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What is a Marketing Development Representative (MDR)?

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 article, Cognism’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alice de Courcy, and VP UK & I, Jonathon Ilett, explore the definition of an MDR and how they can help your business align sales and marketing goals and convert more good-fit customers.

Without further ado, let’s start 👇

What is an MDR in marketing and sales?

A marketing development representative (MDR) is similar to an SDR, in that they’re salespeople who sit inside the sales team.

Where they differ is that SDRs focus on leads generated from prospecting activities, whereas MDRs follow up on leads generated from marketing activities, such as content.

Like SDRs, MDRs engage with leads, but they take a more nurturing approach, acting as educators and partners, rather than solely aiming for immediate conversions.

They also help to align sales and marketing, providing a valuable feedback loop between the sales frontline and marketing strategy.

Watch this video to find out more about marketing development representatives 👇

What do marketing development representatives do?

The role of a marketing development representative is to handle all sales-related queries that come through marketing. This means staying on top of any leads generated through content, webinars, social campaigns, and events.

MDRs might have to make the occasional cold call, but their main focus is responding to inbound marketing requests as quickly as possible.

Jonathon said:

“Marketing representatives are a hybrid between the sales function and the marketing function. They directly report to sales and follow all the training on standard sales processes for actioning leads.” 

“They also give feedback directly on any lead sources and content marketing channels we focus on at Cognism. So, essentially they’re reporting to both a sales leader and our CMO.”

“The way I like to view it is that SDRs target cold leads - they’re basically spearfishing, whereas the MDRs’ primary focus is to qualify leads. They have much more in-depth conversations, like an account executive would on a discovery call.”

“The benefit of this is that the talent pool of your MDRs progresses much faster towards those AE roles.”

Why does your sales team need MDRs?

SaaS sales teams need marketing development representatives to nurture leads and create additional sales opportunities.

For example, to turn MQLs into qualified sales leads, an MDR will take several steps to qualify the lead further. This helps to create more sales-qualified opportunities (SQOs) and gives BDMs a better chance of converting the leads that marketing passes to them.

MDR sales create a more efficient sales funnel because they take the time to understand a prospect’s business and internal workflows. Then they decide whether or not they’ll be a good-fit customer.

For example, they may deem a prospective customer with a small total addressable market (TAM) to be a bad fit, so they’ll filter them out of the sales pipeline.

This ensures your SDRs receive the most targeted leads while saving them time speaking to inbound prospects with a higher chance of conversion.

Why does the marketing team need MDRs?

Marketing development representatives act as liaisons, linking sales and marketing to qualify content-generated leads and increase sales revenue.

Alice said:

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

“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.”

The MDRs and the marketing team are vested in each other’s success.

For example, marketing writes the outreach cadences. Then the marketing development specialists use them to follow up on MQLs generated by content. This makes marketing vital to the sales process.

And when Cognism introduced marketing development representatives, we saw excellent results, as Alice explained: 

“Since introducing this role, we’ve created an incredible feedback loop, huge buy-in from the sales team, and conversions have skyrocketed from 3% to 10%.” 

How do MDRs align sales and marketing?

MDRs play a pivotal role in aligning sales and marketing teams, serving as a communication bridge between the two departments. 

MDRs provide valuable feedback to the marketing team based on their interactions with leads. They share insights about lead quality, customer preferences, pain points, and objections.

This feedback helps the marketing team refine its strategy, messaging, and targeting.

Listen to this podcast to find out why MDRs are the missing link between sales and marketing 👇

What are the key MDR responsibilities?

A sales and marketing representative takes ownership of all marketing leads produced by 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.

But, inbound B2B marketing leads don’t often fit your ICP and have limited knowledge of your product/service. So, the most important role marketing development representatives perform is the qualification of inbound leads.

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

Because of the details MDRs go into during the qualification process, their insights also help to 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 SDR and an MDR?

Sales development representatives are focused on cold outreach. They conduct this across several channels, including email, cold calling, personalised LinkedIn messaging templates, etc.

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

On the other hand, marketing development representatives deal with warmer and more targeted leads. As a result, they require more in-depth product knowledge and an excellent understanding of your company’s ICP.

What’s the difference between an MDR and an AE?

Ultimately, the job of the marketing development representative is to book meetings with prospects who are likely to become customers.

Whereas the Account Executive (AE)’s job is to close the business generated by a combination of the SDR and MDR teams.

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

This is also an essential communication skill for AEs, who go even deeper into discovery to qualify sales leads further and eventually close the deal.

How should you hire MDRs?

Marketing development reps require different skill sets from sales development reps. Because MDRs have to focus on inbound and content leads, they have less time than SDRs.

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

Alice said this about MDR hiring:

“At Cognism, SDRs are promoted to MDRs before becoming AEs. Interestingly, this is the reverse of most companies’ processes, where the most junior employees work as MDRs.”

There are two reasons why Cognism operates in this way:

  1. When the MDRs are promoted to AEs, they’re better prepared; this is due to the detailed nature of the conversations they had with marketing leads.
  2. The value of inbound leads and MDR marketing can be driven home across the whole organisation.

Alice continues: 

“As every new AE has been an MDR, they better understand the B2B 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 most talented people to that role.”

“The marketing development specialist is a living embodiment of both principles. It’s key to us generating revenue as well as generating a consistent and predictable pipeline from MQLs to SQLs.”

Key takeaways

The marketing development representative’s job means closing the gap between MQLs and SQLs. The role involves:

  • Helping B2B sales teams focus on high-quality leads, increasing the chance of a conversion.
  • Elevating the role marketing plays in the revenue engine.
  • Aligning sales and marketing.

Are you ready for your next sales role? 

There’s no doubt about it, marketing development representatives are the future of sales. If you’re looking for a sales-related role to start or grow your sales career, Cognism might have just the thing.

Click to see our open positions 👇

Ready for your next sales role? Clicke to see what open positions Cognism has.


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