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What Does a Sales Development Representative Do for a Business?

Jan 19, 2023
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A sales representative can have multiple leads and not be able to close the deal on a single one of them. That is because there is a vast difference between an unqualified and qualified lead, which we will explain later. 

This is where sales development representatives enter the story. We examine what a sales development representative is, what they do, and the qualities they need to succeed and bring business to their companies.

Sales Development Representative – What Is An SDR?

A sales development representative (SDR) is an important sales team member. If you have not heard of this job title before, it is not to be confused with a sales representative or account executive. In most instances, it is interchangeable with the job title of business development representative (BDR).

SDRs and BDRs work together in some companies, although they have slightly different focuses. In this case, SDRs handle all incoming leads, while BDRs are responsible for the outbound generation of leads.

SDR Meaning Versus SDR Meaning Sales

All sales development representatives (or business development representatives) are sales members. The confusion some people experience with understanding what SDRs do and don’t do is that they belong to sales but do not actually make sales.

Sales development representatives (and/or BDRs) are at the forefront of the sales chain in an entry-level position. They do the initial groundwork in getting and qualifying suitable leads. Their crucial role is to make it easier for account executives to complete deals with prospective customers. They are fully-fledged members of the sales team in a company. However, they don’t close the deals. This is left to the sales representatives (SRs) or account executives (AEs).

Were it not for the SDRs, SRs and/or AEs would waste time speaking to consumers who have no intention of buying the company’s product, have no need for it, or lack the funding to pay for it.

Sales development representatives prepare leads (qualify them) for the SRs and AEs to follow through. The sales representatives and/or account executives close the deals with customers. They receive the information through the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, which has been updated by the sales development representatives. This is done automatically as they interact with prospective customers, e.g., by sending an email or through notes on the system.

So, What Exactly Do Sales Development Representatives Do?

SDRs are measured by how well they can get leads into and move down the sales pipeline. It is their job to nurture those leads that are likely to be productive and scrap the ones that will not bear fruit. They get paid commission according to the list of qualified leads they produce. SRs, on the other hand, get a commission on the actual sales they conclude.

The chain works as follows: the marketing department sends lists of unqualified leads to the SDRs; the SDRs scrap those that are not worth following up and qualify the rest as suitable to sell to; then the AEs or SRs, who will put together a proposal for the prospective client, do a presentation or demo, and close the sale.

The process of acquiring leads occurs through outbound prospecting or working from a list produced by the marketing department, followed by qualifying these leads as suitable for the company’s product or service offering or removing them from the list. If, for example, you are selling CRM software and the lead is a home-based single business owner without employees, they will not need your product and training. It is not something they can use at this stage. If the business plans to expand, there may be a need for it in a few years, but it makes no sense for the SR or AE to try to close a deal with the company at this point.

How do SDRs Qualify Leads?

SDRs have four main functions: research, connect with prospective customers in various ways, educate prospective customers, and qualify or scrap leads. We look at each of these in turn.

Researching a Potential Customer

Contacting a potential customer without first researching is like taking a shot in the dark. It is essential to find out about the business, its needs, and the person from that company you will contact. You want to know if your company can offer them a solution to their gap. You will require the contact person’s position, an understanding of their role in their company, and whether they are the key decision-maker. Social media, websites, LinkedIn, and Google searches are good starting points.

Connecting with a Potential Customer

Armed with sufficient background information, the next step is to contact the potential customer. The SDR will follow what is known as a sales cadence. This is a set of steps that take place with intervals of x number of days between them. The experienced SDR would have worked out an effective system, and it will be efficient to stick to it with all prospective customers.

An example of a sales cadence is sending an email on day one and making contact via LinkedIn. A second email is sent two days later. After a few days, a follow-up email is sent. After another two days, a call is made, and if it goes to voicemail, a message is left. Additionally, another email is sent. Two more follow-up emails may be sent. If there is no response from the contact person, a breakup email follows, and the lead is scrapped.

All contact should use the customer’s name and be personalised.

Educating a Potential Customer

The SDR will help the potential customer understand how the service offering or product will fill a need. The SDR needs to be very familiar with the product and its features. The SDR should be able to answer all the customer’s questions.

Qualifying or Scrapping Leads

The lead can be qualified by determining the size of the company, the industry, the affordability, and the urgency, and confirming if the SDR’s firm does business with such companies and can answer its need.

The SDR role can be fairly structured, although the incumbent will have to apply their intelligence to determine if a prospective customer is a fit. Despite the SDR position being entry-level, it requires specific hard and soft skills, which we look as next.

About SDR Training and Coaching

The sales manager is responsible for selecting suitable employee(s) for the SDR position(s) and then coaching them to reach their full potential. They must be able to provide constructive criticism and also praise for what was done well. Here are some of the requisite skills for an SDR.

Product Knowledge

An SDR will have a hard time convincing a potential customer to buy a product if the person cannot illustrate why the product is suitable and what its features are. In-house training is rarely sufficient to make someone an expert. The SDR needs to discuss the product with experienced team members and developers. Listening to calls made by account executives/sales representatives is also helpful. If possible, using the product will provide valuable knowledge to impart to the contact person.

Time Management and Organisational Skills

Good time management combined with solid organisational skills will ensure that every lead is followed up correctly and that nothing falls through the cracks. For example, when the SDR has left a voice note, they should set a reminder for when to follow up again. The CRM system must constantly be updated so that no information is lost. Sticking to a process that is the same for every lead makes it less likely for a step to be omitted.

Resilience

SDRs will encounter many rejections and have messages ignored. They need to be thick-skinned and not take this to heart. SDRs will also disqualify specific leads unsuitable for the company’s product or service. Additionally, they need to keep up a good pace to complete the sales cadence with each lead.

Coachability

An SDR must be able to handle constructive criticism and be open to it with a desire for continual improvement. Success in the job requires this level of openness. SDRs must also assess their performance and seek to improve all the time.

Natural Or Acquired Conversational Aptitude

Conversational skills involve listening as well as talking. The prospective customer must feel that their concerns have been heard and addressed. The interaction should take the form of a friendly but professional conversation. An SDR should probe for concerns so that these can be resolved and not stand in the way of a potential sale.

The SDR has to be a specific type of person with the requisite skill set. This person is an integral part of the sales team and makes it easier to manage and for sales representatives to close deals. Making sales is the crucial objective for the whole marketing and sales teams.

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Line and dots