The SDR model isn't dead. But it needs to evolve—quick.

Here are a few ways the SDR model is evolving:

✅ Hiring industry vets and paying really well

I see this in niche, industry-specific solutions. Example: A solution for the largest commercial construction contractors in North America.

They hire reps with 5+ years of experience working in that industry. And they do way more than cold calling and cold emailing.

These reps attend events and work a tight ABX strategy on large enterprise accounts. And their OTE is $150k+

This isn't a common model (yet) but can work well w/ enterprise ACVs.

✅ Providing deal assistance

SDRs help AEs re-engage closed/lost or stalled deals. They work new contacts, old ones, etc. and then loop in the AE. They provide multi-threading support early in sales cycles.

This has become a common trend in the last few years.

This can work well with experienced SDRs and a great RevOps team to help with workflow.

✅ Super lean SDR teams that rely on AI/tech-stack

The SDR team is small and mighty. Reduced headcount in exchange for technology. They use tools like Clay to automate 99% of account selection, list-building, etc.

Sounds great in theory, but I've only seen talking heads on LinkedIn talk about this approach.

Never seen it in action. And when I ask? No one can show me.

I don't believe this is the future for enterprise. Could work for SMB.

✅ Connecting to revenue

Most SDR orgs are moving toward measuring SDR success on qualified pipeline and closed/won revenue.

Comp. on meetings & demos set should be little to none of SDR's OTE. It incentivizes the wrong outcome.

Many orgs are already doing this and you're behind if you aren't.

This is a great forcing function.

✅ More enablement

This isn't anything new. But a few years ago you could get away with feature dumping and pitching in cold emails and cold calls.

That just isn't the case anymore. And it's getting worse.

I can't tell you how many companies I work with who don't provide dedicated enablement for SDRs.

⛔️ AE Self-Sourcing: A necessity, but not the new model

I'm bullish on AE self-sourcing. The best AEs self-source 30-50% of their opportunities. In many orgs right now, it's the only you'll beat your quota.

But I don't see a future where AEs self-source 100% of their pipeline.

It sounds great in theory, but the required culture change is too much.

Everyone needs to chip in to win: AE self-sourcing, SDR sourced, marketing sourced.

~~~

Ashley Kelly (VP of Global Sales Development at Rippling) has 350 SDRs in their org.

 

My take on AI in sales:

✅ Extra set of hands
⛔️ Not an extra brain (yet)

I've tested dozens of AI solutions:

▶︎ Cold email writing

Great at scoring and editing cold emails. But not at writing them from scratch. Way more work to use prompts than writing yourself.

▶︎ Conversational Intelligence

Great at summarizing calls, but not at coaching me on how to sell better. Still not great at transcribing prospects with accents, creating a lot of bad data.

▶︎ Revenue Intelligence

Great at quickly troubleshooting deals (e.g. not multi-threaded, etc.), but not at deal coaching. You'll get insights into where a deal is at risk, but it won't coach you on how to address that with a champion.

▶︎ Cold Calling

Not great at scoring my calls. Not great to role-play or practice with. Not great at providing live, in-the-moment coaching.

▶︎ Follow Up

Great at finding highlights in sales calls. But not great at writing an effective follow-up email that focuses on the right talking points.

~~~

I can go on and on.

AI won't replace salespeople anytime soon. But if you can't work with AI, you'll be replaced.

AI is in its early days, but I'm genuinely excited about ZoomInfo CoPilot. They're on the verge of AI being an "extra brain" to help your org. build higher-quality pipeline and close more deals.

 

Common outbound advice: "Start at the C-suite and work your way down."

Is this approach not working for you?

Try this instead: Find gatekeepers holding the keys to non-obvious entry points in the account

Sure, we'd all love to start sales cycles at the very top.

But most executives get hundreds of emails every day. They have assistants helping manage their inboxes.

If you're trying to land a meeting with an exec through a cold email, good luck. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. It's just a very low-percentage play.

You're better off targeting a prospect or team specializing in solving the problem your solution helps with.

These prospects are great because:

✅ They care a lot about the problem your solution solves
✅ They're way easier to reach than senior execs
✅ They have tons of insights to share

How do you find these prospects or teams?

Your top AEs' deals.

1) Reverse-engineer the best deals closed in the last 12 months
2) Look closely at every stakeholder's job title involved
3) Look at who the first meeting was with
4) Look for and ask those AEs about non-typical job titles/roles involved in their deals

One more pro tip: Ask prospects in your active deals if they have specialists or teams related to the problem at hand

Here are a few examples of non-typical roles I've found with my clients

~~~

- Security Solutions -

👍 Typical personas: CIOs, CISOs, VP of Security/Risk, etc.
💡 Non-typical persona example: Plant Safety Manager in a manufacturing plant

- Purchasing/Procurement Solutions -

👍 Typical personas: CFO, VP of Finance, Procurement leader, etc.
💡 Non-typical persona example: Facilities Manager in a government or higher-ed building

- MedTech solutions -

👍 Typical personas: Clinical Operations, R&D, Compliance
💡 Non-typical persona example: Patient Safety, in charge of mitigating high-risk disasters with medical products

- DevOps solutions -

👍 Typical personas: VP of IT, DevOps leader, CIO
💡 Non-typical persona example: Developer Productivity (think enablement but for engineers)

~~~

Use these non-typical personas as starting points in your outreach. If they're senior enough, they can be great champions. If nothing else, you can gain killer insights to bring to their execs or potentially get intros.

"I couldn't do outbound today because..."

☝️

Making this excuse as an AE? Hearing this from your reps as a sales leader?

This is the #1 challenge I hear from every sales leader I meet with.

Here's where the Get Sh*t Done (GSD) session comes in.

Steal this framework to:

✅ Waste less time chasing deals
✅ Gain control of your pipeline (and week)
✅ Prevent deals from slipping
✅ Stay on top of pipeline generation

Put this into action this week, and you'll see solid gains in your productivity.

Prospects rescheduling? Here's how to make sure you don't get ghosted.

👇

We've all been there. A prospective buyer needs to reschedule a sales call for whatever reason. Someone no shows a meeting. An internal fire is happening.

This happened to me several times this week.

Here's how I reschedule to keep the momentum:

✅ 1) Move the invite, don't cancel it

We add *Rescheduling* to the front of the title on the calendar invite until we reschedule. That way, everyone on the invite knows the meeting isn't happening. But we keep it on the calendar.

If the prospect shares additional times that work, we move the invite to one of those times.

If they don't, we move the calendar invite to another time. Then follow up via email/text to see if that works.

This keeps the invite on the calendar.

h/t to Armand Farrokh for this tip.

✅ 2) Suggest alternative times

Put your Executive Assistant hat on. Make it super easy to reschedule.

The biggest mistake you can make is responding to the buyer with:

"What other times work for you?"
"Are you free later this week?"
"What's next week looking like?"

This puts all the work on the buyer to reschedule.

Instead, suggest days and times (converted into their timezone). Eat all the complexity for the buyer.

Texting is the easiest way to do this. You should be texting your prospects.

✅ 3) Create boundaries

At some point, you must be willing to walk away.

Two last-minute reschedules (if I've never met the prospect) is my limit. Yours might be different.

But if I'm taking the time to prepare for a call beforehand, I don't want to continue wasting that time for someone who may never show up. Or take the place on my calendar if someone else is more deserving of it.

Think about your boundary in this area. And be willing to let the prospect come back to you if/when they change their level of seriousness.

 

I've had half a dozen negotiation conversations in the last two weeks.

Deals ranging from $25k-300k.

And I'm reminded about why buyers negotiate.

Before you discount in any form, confirm the following:

1) That you're vendor of choice (don't allow yourself to be price shopped)
2) Find out the reason for the discount (maybe you can de-risk in other ways)
3) Understand what happens next (don't set yourself up to keep lowering price)

In the deals I'm working, here are why buyers are negotiating:

💪 To make the effort worth it:

Your champion has a full-time job, which isn't buying solutions like yours. It's a lot of work for a senior leader to get others on board, manage procurement, and secure budget.

They want great terms with the lowest likelihood of getting rejected by the rest of the buying committee.

This sounds like: "I need [specific ask] because I have a lot going on and want to get this approved as quickly as possible."

 

🤩 To look good:

Your champion looks like a rockstar if they bring a big win back to their leadership and procurement team.

They build a reputation with execs that they're looking out for the company. And will get the best deal possible.

This sounds like: "Procurement will be much easier to deal with if I can show them we already have some gives from you."


⚠️ Risk reduction:

>50% of B2B buyers regret software purchases (Gartner). If an exec is going to bat and risking their reputation for you, they want to reduce risk in any way possible to protect their downside.

This sounds like: "We need a way out if we're not finding value."


💰 Budgeted Amounts or Purchasing Thresholds:

The buyer has legitimate budget constraints or purchasing thresholds. They have more control over purchases when the amount is within that budget. When the amount exceeds their budget, processes and internal approvals are different.

This is rarely the case and a bluff many buyers will use.

This sounds like: “We have 125k budgeted for this project.”


🤼‍♀️ Sport:

The buyer isn’t dealing with any constraints. They know that you and everyone else would love their business. They negotiate for sport.

Oftentimes this sounds like the previous two categories, but can't be backed up by specific constraints:

Prospect: "I can get this done for $50k but not more"
Rep: “Okay, do you mind sharing why?”
Prospect: “Well…[proceeds to give B.S. answer]”.


=============

You'll oftentimes need to give in these situations. But make sure you've though through beforehand what you'll ask for in return.

I put together a list of “gives and gets” in the image that can mean something to the buyer (that don’t all require you to lower the total contract value).