What Is a Sales Development Representative and What do SDRs Do?

Lindsey KoneffKlatt

12 min

Inside this article:

What Is a Sales Development Representative?

What Does a Sales Development Representative Do?

How Is a Sales Development Representative Compensated?

What Tasks Does an SDR Do on a Regular Basis?

What Does an SDR’s Daily Schedule Look Like?

Where Do They Fit within the Organization?

What Skills Does an SDR Need?

Over to You

Being a sales development representative (SDR) is both challenging and rewarding. It can be an excellent stepping stone into higher level sales positions and provide immensely valuable experience.

If you’re looking into becoming an SDR, or thinking about hiring one, then you’re in the right place. In this post, we’re going to share four things you need to know:

  1. What an SDR is 
  2. What an SDR does
  3. Why an SDR is so important
  4. The skills needed to succeed as an SDR

Let’s get started!

What Is a Sales Development Representative?

Oftentimes, a sales development representative (SDR) is the first live contact a prospect will have with your company. In this position, they are primarily responsible for qualifying a lead based on their likelihood of making a purchase and often operate as inside sales reps. 

SDRs interact with and educate potential customers via emails, live chats, phone conversations, and by providing further resources. They contact each lead and determine who moves further down the pipeline and who isn’t a good fit.

If a lead is qualified, the SDR will usually set up the first meeting as well. This process allows account executives to focus their time on closing deals with leads who are already qualified. Even though this is the case, at times, an SDR may close a prospect themselves.

At PhoneBurner, sales development representatives are not focused on “hard selling.” Instead, they serve primarily in a consultative sales process where they ensure our solution is a great fit for our customers. Normally this means they vet prospects and determine the logical next best steps for prospects to learn more about our solution—typically scheduling an appointment for a custom demo with one of our account executives.

What Does a Sales Development Representative Do?

Generally speaking, an SDR is going to focus on qualifying potential leads and then moving them through the sales workflow. And while they sometimes close deals, that’s not the primary focus for an SDR. 

Instead, SDRs spend time learning about a prospect’s needs, industry, position, and other factors to discover whether or not the solution being sold will benefit them. If there’s a good fit, the SDR will educate their prospect, at a very high level, as to the value the product or service offers. 

Depending upon your marketing and sales process, this will look different in inbound sales versus an outbound sales model. 

In terms of specific tasks, a sales development representative might do any of the following:

  • Prospecting for potential clients and initiating contact with them to learn more about their needs
  • Researching a prospect’s company and industry so they can better understand what is most helpful to offer in terms of products or services
  • Developing rapport with a prospect, whether through email, phone, or in-person meetings
  • Qualifying leads based on likelihood of purchasing and then presenting qualified leads to sales executives for follow-up

SDRs are front-line representatives for their company. They are often the first person a prospect interacts with in the company, and the SDR is responsible for creating a good first impression.

And once they’ve secured an initial interest from a prospect, SDRs will host a discovery call to overcome initial resistance a prospect might be feeling, as well as work to understand the desires, needs, pain points, and aspirations of the prospect. This helps them connect the dots and show how the product or service will help the expressed desires and struggles of the prospect.

How Is a Sales Development Representative Compensated?

Although compensation packages can vary significantly by company and industry, SDRs usually have a base salary along with performance-based rewards, like commission, profit-sharing, or bonuses.

This compensation structure is designed to motivate SDRs to generate and qualify more leads for their company. The more revenue they generate, the more they will be compensated.

Typically, an SDR will have a quota or target number of qualified leads they need to produce as well as appointments scheduled, and their compensation is based on how they perform in relation to that quota.

What Tasks Does an SDR Do on a Regular Basis?

Essentially, an SDR’s job can involve two key elements:

  • Find as many new leads as possible
  • Educate and qualify those leads

Again, these tasks will depend upon your company’s marketing and sales strategy. 

Find as Many Quality Leads as Possible

There are a number of ways that an SDR can make initial contact with a prospect, including:

  • Phone calls
  • Email
  • Live chat
  • Webinars
  • Social media
  • Events
  • Personalized video

An SDR doesn’t just randomly reach out to individuals. Rather, they first spend significant time researching both their overall target audience, as well as individual prospects. Market research helps them find the best individual prospects, and individual research can help them understand exactly what that individual’s needs and pain points may be.

When an SDR identifies a potential prospect, they can use a number of different tools designed specifically for sales reps to find out more about who they are, their specific job role, where they fit in their organization, the current processes they use, and how the product or service offered by the SDR’s company might be able to help.

For example, an SDR might find a prospect on LinkedIn, use Google to find any mentions of them in articles, read through the company’s website to understand what they offer, and then use a tool like Hunter.io to find their contact information.

They would then take all the information they’ve gathered and create a brief, yet personalized introduction to send via email, LinkedIn, or some other form. Personalization is key, resulting in 6 times the revenue compared to non-personalized messages.

The final step in the outreach process is to update the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software with all the relevant information, such as the contact name, how many times they’ve been contacted and by what means, and where they stand within the pipeline.

However, if a company utilizes an inbound marketing approach, where prospects sign up for a free trial or complete a form to express interest, then an SDR will utilize these ideas above to gather information on whomever just entered the sales pipeline. 

Educate and Qualify Leads

The ultimate goal for an SDR is to turn a prospect into a qualified lead that can be passed along to sales executives. This requires both in-depth learning about the prospect, as well as education of the prospect.

In terms of learning, the sales development representative needs to engage with the prospect to discover:

  • Their needs and if your product or service can offer value
  • Their pain points and whether you can alleviate them
  • Whether their budget is sufficient to buy your product or service
  • The level of priority that they place on solving this problem, and whether it is a priority at all
  • Who the ultimate decision maker is regarding purchasing

To ensure that the SDR has gotten to know their prospect well enough, they may have multiple conversations with them before passing along an introduction.

The SDR also needs to spend time educating the prospect regarding things like:

  • Features and benefits of the product or service being sold
  • Specific ways problems will be solved by the product or service
  • Pricing structure details and what’s included at various price points
  • Previous customer success stories
  • The purchase and onboarding process

The learning process helps the SDR successfully qualify the prospect, while the education process helps the SDR overcome potential objections and persuade the prospect regarding the value of the product or service.

What Does an SDR’s Daily Schedule Look Like?

Though a sales development representative’s schedule can vary depending on the day and company, what is consistent is that they are often in close contact with many prospects and customers throughout the workday.

Sometimes these interactions occur by phone; other times it might be done through email communications or in-person meetings. And, of course, as more companies employ hybrid or remote work environments, video conferencing is also a common way of engaging with prospects.

Typically, an SDR will have a target number of daily or weekly calls they are supposed to make to ensure that they are generating a sufficient number of leads for their company.

It is also typical for an SDR to work closely with an account executive throughout the day in order to get input about qualified leads and stay up-to-date on any new opportunities that have come across their desk.

It’s no secret that being a sales development representative is both a demanding and rewarding job. It’s demanding because you are constantly on the move, keeping your finger on the pulse of potential leads, and staying in regular contact as you move them down the pipeline.

What makes it rewarding is that when a prospect turns into a customer, SDRs get to take pride in knowing they played a direct role in that sale and that their product will truly help a prospect. Not to mention the monetary rewards and career growth opportunities are excellent for SDRs.

Where Do They Fit within the Organization?

Typically, an SDR is considered an entry-level sales position. They are the first step in the sales process, responsible for generating new leads and passing the qualified ones up to account representatives or account executives.

Though being a sales development representative is considered an entry sales position, it still plays a critical role within the company. Without the SDR, account reps and executives would end up spending significant amounts of time pitching prospects that aren’t truly interested or ready to buy. In addition, qualified leads could potentially be missed and go to a competitor. 

An SDR position is a gateway to a highly successful sales career. Often, SDRs that perform well will be promoted to a senior SDR or account executive position, which carry more responsibilities, higher paychecks, and further opportunities for growth. Eventually, an SDR may even climb all the way to a managerial position.

What Skills Does an SDR Need?

There are 4 critical areas in which an SDR must be skilled:

  1. Knowledge of the product, service sold, and competitive landscape
  2. Time management and organization
  3. Persistence and resolve
  4. Interpersonal skills

Let’s look at these in detail:

1. Product, Service, and Competitive Landscape Knowledge

In order to understand the needs of prospects and how they can be solved, it’s critical that an SDR knows their company’s offerings inside and out.

An SDR needs to have detailed knowledge of all aspects of the product or service, from its core features and benefits down to any other types of available add-ons that might be valuable for certain clients. They also need to be able to draw direct connections between the needs and pain points of a prospect to specific ways the product or service can solve those issues.

Last, SDRs need in-depth knowledge of all the educational resources available so that they can provide those to prospects who have specific interests or questions. When this is paired with a robust knowledge of the competitive landscape, an SDR can clearly and coherently show how their product or service succeeds where other options may not. 

2. Time Management and Organization

There are a lot of moving parts that a SDR needs to stay on top of. They have to do research, make phone calls, send emails, schedule appointments, go to meetings, all with multiple prospects at different stages in the qualification and education process.

Because of this, it’s essential that they have strong time-management and organizational skills. They need to be able to plan their days so that they have a clear idea of how to prioritize different tasks, as well organize their workflow so that everything keeps moving and nothing falls through the cracks.

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3. Persistence and Resolve

When dealing with prospects who seem interested but who are not yet ready to buy, an SDR needs to be tenacious and persistent in their follow up.

It can often take multiple conversations before a prospect is truly committed so they should continue the dialogue until there’s no more road left for them to travel down together. In some cases, this might mean several months of continued contact, staying the course until the prospect becomes a customer.

SDRs must also be able to deal with some level of rejection without being discouraged. As a first point of contact, they will inevitably hear “no” more often than they hear “yes.” They need to be able to easily brush those off and continue on with their work without being derailed from their productivity for the day.

4. Interpersonal Skills

A big part of what an SDR does is connect with people at all levels within organizations. Because of this, they need to be able to communicate effectively with both individuals and groups.

They must have strong writing skills for crafting personalized emails that will truly capture the interest of prospects. They also need a solid phone presence for engaging in productive conversations about their product or service.

Ideally, an SDR is able to at least somewhat gauge the best way to communicate with a prospect. Some people respond best to a friendly, informal tone, while others respond better to one that’s more serious or technical. 

This comes strongly into play when an SDR hosts a discovery call. They must know how to ask the right question that will help them identify a prospect’s needs, and then lead them to understand specifically how the product or service can help.

Over to You

Often, the best SDRs love to help people. Their passion is to learn about prospects’ challenges and educate them as to how a service or product can make their life better. SDRs have thick skin when it comes to hearing “No” and they enjoy the challenges inherent to selling.

And there’s nothing like the rush of a closed sale. Well, except maybe the tremendous potential for career growth and the paycheck that comes along with that. If this sounds appealing to you, it’s time to pursue your career in sales.

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