Article | 9 min read

Sales development representative: SDR sales role guide

Help your sales development representative team shine with these hiring and management best practices.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published February 24, 2022
Last updated March 24, 2022

If you’re reading this, you probably have a solid idea of what’s required for a strong sales team:

  • Lead generation
  • Lead qualification
  • Prospect outreach
  • Marketing alignment
  • Consistent sales messaging
  • Personalized sales styles
  • Strong communication
  • Intelligently utilized sales software

The question is: which members of your team are handling all of this?

If you expect your sales representatives to handle this avalanche of logistics while also closing deals, you’re setting yourself up for some seriously burned-out teams and major issues with efficiency. The secret to a successful modern sales team isn’t the closers—it’s the people behind the scenes. Your secret weapon is your sales development representatives.

The secret to a successful modern sales team isn’t the closers—it’s the people behind the scenes.

In this piece, we’ll help sales managers understand what sales development representatives do, how to hire them, and which tools they’ll need to be effective.

SDR sales meaning

SDR stands for sales development representative. While previously considered an optional role, sales development representatives are now core components of the inside sales team and essential for sales productivity.

SDRs back up your sales representatives. Over the past few years, the business industry rapidly capitalized on the idea of quality and quantity in regards to leads. In theory, endless qualified leads equal endless sales, but procuring and converting those leads isn’t realistic if your sales reps are expected to do all the work. That’s where SDRs come in. A great SDR does the foundational work for your sales reps so that they can focus solely on developing relationships and increasing their sales performance.

This foundational work includes:

  • Researching prospects
  • Smoothing the sales pipeline
  • Qualifying leads
  • Reaching out to marketing qualified leads (MQLs)

If your company is expanding and looking to hire a team of SDRs, you need to know exactly what you’re hiring them to do. Let’s explore what a sales development rep does and what to look for in the perfect hire.

A day in the life of a sales development rep

sales development representative

Each day in the life of a sales development representative is different. But in general, they’re multitasking between different accounts and communicating across departments while keeping prospect outreach prompt and productive.

There are four main jobs for a sales development rep:

Lead qualification and generation

SDRs start your lead qualification process. With a list of qualifications, they winnow down huge lists of possible prospects into smaller lists of contacts who should be reached out to. Common lead qualification parameters include:

  • Lead matches typical buyer personas
  • Lead can afford the product
  • Lead is a decision-maker at their company (specifically with B2B sales)
  • Lead has a set of problems that can be solved with your company’s solutions and products

First levels of outreach in the pipeline

An SDR is the first person on your sales team to speak to a prospect. Whether through email, phone, social media, or video, it’s an SDR’s job to introduce the company to the prospect and emphasize how the company can help them. If your company doesn’t have a preferred method of communication, it’s also up to the SDRs to look at the sales analytics of different outreach methods to determine which one tends to work best.

Lead nurturing

Before a lead can be passed on to the sales team for closing, they need to be nurtured. If the first outreach goes well, it’s up to the SDR to continue building a relationship without necessarily pushing a sale. After all, there’s no need to push for a sale if you’re not the one handling the transaction. This is the time to fully qualify a lead and ask the important questions.

Passing the prospects

SDRs don’t close deals, so they must be able to pass qualified leads on to the salespeople who will. This isn’t as simple as sharing an email address. Depending on the size of the deal and the personality of the prospect, the SDR needs to be able to evaluate which prospects should go to each salesperson and when in the pipeline each prospect is ready to be transferred.

SDR vs. BDR

Sales development representatives are similar to business development representatives (BDRs) but have their own distinct qualities. While they do a lot of the same jobs regarding lead qualification and generation, SDRs focus on inbound leads and BDRs focus on outbound leads. The two teams often work alongside each other for the aligned expansion of the company, whether through customers or partners.

Another way to distinguish the two is to look at the fundamentals of what each team sells. SDRs sell products to individuals or individual companies. BDRs sell the entire business in an effort to grow the whole operation.

What is SDR marketing?

Sales development representatives work in sales, not marketing, but both teams benefit from working in tandem with the other. Frequently, the marketing team is responsible for starting the lead funnel kick-off with a list of MQLs. That list contains leads that fit the marketing qualifications for the products (that is, marketing demographics).

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

In an ideal world, sales development representatives can create sales-qualified leads from the MQL list, and over time, develop a more thorough formula as to what constitutes a qualified lead. The more specific this formula is, the more specific marketing can be in regards to targeting. Specific marketing targeting makes it easier and faster to qualify sales leads because they’re coming in already checking off the formula boxes.

How to write an SDR job description

If you’re used to hiring salespeople, you won’t have to change your parameters that much to hire SDRs—but you will have to reframe the job description to clarify what your new employees must accomplish.

The most important thing to remember is that SDRs (and BDRs) are considered entry-level positions. You don’t need extremely experienced salespeople to fill these roles; you need people who exhibit soft sales skills and who have the right sales personality.

What skills does an SDR need?

Soft skills can be hard to pinpoint and evaluate. But when you can find people who embody the sales spirit, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful SDR team. Here are a few skills any SDR should bring to the table:

  • Communication skills: SDRs are responsible for keeping consistent and open communication with clients and their sales team(s).
  • Ability to multitask: SDRs frequently need to handle more accounts than the sales team, even if they’re not responsible for closing. That means they need the skills to juggle numerous prospects at different points in the sales pipeline.
  • Active listening skills: The most important job of SDRs is evaluating and qualifying prospects through data and through sales meetings. They need to be quick and observant: able to listen to what’s said and unsaid and form appropriate follow-up questions.
  • Curiosity and ability to self-motivate: Similar to salespeople, SDRs must be able to attack the next task without being asked. Leads don’t stop coming in, so there’s never a shortage of them to qualify.

Additionally, your SDRs need to be aware of your timeline and the demands of the job. SDRs frequently work nearly a year meeting quotas before discussing any promotions, and during that year, they’ll usually work harder than many of your closers. That is especially true if your company is global and your SDRs manage prospects in multiple time zones. It’s not a job for the weak-willed, but it’s also a job that many candidates view as a stepping stone to other sales opportunities.

In order to find the right group of SDRs, ask the right sales interview questions. And be prepared to speak honestly about what you’re looking for and how much work might be needed before they move up to the closing sales team.

SDR job posting example

Below is a sample SDR sales representative job posting from our team at Zendesk. This is a fantastic approach to bringing in SDRs. It emphasizes soft skills while acknowledging that there will be an opportunity to develop the hard skills within the SDR position.

Sales development representative job description template

We are seeking an energetic, motivated, and articulate team player to join our sales team as an inbound sales development rep. The ideal candidate will be responsible for following up, calling, prospecting, and qualifying leads. Qualified candidates should be self-starters with proven track records of success in their professional and personal or collegiate lives. They should be excited about SaaS and customer service and have an interest in joining a fast-paced organization in high tech.

Responsibilities

  • Create a fantastic first impression to prospects and customers while building a pipeline for Zendesk account executives
  • Respond to inbound requests via Zendesk support, phone, and email
  • Organize and categorize sales lead information into Salesforce
  • Focus on building a great team environment for a fun and energetic atmosphere
  • Achieve or exceed monthly quotas of qualified opportunities

Requirements

  • Active listener with the ability to gather customer requirements and connect them to the Zendesk solution
  • Ability to multitask, prioritize, and manage time effectively
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

Desired

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Passion for developing a career in technology sales
  • Transferable sales, customer-facing, or internship experience
  • Demonstrated success in meeting monthly targets
  • Goal-oriented team player

If you’re looking for a breakdown focused on more experienced candidates, take a look at this sample from Linkedin. While similar soft skills are mentioned, there’s also a push for years of relevant work experience. The size, value, and culture of your company should dictate what you need from a team of SDRs.

Best tools for SDRs

SDRs have a lot of work to do, but they can’t do it without the necessary tools. That’s why it’s important for you to be up-to-date with the best sales apps and best software for sales teams, including sales management software.

Some of the most important types of software for you to evaluate include:

  • Prospecting tools: lead boosters, contact information gatherers, lead generation forms, etc.
  • Research and data tools: sales analytics generators, KPI monitors, etc.
  • Outreach tools: VOIP software, email automation, autodialers, etc.

Even the best SDR can’t work as fast as a computer. By giving them access to cutting-edge technology, your return on investment will come in the form of increased productivity, an ever-improving sales process, and better-qualified leads.

Your most important tool is a strong CRM

Even the most driven sales development representative can’t keep an entire ever-changing roster of leads in their brain. That’s why a powerful CRM is the backbone of your SDR team. With Zendesk Sell, your SDRs can quickly track leads, generate reports, and maintain comprehensive customer histories. Best of all, your sales and marketing teams will have full access to customer profiles, allowing your SDRs to easily coordinate between the two departments.

Request a demo today and give your SDR team the tools they need to flourish.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Read now