A day in the life: Aaron St John, Sales Development Representative

A day in the life: Aaron St John, Sales Development Representative

He loves a hashtag, a meme, a wardrobe full of the latest fashions and a good chat. For sales development representative Aaron a good mix of persistence, taking ‘no’ as a challenge, and avoiding over-scripting is the secret sauce to good conversations with prospects.

Tell us about your role

On paper, my job is to contact prospects and bring in leads to pass on to adtech account executive Bradley Lewington. In reality, I spend my time chatting to people to understand their priorities, challenges and whether their business goals align with what we do.

We are incredibly targeted with who we choose to speak to in the adtech team. Working alongside Bradley, we’ve spent a long time creating our go to market strategy by identifying who our core ICP is, the challenges they have and the messages we can use to demonstrate that we would be a good partner for them. It means that I only have around 300 companies that I want to strike up a conversation with.

Less companies = easier job, right? Yes and no. Yes, because we have spent a lot of time qualifying companies so that we’re not wasting their time when they pick up the phone or read a message. It makes it easier for me to know what to say when I do finally manage to get their attention. But, it means I have to tread a fine line between persistence and becoming a nuisance.

Timing is everything, because infrastructure isn’t on their mind 100% of time. Adding a new piece of software or a new workflow tool is a quick fix implementation. Setting up or migrating your entire infrastructure stack over to a new provider is a massive project. It’s not the kind of decision you make after a website browse and a few chats with a salesperson. So, if they’re not in the headspace to talk to me about infrastructure, there’s no point trying to push them into it.

And we can’t help everyone. Sometimes we’re just not that right fit. But we know that those we can help, we make a huge difference to.

How do you prepare for the day ahead?

I snooze my alarm at least three times (I’m not a morning person) and then spend about 15 minutes trying to decide what to wear (I have a LOT of clothes). I always stop at Tesco on my way to work to get a pastry for me and Jarrod (head of gaming, and my doppelganger) to enjoy during our 10-minute life catch up each morning, which we’ve dubbed Breakfast Club.

Once I’m at my desk, I load up the same four tabs – Twitter, LinkedIn, Salesforce and email – to check in on what’s happening in the world, what’s happened with any prospects overnight and whether I’ve had any responses to my outreach. I also subscribe to a number of newsletters that cover both adtech industry news and sales best practice.  

I have a morning catch up with Bradley to understand how the opportunities I’ve generated are progressing so that a) I know he’s doing his job (🙂) and b) I can get visibility of any important points that have come up in conversations that might help me improve my messaging.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

I spend all day chatting to people or trying to chat to people. Either on calls, LinkedIn, email, WhatsApp – I use pretty much every messaging tool out there.

But before I contact anyone, I spend time learning about them and their company. I want to strike up a conversation with them because I think we can offer them value. I’m not going to be able to do that with a copy-paste, generic message that doesn’t speak to that person, their interests and challenges.  My message needs to stand out amongst the hundreds they probably get that day. And the best way I’ve found of doing that is being interested, informed and myself.   

The time of the year can also influence how I choose to allocate my time. Q2 and Q3 are our biggest quarters of the year in adtech, both from a buying perspective and because that’s when most of the big events take place. Conversely, Q4 is quiet because most companies choose to freeze onboarding new vendors or purchasing new equipment. Partly because it’s the run down to the end of the year but also because things like Black Friday, Halloween and Christmas are huge for adtech. Q1 is also quiet, because budgets are being allocated and people are getting into the swing of the new year.

We go to quite a few events each year. In the lead up I’ll spend a lot of my time booking meetings for while we’re there. Using the hashtag for the event on LinkedIn and the event meet up apps help me figure out who’s going, and I’ll usually drop events into conversation as well if I’m speaking to a prospect.

What drew you to this role?

Before I came to, I did my management training at Waitrose. But after I’d completed it, it was a case of ‘what’s next?’.

I’m a very persistent person so I knew I would be good in a sales development role. But I needed to go somewhere that would be willing to take on someone without previous experience and teach me the role.

As an SDR, you get so many no’s before you get a yes. It’s daunting but I like the challenge. I’ve also learnt that if you follow the process, no matter how many no’s you get, you will eventually get a yes.

What are the big issues affecting your work at the moment?

There are a huge number of mergers and acquisitions taking place in the adtech industry right now. I’ll spend loads of time researching a company, identifying who to speak to and I’ll then discover they’ve been bought out by a larger company. The adtech industry is monopolised by big companies that are only getting bigger.

People also tend to do what they’re comfortable with, even if it might not be the best thing for them. For instance, I’ve spoken with many who’ve found themselves locked into platforms with hyperscale cloud providers that are no longer working for them and are costing them huge amounts of money but it’s a big risk to change infrastructure.

And of course, we’ve seen a drop in ad spend, which is forcing the industry to look at where they can reduce costs. Though that is a good issue for us because many of them are paying way too much on their infrastructure bills, which we can help them reduce. So, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

What is your most memorable moment at work? 

Aside from calling Isaac, our chief revenue officer, “cute” during my interview, winning Presidents Club in my first year at for the most amount of opportunities generated. It was nice to know I was actually quite good at something I’d never done before.  

When I first started, adtech wasn’t a mature vertical for us. We didn’t know who we wanted to speak to or how. But by July last year, we knew our strategy, how to execute it, what we wanted to say and how to say it. It was a good position to finally find ourselves in after a lot of hard work.

But it’s not just hard work – there’s a lot of fun involved too - singing I Want it That Way by the Backstreet Boys at our Sales and Marketing Kick Off as a forfeit for getting 7-balled at pool, was a particular highlight. 

What do you love about what you do?

I get the opportunity to talk to people that I would never normally talk to. That includes prospects and my colleagues. I’m surrounded by successful people and I believe I will be more successful because of that.

I also get to try new ways of approaching people. We have sequences of outreach and touch points that I am constantly A/B testing to see what works, what doesn’t and what new ideas I can introduce into the mix. I’ve had particular success using memes and personalizing them for the person I’m sending them to. They’re an easy, light touch and fun way to engage people.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in this role?

  • Put in the work and you’ll get results. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t get anything out of it. Simple as that.

  • Make your first touchpoint with a prospect as personalized as possible because you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.

  • Don’t just target the c-suite. You can learn a lot from other people in the business that will help you create a more strategic message. If you can show that you truly understand their business, you are much more likely to get results when you do eventually speak to a decision-maker.

  • Your job isn’t to persuade people. It’s to shine a light on a problem they don’t know they have.

How do you relax after work?

I end my day with how I started it – with a trip to Tesco. I always buy dinner on the way home and then cook for my mum and I. Steak is my speciality – ribeye medium rare, lots of butter and garlic.

I then wrestle with my daily choice between joining the gym or playing CS:GO. So far, CS:GO is the undefeated champion. It doesn’t help that Counter-Strike 2 has just come out so I spend a lot of my evenings playing with friends, whether that’s competitive matchmaking or FACEIT. I’ve also recently just got my own Minecraft server, so Minecraft has started to take up more time in my evenings.

When I’m not gaming, I’m watching Peaky Blinders with friends or rewatching The Office (for the third time) with my mum. It never gets old.   


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