Getting Sales Development a Seat at the Table: Event Recap

December 23, 2020

Sales Development has grown from a small, seemingly inconsequential subset of sales and marketing into a fully developed department that can act independently. Or at least, that’s the goal.

But a department isn’t really independent until it has its own seat at the table; the ability to influence the key decisions and directions of a company. Even today, the vast majority of organizations still don’t recognize sales development as anything more than an arm of the sales or marketing department. Instead of having its own invitation to “the room where it happens”, they resort to relaying their opinion and influence up to the head of sales or marketing and trust that they relay it to the powers that be.

As the industry continues to grow, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that organizations are better off when they give sales development its own seat. During our Seat at the Table Panel, Aaron Browning, Rebecca Garber, and David Dulany joined our CEO Lindsay Frey to dive into why sales development deserves its own seat at the table and what roadblocks are keeping it from gaining that level of influence.

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

To understand where we are, we have to look at where we came from. As Lindsay points out during the panel, Sales Development is typically something that is “rolled up under sales or marketing”. It was treated as another means of finding leads to pass to the account executives. Compound that with the fact that it was typically a small team of one or two SDRs and maybe a dedicated manager, and it’s easy to see why it was overlooked and considered a small part of a larger department.

From the individual career standpoint, as Aaron pointed out, the future career path of an SDR also used to be pretty set in stone. “It was a stepping stone to becoming an AE”. Today, that is no longer the case. While plenty of SDRs still do move on to be successful closing reps, an increasing number move into other areas of business, including marketing, customer success, and recruiting. SDRs now have a variety of ladders they can climb that simply weren’t an option 20 years ago.

What Are We Seeing Today

The ongoing trend we’re seeing today is that “Organizations are moving away from ‘the SDR is there to make calls and book meetings, to ‘the SDR is there to uncover opportunities that turn into pipeline.”, according to Lindsay. This is a huge step in the right direction to getting Sales Dev that coveted seat. It is evidence that SDRs are now seen as more than just a ‘stepping stone’ to AE or the human version of an autodialer.

We’re also in the midst of an evolution on the leadership side of sales development. As David puts it, “There’s this evolution of people coming through the SDR leadership ranks now that really get sales development.” Individuals who started their career as SDRs as the role was first becoming empowered are now trickling up the hierarchy to have a seat at the table, often with a title like VP of Sales or CMO. While this isn’t a seat dedicated to a sales development expert, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

But there is still a ways to go before the SDR role is in its rightful spot in terms of influence and compensation. During the panel, Rebecca goes into detail about how, “The way the system is set up, between the tech stack and all the other pieces, you’re paying way too much for an opportunity” so the SDR isn’t incentivized to stay in the role for very long. Right now, for a large portion of organizations, the reward isn’t worth the work in the SDRs eyes. When they put their head down to qualify and pass a solid lead, and look up to see their AE do less work and make significantly more commission it’s an easy reason to look for greener pastures, even if you genuinely enjoy the work. This is one of the roadblocks preventing career SDRs (or even just SDRs who would stay in the role longer than the typical 12-18 months) from really being a commodity.

What Does the Future Look Like

One of the key drivers in pushing Sales Development towards a seat at the table has been the growth of the SDR Manager role, Rebecca being a primary example at LevelJump. But what about that role pushes sales development forward? David points to “The skills you develop as an SDR manager [being] so valuable and really rare”. SDR Managers are tasked with adding leadership and managerial skills to their already mastered SDR skills. This combination is an easy recipe for success further up the organizational hierarchy.

All of this begs the question, what would Sales Development’s seat at the table actually look like? And our panelists were pondering this as well. About halfway through the event, Rebecca posed an interesting question to Lindsay that posited a potential scenario “Should there be a VP of Sales and a VP of Business Development?”

In short, Lindsay’s response was a resounding “yes!”. There will always be a gap and certain tensions between sales and marketing, and aligning sales development to one side or the other doesn’t allow it to act in the orgs best interest as an unbiased connector between the two departments. Beyond that, as Lindsay continues, the individual with the seat will have their own voice and opinion that may differ from both sales and marketing because of their unique point of view.

And to our panel’s credit, there is already evidence that the future of sales development is almost here. Go open LinkedIn and search for VPs of Business Development to see for yourself. As the panel points out, while it might take more time for large legacy and enterprise-level orgs to transition and fully adopt sales dev as its own entity, smaller companies and startups being founded today often hire a Head of Business Development or Sales Development as part of their initial structure in order to avoid the hassle of any responsibilities “ping-ponging” between sales and marketing.

So, does Sales Development deserve a seat at the table? Of course they do!

And this article only touched the surface of all the reasons why. Head over here to watch the panel in full and let us know what you think!

If you want to get in touch with Lindsay or demandDrive to learn more about how we structure our sales development programs, contact us here!

alex ellison

Alex Ellison is the Marketing Communications Manager at demandDrive. He started his career as an SDR before discovering a passion for creating content and resources that drew him towards marketing. In his current role he primarily works behind the scenes drafting, editing, and developing a wide variety of marketing materials and educational resources. He is also currently enrolled at the University of Washington pursuing a Masters in Communication Leadership with a focus on Digital Media.
Follow on LinkedIn

Let’s talk about your path to success

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.