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Sales talk: How a new SDR hit quota in his first month

July 15, 2021

Tim Miller is an SDR working in Cognism’s US team. He joined us in April 2021.

Since that time, he’s been making quite a name for himself as a regular, consistent LinkedIn poster, sharing plenty of thoughts and insights into SDR life.

One of his very earliest posts drew a huge amount of engagement from the LinkedIn B2B sales community:


We loved it so much, we decided to interview Tim about his achievement. We wanted to know -  does high activity really equal results in outbound sales?

Scroll 👇 for Tim’s answers!

Hi Tim. Let’s start with the basics of your LinkedIn post. As a new SDR, you didn’t have the expertise or experience of your more senior colleagues, so you compensated by making more calls. How did you arrive at that decision?

It all stemmed from wanting to hit quota in the first month. I wanted to produce results right out of the gate.

I was aware that if I was going to make the same amount of calls as the more experienced people on my team, then I wasn’t going to get the same results - simply because I didn’t have their experience. I didn’t know all the objections, my pitch wasn’t perfect, my intro and close weren’t right.

So if I wanted to get the same amount of meetings booked as Griff McNair, I was going to have to make far more calls than him! It’s as simple as that.

How did the majority of your calls go? Did you do anything on your calls that helped you to hit quota?

My experience with sales in the past definitely helped me; these weren’t the first cold calls I’ve made in my life.

I think overall the calls were pretty similar. It just came down to activity. I had more opportunities to talk with prospects because I made more dials than most people at Cognism in that first month.

Did you find that high activity helped you to improve?

Absolutely! I think my progress was definitely accelerated. You improve with every call you make. You get more confident. By the end of the month, I was certain I could book in just about anyone!

You learn a lot more too - about the business, our customers and the industry. The more calls you make, the quicker you learn and the quicker you get better. It becomes less fearsome - the phone gets less heavy and you’re not afraid to make the dials.

People often talk about the fear of cold calling. It can be a very daunting task for some. Is a way of overcoming that fear simply by making more calls?

It’s that, but it’s also good not to take every call so seriously. If a call doesn’t go right, that could be for lots of reasons. That person might be having a bad day, they might be busy, or maybe they just hate getting cold calls!

Regardless of what happens, it’s good to remember there’s plenty more fish in the sea. One bad call isn’t an indictment on your character and one good call isn’t going to get you where you need to go. It’s about becoming consistent in your work.

If you’re thinking about a bad call 30 seconds after you’ve put the phone down, you’re already spending more time on it than anyone else will. It’s slowing you down. You can care too much about it and that will only hurt you. Forget it and move on to the next one!

SDRs famously face lots of rejection every day. How do you keep motivated and keep the positive energy going?

It really just comes down to getting up in the morning, getting out of bed and doing the work! Everyone in sales has different motivations - you could be doing it to provide for your family, to buy a house or pay off student debt.

I think it’s good to have a “why” in your head when you log in every day. “Why are you doing this?” That’s your motivation. It must be rooted in something deeper than your day-to-day.

If it’s just to sell a product, even if the product is great, you’ll get burnt out pretty quickly. Having that “why” for yourself keeps you energised and focused. It makes you more determined to succeed.

How do you manage your time day-to-day?

I think this is really important. If you follow all the top salespeople on LinkedIn, they all say you need a set schedule.

Every salesperson will manage their time differently but this is how I do it at Cognism:

  • 9am - we have a team standup where we go through results from the previous day and talk through our plans for that day.
  • 9:30-10:30am - I block out this hour to do some LinkedIn prospecting, find new leads and catch up on any follow-ups. I don’t think many people appreciate receiving cold calls first thing in the morning!
  • 10:30am-12:30pm - this is my first cold calling sprint of the day. I try to make 35-40 calls before lunch - it’s good to spread your calling out across the day, so you’re not rushing in the afternoon. It gives you a strong headstart.
  • 12:30-1:30pm - I block out this time for lunch.
  • 1:30-3:30pm - this is my second call block of the day.
  • 3:30-5:30pm - the last couple of hours of the day is for admin and making final calls. During this time, I focus on sending emails, updating the CRM and working on follow-ups from the morning.

Why do I have 2 separate calling sprints in the day? It makes it manageable. You don’t want to be calling for 6 hours straight!

How important is research before a cold call?

It’s important but you shouldn’t go overboard on it. All you really need to know is if the person you’re calling could be a customer. Don’t call people who are way outside of your ICP - you’ll only be wasting your time.

There are 4 questions I ask myself before every call:

  • Will my product help this person?
  • Are they in my target industry?
  • Are they using similar products or technologies?
  • Who are their top clients?

The most important question is the first one. If the answer to that is “yes”, then go for it!

Other than that, my advice is just to get on the phone! I don’t do a ton of research. As long as the prospect’s in your ICP, don’t worry too much about it.

One thing I know for sure is: you’ll learn far more about a prospect from talking to them for a couple of minutes than you would from researching them for hours. And asking really good targeted questions on the call is far better than trying to personalise your pitch beforehand.

On your LinkedIn post, some people left comments like “sales shouldn’t be about volume; it should be about working smarter, not harder.” What would you say to that?

When you start as a new SDR, it’s extremely smart to work harder than everyone else, because you need to! You won’t yield the same results otherwise.

The top performers in most sales teams are always those with high activity. It’s no different at Cognism. They get results because they regiment their day, they have a schedule and they stick to it.

For me, it was all about making a big impact early on. If you can book a meeting from 1 in every 8 calls, and you’ve got time to make 100 calls, why wouldn’t you make 100 calls? Every call you make is only going to help you.

Let’s say an SDR is reading this article. They’re new at their company and they’re struggling to make quota. What would your advice be?

Start by figuring out what the source of the problem is. The problem is “I didn’t make quota” - but what’s the root cause of that?

It could be any number of things. You could be calling the wrong prospects, your pitch might be wrong, you might not be making enough calls.

Hopefully, you’ll have a good team leader who can help you out as well. If not - my advice is go to other people in your organisation or top performers elsewhere. Reach out to thought leaders on LinkedIn. It only takes a minute to shoot someone a message. I’ve found that more experienced salespeople are only too happy to help and pass on their wisdom.

I’d also recommend finding a mentor for yourself. They don’t have to be working at your company - mine isn’t - but I know I can always go to him if I have any questions.

Lastly, there’s no shortage of sales content out there! There are hundreds of books, blogs and podcasts. LinkedIn is a great knowledge hub as well as a social network.

A good place to start is the Cognism blog - you’ll find lots of helpful resources there! Or follow our LinkedIn page - just click below!

Cognism LinkedIn