What is a Sales Development Representative (SDR)?
According to 34 percent of B2B (business-to-business) sales professionals, prospecting is the hardest part of the job.
Does your B2B company struggle with prospecting and lead generation? If so, you may need to bring a sales development representative (SDR) onto your team.
Not sure what an SDR is or how they can help B2B companies like yours increase leads and sales? Find the answers to these and other pressing SDR-related questions below.
What Is a Sales Development Representative?
A sales development representative or SDR (also known as a business development representative) is a member of a company’s inside sales team.
These professionals exclusively focus on sales prospecting. They reach out to new leads, qualify them, and push them through the sales funnel.
SDR vs. Sales Executive
At first glance, it’s easy to confuse the role of a sales development representative with that of a sales executive. There are some critical distinctions between the two, though, including the following:
- SDRs are the finders who connect with new leads; Sales executives are closers who create deals and move leads through the rest of the sales funnel.
- SDRs qualify and disqualify leads and make appointments for sales executives; Sales executives handle demos, send sales proposals, negotiate, and close deals.
- SDRs are compensated based on the number of qualified opportunities they generate; Sales executives are paid based on specific sales quotas.
SDR and sales executives also differ based on their education requirements.
SDRs must understand the company’s products/services and the prospective customer’s needs, pain points, etc. Sales executives must be educated on the products/services and their use cases.
SDR Roles and Responsibilities
Sales development representatives are responsible for both inbound and outbound sales prospecting:
- Inbound sales prospecting: Nurturing leads who have previously shown an interest in your product/service and have already engaged with your company through a particular marketing channel.
- Outbound sales prospecting: Reaching out to potential customers/clients who have never engaged with your business’s product or service (cold calling, emailing, etc.).
In some ways, an SDR resembles a consultant. They connect with prospects — often via phone, email, or social media — actively listen to their needs and challenges and then offer a practical solution (i.e., the company’s products or services).
SDRs must have an in-depth understanding of the prospect’s business model and should know whether or not your company’s product/service is a good fit for that model. They should also be adept teachers who can educate leads and convince them that your product/service will solve their problems and improve their business.
The following are some specific tasks an SDR might carry out during a typical workday:
- Research, identify, and search for new customers/clients
- Contact prospects via phone, email, or social media
- Setup appointments and meetings to discuss your company’s products or services
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? In theory, it is.
In practice, though, an SDR’s role is quite complex and requires a lot of hard work to connect with prospects, qualify and disqualify leads, and move them further down the sales funnel.
Essential Skills of an SDR
Speaking of the complexity of a sales development representative’s role, let’s discuss in more detail the specific skills an SDR should bring to the table:
Because the primary purpose of a sales development representative is to handle sales prospecting, it makes sense that they would need above-average prospecting skills.
A good SDR should know which buying signals to watch for, the words to use that encourage customers to make a purchase, and the right time to ask a potential customer about scheduling an appointment.
Sales development representatives play a critical role in qualifying leads and determining which people should be moved further down the sales funnel. To qualify leads and make informed decisions, they must be good listeners.
A good listener doesn’t just hear what another person is saying. They also know how to read between the lines and interpret the meaning behind that person’s words.
In addition to being good listeners, sales development representatives must also be good communicators.
SDRs should know how to start conversations on various platforms (phone, email, social media messaging, etc.) and build rapport with potential customers. They must also know how to respond to objections, assuage concerns, and explain how your company’s products or services can solve a specific business problem.
Adaptability is another essential characteristic of a skilled sales development representative.
SDRs are able to adjust their message (the content, tone, vocabulary, etc.) based on their audience. They can also pivot and try a different approach if their current tactic isn’t working as well as they initially hoped.
Time Management Skills
Sales Development Representatives know how to manage their time well.
These professionals often juggle many balls at once, and they must be able to manage communications on multiple platforms — while also actively listening and giving the person on the other end their full attention.
A good SDR will know when to stop wasting their time on a conversation that isn’t going anywhere. Conversely, they will also know when to stick with a conversation that has the potential to lead to a sale.
Working as a sales development representative isn’t a particularly tech-heavy job. However, the best SDRs should understand certain tools and platforms in depth.
For example, an SDR should understand how to send messages on social media and keep track of conversations in their direct message inboxes.
Sales development representatives should also know how to use tools like email marketing platforms, video conferencing tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.
As anyone who’s worked in the sales world can tell you, sales professionals hear the word “no” a lot. Sometimes, it’s a polite “no, thank you,” and other times, it comes out a little (or a lot) harsher.
A skilled sales development representative will be okay with being told no repeatedly. They’ll be resilient and able to continue pressing forward to find the right sales prospects.
Curiosity and Coachability
The best sales development professionals don’t think they know everything. They’re curious and continuously open to learning from others in their field.
Good SDRs are also coachable. In other words, they’re willing to listen to others and take feedback from them — both positive and constructive feedback.
An effective sales development representative should also be self-aware. They understand their strengths and weaknesses and continuously work to improve in areas where they struggle.
For example, say someone knows that they’re not the most organized or the best at managing their time. A good SDR doesn’t pretend they have it all figured out and hope for the best. Instead, they ask for help from others who are good time managers, and they implement strategies to work around their shortcomings.
What Can an SDR Do for Your Team?
Some B2B sales professionals might be hesitant about adding another person to their team. Can’t you handle prospecting-related tasks on your own?
Technically, you can. However, when you bring on a sales development representative who is solely devoted to sales prospecting, you and your entire business can enjoy several benefits, including the following:
Increase Your Closing Rate
The number one reason to work with a sales development representative is that they can help you increase your closing rate. Look at this example from Gartner.
Gartner observed two companies: One with sales development teams and one without. The company that had sales development representatives on staff had a 40 percent conversion rate. The company that passed leads straight to sales executives with quotas to meet had a conversion rate of less than five percent!
What B2B company doesn’t want a higher conversion rate? You can make this happen when you bring skilled SDRs onto your team.
Make Contacts Earlier
One reason that sales development representatives can increase your company’s closing rate is that they allow you to make contact with potential customers/clients sooner.
Your sales team is more likely to make sales and meet its quota if you engage with prospects first (rather than waiting for them to reach out to you).
Sales development representatives can contact prospects earlier than busy sales executives. In some cases, they even connect with people before they know they need a new solution (like the products/services your company offers).
Get Ahead of the Competition
When you have an SDR on your team, they can also help you get ahead of the competition. They complement your marketing team and sales executives by connecting with people sooner and getting them interested in your products or services.
When salespeople and SDRs work together, the salespeople also have more time to build rapport, deliver presentations, negotiate, and close deals.
Because the SDR is doing the time-consuming work of reaching out to prospects, qualifying leads, and scheduling appointments, the sales executives can dedicate their time and energy to closing deals faster than the competition.
Improve the Lead Qualifying Process
Sales development representatives are not just dedicated to finding and connecting with leads. They also spend much of their time qualifying leads and making sure sales executives don’t waste time communicating with people who aren’t likely to make a purchase.
An SDR has more room in their schedule to get to know sales prospects, understand their questions and pain points, and decide if the company’s products or services can be useful solutions.
The best SDRs know how to tell if a lead is good or not, and they minimize the number of unqualified leads that move through the sales funnel. As a result, they help sales executives close more deals and boost the company’s bottom line.
Improve Brand Awareness and Reputation
Sales development representatives can also play a critical role in helping your company build brand awareness and establish a strong reputation.
The most skilled SDRs use their extensive industry knowledge and experience to connect with new potential customers and provide them with helpful resources and feedback. This approach improves both lead generation efforts and increases the brand’s visibility while also fostering valuable connections with audience members.
Not only do SDRs introduce new people to your company’s products or services. They also present your company in a positive light, helping you build credibility and become more recognizable.
Standardize Your Approach to Prospecting
A sales development representative can help you standardize your approach to sales prospecting and create a repeatable, scalable process.
It’s true that every qualifying conversation is unique. However, certain rules and guidelines apply in nearly all situations, whether you’re talking to a member of a major corporation or a mom-and-pop shop.
When you work with an SDR (or a team of SDRs), they can help you create a standardized prospecting strategy. Your company can then use this strategy to streamline future training efforts and give new sales professionals the skills they need to become better prospectors and closers.
Support Sales Executives Better
In addition to improving the training process, sales development representatives can also provide support to sales executives in other ways.
For example, SDRs can assist with market research and audience analysis. Your sales executives can then use this information to inform their message and deliver a more persuasive presentation to potential customers.
As we mentioned earlier, SDRs also take work off your sales executives’ plates — mainly contacting prospective customers/clients and setting up appointments. They allow your entire team to be more productive and get closer to achieving their sales goals.
Gain Valuable Insights into Your Target Audience
Sales development representatives often have detailed insight into your company’s target audience.
SDRs know who makes up your audience — their average age, gender, position at the company, preferred social media platforms, etc. They can also share this information with other key members of your sales team.
Knowledge is power. The more you (and your sales team) know about your target audience, the easier it is to tailor your message to them and deliver more persuasive presentations.
How to Choose a Sales Development Representative
If you’re interested in enjoying any (or all) of the benefits discussed above, hiring a sales development representative could be the next right move for your business. Here are some essential factors to consider when looking for an SDR to join your team:
Minimum Skills and Qualifications
Start by clarifying the minimum skills and qualifications applicants must have before they can be considered for the sales development representative position.
In most cases, companies hiring SDRs ask for the following:
- At least two years of sales experience
- Proficiency with customer relationship management (CRM) software and other sales tools
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Creative problem-solving and analytical skills
When writing a job description, be sure to highlight the skills and qualifications an applicant must have. This list should be pretty short.
You can include other nice-to-have qualities in a separate list, but if you weigh down your must-have list with too many bullet points, you may end up scaring away applicants who could be assets to your team.
When interviewing and evaluating applicants for the sales development representative position, look for these hard skills (technical knowledge and abilities):
- Understanding of the sales process (Prospecting, lead qualification, research, sales pitch, objection handling, closing)
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Research skills
To evaluate a candidate’s hard skills, you may also want to ask them questions about how they handle missed sales goals, how they stay informed about the latest sales trends, and how they generate and qualify new leads.
Evaluating a candidate’s behavioral intelligence helps you understand how they have handled difficult sales situations in the past (and how they’ll likely handle them when working with your company).
To assess someone’s behavioral intelligence skills, look for the following:
- Ability to reflect on past experiences and understand what worked and what didn’t
- Analytical skills
- Ability to learn from failure
A commitment to personal growth and development is also an essential part of behavioral intelligence for sales development professionals.
Look for people who are committed to keeping up with the latest changes in the sales world. They should also be eager to learn new techniques and approaches.
The term “soft skills” refers to a person’s personality traits and cognitive abilities. Here are some specific soft skills to look for when interviewing potential sales development representatives for your company:
- Time management skills
- Negotiation skills
- Active listening
- Relationship-building skills
- Organizational skills
- Critical thinking skills
To assess a candidate’s soft skills, consider asking them how they handle common challenges like scheduling conflicts or objections from potential customers.
You can also ask them about their ability to work as part of a team or analyze problems to come up with creative solutions.
Build Your B2B Company with the Right SDRs Today
A skilled sales development representative can significantly impact your B2B company’s sales prospecting strategy (as well as your business’s closing rate and bottom line).
Are you ready to start building your B2B sales team? If so, follow the guidelines discussed above so you can hire the best SDR today.