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Sales Development Representative

What is a Sales Development Representative? A Detailed Overview

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Sales development representatives (SDRs) are known for being on the front line of the company and reaching out to new leads. They are the tip of the spear for the revenue side of the organization because most of their job revolves around booking meetings for top of the funnel sales activity. They build pipeline.

What Is a Sales Development Representative?

A sales development representative, also known as an SDR, is an inside sales representative. They focus exclusively on the sales prospecting process, which involves:

  • Building prospecting lists, researching leads
  • Reaching out to leads (cold email, cold call, Linkedin prospecting)
  • Qualifying leads
  • Moving them further down the sales funnel

Often companies use BDR and SDR interchangeably.

Because an SDR takes on the responsibility of qualifying leads, account executives have more time to focus on achieving their targets and working with qualified leads. 

SDRs are well-informed about prospects and the company before reaching out when targeting enterprise and mid-market companies. Less so for SMB prospect. They are often the first person prospects come into contact with from the company, so it is crucial for SDRs to have a good understanding of:

  • Their industry
  • What their company offers 
  • The company’s competitors
  • The sales process
  • And any other common sales questions a prospect may ask

An SDR’s Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is based on the number of qualified leads or opportunities they create each month. In simpler terms, often it is how many qualified meetings they book.

Types of SDRs

There are three types of SDRs.

  • SMB SDR
  • Mid-Market SDR
  • Enterprise SDR

SMB SDRs often make a ton of cold calls. They play in more of the high volume game.

Mid-Market SDRs will usually have a mix of cold calling and emailing as the types of companies they target can range in size. Depending on the buyer and the industry, it may skew in one direction more.

Enterprise SDRs often have at least one year of SDR experience. Enterprise SDRs are lower volume and more strategic. They will write highly relevant and personalized cold emails. They will work closely with their AE to map out a strategy. And they will be methodical in their approach.

Sales Development Representative Job Description

The role and responsibilities of a sales development representative can vary from one company to the next and will largely depend on the business’s definition of the position.

But as a general rule of thumb, an SDR’s role is to focus on inbound and outbound sales prospecting.

  • Outbound sales prospecting reaches out to customers who have never had any contact with the company. This is commonly known as cold prospecting.
  • Inbound sales is all about nurturing leads who are already interested in the company and have interacted with the brand. An SDR may follow up with prospects who have inquired about the company’s products or services to book a meeting and conduct basic qualification.

SDRs reach out to and interact with leads via three main channels: email, phone and social media. Their goal is to ensure that prospects are a basic fit and calendar a meeting with an Account Executive.

SDRs will do basic qualification to ensure that there is a fit so an AE doesn’t waste time talking to a prospect who is not going to buy.

They will also help prospects understand why the company’s products or services are a good fit for their needs but do not have a full on sales conversation.

With all of this information in mind, let’s create an example job description for this role:

Job Description

We are looking for an enthusiastic, results-driven sales development representative to actively seek out prospects, engage with leads and forge relationships with potential customers. As part of your role, you will provide prospects with appropriate solutions to boost profitability and customer acquisition.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Reach out to prospects via cold emailing or cold calling
  • Qualify leads 
  • Make appropriate recommendations for products or services based on the prospect’s needs
  • Introduce our company to prospects
  • Research and identify new opportunities in the market
  • Schedule calls and meetings between prospects and sales executives
  • Deliver reports on sales results to the sales manager 

Qualifications

  • Experience as a sales account executive, sales development representative or similar role
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Experience with social media outreach, cold email and cold calling
  • Ability to meet sales quotas
  • Experience working with CRMs

Of course, this is just a brief overview of what an SDR’s job description may look like. Some companies may have unique requirements or skills that should be clearly defined in the job listing such as which sales tools they need experience with.

Skills Needed for A Sales Development Representative Job

SDRs must have a number of technical and soft skills to excel in their roles, including:

Proficiency with Cold Calling, Cold Emailing and Social Media

SDRs spend a great deal of their time identifying and reaching out to prospects that have never interacted with their employer. To succeed with qualifying these prospects and moving them down the sales funnel, an SDR must be skilled at:

  • Cold calling
  • Cold emailing
  • Social media outreach

Extensive Knowledge of the Company’s Products/Services and Customer Personas

SDRs must have or develop extensive knowledge of the company’s products and/or services. Often, the sales enablement team at an established company will help SDRs learn everything they need to know. This material can be referenced in a sales playbook. Having a deep understanding of the brand’s mission, offerings and history will allow them to confidently:

  • Present the company to prospects
  • Answer questions about the product/service
  • Move prospects to the next stage of the sales funnel

SDRs should also have in-depth knowledge of the company’s customer personas. Knowing the customer and their pain points can help an SDR determine whether a prospect is a good fit for the company’s products/services. 

Experience with CRM Tools 

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools help companies keep track of customer interactions and ensure that their needs are met. SDRs must be familiar with these tools, as they will help them automate some of their tasks and keep track of customer data. 

Communication Skills

SDRs must be excellent communicators. After all, they will spend most of their time communicating with clients and other members of the sales team. A successful SDR has excellent listening skills. They can identify a prospect’s needs and educate them on an appropriate solution. They also know how to handle sales objections and manage difficult conversations.

Emotional Intelligence

An SDR’s job is to qualify leads, and this requires a fair level of emotional intelligence. When an SDR can empathize with a prospect and understand their perspective, they can suggest more relevant and effective solutions to solve their problems. There will also be a lot of rejection which not everyone can handle.

Organizational Skills

SDRs interact with a number of prospects or leads on any given day. It is crucial for them to have excellent organizational skills so that they can keep track of potential customers and streamline their workflow. 

Problem-Solving Skills

A sales development representative’s job is to introduce the company to potential customers and help them find the best solution for their needs. Along with having great listening skills, they’ll also need excellent problem-solving skills to achieve this goal.

Problem-solving skills will help an SDR better understand the prospect’s needs and suggest solutions.

Sales Development Representative Career Path

The sales development representative role is an entry-level position, but it can serve as an important stepping stone in a successful career in sales.

To enter a career as an SDR, you can follow the path below:

Training and Education

Some companies will require SDRs to have a bachelor’s degree, but not all. If attending college or university isn’t an option, seek out training elsewhere. You can find individual sales courses that will help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this role.

Sales Experience

While you’re in training or earning your degree, you can gain valuable sales experience working in retail sales or another similar role. 

Working in this type of position will give you an opportunity to interact with customers and help them find what they need. These are tasks that you’ll be doing as an SDR, but on a deeper level. Having this experience before you enter your career can help you get started on the right foot.

Network

Networking is crucial to the success of any career in sales, and that includes the SDR role. Make as many industry connections as you can through:

  • Training courses
  • LinkedIn 
  • Conferences and networking events

Advance

Once you enter a career as an SDR and get some experience under your belt, you can move on to a more advanced role. SDRs have many career options, including:

Account Executive

The account executive (AE) role is a natural next step for an SDR. The SDR’s job is to qualify leads and send them along the pipeline. An AE’s job is to seal the deal. It only makes sense to move from a position that generates sales pipeline to one that converts the opportunities into customers.

The AE role is ideal for SDRs who:

  • Love their jobs, as many AE’s still do their own prospecting
  • Have a true understanding of prospects’ pain points
  • Have a real knack for building and nurturing relationships 
  • Like solving problems while being held accountable to a quota

Jumping from SDR to AE doesn’t necessarily have to be a long process. Some SDRs move into an AE role in less than two years if they’re motivated and have a track record of success.

Community Manager

Although not a traditional sales job title, community managers serve as the liaison between the company and their online community. Their job is to develop and maintain a consistent brand voice and tone across all social platforms. 

SDRs often make great community managers because they know their prospects and customers so well. They understand their pain points, and they’re excellent communicators. SDRs also understand the company, its offerings and its identity.

The community manager role is a natural choice for SDRs who want to take on a different position that still allows them to interact with customers.

SDR Manager

SDRs who truly love their work may want to move into a managerial role and lead their fellow team members.

To move into this role, an SDR must be able to demonstrate their expertise in:

  • Onboarding
  • Sales Training
  • Sales Management 
  • Sales Coaching
  • Acting as a motivator

Sales Operations and Sales Enablement

After a year or two in an SDR role, some people like being in sales but not on the front lines. They want to support the sales organization and can do this in a sale operations role which often includes building out the operations functions for the sales team. This often includes CRM tasks inside Salesforce or HubSpot that are the main activity center for the sales team.

Additionally, a Sales Enablement role can be a new career path for an SDR. This role supports the sales organization from a learning and development perspective.

CS Manager/Associate

A customer success manager (CSM) plays an important role in customer retention and experience. A company’s interaction with a customer doesn’t end after closing.

Once a sale is made, a CSM steps in to serve as a coach or mentor. They help customers become familiar with the product or service. CSMs provide the support and tools customers need to succeed. 

SDRs already possess many of the skills that CSMs need to thrive in their roles, including:

  • Communication skills
  • Customer-centric approach 
  • Skill in upselling and cross-selling
  • Organizational and time management skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Relationship-building skills

As a sales career progresses, often SDRs go from SDR to AE, to Sales Manager, to Director of Sales, to VP of Sales and finally they can become a Chief Revenue Officer if their goal is to move up the sales hierarchy.

Some SDRs love the job so much they work for SDR outsourcing companies.

What Does a Sales Development Representative Do Each Day?

A sales development representative spends their day prospecting and interacting with potential customers. Their daily tasks may include:

Reaching Out and Following Up

An SDR spends a lot of time engaging in:

  • Cold emailing
  • Cold calling
  • Social media outreach
  • Following up with inbound leads
  • Following the steps in their sequence in tools like Apollo, Salesloft, and Outreach

They also spend time researching and identifying potential customers. Once they understand their needs, they will set up a process to provide valuable content, event invitations and other materials to the prospect.

Educate Prospects

SDRs interact with multiple contacts every day. They spend a fair amount of time educating these contacts on the company and its products/services. They’ll ask questions to understand the prospect’s needs and recommend appropriate solutions.

Qualify and Filter Leads

An SDR will also qualify and filter leads. Prospects who fit the company defined qualification criteria will be moved to the next stage in the sales funnel. 

Prospects that aren’t the right fit will be removed from the pipeline. 

SDR Salary

A sales development representative can expect to earn between $28,250 – $69,900. for their base salary. Depending on the product, market, location, and company this can vary. There is often a commission and/or bonus element but it is usually not double their base like an AE. For example, an SDR who earns a base of $50K may earn up to 20K in bonuses/commission. This varies wildly by company and type of SDR role

Sales Development Representative Responsibilities

SDRs need excellent communication and the drive to increase sales. The ideal fit for this position is someone who can handle these responsibilities:

Research and Prospect for New Customers

Businesses hire SDRs to fill sales pipelines with new business opportunities. These professionals will spend their time learning about a product or service so that they know exactly how to hit on the pain points of potential leads.

As a company representative, they’ll use all necessary avenues to reach prospects.

Engage with Prospects Via Email, Phone or Social Media

Today’s prospects must be engaged on the platforms that they prefer. Social media alone has over 4.2 billion users. SDRs must be on the channels that the business’s prospects “live” on, including:

  • LinkedIn – The most popular
  • Twitter – The second most popular
  • Instagram and Facebook are also options depending on what you sell.

SDRs utilize cold email to reach the right buyers in the company and aren’t afraid to pick up the phone to make cold calls.

Schedule Meetings and Appointments

Leads that show interest will be easier prospects and more likely to book a meeting. Following up on leads is also a major responsibility of an SDR, who will reach out to prospects to schedule second or third meetings. Being an appointment setter is a key part of this role.

Manage Leads and Sales

When an SDR is not on the phone or social media, they’re often found using customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These platforms empower the SDR to manage all of their leads and any sales-related activities. This is where all activity is recorded.

Sales reps can then log into the CRM to refresh themselves on the lead and the information that the SDR has already gathered.

Networking to Build Relationships

Finding new prospects is easier when an SDR is in the trenches, meeting with potential leads at networking events and trade shows. Attendance will allow the professional to make friends with integral stakeholders in a business and leverage this relationship to foster leads. This is not common though.

Report to Management

A sales development representative will be responsible for reporting on sales activities and provide their manager as well as their AE consistent updates.. Regular reports are a part of the job, along with staying on top of the latest developments and trends in the industry.

Starting a career as a sales development representative is a good way for someone interested in sales to get their foot in the door and move up in a company. There’s a lot of growth potential for anyone who excels as an SDR.

Additional Reading

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