Starting a role as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) in the modern business world can be a dizzying experience. Companies are demanding individuals in this position get “ramped up” as quickly as possible, but it’s not always clear how new reps can accomplish the mission. This can lead to SDR burnout, confusion and, ultimately, failure on the job.

On the flip side, a confident, well-trained SDR can produce a wealth of new business leads and help a firm grow fast. This requires more than just product knowledge, though. It requires extensive grounding in sales development techniques and best practices.

So, what can modern SDRs do to help speed the ramp up process along and set sail on the path to full sales productivity quickly? What follows are a few strategies I’ve personally used to help increase my sales IQ, speed my ramp up time and become a highly productive SDR in a short period of time.

Play the Hand You’re Dealt

The opening move for every chess piece in this position is to take full advantage of whatever your company provides in terms of sales training. For me, that meant immersion in the comprehensive SDR training program at memoryBlue. This program is designed specifically for hungry individuals that are relatively new to sales, and it was an eye-opening experience! The amount of information an employee takes in and retains is incredible. I had absolutely no clue how many different aspects of sales came into play when cold-calling sales prospects. Every single day at memoryBlue, new hire employees have a training activity covering a different element of sales. This training program kick-started my sales career into gear and made sure I formed good habits right from the start.

The environment in our office is electric, and the amount of opportunities to learn something new are endless. Between structured studies, group sessions, one-on-one coaching sessions, and more, my sales skills took root quickly. As I emerged from the intense early training period, I felt energized and set on the right path. But I also knew that my learning process was only getting started. Like a pro athlete dedicated to their craft, I wanted to go above and beyond to continue cultivating my budding skillset.

I decided to jump into two different sales books which I believe have vastly helped my sales approach. The first book is titled, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss and the second is titled, “The Power to Get In” by Michael A. Boylan. Each of these books had a specific impact on my SDR ramp up time, but for different reasons.

Prospecting Power: Open Up!

It’s not rocket-science: Sales Development Representatives are generally tasked with generating prospect curiosity towards a product or service. That’s it! Get a prospect curious and understand their pain. But try telling a new SDR, floundering for conversation starters with people they’ve never met before, that this is an easy task. They’ll probably ask what planet you’re from.

During the first couple of weeks at memoryBlue, my life felt a bit chaotic. The thought of cold-calling a perfect stranger was nerve-wracking, and to it took me two weeks to book my first sales qualified lead meeting (while that’s not atypical for some new sales pros, it honestly felt like an eternity). I was overthinking every call, my conversations felt like surveys, and I was trying to figure out a way to ask open-ended questions to keep the conversations flowing in an effortless way.

As I was reading “Never Split the Difference,” I came across a section of the book that covered the concept of “calibrated questions” (pg.153). The idea is simple, but it changed the way I approached every single prospect conversation afterwards. When discussing strategies to get, and keep, people talking, Voss states, “Avoid verbs/words like ‘can,’ ‘is,’ ‘are,’ ‘do,’ or ‘does.’ These are closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” too easily. Instead. he suggests starting a conversation with who, what, when, where and how – these words inspire your counterpart to think and speak expansively. In that moment, I realized it was impossible to have the perfect follow-up question to every statement during a cold call. In most cases, all I had to do was ask a simple open-ended question to keep the conversation flowing. Implementing this small trick quickly opened doors and broke down barriers for me in a more efficient way.

Let Your Prospect Do the Talking

As I steadily progressed in the SDR role, my approach became more nuanced and my confidence grew. But one word of caution: even as my cold calling confidence expanded, I still made mistakes. On countless occasions, for example, I needed to remind myself of the “80-20” rule (a concept I learned in memoryBlue’s training program, where the prospect should speak 80% of the time during the call), because I have a tendency to overwhelm prospects with too much information at once.

Author Michael Boylan discusses this effect in his book, “The Power to Get In,” which he refers to as, “Shotgunning Information.” This is the idea that a sales professional sometimes provides so much information to a desired prospect (during the initial conversation) that they accidentally give the prospect the ability to disqualify the call before really understanding a product or service. A better move for sales professionals, especially on a cold call, is to just provide a rough framework of the product or service so it creates a curiosity in the prospect. This curiosity will be enough to produce a follow-up sales meeting and potential next steps.

Combing through books like Boylan’s masterpiece are one way I added on quickly to my learning process, and expanded my sales knowledge outside of work activity.

Utilizing Your Peers and Remaining Persistent

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a new-comer to sales, there is one aspect to the job that is invaluable to quick growth: tapping in to the knowledge of your teammates and co-workers. This can include listening to a peers’ calls, spit-balling ideas back and forth, asking for call preparation help, seeking voicemail/email ideas or more. It is a free tool that everyone can and should use. I’m relentless about asking peers for advice and help, and it’s created a positive vibe where we have a culture of mutual support within my team. Never forget to harness the power of your peers while you ramp up as an SDR.

Sales feels like a roller coaster at times with revolving highs and lows. It’s the appetite and determination within you to grow that has to stay the same. This quote from Denis Waitley, a well-known American motivational speaker, writer and consultant, embodies the idea that you need to remain committed to the development process:

“Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.”

Personally, that’s where I find the beauty in sales. It’s the fire inside that drives a person to be successful. And the high energy environment at memoryBlue helps instill and maintain a mentality to succeed. Amongst my peers, I am known as the “Relentless Rescheduler,” in that nearly 40% of all of my booked next-steps sales meetings have been rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances. I choose to not let these good opportunities wash away, primarily by staying vigilant with the prospects and getting a new meeting time reset.

Persistence and motivation are key, especially as an SDR. Sales professionals will find that they get ramped up far more quickly when they keep up a strong supply of both qualities. Take every single opportunity you have worked for, and make sure you have done every single thing possible to make sure you reap the rewards.

Keep Pushing Forward

When I began my high-tech sales development career, I had the passing thought, “What did I get myself into?” I had experience with face-to-face sales, but when it came to cold-calling prospects, I felt like a fish out of water. It was during my first week as an SDR when I realized I needed to learn as much as I could about sales as fast as I could.

“Always Learning” is an idea that might seem like a no-brainer, but too many sales pros fail to embrace this notion as fully as they should. Because other than the copious amounts of training we receive within memoryBlue, it’s also the effort you make outside of the office that correlates to quicker positive results in sales. There is an endless amount of material available in today’s world to help improve your approach. Why not take full advantage of these resources and improve quickly?

Within the span of eight to nine months, my sales techniques have completely changed from night to day, mostly due to continuous learning and a hunger for new opportunities to grow. If you want to ramp up quickly as a sales professional, take my advice and use these sample strategies as a guide for your own development. Your growth doesn’t have to take a long time or be born solely from the school of hard knocks!