Life At AlphaSense: What Qualities Make A Great SDR?

If you are considering a job in Sales Development, you’re probably asking yourself: “What qualities make a great SDR?” and “Do I have those qualities?” When I was a senior in college talking to some of my older friends about a career in Sales, I was consistently under the impression I needed to walk in to interviews and tell a story of my time as an outgoing college athlete, or come off as being “type A,” with a true, cut-throat attitude.

The frustrating thing about those conversations is that I always walked away feeling like I wasn’t the person being described, and it almost convinced me I wasn’t a good fit for Sales.

Luckily, I ignored them. And you probably should too.


SDRs aren’t one-size-fits-all

During the two years following those initial conversations, I buckled down and spent significant time as an SDR. Now, I have the privilege of managing my own team at AlphaSense. When I look back at those early moments, I wish someone told me how crucial diversity of perspective is to any winning sales team. When I look at my past, it’s actually some of the more unusual things I did growing up that drove me toward my early success in Sales.


Apply lessons from all experiences

Not every Sales lesson is learned inside the classroom. For example; when I was a kid, I loved crabbing. I would spend hot summer days lying on a bridge with a long string in my hand, just my head poking over the side so my shadow didn’t scare any critters away. For me, there was something so thrilling about the level of persistence — and precision — it took to catch a “story-worthy” crab that I could measure and brag about that night (and being dubbed the “King of Crabbing” at age seven certainly remains one of my proudest accomplishments to date).

Fast forward, and I feel that same feeling of accomplishment when our SDR team celebrates booking more time with hard-to-reach prospects. There’s also a similar drive for creative innovation. The more experience I got as an SDR, the more I realized that level of obsessive tweaking was also necessary for my email messaging and talk tracks on the phone with prospects. I’m constantly finding ways to improve my technique — the same way I would experiment with crab traps or new bait on the water years ago.


The Sales mindset can be found in unexpected places

As you get ready to apply for SDR positions, think about other projects you’ve taken on, or how you took something you loved, and innovated on it.

When I was a teenager, I learned how to scuba dive, and practiced by hunting for lost golf balls in the big ponds at my hometown golf course. After spending hours carefully cleaning each ball,  I would take my treasure and sell them at the market for $5 a carton. Being underwater for several hours searching for any sliver of white poking out from the dark mud took some persistence, but that’s when I started recognizing that determination could actually lead to a tangible reward. That determination and business drive stayed with me as I started my career in Sales — from spending hours on the phone, to collecting meetings that would hopefully turn into deals.


Different perspectives can help drive growth

It took some time to realize it, but these out-of-the-ordinary hobbies are exactly what led me to working in Sales Development. The euphoric sense of achievement I feel leaving the office after a successful day of cold calling is really no different than leaving the bridge with a bucket full of blue crabs or the pond with a bag of old golf balls.

There is no denying being a high-performing SDR takes a unique skill set, and certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you are feeling uncertain about Sales Development or questioning if you have the necessary characteristics for the job, dig a little deeper. The unique experiences and perspectives you offer might be just what we’re looking for.

Sam Buffum is a Sales Development Manager at AlphaSense where he is responsible for accelerating revenue through optimizing top of funnel prospecting efforts for our Financial Services and Investor Relations businesses. His career has focused on helping clients gain quick access to knowledge to help improve their research processes. Sam holds a political science and history degree from Trinity College-Hartford.

AlphaSense is hiring, with open roles across all departments. Learn more about what it’s like to work at AlphaSense, and find your next opportunity here


AlphaSense is a market intelligence platform used by the world’s leading companies and financial institutions. Since 2011, our AI-based technology has helped professionals make smarter business decisions by delivering insights from an extensive universe of public and private content—including company filings, event transcripts, news, trade journals, expert calls, broker reports, and equity research. Our platform is trusted by over 2,000 enterprise customers, including a majority of the S&P 100. Headquartered in New York City, AlphaSense employs over 1,000 people across offices in the U.S., U.K., Finland, Germany, and India.

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