Since graduating from the University of Washington 8 months ago, I’ve been working at Affirma as a sales development representative (SDR). My key responsibilities have been observing the sales process, promoting our services, and connecting with clients.
I must say I think I’ve been luckier than most post-grads. Being surrounded by upper management and peers that showcase fantastic leadership and guidance has been a huge learning opportunity for me. To reflect on my experience so far, I have listed the 5 biggest takeaways I have uncovered working as an SDR.
1. Never Stop Asking Questions
SDR roles are generally an entry point into the sales world. One great thing about being new is that no question is a stupid question. If you’re curious about something, ask it! This will only help you grow in your role, and upper management will see that you genuinely care about the company, your job, and the clients.
Asking a lot of questions has been extremely necessary for me at Affirma. We offer so many unique services, including Custom
Development, Infrastructure, NetSuite, Portals & Collaboration, Data and Analytics, CRM, UI/UX Design, and Marketing. On the surface, I’m sure a majority of people have heard those terms, but when you get underneath the hood, you’re able to see the intricacies that go into each of these business units and how important they are when it comes to helping organizations.
I enjoy asking a lot of questions for two reasons: The questions I ask could be questions that clients ask me, and it will help me understand how the technology works together to solve big pain points within companies.
Technology is the wave of the future, if you aren’t asking questions you’ll easily fall behind.
2. Have an Intrinsic Drive to Keep Learning
Learning is so important, especially as an SDR. You’re constantly trying new things, finding new prospecting tactics, a/b testing, learning how to communicate with different people, the list goes on. If you aren’t genuinely curious about how you can learn and improve in your role, you will stop developing.
As an SDR we are given so much freedom, but it is imperative to use this time to go out of your way and discover new prospecting tactics. Doing this will set you up for success as you grow in sales and are expected to take on even more responsibilities as an Account Executive. Don’t wait to learn, have the drive to never stop learning.
I learn something new every day from my co-workers at Affirma- no conversation is the same. Since being at this company, I have been inspired to learn more about UX/UI design and Coding (Specifically Python) in my free time because I genuinely think it’s so cool what my colleagues do. Hearing each of our practice leads speak about their service offerings is so influential. The cool thing about Affirma is that if you do become passionate about a certain technology, you can specialize in it and work towards leading the entire practice. That happened with Sam Hopkins, a past Account Executive. He was always great at selling our CRM Practice, so he put in the work it took and now leads our CRM practice at Affirma. Speaking to this example, learning constantly opens new doors which you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
3. Drive, Resilience, Passion, and Hard Work
As an SDR, the grind doesn’t stop. The moment you lift your foot off the gas is the moment you get behind. SDR’s in the consulting field are relied on to find exciting new opportunities for the consultants. With this comes a lot of pressure- but understanding the difference you can make is what excites me. Drive, resilience, passion, and hard work are the qualities you need as an SDR- they are what take you from doing okay to exceeding in your role.
Rejection and negative feedback come along with any sales position but having the stamina and the intention of doing your best can keep you going. Being able to receive negative feedback and learn from it is so important. It’s easy to get defensive, but a lot of my learning points have come from internalizing negative feedback and self-reflecting. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them but being open to a conversation and listening to what they have to say is crucial.
For example, when I get an email response from a prospect and they provide constructive feedback, I always reply by saying thank you. I remind myself that the individual didn’t have to spend their time giving me feedback, they could have just ignored the message. Instead, I reflect on their feedback because that’s where learning and growth come from.
4. Be Honest
You would think this goes without saying, but I think it doesn’t hurt to reiterate. Sales can be a money-driven profession, and in some cases, you will find salespeople who will say anything to secure the deal. However, one thing I have learned from my colleagues is the importance of honesty and how it is a top-quality of higher performers.
Honesty means being vulnerable- letting your guard down with your own team as well as clients can open areas of growth. It also means telling a client that you aren’t the right fit, which can be a tough conversation to lead. However, a client will always respect you for telling them the truth- and it will ensure they remember you if there is work later down the line that would be a better fit.
I have been lucky enough to have some fantastic examples at Affirma. Upper management has really shown me the importance of building solid relationships. I have a variety of people who I met initially through a reach out who I now consider friends. I have always enjoyed meeting people, so it’s pretty cool I was able to find a job that is based on the groundwork of getting to know people. Strong relationships that are built and nurtured come from the foundation of honesty in the workplace.
5. Believe In What You Are Selling
If you don’t think the product or service you’re selling is worthwhile, you aren’t going to enjoy your job. It takes time to understand what you’re selling, but once you have a basic understanding, you’ll know if what you’re selling is something you believe in and are passionate about. On the flip side, your personal brand is on the line. If you represent your company and your company doesn’t do good work, that looks poorly on you and what you stand for. In sales, you must be all in.
As cheesy as this sounds, I love Affirma. I love the services we provide, what we stand for, how we treat employees, and the ways in which we go about engaging with clients and partners. I get the opportunity to speak with C-level execs, Directors, VP’s and other decision-makers daily. All those decision-makers have a different definition of success. Many CMO’s are focused on seeing their Marketing ROI which can come from automation platforms, nurture campaigns, paid ads, and everything that goes into the intricacies of being in a role at that level. CTO’s are focused on optimizing workflows, maintaining security measures, and I think we can all agree that they keep a company from burning to the ground. CFO’s focus on the financials of a company, along with management, tracking, reporting, and record keeping. Sales directors must empower their team and stay organized in order to keep track of opportunities, set attainable targets, and specifically to Affirma, ensure customer satisfaction. The list goes on, but each siloed department has its own focus which is vital for a whole company to function. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the unique pain points that these brilliant people have. Being able to provide them a service that can make them shine in their role, and hopefully give them time back in their day is what inspires me.
I’ve always enjoyed being a ‘hype man’, but now I get to do it as a job. I get to promote a service that I think has fantastic intentions and aims to support people in their everyday tasks. I used to wonder why so many companies use vendors, but now being a vendor and seeing the struggles Directors, VP’s, Managers, C Level execs go through, I have a deeper sense of awareness and appreciation for the work we do.