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  • Writer's picturePolina Cook

The Rise of the Sales Development Representative

An internal Sales Development Representative (SDR) team is made up of inside sales reps and its primary role is to undertake outbound prospecting i.e. the initial identification and qualification of leads/prospects for the sales team. An SDR team typically sits between the marketing and sales functions, working at the heart of a company, delivering a constant stream of new and qualified leads for sales teams to work with.

SDRs are not quota carrying employees, rather, their function is to reach out to leads, qualify them and push them down the sales funnel. The key to their function is the word development; an SDR typically interacts with prospects at the beginning of the buying journey and develops (nurtures) the relationship to the point where it can be passed to the sales team. An SDR’s purpose is not to sell the product but to sell the value of the next conversation. Success should be measured by whether the prospect has said yes to a meaningful next meeting with a sales or business development rep.

The role tends to be entry level and SDRs typically go on to fill such roles as senior sales development representatives, account managers, sales representatives, and sales managers. As such, the SDR team can be seen as a vital training ground, allowing employees to ‘cut their teeth’ in this dynamic and skilled environment before moving onwards and upwards in their careers. The knowledge gained in such a role can only provide great grounding, experience and knowledge, allowing them to represent the organisation to great effect as they are promoted upwards. Being and SDR is a tough job and a high percentage of reps drop out, leaving companies with the cream of the crop as a recruitment pool for more senior positions.

What benefits does an SDR team bring?

Having an SDR team allows an organisation to segment its sales efforts so sales can focus on nurturing and closing quality leads. SDRs free up time by doing the background research and initial conversations with prospects, providing sales reps with qualified opportunities to follow up and close. Furthermore, SDRs focus on providing high-quality leads by filtering prospects resulting in more quality leads in the pipeline so sales reps don’t have to spend time on misfits and timewasters. Not only that but SDRs also provide an improved customer experience, laying the groundwork for a smooth and seamless buying experience and brand loyalty.

Key SDR responsibilities include:

  1. Connecting with prospects

  2. Creating a great first impression

  3. Educating prospects on a brand/products/services (and themselves on prospects’ needs and requirements)

  4. Qualifying prospects

  5. Filtering out prospects that aren’t the right fit

  6. Collaborating with sales team colleagues

SDR teams are a very valuable in-house resource; providing a conduit between inbound marketing leads and the sales team, qualifying prospects in (and out) and ensuring a smooth and professional customer experience is vital in today’s customer-centric world. SDRs can help boost sales and increase revenue. They play a vital role in identifying qualified leads, nurturing them and building a successful sales strategy.

Are there any drawbacks to SDRs?

Well organised and managed SDR teams can deliver considerable success, but they can also be a costly department to run successfully. Occasionally SDR teams are mismanaged and left to flounder and on these occasions they can become expensive failures – just another dysfunctional cog that no longer delivers on its promise. Gartner has identified eight reasons that sales development teams fail; for more information on the reasons listed below please visit Gartner;

  1. Sales development is treated as less important than traditional sales and marketing whilst in fact it is absolutely critical to making or breaking pipeline.

  2. The SDR team lacks direct management and leadership; sales development is challenging and will fail if someone isn’t there full time to help optimise, coach, motivate, hire and care about the team.

  3. Lack of training or coaching; While SDRs should understand the product, the key to success is to dedicate time and resources to specific training and coaching.

  4. No agreed-upon qualified lead definition; a definition has to be agreed upon by both sales development and sales.

  5. Not focusing on generating qualified leads; avoid allowing sales development to become the dumping ground for other tasks, such as sales support.

  6. Bad compensation plans/wrong incentives.

  7. Wrong people in the job; it’s hard to identify if someone can really do the SDR job until they are actually sitting in the seat. Problems arise when the SDR team becomes an underperforming, demoralized mess.

  8. Lack of communication; poor communication is often the root cause of a failing team. The sales development team sits in between sales and marketing so there has to be lots of bidirectional feedback.

SDR’s have drifted in and out of fashion over the years for a number of reasons

which are mostly covered above. There are definitely pros and cons to having an SDR team and these can only be assessed by individual companies depending on the wider economic climate they find themselves operating in and what influences are being brought to bear by senior management or consultants etc.

Currently businesses are investing in SDRs, bringing the function in-house as opposed to using external agencies, however, this doesn’t mean that core third party agency services are unwanted or unnecessary. In-house SDR team potential for success is dependent on the contact data and digital marketing activities that generate the leads for them to qualify. SDR teams still need accurate contact data to call or email in to. With hybrid working still ubiquitous, agencies that can provide mobile as well as direct dial numbers can deliver significant value to outbound in-house run and managed SDR campaigns. In addition, detailed data intelligence such as technology installation information can help to pin point projects to target.

Warm data from mass outbound digital marketing activities can also be provided in the form of clicks from outbound emailers and eNewsletter targeting the desired audience. This type of warm data pushing into the SDR function results in much higher rates of qualification success.

Poor or cold data wastes your investment in your SDR team. Whilst purchasing data from a 3rd party increases the investment, it also makes that investment more worthwhile and more likely to achieve the ROI you are looking for. Partnerships with agencies that can provide this type of supporting role will only benefit the in-house SDR team and ensure quicker and more reliable qualification of leads and, therefore, more expedient transfer of leads to the sales team for action and closure.

SDR teams have a pivotal role to play in the success of strategic sales and marketing. Add to this the vital industry knowledge and experience of third party agencies enhances SDR teams with data and warm clicks, providing access to already engaged prospects. If organisations support, manage and develop such teams and treat them with care, they will return this favour with actionable, qualified leads that will build your pipeline and contribute to significant achievements in 2023.


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