Our sales managers have a pretty nifty party trick. Give them a handful of brand new inside sales reps and a couple of months, and they’ll be able to tell you (with shockingly good accuracy) the reps who will be successful and the reps who won’t.

Why is that? It’s not because they’re psychic, obviously. It’s because nearly all top-performing inside sales reps share similar traits. 

If you want to become a better SDR, these are the seven skills you’ll want to improve.

They Take Ownership and Plan Ahead

The best salespeople take ownership of their goals and plan how to achieve them. In other words, they don’t expect success just to happen. They are continually thinking about how to reach a new prospect, which tactics are working and what else they can do to hit their targets.

Time management skills are fundamental to success. Great salespeople are great time managers, writes David J.P. Fisher. You have a lot of work to do. There are a lot of plates to juggle. Those who can identify the most important tasks and stay laser-focused on them are the ones who will thrive. 

Great salespeople rarely switch off as a result. Sales isn’t the kind of job where you can log out at 5 pm. You have to contemplate the job around the clock. That might not sound appealing to a lot of new reps, but it’s the truth. The people that succeed are the ones who know they need to be messaging people on Linkedin in the evening or planning who they’re going to call first thing tomorrow. That’s not to say work interferes with their personal life, but they are willing to dedicate themselves to their career in a way most professionals won’t.

They Work Hard, They Work Selfishly

Great salespeople are relentless and selfish in their work. As we discussed above, they rarely stop thinking about their job when the workday ends. But they also don’t take many breaks in the middle of it, either. When the rest of the team is taking it easy at 3 pm, a great SDR is still working the phone or prospecting on Linkedin.

The best reps don’t care what their peers think of them. They have the drive to prove themselves and improve themselves. They don’t take it easy. They don’t coast. They are always working on the next task and the next opportunity. It’s that work ethic that makes them better. As the team at Salesloft say: none of us went to school for sales. You aren’t born knowing this stuff. “Being exceptional requires sweat equity and – much like Tiger – sheer drive.” You need to pay your dues to succeed in this business. And that requires a lot of hard work.

They Are Passionate About Sales and Being the Best

“Exceptional salespeople are competitive by their nature,” says psychologist Sherrie Campbell. It is in the blood of every great inside salesperson. Being okay or average isn’t enough. They have to be the best. It’s this competitive streak that makes them work so hard and so relentlessly.

At the same time, they don’t beat themselves up when they fail or miss a target. Like a great sportsperson, they can accept defeat and learn from it. That way, they’re better placed to win in the future. 

Great SDRs aren’t just passionate about winning. They are also passionate about mastering their craft and becoming the best salesperson possible. “Even more potent than grit or ambition, a passion for selling may well be the top trait for sales professionals,” says SalesHacker CEO Max Altschuler. “Doing what you love will simply compel you to excel in your field and achieve success consistently.”

“Doing what you love will simply compel you to excel in your field and achieve success consistently”

They Are Emotionally Detached… But in a Good Way

Our best performers don’t sweat the small stuff. They don’t let rejection after rejection get them down. They don’t let one bad day ruin their week. Instead, they can go home, switch off, and come back fresh in the morning, ready to do it all over again. Great SDRs also tend to be optimists. Being optimistic “helps you maintain a sense of balance when things go awry,” says B2B selling expert Geoffrey James. They know rejection isn’t forever, so they don’t let these feelings get to them. 

More importantly, they can maintain this attitude day, after day, after day. It’s one thing to be able to detach yourself from failure for a single day; it’s another to be able to do it consistently. This doesn’t mean great SDRs are hollow or emotionally stunted, far from it. In fact, it’s their empathy that allows them to connect with prospects and understand their needs in a way that leads to sales

They Are Ridiculously Persistent

Not only do the best sellers refuse to sweat the small stuff, but they also have a dogged belief that the next sales call will lead to success. That after 150 rejections, the 151st call will lead to a sale. And if that call doesn’t convert, then the 152nd call will. 

Persistent and purpose are closely linked. These persistent people often have a tangible goal they want to achieve. Whether it is a first house or a new handbag, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that something, anything, is driving them. 

Sales is a long game, writes Bluleadz’s Rob Steffens. “Those who aren’t ready to buy today might be ready weeks, months, or even years later,” he says. “So persevering and maintaining positive relationships is vital to success in the future.” Great SDRs understand the truth in this and put it into practice every day.

They Listen Carefully

Forget the alpha male myth of the salesperson. The best SDRs aren’t the loudest ones in the room or the ones with the gift of the gab. The best salespeople are the ones willing to shut up and listen.

You don’t know a thing when you first come into this role. How well you succeed is a matter of how well you listen to experts. If you can tame your ego, shut your mouth and be willing to listen, you’ll learn a lot from your line managers.

Listening to prospects can help you book appointments, too. Always be listening is just as important as always be closing, says Stephanie Scheller, CEO of Scheller Enterprises. “Ignoring this concept and thinking that I knew better literally cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed sales earlier in my career.”

Rather than rush their sales pitch, high-performing SDRs seek to understand the pain points of their prospects. They can then explain how their product will meet those specific needs.

They Have a Good Grasp of the Written Word

The phone isn’t the only tool in the SDR’s arsenal. Yes, picking it up and talking to prospects is still the best way to engage them. But there’s also a surprising amount of written communication involved in being a great salesperson. 

Emails can be an incredibly effective outreach method, for instance. The same goes for Linkedin. Both require a good grasp of spelling and grammar. Both also need reps to understand the power of storytelling and the way words can sell. 

“Stories sell,” writes G2’s Izabelle Hundrev. “Telling a story helps others relate to you, and it brings them away from the “sales” aspect of the conversation. If you’re able to connect with prospects on a deeper level, you’re building trust and fostering a stronger connection”

Don’t worry if you don’t possess all these traits at the moment. Very few are inherent, but all of them can be learned. The important thing is to be aware of the skills you lack and work hard to improve them. The only thing stopping you from becoming a better salesperson is you. 


Images by: Cytonn Photography, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Johanna Buguet