The age old tug of war between sales and marketing is frustrating for everyone in sales, marketing and all the way up to the CEO. The classic position of sales is that marketing never delivers enough quality leads. Marketing’s position is that sales cherry-picks the best leads and lacks the discipline or motivation to follow up effectively on the rest. The CEO knows there are likely some gold nuggets hiding in that pile of marketing leads plus target companies that marketing hasn’t penetrated, but what is the best way to make contact, generate interest and then develop a real sales opportunity?

The answer is an effectively recruited, well trained and expertly managed team of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). I look at SDRs as the bridge over the gap between sales and marketing. In fact, a high functioning SDR team actually allows each group to optimize its efforts. Marketing can rest assured that every lead will receive the diligent attention it deserves and sales can focus its efforts on fully qualified opportunities and closing revenue.

The other huge benefit the SDR team provides is a feedback loop on the quality of marketing engagement. They will tell you which campaigns generate the best quality leads, when customers are getting upset about over-communication, etc. By listening to the feedback from the SDRs, the marketing team can optimize its spend and further increase conversion rates.

The SDR group can report to sales, marketing or be split out as a stand-alone group. There are pros and cons to each approach, but I like to see the SDR group report to the sales organization with a dotted line to the demand generation group in marketing. This allows a variable compensation model familiar to sales people and still have marketing oversight regarding the veracity of the lead follow-up.

The SDR role is most often the entry-point to the sales organization so it is important to recruit individuals with the right skills to be successful. In many companies the gateway to higher paying sales roles is achieved with success as an SDR. From the company perspective, it significantly reduces the risk of hiring sales people because you can promote all-star SDRs who have already proven they have the key traits to be successful. When hiring SDRs, look for individuals who are driven, competitive, smart, persistent and organized.

  • Driven – This is a numbers game and SDRs need to be relentless with the calls, emails and social media outreach. The SDR who wants to pound out 10 more calls or emails before heading out for the night has the right mindset. Part of being driven is wanting to move ahead in your career and the SDR role is a goldmine for recruiting effective sales people. You can see which SDRs develop the skills to fully qualify leads to the point where they could close them with no additional assistance.
  • Competitive – I will talk more about how to motivate the SDR team in a future post, but having SDRs who are competitive and want to win is crucial to success. They should realize that all sales-related teams are ranked and they should not want to be on the bottom of any list tied to performance. It is critical to hire SDRs that can thrive in this environment.
  • Smart – I often rank intelligence over experience because I can teach a smart person what they need to know. Good SDRs will have an innate curiosity that will drive them to learn more about the product, target market, buying signals and the competition. Learning these things will make them more effective on the phone and while communicating to the prospect. I like to say, smart will get you further faster.
  • Persistent – There is a fine line between persistence and being labeled an annoying stalker, but far too many SDRs give up too soon. Most marketing experts agree that it takes between 8 and 10 touches (emails, phone calls, social media) to convert a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) into a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). Finding individuals who are comfortable making continued effort on an MQL until they make contact and extract the necessary information is fundamental to success.
  • Organized – The SDR role is one about cadence, follow up and persistence. An individual who is well-organized will use the CRM tool to help them focus their efforts in the most optimal way. The best candidates should document everything they do so that they can tell you the exact status on any lead, campaign or initiative.

For more details on how to build an effective lead qualification process check out our podcasts.

I’d like to hear how your SDR organization is functioning and if you don’t have one, why not?