Does Sales Development Deserve a Seat at the Table in 2023?

December 28, 2021

Event Recap + Bonus Insights + A Look To The Future

Sales Development has always been looked at as the ‘child’ of sales and marketing – belonging to both and not recognized as a department on its own.

Well, things are changing. Sales Development is becoming more than just the connective tissue between sales and marketing teams. It’s becoming a department in and of itself with goals outside of its sales and marketing counterparts.

With this shift we have to ask – do they deserve a seat at the executive table?

Our answer (biases aside) is a resounding yes. Over the past few years, we’ve seen sales development leaders provide much more than traditional activity metrics and pipeline generation. They provide direction and alignment in ways that other departments can’t.

And yet, a lot of sales development leaders don’t have their seats yet. Why?

Let’s dive into:

🚫 Why sales development doesn’t have a seat at the table…yet

🔎 What we’re seeing today that tells us this is changing

🔮 What the future role of a sales dev leader looks like

Looking for a recap of our panel event? Look no further.

It’s Only a Matter of Time

Our panel covers why sales development should have a seat, and what we’re seeing that tells us it’s coming soon!

Why Doesn’t Sales Development Have a Seat at the Table Yet?

Historically, sales development has rolled up under sales or marketing. And no matter who they report to, the goals have always been the same – to bridge the gap and generate pipeline.

And while that’s incredibly important, it means that sales development has never been viewed as its own department. These blurry lines make it hard to give someone a seat at the executive table when they don’t run a standalone function.

Additionally, sales development teams can be smaller (think one or two people). You have an SDR, a manager, and…that’s it. It’s easy to overlook a ‘department’ that’s comprised of a couple of people – even if the impact they have on the business is large. There are preconceived notions by executives that a smaller department made up of (usually) junior positions can’t make a splash the way sales or marketing can.

Because of these traditionalist views, sales development often gets shoved under the carpet or pushed to the bottom of the totem pole (whichever analogy you prefer). As Aaron Browning so eloquently said in our panel event, CEOs “don’t want to talk with ditch-diggers.” 

The role is viewed as a stepping stone. Can you make 100+ calls a day, every day? If you can, great! Let’s promote you to an AE position. If you can’t, then this job isn’t for you.

…Who would stay in a role like that? You need someone really special to take that beating day in and day out and turn the department into a revenue-generating machine.

And speaking of revenue, that’s not how SDR teams are traditionally measured. We look at metrics like call activities, email reply rates, talk time, etc.

Teams get boxed into metrics that relate solely to meetings booked, and not to the overall impact they have on the company.

Rebecca Garber notes that this scope forces companies into this perception that “BDRs aren’t capable of doing more.” And if you don’t think they can do more than just book meetings, they won’t do anything other than just book meetings. There’s too much focus placed on vanity metrics and not on revenue impact.

All of that means that sales development leaders are often on the outside looking in.

What Are We Seeing Now That Tell Us This is Changing?

But things are changing. Over the past year+, we’ve seen some trends that tell us a seat will be opening up sooner rather than later.


Sales Hacker has a solid article about the way we traditionally measure SDR teams vs. how we should measure SDR teams. The Reason? Sales Development can’t measure their outbound prospecting funnel in a meaningful way. Basically, the metrics used to measure teams don’t equate with the metrics used to measure organizational success.

Lindsay Frey brought up a similar idea in the panel discussion. She likes to work backward when setting goals and expectations for her clients. Instead of focusing on “I need 20 meetings per month,” she starts with the metric that ties all departments together: revenue.

She begins with revenue goals. Then, she dives into conversion metrics and how many opportunities need to exist to achieve those revenue goals. Backing up further, she finds out how many leads are needed to hit the opportunity goal. One final step backward tells her how many meetings the SDR team needs to schedule to hit the leads goal.

If you can tie the SDR function to longer-term pipeline and revenue goals, you can feel the impact of each activity company-wide. Now instead of looking at metrics like open rates and dials, you’re looking at the team in terms of revenue generation. And that mental shift is huge for getting sales development leaders a seat at the executive table.

Rebecca takes that a step further and talks about tying the compensation of SDRs to closed-won business. This alignment is a huge step for the SDR function because it ties their success to the company’s success. Metrics like dials, talk time, email engagement, etc. mean virtually nothing to company executives – but closed-won revenue does. And when you properly incentivize your SDRs on closed-won deals, you incentivize them to hunt for leads that will actually convert.

This shift has really put a spotlight on something David Dulany mentions:

It’s a lot harder than just, ‘go sit in a corner and make 100 phone calls a day.’ There’s a lot more to it.

That quote highlights the shift we’ve seen in the role over the past few years. From “spray and pray” prospecting to the more personalized and thoughtful approach we have now, SDR leaders are able to capture more actionable data for their sales and marketing counterparts (more on that later). They’re using it to show the impact a well-run SDR function can have on the organization. And that impact is opening seats at the executive table.


Capturing the metrics we talk about above requires a more sophisticated tool-set. Drilling into data beyond call activity and booked meetings allows teams to show, not tell, the impact they’re having on revenue. Sales development leaders who can effectively use these tools are making a very compelling case for their seat at the table.

But beyond metrics, we also see teams adopt tools that help them better understand and connect with their prospects. Think video prospecting, social engagement, and AI tools. They’re using them to understand where their customers live online, how they best like to be engaged, and what messaging resonates with them the most. Put simply, SDRs have gone omnichannel. And while sales development is quarterbacking these efforts, they often bring in their sales and marketing counterparts to help.

The goal with this omnichannel approach? Be wherever your prospects are. That means…

💻 Coordinating with marketing to run social ads.

💌 Working with sales to create direct mail/gifting campaigns.

🌐 Talking with company leadership about joining and building micro-communities.

Sales development is aligning the organization towards a common goal – getting in front of their prospects in the right place at the right time with the right message.

This adoption of tools to better understand potential customers and how to best connect with them is driven by sales development, but it impacts every revenue-generating department. And that alignment is another notch on the resume for getting a seat at the table.

The Voice of Your SDRs

Sales development reps talk to more prospects than anyone else within your organization. And if you’re not taking advantage of that, you’re leaving valuable insights uncovered.

The SDR role itself is a blend of sales, marketing, and customer success. They don’t just sell. They use their marketing and customer success chops to learn more about the pains, challenges, and goals of the prospects they’re talking with. And those notes are valuable. Wouldn’t you want to know if:

👎 Your messaging isn’t resonating with your audience?

⛳ There are holes or gaps in the market that your product team can fill?

📊 There were new competitors, objections, and trends that impact how you sell?

Your SDR team is gathering that information in droves. And, as Lindsay said:

In a nutshell, this is why sales development deserves a seat at the table.

Relaying that information to the sales, marketing, and customer success leaders of your company could have a major impact on their strategy moving forward. It could save them time and money testing out new campaigns – you already know what the market is looking for, no need to test it.

But this has to be a 2-way street. It goes beyond your SDR team running this information up the flagpole – you need buy-in from the C-Suite.

You need proper sales management and coaching to show reps why it’s important to gather this info.

You need the right comp plans in place to actually incentivize them to capture and share what they uncover.

Enabling your reps to gather and share the voice of your potential customers will give you a huge advantage in terms of direction and alignment – one that would be impossible without a seat for sales dev at the table.

SDRs are the Face of Your Company

You only have one chance to make a first impression. And as a business, you’re putting the trust in your sales development team to make it a positive one. Having an untrained or unmotivated rep on the front lines can really do a number on your brand. You’re trusting that the SDR manager is educating and motivating reps to represent the company in a positive light. Otherwise, one bad SDR can hurt your reputation & revenue for years to come.

On the flip side, SDRs are working on building their own brands alongside the goals and values of the company. Not only will it help them establish the authority and credibility they need as an SDR, but it will also help them stand out from the crowd. They become a knowledgeable and familiar face rather than “just another SDR” to their prospects. Companies who are enabling their reps to build these brands are seeing it pay off.

Case in point – you get more impressions on LinkedIn from individual profiles than company profiles. People sell, brands don’t. Savvy SDR managers are helping their reps build a strong online brand that aligns with the company’s values and beliefs. Not only are they enabling their SDRs to build credibility, but they’re also indirectly promoting the values of the company. Win-win!

The best sales development managers are taking this to another level and bringing in their marketing counterparts. They enable SDRs to create their own content (based on what marketing has already accomplished) and act as a tactical arm for the marketing team. Now you have a team of “mini-marketers” that promote your brand – and you haven’t spent a dime.

That cross-departmental communication is something your sales development team does really well. Opening up a seat at the table allows to you leverage it.

It’s a Buyer’s Market

Now more than ever, buyers hold the power. They’re doing a lot of their own research and education before requesting demos or talking with a salesperson. This modern buyer doesn’t need to be educated in the way that we’ve trained our SDRs. Reps need to tap into the power of curiosity.

Traditionally, SDRs were tasked with educating prospects. They take approved messaging and distribute it to as many people as possible. The goal? Find the people who are intrigued enough to learn more and schedule an appointment with them.

These days, that doesn’t work. The empowered buyer has read and learned 90% of the information SDRs share before engaging in a conversation. It’s not compelling enough for them to take a meeting and learn more when they already know what the SDR is talking about. Buyers are in control, and compelling them to take a meeting means you have to tell them something they don’t know.

💡 François Bourdeau touches on this in an interview with SDRevolution. His idea – Be The Delta – encompasses what we’re talking about above.

How can SDRs uncover and use that information? It starts with the cross-departmental communication mentioned above. You’ll also need a way to communicate necessary information across those departments – in this case, a feedback loop. In its basic form:

  1. SDRs capture anecdotal information and run it up to leadership.

  2. SDR leadership then shares that with sales, marketing, and CS leaders to see how it might impact current messaging.

  3. That revised value proposition/message gets sent back to the SDR level.

And at the end of the day, your SDRs are helping out leadership AND getting support from other departments. That support includes:

🧠 Helping SDRs better understand ICP, personas, etc.

💬 Leveraging the voice of the customer for effective storytelling

💪 Training SDRs to be subject matter experts and have more in-depth conversations

All of that means SDRs can navigate the current buyer’s market with ease and set them up for better, more compelling conversations.

What Does the Future Look Like?

In short, bright. The development and growth of the sales development department over the past few years is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond aligning departments and producing pipeline (both valuable in their own right), sales development leaders are poised to make a big impact on the bottom line of their organizations.

Investment in the Management Layer

One of the ways in which these leaders have made a splash is through the empowerment of the SDR Manager.

All SDR teams need a leader. And the job of that leader isn’t to just manage their team, but to coach and develop them as well. Between reporting & analytics and requests coming down from the top, it can be easy to forget how important managing SDRs as people can be to the SDR Manager role.

SDRs need more than someone to check-in on activities or point out their success metrics.

Sales and business development reps need a dedicated SDR manager with first-hand experience to help coach, mentor, and model success.

And it’s not entirely their fault. Most SDR Managers lack company support. Leadership doesn’t invest in the manager, and the manager doesn’t invest in the rep.

But when a company does invest in that management layer, they see the fruits of their labor. David and Rebecca (an SDR Manager herself) both echoed the importance and impact a strong management layer brings to the table.

SDR Managers who know how to properly coach, motivate, and hold their SDR team accountable are equipping them with more than just the tools and knowledge to succeed. They’re actually enabling them to sell. And when that happens, you see a ripple effect through the organization:

  • First and foremost, your reps will be producing more pipeline. And everybody loves more pipeline.

  • Secondly, reps who feel supported by their management layer are more likely to stay and grow within the company, reducing spend on churn.

  • And thirdly, managers who feel supported by leadership are apt to continue building those skills. And when you combine their aptitude for selling with their management abilities, you create a very valuable individual on your team. Like David said:

This combination is an easy recipe for success further up the organizational hierarchy.

We see this happening constantly today. SDR Managers from all sorts are taking the time to build a personal brand, leverage micro-communities, and learn the soft skills required to get the most out of their teams.

A Focus on Facilitating

If I had to give one piece of advice to the aspiring sales development leaders out there, it would be this: Be a facilitator.

We’ve said it before – sales development is great at aligning the revenue-generating departments. As a future sales development leader, use that skill to your advantage.

There will always be a gap and certain tensions between revenue departments. And there are two ways you can help close that gap and alleviate tension:

📈 Pipeline is the greatest medicine of all. It pays BIG TIME to be the “go-to” sales development individual within an organization. If you can really own that process and make yourself invaluable, you’ll have a seat at the table all day long.

🤝 No department can succeed alone. You all have shared goals and values, and finding a way to work toward them together will serve you better than letting everyone do it on their own. Be the facilitator that fosters alignment between departments. Really learn what everyone does, how it impacts the bottom line, and where you can add value.

You can’t solve conflict if you’re conflicted. So be the one to end the conflict and get everyone rowing in the same direction.


Over the past few years, we’ve seen the role of the sales development leader grow considerably. Are they getting seats at the table overnight? Not quite.

But it’s not happening at a glacial pace.

The shift in how we measure a team’s success is taking place as you read this. The amount of tools available to teams is exploding daily. The rhetoric around the importance of the SDR as a strategic role is being echoed across more and more companies.

Change is happening. And sales development leaders who capitalize on that fact aren’t just being invited to the table, they’re building their own chairs.

Are you?

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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