While the traditional image of a salesperson involves one sales rep in charge of a lead from start to finish, more and more teams are breaking up their sales roles into multiple components. Instead of a single salesperson handling everything from lead generation to closing a deal, the job is broken up into several individual responsibilities.
In particular, the process of generating and qualifying leads is distinguished from the rest of the process and put into the hands of a sales development representative.
What is a sales development representative?
To understand sales development, we need to look back a little bit at the history of the job. In the past, companies relied on direct mail and cold calling to find new leads. Then came the Internet, and direct mail lost ground to email marketing. But the rise of spam and online scams meant that even email wasn’t enough to fill a sales pipeline.
Companies needed to find a way to generate leads more efficiently, so they created the role of the sales development representative to do it.
Essentially, they serve as a link between the marketing department and the sales team, putting Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) directly in front of inside sales reps. This saves the sales team from spending too much of their time trying to sell to unqualified leads.
Sales development representatives specialize in the technological side of the process, using data analysis, phone and email prospecting, and other tools to generate leads.
SDRs may never make a sale themselves; their job is solely to set the lead up on a call with a salesperson or closer. Your sales reps handle all of the selling from there on out, knowing that they’ve been set up for success with leads who are ready to purchase.
SDRs are most often found in B2B sales, where the longer sales cycles and high-value clients make it practical to invest in a role specifically for generating leads.
So, what does a sales development rep actually do? You can think of them as the R&D team on your sales force. They take what could be an inefficient process -- cold calling leads and other brute force approaches -- and turn it into a strategic one.
SDRs can be found on either inside or outside sales teams, although sometimes they’re referred to as Business Development Representatives (BDR) for outbound sales. Either way, SDRs are likely the first point of contact that a lead has with your company, so it’s important that they make a good impression.
In B2B sales, an SDR might contact a lead directly after researching their company or networking with them on social media. If they successfully connect with the lead, their job is to teach them about the product you’re selling, qualify them as a prospect, and schedule a phone call or meeting with the sales team, who takes over the process.
In inbound sales, the leads typically initiate contact, such as by filling out a webform to request a callback. While this type of call is considered a “warm” call rather than a cold one, the SDR’s job is still the same: answer any questions they have about the product or service, qualify them, and set them up for a sales pitch from the sales team.
SDR positions are usually considered entry-level positions, suitable for candidates with a degree in markerking, sales, consulting, or a related field. They require a combination of soft skills and technical skills, including email and social media skills, depending on which inbound or outbound platforms they’ll be working with.
Quotas are typically based on how many calls they make (such as 40 per day) or how many sales calls they set up with a qualified prospect.
Sales development representatives and outbound prospecting
Outbound prospecting refers to the process of identifying and researching a lead who hasn’t initiated contact with your company. There are several stages to the process:
- Research the lead
First, the SDR finds out as much as they can about the lead before making contact. This can include researching their company and industry, looking at their profiles on LinkedIn or other social media sites, and determining whether they have decision-making power.
Sometimes, decision-making is split between multiple people at a company, such as the team lead who has a problem that needs solving, and the financial department, who will ultimately be paying for it. The SDR’s job is to put the right person on the sales call.
They may use specific qualifying criteria to determine whether or not the lead is likely to be interested in your product or service and will be serious about buying it.
- Make the call
Next, the SDR initiates contact, either with a phone call or an introductory email. Phone is still the primary means of contact, but other channels, such as email and social media messages, are becoming increasingly common.
Some leads may have a gatekeeper, such as an assistant, that the SDR has to speak to first. This is one of the most difficult stages in the process, and it may take several tries before the SDR is able to successfully make a contact with the lead.
A successful SDR knows how to apply a cadence, or a specific series of calls or emails, to intrigue a lead into accepting a call. Persistence alone isn’t going to turn a lead into a qualified prospect, so SDRs have to know when to keep trying and when to quit.
- Evaluate the lead
When the SDR gets the lead on the phone, it’s time to find out if they’re the right fit for your product or service. Remember, an SDR isn’t trying to make a sale right away, so this conversation might take the form of a discovery call rather than a sales call.
This is where the SDR’s soft skills come in. They should ask questions to find out what problem the lead is trying to solve, and listen as much as they speak. They need to be able to evaluate whether the product or service offers a solution to the lead’s needs; if not, then it isn’t worth bringing them further along the sales funnel.
Being able to tell when a lead isn’t likely to turn into a buyer is an important part of sales development, since it saves your sales reps from engaging with unqualified prospects.
- Educate the lead
If it looks like the lead is a good fit, then the SDR can educate them about the product or service. This includes helping the prospect identify pain points and providing answers to any objections they raise about your product.
The more the SDR has researched the industry, the easier it will be to dive deep into the lead’s business goals and challenges. And of course, the better they know the product or service itself, the more effectively they can make the case that it’s the best solution.
If the prospect isn’t ready to make a purchase yet, the SDR can schedule further calls to discuss the prospect’s budget, timeframe, and other factors that apply to their case. All of this information is useful to the sales team who will be closing the sale.
It’s important for the SDR to take notes and update the prospect’s record in your CRM to ensure that when the sales team takes over, they can easily get up to speed.
- Schedule a sales call
Finally, now that it’s clear that the prospect is likely to make a purchase, the SDR should schedule a call or an in-person meeting with the sales team. The SDR may sit in on the call or make an introduction, but they don’t usually stay involved beyond that.
Their job is simply to identify, research, educate, and qualify leads. Once they’ve done that, it’s time to get back to prospecting and find the next SQL for the sales team!
What’s the job like?
As you can see, sales development jobs include some of the same activities that sales teams engage in, such as discovery calls and answering common objections.
But it’s a mistake to think that SDRs are just inside sales reps who make cold calls and answer messages from inbound leads.
Since SDRs don’t spend as much time in the later stages of the sales funnel, they can spend more time developing innovative outreach strategies. Many SDRs act as a link between the sales and marketing teams to ensure that their strategies align.
Since outreach methods are constantly changing, an SDR needs to be able to think on their feet and adapt to new technologies and communication platforms.
For example, it’s becoming common for companies to use video prospecting, which can include creating explainer videos to advertise a product, or encouraging SDRs to record personalized video messages to introduce themselves to B2B customers.
SDRs also need to be good at recording voicemails, crafting effective emails and social media messages, and more.
The focus on interpersonal skills and organizational skills makes an SDR role stand out from other positions on the sales team. SDRs focus on attracting and narrowing down a large pool of prospects so that the rest of the sales pipeline is more streamlined.
That’s why it’s important to provide your sales development team with the right tools and training to help them do their jobs more effectively.
Using a CRM system as a sales development representative
Being a sales development representative means keeping track of a lot of moving parts, so one of the most important tools that an SDR can use is a CRM platform.
Why are CRMs so useful for sales development? First, they keep track of every contact that your SDR has with a customer, making it easy to take notes on your discovery calls and pass on any relevant information to your sales reps.
They also integrate with your existing tools, such as online calendars, making it easy to schedule sales calls regardless of your time zone or work schedule.
Second, they provide your team with dozens of sales automation tools, including built-in dialers, email drip campaigns, SMS sequences, and more.
This is key to developing an effective sales cadence, which can help your SDRs avoid contacting a lead too frequently or not frequently enough.
For example, an initial outreach attempt might start with an introductory email, followed by a phone call. Your SDR can set a reminder to follow up again in a few days.
With a CRM, your SDRs will be able to track the open rates of any emails they send, and determine which strategies work best with particular prospects.
Some CRMs even have tools for pre-recording voicemails, saving your SDRs time when it comes to making cold calls and following up with prospects. They can simply choose which voicemail to drop into a lead’s inbox to encourage a callback.
Additionally, CRMs have built-in lead scoring capabilities, ensuring that your SDRs can prioritize their outreach and spend the most time on the most likely prospects.
The more you automate your lead generation and lead scoring process, the less time it takes for your SDRs to personally qualify a prospect over the phone.
None of these tools are intended to replace the personal touch that an SDR can bring to your sales team, but they’re designed to make the job easier.
With the collaborative and organizational capabilities of a CRM, your SDRs will be able to quality your leads that much faster, without letting anyone slip through the cracks.
Try OnCourse to bolster your sales development.
Not all CRMs offer the same tools, which is why OnCourse is a great choice for a sales development platform. With automated lead scoring, a built-in sales dialer, and a range of tracking and reporting tools, it’s an all-in-once CRM designed for sales teams.
It’s also fully customizable, so you can incorporate unique tools built just for your team, or roll out the same CRM across multiple departments.Whether you’re hiring your first SDR, or want to upgrade the tools that your sales team is currently using, reach out to OnCourse to schedule a product demo today!