What I’ve learned by working as an SDR at Pipefy — Part 1: Processes

Introduction

This year, I finished one of the most mind-opening chapters of my career. I’ve completed a one year program as a Sales Development Representative. During this period, I went from a low performer to the best SDR of the batch. That happened by working on self-assessment, learning from my colleagues, incorporating their techniques into my own style, and finally finding my own voice.

I cannot help feeling grateful for this experience, so by writing about my struggles I hope that other people can struggle less. This will be a three-part take on my best tips and observations about the SDR position. If you are just starting a career as an SDR, or plan to, you might feel connected to these pages, especially if, like me, you have never worked with sales before. If you are an SDR leader or Inbound Manager, consider reading this for some insights on processes and culture. Off we go!

Why work as an SDR if you don’t aim for a career in sales?

Pipefy is a SaaS company offering a solution for process management. In 2019, I’ve joined the team thrilled to become part of one of the most recognized startups with roots in Brazil, and quickly rising its global presence. As a Business Administration graduate, I couldn’t ask for a better fit for my experience. After all, the product was all about process improvement and I’ve been at the other side long enough to be confident that I would understand the pains we would be solving for our customers.

Prior to Pipefy, I’ve worked in different departments, from HR to Innovation and Marketing, but never in sales. I’ve always only dealt with internal clients in my previous positions, and the thought of being the “voice” of the company speaking directly with clients was enough to give me huge anxiety! By the end of 2018, a talk in an innovation event impacted me. The message was “being comfortable with the uncomfortable”. After that, my goal for 2019 was to do more things for the first time and get used to change. Without me realizing I had made the first step that would lead me to be a better SDR, finding your why.

Never underestimate the amount of pressure you will be dealing with as an SDR. As the saying goes “the days are long and the months are short”. You’ll have a huge advantage if you are clear about your goals for this position. SDR is a transitory position for most companies, so make sure you are making the most of your time by focusing on improving your deliveries and also developing skills that will be important for your next move. In my case, I had my mind set on committing to this one year period and overcoming my limitations.

For everyone in sales, the uncertainty of meeting your quotas at the end of the month can be extremely stressful. My answer to that was having a secondary goal, something that would show me if I was moving in the right direction regardless of my results for the month. To me, this indicator was “am I learning something new?”. As long as I could say yes to that question, I was sure I could justify being part of the team. In other words, aligning your role as an SDR to your personal goals will always give you an advantage. This was critical to colleagues who were able to ramp really fast and get offers from other teams. And, in my case, it helped me stay focused for the whole year when others would be tired of the routine within 6 months.

What an SDR does anyway?

The fun part of being an SDR is that there’s no limit to how good of an SDR you can be. Never underestimate your position! You’ll find comments about an SDR being a glorified call center agent. Don’t listen to them, that’s far from the truth. You’ll basically deliver the first human contact that the prospects will receive from the company and that’s a huge deal. For better or worse, no matter how good your product might be, no matter how mind-blowing your post-sales services are, it’s most likely that the defining moment for the lead to make up their mind about your product will be that single phone call from an SDR.

Your goal in the operation is to connect the dots between what people who are interested in your company need and what the company can accomplish. Imagine yourself as a detective, you’ll use every piece of information at your disposal to deliver the best possible solution to your case. And when you don’t have enough clues, you’ll know exactly what questions you should uncover first. Never underestimate the importance of your questions in your conversations as an SDR. Being genuinely curious gives you a huge advantage here.

In my experience, the best way to create engagement with a lead is by asking questions and giving context to your exposition of the tool/platform you are trying to sell. Then, ask more questions connecting the previous discovery and keeping the momentum. When you have enough information, wrap it up and connect to your call to action.

I’ll admit there’s a lot of jargon in these last sentences. So how to break it up in a structure that’s easy to understand and won’t take much of your RAM memory when you’re on the phone with your potential customers? I like to think from a problem-solving perspective. That means I’ll first understand the context prior to the interaction with the lead and make the decision of how I can influence their trajectory to reach their goal with Pipefy.

Some SDRs don’t rely enough on their CRMs data about their leads and still manage to give a nice flow to the conversation while uncovering more information on the call. In my case, especially at the beginning, I would invest heavily in the pre-work of finding LinkedIn profiles of contacts on my cadence, finding out what templates on Pipefy they were using, and what pages they’ve accessed before creating an account. All of this would help me picture this “case” in my mind, and on the calls, I could confirm and uncover more information giving them a customized closing. The call to action leading to the next steps in your funnel is the second part of the problem-solving process. This will hugely vary depending on the internal processes and resources your organization has, qualification criteria, and even Account Executives’ capacity at a due time.

Figure 1 — Mind map of decision-making routes as an SDR

As an exercise on this problem-solving model think about these scenarios:

Scenario 1

  • A lead in your cadence has no information about the company, the downloaded template is your solution with the least conversion.
  • During the call, you uncover that the lead’s company is a small business. They are superficially aligned with features on your premium offer and are interested in a free trial. However, you are still not sure if they’d need to upgrade to make use of the platform for their current pace.

Scenario 2

  • You have a lead that has a high position in a great company, you understand that within the position they could make great use of the platform.
  • You had to phone countless times to connect with this hot lead. During the call, it’s clear that the lead is in a hurry and had previously looked for other solutions for this project. You have the basic outline of their needs and try to schedule a live demo. However, the lead refuses the invitation saying it’s not the right time.

What would you do next?

Taking a quick glance at Scenario 1, you are dealing with a lead that is very uncertain. It’s hard to predict whether he’ll become a customer or not. What can you do to reduce the chances of scheduling a demonstration with someone who won’t close the deal?

You can use the fact that the lead is actually willing to engage and stretch the call explaining the pathways towards their use of the tool. Tell them the difference between plans, get confirmation about the fit between their problems, and what the solution can deliver. Don’t be afraid to mention that a free trial is focused on users looking to sign up for a paid plan. And if they are not on the look to upgrade just yet, they can always make use of the free plan, take their own conclusions, and you’ll be there for them if needed. Or maybe you can increase the odds of the lead purchasing after a product demonstration by raising his heat. You can close the first call assuring the lead is in the right place, send a killer email with content, and have a follow-up call a few days later. Then you’ll check if they are still engaged with the platform and schedule that demo with more confidence that it’ll become an opportunity for a deal.

In Scenario 2, you will have, arguably, less room to play with your personal approach. However, it’s with these types of challenges that your team’s playbooks will grow. Here I would connect the lead’s lack of time with your call to action to deliver the best value.

For example, use the lack of time as a compelling argument to take part in a product demonstration as soon as possible. After all, “why would you test it yourself if you can save time by letting a specialist show how to solve your problem?”. This call to action is even more powerful if you have on your operation the possibility to connect your lead with an AE instantly. If this fails, try to compensate for the time with a demo with added value by customization. For example, ask for details on the project outline and let your Sales and Tech team create a customized environment for this star that leads to the long waited demonstration.

By the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer to these questions, and, of course, your call to action or next steps will always depend on the structure of your company. But even with these small examples, you can create a number of possible solutions, demonstrating why I think you should have a strategic mindset as an SDR. With experience and, most importantly, the understanding of your company’s structure, greatest selling points, and values, you’ll be breezing through the connecting dots game.

Wait a minute…I’ll actually learn about other departments?

That’s right, no matter how specialized this position is for sales, it’s an uphill battle but you’ll grow the more you learn about the other departments of your company’s operation. There are several reasons for that.

Firstly, the more you know about your product’s sales cycle the more you’ll be prepared for your prospects’ questions, thus showing more authority. Or even by making use of points further down the line on the customer journey as a call to action (i.e. post-sales services like implementation, training, customer support, product updates, etc.).

Second, remember your plan and make sure to connect your work as an SDR to your next ideal role in the organization. You might want to move to the Customer Success team (or Solution Design, Product Education, Community Management, Marketing, etc.) in the future, and by understanding more about the department, you’ll be able to not only improve your pitch but also start creating connections that will be important for your next transition.

Other than that, you might find yourself in the position of a Chat Platform SDR. In this case, quite often your job will overlap with User Support, and you’ll definitely benefit from knowing more about the teams running different operations in the company. Lastly, it might happen that your company actually is the perfect persona for your own solution!

Let me explain, as a process management platform, each team on Pipefy is a heavy user of Pipefy itself. Having an entire operation running on Pipefy in your backyard is the best thing for when you are trying to learn about the shortcomings and shining gems of your product. It takes as little effort as a Slack message or a Zoom call with a colleague. Our product covers a wide range of applications from Customer Onboarding to Customer Support, from Marketing Requests to HR requests and even Recruiting. Having at least one example of success with each of these processes in-house makes up for a 360-degree picture of what your product does, how it connects to the doers and decision-makers, and what it ultimately delivers. Not only is this a valuable resource to uncover more about the solution you are trying to sell as an SDR, remember that it’ll also bring you closer to teams across the company increasing collaboration and helping to break down the silos.

Figure 2 — Being an SDR at Pipefy is like being an SDR inside an SDR, inside an SDR, …

In conclusion

These are my takeaways from the first part of this series:

  • Make sure to have a clear plan of how being an SDR will get you closer to your personal and professional goals.
  • Work with a problem-solving mindset to make sure you are delivering the best value possible to your leads.
  • To expand your value delivery capability, invest in understanding more about your company.
  • Understanding more about your company not only will increase the quality of your work as an SDR but also will help you achieve your future goals in the organization.