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What is a Sales Development Representative?

Definition, Requirements, Responsibilities, and Team Management

 

There are a lot of acronyms in sales that can be confusing for those new in the space. Not to mention the multiple roles, strategies, and industry jargon used by those who have been in the industry for years.

Take SDR, for instance. It’s a common enough role for any company but it can be confusing to truly nail down its definition. Partly because the role itself has no official description. It’s mostly up to a company how to define it and the responsibilities it should cover.

In this blog, we’ll attempt to clarify what a sales development representative is and what their responsibilities are.

Moreover, we’ll also talk about the characteristics of an effective sales rep, as well as how to boost the performance of an SDR team.

Let’s begin with its definition.

 

A man shaking hands with a woman

 

What is a Sales Development Representative (SDR)?

 

Most people, when trying to find this role on Google, would enter in the search bar “what is an SDR sales rep?” That’s where the confusion usually starts.

It’s like saying ATM machine or PIN number. It’s a redundant acronym phrase.
What is the role of an SDR?

Further complicating the situation is the role that the SDR plays. Some companies would say they qualify inbound marketing leads, while others would argue they prospect outbound leads instead.

Fortunately, Kalungi compiled some of these companies in an attempt to clear the air. Long story short, most agree that sales development representatives are qualifying inbound marketing leads. Those that handle outbound leads are given to BDRs or business development representatives.

Neither SDR and BDR are responsible for converting these leads. Those will be given to the Account Executive (AE) or Enterprise Account Manager (AEM).

 

A magnet pulling a stack of money

 

How Much Does an SDR Make?

 

According to job marketing service ZipRecruiter, an SDR can earn a national average of $49, 537 a year or $24 an hour. This is pretty much in line with the number given by PayScale, which sits at $45,000.

However, ZipRecruiter also points out that there are top SDR earners out there that can push their salary to $67,000 a month. That can stem from bonuses and commissions, which often come from qualifying leads that are then converted to paying customers.

If the SDR manages to consistently find these high-value customers, he or she would eventually get promoted to an AE.

But before we get into that, how does a sales development rep find qualified leads? What does it even mean? Where do they come from?

 

Sales Qualified Lead vs Marketing Qualified Lead

 

Well, before someone becomes a sales qualified lead, they first need to pass through your sales pipeline. Now, this pipeline will have different stages depending on your company. Some use five stages, while others could have as many as eight.

Regardless of its length, the end goal is the same: conversion. The marketing team would start by attracting audiences via written content, podcasts, social media, etc.

Of course, you’re not going to convert all of your audience, only some. If a customer expressed interest in your company like giving their email address to download a free eBook or trying at a SaaS freemium product, they become a marketing qualified lead or MQL.

MQLs are not guaranteed to convert. Think of them as someone window shopping at a store. The curiosity is there but the intent to buy isn’t strong enough yet.

But if the MQL starts asking more questions about the product or the service (price, features), then that’s when they become a sales qualified lead or SQL.

 

Here’s where the sales development rep comes in.

 

An SDR will nurture an SQL to a point where their eagerness to buy a product or pay for a service intensifies. Relationship building is key here.

Once the SDR primes the SQL’s desire, they are then passed down to the account executive. A meeting is then set up for further evaluation. If the AE deems the SQL fit, they’ll try their best to convert the customer.

Meanwhile, the sales rep will collect more qualified leads for the AE to convert in the future. The more SQL the SDR can find, the better the chances of conversion. And the higher the commission an SDR will receive.

 

A man calling from his phone while using his laptop

 

Skills Needed by a Sales Development Representative

 

Since a sales development rep turns leads into qualified leads for the AE, most of their skill is centered on soft skills. These includes:

  • Communication
  • Perseverance
  • Confidence
  • Following established company process
  • Curious
  • Tech-savvy

 

1. Communication

 

As mentioned earlier, one of the skills needed by a sales development representative is relationship building. And you’ll need effective communication for such an endeavor.

 

Speak their language

 

One of the skills in this area is to speak the same language as the lead. For instance, let’s say you’re an SDR for a SaaS product and you’re talking to a customer. They might use acronyms like MRR, ARR, CAC, and CLTV.

If you don’t know any of these terms, you’re going to get lost quickly. Worse still, you might lose the SQL as you’re not connecting with their language.

Conversely, do not talk to a qualified lead like this. Try to find the right balance between being technical and informal depending on the conversation and how the SQL is responding.

You should also be fast enough so the conversation is engaging but slow enough so you’re not losing the SQL. Let the SQL lead and follow suit. It’s more like a dance, really.

 

Actively listen

 

Listening is one of the forms of communication. And one of its many benefits is helping you dig out the SQL’s pain points. What problems are they trying to solve?

Depending on their answer, you could connect one of your product’s features to this. Let’s stick with the SaaS example earlier.

SQL: “One of our problems is we can’t push our monthly revenue higher. We’ve hit a plateau we can’t breakthrough.

 

SDR: “Our X product can you help you with that. It helps you qualify leads in your pipeline and eliminates time-consuming data input. That way, you can focus more on selling your SaaS product and acquire high-value customers.

By discovering a customer’s pain point, an SDR can maneuver the conversation so the product takes center stage. The conversation could expand from there to cover other features that could help the potential customer with other issues they’re struggling with.

 

2. Perseverance

 

As you can imagine, a sales development rep will experience a high amount of rejection from MQLs. This can burn anyone out pretty quickly.

But an SDR understands it’s a number’s game. They don’t take it personally. And even if their usual number goes down, they take the time to reflect. They ask questions like “what area can I improve on?” or “how can I pry the pain points from my leads better?

 

3. Customer Research

 

If you’re an SDR, being a great researcher is a massive edge to have. It allows you to keep track of market stability, as well as find prospects that you could pass down to your AE.

The advent of social media has made this easier for an SDR. Sites like LinkedIn, Reddit, and Quora are data goldmines where you can discover a lot about your potential customer.

  • What’s trending in your industry
  • What are the most talked about topics this week or month?
  • What’s the latest project company X is working on?
  • How are companies or customers adjusting to the new normal?

By closely monitoring the sites where your customers are hanging out, you’ll slowly tap into their community. You’ll know how they talk, their desires, and the general sense of their feeling towards your industry.

 

4. Confidence

 

Confidence is an essential skill for an SDR as it would manifest itself when conversing with a lead. And this confidence stems from knowing what they’re selling inside and out.

They know about:

  • The features of their products
  • Their client’s pain points
  • Their client’s objections
  • The company’s roadmap

In short, a confident SDR has done their homework. They know which buttons to push to elicit a response. They basedtheir answers depending what the response they’re receiving.

This encompasses the earlier point. If you know how the current temperament of the community, you’ll be confident enough to speak on their current state of mind.

A good example is how the crypto industry is affecting the price of GPUs across the world, which got the entire gaming community in an uproar.

 

5. Follows the company’s process

 

A company that’s been in its respective industry for years has developed a tried and true sales process of converting customers. And an effective SDR should believe in this process. After all, if that process has been poor from the outset, it would’ve killed the company long ago.

But this isn’t to say that an SDR should only stick with a company’s method. Successful sales representatives find holes in the procedure and will attempt to patch it. But not independently.

They’ll take their suggestion to the account executive and discuss possible improvements. This brings to another trait of an SDR…

 

An male SDR contemplating a sales pipeline

 

6. Endless curiosity

 

Curiosity and creativity go hand in hand, which is why both are the foundations of an effective sales development representative. They can follow orders, yes. But they continuously question a company’s sales process too.

This isn’t to undermine the procedure but to improve it. As we discussed earlier, an SDR will earn more if they consistently find a hot SQL.

And to find these high-value clients, they would try to improve the process of finding them in the first place. “What if we do X, instead of Y?” they would usually ask their AEs.

 

7. Tech-savvy (just a bit)

 

While an SDR doesn’t need to be truly tech-savvy, having this skill is still essential for the role. This is especially true nowadays when a lot of SaaS products are used by thousands of companies to streamline their operation.

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is one such product. It can improve customer satisfaction by giving an SDR a lot of information about that client. And that’s just one aspect of it.

If an SDR is tech-savvy, they can quickly get a handle on the software stack a company is using. Of course, they could be trained to use these tools.

However, considering that the SDR turnover rate is around 34 percent, a company needs to accelerate this training process. This is to get back the cost of training these employees as the tenure rate of an SDR is only 14 months.

 

Three people talking on a table

 

How to Boost the Efficiency of Your SDR Team

 

So far, we’ve discussed the individual performance of an SDR for business development. But what about your SDR team? How can you increase the team’s performance so you can improve your sales pipeline?

Let’s cover some of them.

 

1. Celebrate your SDR Team

 

Even if your SDR team is composed of highly resilient performers, you’ll still need to help them decompress. And one of the best ways to do that is to celebrate their victories.

Recognize the achievements of the individual and the entire team. Thousands of companies are already doing this as it has a proven positive effect on employee performance.

Some companies are even using company software to highlight these wins. An example is a team leader of a content marketing team pulling data from their client’s website and celebrating the team’s victory of driving traffic and increasing customer engagement.

But don’t just celebrate victories. You should also hand out praises and awards even if all the SDR team did was surviving a rough week. A regularity in the corporate world, to be sure.

It’s easy enough for an employee to feel appreciated after their hard-earned performance. But it’s a completely different feeling when an SDR team is recognized unexpectedly.

 

2. Daily Stand Up

 

The daily standup is a short meeting of the team to plan for the next 24 hours. It will highlight three aspects:

  • What did you accomplish yesterday?
  • What are you going to carry out today?
  • What are hindrances to your performance?

By mapping out these questions, the SDR team will be consistently working on the same page. Do this enough and it becomes second nature for everyone.

On average, you want daily standup to last for a maximum of 15 minutes. Anything for more than that and it’ll quickly dissolve into something unproductive. Moreover, your standup should only include nine persons so it doesn’t extend beyond the recommended time limit.

The more people you have, the more information is going to be shared. So keep it to a minimum to stay on track.

 

3. Align the marketing team with the SDR team

 

As you may have guessed, if the marketing team is sending the right message, the SDR team will capture more desirable customers. Thus, you’ll need to align both so they’re operating on the same frequency.

There should be regular meetings between these teams so the other can provide a unique perspective from their point of view. This creates a smoother sales funnel where a potential customer can quickly go from an MQL to SQL to the hands of an AE where they can be converted.

Remember, the SDR team has every motivation to help the marketing team as it can potentially increase their overall pay.

 

Conclusion

 

An SDR may be an entry-level position but they’re one of the reasons for company growth. Once you onboard these employees, always make sure they’re guided, motivated, and compensated accordingly.

Doing so will decrease your turnover rate and transform your company into a top player in your industry.

For more marketing tips and strategies about the SaaS industry, visit our marketing blog.

 

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Ken Moo
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