How to Get Started in Sales: 10 Career Tips from SDRs

Sales development representatives tend to think of the job as an important stepping stone in our careers, with challenges and opportunities that will shape the rest of our working lives.

I recently asked inbound SDRs from all over ZoomInfo to share their tips for success, and learned a lot about the work and the people who do it. Whether they joined the team as former athletes, waitresses, artists, or recent graduates, they all had valuable lessons to share. 

Here are the top 10 takeaways:

1. Find Your Groove 

Your workflow is the foundation of your day-to-day sales process that determines your productivity and future success. The best way to find your groove is by exploring different ways of managing and organizing your work time. 

Pay close attention to how you use your time to pinpoint where you can get more efficient in your day. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers to see what works for them. 

“It may be a certain talk track, email sequence, or separating hours for dialing, emailing, and prospecting,” SDR Shamail Ahmad says. “Do what works best for you. Whatever it is, put your own twist on it.” 

Example: Organize your work into two windows and put communication platforms (Slack, email, and calendars) in one, and call logs (like Frontspin) and other sales tools (like Salesforce or Chili Piper) in the other. Audit your daily activities and ask yourself where you’re getting stuck or if there is a better way to improve efficiency. 

2. Sell at Your Own Pace

Sales is a fast-paced job where you’re connecting with one prospect after another. It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind in your first few weeks, so it’s important to take one step at a time and prioritize quality over quantity. 

For SDR May Golden, understanding new information instead of rushing through it paid off as she became comfortable in her new role. “Everyone learns and accelerates at their own pace here,” she says. “Incorporating a new tip, trick, or even just improving the processes already present in my workflow has helped so much.”

Each week will look different for you as you navigate your way through emails, phone calls, and meetings. Understand that each week can be filled with extreme highs and lows. 

“You have to find a middle ground,” Ahmad says. “Enjoy your good days, but never get overly excited. Learn from your experiences and never get too down on yourself. It’s a journey. Keep smilin’ and keep dialin’!”

3. Give Your Brain a Break 

It’s essential to take mindful breaks. Some days may feel overwhelming, which is natural and expected. To be present at work, SDR Director Chaz Knauft recommends taking 15-minute screen breaks to get fresh air or do some stretching. 

This helps manage stress and prevent distractions from surfacing during the day — and it works. Don’t be afraid to take a walk outside to clear your mind. Take care of yourself first; there will always be a list of prospects when you come back around. 

4. Rinse & Repeat 

When you find something that works, stick with it. Get familiar with everything, from talk tracks to objection handling, and experiment early on to accelerate your growth. 

“Repetition is a big key for me in getting the motions down with emails and voicemails,” SDR Faraji Farmer says.

Example: If you’ve done well by opening a conversation with “Can you tell me more about your business?”, repeat and transform it into a habit that suits you. This repetition will allow you to enhance and alter your approach as you continue. “It’s all about trial and error,” SDR Reba Bowman says. 

5. Build Confidence 

When you’re on the phone with a prospect, you want to sound professional and confident. A powerful way to build confidence is practicing calls with peers, friends, managers, and customers in real-time. Try it, and you’ll eventually start dialing prospects like it’s second nature. 

“Don’t overthink it. Most of the bad scenarios you might run through your head rarely happen,” SDR David Nguyen says. 

You’d be surprised how effective it is to practice asking and answering questions. It goes a long way in terms of engaging your leads. Product knowledge is another strong tactic to enhance your confidence. 

6. Be Quiet & Listen 

It’s true: people enjoy talking about themselves. When you’re on the phone, allow pauses for silence and give your prospect time to tell you who they are and what they do. 

By engaging with them and building rapport, you get more information about how you can help fill in the gaps of their current go-to-market strategy. Be ready to drive the conversation with open-ended questions in a short and concise way to see the best results. 

Example: You might ask them how their day is going, what a day in their shoes looks like, or how they’re currently generating business. Avoid yes or no questions like “are you having a good day?” 

7. Find & Keep Resources 

Take advantage of resources at your disposal and bookmark them. Whether it’s a training lesson from your onboarding or a file on product knowledge, keep helpful documents within one or two clicks to save you time.

“Get familiar with the resources and have them in a manner that is comfortable for you. Not everyone is going to have the same look or feel, but as long as you experiment, you’ll find what is efficient for you,” SDR Jason Duncan says.  

8. Set Goals & Get 1% Better Every Day

Each day in the shoes of an SDR looks, sounds, and feels different. Whether you experience the jitters amidst your first cold call or mistakenly book a meeting for the wrong time, there’s a bridge to cross encouraging all SDRs to improve 1% every day. 

SDRs who advance the quickest have one important thing in common: they’re goal-setters. Julia Ewing worked her way up to a sales development team lead in just a few months.

“I knew that I would thrive in an atmosphere where I could be on a team with people who wanted to succeed as much as I did, but we all had a different way of achieving the same goal,” she says.

Setting goals can be easier said than done. Take time to reflect and envision where you want to be, and which steps are needed to get there. Take the initiative to meet with your team leaders and ask them what you can do to improve. Show them you’re passionate about excelling in your sales career by taking initiative and action.  

9. Build a Support System 

Building relationships with your team and others in your company has never been more crucial. As large swaths of the white-collar workplace continue to work remotely, SDRs and account executives rely heavily on communication to support the SDR’s progress and the overall success of the sales team. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a support system improves mental health by preventing stress. Life as an entry-level SDR comes with challenges, and other SDRs face it too. Don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself to colleagues and be a support system for them as well. You’ll probably also build some key friendships along the way. 

For many SDRs, including Golden, having a support system at work feels incredibly important. 

“I think it’s especially important for young women entering this career field to feel supported and that their success is prioritized by their teammates,” she says. “When everyone is cheering on your successes or assisting when you need help, it’s so much easier to not feel like you’re falling short or feel all on your own.”

10. Sharpen Your Skills 

It can be cringe-inducing to listen to your call recordings, but some of the most successful SDRs at ZoomInfo have applied this method. Take a few minutes out of your day to listen back to your calls and get creative about how you can approach conversations differently. Look for similar themes in the questions you get from prospects, and prepare a strong response for next time. 

Another approach is to listen to calls conducted by successful SDRs. It’s critical to explore all the ways you can learn from your team, especially when remote work means it’s no longer possible to casually overhear a more seasoned sales pro in a shared workspace.

“Be a sponge. Observe and listen to how other people have become successful. Try to absorb it all in a way where it adapts to your work ethic,” SDR Liam Lynch says. 

Time to Hit Your Number 

Ultimately, a sales career comes in all shapes and sizes. Trust in the process and believe in yourself every step of the way — on the good and bad days. Remember: even the most successful SDRs started somewhere.