What Is a Sales Development Representative? And How to Become One

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Explore sales development representative jobs, salaries, and career possibilities.

[Featured Image] A sales development representative meets with his team in a conference room.

What is a sales development representative? 

A sales development representative (SDR) is a sales representative responsible for outreach, prospecting, and qualifying leads. A sales development representative typically interacts with potential customers at the beginning of their buyer’s journey. In contrast, a sales representative typically nurtures qualified leads and, in some cases, may be responsible for closing the sales. 

Sales development representative salary 

According to Glassdoor, sales development representatives in the US make, on average, $74,323. This includes the average base salary and additional pay such as cash bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. With 15 or more years of experience in a sales development rep role, you may be able to make $97,839, the average in the US for people at this level [1]. 

Sales development representative jobs 

Sales development representative jobs are available in a variety of industries, including medical research, digital marketing, technology, education, finance, and more. As of July 2022, Glassdoor has over 28,000 SDR job listings in the US [2]. 

The sales development representative is usually an entry-level role. SDRs can go on to fill such roles as senior sales development representatives, account managers, sales representatives, and sales managers. 

Tip: Sales development representative job titles may differ from company to company. For example, you may see titles such as business development representative or lead development representative. Be sure to review each job description, including required qualifications and responsibilities, to determine if a position is right for you. 

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What does a sales development representative do?

A sales development representative is responsible for outbound sales and marketing activities in the initial stages of a sales pipeline, including finding and initiating contact with potential customers. Outbound marketing and sales entail contacting people who match a company’s target market but have not yet expressed interest in the brand or its products. By contrast, inbound sales focuses on warm leads, or those who have already found and shown interest in the brand. The goal of a sales development rep is to generate qualified leads so that other sales team members can close sales and ultimately shorten the sales cycle.     

Here are six responsibilities you may have as an SDR: 

1. Connect with prospects. 

To connect with prospects, you’ll need to understand the best places to find your ideal customers. These might include trade shows, social media, conferences, online communities and forums, referrals from current customers, and social events.

Gather names and contact information and then set up a process for reaching out to potential customers with valuable content, personalized emails, event invitations, etc. Prepare to make phone calls, send emails, and connect with multiple contacts daily. 

2. Create a first impression for the brand you represent.

As customers’ first point of contact, you represent the brand and have the opportunity to leave a favorable impression. Make sure your initial emails are friendly and well-written. Show genuine interest in prospects’ challenges, goals, and interests. If you typically meet potential customers face to face, dress professionally, make eye contact, and exhibit confidence in your body language. 

3. Educate prospects. 

An important part of working with prospects early in their buyer’s journey is educating them on the brand you represent and its products and services. Be sure to ask prospects questions to discover their needs, what they’re looking for, and what they are experiencing that might lead them to the products and services you represent. Be able to offer information about products and services that helps prospects make empowered purchase decisions. 

4. Qualify prospects. 

A qualified lead or prospect is someone likely to make a purchase and resembles your existing customers and buyer personas. When a prospect meets these criteria, the sales development representative advances the prospect to the next step in the sales process. This step might be a sales call, product demo, or consultation with another sales rep, account rep, or account executive in the organization.

5. Filter out prospects that aren’t the right fit.

An important part of an SDR’s role is determining which prospects will not be a good fit for moving forward in the sales process. That way, the sales team can focus entirely on nurturing qualified prospects and closing sales.  

A prospect may not be a good fit due to a lack of interest in the products, surety about what they need, or not having the budget to purchase a product. 

6. Communicate with other sales team members. 

As you qualify leads and advance them to subsequent stages in the sales process, you’ll need to communicate clearly with other sales team members so that leads have a smooth experience making their purchases.  

 Other sales team members might include:

  • An inbound sales rep who gathers information from sales-ready leads and pitches them a product or service 

  • An account executive responsible for closing the sale 

Explore lead management, data management, and more in Lead Management in Salesforce, part 2 of the Salesforce Sales Operations Professional Certificate. 

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Sales development representative skills 

Given the importance of sales development representatives, you will need a strong set of technical and workplace skills to succeed in this role, as explored below. 

Technical SDR skills 

  • In-depth knowledge of products and services creates confidence in customer presentations, answering questions about products, and helping potential customers advance to the next stage of the sales process. 

  • Knowledge of CRM tools can make it easier to keep track of customer data and automate tasks so that you work more efficiently. 

  • Proficiency with different marketing channels, such as social media or email, can make it easier to source potential customers. 

Explore the tech stack that streamlines your SDR workflow in Boosting Productivity through the Tech Stack, part 4 of the Salesforce Sales Development Representative professional certificate.

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Prospecting, video prospecting, Sales Development, sales engagement, Customer Relationship Management Software

Workplace SDR skills 

  • Familiarity with the company’s buyer personas is essential when qualifying leads, so you can determine if a lead is a good fit. 

  • Organization skills are helpful to keep track of the many potential customers you’ll be contacting and in creating an efficient workflow.

  • Problem-solving skills are vital to understanding potential customers’ challenges and how the products and services you represent can empower them with a solution.  

  • Communication skills support confident outreach to prospects, including listening carefully to their experiences and educating them on the products and services you represent.

  • Emotional intelligence skills are needed to empathize with potential customers, understand their goals and needs, and help them make empowered purchase decisions. 

Discover how to establish trust with customers, identify pain points, and qualify prospects in the Conversational Selling Playbook for SDRs course, part 3 of the Salesforce Sales Development Representative professional certificate. 

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Conversational Selling Playbook for SDRs

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How to succeed as a sales development rep 

If you’re thinking about pursuing a career as a sales development rep, there are some steps you can take to build skills and prepare for the work of generating and qualifying leads. 

1. Seek out training and education.

Although some sales development representatives may have at least a bachelor’s degree, having a degree may not be required for some SDR positions. Consider taking courses in sales to learn new technologies, concepts, and lead generation techniques. 

2. Gain sales experience.

Even though a sales development rep role is entry level, there are ways to gain sales experience before applying for jobs as an SDR. Working in retail sales, for example, can offer valuable experience in interacting with customers and presenting products. Some companies may offer their sales team additional training. At the same time that you’re building experience, take time to build your sales development representative resume. 

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume

3. Build a professional network. 

Throughout your sales career, it’s a good idea to network with others in the business world to discover job opportunities, become familiar with the professional landscape, and forge relationships with supporters. Build your network at professional conferences, on LinkedIn, at sales training classes, and more. 

Explore an SDR career with Coursera

Taking online courses can be a great way to build sales development skills and discover career options. Sign up for the Salesforce Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate and explore sales technology and a potential career as a sales development representative. 

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Unlock your potential in tech sales. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career as an entry-level Sales Development Representative (SDR). No degree or prior experience required.

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Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. “Sales Development Representative Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/sales-development-representative-salary-SRCH_KO0,32.htm." Accessed July 1, 2022.

  2. Glassdoor. “Sales development representative jobs, https://www.glassdoor.com/Job/us-sales-development-representative-jobs-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,35.htm.” Accessed July 1, 2022.

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