Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Sales Development with Jake Bernstein

In the dynamic world of sales development, we stand at a crucial crossroads. It’s a point of reflection and change, offering us an opportunity to evaluate where we have come from, where we currently stand, and where we intend to go. 

Not so long ago, in a scene entirely unrecognizable today, the landscape was largely manual. Salesforce was our trusty ally, and email reply rates were comfortably high. Yet, sales development was on the brink of a significant transformation.

Enter Outreach and SalesLoft. These game-changing platforms introduced us to the concept of scale. They were the heralds of a new era where scaling wasn’t just a pipe dream but a tangible reality. This revolution came with its own set of challenges – reply rates began to drop, and we hit an inflection point. The world of sales was waking up to the potential of outreach, and we were in the throes of a massive technological onboarding.

However, after this rapid surge, it seemed like we hit a plateau. Yes, we had the ability to deliver personalized responses at scale, but the effectiveness of these tools was inconsistent. Power dialers were decent, but they weren’t quite the revolutionary force we were hoping for.

Fast forward to today, and the landscape is once again evolving at a dizzying pace. Parallel dialers are game-changers, email technology, and deliverability are significantly better, and AI technologies like GPT are reshaping our perception of what’s possible.

However, amidst this whirlwind of change, a pertinent question arises – how can we ensure that Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are not left behind?

In this recent podcast episode with Jake Bernstein, Director of Business Development at SPINS, we explore this question, delving into the strategies and considerations that can help SDRs adapt and thrive in this new era of sales development. We will also touch on the role of AI in crafting messages and the importance of discerning the right time and place for its usage. 

How the Tech Industry Has Been Affected 

Recently, the tech industry has been rocked by a series of layoffs, forcing companies to reassess their growth strategies. This shift has been deeply felt within the Sales Development Representative (SDR) community and has substantially impacted the broader landscape of tech growth.

To navigate these turbulent times, we need to double down on communication, ensuring that we understand the broader implications of these changes on both tech growth and the roles of SDRs. The past 12 to 36 months have been a whirlwind of change, and understandably, this may feel overwhelming, especially for those just starting their journey as SDRs.

A colleague of mine, Nicola, once described the sensation of change as standing in the middle of a circle, swinging a rope with a ball at the end. While she, as the ball, felt the rapid, dizzying movement, I, at the center, felt only the subtle shift of my hand. This analogy perfectly encapsulates the distinct experiences we all have amidst change. It’s a great reminder that our perspectives are deeply personal and can vary significantly from one person to the next.

So, as an SDR or a sales leader, what should you consider when contemplating change within your team?

Firstly, it’s essential to acknowledge the fear and insecurity that change can bring about. This can be likened to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where safety and security sit at the base. When a company undergoes significant change, such as an acquisition or layoffs, employees often question their job security. Today, with AI technologies like GPT-4 reshaping roles, similar questions are being raised: “Will AI replace me?” or “Do I need to uproot everything I’ve learned about the SDR role?”

To address these fears, ensuring your team feels safe and secure is crucial. Open communication about changes and their implications, share perspectives from thought leaders and keep your team updated on the latest trends and developments. Providing hands-on coaching and training to equip your SDRs with the skills they need to adapt to the changing landscape is also important.

A growth mindset is paramount when looking at the traits that will enable SDRs to capitalize on change. This means being open to learning and adapting, acting as a ‘growth hacker’ to increase impact while reducing effort. It’s about being adaptable, and ready to modify your approach when the old ways are no longer effective. And finally, it’s about being experimental, willing to try out new tools and techniques to see what works best.

As we journey into this new horizon, we must remember that change isn’t always a threat. In fact, like the advent of automation in factories, it can open up new opportunities and possibilities. The key is to embrace change with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a drive to adapt.Will Artificial Intelligence Replace the SDR Role? 

Let’s think about how humans evolved from using sharp sticks to bows in hunting. The bow, with its greater range, was obviously better. But people didn’t just drop their sharp sticks when the bow came along. They used both for a while. 

We’re seeing something similar in the world of sales development. The SDR role is becoming more intricate, akin to learning to don an Ironman suit, so to speak, with technology acting as the game-changing armor.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a company would opt for slower growth. The notion of reducing the number of SDRs just because a few tools can double their output seems unlikely. After all, growth is a primary objective for most businesses. As long as SDRs continue to be productive, generating meetings and building pipeline, their roles will remain indispensable. The addition of new tools will not replace them but rather enhance their capabilities, just as the invention of the bow did not abolish the use of sharp sticks but provided another tool for better efficiency and effectiveness.

We should also think about whether we’re still using the SDR role as a training ground for future AEs. Are they becoming better at their jobs as they learn to use these new tools? 

These changes in sales development are equipping them for future roles. They might not get better right away, but when they move up, they’ll be ready to take on more responsibility. Investing in their development might not give immediate results, but it will pay off later. This shows the long-term value of investing in people, even with all the technological changes.

With the advent of new and more exciting tools, each with its unique use cases, we must consider their potential impact on the productivity of our teams. With each new tool comes a learning curve and the risk that an even more advanced tool may emerge shortly after we’ve invested time and resources into mastering the current one. 

Does this constant technological flux potentially neutralize the benefits of investing in tools instead of people? 

This question becomes increasingly pertinent as we navigate this technologically evolving landscape, striving for the perfect balance between human talent and digital efficiency.

Navigating Sales Coaching in a Time of Change

A key aspect of managing change in the sales landscape involves reimagining what learning and development look like within your team. Many companies dedicate a few hours weekly to learning and development, focusing on mastering a specific tool or skill. But as the sales role becomes more complex and technologically oriented, the focus of these sessions may need to shift towards a combination of tools, skills, and processes. 

Imagine a session where your team gets to refine their prompt writing skills. This isn’t just about creative writing; it’s about learning to leverage artificial intelligence tools to craft compelling email copy. The goal here isn’t just personalizing an email; it’s about understanding how to use tools like ChatGPT to do this at scale. This approach represents a paradigm shift in learning, demanding a new set of skills from SDRs and BDRs.

For managers, there’s added pressure to stay ahead of the curve. They are tasked with learning new tools, techniques, and processes at an even faster pace than their teams, ensuring they’re well-equipped to guide their teams through these transitions.

As for coaching within the SDR function, the focus might need to shift from the art of cold-calling to the science of efficiency. It’s less about mastering traditional cold-call frameworks and more about learning how to leverage technology to be 80% faster than you were last week or the month before.

This is a glimpse into how coaching in the ever-evolving sales world might look like. It’s a shift from traditional methods towards a tech-empowered, efficiency-focused approach, a change that aligns with the ongoing transformations in the broader tech landscape. 

The ultimate goal remains the same: to help sales representatives become more effective and efficient in their roles. But the tools, techniques, and skills required to achieve this goal are rapidly evolving, and our approaches to coaching and development must evolve in tandem.

Harnessing AI Data Intent 

One of my core beliefs that have held true in sales is the supremacy of accurate targeting over perfect messaging. The impact of sending even a mediocre message to the right person far surpasses that of delivering a flawless message to an ill-suited recipient. And this is where AI data intent could potentially revolutionize the sales landscape.

AI-powered tools have the potential to enrich, process, prioritize, and sort data like never before, enabling us to make highly informed inferences. Such tools can significantly enhance our capacity to target customers precisely when our offerings are most relevant to them. Amid the surge of AI applications in the sales field, this ability to pinpoint the right customer at the right time might indeed be the most impactful aspect of AI integration.

While AI email writers are growing more sophisticated, their utility, in my view, is somewhat limited. Yes, they can craft a decent initial version of an email and prove immensely useful when you’re stuck. But when it comes to generating diverse, highly personalized ideas for individual targets—factoring in specific contexts and nuances—AI hasn’t quite mastered this skill yet. Although efforts are underway to engineer such capabilities into AI, we are not there yet.

In the meantime, the real transformative impact of AI lies in improving targeting. AI empowers SDRs to identify prospects who are more likely to be responsive to their outreach efforts at a particular moment. Consequently, SDRs can devote more time and resources to prospects deemed more receptive by the AI system, thus optimizing their efforts. They then have the task of validating these AI-generated insights, confirming why a particular prospect is likely ready to engage now. This alignment of human and AI capabilities in sales offers the potential to enhance sales outcomes significantly.

We recently had Eric Nowoslawsk and Varun Anand on The Predictable Revenue Podcast to explore some of the most exciting and innovative ways AI is used for prospecting in today’s digital age. Check it out here!

Keeping Up with the Pace of Change: Avoiding Complacency in Tech-Driven Sales

One of the main concerns that can surface when navigating the ever-evolving landscape of sales tools and technology is the rapid pace of change. The continuous evolution demands our constant attention and adaptability. However, we must be cautious of a lurking threat – complacency.

There’s a risk of becoming content with our current stage, especially when we observe some level of growth. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “We’re doing good enough.” But should ‘good enough’ be our benchmark, particularly when no company desires less growth? In this sense, complacency can be a hidden obstacle to our potential for greater achievements.

Even when we are in a state of relative stability with minimal apparent shifts, numerous underlying changes are occurring. Consider the case of email deliverability. This might not have been a significant concern half a year ago, but today, it’s an issue that can cause sleepless nights. Are we doing enough to address this matter? We certainly don’t want to find ourselves, a few months down the line, regretting not having tackled a problem we had anticipated. Falling victim to such known challenges is a by-product of complacency that we must strive to avoid.

Above all, it’s the relentless pace of change that challenges us. This is not only in terms of staying current with new tools and methodologies but also in ensuring that we take care of our teams. 

As sales leaders, our responsibility extends to ensuring our people are on board and keeping pace with the changes. The journey through this dynamic landscape is a collective one, and complacency is a luxury we cannot afford. Remaining vigilant and proactive is crucial to navigating this exciting era of tech-driven sales.


As we traverse the exciting terrain of tech-enhanced sales, it’s clear that the future belongs to a harmonious blend of advanced tools and skilled personnel. Just as bows didn’t replace sharp sticks overnight, AI tools are not replacing our Sales Development Representatives but rather augmenting their abilities.

We must stay nimble, adapt to new tools, and continuously refine our skills to keep pace with these rapid changes. Complacency has no room in this dynamic environment. Harnessing AI’s power and data-driven insights will undoubtedly change how we target and interact with our customers, but the human touch remains irreplaceable.

Ultimately, the future of sales is not about choosing between people or technology but about how best we can integrate the two for maximum effectiveness. 

As leaders, we must ensure our teams are equipped and ready to navigate this new landscape, leveraging the ‘Ironman suit’ of technology to augment their existing capabilities, all while keeping the human element at the heart of our interactions. The synergy of humans and AI promises an exciting future for the sales industry, provided we maintain our proactive stance and refuse to settle for ‘good enough’.

To learn more about Jake Bernstein or his company, reach out to him on LinkedIn



Listen On:


We’re not just a cold calling company.

Read The Best-Selling Award-Winning Book!