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How to hire MDRs (by people who’ve done it)

February 4, 2021

Marketing Development Reps are the missing link between sales and marketing.

That makes their role crucial. And when you’ve got the right people on the job, they’ll generate serious revenue.

For that reason, we spoke to some of Cognism’s most senior B2B marketing and sales staff.

Scroll 👇 or use the menu below to navigate around this page.

The main issues | How can you reposition the role of the MDR? | Posting a job description | The interview | Promoting internally | Making a hire | Get more marketing leads

The main issues

Alice started the conversation by highlighting the main issues companies have when hiring MDRs. We think this is a pretty good place to start.

“In all honesty, we didn’t have the perfect formula straight away. A lot of companies will give inbounds to their less experienced reps - as they are seen as the easier leads.”

“Starting out, we also looked for reps who may suit the less ‘difficult’ nature of the MDR role.” - Alice de Courcy

Alice identified 2 problems with this approach:

  1. The perception of the role internally - it was not respected within the sales organisation and so it did nothing for aligning sales and marketing.
  2. As with anything new, if you want the best chance of success, you need your best people on it. Lower performers in the cold calling outbound role also performed badly as MDRs.

“These are your warmest leads, they convert to customers at the highest rate, so you can’t afford to waste any.”

“In 2020, Cognism’s MDRs converted 28% of their inbound leads. This isn’t because they’re just easy leads to convert. It’s because we entrusted some of our best salespeople to handle them.” - Alice de Courcy

How can you reposition the role of the MDR?

The MDR is often regarded as an easier role in B2B sales. If you want to get the best out of your MDRs, this perception has to be tackled directly.


By repositioning the role of the MDR. Not as an easy sales position, but as an important one.

These salespeople handle the most valuable leads, and this needs to be reflected in the way the MDR is perceived.

At Cognism, we redesigned the sales organisational chart to include the MDR as a natural progression for high-performing SDRs. Here’s how it looks now:

It’s as easy as that.

MDR is now a desirable role in your company - you just need to find the right person for it.

Here’s how. 👇

Posting a job description

The first thing you’re looking at when hiring an MDR is their experience. It’s the truest test of a candidate’s potential, as you can’t be thrown off by less important factors, such as the interviewer’s mood, the time of day or the candidate’s favourite football team.

These things can all influence an interview, but they shouldn’t. This is why you need requirements in place.

What experience are you looking for?

We look for:

  • Consistent performance over at least 6 months in an outbound role.
  • A deep understanding of the company, product and target market.
  • Clearly demonstrable and measured proof of their time management skills.
  • The ability to multitask, demonstrated by examples.

These are all measurable qualities, which can be asked for prior to an interview. This will ensure that you’re only speaking to good-fit candidates.

Which professional qualities are you looking for?

It’s always a good idea to include a few professional qualities in your job description. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. It gives the candidates a better idea of what’s expected from them in the role. This is particularly useful when you’re talking about the MDR position, which isn’t as widely understood in SaaS sales.
  2. It provides a prompt for the interview stage. The candidate, having read the required professional qualities, will have a better idea of the things you’re looking for in the interview - leading to a more efficient interview process. Everyone’s a winner.

We look for candidates who check these boxes:

  • High achiever.
  • Able to handle their workload.
  • Able to handle various tasks at the same time.
  • Good admin skills.
  • Well organised.
  • Data-driven.
  • Great work ethic.

You might notice that there are a few points there about admin and multitasking. This wasn’t an accident. These qualities are essential.

“As an MDR we have an SLA (service-level agreement) to respond to all inbounds within 3 minutes. Why? Well, after 5 minutes the odds of qualifying a lead drop by 80%.”

“This is an important part of the role of the MDR. You have to be able to drop everything to action marketing-generated leads, and pick it all up again after.”

“You’re jumping from activity to activity a lot. Without excellent organisation skills, the MDR will get motion sickness from all of the jumping around!” - Evangeline Crossland

The interview

When interviewing external candidates for an MDR role, Alice likes to break the process up into 3 stages:

  1. Performance to date - this is where you discuss their experience. Numbers don’t lie, and it will save you time to check this out first.
  2. Presentation on what they’ll bring to the MDR role - this doesn’t just give you an idea of their competencies, it also demonstrates the understanding they have of the role and company. The amount of research they’ve done for the interview is a great indicator of work ethic.
  3. Questions - here you want to cross off any reservations you have over their ability to handle the role. It’s important to keep some time free at the end of the interview for this. These questions can’t be as easily rehearsed, and an MDR needs to be able to think on their feet.

What should you cover in the interview?

Alice likes a more flexible interview process. Having a rigid set of questions might be great to get the ball rolling, but you want to find an MDR who can carry a conversation, and who has some interesting ideas of their own.

“The people we’re interviewing will have already achieved amazing things with outbound leads. I’m interested in what they’ll bring to the MDR role. This could include key takeaways from their time as an SDR, or insights they’ve gained from their research.”

“The trick is to focus on the attributes you’re looking for. This sounds obvious, but a lot of interviewers will run through commonly asked interview questions, without digging much deeper.” - Alice de Courcy

  • What can you offer that other candidates can’t?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Tell me a bit about yourself.

These questions are old and rotten; throw them out! The candidate has probably been prepping answers to them all week, and you’re not actually going to learn that much about them.

Instead, ask specific questions about their skills.

  • Give me an example of your ability to manage time efficiently.
  • How would you manage a large account with multiple stakeholders?
  • Do you have experience with a CRM system?

Basically, just ask questions that you actually want to know the answer to. There are no tricks here. The simplest questions are often the most effective.

Promoting internally

If you’re hiring internally, the interview isn’t as important. Here are David Bentham’s thoughts:

“When you’re promoting an SDR, don’t focus too much on the interview. Their performance so far is much more important. You can’t expect your sales team to understand the MDR role if they haven’t already done it. You just need to know that they have the drive and ability to take the role on.” - David Bentham

Making a hire

The interview’s over. You’ve got a decision to make.

Here’s the thing…

Making a decision based purely on your gut instinct just isn’t good enough. It leaves too much room for your own bias. You might have just connected with a certain candidate because you share interests, not because they’ll make the best MDR.

How do you make sure you get it right?

Score it.

Score the entire interview process. Have a list of competencies that you’re looking for and check them off as you go. Set a threshold for the role, and ensure that the candidate meets it.

Also, leave space for soft skills. You can’t reduce ability to a number. If you could, hiring would be easy. Make an informed decision based on their performance on the scorecard and their professional qualities.

The scorecard is also really helpful for feedback. You can give precise reasons for not hiring candidates, which will help them with future interviews.

It’s hard to find work at the moment, and we should all be doing our bit to help the applicants out.

If you’re interested in checking out the careers available at Cognism, take a look at our careers page.

Get more marketing leads

The MDR is only as good as the marketing leads. Even if they have a powerful sales engine, you need to provide the fuel.

We created a data-driven marketing guide, which will help you take the next step in MQL (marketing qualified lead) generation. Here’s what you’ll find inside.

  • How to build a B2B marketing strategy and team from the ground-up.
  • Insights into inbound - SEO, website traffic and PPC.
  • Pro tips for consistent, predictable, revenue-driven content marketing.
  • How to nurture leads successfully with email marketing.
  • A guide to the best free tools in the B2B marketing space.

Check it out, here’s the link… 👇

Get the guide