SDR Career Guide: How to Become a Successful Sales Development Rep
If you’re looking to break into sales, becoming a Sales Development Representative (SDR) is a great way to get started. SDRs are responsible for identifying and qualifying potential customers, and then passing those leads on to the sales team.
It’s a challenging job that requires a unique set of skills, but it can be very rewarding.
Definition and Role of SDRs
An SDR is an inside sales representative that focuses on outreach, prospecting, and lead qualification. The role of an SDR is to research, qualify, and reach out to leads to determine whether they are a good customer fit.
SDRs are responsible for handling various sales-related tasks, from outbound calling and outreach campaigns to lead generation and nurturing. They reach out to new leads, qualify them, and push them further down the sales funnel — typically with the goal of scheduling a sales call with an Account Executive
SDRs don’t focus on closing business, but on connecting with as many leads as possible and determining if they’re good customer fits. SDRs are typically the first point of contact between a potential customer and your company. They are responsible for creating a positive first impression of your company and its products or services. SDRs are also responsible for educating potential customers about your products or services and answering any initial questions they may have.
The main responsibilities of an SDR include:
- Scheduling demos/sales calls for AEs
- Lead qualification
- Lead generation
- Nurturing leads
- Creating a positive first impression
- Educating potential customers
- Answering questions
As an SDR, you’ll be responsible for generating new opportunities for your company. This means you’ll need to be comfortable with cold calling, emailing, and networking. You’ll also need to be able to quickly identify potential customers and determine whether or not they’re a good fit for your company’s products or services.
This requires excellent communication skills, as well as the ability to think on your feet. On most sales teams, SDRs will be asked to follow a specific playbook. To be successful you’ll need to be disciplined and comfortable hitting activity targets.
SDR Sales Strategies
As an SDR, there are several strategies you can use to increase your chances of success. Let’s discuss some of the most effective methods for outreach, lead qualification, and sales cadence.
The first step in any SDR sales strategy is to reach out to potential customers. There are several outreach methods you can use, including email, phone calls, and social media. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the one that works best for your target audience.
Email is one of the most common outreach methods used by SDRs. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and your company, and it allows you to provide more information than a phone call or social media message. However, it’s important to make sure your emails are personalized and not too salesy, or they may end up in the spam folder.
Phone calls are another effective outreach method, especially for B2B sales. They allow you to have a real-time conversation with potential customers, which can help build trust and establish a relationship. However, it’s important to make sure you’re not too pushy or aggressive, or you may turn off potential customers.
Social media is another method of outreach — and it’s one that is often underutilized. LinkedIn can be a great channel if your prospects are active on the platform. Not only is it a great source of research info, but it can also be a way to engage with potential customers directly. This can be done by connecting with them (and potentially messaging them if they accept your connection). If they post content on LinkedIn, then supporting, commenting and otherwise engaging with their content is a great way to get them to recognize your name prior to reaching out to them via other channels.
Once you’ve made contact with a potential customer, the next step is to qualify them as a lead. This involves gathering information about their needs, pain points, and budget, to determine whether they’re a good fit for your product or service.
One effective way to qualify leads is to use a lead scoring system. This involves assigning points to each lead based on factors such as job title, company size, and budget. Leads with a higher score are more likely to convert, so you can focus your efforts on them.
Another important aspect of lead qualification is understanding the buyer’s journey. This involves understanding the different stages a buyer goes through before making a purchase, and tailoring your sales pitch to each stage. For example, a buyer in the awareness stage may need more education about your product, while a buyer in the decision stage may need a more detailed proposal.
Finally, it’s important to have a well-defined sales cadence to guide your outreach efforts. This involves establishing a set of steps and timelines for each stage of the sales process, from initial outreach to closing the deal.
One effective approach to sales cadence is to limit your attempts to contact a lead to once every four days.This allows you to stay top-of-mind without being too aggressive, and gives the lead time to respond.
Challenges and Solutions
Common Obstacles for SDRs
As an SDR, you can face numerous challenges depending on your sales org or industry.
The most common challenge across all orgs and industries, though, is high-performance expectations. (To be fair, this is common for all sales roles and not limited to sales development.) You are expected to meet specific targets, such as generating a certain number of sales qualified leads or scheduled demos in a month.
This can be overwhelming to some people when they start out. One recommendation is to break down your goals into smaller, activity-based tasks, like making a certain number of calls or emails. This can help you stay motivated and focused on your progress. By focusing on the inputs that you can control, you’ll be able to have the most influence on your ultimate success.
Best Practices for SDR Success
To be successful as an SDR, there are several best practices you can follow.
- Stay Organized
Sales development is a fast-paced job, so it’s important to stay organized and prioritize your tasks. This can help you stay focused and avoid getting overwhelmed. Your CRM software or task management apps will help you stay on top of your workload. If you commit something to a prospect, be sure to log it and to follow through on your commitment.
- Keep Improving Your Skills and Knowledge
This can include attending training sessions, reading industry blogs, or practicing your pitch. By staying up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques, you can improve your performance and increase your chances of success. If possible, sit in on some of the calls and demos that you schedule for AEs. This will help you ensure that you’re setting good expectations, and will also show the rest of the team that you’re committed to overall success.
- Stay Positive and Persistent.
Sales can be a tough industry, but with the right mindset and approach, you can overcome any obstacle. By staying resilient and focused on your goals, you can achieve success as an SDR.
RepVue CEO Ryan Walsh offers some additional advice that can benefit SDRs in his article about how to earn $1 million a year in sales: be on time, follow through, take notes, be professional, be active, add value, and always be curious.
As of January 2024, the median base salary for an SDR is $55,000 per year, with median on-target earnings of $80,000.
On-target earnings refers to the amount you can earn if you hit your revenue targets. If you exceed your targets, you can earn even more. Some SDRs report earning $130K per year or more. The average quota attainment — or percentage of SDRs who hit their targets — is currently 52.7%.
How to Get an SDR Sales Job
We often see questions about how to get started in sales or how to become an SDR. Here’s what you need to know about the experience required and recommended skills for SDRs.
Experience Required to Become an SDR
No experience is required to become an SDR. It is an entry-level sales role.
Some companies will prefer candidates with some sales experience. This could include previous experience as a customer service representative, retail sales associate, or even as a telemarketer.
Any experience where you can show you were in a customer-facing role can be beneficial in demonstrating your communication and interpersonal skills. Additionally, experience working with a CRM (customer relationship management) system like Hubspot or Salesforce is a plus as many companies use them to manage their sales pipeline.
With a little bit of creativity, it’s likely that you have some experience in your background that you can relate to sales. Did you run a lemonade stand as a kid? Sell girl scout cookies? How about experience fund-raising for a club in highschool? All of these demonstrate an aptitude for sales, and framed in the right way these types of experiences can be great answers to interview questions.
Recommended Skills for SDRs
There are several skills that are highly beneficial for SDRs. These include:
- Strong communication skills: As an SDR, you will be responsible for reaching out to potential customers via phone, email, or social media. Having strong communication skills is essential to effectively convey your message and build rapport with potential customers.
- Persistence and resilience: Sales can be a challenging field, and rejection is a common occurrence. SDRs need to be persistent in their outreach efforts and resilient in the face of rejection.
- Time management: SDRs are often responsible for managing a high volume of leads and activities. Effective time management skills are essential to ensure that all tasks are completed in a timely manner.
- Attention to detail: SDRs need to be detail-oriented to ensure that all customer information is accurately recorded in the CRM system and that all follow-up activities are completed on time.
- Ability to work in a team: SDRs often work closely with Account Executives (AEs) and other members of the sales team. Being able to work collaboratively and communicate effectively with others is essential to success in this role.
- Curiosity: If you have a genuine curiosity about the person you’re talking to it will serve you well as an SDR. People like to talk about themselves!
With these skills, you will be well-equipped to become a successful SDR.
Building an SDR Team
If you’re looking to build a successful sales development representative (SDR) team, there are a few key components to consider. Below we’ll explore some recruitment strategies, training and onboarding methods, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to help ensure your team’s success.
When it comes to building an SDR team, it’s important to find candidates who are a good fit for the role. When evaluating candidates, look for individuals who are self-motivated, have strong communication skills, and are comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.
Training and Onboarding
Once you’ve found the right candidates, it’s important to provide them with the training and support they need to succeed. Some training and onboarding methods to consider include:
- Providing a comprehensive training program that covers your company’s products, services, and sales process
- Pairing new hires with experienced SDRs for mentorship and guidance
- Conducting regular check-ins to provide feedback and support
Additionally, consider creating a playbook or sales enablement resource that outlines best practices and provides guidance on how to handle common sales scenarios.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
To ensure your SDR team is meeting its goals, it’s important to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and track progress over time. Some KPIs to consider include:
- Number of outbound calls or emails per day
- Number of qualified leads generated per week or month
- Conversion rate from lead to opportunity
- Time to first contact with a lead
By tracking these metrics, you can identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize your team’s performance.
Tools and Technologies
Since SDR sales roles are often entry-level positions, you may not be familiar with all the tools and technology used today. These are some of the most important ones you should make yourself familiar with.
Sales Engagement Platforms
Sales engagement platforms are powerful tools that can help you manage your entire sales process, from prospecting to closing deals. These platforms typically include features like email tracking, call tracking, and lead management, all of which can help you stay organized and focused on your sales goals.
Prospecting will be a critical part of your role as an SDR sales process, and there are a variety of tools your company may use to help you find and connect with potential customers. These tools can help you identify key decision-makers, gather contact information, and even automate your outreach efforts.
Some popular prospecting tools include offerings from ZoomInfo, Dun & Bradstreet, Apollo.io, and LeadIQ. These tools can be especially useful when combined with a sales engagement platform, as they can help you streamline your prospecting efforts and focus on the leads that are most likely to convert.
CRM (customer relationship management) systems are essential tools for managing your customer relationships and tracking your sales progress. These systems allow you to store customer information, track interactions, and analyze your sales data to identify trends and opportunities.
The most popular CRM systems are Salesforce and HubSpot. Any company you join will almost certainly already have a CRM solution in place. But don’t worry if you have experience with one software and you’re interested in a role at a company that uses something different. Your manager should show you how to follow any standard processes once you’re on board.