CEB

How to Land the SDR Job of Your Dreams

Do you want to become a tech mogul, or at least jumpstart your career in tech sales? This guide will help you understand the job hunting process in technology sales from both a job seeker’s point of view as well as the hiring manager’s. During my career I’ve hired, trained, and managed over 100 Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). But I’m the first to admit that I’ve committed many of the hiring and jobseeking sins I’m about to tell you about. But, hey, I did it so you don’t have to!
You are about to embark on a difficult yet necessary process for both you and your dream employer. Learn from other people’s missteps, apply these job hunting tips and you’ll be signing your pre-IPO stock option grants in no time!
A High-Level View of the SDR Hiring Process
Before we start our deep dive, take a moment and think of what the SDR hiring process is like from a 10,000-foot level. This is very similar in concept as it would be for a Venture Capitalist (VC) to invest in a seed round company. Typically, there’s no track record of success, so a VC—or in your case, a hiring manager—will evaluate many unknowns to try and gauge whether you have a low enough risk profile while exhibiting qualities for high potential.
In the end, both decisions are made with a limited amount of supporting data. The hope is that with enough training, the decision to invest or hire will create a high yield over time. Make no mistake, failure is expected in a significant number of these decisions, however, successful SDRs tend to have a very high impact, making this process a worthwhile investment.
Now that you understand the stakes, you want to take every possible effort to position yourself as the most obvious and risk-free candidate in the pool. If you follow this process, you’ll nearly guarantee success.
Figure Out Your “Why”
You need to be honest with yourself here. Why are you looking to start a career in sales? During phone screens and interviews, this is typically the first question I ask candidates. A well thought out answer to this question will almost always move you to the top of the applicant pool. Think of the above concept regarding mitigating hiring risk from unproven candidates. Sales is an excruciatingly difficult process to master and the transition period from training to jumping on the phones can be especially challenging. Without the right “why”, first-time salespeople fold faster than Superman on laundry day.
The best candidates will have a 100% clear answer for the why question. My top salespeople had done their homework, spoke with successful salespeople, read sales books, attended seminars, and more importantly, came prepared for the interview with a plan and a strategy.
Contrast this with the worst candidates. Anytime I hear “well, I’m not sure, it seems like a great company and this may be a way in the door,” they are nearly automatically disqualified. Why? Because sales development is a freaking tough job. Anyone who is not mentally prepared for the hardships of a sales career will churn out as soon as the ramp period is over. Being let go from a job is horrible for both the employee and employer. You want to make sure you land a job that you’ll be passionate about because you’ll need to pull from that inner strength when things get tough on the job.
Recently, we had a candidate who showed up at Invoca’s front door and asked to speak with the SDR hiring manager. I was thrilled at this initiative, however when asked why he wanted to work at our company he looked at me with a blank stare and said: “well, I need a job.” Ouch, thank you, next! The fact that you need a job is not a strong enough reason for any employer to extend you an offer.
Here are some questions to help you figure out your “why” in sales:

Are you a competitive person?
Have you been in a position where you are constantly rejected?
If so, did you come back for more? Why?
Do you have an outlandish belief in yourself?
Do you have a high tolerance for risk?
Do you have very high expectations for your income potential?
Are you willing to grind day-in, day-out for a decade plus?

Do I Really Want to Work in Sales?
If you answered NO to two or more of these questions, I highly recommend you look at yourself in the mirror and ask if you want to get into such a difficult career. Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite, once said that only 23% of all people have the right mental makeup to be a successful seller. After nearly 15 years in sales, I wholeheartedly agree and would go a level deeper. I would say only 2-3% of people have the ability to stay in sales long-term with an average career. The number of top salespeople who consistently make presidents club and earn millions per year is a tiny fraction of this 2-3%.
You may be thinking to yourself, ‘wow, this is tough, with such a high chance of failure, why would anyone in their right mind want to do this?’ The simple answer is that sales is one of the most meritocratic professions in the world. It doesn’t care which neighborhood you grew up in, what school you attended, or if you know any country club board members. If you’re willing to bet on yourself, work extraordinarily hard, and make a commitment to figure out creative ways to add tremendous amounts of value to your customers, then you’re on the right track.
At this point, I anticipate we have lost half our readers. But that’s good. If you made it this far and are still interested, then a career in sales could be the right move for you.
How to Get Your SDR Job Search Started
Let’s get going, however before you submit any applications or write a single cover letter, you must set your house in order. Here are a few things you absolutely MUST do before you speak with any potential employer.
Clean up your Social Presence
Social media is now a critical part of the candidate screening process. You must learn to use professional media like LinkedIn (and to some extent Twitter), and protect your personal profiles such as Facebook and Instagram to avoid disqualification.
Most modern companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to help them manage the hiring process. This includes a repository of applications, candidate screening, interview scorecards, and onboarding logistics. In the candidate screening module of the ATS, there are many built-in tools to help the hiring team identify all the social media profiles of the applicant. This can work to your advantage or seriously backfire. Here’s what you need to do on each platform:
LinkedIn
If you haven’t already, set up a profile. Make sure it’s as complete and detailed as possible. LinkedIn has become the modern-day business card and this is the medium where you showcase your professional qualities. Make sure you have a professional looking headshot, write a personal summary, and include media such as projects you have completed or even school projects you are proud of. Here’s a great LinkedIn profile to a top-performing SDR which you can use as your guide.
Facebook & Instagram
This section is easy. Set these to PRIVATE and delete any posts or profile pictures which can be considered obnoxious or offensive. When job hunting, there is very little to gain from having public profiles and a lot to lose. True story: I once had an applicant whose FB profile photos were mostly photos of him in his underwear. Think of a 90’s Calvin Klein ad but taken in a messy college dorm room. Besides giving me a good laugh, the only thing this candidate received was the cold, automated rejection email.
Twitter
This is the least used platform by millennials, but if you are a regular twitter poster, make sure you delete any highly controversial tweets. Even if the HM agrees with your angry rants about the president, they likely cannot hire someone who has a compromised social media presence for a customer-facing job.
How to Prepare Your Resume
Now that you’ve cleaned up your social presence, it’s time to polish your resume. In this section, I will cover some of the must-dos and share some of the most common mistakes I see applicants make.
Resume Musts

Resumes should be ONE page long. No more, no less. It’s your job to figure out how to compress all your experience into a concise format. Three-page resumes go straight in the trash.
Quantify your accomplishments. An HM is not looking for your job description, but rather what you got done. For example, instead of saying “Worked at the University Intramural league office”, you can say: “Increased enrollment in intramural leagues by 50% in a three-year period by launching campaigns targeting students who had previously expressed interest but had not yet registered”. If you fail to quantify accomplishments, this is usually interpreted as the candidate who is a clock puncher and not focused on driving results.
Opinions vary on listing interests, but I’ve never been a fan. They just take away from the larger message of your accomplishments. You’re working with very limited real estate in your resume, so save this for the in-person interview.

Resume Nice-to-Haves

Hire a resume editing service: I get it, you just got out of school and burning $150 on something you can do yourself seems like a waste of money. Trust me, it’s not. A resume is a reflection of yourself and if you’re submitting average work, you’ll be perceived as an average candidate.
I don’t recommend using the standard MS Word resume template. Microsoft has done some upgrades here recently, but I still see a steady stream of subpar resumes using this format.

Here’s an example of a truly innovative resume. This was created by a third party company to showcase their resume making ability and they used Marisa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo as their test case.
Required Reading for Future SDRs
If you were to build a piece of IKEA furniture, chances are you may be able to figure it out without reading the instructions, but it would take you 3X longer and the end result could be disastrous. Interviewing for a sales role without the proper base of knowledge is the same thing. There’s a chance someone will hire you without putting in this work, but you will have spent way more time interviewing and potentially burn great opportunities as opposed to simply taking a full day to educate yourself with some of the top sales development training materials. Here are some books I recommend to every candidate during the interview process and prior to their first day on the job:
Sales Development by Cory Bray & Hilmon Sorey – This book breaks down every aspect of the SDR role and serves as a step-by-step manual on how to become a successful SDR.
The Sales Development Playbook by Trish Bertuzzi – This book will help you see the bigger picture, making you a star in the eyes of your manager. This book is geared 50% to the SDR and 50% to the manager, so don’t worry if some stuff goes over your head. The 50% that is applicable to the SDR is more than worth it.
The Challenger Sale by CEB – This is THE defacto textbook on selling disruptive solutions. It does not teach step by step techniques but rather the framework and mindset required to sell expensive products or solutions to an organization.
Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross – This is the equivalent of a ‘64 Ford Mustang, meaning this is the original piece of content that brought the world of sales development to the forefront. Tons of insight on how to be successful as an SDR, plus I found it very fun to hear some of the stories about the early days at Salesforce.
Even if you only read ONE of the above books, you’ll be miles ahead of your competition. If you only remember one thing from this entire article, this section should be it. Feel free to send me a thank you note later.
Starting Your SDR Job Hunt
Enough theory, let’s start looking for jobs! The good news is that the SDR role is exploding in popularity because it accomplishes two things: 1. It specializes prospecting efforts, allowing senior salespeople to only speak with qualified prospects. 2. it acts as a recruiting and training ground for other more senior roles in the organization.
Currently, there are over 1,000 open SDR positions in the Bay Area alone. Should you apply to all of them? Not unless you want to waste a lot of time. Try this approach instead:

Start with your organic list of your 20 dream companies. Chances are if they’re growing quickly, they likely have SDR jobs open.
Look through Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. GD & LI are expensive job boards, so if you see a job here, you will know that companies are willing to make a serious investment into their SDR team.
Learn about the company’s culture in advance by reading their company blog or Glassdoor reviews.
When looking at Glassdoor reviews, look for patterns, mostly good or mostly bad. There will always be some bad reviews, and these typically can come from the worst employees, so take those with a grain of salt. Some companies are inclusive and cheery like Invoca, others like Tesla are all about performance and high pressure. Pick the environment where you feel you will thrive.
Hunting for a job is very similar to hunting for a deal. You have to build a pipeline of opportunities and the more successful you are here, then the more complicated your job tracking will become. I recommend you sign up for a free trial of Salesforce (you will need to know how to use a CRM as an SDR anyway) and use it to track your various applications and progress you make with each company. If Salesforce is too complicated, a simple spreadsheet with companies, contacts, dates, and statuses will do.

If you read all this way, you’re probably ready to put rubber to the road and start applying for sales jobs. It might not be quick, it won’t be easy, and there will be bumps in the road. Take it from me—I’ve struggled mightily during my career and have taken these lessons to help build one of the top Sales Development Organizations in all of SaaS. My team currently consists of 25 hand-picked and trained SDRs who will become leaders at Invoca or will move on to other companies to accomplish great things. I measure my success not only by the results our team achieves but by the number of people I am able to promote.

Build a Watertight B2B Sales Funnel in 5 Steps

FotografieLink / Pixabay
A B2B sales funnel doesn’t just capture new business. It’s also your key to nurturing existing customer relationships and learning where your sales process fails to address the pain points of leads.
By building a watertight sales funnel, you ensure that your conversion rates improve and that you’re adapting to the changing needs and wants of your customer base.
Despite a multitude of reasons to identify and develop your B2B sales funnel, 68% of companies do not track their buyer’s journey, leaving 79% of leads undeveloped and unconverted.
Create a sales funnel that addresses the modern needs of your customer base by following the five steps we’ve outlined below.
How to build the ideal B2B sales funnel
Chances are, your sales and marketing teams are familiar with the B2B sales funnel philosophy: identify and break down the key steps in a buyer’s journey to better understand where actions are taken and opportunities lie.
The classic five-stage B2B sales funnel model has been around since 1898. And while the main phases of this nearly 125-year-old approach are still relevant, the model is outdated overall. Why? Because the B2B customer base has changed.
Your customers today go through a complex and multi-tiered journey when deciding who their business should go to. Unlike generations before them, they can have thousands of results, reviews, and websites at their fingertips in seconds.
According to a Google study, 89% of B2B researchers use the internet to research their customers, and 81% of their customers use the web to scope out businesses in return. So why would you use a B2B sales funnel model that doesn’t address modern, digital business?
The answer is: You shouldn’t.
This is why Forrester issued several reports in 2010 bemoaning the classic model. It’s why CEB issued research in 2012 that showed that many prospects not only didn’t fit the traditional B2B sales model but actively fell through its gaps. As a result, new models have emerged:

Forrester’s models: a combination of peer reviews, competitive alternatives, recommendations from friends, and user-generated content that pushes leads through the discover, explore, engage, and buy stages
McKinsey loyalty loop: the consumer considers brands, narrows down options, selects a brand, and then uses that experience to make future buying decisions
Heinz model: community, awareness, consideration, action, value realized, loyalty, evangelism
Marketing made simple: pre-awareness, awareness, research and familiarity, option and shortlist, consideration, purchase, reviewing, repurchase intent or defection
JB Media Group’s sales funnel: brand awareness, lead generation, client nurturing, and retention
RAIN Group’s buying process: prospecting/pain point, needs/analysis, solution crafting/intervention, solution presentation/selection, win/commitment, and account development/implementation

Those are a lot of models, but they share some common wisdom.
We’ll explore what you can learn from these modern models—and the classic model— to engage with leads to increase close rates and support new business after purchase.
1. Attract customer attention
Your customers have near-countless options and limited time to explore them all. In fact, the average user only spends 37 seconds scanning articles about products and services they’re considering during the exploration and awareness phase.
If you wait until they’re ready to purchase, you’re too late. They’re on to the next option already. Instead, focus on building top-of-mind awareness before customers even know they need your product and ensure that when a pain point arises, they already know to turn to you.
By tailoring content to the buyer personas you want to convert, you ensure they’re not turned away by information that isn’t relevant to them. This may seem simple, but 73% of consumers are turned off by websites that show ads, promotions, and articles that have nothing to do with them.
But how do you know what these customers want before they do and showcase this information in a captivating way? By learning from your existing leads through requests for proposals (RFPs), analyzing conversion rates and the resources customers most use, and tracking where existing buyers take action.
Then, once you know you’re creating content that leads to love, offer downloadable lead magnets and other content marketing incentives to motivate them to provide their email address. You can continue to build awareness by routinely engaging with them through email drip campaigns that showcase your expertise and service.
2. Nurture your relationships
Consistency is the key to ensuring your leads stick with you through each stage of the B2B sales funnel. For 63% of customers, companies have to demonstrate their knowledge and relevancy three to five times before leads begin to believe the business’s claims. If you’re not consistently putting your products and services in front of them, they won’t consider you a valid option when it comes time to purchase.
It can be hard to convince your sales team to produce content for this early stage, as the return on investment isn’t always obvious. But only 4% of visitors to your website are ready to buy, and the other 96% need nurturing to take the next step.
In fact, it takes the average consumer 84 days to go from the awareness phase through to the consideration phase of the B2B sales funnel. This isn’t just about capturing more leads but making sure good, quality leads actually convert. By investing in this crucial stage of the customer journey, companies generate 50% more sales-ready leads and see a 9.3% higher sales quota.
Similar to the awareness stage at the top of the funnel, one of the best ways to nurture relationships with potential customers is through drip email marketing. Send leads content that they find interesting to engage and educate them while keeping your brand top of mind.
To take this method beyond awareness generation, use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep track of what content leads most engage with and which customers are reading and clicking through most often. These metrics signal when leads go from curiosity to exploring options and can signal to your sales reps to reach out.
3. Make the first impression count
As the old adage goes, first impressions are lasting impressions. This couldn’t be more true in B2B sales funnels. When your qualified leads are ready to progress down the sales pipeline, it’s important that your sales team demonstrates they understand each lead’s unique pain points.
Remember all those customer surveys, RFPs, and metrics you analyzed in the awareness stage? Use the lessons learned about the challenges leads face most to establish trust and respect.
Reports have shown that companies whose sales reps focused on solving three to four problems their customer faced on the initial call saw an 81-85% success rate of the customer moving down the sales funnel.
In order to ensure customers respond quickly and positively to your first contact, spend time in the awareness stage to identify a handful of pain points that your customers face. Then, come up with a script of the unique ways your product or service helps leads overcome these challenges. Make sure this resource is quickly and easily available to the sales team members who make initial contact as 30-50% of sales are closed by the first vendor to respond to leads.
Additionally, utilize a CRM to note the specific questions and challenges leads bring up when they first reach out and add these to the first call agenda. Initial calls should quickly point out your value, how you can address their needs, and leave time for questions from the customer.
4. Drive home your value
It’s easy to let your foot off the gas when your customers are ready to convert because you’ve had promising calls and emails that seem like the lead will convert on their own. However, this approach costs companies valuable, easy-to-reach business. 47% of larger purchases are made by nurtured leads—those who receive support all the way to the close—than leads left to their own devices.
Help your leads across the last few yards of the sales funnel by implementing the ASK process:

Align priorities: demonstrate that you understand your lead’s pain points and review how your service resolves them.
Secure commitment: review the additional benefits of doing business with you and answer your lead’s questions.
Keep the relationship alive: if you don’t get a yes right away, make sure you check in with your lead later. Even if they don’t become a customer, they may be able to provide valuable insight on improving your sales funnel.

By engaging with your customers consistently from the first contact to the close through follow-up emails and calls, you increase the chance of their conversion and build a positive customer relationship that lasts long after they purchase.
5. Continue to build the relationship after the close
Here is where more modern B2B sales funnels differ from the classic five-stage model. In the past, businesses focused on just getting the purchase, abandoning their sales and marketing efforts past this last B2B sales funnel stage.
But doing so ignores the power of customer referrals and repeat business.
84% of customers convert because they were referred by a friend or colleague, and those who come through an existing customer’s referral are four times more likely to convert.
Your customers know their industry best, and if you nurture that relationship and make sure they’re happy, you can capture quality leads with less work and a greater chance of conversion. You also benefit from return business, which is six to seven times less expensive than the cost of acquiring a new customer, to offset the loss of an existing one.
Like the awareness stage at the very beginning, it all comes back to communication. Check in with your existing customers with surveys and email follow-ups from your sales team. You will learn what they love most about your product, can gather valuable testimonials, and even encourage them to share their experiences with friends and on social media.
If you really want to drive them to refer friends and post reviews, consider offering rewards for these actions like discounts on future purchases and services.
Your B2B sales funnel isn’t just about new leads; it’s about continued growth
The key to ensuring your B2B sales funnel resonates with your customers and guides them seamlessly through the purchase process lies in understanding your pipeline data.

Customer “Decision-Making Readiness” As A Qualifier

We’ve all read the data about increases in “No Decision Made.” In the new, The Challenger Customer, the authors provide compelling data about the 5.4—the average of 5.4 people involved in complex B2B decisions.
It turns out from this and other research, the biggest challenge has little to do with vendor selection, but more to do with the customer ability to align disparate goals, priorities, agendas, perceptions of the problem, and so forth.
If we can’t do something to facilitate the ability of the customer to reach consensus, the likelihood of their making a decision, or of us getting a PO is very small. Whether, as the CEB recommends, we focus on the mobilizers, or we try to facilitate the buying process, or we try some other method to help the customer reach a decision, we have to do something.
It strikes me that certain customers are just plain better at making decisions than others. Perhaps, looking for those who are great at doing this, is a qualifier, or at least an indicator that we can avoid “No Decision Made.”
Whether it’s cultural, or something else, some customers are just better at getting things done than others.
We find some that are very successful with internal projects. They find a way to align themselves and work efforts, driving great success in most of the projects the commit to. They know how to work together, across functions, even across geographies. They are able to overcome functional interests to align with their counterparts in very different parts of the organization. They may have arguments, fights, and disagreements, but they have a process by which they can resolve them, moving forward in alignment.
On the other hand, we see other types of organizations that never seem to get things done. They can’t resolve disagreements, they can’t align different agendas, priorities, or approaches. There tends to be low trust, both horizontally and vertically. We see a track record of project failures– or at least projects that are significantly behind schedule, over budget, or fail to meet their objectives. We see lots of things they may start, but a large number that are never finished.
It’s pretty easy to see the differences between these two types of organizations.
As a consequence, it’s pretty easy for us to assess the likelihood of the organization being able to align themselves to make a buying decision. If they are very unsuccessful doing this internally, why are they more likely to be successful with a vendor selection?
This doesn’t mean that organizations that tend to be successful will be easy to align or be a pushover for making a decision for us. It just means, based on their past ability to collaborate, we have a higher likelihood of completing a buyer journey with them. We still have to earn the decision.
As part of our qualifying criteria, and as part of our opportunity strategy development, we should assess customer internal track records of project and collaboration success. Based on this, we can at least go into the deal with our eyes wide open, rather than investing a lot of time that is likely to produce little result.