The SDR X Factor is a series of long-form stories that aims to reveal what sets top-performing sales reps apart. How do they go about their day? What do their cold calling and cold emailing strategies look like? How are they crushing quota every time? We extract their key strategies, tips and tricks so you can sell better.
In this eighth and final installment of this series, we’re meeting Asatta Leggett, a Business Development Representative (BDR) with Smart 3rd Party, a US-based startup focusing on third-party IT hardware maintenance and support. Having graduated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been an SDR for nearly a year across two companies.
(As of March 2023, Asatta is a Sales Business Analyst at Home Depot.)
Being a young SDR, we were curious to know what drew her to sales, her approach to work, and how she crushes her quota every time.
1. A ‘Chance on Faith’ That Turned Out Well
In December 2020, as the pandemic was raging across the United States, Asatta completed her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational and Professional Communications from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia.
It was also the time when many newly-graduated Americans couldn’t land jobs. A study by Pew Research Center revealed that 2020 college graduates saw a marked decline in labor force participation, which was higher than what graduates saw in 2008 as the Great Recession was setting in.
“So initially, I actually wanted to do public relations and marketing. But with COVID, everything closed down, and I just had to kind of find a way,” she recalls. While the jobs she looked for weren’t available, she noticed that sales jobs were booming and hiring was in full swing, despite the brute force of the pandemic.
Asatta says she took a “chance on faith” and landed her first job as an SDR. She relied on her experience working in call centers while still in college and her communication skills. “My major was in communication. So, talking with people, that's a really big strong suit of mine,” she highlights.
The chance she took turned out well. She ended up becoming a top-performing SDR, as she exceeded her monthly quota for November 2022. “A lot of other jobs, you just get your salary, and that's it. I really love that with sales, you can really put in a lot of work and get to it, and it will reflect that right back,” she says, referring to the commissions on top of the base salary.
i) What Sets Her Apart?
- Bolsters product knowledge with her ever-curious mind
“A question-asker” is how Asatta describes herself. Any work-related questions, no matter how small, she ensures to get the answers from her colleagues. “I'm always looking for the opportunity to learn or to get any more experience or knowledge,” she explains.
By learning the ins and outs of her product, she is able to sell better to her prospects. Cultivating a robust product knowledge will help SDRs boost their confidence and make you sound like an expert while selling, and the most effective way to get here is to have a big appetite for constantly learning on the job.
- Doesn’t take rejections personally
For someone quite new to sales, Asatta has quickly learned not to take any rejections from prospects to her heart. “I've had a little bit of experience to be able to learn, okay, people are gonna say no, people are gonna hang up in the middle of your sentence, people are going to be a little cutthroat. But at the end of the day, it's just a phone call,” she explains.
Letting such rejections roll off her shoulders also helps her to be persistent in her outreach. Unless the prospect explicitly asks her to stop contacting them, she would keep them in the cadence and keep reaching out. “I take all the replies with a grain of salt and just try again the next day,” she notes.
2. How Asatta Aces the Cold Calling Game by Making 50-100 Calls a Day
Asatta makes at least 50 cold calls a day. On some days, she even touches 100 calls.
Before entering sales, she honed her cold calling chops working in call centers while still in college. “If I get that person who lets me talk, then phone calls can be great, because you can fully hear their needs,” she says.
So, what makes Asatta great at cold calling? Let’s find out:
i) Prioritizes Calling Prospects Based on Their Engagement With Emails
Like many SDRs, Asatta first sends out emails to her prospects before calling them. After logging into her sales engagement platform Klenty, she checks out the “activity” of each of her prospects—whether they've opened her emails and clicked on links multiple times. She explains that prospects who have engaged with her emails well will be the first to receive a call. This way, Asatta can bring up the email during the call, and the prospect could recollect opening the email she had sent.
ii) Tries to Sound More Personable Over the Phone, Avoids Sounding Like a Telemarketer
During the cold calls, Asatta avoids blindly parroting the script given to her. “They'll usually quickly hang up if they hear “Hi, I'm calling from..” and if it sounds too telemarket-y. So, I want to try to sound more personable than a telemarketer,” she says.
To sound personable, she uses the prospect’s first name, greets them as per the time of the day (“Good morning” or “good afternoon”), and proceeds to state the reason for her call. She then pauses to allow the prospect to ask a few questions. This approach gets the prospects to engage better during the call.
iii) Staying Skeptical Helps Her in Handling Objections:
Instead of taking the objections posed by prospects at face value, Asatta says she takes all the objections with a grain of salt to stay persistent during the call. Let’s look at how she handles some of the most common objections she receives:
a) Objection : “We Don’t Need Third-Party Maintenance.”
As her company focuses on third-party IT maintenance, many prospects pose this objection during calls. Taking this with a healthy dose of skepticism, she replies: “Does your IT department deal with the motherboard failures or hardware failures or certain things that we know that your IT department just doesn't touch?”
If the prospect replies that they’re under a contract with their existing solution, she will make a task to follow up with them after 6 months.
b) Objection : “I’m Not the Decision Maker.”
Asatta often faces this situation, where the prospect she contacted no longer works in that particular department. “They are who I'm trying to contact, they just don't handle that decision making,” she explains. In this case, she requests them to point her in the right direction towards the decision maker and then contact the right person. However, if they do not provide the contact details, Asatta says she would simply remove them from the cadence and move on to the next prospect.
c) Objection : “I Don’t Work at This Company Anymore.”
This is a variation of the previous objection, wherein the prospect that she contacted no longer works at the company or has retired. In this case, she asks: “Is there someone in that department, you can transfer me to, that I can speak to? Or can you give that person a message for me?”
iv) Doesn’t Give Gatekeepers Too Much Information:
“The gatekeepers are definitely on their job, they do not play,” Asatta says with a chuckle. She has faced gatekeepers often asking for details like her name, the company’s name, and the reason for the call. However, giving the gatekeepers a lot of information could be unproductive, as they could claim to pass the message and mostly won’t keep their word.
So, she avoids giving out too much detail for the gatekeeper’s questions, like saying, “I’m following up on an email,” as the reason for the call. “I just try to keep it very broad because the more questions they ask, the more they realize I am a salesperson trying to sell something, and they're just not gonna send me through,” she elaborates.
As for gatekeepers saying they would pass the message to the decision maker, she’d politely decline and would reply that she’d call back in a week or so. “And then, I’ll make a task for myself to call back in a day or two because I really want to catch the person on the phone or catch them while they're in the office,” she notes.
For a prospect with considerable email engagement, Asatta tries to build a rapport with the gatekeeper to get her call transferred. “I try to smooth them every time I call, ‘Hey, how are you doing today?’ Talk to them a little more before I just immediately ask for a transfer,” she explains. Having persistently reached out, the gatekeeper might transfer the call eventually, she adds.
v) First/Worst Cold Calls
a) First Cold Call:
Asatta recalls how unprepared she was during her first sales cold call. “I wasn't confident within myself, I wasn't confident within the script, I wasn't confident making the call,” she recalls. Her speech was interrupted by fillers like uhs and ums, and her nervousness sped up whatever she was saying.
To her luck, the prospect turned out to be a nice person. “He was just saying, ‘I think you should call me back when you know a little bit more of what you're calling about.’ ”
b) Worst Cold Call:
While she, like any SDRs, has faced many bad calls, the one that has scarred Asatta the most was a call she made during her call center days in college. She was collecting debt for hospital bills and used to cold call debtors about their payments. During one such call, a debtor yelled at her for around 20 minutes. “She went on a rant and she was just letting me have it about how I'm bringing her stress by calling about her hospital bills, how I'm messing up her mental health and how I need to give her a day to relax,” she remembers with a laugh.
As per the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Asatta feels that this experience prepared her for the calls she would eventually face as a salesperson. “No other call can really touch it. Someone just hanging up or saying not interested, that's like nothing, as long as you're not screaming in my ear for 20 minutes!”
vi) Asatta’s Tips From Her Successful Cold Calling Journey:
a) Use Humor To Navigate Tense Situations
Handling objections can be quite stressful for any SDR, especially if the prospect is not in a good mood and the conversation turns a bit heated. To ease the tension in such situations, Asatta uses humor by usually saying something unexpected.
If a prospect says, “I'm not interested” during a cold call before Asatta finishes a sentence, she will retort: “Well, how do you know you're not interested? You don't even know what we do!” This usually gets a little chuckle from the prospect, she recounts.
b) Call On Fridays Before Lunch
In Asatta’s experience, cold calling on Fridays before lunch yields good results as people generally tend to be in a good mood ahead of the weekend. “On Fridays, before lunch around one o'clock, people are in a good mood because it's Friday and they’re ready to go home. So sometimes they give a little more information,” she elaborates.
This also applies to gatekeepers, as they might be more willing to transfer the call to the decision maker on Fridays, according to her.
3. Why Does Asatta Prefer Cold Emailing Over Cold Calling?
Between cold calls and cold emails, Asatta prefers cold emailing primarily because of two reasons:
- She feels that her emails have a faster reach than calls. “With cold calls, I have to wait for someone to answer and not only to answer, I have to hope that they're gonna have a conversation,” she notes.
- According to her, a prospect replying “not interested” after reading an email is more credible than the prospect saying “not interested” during the cold call. “Because they at least were able to see some of the information to decide, ‘Okay, I'm really not interested’, versus a phone call and say not interested. They're just trying to get me off the phone,” she explains.
On a working day, she sends around 300 automated emails using Klenty and between 5 and 15 one-off emails. We’ll now get into why her cold emailing skills land so many meetings:
i) Selectively Personalizes Her Emails
As she reaches out to a large number of prospects every day, Asatta does not choose to personalize all of her outgoing emails. As a thumb rule, she sticks to using personalization templates for the initial emails in her cadences and personalizes only the replies. “If I do a lot of personalizing for the initial email, it's just a lot of work because they don't even necessarily always open it, read it, click it,” she says.
ii) Sticks To Minimal Personalization
Asatta likes to keep her email personalization minimal, or in her words, “just a little touch.” “Just something to be there to say, ‘You took just a few extra minutes to see something about me,’” she adds. Also, her personalization will be aimed at the company, not the individual prospect.
Her research would involve digging through the prospect’s LinkedIn and their company website and trying to find any recent event that she could use to personalize her email copy. For example, she found one of her prospects celebrating 20 years at their company. “I started off and I was like ‘Congratulations for celebrating 20 years!’ And then I kind of just went more into what I was doing,” she outlines.
Regarding image personalization, she usually attaches an infographic of her product with the email. “I'm still learning with that as to how I can better personalize things,” she points out.
iii) Includes Exclamation Points at the End of Subject Lines
When it comes to subject lines, Asatta never fails to include an exclamation point at the end. “For some reason, I just think exclamation points send urgency. It just makes me seem a little important,” she feels. She mostly caps the length of her subject lines to 4 words.
A couple of subject lines she uses are: “Thanks for the visit!” and “Contract expiration after [date]!”
On including the names of the prospect or their company, she now includes the prospect’s company names in the subject lines, as mentioning her prospect’s name in the subject lines didn’t lead to any notable increase in her open rates.
iv) Sends 12 Emails per Prospect Over Two Months
Each of her prospects will receive around 12 emails over a 60-day period, which is the length of her organization’s sales campaign. If the prospect did not respond in these 2 months, she would “recycle” them by including them again in the new 60-day campaign. The emails will be spaced out in the cadence over this period to not spam the prospect, she notes.
v) Doesn’t Send Any Breakup Emails
Asatta’s cold emailing does not involve sending any breakup emails. “You’re either gonna have to unsubscribe from my emails or tell me to stop contacting you. Outside of that, the emails will just keep on coming!” she describes her approach with a chuckle.
4. Tête-à-Tête With Asatta
i) One Thing That You Will Not Compromise on When It Comes to Work-Life Balance?
“I leave work at work. Once I leave for the day, once I check out, I will not open, look, check anything.”
ii) What Do You Do After Work To Rejuvenate Yourself?
“Throughout the day, if I'm making calls and I get drained, I'll just walk away from the computer and pause it for a second and then come back after I've regrouped already. So, by the time I go home, I'm already good.”
iii) Favorite Book?
“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. I like to read things about fulfilling your potential, to go a little harder, or just to change our way of thinking.”
iv) What Sales Training Did You Undergo?
“Initially, we got a script. And we did a little roleplay between each other. But overall, my main training came from learning the company.”
v) Best Sales Advice You’ve Ever Received?
“Have confidence in yourself and in your product.”
Interviewed and written by: Akileish R