Focus on the Future: Event Recap

March 12, 2021

Being in charge of a sales development team is no easy task, especially as the SDR role continues to evolve. What used to be a game of numbers (think boiler room, dialing down a list, etc.) has developed into a role where interpersonal skills, research strategies, and personalized messaging are imperative to success, not only for the individual but for the organization as a whole.

So how exactly do you manage a modern SDR team full of bright-eyed, often inexperienced reps, many of whom are already looking past their current role? While there’s no silver bullet, there are still plenty of ways to be a trusted and successful manager. That’s why our Director of Marketing AJ Alonzo sat down with Tad Bustin, demandDrive’s Sr Director of Client Success, and Steve D’Alessandro, Sales Development Manager at Rapid7, to dive into what has made them successful SDR leaders, even while working with fully remote teams. Here are the key takeaways:

Know what Motivates

Sales development is a difficult game, but you can make it easier on yourself as a manager by learning what motivates your SDRs. While it’s easy to assume that most SDRs are motivated by money, it’s also a false assumption. As Tad points out, SDRs can be motivated by any number of things, some extrinsic, some intrinsic, some altruistic even. And you’ll need to dive deeper than that as the manager anyway. To do such a deep dive, having regularly scheduled and structured 1-on-1s is vital. The structure of these 1-on-1s can be loose, as long as you make sure to connect with your rep on both a professional and personal level. By understanding your SDR as a person, on top of knowing them as a rep, you’ll gain a better understanding of what motivates them.

Help Them Grow

One of the primary motivating factors for most SDRs lies in their ambition to grow their career. The great news for you as their manager is that you’re the best person to help them do that within your organization. During these 1-on-1s you need to talk about more than just “how’s the SDR work been for you this week?”. It’s important to explore their career trajectory, even if they don’t quite know what their plan is. Many SDRs who enter the role early in their career are using the position to explore different career growth trajectories, so as a manager you should be there for them as a sounding board and advisor beyond what they’re doing in their current role.

For your reps to grow as much as possible, it’s vital that your organization is bought into their growth as well. If they aren’t, there’s only so much internal growth they can achieve before hitting roadblocks around the limitations of their role. Buy-in from higher up also allows for more strategic and structured career growth. At Rapid7, for example, Steve’s team uses “micro-promotions” to reward forward progress, and Individual Development Plans that SDRs fill out themselves to help the organization better understand their long term goals.

Be Proactive (especially WFH)

Your strategy is only as good as the work you put into it, and that became even harder when everyone went remote around March 2020. All of a sudden everything from chatting at the water cooler to impromptu team meetings went out the window and the easy connections team members used to make to one another became a burden that fell on their managers shoulders.

According to both Steve and Tad, this forced them to become significantly more proactive in creating camaraderie and communication amongst their teams. For Tad, this meant taking the time to have face-to-face/Zoom meetings even in situations where a Slack message would get the same amount of information across. Steve’s strategy centered around creating virtual events and activities for his team that were focused on getting to know each other outside of their working relationship. While Zoom fatigue is definitely a factor to keep in mind, it shouldn’t stop you from giving your team the opportunity to develop and bond beyond the sales floor.


What the future of SDR management looks like is up in the air as we continue working from home without a clear vision of what in person work will look like down the line. While that might sound daunting, it also provides a unique opportunity for SDR managers to evaluate their current processes, experiment with new ones, and figure out the best way for them to empower their team. As long as you’re proactive and communicative about why you’re doing what you’re doing, your team is sure to buy in alongside you.

These are just some of the golden nuggets Tad and Steve shared during the event. To watch or listen to the entire event, check it out here!

aj alonzo

AJ Alonzo is the Head of Marketing at demandDrive. A former SDR turned marketing leader, he's made it his goal to develop resources for sales reps who are looking to level up and for managers who are looking for guidance. Outside of work you can find him trying to shoot under par at his local disc golf course, sipping on a bourbon on the rocks, or continuing his quest to be the very best like no one ever was.
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