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:
- Better performance: specialisation allows each team to excel in what it does
- More easily accessible and better organised data: systematic processing of data from different sources, structured and encoded in a follow-up tool like CRM
- 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.