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The Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Career in Tech Sales | Part 1 - Entry Level Positions

Alma Dassa, School Team @ Jolt
|
August 12, 2021
What are entry-level positions in Tech Sales?

Sales/Business Development Representatives (SDRs/BDRs) are found in the earliest stage of the selling process in startups and tech companies. Their main task is to locate and/or map potential customers. They are the first to approach them or to respond to an inbound query from them in order to classify them (qualification process, suitability) to determine whether the lead is a prospect. The idea is to focus the company’s resources solely on the most relevant customers. Since business transactions in this sector are mostly complex ones involvings millions of dollars, SDRs only pass already located,   checked and “heated up” leads to the next sales stage. In other words, SDRs sit on the main oxygen pipeline for tech companies and stream money to them by connecting the market to the product.

Types of SDRs

The most common differentiation between SDRs is based on different types of lead generation — the process of cornering the attention of prospects to a product or service offered by the company and to arouse their interest in it:


The colder the lead, the more the effort made to corner his attention moves from marketing to the work of SDRs

Inbound SDRs need to demonstrate both affability and professionalism at the same time, with fast responses that indicate prior research on the lead, his company, the industrial sector to which he belongs and the company’s specific contact person. Leads that initiate contact with the company are often also in contact with other companies. Professionalism is therefore especially important to prevent the lead from closing a deal with a competitor. The aim is to understand the lead’s preferences and requirements in order to respond with the most relevant information/answers. For this purpose a Use Case for the lead is created that in effect answers the question,”Why should this specific lead buy my product?” 

Example of an inbound query:

The above is also relevant to outbound SDRs, as it adds to the task of understanding the company you wish to approach and to finding the appropriate way to access the specific contact person in that company. Is there a common acquaintance that can make an introduction? If not, what is the best way to  approach him? What contact details are available?

Reaching out to leads needs to be relevant, specific and personal, therefore most research on leads carried out by outbound SDRs needs to be in-depth and comprehensive. Outbound SDRs need to be decisive, to develop a firm stand to counter rejections and to learn to cope with resistance. This requires SDRs to be more assertive, convincing and authoritative.

Separate or hybrid teams?

According to Topo Research and Advisory most SDR teams in recent years began as hybrid teams (also called allbound SDR teams) that eventually split into inbound and outbound teams when the number of team members reached 10-15 SDRs, or as soon as the company’s marketing endeavors  began to create a constant stream of hundreds of leads a month. Topo’s recommendation to companies with inbound lead channels whose prospects are small and midsize businesses (SMBs — determined by number of employees, sales volume and asset amount), is to maintain separate SDR teams. However, when potential customers are large-enterprise organizations, the trend is a return to  integrated teams.

Note that the separation or joining of the two SDR types is a controversial issue, as each option comes with unique benefits and disadvantages. The decision to turn specialist teams into integrated (allbound? hybrid?) teams should depend,  inter alia, on whether the company’s SDRs will have enough time to deal with the two lead channels; whether the combined team will be productive; and whether the SDRs already employed by the company have the proper skills to deal with both of them. Also important to note that this involves an analytical-theoretical diagnosis. Actual interviews with SDRs, with job placement personnel and with senior sales experts indicated that this separation is dynamic, varies from one company to the other and can change within a company due to organizational changes.

In addition, the bigger the company, the greater the number of separations there are of its SDR teams, based on various market shares (geographical or lead size).

Why are SDRs essential to organizations?
What does an SDR actually do?
Before approaching or responding to a relevant lead

The SDR does market research to define the target audience, find the profile of the ideal customer, and lists possible problems/issues that the product or the service offered by the company can solve. This information dictates the nature of the approach and of the interaction with the customer in general. Research is also conducted on each individual  lead for more specific information in order to understand which particular product or service could help improve their business. 

For example: An SDR in a company that sells security solutions for cloud services may reach the relevant segment — e-commerce companies of up to 100 workers in California. He would start by doing research to locate the relevant companies and the relevant contact persons in each organization, decide which company product and proposal would benefit them, and determine how to reach out to them.

After approaching a relevant lead
What are the most popular tools used by SDRs?
For locating leads

LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Owlerfor enhanced and more efficient lead location.

For reaching out to and engaging with leads

The most popular and frequently used tools are emails, telephone conversations and LinkedIn. LinkedIn has gathered momentum in recent years and has the potential to become the most popular cold-outreach channel. This is due to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a privacy and data security law that limits the gathering, processing and use of personal data of EU citizens found in web searches. Outreach to the European market by telephone and email requires caution, and thus the rate of outreach through LinkedIn is growing.

There are also many lead engagement programs, such as Outreach, for planning how and when engagement takes place in a way that tasks are arranged and prioritized throughout the schedule. Leads may be contacted through the Outreach interface. The website performs integration of information on the lead from various sources, provides insight on various leads based on AI-based machine learning, and enables smart A/B testing. 

The SalesLoft platform is another example. It helps, inter alia, with inbound lead pipeline management, which enables lead engagement and interfaces with CRM systems. 

Applications for scheduling conversations and meetings (scheduling tools such as Calendly) also ease the load of the SDR’s work and cuts the time spent on coordination with leads.

For information management

SDRs work closely with CRM systems. An analysis of job descriptions and interviews with SDRs indicate that Salesforce is the leading CRM system.

What is the difference between SDRs and BDRs?

The difference between BDR and SDR that emerges from updated job descriptions in LinkedIn is very fluid and sometimes doesn’t even exist. This indicates a clear overlap in the job descriptions of these two positions. The assumption is that the job title BDR  was created to differentiate it from the sales-associated SDR job title that is liable to deter potential customers. Companies that differentiate between these positions do so based on one of the following:

  1. Outbound BDRs and SDRs focus on reachout to and progression of cold-lead who had not previously engaged with the company or shown any interest in its product or services, as opposed to inbound SDRs, who focus on nurturing hot leads who express interest in the solution offered by the company, mainly through its marketing channels. Both these task definitions fall under the sales department, as seen in the diagram published by Kalungi, a company that offers marketing and growth services to B2B SaaS companies.

            


  1. Alternatively, there is evidence that BDRs are seen as being responsible for forming strategic collaborations with other companies or organizations that may lead to a future business deal, as opposed to SDRs who are responsible for enhancing the sales process by locating and qualifying leads and keeping the sales pipeline systematic and flowing.

In fact, an examination of 21 current BDR and SDR job descriptions in Israel from  LinkedIn in August 2020 indicate that there is no essential difference in the required skills and responsibilities for each of these positions. A large majority describe the nature of the job using the description of an SDR job given in this document. This is also the case in job descriptions in our database that we used for the positions of Business Development Associate and Sales Development Representative.

The above supports the premise that, in Israel at least, they are in fact the same position. 

What does an SDR’s workday look like?

As a rule, the SDR’s daily work appears to be rather routine. Every day begins with a kind of “zeroing in” on the engagements as well as tasks to be accomplished that day regarding each lead. The rest of the day is filled with both telephone engagements (scheduled according to the leads’ working hours and availability and dependent upon the time zone of the main target audience). SDRs are sometimes also expected to attend Account Executive (AE) demo meetings with prospects — firstly because the SDR is the initial link that connects the prospect to the presenting company, and secondly because the his career progression (see below) is usually from the job of SDR to that of AE. Thus the joint meetings constitute a learning opportunity.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?
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I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.

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"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Taken by over 18,500 people; Calibrated by 100s of tech employees

By taking this 10-min test I can set myself up for success

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