So, you drank the kool-aid, you want to get into SaaS Sales.
Promises of a ton of money, a flexible work environment with insane benefits, and plenty of custom company swag have lured you in.
The good news? All of the above is true.
The bad news? The only way in is an SDR role. Arguably the hardest role one will do in their career. And nobody is going to hand it to you.
Other names for a Sales Development Representative (SDR), include BDR (Business), MDR (Market), ADR (Account), and even ISRs, Inside Sales Reps.
Many names, but they all describe the same function = SDRs are responsible for sourcing net new business through outbound (sometimes inbound) prospecting efforts, working the top of the funnel for their org’s GTM engine.
The beauty of an SDR role is there are virtually no barriers to entry, anyone can get in.
Teachers, personal trainers, college grads, and even high school dropouts all make solid hires and go on to have wildly successful careers in Sales.
Now, there are three traits absolutely vital to succeed as an SDR and be a top performer: curiosity, discipline, and drive.
However, breaking into SaaS itself isn’t actually that hard because the SDR role is entry-level, and 90% of everyone else applying is not taking the time to stand out in their outreach to hiring managers when submitting applications.
To land an SDR job in SaaS, one must become an SDR.
How? Follow this guide.
Phase 1: Marketing Yourself
Job interviews are all about first impressions.
Unfortunately, there just isn't enough time in the day for recruiters and hiring managers to really take the time to get to know you.
They use two things to judge prospective candidates: resumes and LinkedIn profiles.
If either of these isn't up to par, you will not stand out and they'll hit the "next" button.
- Prep Your Resume
Choosing a Template
It's 2022 - enough with the black-and-white resumes that look like a 1920s newspaper.
Seriously. When did we ever decide we couldn't use pictures, colors, and creative formatting?
We didn't. Corporate America set the standard, forcing everyone to use black, white, and boring resumes with no headshots in an attempt to make things as unbiased as possible.
Well, boohoo. You are going into Sales, one of the most competitive industries you could ever get into. You need to leverage whatever you can to stand out amongst the other 1,000 SDRs trying to get your prospect's attention.
Resumes are no different - scrap your boring resume and find a new template, something that would actually capture your attention.
Although it is geared toward SDR Leadership, here is a link to my resume as an example.
Clean, simple, but colorful, catching the eye of the recruiter or hiring manager reviewing it.
My headshot also instantly puts a face to a name, leaning into the psychology of human connection. Whoever reviews my resume will feel like they know me better than they do the 100 other applicants who were simply a name on a paper.
According to Indeed, recruiters look at resumes for only 6-7 seconds.
Your colorful resume with a headshot gives you a slight edge, disrupting the pattern of monotonous black/white resumes, and setting the hook for them to read a bit longer.
But you still only have a few seconds to capture their attention.
Using color to call out a bold Summary statement is a great way to tell the recruiter exactly what you are looking for. You can also rename "Summary" to "Mission", "Objective" or any other related variant.
Feel free to steal my summary statement and tweak it to what feels good to you, but when you are writing it, you should feel a sense of passion about the words you are putting down.
One pro tip is to tailor your summary statement to the specific company you are applying for.
For example, if I were applying to a healthcare tech company:
"My desire is to contribute to an innovative, world-changing, healthcare tech company through developing a high-performing sales development program."
Or a fintech company:
"My desire is to contribute to an innovative, world-changing, financial tech company through developing a high-performing sales development program."
This makes you seem like you are passionate about finding a role within the specific industry you are applying to.
The skills you list on your resume need to be directly related to the actual SDR role:
- Objection handling
- Working emails or phones
- Effective communicator
- Strong organizational skills
How do you get those skills?
Be creative: I'm sure you've done some sort of prospecting in your life before. Maybe to get into your dream school, maybe in a former role doing something that could be considered prospecting. Whatever you do, just be sure you can give a logical example of how it relates.
What if you don't have any related experiences?
Take courses: There are so many free courses you can attend online, you don't even need to finish them before adding them to your resume, just say "I've been proactively taking courses to develop these skills." Aspireship, SalesForce Trailhead, Hubspot Academy, and LinkedIn Learning all offer fantastic courses on everything related to the life of an SDR.
Even if you do have related experience from prior roles, take the free courses anyway, it shows you are a self-starter and won't sit around waiting for things to be handed to you.
As a natural outcome of taking the courses listed above, you will get familiar with various platforms commonly used in Sales, and you'll be able to add experience with them to your resume.
Every SDR's toolkit includes a CRM (think Hubspot, Salesforce), sequencing tool (think Outreach, Salesloft), prospecting tool (LinkedIn is the go-to), data tool (think Apollo or ZoomInfo), and a dialer (often embedded within a sequencing tool, but real dialers include Kixie, Connect&Sell, and MonsterConnect).
Pickup CRM experience by leveraging the free courses Hubspot and Salesforce offers.
Get prospecting experience by finding open roles and the hiring mangers of those roles on LinkedIn.
Get sequencing experience by dropping the emails you found into some email templates to send to the hiring managers of your top companies (Outplay offers a free plan).
Heck, you can even use Apollo to find their phone numbers and spin up a free Kixie trial to cold call your hiring managers - now that would get my attention!
It is way too easy to get the experience needed to land a fire SDR role, if you take action and don't wait around for someone to give you a job.
Hot take, but keep your resume to one page. I've reviewed hundreds of resumes, and the second page rarely does anything for me.
You either have relevant experience, or you don't.
If you are someone early in your career, it's probably easier for you to keep your resume to one page. This is good, keep it simple and concentrated.
If you are making a career change after some years as a professional, resist the temptation to detail every single role you've been in. Highlight the most relevant and/or most recent roles you were in, and how they relate to the SDR world.
My resume doesn't demonstrate this, but you should have two sections of experience on your resume:
- Sales Experience
This section should come first. Detail any recent roles you held and highlight any related sales experience.
Speak the lingo and use the buzzwords, even if they don't directly apply.
Example: Calling other stores to check inventory could classify as having experience cold calling, just be sure you can back that up without comprising your integrity. It's okay to bat a league above.
We (hiring managers) are looking for you to be goal-oriented, hungry for success, organized, creative, and curious learners. Tailor your work experiences to those key pillars.
- Leadership Experience
This section should come after your sales experience section. Taking initiative, being a self-starter, and demonstrating confidence through showing ownership are all crucial to the success of an SDR.
Your leadership experience is the proof that hiring managers will be looking for to verify whether or not you have what it takes to crush it in Sales.
Detail any leadership experiences you can think of here.
Examples include school project leader, leader of an academic or philanthropic organization, sports team captain, or team leader of various work initiatives in past roles.
- Update Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the go-to source of truth for the SaaS industry. In other words, if you don't exist on LinkedIn, you don't exist.
Your profile should be clean, authentic, and very clear that you are looking for an SDR role.
Upload a headshot, a nice background, personalize your header, write a simple but meaningful bio, and make sure the work experience on your LinkedIn profile is identical to what is on your actual resume.
Here is my profile as an example, and here is my good friend Tyler Conway's profile, who just landed a dream SDR gig at Rattle after applying the principles laid out in this guide.
Added bonus, have people in your network write recommendations on your profile, validating that you belong in sales and would crush it given the right opportunity based on previous work they've seen you accomplish.
Phase 2: Hunting Your Prey
With your resume and profile looking good, it's time to time to execute and become an SDR to find your dream job.
- Finding A Role
You can find SDR roles in so many places, but LinkedIn and Indeed will be your best bet.
Remember to search for all of the variants of the SDR name (ADR/MDR/BDR/ISR), and also run some LinkedIn searches on "hiring xDR" to find the most recent posts of managers looking to grow their teams.
As you come across roles, put them in one of two buckets:
You know this role is going to be good, and you want it, bad.
- Don't Know
Not enough detail or context to feel strongly one way or another, but why not apply?
These buckets will inform your prospecting strategy.
In a real SDR role, you will have to profile your target accounts:
- Who are the decision-makers?
- What value you are going to offer them?
- How are you going to get their attention?
You will do the same exact thing with your target companies. If helpful, spin up a Google Sheet to keep track of who you reached out to and when, so you can be consistent with follow-ups and familiar with key contacts.
There are two hiring manager profiles for the SDR role, recruiters and managers. Recruiters' titles are obvious, and managers will have some form of a title like "Sales Development Manager", "SDR Manager", or "Director of Sales Development".
Lean into your resume, tell a story, be authentic, and call out something specific that excited you about the company, the role, or the opportunity. This shows you did your research, understand the value prop, and are genuinely passionate about what they do.
Example: "Jack, the work you are doing at CallBlitz so that no sales rep ever has to dial alone again hits deep, I know what it feels like to not have the support of a team, would be honored to connect and learn more about the opportunity to empower remote sales teams across the globe."
Document your value statement next to each role so you know where to focus your message, you'll use this statement in the next step.
- Getting Attention
On average, a hiring manager has hundreds of applications to sort through. Most people just send a resume in, and that's it.
At that point, all you are is a piece of paper in a stack of resumes that all look (and sound) the same.
With the updated resume you crafted in Phase 1, your resume will definitely catch their eye, but this won't be enough to secure the interview.
So, we're going outbound!
This is where you can leverage the tool stack outlined above to come up with a sequence and process to reach your top targets.
99% of hiring managers and recruiters in the SaaS space live on LinkedIn, this is where you will hunt.
The best way to capture the attention of an SDR Manager is to demonstrate to them you are confident and comfortable with the daily activities of an SDR.
To stand out, you are going to make videos expressing your interest in the role you are applying to (using your value statement) and send them to your prospects.
There are free video tools like Vidyard and Loom built for outbound video selling.
You'll want to make types two videos, one for each bucket of the companies you're applying to.
Each video should be a recording of you, dressed sharp with a nice smile, introducing yourself and your background, both no longer than 30 seconds, 45 tops.
The only difference in the videos will be the personalization, your 'Dream' companies will get a hyper-personalized video, and your 'Don't Know' companies will get a generic video that you only have to record one time and can send in bulk.
Here's what a template could look like, however, do whatever feels best to you:
"Hey [hiring manager]! Jack Knight here, applying for your open [role] at [company].
Was super excited to see it open up and wanted to reach out immediately to connect, I already submitted an application on your website, but hopefully this helps you put a face to a name!
Looks like [company] is solving for [problem], the value prop of [solution] is a no-brainer to me.
Super quick background on me - I'm organized, hungry to succeed, and a lifelong learner. I'm looking for a role where I can be challenged, coached, and invested in as an SDR.
Would love to learn more about the opportunity if you think it makes sense, thanks!"
"Hey there! Jack Knight here, was super excited to see your (SDR/BDR/etc) role open up and wanted to reach out immediately to connect, I already submitted an application on your website, but hopefully this helps you put a face to a name!
Super quick background on me - I'm organized, hungry to succeed, and a lifelong learner. I'm looking for a role where I can be challenged, coached, and invested in as an SDR.
Would love to learn more about the opportunity if you think it makes sense, thanks so much!"
Don't forget to apply to these opportunities online before reaching out. This demonstrates that you take initiative and are a go-getter.
Now, to actually send your video, all you need to do is go on LinkedIn, find your prospect's profile, click the "connect" button, and before hitting "send", hit the "add a note" button.
A prompt will open allowing you to drop a message along with your connect request.
Keep it short and simple:
Hey [name]! Just threw in an application for your open SDR role, made you a video expressing my interest in the role, and wanted to put a face to a name, talk soon! [insert URL to the video you made].
If you execute the process above, you are guaranteed multiple initial interviews.
Buckle up, it's going to be a ride!
Phase 3: Selling Yourself
Assuming the process detailed above worked for you, it's probably time to jump on your first few interviews, congrats! The hardest part is over, you got this.
- Interview Prep
Don't overthink this. Remember that the person interviewing you is just as nervous as you are - they have to impress you and sell you both the company and role!
Their goal is to have you think that this opportunity is the coolest thing since sliced bread. The pressure is mutual.
Confidence comes through preparation, so make sure you carve out a solid 15 minutes before every interview you have to gather yourself.
For every interview you jump into, you should have the following list checked off:
- Personal rapport builder about your interviewer (location or education are easy ones! The best is referencing a mutual connection if you have one).
- Strong value statement for why you applied to that specific company.
- In a comfortable sitting or standing position (highly recommend standing during interviews, confidence is 3x'd!).
- Look sharp, yes, we're in SaaS and nobody cares, but lowkey, hiring managers care, so show them that you care too.
- Keep a glass of water nearby in case your throat gets dry during the interview.
- Join 5 minutes before, being on time is being late! Plus you can check your video/audio prior to the meeting starting.
- Answering Questions
This topic deserves its own guide. To keep it brief, hiring managers want to see you exemplify the key pillars of the role through the way you answer their questions.
Their questions are designed to screen for thing ings like confidence, initiative, curiosity, ownership, problem-solving, and organization.
Basically, they are asking you if you have what it takes to succeed, and are looking for concrete examples of you demonstrating those core competencies.
So, be confident, be specific, and overcome any objection they throw at you, just like you would in an actual SDR role.
- Asking Questions
When a hiring manager gives you the opportunity to ask questions in an interview, they are looking for two things: curiosity and business savvy.
In 90% of the interviews I've done as a hiring manager, the candidates ask the same 3 questions:
- What are you looking for in a good hire?
- What is the culture like?
- What are the next steps?
On the surface, these aren't terrible questions, in fact, they are important to know. However, when a hiring manager hears the same 3 questions over, and over, and over again, they lose their significance.
This is your chance to SHINE - to show them you are a critical thinker, that you have been thoughtful in this role, and that you care about quality answers.
Here are some more interesting questions you can ask hiring managers to get them excited:
- What does your ramp/training program look like?
- Where do you see most new hires get stuck, and how can I get ahead of that curve?
- How do you measure success in this role, beyond the topline metric of meetings booked?
- How has the team been performing in terms of attainment over the past two quarters?
- What challenges do you see ahead for the program, and where do you think the team could come together to plug those gaps?
- What are your top reps doing consistently to lead and win?
- Are there any resources you would suggest I check out in terms of getting more familiar with the product and market as I go through the interview process?
- What caught your eye about my outreach?
*this is in reference to the video you sent, it's a way to humbly brag about your prospecting skills!
This list of questions is a surefire way to set yourself apart from other applicants.
The worst thing you can do is show up with the same three questions they hear every single interview - even worse, show up with no questions, this is an immediate disqualifier!
Before you move on, there are two very important tips to include in your interview flow:
- Whenever you ask the hiring manager a question and they respond, validate that you possess the qualities in the response they give. Example:
You: "What are your top reps doing consistently to lead and win?"
Manager: "They are super disciplined about their approach, and don't give up."
You: "Makes total sense, I wouldn't be where I am today if I wasn't a disciplined person, and giving up is simply not an option in my universe."
*ask next question*
- The #1 most important tip you can take away from this: CLOSE THE INTERVIEW!
You are being hired into a role where you are going to be trying to sell interest in a meeting to people and close them by getting them to agree to a follow-up meeting. Interviews are no different.
The way to do this is, at the very end of your interview when they ask "any final questions?", pause, look them directly in the eye, and say something to the effect of:
"Look, I'm an open-book kind of person. I love being coached, and the only way for me to get better is through transparent feedback. Based on your review of my resume and our conversation today, is there any reason or hesitation that would prevent you from recommending I move forward in this process? If so, I'd love the opportunity to discuss while we're here live."
Asking this question is a gentle and natural way to get the interviewer's honest thoughts: if they like you, they'll tell you, if they don't, they'll give you some soft feedback. Either way, you will know if you are moving forward or not based on their response.
This also naturally forces the interviewer to detail the next steps of the interview process without you having to ask. If they like you, they'll tell you what to expect next, if they don't they may be more vague and say something like "I'll gather my notes and feedback and have our recruiter follow up with you for any next steps."
Say this with confidence, and you'll close the interviewer on you being the right fit for the role.
- Following Up
Congrats! You just knocked an interview out of the park. before you stroll into the rest of your week waiting to hear what's next, don't forget to follow up.
Following up can be as simple as you sending a LinkedIn DM or email a few hours after the interview, thanking the interviewer for their time, reinforcing your interest in the role through sharing something that stood out to you during the interview, and wishing them a great day! End the note with something assumptive, like, "excited to talk soon!".
How Bad Do You Want It?
Look, this isn't going to be easy.
I purposely didn't post a perfect cookie-cutter SDR resume template, because you need to go put in the work.
Nobody is going to hand this thing to you.
Honestly, if the process above sounds too overwhelming, you aren't cut out for sales. It's that easy.
A good leader will give you the tools, frameworks, and support you need to succeed, but now it's on you to go make it happen.
But if you do follow this process, you WILL get an SDR job, it's impossible not to.
The only person preventing you from a lucrative, rewarding, and life-changing career in SaaS is YOU.
How bad do you want it?