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Help Your B2B Sales Development Reps to Evolve

October 11, 2018

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

Sales and marketing leaders can help B2B sales development reps (SDRs) to evolve and more effectively drive demand generation and business growth.

Whether you call them sales development reps (SDRs), business development reps (BDRs) or lead development reps (LDRs), these individuals play a key role in creating and sometimes qualifying leads — and thus driving an organization’s growth. So what can sales leaders do to empower them?

At the Gartner Sales & Marketing Conference 2018 in Las Vegas, NV, Todd Berkowitz, managing vice president, Research & Advisory at Gartner, said: “Sales development reps are typically inexperienced, with the average individual holding approximately 1.4 years of experience and short tenure, but these individuals can deliver significant value to the pipeline.”

“ When making changes to the SDR role, start with a pilot to carefully track conversation rate and pipeline”

Berkowitz shared how sales and marketing leaders can make SDRs more effective in their role and better position them to drive customer acquisition — which a 2017 Gartner study shows to be the top challenge facing sales leaders.

Berkowitz says that to drive SDR success — especially with prospects facing such a complex and information-overloaded buying journey — leaders must keep SDRs focused on meaningful interactions, enable them to work more effectively (including onboarding, coaching and tools) and leverage technology to support them.


“We quite frequently hear from sales leaders that they want better prospecting discipline while simultaneously improving both volume and quality of leads,” said Berkowitz. “This creates ongoing tension between focus and volume.”

To help SDRs focus on meaningful interactions, sales leaders can:

  1. Remove measurement techniques. Don’t measure SDRs performance solely on productivity, for example the number of calls or emails they send.
  2. Encourage thorough research before outreach. Have SDRs spend a reasonable amount of time, 5-10 minutes, becoming acquainted with prospect and company.
  3. Provide templates that can be personalized. Set SDRs up for success with templatized information, but allow them the freedom to tailor content based on their research.


Gartner defines sales enablement as a discipline that includes onboarding, tools/technologies, content, coaching and training.

Sales leaders have a short window to get SDRs to be fully productive, usually just a matter of a few months. To make the most of this ramping up period, leaders should create an comprehensive, ongoing system for enablement.

“ AI has huge potential to support SDRs across their responsibilities”

Gartner recommends that SDRs work closely with both sales and marketing functions, have the opportunity to shadow and receive coaching from top sellers, regularly attend meetings focused on enablement and prioritize the path for movement into traditional selling roles.


A slew of technology and tools are available to help SDRs be more productive and effective. Sales acceleration tools provide templates and automation to provide a more consistent, effective interaction. Voice analytic data provides real-time analysis of SDR phone conversations to help in natural language and AI to improve those conversations after the fact. In fact, AI has huge potential to support SDRs across their responsibilities.

“You can’t let AI scare you away. Most SDRs grew up in the age of AI, such as using virtual personal assistants like using Siri, and as a sales leader you must give them the edge,” said Berkowitz.

AI can improve SDR effectiveness in many ways:

  • Dynamically optimize cadence for outreach
  • Surface next-best actions based on buyer responses
  • Recommend applicable training to watch in the moment
  • Recommend relevant content to send to prospects
  • Highlight other individuals to contact in the account
  • Provide tips for better coaching

Next steps

Sales leaders should work closely with counterparts in marketing to agree on the role of SDRs. When making changes to the SDR role, start with a pilot to carefully track conversation rate and pipeline. From a pilot, more comprehensive roadmaps can be developed for enabling SDRS in the future. Lastly, evaluate whether new tools and the use of AI can help drive both productivity and effectiveness in SDRs.

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