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January 4, 2023
So someone suggested you need an SDR. Or you saw a post about SDRs on LinkedIn. And now you’re searching yet another business-world acronym. We’ve got you.
In sales, SDR stands for Sales Development Representative.
If you think of sales as a process (you know, that funnel with multiple steps), an SDR is responsible for making progress in that process. The stage of the funnel SDRs handle is called lead generation.
SDRs are common in B2B and an integral part of sales teams. Their main functions are to prospect potential leads and reach out to those prospects to create interest. You can even scale outreach with AI lead-generation software.
Once SDRs procure leads, they then move the leads down the sales funnel to lead nurturing, usually conducted by a senior sales rep or an AE (Account Executive).
So what do SDRs do for your business? We’ve got the answers below.
A sales development representative (SDR) finds potential leads for a business, qualifies those individuals against a buyer persona profile, reaches out to establish contact and moves them down the sales funnel when the lead expresses interest.
The benefit of an SDR is that they start relationships to fill a sales pipeline and generate leads to be converted into prospects, necessary for creating revenue.
Think of SDRs as the recruiters of the sales world. They source potential clients, begin outreach and evaluate prospects to determine if they’re a good fit for your product.
Working at the top of the sales funnel, SDRs generate leads by driving brand and product awareness to potential clients and work those leads through the funnel until they’re closer to converting into a sale.
When they’re just about ready to convert, the SDR will hand off the lead to a senior SDR, an SDR-team lead or an AE who functions as the “closer,” although some employees might perform both SDR and AE roles at smaller businesses.
An SDR’s end goal is to book a sales call with a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)—a lead the SDR determines is likely to purchase.
B2B lead generation involves three main steps—prospecting, outreach and nurturing. Each step leads closer to conversion, while eliminating prospects that aren’t a fit for your product (based on current goals, budget, timeline, etc).
Finding potential clients is called prospecting, and it involves a lot of research. First SDRs look for clients who fit your demographic—company size, industry, role, etc. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator are a good way to search for these prospects.
An SDR will also research prospects and find information to personalize outreach. They might look for LinkedIn posts outlining a problem your company can solve or become familiar with the prospect’s company and recent news.
Once an SDR has researched their prospects, they’ll begin outreach by contacting them. Outreach can include phone calls, emails, InMail and video messages.
The most successful SDRs personalize each outreach with information they’ve gathered from their research. Personalization works great on LinkedIn, for example as one of many tips from a LinkedIn lead-generation guide, by referring, for instance, to previous activity on a prospect’s profile to show your contacts that you’re putting in an effort to understand them.
Top-performing SDRs also follow sales outreach best practices like leveraging sales-enablement tools to help scale their efforts. Automated reply-prediction scoring to find prospects likely to engage and bulk messaging outreach to improve efficiency both increase qualification rates and ultimately revenue.
Even the most enthusiastic prospects won’t convert immediately. That’s why it’s important for an SDR to nurture their prospects with followup messages that address potential concerns. (And to remind them you still exist—people get busy.)
Nurturing may require even more research to address concerns or barriers that hold a prospect back from making a purchase.
When done successfully, all of that prospecting, outreach and nurturing ends with the SDR booking a sales call. At that point, the SDR’s job is done and they pass the lead on to an AE to close the deal.
So now you know about lead generation—but what skills make a good SDR?
A successful SDR will have a lot of the same strengths as other sales roles. To succeed, following sales-development representative tips like knowing your audience and staying organized are key.
SDRs are in constant contact with a high volume of people. They face a lot of rejection and need to be very persuasive.
What are the top traits of successful SDRs at businesses to move leads through the sales funnel and increase revenue? Here are six key skills of an SDR.
SDRs need to be excellent communicators. This means being clear and succinct, but the best SDRs are empathetic and active listeners.
To win at sales, communication skills are important for SDRs because they enable you to raise product awareness and demonstrate value. In order to be persuasive, an SDR will need to understand their leads’ pain points, hesitancies and circumstances.
Sales is a hard job. SDRs face frequent rejection (and in some cases, it’s not given kindly). They must remain calm, optimistic and personable even on days where every call feels like a dead end. Being able to stay positive is a key skill for success.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a job where a little creativity doesn’t yield better results.
For an SDR, creative communication makes the difference between a booked call or a complete dead end. Whether they utilize video outreach or toss some personalized humor into their messages, SDRs need to find creative ways to capture people’s attention.
They also need to be creative problem solvers. Can they effectively automate a time-consuming part of the job? Can they spin a prospect’s hesitation into an opportunity? It’s important to think outside the box to turn prospects into clients.
Self-awareness comes in different shapes and sizes. For starters, SDRs need to be self-aware of their tone, body language and word choice when talking to leads if they want to build relationships that convert to sales.
Like most jobs, SDRs also need to balance different responsibilities. It’s important to lean into your strengths and allocate extra time or resources to improve weaknesses.
Curiosity is important for any job where you talk to people—but especially when selling to them. Learning the right information about leads enables SDRs to frame products as a viable solution to their specific needs. Being curious and asking questions is the best way to get there.
SDRs also need to be endlessly curious about the lead’s company, industry and competition. The more they know, the better they can answer questions or present information that helps persuade leads to book a call. Proactively seeking out recent information is the best way to come across as helpful and trustworthy.
SDRs need to be highly organized to balance lots of research, communication threads and calls. Sending emails with the wrong name, forgetting to follow up or missing a call are mistakes that could cost you clients.
The best SDRs implement processes to manage their time and CRM tools to centralize information about leads & calls.
Whether you hire an SDR or implement automation tools, success looks the same. A successful B2B lead generation strategy will lead to more sales calls.
The more calls booked with sales qualified leads, the better your lead generation is working. And booking more calls with qualified leads means your business will see that success reflected in total clients and revenue.
We know it’s important to balance your hiring needs against your budget—so how do you know when it’s time to bring on an SDR to help scale your growth?
Remember, an SDR’s goal is to book calls with as many sales qualified leads as possible. The work that goes into that is very time-consuming.
If the person responsible for closing the sale is spending an overwhelming amount of time researching and nurturing leads, they’ll be closing fewer deals, meaning you’ll make less money.
Sure, you can bring in a new (or your first) SDR.
And if your current sales team is busy talking to converting customers but needs help addressing specific questions in pre-sales calls, that could be your best option.
But if the time spent prospecting is holding them back from reaching your full conversion potential, sales reps could look to sales-enablement tools to optimize prospecting.
Both solutions will help you scale faster—but an SDR is an expensive option if your problem is simply time. Using lead generation software as your SDR is a more cost-effective solution to generating more leads.
As you can see, working at the broadest part of the funnel is time-consuming. Leveraging a tool like CoPilot AI for LinkedIn prospecting and outreach is a great way to optimize lead generation.
Prospecting enablement helps SDRs find leads from LinkedIn and send personalized messages to seize their attention. It’s the kind of work that could be an SDR’s new best friend!
By now you should have a clear understanding of what an SDR is, how they support your lead generation and what it takes for an SDR to help you scale.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face to truly reach your maximum potential clients is the time that goes into prospecting.
Whether you want to bring on an SDR, support your existing sales team, or you’re a sole proprietor doing your own outreach, lead generation can help you optimize your process. You’ll automate your early-stage research and outreach, freeing up more time to take warm leads over the finish line.