10 Tips for SDR Managers to Navigate Tough Questions at End of Year


John Mayfield

Nov 21, 2023
John Mayfield

SDR Managers don’t often receive the training needed. Let’s change that.

As a Sales Development Representative (SDR) Manager, you are no stranger to the pressure that comes with the end of a quarter or year. It’s during these times that tough questions are often asked, and it can be challenging to maintain your mental health and stay focused. To help you navigate these situations, here are 10 tips:

Prepare in advancePrior to facing tough questions, take the time to prepare yourself mentally. Anticipate the potential inquiries and have well-thought-out responses ready. This will help you maintain composure and confidence when the time comes.  The biggest challenge in moving to the Director role is learning how to navigate the very tough questions.  Trust me, it only gets tougher the higher you go.  Until you’re a venture capitalist managing a portfolio and everyone reports to you, you will always be reporting up to someone else.  Preparation is the most important aspect.  Always be prepared.

Stay informed

Keep yourself updated on the latest sales metrics and performance data. By having a clear understanding of your team's progress, you can provide accurate and informed answers to any questions that may arise.  Think about your entire suite of tools and which metrics matter the most.  Often times, Executives aren’t going to give you a chance to explain as much as you think you need.  Your answers need to be accurate and to the point, but most importantly, you must be informed.

Be transparent

Transparency is key when facing tough questions. Be honest about the challenges your team is facing and the steps being taken to overcome them. This will build trust and credibility with stakeholders.  Don’t sugar coat anything and never lie.  Being open and honest also shows Executives that you are human, but you must be confident in your transparency.  Being transparent does not mean the pressure is off.

Focus on the positive

Acknowledge the areas where your team has excelled and highlight the positive outcomes achieved. By shifting the focus to the wins, you can demonstrate the value your team brings to the organization.  My favorite video on the internet (the best training I received at Pindrop backed by Andreessen Horowitz) is where an Executive is grilled on live tv regarding the horrendous performance of the past quarter.  The Executive used the tactic called “bridging” and essentially ignored the interviewers remarks and began talking about all of the positive outcomes his division had achieved.  Suddenly, the interview was positive and nobody remembered about the negative.  You can watch that clip here: Bridging Hero.  

Communicate effectively

Choose your words carefully and communicate with clarity. Avoid jargon or technical terms that may confuse or alienate your audience. Use simple language to ensure your message is understood. What is the most surprising, in my experience, was that Executives and Leadership seemed to speak in a more relaxed manner than what I had anticipated.  Don’t communicate too casually, but ensure that you are speaking in a relaxed tone and using simple words.  The more simple the better.

Manage expectations

Set realistic expectations with stakeholders and explain the factors that may impact results. By managing expectations, you can avoid unnecessary pressure and provide a more accurate picture of the situation. As you head into Q1 FY24, this is your chance to manage expectations. Push back if you think a metric is unattainable, but ensure you have the data or evidence to support. I’ve worked for VPs and Leaders that valued my pushback. I’ve also worked for Leaders that did not want to hear my opinion. Let's just say I began the job search pretty quickly if my lead didn’t like my assessment. We all want to succeed but we must be aligned on what success looks like.

Stay composed

During challenging conversations, it's important to remain calm and composed. Take deep breaths, maintain good posture, and speak in a measured tone. This will help you project confidence and professionalism. It is very easy to lose composure when faced with strings of tough questions.  Stay focused and stay composed.  Remember, they hired you because they believe you will get the job done!

Seek support

Don't hesitate to reach out to your peers or mentors for support. They can provide guidance, share their experiences, and offer valuable insights that can help you navigate tough questions more effectively. My best friends were my fellow peers in management. We all looked out for one another and always had one another’s back. If you’re the only Manager on the team, try to develop a network on Slack via sales groups such as Pavilion.

Practice active listening

When faced with tough questions, listen attentively to what is being asked. Take the time to fully understand the question before responding. This will enable you to provide thoughtful and relevant answers. This is a great tactic because you become so focused on listening, you forget that you’re in a very difficult conversation so you’re distracted from the over thinking and self doubt which we all face. Listening is always better than speaking.

Take care of yourself

Lastly, prioritize your mental health and well-being. Remember to take breaks, engage in activities that help you relax, and seek support if needed. Taking care of yourself will enable you to better handle tough questions and stay focused. Reduce any negative intake such as adult beverages or caffeine. You want to head into any meeting or conversation well hydrated so that brain is firing on all cylinders.

By following these 10 tips, you can navigate tough questions at the end of a quarter or year with confidence, maintain your mental health, and stay focused on achieving your sales goals.  If you ever need advice or assistance with anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out via LinkedIn!