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How to be a value-adding SDR

September 23, 2021

Value-added selling - it’s been around for a while.

The idea will be familiar to anyone working in B2B sales - if you focus on the benefits of your product to customers, or how it helps them solve their pain points, the more likely it is that they’ll buy.

It’s an approach that demands flexibility from SDRs. They have to customise the way they sell to each individual prospect.

With that in mind, how do you do it well? What are the best techniques for transforming yourself into a value-adding SDR?

Who better to ask than 4 of Cognism’s top salespeople? For this article, we spoke to:

Their answers will help you place adding value at the heart of your sales strategy. Scroll 👇 or use the menu to skip to a section.

What does adding value mean in sales? | What are the best techniques for adding value to prospects? | How much industry/competitor knowledge do you need? | How do you keep your product knowledge up to date? | How much preparation/research do you do pre-call? | How do you use content to your advantage? | Get the best sales content on LinkedIn

What does adding value mean in sales?

Sam Gibbons:

“It means providing something that helps the prospect achieve their desired end-goal. For Cognism, it’s typically saving people time, so that they can spend more time on more important things.”

Ed Arnold:

“Adding value is about pitching a product to a prospect by explaining the positive impact it will have on their situation.”

Jonty Jewels:

“Value-added selling is about personalising the product and the pitch to each prospect’s needs and pains. It’s also about ensuring the information you provide is relevant to them.”

Katy Mason-Jones:

“If you want to be a value-adding SDR, you have to go into each cold call with an understanding of your product and the prospect’s industry.”

“On every call, make sure you deeply understand the prospect’s pains and processes. This will allow you to pitch in a highly targeted way; you don’t want to bore them with elements of your product that won’t help them at all.”

What are the best techniques for adding value to prospects?

Sam:

“I start by identifying the KPI of the person I’m speaking with - e.g. meetings, MQLs, revenue - then work backwards to identify what’s preventing them from hitting, or exceeding, that number.”

“Drilling into the impact of them missing their KPI can create a compelling case to move forward with Cognism.”

Ed:

“Ask multiple questions to really understand a prospect’s situation and pain points. That’s the key to adding value as it allows you to position your product as problem-solving.”

Jonty:

“Ask questions about common pains in their industry and see if they’re experiencing something similar.”

“However, remember your prospects aren’t robots! One size doesn’t fit all; don’t throw buzzwords around, but rather ask genuine questions that follow on naturally from your conversation. Always humanise your outreach!”

Katy:

“Understand what are the key issues facing your prospect’s industry and how your product will be able to fix them. Ask open-ended questions; they’ll help you identify their pains. Then, make sure every point in your pitch is a fix to those pains.”

How much industry/competitor knowledge do you need? How do you go about increasing your knowledge?

Sam:

“A lot! You need to know what your competitors do, how they differ from you, and why you’re better/worse. If you don’t know this, you can’t position your solution in a favourable light.”

“Start off by focusing on 2-3 main competitors, then broaden your knowledge by looking at ones that appear less frequently.”

“One thing to note, it’s important not to slate your competition! Prospects are very often turned off by that. Instead, explain what they’re good at, but also why people typically choose you over them.”

Ed:

“I recommend learning about your competitors! A great place to start is by checking out reviews on comparison sites such as G2. Scroll through the user reviews and pick out the strengths and weaknesses of other vendors. Then, see how those strengths and weaknesses compare to your product.”

SaaS sales is a saturated market but the good thing is there’s plenty for information out there for those who look. Using real-user reviews is a great way to make you stand out and demonstrate why a prospect should choose you over your rivals.”

Jonty:

“Industry knowledge makes you seem more trustworthy. Prospects respond well if you approach them like a consultant, rather than a salesperson. It also helps you understand pains easier; this means you’ll be able to position your product alongside other, maybe more successful, vendors in that industry. What sets you apart?”

“With competitor knowledge, you can provide the prospect with a direct comparison between tools. That’s much better than just providing a general overview with quantified stats.”

“To increase my knowledge, I connect with people in my industry on Linkedin, as they’re constantly posting about competitors and their experiences.”

Katy:

“It’s obviously good to know as much as you can about your competitors, but it’s more important to understand your prospects. ‘Why’ and ‘how’ have they been using that specific competitor? What do they like about it? What don’t they like? What's missing from that tool that’s causing them to explore other options?”

“To increase your knowledge as an SDR, the best and easiest thing you can do is watch demos from your company’s AEs. Take detailed notes and mirror the way they speak to prospects.”

How do you keep your product knowledge up to date?

Sam:

“A mix of things - joining product Slack channels, attending product meetings and always asking senior colleagues if you’re ever unsure about anything!”

Ed:

“I rely on G2 and other comparison sites. Customer reviews are posted on them daily and you can learn a lot from them. They usually include likes and dislikes and these can be very helpful if you ever end up in a head-to-head.”

“I also strongly recommend following all your main competitors on LinkedIn. Keep your eyes out for any news and changes they bring in.”

Jonty:

“I constantly watch demos from AEs. Listening to and watching top performers gives you a great insight into the product and how they position it.”

“It’s also good to play around with the product yourself. Book some time in your calendar to do this. Get a feel for how the product works and what it’s like for prospects to use it.”

Katy:

“The best way for SDRs to keep their product knowledge up-to-date is by watching demos or listening to calls from top performers.”

“On Gong, you can search for keywords that have been mentioned regularly throughout calls. So if you want to know how your colleagues position Cognism against a specific competitor, you can run a search and get that info.”

Get more SDR tips courtesy of Cognism's Senior Video Marketer, Emily Liu! Press ▶️ to watch her tutorial.


How much preparation/research do you do pre-call?

Sam:

“Very little. I’d typically look at their job title, then lead the call with the problems that persona typically faces.”

“With connect rates of around 10-15%, SDRs can’t afford to spend 10 minutes preparing for every call - you end up wasting too much time. I’ve never ever had someone question my lack of research on a call, because I demonstrate an understanding of their role, their goals and their pains at the start of the call. This implies the call is relevant to them and isn’t spray-and-pray.”

Ed:

“Before a call, I spend 2-3 minutes looking at the prospect’s personal LinkedIn, company LinkedIn and company website.”

“When I’m on the website, I always look at their clients to see if we have any in common. Having shared clients is a great way to add value; the prospect will trust your product more if they know someone who’s already using it successfully.”

Jonty:

“I do enough to give me an understanding of their role in the company, what sector they work in and who they target. I would say limit your research to approximately 1 minute - there’s no guarantee the prospect will enter into an in-depth analysis.”

Katy:

“In my opinion, there's not much point in over-researching a call. All you definitely need to know is the general ins and outs of the company, who they’re targeting, some of their competitors and what challenges that specific individual might be facing.”

“If you spend too long researching, you probably won’t have enough conversations each day. There’s a fine line!”

How do you use content to your advantage?

Sam:

“With cold outbound, I’d typically ask for permission to speak. I wouldn’t with content, I’d just jump straight into it. This prevents ‘call me back’ objections on the assumption that they recognise our name, have given us their details, and are expecting us to call.”

“I’d also lean on the downloaded content to find a pain point much quicker. If the prospect downloaded a piece of content on lead generation, the intro would look like this:

“Hey (FIRST NAME), just a quicky - you recently downloaded X content. Not gonna quiz you on it, don’t worry. It’s just that marketers typically download this when they’re looking to improve the quality/volume of leads at the top of the funnel. Is this fair in your case, or am I way off?”

“If they say anything other than ‘you’re way off’, there’s clearly a pain you can dig into.”

Ed:

“I regularly send one-pagers to prospects I’ve had engagement with but haven’t yet booked in. It’s always best to send over information around the topic of the conversation. It has to be relevant for the prospect and the pain they’re experiencing.”

“Sending content definitely looks professional and adds credibility to a proposition.”

Jonty:

“Content pieces are great, especially case studies. They showcase success in the prospect’s industry and this usually piques their interest. If they can see that a competitor uses your product, then this will likely result in them exploring the tool.”

Katy:

“Always provide your prospects with relevant and useful content. It’s a soft way of planting your product inside their heads. Build out your own library of content, customised for different personas or industries.”

“Content really is the key to adding value as an SDR. It’s about nurturing your prospects and keeping the lines of communication open without being too ‘salesy’.”

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