Avoiding the Early Pitfalls of a Sales Development Program

A Blue Golf Ball on the Edge of a Golf Course Hole

At this point, any company looking to disrupt an established market and build their brand should be utilizing a Sales Development function in some capacity.

With technology today, there are simply too many prospects and not enough time for your sales rep to cover every inbound lead, let alone go foraging for outbound prospects.

This is why Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are so valuable, and sales development shouldn’t be overlooked.

Once you’ve made the decision to invest in Sales Development, the real work begins.

The Directors of Client Success here at demandDrive shared some feedback with me from their experience building and managing sales dev teams from the ground up.


Align SDRs with Marketing & Sales Operations


“If you’re going to commit to piloting an SDR program, commit them to your marketing & sales operations planning as well.”

SDRs sit in a unique position because they are at the very bottom of the marketing funnel, and very top of the sales funnel. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for an SDR to be aligned more with one side or the other.

If an SDR’s responsibilities (both short-term and long-term) aren’t properly communicated between sales and marketing, their responsibilities will become a game of push and pull between the departments, wasting valuable time and resources on both sides.

There are a couple of ways to avoid this, and they both start and end with efficient communication surrounding the SDR(s). Ideally, you want to have separation between your inbound (bottom of the marketing funnel) and outbound (beginning of the sales funnel) activities.

The easiest way to do that is by dividing your SDRs to be either an inbound or outbound SDR. Separating the two functions entirely defines a clear role for each SDR and makes it easy to clearly construe new responsibilities as they arise.

If you don’t have the budget or bandwidth to fully separate your inbound and outbound functions, the next best option is to conscientiously segment an appropriate amount of time for marketing related outreach (inbound) and sales related activities (outbound).

It’s important to note that this isn’t a consistent ratio week over week. For example, during the winter when conferences, webinars, and other marketing events don’t often take place, your SDR should focus the majority of their time on outbound activities for the sales team.

Once it warms up outside, it’s important for your team to communicate that the number of outbound activities is going to drop in lieu of pre- and post-event outreach.

It’s vital to follow up with inbound leads while they are still warm, so there should be a focus on immediate follow-up after every event, and your sales team should understand that outbound work will temporarily become a secondary function because timing is so much more important with inbound prospects.

As long as SDRs have clearly defined roles (whether it be an individual split or team segmentation) they can excel by focusing on the right activities. Unlike many jobs, the SDR role is not cut & dry from the get-go. It will take some adjustments and compromise from both sales & marketing. By working to maintain a clearly defined role between the two, both sides – as well as the SDR – will benefit.

Keep Activity Segmented


“Tracking the success of SDR outreach needs to be looked at granularly, by segment (outbound, inbound, event, webinar, etc).

This means having the ability to report on the activity for each segment is a must.”

Once you’ve decided how to split your inbound and outbound activities, it’s important to start tracking those activities and their results appropriately. The amount of clients that come to us trying to measure inbound and outbound equally is too damn high.

Why would you want to treat every lead equally when they aren’t equal? Inbound leads are much easier to connect and convert because they already found you; they want to talk. Outbound leads take a lot more work from the SDR, and they should be valued accordingly.

This goes beyond having different compensation structures for inbound and outbound leads that are passed to your sales reps. It should correlate to how their activities are tracked as well.

If your SDR is spending all day following up on inbound leads, let’s say from a conference, they are going to take more time to send personalized emails to every targeted attendee. As another example, if they spend a lot of their day account mapping and creating a list that they plan to reach out to over the next few days or weeks, they shouldn’t be penalized for not making as many dials.

This also goes beyond just inbound vs. outbound outreach.

Even different marketing events should be tracked differently. Webinar attendee lists are different from booth stop-bys are different from ad clicks are different from web chats, and so on and so on. Demo requests are by far the easiest inbound lead to follow up with and should be treated and measured accordingly.

By segmenting as granularly as possible it allows your manager to see how much effort SDRs are putting in for each channel, and assign them the appropriate value.


Go All In


“The biggest pitfall that I’ve seen companies run into, is letting apprehension about the success of the SDR team

hinder the planning of SDR involvement early enough in the process.”

Because Sales Development is relatively new as far as sales functions are concerned, it’s not uncommon for sales & marketing teams to be hesitant moving forward with the plan they’ve put in place.

While you may think it makes sense to not put all your eggs in one basket, the opposite is actually the case. If you want to fully understand what a built-out sales development function looks like, you’ll want to build it out as soon as possible.

It’s more similar to running a Proof of Concept (PoC) for any software that your company might be looking to purchase.

Let’s say, for example, you’re looking to purchase a data monitoring solution for all of that data your company has been collecting (turns out it’s not just Facebook). While you may be concerned about the security of your data, you know that running a PoC on only a subset of your data won’t show you the full value of the product you’re evaluating.

You need to test it out on your entire database to see whether or not it would be useful to your company.

If you limit your SDRs as they are ramping up, you slow down their processes as they are trying to build good habits which is both a long-term and short-term detriment to your team.

Ideally, you want your SDR team fully ingrained in your process as soon as possible. This means getting them CRM access, appropriate sales enablement tools, email addresses, etc. within the first week of the program is paramount so that they don’t start working with one hand tied behind their back.


Get Your CRM in Order


“It’s important to remember that the goal of the SDR team (in theory) is to help generate pipeline revenue or closed business.

Having all of the fields that your SDR is required to fill out mapped all the way through to the opportunity stage is a best practice.”

This may sound obvious, but a surprising number of sales development teams don’t set up their process until after onboarding SDRs.

On the surface, this order might make sense. After all, why would you want to put a system in place without first getting input from your SDRs? They’re the ones who will be using it the most anyway.

However, the order of operations should be broken down differently. What’s easier, having an inexperienced SDR develop your CRM structure, or putting a structure in place before hiring and training an SDR on how to use your specific instance?

By following the latter option, you save time in multiple ways. The CRM development process is shorter because there are fewer parties involved, and once your SDRs are ramped up you save time because they haven’t wasted any time experimenting with alternate processes before settling on their favorite.

One of the supposed downsides of this strategy is that it takes valuable input out of the hands of the SDR, and if you hire good SDRs their feedback is vital. This is why it’s important to recognize that adjusting your process after it’s launched is actually a good thing. You can have a process that looks perfect on paper, but significantly flawed when put into practice.

SDR input is much more valuable for adjusting the process after you have it in place. Since they are working through your CRM day in and day out, they are deep in the weeds when it comes to the systems efficiency. If they say there’s a necessary field missing that would allow them to work at a faster pace, you should listen to them and trust that they know what they’re talking about.

By setting a foundation for your team to build upon, instead of building the foundation after your team is in place, you create a stable setting from which to develop and grow.


Building out a sales development function is difficult, but there are certain actions you can take to make it easier.

Focusing on long-term success, building a good foundation, and keeping lines of communication open are all tactics you should embrace when building out your sales development team.

By taking the time to evaluate your team as it’s being built, you’ll gain a better understanding of areas in which you can improve. It takes constant work, but if you’re smart about the efforts you’re making everything will fall into place.

[In sales development? Check out the free video series SDRevolution to get insights and content from 7 sales development experts!]