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What Does a SDR Actually Do?

August 26, 2019

What is a sdr

What Does a SDR Actually Do?

By: Ashley Artrip

SDRs — or, Sales Development Representatives — are some of the most highly sought after salespeople, particularly in the tech/startup sector. Chances are if you’ve ever browsed LinkedIn, Indeed, Angellist, or any other job posting site for entry-level positions, you’ve come across quite a few listings for SDRs. But what exactly is a SDR, and how does working as one fit into an overall career path?

SDRs are tech-driven, highly knowledgeable sales professionals who leverage data, analytics, and creativity to find new business opportunities. As such, these employees will know their company and its products like the back of their hands — which gives them strong opportunities for advancement within their companies. Starting out as a SDR gives you high earning potential, the opportunity to learn valuable transferable skills, and powerful networking experience. The cherry on top is that SDR positions, while competitive, have much lower points of entry than many other jobs with the same outcome potential.

In this post you will find:

  1. What a SDR is and how success for the role is defined
  2. What the day-to-day duties of a SDR look like
  3. How to build a career out of a SDR position (in sales or in other fields)
  4. How to apply for and get a SDR job

What SDRs Do: Job Expectations and Duties

Sales Development Representative (SDR): A Sales role that specializes in generating new business through techniques including email campaigns, social selling, and cold calling.

The SDR role helms all sales efforts — meaning the role is essentially the bread and butter of any company’s revenue. In practice, this means SDRs find qualified prospects (a business term used to define potential customers/clients who meet criteria that make them likelier to buy your product) and then reach out to them through whatever medium is best suited — be it a call, email, LinkedIn message, social media DM, text message, etc.

Being a SDR is challenging, in that you are expected to do almost exclusively cold outreach, which naturally comes with a high rate of rejection. However, this is not as daunting as it may seem: a well-trained and talented SDR has practically unlimited opportunity for success, and because sales is a highly meritocratic field, those who are successful advance quickly.

What does ‘success’ look like? SDRs are evaluated based on how many Sales Qualified Appointments (SQAs) they make. In other words, how many sales meetings you set up based on your outreach efforts.

To get to this point of success, you’ll do four things on a daily basis:

1. Define markets and overarching business opportunities

This step consists of identifying overarching business archetypes that could be potential customers based on firmographic data (the business equivalent of demographic data). For instance, you may determine that market research firms with 200+ employees and between $4M and $25M in revenue are the ideal target company.

At some companies, the sales manager or SDR manager will do this step, but at smaller or more inbound-focused companies entry level SDRs do the research and identification of new business opportunities.

2. Research personas, roles, and contact information

After you’ve determined your target firmographic, it’s time to figure out who in these target companies is the decision maker for purchasing your company’s product. Is it a manager or an associate? In sales, identifying the right decision maker is paramount to hitting your target SQAs. If you target the right company but the wrong person, your emails could just get relegated to the spam folder.

Once you’ve identified the decision maker (i.e. “Senior Associate”) then comes the ‘easy’ part: finding the actual people who hold this title within your target companies. There are numerous tools to help automate this, so don’t worry; you (probably) won’t be blindly Googling for this step.

3. Prospecting

Once you have a list of prospects, it’s time to start actually selling! Depending on the organization, SDRs will do a mixture of cold calling and email outreach as a way to identify and connect with potential customers. Depending on the tools at your disposal, SDRs will do a combination of automating the outreach through email campaigns in batches and/or autodialers to call large lists of phone numbers, as well as write personalized notes to prospects. As previously mentioned, SDRs are data-driven and will do A/B testing on messaging to determine which messages have the highest conversion rates.

4. Qualifying calls

After reaching out, SDRs conduct qualifying calls with prospects who respond in order to determine the level of interest from the prospect and qualifying factors such as price point and need. If a prospect is sufficiently interested, then the SDR will set an appointment to pass them off to the Account Executive as an SQA. While the process sounds straight-forward, it requires a lot of trial and error as well as resiliency for handling rejection from prospects.

How SDRs Fit Into the Larger Business Ecosystem (And How You Can Leverage This For Your Career)


As the graphic above shows, a SDR role can lead to numerous different career outcomes. Because sales development is all about building relationships and gaining intimacy with your company’s product, there are myriad paths for advancement within an organization and elsewhere. SDRs have an arsenal of some of the most transferable skills in the business world.

Most SDRs tend to stay in sales development initially, and work their way up to Sales Development Manager or Account Executive. However some go into marketing, customer success or other sales positions from their SDR role. From a management position — be it VP of Sales Development or Senior Sales Development Manager — the world of business opens up to you.

As the graphic demonstrates, the skills that once made someone a good SDR (emotional intelligence, professionalism, communication, creativity, etc.) can translate to a COO role, VP of Sales and Marketing, or even a CEO role. In fact, one study found that over 25% of global CEOs have a sales or marketing background. From William C. Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, who started in sales at the company, to Howard Schultz, a former sales rep at Xerox who later became CEO of Starbucks, the world is full of powerful examples for how transferable a background in sales can be.

Are You Interested in Launching Your Career Through a SDR Role? Here’s How to Start

If you made it to the bottom of this article, chances are you’re considering pursuing a SDR role! The best way to embark on this path is to apply to a SDR training program such as SV Academy (if you haven’t already)! SV Academy partners with high-growth tech companies that are hiring SDRs, and trains talented candidates who then get placed at partner companies.
The tuition-free fellowship gives aspiring SDRs access to training in each of the four areas described above, as well as mentorship and coaching from successful sales and business leaders. To learn more about how SV Academy can help launch your career, visit sv.academy.

Elaina Ransford contributed to this article

Monday, August 26, 2019

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