is hitting 150% of her target quota during COVID.

About the author: Jillian Sutherlin is a top-performing SaaS SDR who worked at Crunchbase and Zinc Technologies over the past 3 years. In this article, she will explain her philosophy for booking meetings—and this is something that every SDR should hear.

It's a nuclear winter for sales. No one’s buying right now… or are they?

We talked to Jillian Sutherlin, an SDR over at NS1 (an application-infrastructure company), who’s doing something that sounds kind of impossible for most of us right now. She has managed to maintain a whopping 50% conversation-to-meeting rate during the current economic downturn.

The ONE thing all new SDRs need to know about phone calls.

New SDRs seem to think that they have to “impress” prospects on the phone. They use big words and fancy phrases to convince the person on the other end... But if you put on a Grey Poupon voice—or a pushy salesperson voice—you sound like a telemarketer, and no one wants to talk to a telemarketer now do they?

Plus, trying to be someone you’re not just makes you feel insecure. That’s not a great mindset for sales. It comes out in your voice.

So, what if it’s actually as simple as chilling out and shooting the sh*t with your prospects? It is. But how would I know?

Well, they used to call me Phone Beast when I did sales at Crunchbase. They’d say...

“Hey Phone Beast, how the hell do you get people to give you the names & numbers of whoever you want to reach?”

And I’d say, “Uhh, it’s because I sound fun...”

You see, as an SDR, it’s not your job to sell someone on the phone. Your job is to get a meeting. If you’re approachable, or if they think you’re funny or they like the tonality of your voice… they’ll probably help you out just because they like you.

Personalization is the name of the game, but it’s different to email personalization. It’s not a set of tactics. We’ve all read Chris Voss’ stuff to “learn how to negotiate like an FBI hostage negotiator,” and it’s super helpful. But if you sound like a dickhead in the first 10 seconds, it doesn't matter how many tactics you have up your sleeve.

On the phone, personalization is all about using a personal, informal tone. That’s half the battle right there.

The most important part of the phone call is how you say hello.

So why is it all about your tonality? Because in the first few seconds of the call, the other person is trying to figure out who you are: whether you’re a bill collector, or a scammer, or an old friend. If you present yourself in a friendly way, it’s going to take them a minute to figure out that you’re a salesperson.

The way you start a conversation is even more important than knowing what you’re selling, because you won’t get a chance to explain what you’re selling if you can’t get past hello. People ask me what I’m selling and I'm like, “it’s uhhhh domain name server loading … global load balancing software … I don’t really know …” Because you don’t need to know anything about your product. As an SDR, you just need to be friendly.

I say that like it’s easy. It isn’t. It takes work to develop your own style. It still takes hours of painful calling to get it right. But what I’m saying is don’t waste time practicing the wrong thing. 

Just chat. Don’t sell. Figure out how to ask them to tell you about their day and have them actually tell you.

As an SDR, your job is to make friends.

AEs need to know product details. That’s their job. Your job is to brighten up the prospect’s day with a nice conversation. That’s it.

When I’m calling CTOs & CIOs—people who have advanced degrees in computer science etc.— and talking about improving their processes and workflows, it’s super intimidating because I’m not an authority on that topic. They are. So I don’t pretend to be.

Think about it. If someone tries to tell you how to do your job and you don’t know what you’re talking about, they’ll crucify you. Don't go in the weeds. Keep it light...

“Hey let’s see if we can find out what my company can do to help. My AE will talk to you about it. You’ll hate me if I try to explain it, haha. I’ll just see you on Thursday at 3pm.”

Remember: if you are able to be your authentic self and uncover pain, that’s the only skill you need on a call.


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