Year one as an SDR is full of excitement and possibility—but it can also provoke anxiety. Unfortunately, there’s usually no how-to guide that tells new SDRs exactly what they should be doing during each stage of that first year. As a result, too many SDRs flail around and fail to achieve their potential.
Here’s a timeline of the most important goals you need to achieve during your first year as an SDR:
First 100 days—
During your first three months on the job, focus on developing relationships with colleagues. At the same time, you need to lay the foundations for a strong pipeline.
1) Clarify expectations with your manager.
Managers are there to help guide you, and establishing a strong collaborative relationship early on can be a huge difference-maker in your career. Use your manager as a resource. In your one-on-one meetings, discuss expectations. You want to know key metrics, details about the ramp-up period, and the path to career advancement within your organization.
It’s helpful to discuss your long-term sales career goals with your manager early in your tenure. They will likely offer suggestions.
2) Identify mentors within your organization.
Ideally, your manager should be one of your mentors. But it’s also helpful to find others who can offer guidance. Be on the lookout for potential mentors during your first few months. If you find someone who seems like a good fit, ask if they’re willing to act as a mentor.
It’s possible that you’ll be matched with a mentor as part of your department’s formal mentorship program. If that works out, great. If not, then talk about it frankly with your manager. They may be able to find a better match.
In all mentorship relationships, prepare for your meetings and ask thoughtful questions. Show your appreciation for your mentor and provide mutual help when opportunities arise.
3) Develop a method for researching and qualifying prospects.
Your sales department probably already has procedures for prospect qualification. But there’s no substitute for getting into the trenches. As you learn more about the market and product, pay attention to patterns among qualified prospects. What are good indicators that a prospect might be well-qualified? This knowledge will help you replicate your successes.
4) Start reaching out to prospects.
Many new SDRs are scared to pick up the phone, mistakenly believing that they need to learn everything about a company before making that initial call. That’s an unproductive habit that you need to break yourself of early. Get comfortable making those cold phone calls and emails. Over time, you’ll develop a sense of what works best.
This early grunt work is critical for building up a pipeline of prospects that can turn into closed deals later. The sooner you start engaging with prospects and building the pipeline, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
First six months—
Once you’ve gained your footing, it’s time to start expanding your network within your company and scoring early wins.
5) Develop relationships with colleagues, including some in other departments.
Many new SDRs see their colleagues as competition. But in today’s consultative sales environment, your colleagues are allies. Proactively make efforts to get to know your coworkers at work and outside social events.
It’s also helpful to make connections with people outside of sales. People in marketing, product development, and customer success all have useful information to impart and can help you close deals if you use their expertise smartly.
6) Close out some smaller deals.
The sales cycle differs substantially between different products. Still, by the time you reach the six-month mark, you should probably be starting to close out some smaller deals. Pay attention to your ramp-up rate and try to meet (or better) the timeline for closing out those initial deals.
7) Become familiar with metrics and evaluate your performance rigorously.
Once you’ve started to compile several months’ worth of data, it’s time to start paying attention to KPIs. While you shouldn’t obsess over it early on, you should have a general idea of your goals and what you need to do in order to meet them. Around this time, you’ll probably be asked to produce your first Quarterly Business Review (QBR) where your stakeholders get to analyze your previous quarter’s numbers. Use it as an opportunity to critically examine your performance and come up with a plan for how to do even better.
8) Know your pitch for the product, including the Unique Selling Point (USP).
It’s likely that you’ve refined your pitch multiple times based on your interactions with prospects and feedback from your supervisors. But now that you have some real selling experience, your pitch should be refined. You’ll still want to make tweaks as necessary, but you should have a deep understanding of what makes your business or your product unique and communicate that in your pitch.
Use the last six months of year 1 to really rev up your sales success and start bringing in bigger wins.
9) Develop a steady pipeline of prospects.
Now that you’ve been steadily prospecting for six months or more, you should have a steady stream of qualified prospects in your pipeline. At least some of those early prospects should now be deals or close to it, and you’ve developed a better sense of how to prospect effectively.
If your pipeline isn’t as robust as you would like, then you should analyze why and improve your prospecting methods. Talk with top-performing SDRs at your company and learn from them.
10) Meet or exceed your sales quota.
Ultimately, quotas really are the most important measure of sales success. You want to get to a point where you’re meeting or exceeding your quota ASAP. If you get to this point during your first year, mazel tov! If not, then you need to figure out what’s holding you back.
11) Create a plan for improving upon your performance in year 2.
Even if year 1 was an unqualified success, you always want to improve. As you wrap up your first year, develop a plan for how to do better next year. Consult with your manager about goals and professional development.