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What is a Marketing Development Representative (MDR)?

November 30, 2020

Marketing Development Representatives (MDRs) are specialised salespeople who bridge the gap between marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

They do this by following up on all marketing-generated leads - from hand raises, to direct demo requests - across all your channels. 

In this blog, Cognism’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alice de Courcy and Sales Team Lead, Evangeline Crossland, explore how the MDR can help your business align sales and marketing goals and convert more good-fit customers. 

Without further ado, let’s start 👇🏼


Why does your sales team need MDRs?

Evie, Sales Team Lead:

SaaS sales teams need MDRs to optimise their leads in the funnel. 

For example, in order to turn an MQL into an SQL, an MDR will take several steps to further qualify the lead. 

This helps to create more sales-qualified opportunities (SQOs) and gives BDMs a better chance of converting the leads that marketing pass to them.

To do this, MDRs take time to understand a prospect’s business and its internal workflows, before deciding whether or not they’ll be a good-fit customer. 

For example, they may deem a prospect with a small total addressable market (TAM) to be a bad fit. 

Accordingly, they’ll filter them out of the sales pipeline. 

Why does the marketing team need MDRs?

Alice, CMO:

MDRs are often the missing link in the marketing to sales handoff process. 

With MDRs in the team, marketing and sales share a genuine joint interest. And with closer collaboration, the two teams can turn MQLs into SQLs more predictably. 

At Cognism, 50% of marketing's pipeline and revenue comes from the MQLs that MDRs work on. For the MDRs, 100% of their target comes from the MQLs delivered to them by marketing. 

As a result:

Both the MDRs and the marketing team have a vested interested in each other's success.

This is so much so that marketing writes the outreach cadences for the MDRs to use when following up on MQLs generated by content. 

And thus, marketing becomes vital to the sales process. 

Further aligning marketing and sales

Marketing is also responsible for delivering an agreed number of “actionable MQLs” per MDR per month. 

This allows MDRs to achieve their monthly SQO targets, feeding directly into marketing’s overall SQO target. 

MDRs report on this weekly to marketing. Meanwhile, marketing monitors this metric daily. 

What are the key responsibilities of MDRs?

Evie, Sales Team Lead:

MDRs take ownership of all marketing leads that come from your wider B2B lead generation strategy. A typical example would be a prospect who’s filled out a form to gain access to an eBook. 

MDRs then follow-up with these prospects by putting them into a sales cadence, with the end goal of booking a meeting. 

Perhaps the most important role the MDR performs is their qualification of inbound leads.

Because inbound leads often don’t fit your ICP and have limited knowledge of your product/service.

That means MDRs play a vital role in qualifying inbound leads in and out, enabling your business to convert more good-fit customers.

Hit the link for more on the targets MDRs need to hit

Bonus benefits

Because of the detail MDRs go into during the qualification process, their insights can also help keep your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP) relevant. 

For example, they can identify trends in good-fit customers from particular industries and regions, allowing the wider business to focus on them.

What's the difference between an MDR and a BDM?

Evie, Sales Team Lead:

Ultimately, the job of the MDR is to book meetings with prospects who are likely to become customers. Whereas the job of the BDM is to close the business generated by a combination of the SDR and MDR teams.  

Between the roles, there are some important transferable skills. As an MDR, for example, you ask a lot of questions about your prospects’ processes to understand whether they’re a good-fit customer. 

This is an essential skill for BDMs too, as they go even deeper into discovery to further qualify leads and eventually close the sale. 

What's the difference between an SDR and an MDR?

Evie, Sales Team Lead:

SDRs are solely focused on cold outreach. This takes place across several channels, including email, cold calling and LinkedIn. 

Their role is to get people who’ve had no prior engagement with your company interested in your product/service. 

On the other hand, MDRs deal with warmer leads. As a result, they require more in-depth product knowledge as well as an excellent understanding of your company’s ICP. 

The two roles also require different skill sets. Because MDRs have to focus on inbound and content leads, they are more time poor. 

This means they have to be highly organised to perform the role successfully.

Alice, CMO:

At Cognism, SDRs are promoted to MDRs before eventually becoming BDMs. 

Interestingly, this is the reverse of most companies’ process, where the most junior employees work as MDRs.

We have two key reasons for switching this up:

  1. We have better qualified BDMs due to the detailed nature of the conversations MDRs have on a daily basis. 
  2. We can drive home the importance across the whole organisation of the value of inbound and marketing leads. 

As every new BDM has been through the hybrid position, they have a better understanding of the marketing engine. 

This brings the revenue team closer together, breaking down barriers between sales and marketing. 

We believe specialisation leads to success. 

So when experimenting with anything new, we always put our best foot forward and assign our best people into that role. 

The MDR is a living embodiment of both of those principles. It’s key to us generating revenue as well as generating consistent and predictable pipeline from MQLs to SQLs. 

Hit the link to see our winning MDR cadence 

Key takeaways


  • Help B2B sales teams focus on high quality leads, increasing the chance of conversion.
  • Elevate the role marketing plays in the revenue engine.
  • Align sales and marketing.

Content leads sales cadences

If you want to help nurture your content leads, check out winning cadences from our MDRs! ☝🏼