SDRs, Stop Asking for 15 Minutes

By Jason Garoutte

September 9, 2016

SDRs (Sales Development Reps), BDRs (Business Development Reps), ADRs (Account Development Reps), OBRs (Outbound Business Reps). Whatever you call them, they’re a team dedicated to prospecting. And they’re growing in popularity.

According to a Bridge Group survey, 2/3 of B2B SaaS companies with at least $5M revenue now use an SDR function. By separating prospectors from closers, companies are striving for efficient division of labor.

It’s a tough racket. SDRs send countless emails, leave voicemails, set up meetings, convert leads in the CRM, and qualify opportunities. They get paid to start conversations. So what do SDRs ask for at the end of almost every email?  “Can we talk for 15 minutes?”  Really?  We won’t even get the Webex working for 10 minutes.

I think most recipients recognize the request for what it really is:  a foot in the door. Once a recipient agrees to a short call, it’s easy to let that duration slip to 30 or 60 minutes. Psychology studies show that a foot-in-the-door can work.

Psychology notwithstanding, asking for 15 minutes doesn’t seem to be working. According to Bridge Group, the average SDR in 2015 was generating just 6.6 conversations per day—a drop of 34% over 3 years. The tough job is getting tougher.

Few people will grant 15 minutes to a stranger, but they’ll often peruse a pitch that is tailored and relevant.

Why the drop? I think Matt Heinz speaks for many recipients with his diatribe about the surge in prospecting. Automation tools have made it easy to send follow-up emails on a timer, asking guilt-inducing questions like, “Why haven’t you gotten back to me?” Automated emails are usually generic emails, which demonstrates that the sender values his own time over that of recipients. As recipients receive an ever-higher volume of these emails, there simply isn’t enough time to pay attention.

Want to see how bad it’s gotten? Here’s an excerpt from the LinkedIn profile of Robyn Forman, VP Digital Marketing at Zoomdata, who is obviously getting too many emails from reps:


Excerpt from the LinkedIn profile of a San Francisco VP Marketing

So what should SDRs do? My advice: never ask for 15 minutes. Instead, ask for 3 days. In fact, ask for a 3-day joint workshop, on-site, with all stakeholders in the room, to consider the details of the amazing value proposition you’re about to reveal. Will people agree to it? No more or less than they agree to 15 minutes. But a big ask sets the stage that you’re proposing something that matters. Moreover, it obliges you to back up your audacity with a hyper-relevant value proposition.

When Docusign wants to sell to a strategic account, they don’t ask for 15 minutes. They send a custom presentation with a headline no executive could ignore. It says, in effect, “This is how Docusign will save your company $X million.” The recipient pretty much has to open it.

After making a big ask, the SDR should offer an alternative that it easier to accept. Attach something that is tailored for the recipient. It could be a custom presentation, a personalized video, or some content asset picked especially for the recipient. These are all lower hurdles for engagement. Few people will grant 15 minutes to a stranger, but they’ll often peruse a pitch that is tailored and relevant. Impress them with your diligence.

Of course, the counter-argument to diligence is scale. How can SDRs win a numbers game when they’re writing custom presentations? This is where ABM comes in. As B2B companies embrace ABM (Account-Based Marketing), they now know which accounts to target, which value proposition to use, and what content fits. With the help of technology, the sales pitch can be personalized at scale.

For our part, YesPath is making it easier to impress customers with thoughtful, personalized content. We’re making it easier to tailor a pitch for the unique needs of each recipient. And we’re making it easier for both sides (buyer and seller) to agree on which challenges to prioritize together. In short, we’re swinging the pendulum back from rep-centric tactics to customer-centric tactics – an idea that never goes out of style.

Even as I typed this, I received a sales email, ending of course with, “When do you have time for a 15 minute call?” The competition for attention is only getting harder. The good news is that the sales experience can carry the day. Gartner research finds that “direct interaction with the provider” is more influential than content, events, and even references. The sales experience is the most potent way to get buyers over the finish line. So make sure you start the experience with something better than a request for 15 minutes.