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What is a sales development rep (and how can they help you boost sales)?

Sales development rep
What is a sales development representative?
Why you need an SDR team
What does a sales development rep do?
What skills does a sales development rep need?
What to look for when hiring a sales development rep
4 SDR tools your business needs to succeed
Final thoughts

A sales development representative (SDR) can help you boost sales and increase revenue. They play a vital role in identifying qualified leads, nurturing them and building a successful sales strategy.

But to utilize an SDR, you need to fully understand the role and where it fits in the sales process.

What does SDR mean and what does a sales development rep actually do? Do they handle inbound or outbound prospecting? Are they responsible for making sales?

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know and show you how to integrate an SDR into your sales process to generate more leads, improve the customer experience and close more deals.

What is a sales development representative?

Sales development reps are team members that focus on outbound prospecting. Their goal is to identify qualified leads, nurture them into the sales funnel and hand them over to an account manager or sales executive to close the deal.

SDRs are knowledgeable about your industry, your sales process and your product or service.

They use this information to find quality leads and start the initial conversation.

They’ll take leads through the early stages of the sales pipeline before passing them on to a sales rep or account executive to make the sale.

Their measure of success is based on the number of sales qualified leads (SQL) they collect each month.

Simply put, SDRs do the initial work so other salespeople can approach qualified leads. The role is usually an entry-level position that doesn’t require years of experience, making it a good way to start in sales.

Key takeaways from this sales development rep (SDR) article

Understand the SDR role: SDRs boost sales by identifying qualified leads, nurturing them and passing them to sales executives to close deals, freeing up time for your sales team to focus on high-quality leads.

Key skills for success: SDRs need excellent communication, active listening, multitasking abilities, empathy and creativity. When hiring SDRs, prioritize candidates with these skills, as well as adaptability, a hardworking attitude and teamwork.

Use Pipedrive’s tools, like Prospector and CRM software, to help SDRs manage prospects, personalize outreach and track leads effectively, ensuring a streamlined sales process. Try Pipedrive free for 14 days.

Why you need an SDR team

Sales development allows businesses to segment their sales efforts so sales can focus on finding and nurturing quality leads. Here are a few ways sales development reps help sales teams close more deals.

  • Free up time for sales reps to focus on closing deals. Without the need to prospect and source leads, sales reps and executives can prioritize making sales.

  • Focus on high-quality leads. An SDR filters prospects early in the process to get more quality leads in the pipeline so sales reps don’t have to sift through less promising prospects.

  • Provide customers with a better experience. Dedicating a team to sales development means they can make more time for calls and emails to lay the groundwork for a smooth and seamless buying experience.

What does a sales development rep do?

An SDR finds qualified outbound leads and brings them into the top of the sales funnel. Occasionally, SDRs also deal with inbound prospects (also known as marketing qualified leads or MQLs) who’ve already shown interest in the business.

While some sales organizations opt for both inbound and outbound activity, in this article, we’ll focus on how an SDR finds and nurtures outbound leads.

Identify quality leads

A potential sale goes from being a prospect to either a qualified lead or a dead end. It’s an SDR’s job to identify which prospects are worth pursuing.

The process involves reaching out and connecting with prospects (via inbound or outbound channels) and finding out more about who they are and what they want.

Before they can connect, they research which prospects to approach by considering the following questions:

  • Does the prospect match the company’s buyer persona?

  • What are the prospect’s priorities?

  • What are they trying to achieve?

  • What are their most pressing challenges?

  • Who is the decision-maker at their company?

  • What tools (if any) do they currently use to try to solve a problem?

Take a look at The Inviqa Group as an example of effective lead qualification. The web development and consultancy company uses Pipedrive to manage a rigorous and scientific lead qualification process.

Paul Wander, Inviqa’s co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing, says:

“We’re trying to take away all of the soft crazy discussions that you have with salespeople. To be rigorous and disciplined about what makes an opportunity get to each stage is really important. And why is it important? Because it then becomes scalable. If all the salespeople are following the same definition, you can trust the pipeline.”

It’s the same for SDRs. They handle this part of the sales process so that sales executives can increase their sales and close more deals.

SDRs also use BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) or other lead qualification frameworks to determine who’s likely to buy before making contact.

Initial outreach

After finding promising leads, SDRs will contact them to get the ball rolling.

Depending on where leads are or where they spend their time, an SDR might reach out through cold email, cold calls or social media. Rather than picking one channel, an SDR will have multiple touchpoints across channels to provide leads with consistent communication (also known as omnichannel marketing).

SDRs should personalize any outreach messaging. A report from Twilio found that almost 80% of business leaders say consumers spend more when their experience is personalized.

This isn’t just a case of adding a {{FirstName}} or {{CompanyName}} merge tag to the initial email. When a prospect receives the email, it should be relevant to the challenges they’re facing and where they are in the sales pipeline.

This means going beyond general industry information and doing targeted research on specific leads. The SDR is responsible for finding all this information and using it to personalize communications.

Lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is the process of moving a lead through the sales pipeline. It involves developing and maintaining a relationship with leads at every stage of the sales funnel.

Even the most enthusiastic inbound leads are unlikely to be ready for a meeting after just one call. It’s up to the SDR to nurture those new leads and further educate them on your product or service.

SDRs aren’t responsible for nurturing leads through the entire sales pipeline, but they are in charge of getting them through the door and setting them up to make a purchase. Then, when the sales executive takes over, they’re already in a good position to make a sale.

Assign leads to sales reps

Once a lead is qualified, the SDR moves them through the sales pipeline and passes them to the account executive. The executive then continues nurturing the lead through to closing the deal.

Because this is the main objective for an SDR, most sales organizations use “leads assigned to sales reps” as a measure of success.

What skills does a sales development rep need?

Here are the key skills an SDR needs to excel in a sales development role:

  • A “gritty” mindset. An SDR needs to be determined to encourage leads and show them why they should make a purchase. If a lead says, “I don’t think it’s right for us”, the SDR should be willing to convince them otherwise.

  • Excellent communication skills. An SDR regularly communicates with different people from different types of businesses. They need to be able to communicate well to effectively nurture all these leads through the pipeline.

  • Active listening skills. Listening is a crucial part of good communication. SDRs need to actively listen to individual prospects so they can understand their pain points and offer a valuable solution.

  • The ability to multitask. While SDRs only cover one part of the sales process, they still have a lot of tasks to take care of. They juggle research, outreach and follow-ups, so they need to be able to switch between tasks.

  • Empathy and self-awareness. An SDR builds relationships by helping leads feel understood so they know that the company values their point of view.

  • The ability to perform thorough research. SDRs need to uncover all the relevant information about prospects to a) determine if they’re qualified leads and b) personalize communications.

  • A flair for creativity. Decision-makers are usually exceptionally busy people with plenty of demands on their time. To stand a chance of getting their attention, SDRs need to be creative with their communication. For example, Jon Buchan, director at Charm Offensive, is well-known for using humor in cold emails to secure meetings with senior decision-makers at companies including RedBull, Symantec, Hewlett-Packard and more.

To summarize, SDRs need many of the traits that make a good salesperson (which is why this is a great stepping stone to more high-level sales positions).

David Dulany, founder and CEO of Tenbound, believes that there are three key areas any SDR should develop as part of what he calls the “successful SDR trifecta”. He says:

SDRs can set themselves apart from the competition with a gritty mindset, sales skills and buyer-persona knowledge. The right mindset is critical, having a never-say-die attitude to get things done and using creativity to make it happen. Sales skills ensure they can properly handle conversations and move sales cycles forward. Then buyer persona knowledge means they know the problems and pain points of their prospects, and can articulate how they can help.

What to look for when hiring a sales development rep

When hiring an SDR for your sales team, remember that they don’t need to have existing sales experience. Since you’re filling an entry-level position, you should be more interested in seeing candidates with the right skills.

Here are some of the questions to ask yourself throughout the recruitment process (and some of the key skills to look out for).

How does the candidate interact with people?

As mentioned, good communication skills are vital for an SDR. Use the interview to get an idea of how the candidate will communicate with prospects. For example, you could host a test call to see how they engage with people.

While hosting the call, consider the following:

  • Are they skilled communicators?

  • Do they ask questions?

  • Do they listen?

  • Are they responding with empathy and understanding?

If a candidate can hold a conversation, it’s a good sign that they’ll be able to engage naturally with your potential customers.

Also consider their experience. Did the candidate have experience interacting with different people in previous roles? This isn’t limited to sales experience. They could have experience in a restaurant or in retail – it’s more about their ability to work with people and communicate effectively.

Are they adaptable?

A key part of an SDR’s role is being able to respond to different situations.

For example, say a lead is facing a new challenge. It’s not a pain point that’s come up before, and the SDR needs to present a solution. In some cases, they may have to think of a solution on the spot – particularly if it’s a phone call.

Ask the candidate if they’ve ever had to adapt to new circumstances and how they handled it. That’ll give you a good idea of how well they think on the spot, adapt to new situations and learn from what’s happening in front of them.

You could also provide them with a scenario and see how they’d tackle it. For instance, if a follow-up email isn’t working, what would they do?

Are they willing to work hard?

When conducting sales interviews, don’t sugarcoat the challenges of the role. Being an SDR is hard work, and if they’re not prepared for that then they won’t last long. Explain the ins and outs of the position, giving them a clear picture of what the day-to-day job looks like.

To make sure the candidate is up to the job, ask them to tell you about a time when they’ve had to overcome a challenge.

Are they a team player?

An SDR is responsible for handing qualified leads over to the sales team, so they need to know how to communicate with team members and work through challenges together.

An SDR must be competent working alone. They need to source leads and do research, which requires initiative and solo work. To do their job well, however, they need to be happy working as part of the wider sales team.

To see if they have the skills to work well in a team, ask the following questions:

  • Do you have experience working in a team? If so, tell us about it.

  • Do you prefer working solo or with colleagues?

  • Can you tell us about a previous project or situation where you had to work as a team? What was the outcome?

4 SDR tools your business needs to succeed

Take a look at these SDR tools that’ll help a sales development rep perform their job to their best ability.

1. Prospecting tools

Unless they’re exclusively dealing with inbound leads, an SDR will need a way of finding prospects that match your criteria.

A prospecting tool is a platform that helps you source and organize all your sales prospects. It stores their contact information, helps you track their demographics and allows you to automate communication.

Take a look at Pipedrive’s Prospector tool as an example.

With our software, SDRs can find new leads from a database of over 400 million profiles – all based on your ideal customer persona.

You could also try Pipedrive’s Web Visitors add-on, which shows you who’s visiting your site, how they found you and what they engage with while on your site.

2. Research and data enrichment

To effectively conduct their research (and provide high-performance outreach), SDRs need a database of research and data.

For example, a website like Research Outreach has a collection of articles and trends for a variety of industries. SDRs can use this website to source valuable information to inform their outreach efforts.

Sources like Statista that host a variety of marketing and consumer statistics can also provide an SDR with a deeper insight into the world of their prospects.

For example, say an SDR is trying to find out more about a prospect that works in the manufacturing industry. They can use these external websites to find the following information:

  • The market size

  • Areas of growth

  • Areas of opportunity

  • Challenges within the market

  • Key market indicators

With this information, an SDR can build a better picture of what the prospect is looking for and how your product or service can help them overcome their pain points. It’ll also help them personalize their outreach so it’s more relevant to your leads.

3. Outreach software

Outreach software is a tool for sales teams to track and manage all their outreach efforts in one location. It tracks prospects and leads and provides detailed analytics about your outreach efforts in real time. It also allows SDRs to automate their outreach and streamline the entire outreach process.

Helpful outreach software often includes a VoIP tool like Pipedrive’s Caller, which allows you to call prospects over the internet. It helps you stay focused on your conversations rather than dialing numbers.

Smart email automation is another common feature of outreach software. It allows you to nurture your leads with tailored messaging

Functionality that’s not as common but still extremely useful is sending personalized videos in your emails to your top prospects. With 319.6 billion emails sent around the world in 2021, adding a personalized video to your outreach emails is a great way to cut through the noise, build trust and spark a conversation.

4. CRM software

When you’re reaching out to hundreds of leads, trying to record everything on paper or remember key details in your head is hard.

CRM (customer relationship management) software is a platform that tracks, manages and organizes all your customer information.

A well-maintained CRM allows you to see the details for each lead, their current status and what your next steps are. It allows SDRs to see how their prospects are moving through the sales pipeline in real time. When the time comes to hand the lead over to an account executive, they’ll have all the information they need to close the deal.

To see a CRM in action, take a look at how marketing agency SoMe Connect used Pipedrive’s CRM to increase its close rate and shorten its sales cycle.

Final thoughts

Sales development is an important part of the sales process. It identifies qualified leads, provides leads with a better experience and frees up time for sales executives to focus on closing deals.

If you’re thinking about implementing sales development in your business, you need to understand what it takes for an SDR to succeed and be prepared to support them. Know how to get the right person in place, then consider using Pipedrive’s CRM to help them lay the groundwork for your company’s sales success.

Try Pipedrive for free to see how it can help you become a better sales development rep.

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