The Voice Inside Your Head
David Wadsworth — SDR @ demandDrive
I stare at the buttons, still arranged in the same familiar pattern. One to Nine. Star. Zero. Pound Sign. They’ve never bothered me before, so why now? Panic is building up in my throat. Can’t breathe. Fingers frozen. Thoughts racing out of control. Voices in my head…
I hope they answer.
I hope they don’t.
Wait, it’s ringing.
What will I say if they do answer?
What will we do if they don’t?
What if they answer and hang up, or yell at me, or…
Quick, hang up!
No! Do your damn job!
Why am I even doing this? What am I doing with my life?
What the hell is a pound sign anyway?
“Uh…Hello. I mean, Hi!”
You sound like such an idiot! Quick, say something intelligent. Or relevant. Or funny. Say anything!
Uh..my name’s David, I’m calling…”
Cold calling is…hard. Most salespeople would rather do anything other than cold call. If I could, I’d find a dozen other things to do myself. But cold calling is what SDRs do. And I’m an SDR. So I cold call.
Sometimes we do a little ‘warm’ calling, but on the surface, it’s the same thing. Nobody sits by their phone waiting for a fresh-faced grad like me to call them — even if they did download a white paper or let themselves get scanned at a trade-show.
Nobody wants to talk to an SDR.
Like anything, the first calls are the hardest. The first time you pick up the phone, you have no idea what the next few minutes hold in store. Everyone has problems in their life — there’s a chance they’ll take their frustrations out on you. Maybe they’ll be rude or hateful. Believe me, it happens.
Maybe they’ll be genuinely happy to hear from you. Believe me, that happens too — just not often enough. I guess, in the end, all you can hope for is they’ll be human, and maybe even a little kind.
The first time I reached for the phone (professionally) I was sitting in our conference room surrounded by a few colleagues (2 of which happened to be new hires). The CEO had just come into our training session to offer ‘moral support’. Talk about pressure.
“David it’s your turn to make a call”
My very short-lived SDR career was on the line; impress the boss, fill the shoes I was hired to fill, be a positive role model for the new hires, keep my job.
I certainly couldn’t let on that I was unprepared for my first call.
So, I dialed . . .
Of course, I wasn’t ready. I was a complete noob. I had minimal product knowledge. I didn’t do enough homework. I secretly prayed for voicemail — like you wish for a new bike when you blow out the candles on your sixth birthday.
The call turned into that ‘worst nightmare’ — the one where you’re on stage in front of a huge audience and completely forget your lines. My palms got sweaty. Heck, my whole body broke out in cold sweat. I wasn’t sure I would come out of the call alive, let alone employed.
Someone picked up, and everything that could go wrong went wrong. Like when one of the candles won’t go out, and everyone laughs at you, and your whole wish gets wrecked. On this call in front of my colleagues and CEO, I ran smack-dab into a nasty gatekeeper — he was in a foul mood and clearly having a bad day. The guy took advantage of my beginner status and took me for a ride. I was hit with technical question after technical question. He was enjoying himself while making an ass out of me in front of my colleagues. I’m waving my hands, tapping my feet, hemming and hawing… I don’t even remember how I got off the call. I think I sort of blacked out.
It was nobody’s fault but mine. I was dialing blind and dumb, smashing the phone and making as many calls as possible while hoping one sucker picks up.
But that day, I got caught, and vowed never to make another ‘cold call’. In the future, I would come in hot, no matter how cold the prospect. In the future, I would be prepared.
When parents take sick kids to the doctor, they expect her to recognize the symptoms and a prescribe a solution, not ask them a bunch of dumb questions. Likewise, no one wants to tell some SDR what’s wrong with their company and what help they need. I honestly don’t blame most of them for hanging up.
When a C-level employee picks up, nine out of ten times it’s an accident. You have about 5 seconds before they hang up. Be prepared. Know why you called. Cut to the chase. Give them something valuable. Be quick, or it’ll be click. They want new ideas and solutions, not chit-chat.
Nowadays, I follow a process. I stay focused on quality over quantity. I research every prospect before I even think about dialing. I spend five minutes (or more) researching the company, five minutes researching the prospect, and five minutes mapping them to a use case. I sketch out bullet points for a 30-second conversation. Even if I’m wrong in my assumptions, this approach ensures a personalized outreach. Maybe they’ll correct me, and suggest a better area to explore. I love a response like, “Hey, that’s interesting and I see the relevance, but it’s not really where I am focused now.” Then, I can pivot to,”OK, thanks for clarifying. So, is XYZ a more pressing need then?“
This way, when I do get a connect, I don’t hesitate. Straight from the get-go, I am all in. Confident in myself, my preparation, and my product.
And if they still hang up?
Hey, buddy, your loss, hope you buy from a competitor, fail, and lose your job!
You don’t mean that . . .
Do too, the guy’s a complete ass-hat . . .
Nah, just ignore it. The world’s a big place with lots of phone numbers to dial. Use that horrible, bone-jarring, soul-sucking *click* as the stepping stone to your next prospect and your next paycheck. You know a lot more about that account, including the wrong person to call there. All you need to do now is to find the right one.
Moral of the story? Be prepared. Know who you’re calling, what you are calling about, what you want, and why. Simple really.
If it helps get over the cold-sweats, pretend you’re calling with your pants down around your ankles. Heck, if it helps, call with your pants down around your ankles. Who’ll know? Other than the cute guy or gal in the next cube…
Will you shut up, they are going to think we are crazy.
You get one shot. Whatever you do, lay everything on the line. The future weight of your wallet depends on it.
Quit stalling, get back to the phones.
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