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What is Sales Development Representative's (SDR) Role?

Working in sales development has evolved massively in the last decade or two. Sales reps used to start on a traditional sales floor, picking up phones and talking to prospective clients.

The modern sales development representative’s (SDR) job is much more strategic than that. It requires plenty of skills, knowledge, and teamwork.

Here at Cognism, we have the best SDR team, and we want to share all we know about their role in sales and marketing. We're including expert quotes, videos, and extra resources to cover the topic in depth.

Read on if you’re looking to hire SDRs or apply for a sales development job.

Not what you were looking for? Try these articles:

Cognism SDR Zone

What does a sales development representative do?

A sales development representative (SDR) is a sales rep whose job is to find pipeline through sales prospecting. Their main job is to connect with prospects on a one-to-one basis, e.g., through cold calling or via LinkedIn messaging.

Their work also involves gathering key sales data and conducting customer research. The best SDRs create sales opportunities, educate prospects about your solution, and facilitate closing deals. 

These tasks will be harder than ever through the recession. When win rates are dropping, you will want your closers to spend more time on the bottom-of-the-funnel activity and keep SDRs focused on contacting as many potential customers as possible.

Sales development representatives can quickly decide whether to move them through the sales funnel, but unlike sales execs, SDRs don't close deals. They help find decision-makers at a company and multithreaded.

What does an SDR’s typical day look like?

Here's a typical workday of our best SDR, Katy Mason-Jones:

  • Responding to emails and Linkedin messages to confirm sales demos 
  • Calling and emailing for 90 mins
  • Sending Vidyards and LinkedIn voice notes for 45 mins
  • Using cadence with scheduled emails to prospects she's booked
  • Preparing content tailored to their pain points to ensure their attendance
  • Completing admin tasks to get ready for the next morning 

Katy’s best advice to manage SDR’s day is to break it into 90-minute segments. That way, you don’t get distracted and finish what you want to complete.

💡 Click on the video below to learn about a day in the life of an SDR and Gabby's advice on managing responsibilities in her role.

What is the SDR’s job description?

Sales development reps' tasks revolve around expanding the company’s customer base. It is usually an entry-level position in a sales department, so to start as a junior SDR, you don’t need a higher education degree. It’s good to have some experience in sales, though.

Here is a list of typical SDR’s duties and responsibilities:

  • Generate prospecting lists of decision-makers in target accounts using compliant and accurate contact data
  • Book outbound meetings through cold calls, emails, social outreach, networking with ideal-fit customers
  • Follow up and engage with prospects (including C-suite/Directors) who have enquired about the company's product or service
  • Manage relationships with existing clients
  • Deliver relevant marketing content to prospects 
  • Research your prospect’s coworkers to find other stakeholders
  • Follow up on existing contacts in your CRM to identify new potential needs
  • Use LinkedIn, CRM, sales enablement tools, and sales intelligence to improve processes

How to improve SDR sales?

To hit SDR targets, you need to be able to keep up with everything that is happening in your industry and your product, study your persona and your competitors.

One thing to remember is that as a sales development representative, you’re not only selling a product. In fact, you’re selling a solution to a prospect's pain point and your knowledge.

To improve SDR sales, ensure you have access to the best B2B contact database with accurate contact data, including:

Book your Cognism demo

What’s the hardest part of the SDR job?

SDRs face a lot of rejection in outbound sales, which is the hardest part of the job. To do well in sales, don’t take it personally. SDRs need strong mental resilience to overcome sales objections and frustrations of not being able to connect with the people they need to. 

Some experienced sales development reps leverage their support networks at work and outside work.

How to progress in a sales development career?

Many passionate sales development reps who enter the industry quickly progress in their careers to account executives and managerial roles. But a sales development representative's career path isn’t always straightforward as some may think. 

The next step in a junior sales development representative’s career is usually the role of an account executive. The first sign that a promotion is due is when you can perform your tasks without repeating the same mistakes. 

Then you might be asked to enter the SDR stand-in. This is when an SDR stands in for one of the AEs and takes over the role for a day or even for one call. This process helps to assess your selling capability. It also creates opportunities for exposure but, more importantly, is a proving ground. 

If you can do it well, you will be good in a new position. If not, make sure you learn from the experience and do better the second and the third time.

There are exciting career path options available for SDRs:

  • SDR Manager—trains, onboards new starters, and manages other SDRs
  • MDR Manager—qualifies MQLs and passes high-quality leads to sales
  • Community Manager—builds a consistent brand voice and personality and handles online communication
  • Customer Success Manager—helps new customers to achieve their sales goals and to lower churn
  • Content Manager—creates a product or customer-related content and PR campaigns

💡 Learn more about AE sales from Cognism AE superstars. 

How much do SDRs make?

SDR’s salary isn’t clear-cut.

Sales development representative earnings vary depending on the targets a person in this position delivers. Some companies sometimes decide to pay a base salary and add a performance bonus on top of that. 

According to Comparably, the average sales development representative salary in the US is $74,764 a year of which $57,264 is a base salary.

But let’s review average salaries in the industry as reported by SDRs on job portals: 

  • Indeed reports $65,954 base SDR salary + $12,000 commission per year 
  • On Builtin, an SDR can earn $53,865 per year and get $22,269 in extra compensation
  • According to Payscale an SDR makes $45,676base salary + between $5,000 and $26,000 bonus per year

The lowest salaries are for graduates and undergraduate students who enter sales without prior work experience. Whereas senior sales development reps can negotiate higher base salaries.

💡 Find out ways in which you can incentivize SDRs that work for the company and the individual.

What skills does an SDR need?

If you have the right SDR skills, the role can generate feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. Let’s look at the SDR skillset needed to ensure a successful career in B2B sales.

1. Research 

If you want to make a good impression on your prospect, do your homework and check at least the prospect’s job title, industry, and location. Make sure the B2B data you have in hand is correct. 

Want the prospects to be sold on your solution?

Research different buyers, market trends, and the competitive landscape. Identify sales triggers with the intent data to personalize your pitch and provide a relevant sales experience.

For example, a company that has just doubled its headcount is surely dealing with a lot of growing pains.

2. Active listening 

Active listening is one of the most important SDR skills because it lets you have human conversations with prospects and position yourself as a consultant. You don’t have to stick to a cold calling script.

However, if you find that you're struggling to build rapport with your prospects, it might be helpful to hire a contractor to help you refine your approach and improve your SDR skills.

Instead, you can put a voice to the data profile you created during your per-call research.

This skill also helps SDRs better engage with prospects and judge whether they are a good fit for you. Jennifer Gray explains how active listening helps her become a good SDR:

[It] will save you time in the long run. You won't reach the end of the funnel and only then realize your prospect was the wrong target for your product.

3. Assertiveness

When Sam Gibbons started his job as an SDR at Cognism, it took him far too long to get to the point. Over time he learned that a sales development representative needs to be direct during an initial discovery call. And you can build a relationship with clients later. Here’s what he recommends:

As an SDR, you need to remember you’re interrupting somebody’s day. You'll come across as more assertive and your clients will appreciate it if you get straight to the point.

4. Creativity

The more creative your outreach, the more traction you’ll receive. Sales are very competitive and SDRs simply must look for ways to make their message stand out. Aaron Ross is a Cognism board member and sales development expert. One of the top pieces of advice he shares with new SDRs is this:

Immerse yourself in things that can help you learn and develop your skills and creativity. You need to be able to bring creativity and personality to whatever you do. You need to stand out from the barrage of other messages your prospects’ are getting.

For example, different message formats, like video prospecting and LinkedIn voice notes help you bring more creativity to the process.

5. Curiosity

In addition to hard SDR skills, sales development reps must be curious. Inquisitive reps send the message their goal is not only to close a sale but genuinely get to the bottom of prospects’ challenges to solve them. The trait also helps them understand the product better and learn about the industry. 

💡Read this article to learn the seven tips you need to be a successful sales rep

How to hire SDRs?

If you’re in a start-up or scaling the company, hiring sales development representatives should be your priority. You need a good communicator with good admin, and time management skills. 

How can you find people with all these qualities and determine if they are a good fit for your company?

During the interview, you should look out for their tonality and confidence when speaking. You may ask questions that aren’t typical sales interview questions. The best SDRs are not going to be thrown off when answering them. It also helps you gauge if they can handle pressure.

Other SDR interview questions should indicate if the candidate fits the company’s culture. You can ask about their motivations to join the company and see if they align with your organization’s goals. It will help you increase retention rates.

Catherine Gardner, one of our sales leaders, suggests you ask candidates what non-sales skills they would like to improve. She said:

​​Rather than asking simple strengths and weaknesses questions, which candidates often prepare for, ask this question! It’ll help you judge if the candidate is able to think quickly. Another important SDR trait! 

Harry Brown, ex-Cognism sales manager, says the SDR interview process should be a two-way conversation. He said:

You need to sell the role to the candidate as much as possible. Especially if they’ve come from a recruitment agency, as chances are they’ll have a high number of interviews in any given week. You want to be memorable.

💡 To learn more about building a high-performing SDR team, listen to a Revenue Champions podcast with Joe Porter, a BDR Manager at Juro, who shared his experiences in hiring, onboarding, and managing sales development teams. 

What SDR training program works best?

Now you know how to hire SDRs, ensure their smooth onboarding and training. Some companies decide on lengthy processes that last two weeks to four months. But what if you could wrap it up in three days?

At Cognism, sales development representative training takes three days. Thanks to the short schedule, you can take advantage of the energy and initial enthusiasm in the new job. Quick training doesn’t mean the SDR is thrown into the deep end, though. We believe a mentor-mentee training scheme is the best way to help sales development reps get settled in the new role. 

Here’s what SDR training looks like—

From the first day in the office, every new sales development rep is mentored by a senior SDR who knows the ropes and understands the pressure. 

  • Day 1: Our SDR training starts with the basics like product knowledge and cold calling training
  • Day 2: Next, the new joiner listens to their mentor making calls and learns different processes and procedures. 
  • Day 3: Then, we get new SDRs on the phone! It’s OK if they make mistakes because it’s a vital part of gaining SDR experience.

The 72-hour SDR training wouldn’t be possible without a resources library that contains guides, webinars, podcasts, etc. We encourage new SDRs to make use of it at their own pace and add to it when they are ready. 

When it comes to training SDRs, it’s important to deliver personalized learning. As much as you don't want uniformity in sales development, you don’t want conformity in the learning process. The mentor is there throughout the process for the new joiner to answer any concerns and suggests improvements.


What is the best SDR tool?

Cognism’s Chrome plugin saves hours of manual prospecting time. SDRs use it to enrich LinkedIn profiles, Sales Navigator lists, records in Salesforce and Outreach with accurate email addresses and verified mobile numbers, and to find contact information on corporate websites. 

It also lets SDRs tap into prospect's coworkers to support multithreaded sales deals and offers unrestricted viewing and exporting of data. 

How long should you be an SDR?

Research suggests an optimal tenure in an SDR job is 16 months. A $50M company shared some interesting data that suggested 40% of SDRs who were promoted to AEs failed, and their contracts were terminated. 

Further research discovered the promotions were rushed, and the SDRs were not ready to take on new responsibilities. So it’s key to have processes in place that ensure that you’re not promoted too soon or solely based on your KPS.

What’s the difference between BDRs and SDRs?

The difference between Business Development Reps (BDR) and Sales Development reps (SDR) is that SDRs fill in the sales funnel with inbound leads or warm leads, whereas BDRs focus on generating outbound leads. 

SDRs deal with contacts who have some knowledge of your company or product; perhaps they have interacted with you (downloaded an ebook, reached out via live chat). BDRs, on the other hand, create a list of contacts to outreach to a new market or a new industry. They should have a good sense of their ideal customer profile to reach the right prospects.

BDRs’ contacts are higher up the sales funnel than SDRs,’ and it makes their job a little more difficult. 

Both BDRs' and SDRs' roles overlap because their goal is to book appointments or sales demos and pass the information to account executives (AE).

Cognism Sales Newsletter

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