The Key to Sales and Marketing Alignment: The Sales Development Rep

Sales Marketing Alignment


To truly build a high-performance revenue engine, you need to have solid alignment between sales and marketing. One of the keys to creating this synergy is the effective use of a Sales Development Team (you may call this inside sales, lead qualification, or even business development). Your Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) have one exclusive focus: to review, contact, and qualify marketing-generated leads and deliver them to your Account Executives.

Once you have gone out and decided to build one of these teams, you have to make hundreds of decisions about how to manage the process.

Here are some common questions about the Sales Development process that your organization will want to answer:

When should Marketing pass a lead to the SDRs?

It probably does not make sense to call ALL of your prospects, so best practice is to use lead scoring to identify the best possible lead for your team. At Marketo, we score our leads in three ways: a “fit score” quantifies how well a person matches our ideal target, an “engagement score” accounts for a lead’s level of interaction with Marketo’s content and thought leadership, and a “buying intent score” that tracks when a lead demonstrates key purchase indicators. Those three scores then interact with each other to determine who we pass to the Sales Development Team as leads.

Meet with key stakeholders internally to sit down and determine when a lead is ready to be passed to an SDR. You want to make sure your SDRs are calling on warm, well qualified leads.

When should SDRs pass a sales lead to an Account Executive?

Your SDRs’ lifeline is how well your company defines a sales-ready lead and mobilizes around that definition; only true alignment around a unified definition will position your SDR program for continued victory.

Here are some common criteria companies use in their definition of a sales-ready lead:

  • Target company: The prospect must work somewhere that could purchase your solution. Look for businesses similar to those who have already purchased solutions like yours.
  • Right person: Ideally, your contact should be able to make the decision, or at least have access to someone who does, like a VP or Director (e.g. “access to power”).
  • Relevant pain: Does the decision maker feel financial pain? If you aren’t talking to the decision maker, ask: “who else experiences this challenge besides you?”
  • Defined timing: Is the prospect willing to evaluate your solution in a defined time period of time, and is there a specific next step: a discovery call, a demo, etc.

How do you determine which leads are accepted by sales?

Once a lead meets your criteria for sales lead, you have several options for managing the workflow. Some companies, have their SDRs create early stage opportunities and then track when sales reps move those opportunities into subsequent stages. Marketo takes a simpler approach: once an SDR qualifies a sales-ready lead, we assign it to an account executive who then converts it into an opportunity. In both cases, the sales rep will typically conduct a discovery call before accepting the lead and moving it forward. At Marketo, account executives must create an opportunity if the discovery call generates any action items or next steps for the Sales rep.

How do I allocate leads to SDRs?

The three main options are (1) assign leads randomly or via round-robin assignment, (2) putting leads into a queue and letting free SDRs grab them first-come- first serve, and (3) by assigning each SDR to a territory.

Another idea is to pair SDRs to specific Sales Account Executives territories. This tight alignment between SDRs and SAEs is critical for good communication and seamless lead transfer; also encourage SDRs to sit in on SAE discovery calls (and vice versa) for educational purposes. The territory-based assignment also has the benefit of allowing an SDR focus their calling-day to specific time zones ( SDRs who cover the East coast start at 5:30 am PT, while West coast SDRs end their day much later). The main disadvantage to territories versus round-robin is that it is harder to balance SDR lead flow across territories, especially as you grow.

How can I hire the best SDRs?

LinkedIn is an excellent resource to find qualified Sales Development candidates. Here is an example of a good Sales Development Representative job description you can use as a starting point. Marketo looks for the following characteristics in prospective SDRs:

  • College degree
  • 6-12 months phone experience
  • Competitive nature
  • Should be eager to learn and win
  • Sales DNA
  • Solid internships and leadership positions

Finally, make sure candidates conduct themselves well on the phone. Do a “role play” with all finalist candidates to get a sense for this. How do they handle objections? How well do they close? It’s amazing how many applicants who look good on paper don’t handle this well!

Want to learn more about implementing a Sales Development Team at your organization? Take a look at The Definitive Guide to Sales Lead Qualification & Sales Development

Photo credit: B2Bento Marketing