Persistence vs. Pestering: Walking the line as an SDR

By March 31, 2016
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Picture this. The phone rings, and your fellow SDR jumps with excitement and grabs the receiver. Could it be a callback? A callback is music to a SDR’s ears after spending countless hours reaching out to prospects only to get nothing but radio silence in return. OK, so back to the call—it is indeed a prospect on the other line (yes–finally!), but the prospect asks for the SDR manager’s phone number, and doesn’t ask any questions about the product. The prospect tells your colleague he is “doing him a solid”.  Interesting…

Confused but hopeful, your colleague gives the prospect the phone number. The SDR manager’s phone rings a few minutes later. Turns out that “solid” was a less than comfortable conversation about what the prospect deemed an aggressive outbound approach. The SDR had emailed three times and called twice. Needless to say, there is frustration all around.

This is happening more and more in Sales Development organizations. How do we, the SDRs of an organization, do our job well without inviting animosity from the prospects we so desperately want to help?

Such is the ultimate conflict in the life of an SDR: you have to be a bit tenacious to make contact with your prospects, but when does persistence cross the line and turn into pestering? There’s a lot of grey area here. I think if we can avoid some cardinal mistakes, we have a better shot at generating a positive reaction from our prospects. What NOT to do:

1. No Impersonal Touches

As mentioned in my last blog post, I think the best way to ensure you don’t rub potential buyers the wrong way is to get personal. Personalization starts with getting simple details like names and titles right, and extends to making your outreach unique and relevant to that individual prospect. Look for details in company news pages and published content on social media to collect nuggets of information to add to your emails. This will help the prospect to see your outreach as an individual email, and not a generic send as part of a huge blast. Who reads, let alone responds, to huge email blasts?

I also recommend avoiding fluff descriptors like “industry leader”, “cutting-edge”, and “game changer”. This kind of language should be unnecessary. Your personalized email and unique product offering should speak for itself.

2. Don’t Focus on Yourself

As amazing as we all are, sales isn’t about you. Your outreach should focus on the prospect: why you’re reaching out to her specifically, what she’s responsible for, her pains, how she can be impacted by your product offering, etc. Pitching instead of offering a helping hand is ego-centric and easy to spot. You’ll end up selling features of your product instead of the overall ROI, which does not work as well in the long run.

3. Don’t Send Too Many Touches Too Soon

This is the most obvious way to avoid coming off as spam—be patient and conscious about your outreach cadence. Space emails out a few days apart, don’t call more than two or three times a day, and don’t pitch prospects your product directly on LinkedIn. There’s nothing wrong with trying to get in contact with someone through different mediums, or even multiple times per week. If a prospect doesn’t tell you to stop contacting him, there’s no way to know whether or not he wants you to back down. Peoples’ inboxes are packed! The chance of a prospect seeing your first or even second email is very slim. On the flip side, if a prospect tells you she’s overwhelmed or not interested, it’s probably a safe to cool your jets.

Sometimes I’ll reach out to someone for months with over 20 different touches and never hear back. Sometimes I’ll reach out twice and be called out for being too pushy. The difference between persistence and pestering is thin. And the reality is that each prospect is going to feel differently about cold outreach. But as SDRs, we must strive to interact with target accounts as a means to help our prospects, not just as a means to hit quota. So go forth, cold call, and try not to bug your prospects by doing so. It is your job, after all.

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