Blog Post

How to Build a Sales Development Team

Sales development has been called the biggest trend in sales today.” Just a few months ago, Kristy Sharrow wrote on the LevelEleven blog, “It’s pretty simple: if you’re one of the cool kids, you’re talking about sales development. If you’re a sales leader at a high-growth company, especially in tech, you’re probably hiring for it.”

Sales development is a level of sales activity that works at the top of the funnel. A sales development representative (SDR) is essentially an intermediary between marketing and sales: someone who identifies, contacts, and qualifies leads, and then sends leads to a different salesperson who works farther down the funnel.

Having a sales development team do the early work improves alignment between your marketing and sales activities, and also frees up your quota-carrying sales reps’ time so they can focus on nurturing the leads that are most likely to convert.

Implementing a sales development process also allows your sales team to specialize more highly in the areas they are most effective. For example, the skills required to identify and qualify leads from inbound sources are different from those required to identify and qualify leads from outbound sources, which are altogether different from those required to turn opportunities into revenue-producing sales.

Here are five tips for building a powerhouse sales development team in your organization:

1. Determine how many SDRs you need

The first step is to determine how many reps you should devote to sales development. There is no hard and fast rule here. Some experts recommend a fixed ratio, such as one SDR per three or four closers. Others suggest working backward from sales goals to determine how many opportunities your closers need to hit those goals, and from there to how many appointments your SDRs need to schedule.

Ultimately, the number of SDRs you need depends on how the rest of your sales and marketing process operates. Check out this write-up from Datanyze on three approaches to determining how many people you need on your sales development team:

  1. Hire to support your closers
  2. Hire to meet revenue goals
  3. Hire to cover your target market

2. Provide specialized training for inbound and outbound SDRs

As mentioned above, the skillsets required to handle inbound and outbound leads are distinct. Not only should you keep the leads separate, but ideally they should be handled by SDRs who have the requisite specialized knowledge.

Tony Rodoni,’s senior vice president of commercial sales, recommends creating a career progression like this: “It works best to start new hires as inbound responders, learning how to engage prospects and learning the solutions and business overall. After they master this role, typically around one year, top performers graduate into the outbound hunting role (which itself is a potential stepping stone to a quota-carrying role).”

3. Train all SDRs to overcome top-of-funnel objections

The objections your sales development team will hear at the top of the funnel are different from those your closers are hearing at the bottom. This is particularly true for SDRs in the outbound track. Here are three of the most common objections they will encounter:

  • “I’m busy and don’t have time for this phone call.”

  • “I don’t need your product.”

  • “I’m perfectly happy with your competitor’s product.”

Excellent SDRs are masters at overcoming these objections and can even turn them into opportunities. This article from the Salesforce blog has some great advice for how to overcome common sales objections.

4. Give your SDRs the right tools

Sales development involves a good number of repetitive tasks, and the right tools can make these tasks both more efficient and more effective.

For example, sales and marketing automation software speeds the lead scoring and qualification process, while dialer software, email templates, social media management tools, and sales texting platforms enable SDRs to make more contact attempts faster and using each lead’s preferred communication channel.

5. Use the right metrics to measure and incentivize performance

SDRs are responsible for getting people into the top of the funnel, not for closing sales. As Greg Klingshirn writes on the Salesforce blog, “While closed deals are great for your business, your SDRs don’t have control over the final conversation. If a struggling Account Executive blows it, it shouldn’t be reflected on the paycheck of your best Sales Development Rep.”

The TOPO blog has a great roundup of operational metrics you can use to track and optimize the day-to-day performance of your SDRs, as well as strategic metrics you can track to understand the overall effectiveness of your sales development team.

Also see:

How to Increase Sales with Two-Way Text Messaging
5 Sales Training Techniques You Need to Know
Text Messaging Candidates: Effective or Intrusive?

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