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Where should an SDR reside? Marketing or Sales?

I was recently asked my opinion on where a Sales Development Representative (SDR) should reside. Should they be part of the Sales team or Marketing organization? To me, an SDR is an integral part of both. Instead of worrying about where they reside, I believe it’s best to focus initially on what they will be doing and how they will be measured to ensure they are aligning with the company’s growth strategies. From there, you can decide what their solid and dotted lines are when it comes to who they report to.

When I led Demand Generation for an Elite ServiceNow Partner, I insisted on having the SDR reside in Marketing. They were the elite concierge to our buyers, offering insight and support to aid the buyer in making the right decision, even if they decided to go with another partner. Considering that the buyer is 83% through their decision journey before wanting to talk with a sales rep according to Gartner, having a concierge to help them navigate through the 83% offers early value that instantly creates a memorable first impression of your brand. If that first impression is impressive enough, the buyer puts you on their shortlist and allows you to be part of their last 17% of due diligence.

The SDR on my Demand Generation Team had two main focuses: 1. Be helpful, knowledgeable, and personable, 2. Schedule meetings for the Account Executives. Before 2 could be accomplished, 1 had to be done with empathy and understanding. The SDR had to be a human first and a salesperson second.

When thinking about an SDR, ask yourself these questions:

What is their one metric that matters most to gauge their performance (and validate value)? I used the number of qualified first meetings.

What activities are they responsible for? Here is a general list that I used—note, there was priority follow up classifications and SLAs for each:

  • Scored MQLs in the Marketing Automation System

  • Website contact form submissions

  • Website chat inquiries

  • Event and webinar attendee follow up

  • Outbound campaigns

  • Customer nurture to support rep upsell activities

What technology do they need? We used HubSpot Sales Hub, Salesforce, and DiscoverOrg (now part of ZoomInfo).

How will Sales and the SDR interact? Our SDR worked tightly with the Account Executive to ensure the meeting was set and the hand-off was smooth and easy for the buyer. All information from the SDR’s engagement with the buyer was put into Salesforce so that the AE had a detailed view of what occurred before getting involved.

How does the SDR know if the lead is “ready to buy”? Our SDR was trained on how to do BANT qualification. So, when they engaged with the buyer who was ready to have the first meeting, they knew what to ask to get it as qualified as possible. This helped to ensure when the meeting was set, the time spent by the AE was worthwhile.

Does the SDR engage with the buyer after the first meeting? For us, we wanted to ensure that we had the AE’s back. To do so, the SDR would follow up with the AE after the first meeting to see where things stood. The SDR would offer support to help the AE move the lead to the next stage of the sales cycle if needed. The SDR would become that concierge again and ensure whatever the buyer needed, we could provide them. This gave the buyer the impression that the AE and SDR were on the same team and there to help any way they could—this was a continuation of the buyer experience that they had on day 1 when they first discovered our company.

Now, on to their solid and dotted lines. What I’ve found is that when an SDR is part of the Marketing team, marketing demand generation performance significantly improves as it relates to delivering qualified leads and setting meetings. This makes Sales very happy! I’m a strong believer that one of the top measurements of Marketing’s value is based on the number of meetings set. As Marketing matures, the next measurement is pipeline opportunity value. SDRs are critical for driving these results. Marketing creates leads using various mechanisms. SDRs help to convert leads into qualified meetings.

100 low quality leads = 16 hours a month of wasted time.

If you’re still on the fence about the role and importance of an SDR, consider this—if you give a rep 100 low-quality leads and on average they spend 10 minutes on each one, they will waste about 16 hours per month on following up. Now, multiple that based on how many reps you have. WOW, that’s a whole bunch of wasted time. Do you or your reps have the luxury to waste that kind of time?

SDRs can weed through leads before they end up on your reps’ calendars. And, they are the first impression a buyer has of your organization beyond just words on a webpage or blog post. They add the “human element” to your brand early on in the buyer’s decision journey.

BONUS TIP: Don't call them Sales Development Representatives. Change the title to something non-sales. In the past I used titles like Knowledge Specialist. When Sales is put into the title, it creates the mindset that the buyer will be pushed into a meeting. A "Knowledge Specialist" is there to help them make good decisions along their decision journey. If a meeting helps to do that, the Knowledge Specialist will be happy to schedule something but they will not go after that out of the gate. Their job is to be there for the prospect and ready to help when and where they can.

If you’d like to discuss how to add an SDR to your Marketing team, reach out. I’m happy to expand on what was mentioned above and offer more insight and recommendations.


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