The Real Reason You’re Failing As An SDR—4 Psychological Factors
As a brand new SDR, nothing feels worse than consistently being at the bottom of the leaderboard. You heard it was tough, but you weren’t expecting it to be THAT tough.
As a manager, I had several SDRs that interviewed extremely well, but for reasons outside of a lack of effort, just couldn’t make things click in the job. We would break down each individual process together, from CRM to calls to mindset.
If this sounds like you with your manager, where you can’t figure out what’s wrong, keep reading. You may not be good at your job, but it isn’t totally your fault.
Four Things You May Be Missing To Succeed As An SDR
According to TOPO’s 2019 Sales Development Benchmark Report, only 48% of SDRs actually hit their targets. (And since the pandemic and current economic environment, I’d assume that percentage to be a lot lower these days).
You’re not alone with this.
But we’re not here to talk about the external reasons keeping you from hitting your numbers. We’re not going to be discussing poor/lack of leadership, unrealistic targets, bad leads, or weak tech stack.
The REAL reason you’re not succeeding as an SDR is because you simply aren’t built for it.
Don’t get me wrong— anyone has the potential to be an SDR. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a college degree or previous sales experience. You may even check the boxes for a lot of fundamental characteristics of an SDR, such as good communication skills, and organized with good time management. But there are other deeper rooted attitudes and behaviors that need to be naturally present for you to be really successful.
1. Lack of Discipline
You’ve heard it before: Motivation can only last so long. That’s when you’re supposed to lean on discipline. I’ve watched many SDRs during my career struggle when it comes to staying consistent with creating a schedule and sticking to it.
Having discipline doesn’t come naturally. The process of creating and adhering to a regimen gives you structure and direction. And being able to do it comes from having done it before.
Most people get their first introduction to discipline from going to school from such a young age. We were taught to keep a schedule, show up on time, follow an itinerary, and do what you’re told. There are rewards for good behavior, and infractions for undesired behavior. But, this type of structure isn’t enough.
Some people grew up learning discipline from practicing religion. You build structure from having a schedule of weekly worship. On top of that, there are things like religious clothing and articles, ceremonies and rituals, and specific beliefs. But where religion really plays a major part with individuals is the positive impact on mental health. According to a study by Duke University professor Harold G. Koenig, religion is positively associated with self-esteem, life satisfaction, happiness, and morale.
The idea of faith and belief allows people to be more positive in their everyday life. And the more positive you are, the better you perform in sales.
2. Little Ambition
And what about ambition? How do you push yourself from one level to the next? The idea of ‘wanting’ to perform better is not the same as learning what to do in order to elevate your skills.
Many people hone in on this skill from being competitive in other areas of their life. For me personally, it was basketball. Playing basketball allowed me to understand the dynamics of being within a team, and the common goal of winning. But within that team, it also taught me about my individual contribution towards our common goal.
And this is where the magic happens. Sports breeds competition. Not the type of competition where you get a participation trophy. But the competition where hating to lose trumps wanting to win.
Sports also teaches you how to react quickly in any given situation. Being able to navigate a cold call while keeping your composure is extremely difficult if you’re not used to using mental reflexes regularly. That stressful interaction during phone calls is what makes SDRs hate the cold calling aspect of the job.
But this level of ambition and increasing your performance can come from other activities like dance, cooking, weightlifting, or playing an instrument. And just like anything else, the longer you’ve been doing it or the more you have done it, the more you challenge yourself to get better.
There’s a word that gets thrown around so loosely, and many people use it without understanding its true implications: PERFECTIONISM.
What people think they’re saying when they refer to themselves as a perfectionist is that you put attention to detail and make sure everything you do is of quality work. But the truth behind being a “perfectionist” is that you measure your worth against accomplishment, and are usually pressuring yourself with negative thoughts when you make a mistake.
Perfectionists are normally working very cautiously, checking over their work hundreds of times, and documenting unnecessary information. SDRs need to be jumping from task to task very quickly, and with accuracy. Anything less won’t cut it.
The idea of perfectionism also makes it extremely difficult in sales to learn where and how to improve.
- Coaching can be challenging as feedback to a perfectionist feels like more of an attack.
- Any form of criticism is taken as judgment rather than help. This translates to the phones as well.
- Objections could make the caller feel like they’re not explaining themselves properly, and further objections can make them feel like they are wrong. And once in that mentality on the phone, it’s call over.
4. No Curiosity
When was the last time you learned something new? And I don’t mean random trivia facts. I mean, a new usable skill from start to finish. A skill or a topic of interest that you genuinely were happy to learn about. All humans are born with a fundamental level of curiosity.
In the general sense of the word curiosity refers to the desire to learn and understand concepts that you don’t know anything about.
In the basic form of curiosity, research has broken it down to two separate distinctions:
- Being interested in learning about a new topic for the experience and the process.
- For the fear of not knowing.
It’s clear that the main difference between these two forms of curiosity is that one is enjoyable and positive, while the other acts out of fear and anxiety.
Further studies by a team of researchers from George Mason University, Time Inc, and The Marketing and Research Resources Lab, using previous research, resulted in identifying four unique subgroups of curious people:
- The Fascinated (tend to be extraverts, high emotion regulation, high independence, tend to have larger expertise in many areas).
- Problem Solvers (high tolerance towards stress, high desire towards learning for self, lower social motivations).
- Empathizers (high desire to connect and relate with others, high level of self emotional awareness).
- Avoiders (scored lowest on stress tolerance, low number of friends and use of social media outlets, lowest expertise areas, and high lack of interest in new things).
It’s not easy to determine exactly which of the four subgroups are the BEST for sales and being an SDR. However it is clear that Avoiders will have the most difficult time achieving positive results, and will likely stress themselves out while trying to improve.
All of the points mentioned above are a small list of many things that can be keeping you from being successful as an SDR. If any of the thoughts, actions, or behaviors discussed hit close to home with you, the first thing to do is to acknowledge and accept them. Like I said at the beginning of the article, it’s not your fault.
But there are also many things that you can do to make up for the areas you are lacking in. For example:
- Explore different interests and passions you may have.
- Schedule time daily to research and learn about a new (or old) interest. Take music lessons, try a new sport, learn a new language, or even take something apart and put it back together.
Being an SDR is not for everyone. And being able to understand what are the things that can potentially hold you back from being successful is a great way to start learning about what you can do to make the necessary changes.
Everyone has a different starting point — with the skills learned from previous experiences, you might start ahead, mentally, compared to others. But on the flipside, without certain life experiences, you have to start building and working on them now, putting you at the rear of the pack at the starting line.
And if that starting point seems all too difficult for you to catch up, there is absolutely no shame in deciding the job is not right for you.
Marco Santa Maria is a B2B Sales Development Leader, Consultant, & Coach, and is also a digital nomad currently based out of Medellin, Colombia.