It’s funny how life works out! I loved teaching, especially math, technology and even more so, analytics. But in 2012, after a four-year stagnant salary schedule which had strong financial implications for my family, I knew it was time to change my career path. While it was a tough decision to make, it was the right decision. When leaving teaching, I remembered wondering if I would ever make my way back to the education sector.
Through the recommendation of some friends in SaaS sales in the Raleigh area, I became a Sales Development Representative (SDR). The SDR space is typically filled with recent college grads, not people transitioning careers 8 years after their college graduation. When I made the decision to transition to sales, I was curious what skill sets I would need. I knew I would have to do my part learning new skills as well as a new industry, but I wondered if teaching and sales would have any similarities? So I put my head down, focused on being a team player, relied on my strong work ethic (thank you teaching), smiled and dialed!
It was tough starting at an entry level position in your 30’s. But life isn’t always “up” the corporate ladder. Sometimes you have to move “sideways”. I wanted this industry for the growth and income opportunities. Moving “sideways” for the time being was definitely going to be worth it.
I enjoyed being an SDR. We all know that it can be one of the hardest jobs in sales. What I liked most is that I was given an opportunity to reach my large goal, to become an account executive in the software business.
My immediate goal was to be a top performer and I quickly made it! I read, a lot! Sales was new to me so I had a lot to learn. I used my experience in analytics and math. I tracked how many calls I made during each hour of the day. I then tracked how many conversations I had and if any converted. I used this to figure out the best times of the day to call. It would turn out that 8am-9am and 4pm-5pm were my best times. Friday’s also were my highest conversion days. This also helped me to “Know My Business” (thanks Larry Long Jr). I quickly knew how many dials I needed to make and when to make them. And what would happen if I made 25% more dials than what I was making? While we all know it’s not an exact science of dials to opportunities, knowing this information helped me, as an SDR, plan out my day to where I was hitting the right metrics to meet my goal to become an Account Executive (AE).
Six months later I got the opportunity to interview and was subsequently asked to join our sales executive team. I loved closing deals! And I did very well my first year. However, there was something missing. What I didn’t like was that I was working alone, it was just Nick. Just me at my desk working deals. THIS is something I was not used to. This part was very different from teaching.
Fast forward 12 months as an AE. I clearly remember the day the SDR Director at the time (my current boss today) pinged me over our chat, asking me to come to his office. I knew exactly what he was going to ask me; to consider the open SDR Manager position. We chatted for a while and he asked me to think about it. And I will never forget what he then said. He said, Nick, you have a very strong background in teaching, math, analytics, and sales. I think SDR Management is a perfect fit for you. I also will never forget the conversation that evening with my wife. She obviously had no clue what an SDR Manager is. I explained how I would be leading entry level sales professionals; teaching them sales, coaching them, and then mentoring them. And she then interrupted me, laughed, and said, Nick, this seems like the perfect role for you!
I spent the next couple years leading sales development reps and loving it. This is a very tactical and analytical role. Metrics are key. As leaders, we are creating content, figuring out who our Ideal Customer Profile is, analyzing our team’s efforts, coaching and leading teams. But above all, you have to be a solid leader and a really good teacher. Metrics are great and I’m a big fan. But getting SDRs “better” is the most important part of the job. Most enter the role with zero experience in sales. Because of this, they need to be taught how to be a great SDR / Sales Person. Making dials is important, but conversations are key. Listen to them, often. Sit down with SDRs and hit play. Role play. Call Clubs. It’s our job as managers to make them better. I always tell my reps there are two ways to increase your number. Make more dials and improve your conversation skills and sales skills to become a great SDR. Making more calls is one them. Improving conversation skills and sales skills is on us. For the majority of SDRs this is their first job out of college. For myself, I know now that I made the best decision to leave my teaching career path when I did, and I never foresaw how valuable my teaching skills as well as metrics, mathematics and analytics would benefit my everyday role as an SDR Manager.
Fast forward another three years I took another management position at that company leading a customer facing team.
Then, at the end of 2019 the same director that asked me to join him back in 2016 went to another company to build a large SDR organization and asked me to join him again. And how could I say no to a role I love doing!
Nick Trueman is Senior Sales Development Manager at Dude Solutions. Connect with him on Linkedin.
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