Guest Speaker Series – Saif Khan – Associate Sales Director of Cognism

Oct 15, 2021

“It’s a tough job. SDRs are the unsung heroes of our organisations.” 


We had the pleasure of welcoming Saif Khan, as our guest speaker. Saif rose up the sales ladder quickly, going from BDR to Associate Sales Director in 2 years and was able to offer his valuable insight and answer our student’s burning sales questions. 


Times Saif messed up 

  • Ignoring the value of volume – Everyone gets obsessed with hyper-personalisation. When you’re starting out it is a fine balance between personalisation and high call numbers. Smash out the high volume. 
  • Too much research – Saif brought into doing extensive research about the company and the person. However, the most effective way was to find out the essential information, get on the phone and practice practice practice with actual prospects. If you do it with your Line Manager they’ll give you the answer. 


Hitting targets 

If you focus solely on hitting your monthly target and fall short you’ll miss your target. Saif aimed 200% higher than his target, so if he fell short he was still doing pretty good. 

Don’t overcomplicate the SDR role. Be brave enough to test things and find what works for you. 


Callback cadence 

If Saif was rejected on a cold call he would wait a month and call again. Transparency is key, so Saif would be honest and say that he called before and messed up, but can they give him 30 seconds to try again and often they would.  

Saif gets cold-called and the number of times they say “I’ve seen your LinkedIn profile” is frustrating, but if someone called and said they cold-called a month ago, but messed up, he’d listen. It’s a human, right? 

The whole point of selling for Saif is making that human to human connection as quickly as possible. If someone says that it breaks down that barrier straight away and they’re much more likely to listen. 


The importance of a strong team

Having a strong support network means when you’re facing a challenge you can face it together. It can be a lonely role as an SDR and if your meetings get cancelled having a strong support network is so important. 

Celebrating wins as a team in the office keeps you going for longer. However, as many of us are working remotely Saif recommends SDRs have something in place that allows them to celebrate their wins.


Top tips for becoming an exceptional Account Executive

  • Get yourself a mentor who is a successful Account Executive. Saif did and it elevated his career massively. 
  • Your proactive activities outside of working hours are critical. Saif would go to Gong and listen to as many demos as he could – it helped him learn the sales lingo. 
  • The most important part of being an Account Executive is the discovery. It isn’t about knowing the most about your product or the industry or client, it is solely about identifying a pain, quantifying a pain, and diagnosing pain with your solution during the demo. Be able to ask open-ended probing discovery questions. 
  • Keep a collection of all of your achievements and results, as promotions are competitive and having it all outlined gives a solid foundation of why you’d be the best candidate for the job from a tangible standpoint. 
  • It is super important to form intercompany relationships. Speak to each department, find out what they’re doing and form relationships. You need those relationships as you make more complex sells and the Account Executives that have the relationships are significantly more successful than those that don’t. 


Key Takeaways 

  • Don’t overcomplicate the SDR role. Find what works for you and stick to your strengths. 
  • Aim for higher than your target so if you fall short you’ll still reach your target. 
  • Always call again. 
  • Having a supportive team is vital for when you succeed and for when you face challenges. 
Lena Miah

Lena is our Marketing Executive here at She is versed in all things marketing and loves creating thought provoking, inspirational, and informative pieces for the company. 

Lena was born and raised in London. She has a passion for all things words and completed a BA degree in Journalism at the University of Roehampton. 

When she isn’t keeping the company blog in tip top condition she can be found in a yoga class or checking out the London food scene, but if the food isn’t up to par she could bake it all herself. 

You can find Lena on LinkedIn here 

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