25 Sales Prospecting Strategies to Help Your SDR Team Discover and Engage More Leads

Sean Lund-Brown

So, you want to bring in more leads but are out of ideas for your sales team? Stop looking at seasoned sales professionals for answers and turn your focus to your sales development representatives (SDR). The sales pipeline begins with them.

As you know, SDRs are trained for outreach, capturing prospective leads, and engaging with interested parties. As you also know, the sales cycle has become brutally challenging to pin down. Quality leads are not as convertible as they once were; clients want, and rightfully need, transparent answers, a reason to buy, and proof that the money they are about to spend is worth it. Because of this, you need to keep your SDR team up to date with quality training and effective current sales and prospecting strategies.

Some of these strategies may be brand-new to you; others you may already be using. Whatever the case, you won’t progress with a narrowminded scope of what your team can and cannot do.

Here are 25 strategies to help your SDR team discover and engage more leads.

Overcoming poor employee retention

We do need to address one very important issue first: employee retention. One 2021 analysis shows that a sales development representative remains in the position for less than a year. That is an incredibly short amount of time.

This retention rate makes strategies challenging to implement and maintain for an extended period. It’s like trying to clean a revolving glass door that people keep walking in and pushing their hands against. When someone integral to that strategy leaves, you need to start again or wipe the fingerprints from the same spot for the third time, so to speak.

That being said, you have to be diligent, flexible, and solution-forward internally when using these strategies. You cannot afford to be disrupted when someone leaves — you must insist on keeping the sales cycle going. If you stumble too much, you won’t even have a sales cycle! Remember, SDR is the first line of defense in the conversion process.

We’re not talking about keeping SDRs in that position longer. We’re talking about running your department through an old-fashioned self-audit that will help you keep a seasoned and effective SDR with you for as long as possible.

Look at your management, look at your employees, and ask them what they like about their job and what they are unhappy with. It could be that your SDRs are simply ready to climb the corporate ladder; maybe they feel like underpaid telemarketers; perhaps you’re setting monthly quotas too high, and the pressure is too much for them. Though it’s not entirely up to you to keep someone around (it’s their decision to leave), you can create an atmosphere that helps them cope with a challenging sales atmosphere.

1. Improve employee work conditions

Now that we’ve mentioned employee satisfaction, improving employee work conditions is our very first strategy for you. A happy sales development representative who wants to come to work each morning will drive the sales funnel, go out looking for leads, and nail down those appointments.

Creating a healthy, ergonomically correct work environment gives skilled SDRs the recognition they deserve. Offer them a chance to move up the ladder within the department and compensate them accordingly. Allow trustworthy employees to work remotely if their family situation changes. That way, you keep the knowledge and strength of that employee within the company. They can help train others, jump in as needed, and grow their sales careers.

However you want to impact SDR retention positively, go for it. You have less than a year to make them want to stay.

2. Use web chat with a human behind the screen

As generations age out, it’s becoming apparent that people don’t want to speak to each other but still want human interaction on some level. That’s why using web chat is so effective for sales intake.

The potential lead doesn’t have to go through any automated messages; they don’t have to feel anxious speaking or worried that they’ll have to put the representative on hold while looking for information. No, they can go online to your website, click “speak with a representative now,” and chat like they would on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or any other web-based chat platform.

It’s a passive form of discovery, but an effective one since you’ll be dealing with individuals who want you to discover them. An interested party will contact an SDR, and that SDR can quickly determine if this is a meaningful lead or not. Put differently, if that lead reaches out to a sales development team member, they already have some interest in your service or product. An SDR can then note to the sales representative about this lead, schedule an appointment, and move the sales funnel forward.

Even better, the sales rep can look at the transcript from the conversation with the SDR and pull references to misunderstandings or even expand upon opportunities to turn an unsure lead into a conversion. With Smith.ai, you can get all the benefits of a web chat with a human touch. Our chat is staffed by live agents 24/7, and we even offer English to Spanish translations in real time. We can help you convert leads and satisfy customer leads while you handle other aspects of running your business.

3. Start a Discord chat

Image Source: Discord

Building upon the second strategy, Discord is a great way to build a community of potential leads. It’s especially relevant among younger generations and alternative forms of business (YouTube channels, brands based on personalities, etc.). If you are marketing to a younger demographic or run a kind of alternative business, you may want to consider setting up a Discord server for your company.

SDRs can moderate the chat, look for new or interested people in your product and service, and follow up with the Discord user accordingly. They may even choose to follow up publicly, which could be useful for the general Discord community.

4. Engage a lead using a conversational tone

Even though your SDRs aren’t selling the product, they are still developing your client base. Advise your team to use a friendlier and more conversational tone. This will help them avoid sounding transactional while handling leads.

Looking back to our web chat section, this is, in part, why web chat works so well. It’s now perfectly acceptable to treat leads as people with individual backstories, not just numbers for intake. Transactional sales have been around forever, and it once was an effective way to convert meaningful leads. But the formality of it is quickly becoming unfamiliar and unwanted. We associate it more with artificial intelligence (AI) and automated voice messages than humans.

To adapt to a more conversational sales development interaction:

Be dialogue-driven. Ask them how they’re doing, what their name is, etc., before you start the “sales pitch.” Be more than a human contact form.

Follow the lead’s lead. If they use a smiley face emoji after typing “Thank you,” use one back with a “You’re welcome.” Don’t go overboard with emojis, though.

Be compassionate and empathetic. It’s customer service 101, but when you’re trying to gauge a lead’s interest, your employees may minimize their role. Reassure them that it’s OK to open the doors with “open arms.”

Be solution-forward. If there’s something keeping someone from signing up or moving to the next level, find a solution that will make them comfortable with taking a chance.

Know when to stop. In contrast to finding solutions, know when you need to cut your losses. Always end the conversation with a potential lead on a good note, even if you didn’t capture them.

In other words, treat someone the way you would want to be treated. You want a sales representative, even if it’s an intake and outreach representative, to be friendly, understanding, informative, and flexible to a lead’s needs.

5. Stop cold calling

Sources: Ringlead and KellerResearch Center at Baylor University

It’s a fact of SDR life: at some point, you’re going to make some cold calls. Companies provide sales development departments with long lists of phone numbers, names, and information. Whether you’re the one making the call or on the receiving end, unsolicited phone calling isn’t always the most well-received.

Sales development departments have started to transition to unsolicited text messages, but it’s still not the best thing for a potential lead to receive. If there were a spam inbox for texts, it’d end up in there. So, stop cold calling; put down the phone. Preserve your reputation as a company that respects someone’s mailbox and engage leads in other ways.

6. Newsletters and personalized emails

Instead of calling or texting someone, send them an email or newsletter. Pick out the wordsmiths in your sales development department and have them curate emails to individual people.

Using a service like MailChimp may come in handy in this case as you can create tagged lists of people for certain categories they may be interested in. For instance, if you run a music photography and videography service, you may tag a list of touring musicians and send out a newsletter about your services to them. On the other hand, you could also have a sample email that your SDRs cater to a lead.

Your SDRs don’t have to sell anything in this email – that isn’t their job. But the email or newsletter they send out should briefly explain the services your company offers, how you can help the potential lead directly, and who they can get in touch with (the sales representative) if they are interested in pursuing your services.

Most importantly, you need to personalize the message you send out. If you have a list of registered bloggers and their websites, artists, and their social handles, or are researching leads on social media and come across someone who promotes themselves and their work personally, have your SDR team research these individuals. Have them mention in the email that they noticed a lead has an upcoming tour or wrote a blog post that suggests needing a solution your company offers.

Make your lead feel like their content, and therefore them, matters. Your potential lead could end up turning into a meaningful one.

7. Better understand your lead profile

If you want to capture meaningful leads, make sure you’re connecting with people who’re interested in your service strictly based on their preferences. Sure, an SDR helps filter out who is genuinely interested in your company. But knowing your audience before you jump into any sales funnel is equally, if not more, important.

The success of an SDR is partially your responsibility. If you send them on a prospecting mission, you need to tell them if they’re mining for gold, rubies, or silver, so to speak. Tell them explicitly who your audience is, what they are interested in, and the kind of leads you want.

8. Find a rhythm and stick to it

Here’s a sticking point for lead engagement. You’ve already been advised to know when to stop and to steer away from phone calls, but sometimes persistence isn’t a bad thing.

To be honest, finding the balance in sales development is not easy. One day, a development rep isn’t doing enough to reach out to a potential lead; another day, the person on the other end of the phone is screaming at them, telling them to take them off their list. Eventually, you wind up with a sales development rep who is exhausted, unsure of whether they’re doing the right thing, and ready to walk out the door.

Although you can’t avoid customers who feel pestered, you can, as a manager, set a standard rhythm for your employee to follow. With a set of guidelines, a schedule, whatever you wish to call it, they’ll at least know that they are operating as is standard to the company, regardless of what Mrs. Johnson screams at them on the other line.

For instance, let’s look at a month:

Week 1: Send out a personalized email.

Week 2: Send a follow-up to the email accompanied by a message on LinkedIn.

Week 3: Call once at the beginning of the workweek and again at the end if they haven’t connected with you already.

Week 4: Send another email. You can automate further emails at this point.

The idea is that once you initiate client communication through a personalized message (not just a fill-in-the-blank email), you attempt to make contact throughout the month. You enter their radar and stay on their radar. Don’t call them more than five or six times, and don’t spam them with email. Operate a healthy email campaign.

Let’s look at another example, this time from SDR experts Cience. Since SDRs typically follow a 14-day campaign that starts on the first contact.

● On day three, they send another follow-up email.

● On day five, they send a LinkedIn message and a comment.

● On day eight, they follow up with another email.

● On day 11, they send a video explaining who they are and the company.

● And on day 14, they follow up with an email and phone call.

See how they only call the person once? Take note of how traditional strategies are changing.

9. Use video prospecting

TikTok is still going strong, but eventually, something will come along to replace it. However, one piece of lasting information we have gained from the platform is that short-form videos are incredibly effective. SDRs should incorporate the short-form video style into their strategies.

Have them create a professional TikTok and encourage them to record 60-second-long videos introducing themselves, the product, and how users can get in touch with them to set up an appointment with a sales representative. Users will see this video, and those interested can comment for more information or send them a direct message. It’s yet another form of passive discovery.

10. Teamwork makes the dream work

Teams tend to operate better when they have a goal. Instead of setting monthly quotas for individuals, think about holding weekly meetings to discuss your expectations for the week. We understand that quotas may help management evaluate employees, but luck contributes to SDR success rates.

Your employee could be doing everything right, and the potential lead is just not interested. There are ways you can assess employee performance outside of quota. So, instead of working on that individual basis, think “team” while you’re working to achieve a goal. Make it a team quota. You can then recognize an individual’s outstanding performance at the end of that week when you reach that goal.

Set a goal for discovering new leads. Assign a group to research new leads. Once they find them, hand the information off to a group assigned to outreach that week. It’ll smooth out productivity and keep the job interesting for your sales development reps. It also won’t overload your employees.

11. Remove the busy work from an SDR’s workload

Sales development may be an entry-level job, but it’s still an important job in which SDRs need to focus on their main task: capturing leads and setting up appointments with sales representatives. Anything you can do to automate administrative tasks will help an SDR focus on customer service and the crux of their jobs.

The virtual receptionists here at Smith.ai can take care of these tasks that might take away from the other responsibilities your team needs to take care of.

12. Engage a lead with active listening

Engage a lead with your ears. Any good sales professional knows that selling is more than just talking – it’s listening. Get your sales development team into the habit of active listening. Educational websites like Udemy.com and Coursera.org offer special courses for beginners and professionals on listening, so you can encourage your team to improve this invaluable soft skill.

13. Keep marketing and your SDR team connected

To keep members of your SDR team in the loop, ensure they know exactly what’s going out of the marketing department. Your sales development team should be aware of any research on clients and campaigns that may have already reached the ears and eyes of potential leads. That way, when they go hunting for leads, they have a better idea of where to look.

14. Maintain an effective CRM

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform is a must for SDRs, and it does assist in lead discovery and engagement. In fact, you may already use CRM software. If you don’t, you should definitely invest in upgrading your current lead tracking system to an established and effective CRM program.

CRM compiles clients’ information and tracks their status within the sales funnel. It prevents data loss and allows SDRs to intake new leads easily. If the marketing research team is populating the CRM, it’ll help SDRs engage with those suggested leads faster, too; no one has to wait for a list to hit the table.

15. Instagram or LinkedIn campaign

Similar to short-form videos on TikTok, Instagram is a great way to generate interest and bring leads into the sales funnel. Your SDRs can essentially become influencers on their personal accounts, promoting your product and service and capturing leads through follower-based interest. Or you can set up a company account where SDRs can post videos that coincide with marketing campaigns.

Users will engage with these videos, asking questions to clarify the sales development rep’s points. Your social media manager or SDR employee can then respond to these questions, mentioning that setting up an appointment is the best way to learn more.

LinkedIn is also an excellent way to bring in serious professionals as leads. Because you can so easily cater to a specific industry through this platform, you can run a campaign that consists of relatable blog posts, advice columns, and promoted appointment times. Being an active presence on LinkedIn is also an easy way to legitimize your business.

Those who follow your page will share interesting content and, therefore, expand readership. See who likes, shares, and comments on those posts and advise your SDR team to follow up with those individuals.

16. Establish credibility fast

Productive engagement can happen only when a lead feels comfortable with you. When you first contact a potential lead, establish credibility fast. Don’t let them guess your company’s legitimacy. Give your sales development reps a script they can follow that lays out the facts.

17. Throw away the jargon

Nothing creates divides between people faster than a misunderstanding. Advise your sales development team that they aren’t there to impress potential leads with fancy words or industry jargon. Make the connection using plain language. This is especially true if your development rep makes a public comment on a Facebook, LinkedIn, or another social media page. Other people will see what you have to say, and they may not understand the industry’s lingo.

18. Don’t sell anything

Your sales development team members are not “salespeople.” They are here to generate interest and set up an appointment with a sales representative. It is a fine line, but train your team not to push the product. Rather, when engaging a lead, have them discuss the opportunity for the lead to find out more about the product and how the product could help the lead as opposed to their purchase of the product.

19. Use an automated SDR service

Sometimes the best way to improve your lead prospecting team is to grow the department. If this sounds like something you need to do, consider using a third-party answering and SDR service. Smith.ai offers a whole host of services, one of which is 24/7 sales outreach.

We are backed by real people – not just AI services – which means you can give sales development representatives the facts they need to know before going into the call with someone. They’ll then professionally reach out to potential leads and capture their information, log any important feedback, and set up appointments on your behalf.

Smith.ai is a great option to have in your back pocket if money is tight, but you still want the quality customer service you know only a human can provide.

20. Offer to set up an appointment

Don’t assume that your potential lead is going to say, “Set up an appointment for me!” You may have to lead the witness, so to speak. Though you shouldn’t take advantage of a lead, you can assume that there is some pliability; a suggestion or two will benefit you and the client.

Be sure to let them know that an appointment is not a commitment to buy. Some potential leads may be hesitant to schedule an appointment because they think they are obligated to buy the service or product. Though we hope they’ll convert, we don’t want to push their comfort levels.

21. Enter the world of Reddit and Quora

Have your SDR team scour advice and question-based web discussion boards on Reddit and Quora. Make sure they are looking at discussion boards that fit your company’s audience profile. SDRs will be able to scope out and contact users who would benefit from your service or product that way. A simple comment on how your company can provide a solution to a problem may be all someone needs to pursue your SDR for a follow-up appointment.

22. Hit the radio station

Phone outreach may be turning into an antiquated practice fast, but radio stations are still relevant and an occasionally overlooked resource for sales. Radio stations will sometimes host an “Ask a Professional” segment where an accountant, a doctor, etc., will answer questions from people who call in.

Arrange to have an SDR be that professional and equip them with the knowledge they need to answer basic questions. If the caller is interested in arranging an appointment, one of the producers or another of your employees can continue the conversation off the air and take their information.

23. Have a solid Twitter presence

Twitter is the original hashtag community builder and is still widely used today. By engaging in hashtags relevant to your company, SDRs can discover people looking for solutions you can provide. Make sure your SDR engages with these hashtags, too. Just “looking” for someone isn’t engagement. Be an active community member.

24. Giveaways

Giveaways? Yes, giveaways. People flock to free, no-commitment services and products, and discovering new leads this way may be the boost your SDR team needs. Sales development engagement doesn’t have to be emails and phone calls. It can be fun, too.

Hosting a giveaway as part of an SDR social media campaign gives the potential lead something tangible to base their decision on. Get the lead’s address and send them a sample of what you’re selling or a link where they can sign up for a free trial, no commitment. If they like what they’re using, they may be more inclined to set up a follow-up appointment with a sales representative.

25. Encourage questions from your team

If one of your sales development reps hits a wall in researching leads, encourage them to ask questions. We can learn a lot from the next generation of professionals; they have their finger on the pulse of new technologies and ways of being more than some seasoned pros do. But don’t forget the potential value you have to your employee.

You may have suggestions, and you probably do, that will help your SDR team exceed expectations and find meaningful leads. So, never make them feel bad about asking questions. Help them learn. And once they’ve been working for you for a while, let them take the reins and put their knowledge to the test.

Discovery can help you continually engage your SDR team

Your sales development team will most likely be young, entry-level professionals who want to pursue a career in sales or marketing. They will be eager learn what it’s like to be at the front door of the sales funnel. So, show them how to be smart lead prospectors and flawless conversationalists.

Show them that discovering and engaging leads doesn’t have to stay rooted in traditional strategies. Incorporate social media, new ways of conversing with people online, and an empathetic and driven workplace that makes them want to stay. You can also show them that “discovery” doesn’t mean you have to be the one looking. Sometimes, it’s about making irresistible content and drawing leads to you.

You may find that incorporating new strategies and ways of thinking into your routine is just what you need to improve your SDR employee retention rate, too.

Smith.ai’s services can support your sales prospecting trategies

Smith.ai can make sales prospecting easier to manage for your SDR team. We understand that it takes time to look for the right leads that you can build a relationship with. This can be a big undertaking for most companies, so our services are designed to help make your marketing and sales campaigns flow smoothly.

Our virtual receptionists can handle all your answering service needs, from 24/7 phone answering services with a live agent to answering text messages through our SMS text answering service. We also offer:

Appointment bookings

CRM integration

After-hours answering

Warm phone transfers

Outbound callbacks to web leads

Facebook chat answering

You can learn more about our services here or schedule a 30-minute consultation with us on our Calendly. You also can find information about our general pricing and our chat services pricing, which include a 14-day money-back guarantee.

For more information, you can call or text us at (650) 727-6484 or email us at hello@smith.ai. You can also chat with our team live, 24/7, right here on the site.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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