7 minutes
May 10, 2023

How to encourage SDR resilience in tough selling conditions

When selling conditions get tough, it's challenging to motivate SDRs and keep productivity up, but it’s up to sales leaders to make sure your team members hit quota without burning out.
Alex Carlson
Table of Contents

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Did you hear that? It’s the dreaded sound of buyers' wallets closing. Sales teams are feeling the squeeze of a constricting market. With so many companies announcing layoffs due to an uncertain economy, deal sizes are shrinking, seats are being reduced, and budgets are drying up.

When selling conditions get tough, it's challenging to motivate SDRs and keep productivity up, but it’s up to sales leaders to make sure your team members hit quota without burning out.

My name is Alex Carlson, and I'm an SDR Manager at LeadIQ. It’s important for me to continually build resilience among my team. SDRs already work in one of the most challenging roles in sales and face daily pressures that can take a toll on mental health and job performance.

Supporting the SDR team is especially important when market conditions are tough. The job of a sales rep is already hard enough when buyers are lining up, and it can get especially stressful when it becomes harder and hard to hit pipeline numbers. This is why I'm going to break down five strategies that have helped our team stay strong and keep motivated when the going gets rough.

I hope these tips help motivate your sales team too.

Setting realistic expectations for SDR productivity

One of the biggest mistakes managers make is setting unrealistic goals and expectations. This can quickly lead to burnout and decreased motivation and productivity.

Reps are facing objections and rejections regularly, which on its own can be mentally exhausting and compounded by steep learning curves for individuals who are often just starting their careers.

It’s essential to set achievable goals and break down larger targets into smaller, more manageable tasks. This not only helps SDRs feel more in control of their work but can help them celebrate small successes along the way (more on that later).

Here at LeadIQ, I like to set benchmarks around dials, emails, LinkedIn touches, and the number of prospects added to a sequence. We set weekly targets each week and use calendar blocks to help manage time.

Our SDRs are in a hybrid work environment, meaning we do come into an office 2-3 times a week. As a KPI-focused manager, this makes it easier for me to keep awareness and accountability for metrics throughout the week.

It also helps that I can get down into the trenches with the team. It’s important that I show solidarity with them, share the same goals, and get my hands dirty. I make sure I have a few calendar blocks scheduled for doing cold outreach alongside the team.

Ok, I’ve mentioned calendar blocks a few times; let me go into more detail on how we use them to help SDRs manage their time.

Not only do I prospect with my team as an SDR Manager, but our own CEO and Founder Mei Siauw takes some time out of her day to make some cold calls. It goes a long way to show solidarity with the team.

Setting up calendar blocks

So here’s something that we’ve set up here at LeadIQ that helps our SDRs structure their time efficiently: Calendar-blocking to setting up a time for specific activities.

Of course, you want to keep things flexible. The day-to-day of an SDR can change quite often as prospects can reply at any moment, but planning out some activity blocks can help with time management, keep productivity high, and your sellers focused when it’s most needed.

Here are the blocks we’ve setup:

Prospecting blocks

This block is dedicated to researching and identifying potential prospects to reach out to. Activities in this block include:

Research blocks

In this block of time, our SDRs will dive deeper into lists, accounts, and contacts. Here they might:

  • Uncover insights on key prospects that can be used to personalize outreach.
  • Analyze data for intent signals, like job changes
  • Review CRM records
  • Prepare a strategy for upcoming calls and meetings

Cold email blocks

Here SDRs can stay focused on writing messages, building and checking sequences, and doing everything cold email related:

  • Using their research to craft hyper-personalized subject lines that get noticed and emails that tell a story
  • Analyze sequences/cadences for effectiveness, optimizing the messaging appropriately along the way
  • Checking analytics to monitor metrics like open, click-through, and response rates.
  • Follow up with prospects

Cold calling blocks

Time to dial the digits and reach out to prospects on the phone. Beyond making calls, SDRs can: 

  • Prepare and practice their calls so conversations stay on track
  • Reach out to key decision-makers
  • Leave voicemails
  • Qualify prospects, uncover needs, discover pain points, and handle objections when they’re lucky enough to connect

These are just a few blocks that can be set up and work for us, but every sales organization is different, and it’s important to be flexible with your team as each SDR will have their own strengths and workflows that fit better with their skillset. 

We’ve seen teams combine cold emailing and calling into a single outreach block, set aside blocks dedicated only to follow-up, and even admin blocks where their team can focus on things like updating CRM records. 

Although if you’ve built your tech stack right, the need for an admin block should be minimal or not needed at all. For example, if your team uses LeadIQ, they can find prospects, capture contact info, and sync this data with your CRM and engagement tools in one click. No need to do all that manually; your SDRs have better things to do! 

Encouraging open communication

Create a culture that stresses open communication. SDRs should feel comfortable sharing challenges or roadblocks with managers and leadership anytime. 

We’re all human, and people may be hesitant to speak up when they’re struggling. As a manager, it’s your job to encourage sales reps not to feel shame when they feel they’re not living up to expectations. 

Even in the best market conditions, there will be ups and downs. Good quarters and bad. 

At LeadIQ, we’ve found success in hosting weekly forecast calls where the entire GTM organization talks about inbound and outbound pipeline numbers, and reps share their own forecasts as well as challenges and opportunities with important accounts they’re working. 

While this allows for great discussion and learning opportunities for the entire team, don’t forget about individual check-ins and hosting regular one-on-ones to provide a safe space for SDRs to share their challenges and receive feedback. Not everyone is comfortable talking in a group setting, so 1:1s are an important outlet in setting a safe space to open up. 

As a manager, active listening and non-judgmental feedback are crucial to making SDRs feel heard and valued.

Providing ongoing support

Regular training, coaching sessions, role-playing, and mentoring programs. Setting up peer-to-peer learning opportunities is a great way to invest in your team and help them improve their skills. 

Don’t forget how much we ask of sales reps. They’re not only expected to know their product inside and out. They’re expected to learn everything they can about their ICP, buyer personas, and individual prospects. Oh, and master the art of cold emailing and cold calling, which can take time.

Having the right tech stack is also important for sellers to feel supported. Everyone needs the right tools and resources they need to succeed, but balance is key here. 

Providing too many tools that aren’t communicating well can add more steps and busy work into your SDR’s workflow. No one wants to jump between a million tabs and update the same information across every CRM or sales engagement tool. 

Find tools that integrate together and remove steps to make everyone’s prospecting lives easier.

Here are some support suggestions you can implement with your team that we do here at LeadIQ:

Weekly SDR and leadership meetings

Here the SDRs and leadership share what’s working and what’s not. This is a great way to hear how others are approaching their prospecting and account strategy, share ideas, and grow together. 

Regular 1:1s

We touched on this earlier, but keeping 1:1s in the mix is important to encourage open communication for anything that reps aren’t comfortable sharing in a group setting and to get specific feedback meant just for them. 

Weekly call recording reviews

Sales leadership will listen to cold calls using Gong and provide feedback to the SDR, offering role-playing and skill development to improve cold calling skills. It’s a tough skill to master. Keeping cold-calling skills sharp with constructive criticism and practice is key. 

A seller-focused tech stack

Ok, so this is a little easy for us since our own platform is meant to streamline a seller’s prospecting workflow from start to finish. Our team spends most of its time using LeadIQ alongside LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Outreach. Using the LeadIQ extension ensures that SDRs can find the contact data they need and send that data to Outreach and Salesforce at the same time. The best part? Data syncs across all our tools at once, so the team doesn’t have to jump from tool to tool, updating everything manually. 

Whatever your tech stack, make sure your Sales Operations or RevOps team has everything working together seamlessly to keep efficiency high. 

Creating a good working environment

Our SDRs are currently working a hybrid schedule in our office in Denver. While a majority of LeadIQ is still 100% remote and spread out across the globe, the hybrid option worked best for our SDR team. This way, reps still have the flexibility of working from home but the ability to consult and learn from each other in person. 

With remote work on the rise, this might not be possible for some companies. If that’s the case, make sure you find ways to communicate virtually in order to succeed. 

Promoting a good work-life balance

This is good advice for anyone to follow. Having a healthy work-life balance prevents burnout and can lead to increased efficiency. All too often, SDRs (and sales positions in general) feel pressured to work long hours and sacrifice personal time for the job, like it’s 100% expected of them.

Yes, SDRs are going to have to adapt to their prospect's schedules and even jump into conversations unexpectedly when that buyer they’ve been trying to reach finally decides to respond on a weekend. But if your employees are sacrificing their personal time for the sales grind, it can lead to decreased productivity and job satisfaction.

Take the time to encourage SDRs to take breaks, prioritize self-care, and maintain balance in their life. This can take many shapes, including flexible working arrangements or even mandated time off.

That break can go a long way in improving mental health, and reps can come back refreshed and recharged.

To sum up: Set your SDRs up for success

Building resilience among SDRs in tough selling conditions is essential for supporting the mental health and job performance of our teams. 

By setting realistic expectations, encouraging open communication, providing ongoing support, celebrating small wins, and promoting work-life balance, SDR managers can create a more resilient sales culture and drive long-term success. 

Investing in our SDRs' resilience is a win-win for both the individual and the company under any circumstance, but even more so when times are tough.