Why Invest in Sales Development Reps (SDRs)?

July 27, 2023

How SDRs Can Help Power Your Sales and Marketing Teams

Revenue development looks different for every company – and it should. Factors like the length of your sales cycle, the market you sell into, and your pricing model (just to name a few) mean that no two sales and marketing strategies look the same.

One of the biggest questions we hear from leaders developing their company’s revenue generation strategy is whether or not incorporating a sales development function is “worth it”. As a team that typically sits somewhere between marketing and sales it might not always make sense to add more headcount if those two departments are already successful together, right?

Technically yes, but we all know reality is more complex and nuanced than that.

When properly incorporated into your strategies, sales development plays a more significant role than just being a bridge between sales and marketing. A functional SDR team has the ability to grow and stabilize pipeline, ease the burden of developing your internal team, and increase the amount of prospects and accounts you can connect with on a regular basis.

Let’s dive into the benefits of having a sales development function and explore whether or not having a team makes sense for your organization.

Increased Communication & Alignment

“Sales isn’t calling the leads we gave them”. -Marketing

“Marketing is giving us a bunch of bad leads”. -Sales

How often do you hear these complaints? Constantly? That’s because 90% of sales and marketing professionals say their departments are misaligned on at least some level, according to LinkedIn. For a variety of reasons, there is a constant push and pull between marketing and sales as they continue to work “together” to hit their company’s growth targets. One of those reasons, arguably the most important, is a lack of clear and consistent communication between the two departments.

The good news is that, if organized properly, Sales Development is the perfect solution to this challenge. While most organizations will house their SDR team under sales or marketing, in reality they should act more as a bridge between sales and marketing than focusing on one side or the other. This is what allows them to communicate with both departments, while also allowing for more effective communication across all revenue-generating arms of your organization.

SDR ↔️ Sales Communication

With the sales team, the most important relationship an SDR has is the one they have with their Account Executive (AE). AEs have a tendency to work in silos, and often territorial differences factor into the buyers’ journey in different regions. As an SDR tasked with finding leads for their AE, they want to ensure they’re the kind of leads that have the potential to become opportunities. While your SDR Manager or VP of Sales might have general resources and advice for your SDRs, the AE’s intimate knowledge of their territory is invaluable and needs to be shared with their SDR in order to create a successful team and hit their collective goals.

To help foster this relationship, we always encourage our SDRs and AEs to get to know each other outside of work through things like coffee chats, happy hours, or lunch. The closer your AEs are to their SDRs the smoother the buyers’ journey will be, so building team chemistry is paramount, as intangible as it may feel.

Your SDRs will be more knowledgeable, your AEs will have warmer leads, and your prospects will be impressed by how smooth the sales process is. That’s a win-win-win.

SDR ↔️ Marketing Communication

On the other side of the bridge, SDRs should be an important asset that enables your marketing team to accurately target prospects with the right message. Successful SDRs have dozens of conversations with prospects every week and can provide both anecdotal and quantifiable data that will allow your marketing team to nurture and engage prospects with increased relevance and personalization.

In framing this, it helps to think about how prospects move through your nurture cadences. In most orgs, when an SDR speaks with someone who isn’t quite ready to move on to the next step, they’ll start by nurturing them personally. We’ve learned that a low-touch, long-term cadence that provides personal and relevant content and resources until they are ready to re-engage leads to the best reconnect rate. But when they don’t re-engage what happens? For most orgs, they’ll get kicked over to marketing’s nurture cadence. Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, that depends on the details. Marketing nurture cadences are more broad and generic by nature, especially when they go after untouched prospects. But a surprising number of organizations don’t have more than one marketing nurture cadence and usually just throw all marketing nurture into the same outreach campaign. This creates a disconnect between what they were getting from the SDR’s nurture sequence and what they now see from the marketing nurture sequence, and it’s rarely for the better.

The good news is that it’s a simple fix if you have good SDRs. Your CRM already has the data about what’s relevant to each prospect, thanks to the work your SDR did. Marketing should be able to use that data, across your CRM, to develop a handful of different marketing nurture cadences that cater to different subsections of your ICP. In doing so, it will allow your organizational pipeline to build a stronger connection with every prospect and avoid a good chunk of unsubscribes. By utilizing the flow of information coming from the SDRs as they hand leads back to marketing your overall pipeline will be stronger and more sustainable.

The inverse can be helpful as well. If marketing notices a trend in their outreach about how certain messaging resonates, for example, they can pass that info over to the SDRs who can use it (or at the very least test it) in their own outreach. If properly incorporated, these two processes will combine to create a sustainable feedback loop that will keep SDRs and marketing aligned for the foreseeable future.

Improved Buyers’ Journey

The other area where SDR communication can provide a substantial boost for your sales and marketing team might be the most obvious: communicating with prospects. While generally speaking, this is basically their job description, the ways in which they communicate are what matters here. Because of the number of prospects they can reach and the amount of information they can gather, SDRs are uniquely equipped to build relationships with prospects that pay dividends both up and down the funnel.

Informative, consistent communication with prospects takes more than just putting them through a cadence and sending them messages without a useful response. In fact, if it’s truly one-sided (no opens, clicks, or replies) there hasn’t really been any communication at all.

So let’s take a quick look into what an SDR can provide for themselves and their team when they communicate effectively with prospects:

Build Rapport

This is the big one, and it’s been an increasingly important part of the SDR skillset as the role has evolved from someone who blindly dials down a list to someone who qualifies and builds relationships with prospects.

As opposed to qualification and gathering insights (more on that in a bit), building rapport is about making a genuine, human connection with a prospect. B2B SDRs should understand that they’re selling into a business, but it shouldn’t make the conversation around it impersonal. Picking up and recalling small details both on an individual and organizational level proves its value over the long term, enabling an increased reconnect rate and a higher likelihood for an SQL to become an opportunity once that prospect does reconnect.

Gain Account Insights

While rapport is important, it really acts as an ancillary ingredient to what you actually want out of a conversation with a prospect: account qualification. If nothing else, this is the reason you want to have SDRs on your team. In today’s sales environment, account executives simply don’t have enough time to find new prospects while maintaining and growing their relationship with existing ones (plus you’d be overpaying them for that work). Your SDRs should be seen as your in-house experts at finding and connecting with new, cold prospects and qualifying MQLs before they get to an AE.

Gain Competitive Intelligence

As part of that SDR qualification process, one of the most useful things you can do – especially if the prospect isn’t qualified – is gather competitive intelligence. Your SDRs will regularly have conversations with prospects who aren’t in-market, but that shouldn’t stop the conversation. Instead, it should indicate to the SDR that they need to pivot the conversation to talking about why their current solution is working so well (or isn’t). By doing so, you’re able to gain real, anecdotal feedback about your competitors, allowing you to better position yourself against them both with this specific account and in the overall market. Additionally, SDRs who have this level of conversation tend to uncover additional prospect pain points that otherwise wouldn’t have been discovered.

More Outreach

Beyond the qualitative side of things, SDRs are a huge boon for the total number of prospects and accounts you’re able to reach. While overall outreach numbers vary depending on factors like your industry, market size, etc., we see an average of 80 activities per SDR per day. With our multi-threaded approach that typically amounts to about 200 accounts touched per month for an SDR. As these SDR outreach accounts trickle down the sales funnel it creates a more sustainable, predictable pipeline for your AEs.

Improved Lead Quality

The reason that pipeline is more predictable and sustainable is because of the extra layer of qualification SDRs are able to uncover. Let’s use your average MQL list as an example. When it arrives in the inbox of an AE they usually cherry-pick the prospects that look best on paper and only focus on them. Without an SDR to work through the list in its entirety, there will inevitably be some missed opportunities from that list.

Inversely, if your AE does work their way through the entire list it can have a negative impact on their ability to focus on those more ideal inbound prospects. Either way, you’re pulling an AE away from what they do best to do something that most of them don’t want to do at all. By giving an SDR these responsibilities, it guarantees a more steady flow of qualified leads will be handed over to your AEs.

Better Testing & Experimentation

The other benefit of having SDRs and AEs work closely together focuses on their ability to test and experiment as a team. Every message an AE sends out should be focused and personalized for that account or prospect. But that process inherently leaves out any possibility for market expansion or message experimentation. SDRs, on the other hand, are built to do just that. With the combination of how many people they regularly reach out to and their team’s knowledge of the space, capable SDRs can perform any number of A/B tests to further refine their processes or explore new outreach strategies. This will provide results and insights that both other SDRs and AEs can add to their outreach strategies for better response rates.

Between the increase in outreach volume, improved lead quality, and additional testing capabilities your AE’s pipeline will be healthier and more predictable than it has ever been before, and it’s all thanks to having an SDR.

Sustainable Long-Term Growth

For your sales team, the long-term effects are plentiful. A more active and predictable pipeline is going to help you achieve your growth goals. Allowing your AEs to focus on their closing role will as well. But perhaps the most overlooked and longest-term benefit of having SDRs on your team is the talent pipeline it creates. Hiring a new employee every time someone leaves or your team grows is expensive. It also means you’re hiring someone with little to no knowledge of your product, workflow, process, or company culture. All of these things take time and dedicated training to accomplish.

But what if you didn’t have to hire externally? By having SDRs already on your team, many of whom will inevitably be interested in moving to a closing role during their sales career, you’re inherently developing a talent pipeline that will continue to pay off the longer it’s there. (There’s a reason our transition programs are so popular with our clients). The benefits of promoting internally are both financial and strategic because it gives your team more time and money to dedicate to their listed responsibilities instead of taking them away to train an expensive external hire.


But what about the cons? Are there negatives to having an SDR function? For 90% of organizations, no*.

*But it’s easier said than done. Executing the vision of a sales development function that successfully bridges the gap between sales and marketing, keeps revenue development goals aligned, and improves overall communication is hard to do and there are a number of obstacles to achieving that vision. Focusing too much on short-term wins, misalignment at the executive level, and lack of investment in internal training and growth are three of the biggest pitfalls we see when we start working with our clients to build out a sales dev function that is both scalable and sustainable for long-term success.

If you’re considering adding a sales development team to your org, let us know! Reach out through our Contact Us page, and our team can run a benchmark analysis against your current sales performance and offer up suggestions on where an SDR function can positively impact your team and what kind of structure the function should have.

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.
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