Finding a way to break into the software and tech industry can be challenging.
While experienced salespeople have an abundance of opportunity, it can be tricker to land a position with no tech experience. Luckily, there are some entry-level positions available, especially in sales.
Most entry-level salespeople have the title Sales Development Representative (SDR), or Business Development Representative (BDR) . Both roles are primarily focused on lead generation and qualifying deals.
Despite being an entry-level position, becoming an SDR can be quite lucrative. Through a combination of base salary and commissions, it's not uncommon for an SDR at a software company to earn six figures if they perform well. The position also offers excellent opportunities for advancement.
Before you start exploring job postings, it’s important to know what life looks like when you become an SDR. We interviewed Michael Seal, a Prehired member who is currently an SDR at ZoomInfo, to provide some perspective on what it’s like to work as an SDR in today’s global situation.
The job of an SDR mainly involves the same tasks on a regular basis, but the specifics change from day to day.
According to Michael, “It varies quite a bit. We’re making phone calls, but as far as who we’re targeting - warm leads, cold leads, focusing on emails and other stuff - it varies given the day.”
Because SDRs focus on lead generation and qualification, the job requires a lot of research. This means that part of your day will be spent researching accounts (companies) or specific prospects that may be a good fit for your company’s product.
Often, the list of accounts you need to research are provided to you by management, and part of your job is to identify an appropriate contact. This is called prospecting.
Other times you will be in charge of making the contact list yourself or adding details to a CRM software (such as Salesforce, Hubspot, or Pipedrive). You may also need to create profiles for each company so that you have details to pull from for outreach & conversations.
The next step in the sales process is to make contact with the leads you’ve identified.
When reaching out, the main goal of an SDR is to gauge whether the prospect has an interest in the solution you’re offering. Only then can you qualify the deal, and pass the conversation along to an Account Executive.
It is important to note that SDRs almost never close deals. That's the job of an Account Executive. However, the SDR plays a key role in ensuring leads are ready for the next step in the sales process. Depending on the company, this can take a number of forms:
As an SDR, you will make a lot of outbound calls. Sometimes, this can involve calling leads that have never heard of your company before. Other times, you may reach out to someone who has already expressed interest in your solutions to see whether they'd like to learn more.
In either case, this is not an ill-informed guessing game where you dial numbers at random. Remember, these leads are already qualified and could likely benefit from what your company has to offer.
Sales teams may have you and other SDRs stationed to take inbound calls.
This is easier, as the prospects are calling you - instead of the other way around. However, the drawback is that these leads are not vetted beforehand. As a result, they may not understand your solution or be able to afford it.
In this case, your job becomes a process of educating the prospect, qualifying leads and moving them closer to the close of a deal.
You may also send emails as a method of contact. When doing so, customization is key. Potential customers often receive hundreds of emails per day, and yours will need to stand out.
However, because of the large volume of customers many SDRs are assigned to contact via email, templates are common. As a result, you may spend part of your day building customized email campaigns.
Some companies will also have you send messages to potential customers on LinkedIn. Making contact through social media may also involve targeted messages on other social platforms.
When contacting leads, you are highly focused on qualifying them. This is a process of accessing whether these potential customers are a good fit to purchase your service.
“More than anything, we’re looking for a use case,” Michael says. “You have to make sure you are finding the right companies, then the right people.” A common model for qualifying leads is BANT Qualification. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline.
If the client does not have the money to afford your product, this is a quick way to disqualify a lead. The client needs to have enough budget available to make the commitment, because at the end of the day, the goal of sales is to make a profit.
It can be difficult to reach the person with the authority to sign a contract, committing their company to a new deal. As Michael says, “we’re not going to get decision-makers every time.”
Although there may be a great use case, the person you are speaking with may not be able to make a final decision without consulting someone higher-up in their company.
The good news is that this is usually not the end of the line for the sale. You simply need to find a way to leverage your existing connection to get access to someone with decision-making authority.
Once you find the person who can make a commitment, you need to assess whether they have a legitimate need for your offering. If there is no use case, it's not only unlikely a deal will close, but if it does the customer will likely churn (leave) quickly.
While you might be tempted to move forward with the deal anyway, that's usually a poor decision. Customers who cancel their service quickly can negatively impact your commissions down the line.
You will also need to assess how soon the client needs the product implemented, and what their purchasing process looks like to determine when the deal can be closed.
This information is good to know for both you and the account executive. The sales strategy may change entirely depending if the need is immediate or is delayed for several months.
A large part of being an SDR involves following up on calls, emails, and social media conversations. Here, polite persistence is key.
Many customers will disappear at some point, but with a good follow-up strategy, many can be brought back in to the purchasing process by a skilled salesperson.
Some companies also require their SDRs to meet a quota of follow-up demo sets each month. This means re-targeting leads to set up meetings where you demonstrate the software's capabilities, making the case for how it could benefit their firm.
Both activity and performance metrics are common KPIs for a Sales Development Representative.
Activity metrics are controllable, and measure the inputs you're performing to move the sales process along. Performance metrics, on the other hand, tend to be outcome-driven, and require prospects to take some sort of positive action.
Sales teams often measure the activity of SDRs by the number of calls dialed, emails sent, or some similar metric within a given timeframe. Some strategies also set up blitzes (timeframes to go heavy on certain methods of contact).
In Michael’s position, his team has blitzes “almost every day.” During these times, managers may specify “no emails, no prospecting” and require reps to focus only on making calls to existing leads.
As stated before, your team may require you to demonstrate the software to prospective customers a certain number of times per month. If this is the case, that quota will also be part of your activity metrics as an SDR.
Building "pipeline" (the value of all the deals you or your team are currently working) is always encouraged, but you may not be held to a particular target. While it is a measurable, pipeline value is typically weighted based on the forecasted deal value and how likely it is to close.
With pipeline building, you are assigning value to the size of the deal, the revenue it will generate, and the estimated retention of the client. This value is based on the average close rate for deals at that stage, which are loaded into CRM software.
This metric is important because it reflects how much potential value you're handing off to your assigned Account Executive. However, deal value is somewhat subjective since some deals may not close and others may be worth more or less than anticipated.
Other types of software like GONG allow management to review sales calls for quality and provide feedback for the future. While quality may not measured in any tangible way, it is something to keep in mind for the position.
Sales managers are often directly involved with your growth and the monitoring of your metrics as an SDR.
In Michael’s case, management has tried very hard to stay connected during the transition to working from home. His direct managers try to communicate some form of direction and encouragement on a daily and weekly basis.
Management also provides direction and training for the SDRs, setting the playbook from which the sales team works. This can include everything from specific language to tactics, and more.
Typically, each SDR will be paired with one or two others under one AE. During the day, these other SDRs will be available “pretty regularly” to communicate with you while you work. While SDRs don't rely on each other to qualify and work on the same leads, camaraderie and shared insights are still valuable.
This is why Michael says staying connected is so important. You may come across problems that would benefit from a second opinion. As a team of SDRs, “lots of people have different ways of engaging, and being able to exchange that information is really helpful.”
If you are considering transitioning to a career as an SDR, or are considering software sales as a career path, there are some skills you'll want to develop to succeed in the role.
Because the job of an SDR involves so many different tasks, you'll need to be good at switching back and forth between them. Usually it's best to block out certain times to handle each task. Schedule time for follow-up emails, completing demos, making calls and prospecting.
With so much on your plate, it is also important to stay organized. Keep accurate records and company profiles to be sure your work is both productive and free of errors.
As an SDR, you will often face harsh rejection. To minimize that impact on your overall performance and mindset, you'll need to find ways to keep yourself motivated. Other team members can help build you up and keep you from becoming discouraged or defeated in your position. A good attitude is also more inviting to potential customers.
Knowing how to write persuasive messages, conduct a successful sales call, and utilize common sales tools such as CRM systems gives you a huge leg up in the competition to land a software SDR job. If you're interested in getting certified in Science-Based Sales® and learning how to become a top-performing salesperson, apply today.
As an SDR, you will also find yourself in a good position to advance and develop in your career.
Depending on the company, you may start out handling either outbound or inbound calls. Moving from one to the other can be considered a micro-promotion, which may be achievable within the first six months of starting.
The next logical move for most SDRs is to become an Account Executive (AE). Because SDRs work under AEs to move deals toward a close, the seasoned SDR often becomes prepared to close deals after a few years of experience.
There is also the option to move to a sales leadership role. Sales team leaders take on a more strategy-heavy position to manage the general direction of the sales team. They are also responsible for acquiring, developing, and motivating reps to meet the company's goals.
While being an SDR can be a fun and lucrative position, there can be tough days.
For Michael, the most difficult part is “not connecting.” He says, “when you’re calling and you’re not able to get through, that’s definitely the most stressful part of the job.”
However, Michael assures us that getting to know prospects and presenting value to them is very rewarding.
In any case, finding a job as an SDR usually requires specific training and the ability to demonstrate sales skills that employers are looking for. Although some sales training can be expensive, there are options available that offer a fast, affordable path to a software sales career.
Prehired offers members an award-winning training program with no upfront cost. As a member, you will only owe us once you earn more than $40K per year working in the industry, and only after you become certified and land a position. For more information about how Prehired can help you get a job as an SDR, click here.
As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.
How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...
...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...
...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.
Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.