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Inside view: A week in the life of an enterprise SDR

May 11, 2022

Meet Andrew Thomas, Cognism’s Top Enterprise SDR of Q4 2021.

Sales Development Representatives - otherwise known as SDRs - are an integral cog in the B2B sales machine. ⚙️

They reach out to new leads, determine if they’re a good fit for the product or service they’re selling and nurture them, progressing them further down the sales funnel.

Without SDRs, companies would have to rely on prospects being problem and solution aware. They’d have to wait for buyers to approach them for meetings or demos - sacrificing a large percentage of the company sales in the bargain!

SDRs are crucial for:

  • Raising brand awareness 💡
  • Opening doors for new business relationships 🚪
  • Moving leads through the sales pipeline ➡️

But there’s a lot more to being a successful SDR than meets the eye!

It’s a fascinating role, a bit of a rollercoaster ride, requiring someone made of tough stuff to undertake it. 

But when the sparks fly and meetings start rolling in, it can be a very rewarding position. ✨ 

We wanted to find out more about what it entails to be a successful enterprise SDR, so we got in touch with our top performing enterprise SDR at Cognism for Q4 last year, Andrew Thomas

In this article, Andrew shares what he feels his secret sauce for his success has been, and gives us a little insight into a week in his life as an enterprise SDR. 

Average week | Starting the day | Approach to cold calls | Leveraging email | Managing follow-ups and rejections | Challenges | Rewards | Advice to new SDRs

Scroll down to find out what he says! 👇

What does an average week look like for an enterprise SDR?

Think all things outbound!

An SDR will utilise all the tools in his or her belt to reach their prospect with the right message, hopefully 🤞 at the right time. 

This will involve cold calls, video calls, emails, LinkedIn messages and any other creative way to communicate. Sometimes multiple touch points with each prospect a day.

There’s a lot to squeeze in, so we asked Andrew how he manages his time.

“I have to stay organised. So I segment my diary into time slots dedicated to each of the processes I need to work through.”

“I have dedicated calling hours, ‘power hours’, then I move onto emailing, before then spending time going through LinkedIn, replying to messages and connecting with people. I usually add about 10 contacts a day.”

“Then I restart the cycle, back to calling again.” ☎️

Andrew is passionate about the importance of being structured and organised. He emphasises how vital it is in order to keep your activity level high throughout the day and stay productive.

“I’m a spreadsheet type of guy. If you’re not organised then it makes it very difficult to know what you should be doing and when to maximise your time.”

“That doesn’t mean making a certain number of calls a day or emails a day but just making sure you’re keeping all activities going and everything is in sync.”

“The aim of my day is to hit the 120 touchpoints, that’s across all the channels so a mix of calls, email and social media.” 

“Sometimes that will be more emails, sometimes more calls, it just depends on the day. But as long as I hit 120 touch points then I’m happy.”

“I just trust the process and believe high activity will get you the outcome. If you don’t do that then ultimately you won’t hit target.” 🎯

How does an enterprise SDR start their day?

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘start as you mean to go on’, so it won’t be any surprise to you that this is how Andrew starts his day. Raring to go!

“In the mornings, I’ll be sent about 50 accounts by the Account Executive. I map them out and do some research into who I’m going to be contacting.”

“I always do this outside of working hours to ensure I maximise outreach hours at work.”

“My first port of call is Salesforce, looking if there have been any previous demos or notes taken about this individual from other SDRs or AEs.”

“Typically I’d be looking for how they outreach - for example, did they email or call?”

Andrew looks for the following on Salesforce:

  • What tech stack does the prospect have in place?
  • What competitors have they used?
  • When was their last conversation?
  • Are they the ultimate decision-maker? If not, who is? 

Once he gathers the answers to these questions, he proceeds to the next stage in his process:

“Next up is LinkedIn. Here, I’m looking to find out if they’ve had any funding recently, or any information indicating their growth, specifically within the sales and marketing teams.”

“I may also jump onto their websites looking for blogs or other news that might give me some insights.”

“The aim being the more information you gather the more tailored your outreach will be.” 🙌

How to approach an enterprise cold call

The way an SDR communicates is important, and arguably the most challenging channel is phone calls. 

It’s a high risk, high reward interaction.

You have to react on the spot, say the right things to engage your prospects and keep their attention for as long as it takes to communicate your objectives. 

We asked Andrew what his approach to sales calls was.

“I’d say something along the lines of:”

“Hey, you weren’t expecting my call - for full transparency, we haven't spoken before. I was just on your LinkedIn and I wondered if I could ask you a quick question?”

“I’ve never had anyone shut me down with that opener, whereas before I used to ask for time, and would get shut down 50% of the time. This approach seems to evoke a bit of interest which keeps people on the line.” 

Andrew has a secret weapon he uses at this stage. A statement he swears by. 

“I use a ‘typically’ statement.”

“I try not to pitch Cognism as it sounds super salesy, so instead I say: 

“Typically, I speak to sales leaders like yourself and they mention that their teams always complain about not having mobile numbers they need for outreach.”

“Just wanted to see if that resonated with you?”

“If it does, then I can tell them a bit about Cognism.” 

Andrew uses the following points when pitching Cognism:

  • How Cognism verifies contact details.
  • How Cognism emails have 97% deliverability.
  • How Cognism’s intent data can let prospects know when someone is looking for a solution like theirs online.

“I’d then ask if they felt it would be worth setting up a 15-minute call for me to show them the platform, offering to give them some free data so they can see how it all works and compare it to their current solution.”

“The conversation might look slightly different if I’m speaking to a marketing person but I always use a ‘typically’ statement.”

“And if they’re interested then great, but if not then it’s onto the next call - simple as that.”

Andrew uses this formula for LinkedIn voice notes too, after realising they were an effective tool when communicating with people on the platform. 

“I never use text messages on LinkedIn anymore, only voice notes. They just offer something a bit different.”

“People are busy, and I’m targeting enterprise prospects who’re being targeted every single day by 100s of people.”

“The vast majority don’t use voice notes, it’s getting more popular but most people tend to just write messages, so using voice notes makes you really stand out.” 🕺

Why does Andrew think that voice notes are so effective? 

“You can read a message quickly and shut it down but with voice notes, you can create a bit more intrigue and people are more likely to listen to it.” 

Leveraging email

As Andrew explained earlier in this blog, he focuses more on the overall number of touchpoints in a day versus the number of calls he makes. 

“It should be a blend of the three channels - if you focused only on one, I’m pretty convinced you’d see your numbers suffer as people are different and have different ways they like to be sold to.” 

“Some people like being called, I’m a salesperson and I’d prefer to be emailed.” 

“I think it’s important to have a diverse team that specialise in different approaches because just as salespeople are different, so are the people you’re selling to.” 

“Not everyone will like being sold in the same way. If you had everyone selling in the same way that would only further fatigue the prospects.” 

Andrew has found a lot of his success from email, and outlines one major benefit he has discovered.

“I get a lot of success from email. Personally, I find if I book a meeting over an email, the attendance rate is often higher.” 📈

“I believe that’s because you’re not bombarding someone over the phone. A lot of times on cold calls, people will just agree to the meeting to get rid of you, then they don’t turn up.”

“If you email someone and they have a bit more time to think about it then they’re more likely to show.”

Managing follow-ups and rejections

Calling, emailing and voice noting aren’t where outbound sales ends; there’s a whole follow up process to manage too! Whether the prospect is interested in the product or service you offer right now or not. 

“I will always try to book a meeting, even if the prospect says this isn’t relevant for them right now. I’d say:”

“Would you be happy for me to put in a placeholder for a month's time just so we can have a catch up on a 5-minute call. We can see if it’s more relevant at that stage. If it's not then you can tell me to go away.”

“That does tend to work, sometimes people will say no obviously, but I always try to follow up like that.”

For those who do agree to a demonstration or further meeting, Andrew stresses the importance of staying in touch with a prospect in the run-up.

“It’s one thing booking a meeting but it's another to get people to show up. They’re two very different things.” 

“I think when a lot of SDRs start out they get very focused on booking meetings. Obviously that’s great but you have to convert them.”

“And usually that comes down to how much value you give in that initial call or email. And the way to keep that value up is to drip feed.” 

“If you book a meeting for 2 weeks' time, and you just call them on the morning to confirm it, I don’t know the exact figures but I’d guess you’d have maybe 50-60% of people show up.” 

Want to know Andrew’s secret to getting people to show up for their meetings? 🌟

He schedules 2-3 emails on certain days at certain times between now and the scheduled meeting. The emails contain some relevant content or a case study, saying something like;

“We have been working on this and it reminded me a bit of you and your company. I thought you might like to see it. Looking forward to our chat next week.” 

“I never confirm the meeting the day of, I always send an email the lunchtime before - I have a note in my diary to remind me to email anyone I have demos with.” 

“I never ask them if they’re attending, instead I’ll say something like ‘looking forward to our chat tomorrow, speak then!’ and that seems to get a good attendance rate.”

“In my opinion, if you email someone on the day to remind them about the meeting then they’re a bit like ‘yeah I know…’ You just want to avoid doing anything that annoys them.”

What challenges do SDRs face?

Like every job, there are days that are harder than others. We asked Andrew what were the more challenging aspects of his role as an enterprise SDR.

“The number one challenge is to keep motivated. It’s difficult to keep motivated. It’s a great role, but it can be a really horrible role at points.”  

“It’s constant peaks and troughs. Yesterday I booked three meetings, but I didn’t book any meetings for the four days before that.” 

“You can go round in circles trying to work out what you’ve done differently - but ultimately the way to combat that is to just keep your activity up.”

The most rewarding parts of being an SDR

The life of an SDR can be tumultuous, but it all becomes worthwhile when you reach that end goal. Andrew said:

“The most rewarding part is when you book the meeting for sure.” 💥 

“Or personally, I love it when I feel I’ve written a killer email. When I first started out I was so impressed with some of the emails the more senior members of the team were sending and I felt like I’d never be able to do what they did.” 

“But it comes with time, and now I’m sending those kinds of emails.” 

It’s clear Andrew is very driven to be continuously improving, finding new ways to optimise and streamline his workflow. He makes a point of highlighting how the support around him from his wider team helps him to grow.

“We get really great training in the SDR team and have awesome AEs who are brilliant at mentoring. They’ve offered hours of their time to share their knowledge with me and that has been a huge help in me doing well.” 

That isn’t all - due to his success, Andrew has now become a mentor himself! He told us how the Cognism mentor-mentee scheme works: 

“I have one official 121 session with my mentee weekly, however in reality I speak to him daily. I always make it clear from the start that I’m around whenever he needs.” 

“There’s huge benefits on my side mentoring, I love the idea of helping so any success he has is rewarding. It also refines and makes me rethink how I outreach.” 🧠

“In my experience, in order to keep on the ball it’s super-important to keep upskilling yourself and not feel comfortable, so re-visiting things that are otherwise “second nature” to me now is great for my awareness.” 

Advice for newbie SDRs

Everyone’s approach to being an SDR will be slightly different, as it should be - what works for one person won’t work for another. 

And one person's sales style won’t work for all prospects. Diversity is a good thing. But Andrew does have some tips and advice for those wanting to get stuck into the SDR game. 

“Follow the process! One of my favourite quotes is ‘Follow the process and the outcome will be inevitable’ which is so relevant as an SDR.” 

“If you don’t follow the process then the outcome will be affected by it. And that’s not just to hit target, that’s to exceed the target which I aim to do every month.” 🏆

“While I’ve found 120 daily touchpoints works for me, I don’t think it would work for everyone. It's very individual. And it depends on your personality. You have to experiment and find out what works for you.”

“There are guys on the team who make loads more calls than me, but they get more success from calls versus email so they have to leverage calling more. And it would be difficult to make 120 calls a day.” 

Another piece of advice Andrew passionately shared with us is that he doesn’t believe you have to fit into the stereotypical mould of a salesperson. 

“There is this idea that in sales you have to be this really outgoing, really chatty, really charismatic person which I think is BS.” 

“You can sell based on your personality. I’m far more relaxed and chilled about things so I sell in a different way.” 

“When you first start out as an SDR it's important to find your style for how you sell. It comes with time, but trying different methods out is a good place to start.” 

“Think about where you’re getting most of your success, why and how it's working. Then think - what can you do to improve it?” 

“When I first started, I only just hit target and the other people I started with blew me out of the water and that bothered me. Working in sales, I’m competitive.” 

“So I looked at where I was spending most of my time and tried to streamline my process.”

Andrew did this by tracking where he found success, looking at metrics like:

  • How many calls he made. 
  • How many emails he sent.
  • What time of day he was getting the most success with cold calls.
  • What types of emails he was sending that converted at the highest rates.

Andrew used this information to find ways to improve, for example:

“I restructured the emails we were sending out as I wasn’t convinced the ones we were sending previously were getting the success that they could.”

“I also built our cadence, again because I felt it was too long. It was over 35 days and I edited it so it was 14 days.”

If you take anything away from this blog post, let it be this

Andrew believes the key to his success is his ability to stay organised and constantly active. 

“You can improve your sales in every which way and form, but if your activity isn’t high then you won’t see results.”

“The people who don’t tend to do as well tend to be the people who are doing less.” 

“Generally speaking, keeping your activity high and trusting the process will work.” 

“And remember, you don’t have to fit into the box of what most people perceive a salesperson to be. Some of the best salespeople are the ones who can just have a chat, an honest conversation.” 

The landscape in which SDRs operate is always changing, opening up new opportunities for fresh, creative individuals, driven to succeed.

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