#23 The Life & Death Of SDRs ☠️

Welcome! I’m Ivan Landabaso, VC at JME.vc. Startup Riders is a weekly newsletter where I go down startup rabbit holes and share actionable insights. I also love surfing 🤙


  • ☠️ The Life & Death Of SDRs: A few learnings from a B2B SaaS startup.

  • Weekly Hack: Lanzarote Valley.

  • 💵 Recent Deals in Spain: DudyFit, Atani, Ritmo and more!

  • 💭 Thinking or Reading: Grow from discomfort.

☠️ The Life & Death Of SDRs

⭐ SDR = Sales Development Representative

SDRs are often the frontline troops in tech. These guys are in the trenches - all day.

Here are a few things I learned while doing the job:

For SDRs

  • Share what works: when I first joined BloomReach as an SDR in Silicon Valley (I loved working there, fantastic company), there wasn’t a lot of collaboration going on in my SDR squad. Luckily, we hired a new guy called Stephen DiSibio. Stephen had played American Football 🏈 (I call it hand-egg) and was a great team player, had a super strong work ethic, and always looked on the bright side. We got to the office at 6am every day (working the East Coast accounts), experimented and shared everything that worked for us with the rest of the team. Eventually, everybody did the same. He went on to manage the team and has been crushing it ever since. Be like Stephen.

  • Lift up your teammates: we always joked about how being an SDR is a little like waiting for miracles to happen. You push material, energy and time into this vortex - and you are never sure what is going to come out (or when). There are lots of ups and downs, and you need to be there for your squad at both points on that happiness-breakdown curve - it pays dividends down the line.

  • Find your channel, iterate: some people loved cold calls, others never hit a single meeting with a phone. I for one loved creative emails - it just worked for me (used lots of visual analysis, trying to add value from the first line, heavily personalized subject lines etc etc.). The point is, don’t let others tell you what your channel is - experiment, find out what works for your personality, and double down to smash your quota.

  • Think different and experiment - really: Try visuals, audio, gift (books), Twitter, LinkedIn etc. You need to leverage your creativity to stand out. You are employed because a machine can’t (yet) creatively solve the riddle of getting through the door in a very crowded space, and convince someone to talk to you.

    Science Experiment GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
  • Treat yourself like a mind athlete: you’ve got a stressful job. You need to get your sleep, diet, exercise and nutrition in order to compensate.

  • Read “To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

For Managers

  • Find levers for your SDRs: Team leads and managers should be obsessed with finding leverage opportunities for team members. Psychological support is appreciated, but leverage (process automation tools, data, creative approaches to outreach, etc.) is key. Don’t just hand over the tool - get in there and test with your squad wether it actually delivers results or not, and iterate.

  • Age ≠ Output: Don’t ask SDRs about their age, or make remarks about “how young they are”. Age and output / contribution are not necessarily connected. I’ve seen people use this as a zinger - a way to put you down -, it only makes you look insecure.

  • Optimise Quota Targets: Don’t assume you can abuse them with crazy work loads / quotas just because they are (often) young(er) or “resilient”. Aim for balance, and you’ll both win. Balance is achieved through trial-and-error - often startups miss the adjustment side of the quota equation. They end up with a burned-out team and a weaker pipeline. Find the right balance.

  • Cut the cord fast: There will be times were the SDR just isn’t working out - it is the name of the game. This will become obvious fairly quickly. Cut the cord quick, it is better for both parties. If the entire team is underperforming, look inwards and towards the product.

For Founders

  • Build a great product: The better the product, value proposition and marketing collateral, the easier it’ll be for your SDRs to grow the business, and their own skills.

  • Treat SDRs well - if you haven’t done the job yourself, exercise empathy. SDRs experience some of the highest rates of attrition and are more susceptible to burnout than almost any other team in tech startups. 2 birds with 1 stone:

    1. You’ll retain them longer

    2. Your superstars will spread the love and knowledge + grow to become future leaders within your organisation (they know how to sell the product likely better than anyone).

  • Walk around: make it a point to walk around the SDR pod once a week, say hello, ask about how they are doing. They have a great pulse on the market, and it’ll make their day. It is also cheap and easy, and not done enough.

I have seen too many startups not treating SDRs with the care & respect they deserve.

For those of you in the trenches, rejection is a tough business - but it builds a hell of a tough skin and character.

I also truly believe it is one of the very best experience you can have as a founder-to-be.

Wear rejection as a badge of honour.

Hear it from the real wolf of wall street’s mouth:

⚡ Weekly Hack: Lanzarote Valley

If you are lucky enough to be able to do your work from a computer, splitting some time between remote-work locations and your office can charge your batteries and increase productivity.

I went surfing to Lanzarote and met a couple great guys from the Spanish startup ecosystem. If you want to mix startups + surfing + epic food, I highly recommend it.

Credit to Thayri for taking shots 📸

If you want to try it out, this guy knows all about remote work in Lanzarote - get in touch 🤙.

💵 Recent Deals in Spain

You love startups and want to enjoy a Spanish lifestyle? Come join the Spanish startup ecosystem. Here’s a list of recently funded startups:

JME Ventures Portfolio

  • DudyFit (SaaS Fitness) raises 700K. They’re hiring, so get in touch with Mario!

  • Atani (Crypto) raises 5.3M.

  • Ritmo (Capital as a Service) raises 3M.


💭 Thinking or Reading

💪 Growth From Discomfort

“Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.” — Josh Waitzkin

💡 100 Startups & Side-Hustles From Spain

🧵 Startup Thread Of The Week

If you find this interesting, please consider sharing with your friends. I’d also love to get your thoughts and feedback on Twitter. Until the next one! 😃