One might say the missing link, but I prefer the term “strong link”: the link that unites teams, creates solidarity and strengthens synergies.  I’m talking about the Sales Development Representative (SDR for short).

This is a new sales function from across the Pond, reflecting the current trend of specialisation of sales teams in the B2B sector. Times when salesmen had to do everything themselves, from prospecting to concluding deals, are definitely over.

Let’s take a closer look: first and foremost, why the need to specialise? And what is the difference between an SDR and an Account Executive or an Inside Sales?

Why should sales teams specialise?

Traditionally, salespeople were responsible for the entire sales cycle, from prospection over qualification and sales negotiations to the management of the customer portfolio. Today, sales teams tend to specialise. But why?

Three main advantages:

  1. Better performance: specialisation allows each team to excel in what it does
  2. More easily accessible and better organised data: systematic processing of data from different sources, structured and encoded in a follow-up tool like CRM
  3. Improved customer relation: prospects who are not interested are not bothered longer than necessary. Efforts can be focussed on qualified prospects.

In short, the SDR will do research, look for and qualify prospects before passing the torch to an Account Executive in order to turn them into customers.

What’s the difference between the SDR and an Account Executive?

Like any other community, the Sales community has its own language. But it’s difficult to find two enterprises who have the same definition for the terms Account Executive, Sales Executive, Business Developper, Account Manager or… Inside Sales. For the moment, we’re going to keep it simple and limit ourselves to SDR on the one hand and Field Sales on the other. In other words, we’re going to make a distinction between the person who stays at the company and the person who goes into the field.

  • The SDR starts his activities rather early in the sales cycle. His tasks comprise the creation of lists of prospects, as well as prospecting through telephone calls, e-mail and social networks. In order to do this, he uses IT tools (CRM, data base, web sites,…)
  • The SDR identifies prospects and starts negotiations before referring them to the Account Executives, whose responsibility it is to conclude contracts. This means that the SDR is the customer’s first “human” contact with the company
  • The SDR contacts and qualifies the leads identified by the marketing team, confirms that an opportunity exists and refers the Sales Qualified Leads to the sales team
  • The SDR maps the key players of the key accounts and provides support to the Key Account Managers for an optimal decision-making process

It is therefore the SDR’s responsibility to arrange the first face-to-face meetings as soon as the lead has reached a certain maturity.

Doesn’t that resemble the responsibilities of an Inside Sales?

Yes and no. What they have in common is the qualification of the leads. The Inside Sales qualifies the incoming leads but, contrary to the SDR, he doesn’t have to generate leads himself. The latter also performs outbound sales, which means he generates new leads himself and maintains relations with them. This requires a wider range of competencies than the Inside Sales: he has to control social networks, marketing campaigns, incoming calls and cold calls after a written and personalised contact with the prospect. If necessary he also makes demos. One might go even further and state that after the qualification, he is able to conclude a distance contract. This is the case for transactional sales or for solutions of low complexity and value.

In short, the SDR knows and controls the offer and the needs of the market. He is able to have a well-reasoned conversation with the targeted prospects, to challenge them to discover new perspectives and to arouse their interest enough for them to want to have a face-to-face meeting.

The SDR creates added value during the interactions. He optimally paves the way for the Account Executive, who will then continue the personal contacts with the leads.

Most CRM systems are used as a reporting tool for the management and not as a supporting tool for the sales team. Many salespeople consider CRM an administrative burden, while in fact it could be their personal coach. If you use CRM efficiently, the entire sales team can monitor the positions of the different customer contacts in the buying cycle and better prepare themselves for a next meeting. If you use CRM wrong, your sales team will lose valuable time and miss out on potential deals.

Investing in CRM is always worth the effort and the investment does not necessarily make up a large part of your budget. Time and attention will already help you to benefit more from CRM. Make sure your customer contacts are central to your system. Rather than the measurement and reporting of general statistics.


Turn your CRM into a pleasant system for everybody: increase the user-friendliness, delete unnecessary fields, use live CRM screens at meetings and adjust your processes. You will achieve results within one month and especially reduce the time spent on leads that are not ready yet and lead nowhere. A lead is only useful if you know where the contact is situated in the buying cycle. That is when sales and marketing can intervene at the right moment and in the right way. Coaching helps you align sales and marketing.

Small data

Spend more time on small data. We focus too much on how we must continuously gather new information and big data are a hype. As a result, we may forget to use existing data properly. A great deal of CRM systems are full of incomplete or outdated information. Instead of considering a new CRM system, you should make an in-depth analysis of the current situation. You will see that you are able to advance a lot with a few minor adjustments.

Improve quickly in five steps

  • Examine each step of your potential customer’s buyer journey and make sure this is highlighted in your CRM
  • Make sure sales and marketing are on the same wavelength in terms of buying stages and use the same definition of ‘lead’
  • Analyse the situation of the current data in your CRM and focus on the most important information
  • Adjust CRM so that it can be used as soon as possible by marketing and sales, asking less information, making it less compulsory and providing more structure in the screens and choices
  • Do not turn CRM into a reporting tool, but instead use it as a supporting tool for salespeople to offer added value to the buying customer