Where does the Sales Development Representative (SDR) role fit best within a B2B organization?

And, where is the dividing line between sales and marketing?

These are the two key questions to ask when defining the sales development role. Why? Because the answer can vary greatly based on how the organization handles demand management – and whether the SDRs should reside in the sales or marketing group.

The impact of a SaaS-driven sales model over the past 15 years has created some challenges concerning how sales and marketing work together. There are numerous books, posts and articles being written about SaaS sales (not to mention conferences and consultants), but there is no definitive answer as to the optimal sales process and organizational structure. As a direct result, aligning sales and marketing can be challenging.

In short, I believe the sales development function can belong in marketing just as well as in sales — and there are many examples to prove either side of this argument. However, about 65% of the time the SDR function reports into sales. Assuming that there is an SDR Manager, this alignment is usually successful. But, if there are only one or two SDRs and they report directly to the VP Sales, this could be a disaster.

If an organization’s VP of Marketing has a background in product marketing, field marketing or has actually sold, there is a good chance that the SDR function would be successful in marketing. SDRs are an integral component of the customer acquisition process as they should be promoting and following up on each integrated campaign. In addition, the materials marketing delivers (messaging, content, website, campaigns and events) should be leveraged by the SDRs in their daily activities. And, most importantly, if SDRs are part of the marketing organization it forces marketing to be focused on qualified sales opportunities (and to have accountability to that point) as opposed to simply generating MQLs.

The success of an SDR is always all about activity: phone calls, emails, research and follow-up. And anytime there is a high level of activity, there is a requirement for process, systems, reporting and management. Ideally, for every 5-7 SDRs there is an SDR Manager.

The following checklist of questions can help determine whether the Sales Development function should be part of the sales or marketing team:

  • Is marketing aligned with the sales process? Do they use the same terminology?
  • Is marketing focused on generating marketing qualified leads or qualified sales opportunities?
  • Does marketing have a demand generation team and does that team integrate campaigns with the sales team?
  • Does the demand generation and sales development team meet weekly?
  • Do the demand generation and SDR teams proactively plan a manageable and consistent lead flow or is it a lump sum drop of leads a couple of times a month?
  • Is there specific messaging and digital assets that support both email and calls?
  • Does the marketing function include a demand creation, product marketing and field management function?
  • Do the SDRs have a dedicated system to track inbound and outbound phone calls and emails?
  • What portion of the SDRs’ compensation is base and what portion is bonus?
  • Are there spot bonuses for SDRs based on number of meetings or attendees confirmed to attend events?
  • Is there an inside sales function and is the plan to develop SDRs into ISRs?
  • What is the ratio of SDRs to ISRs or FSRs?
  • What percentage of meetings is marketing expected to source for SDRs?
  • What percentage of SDR activity is outbound versus inbound?
  • Is there a marketing automation function that includes a SFA admin?

Summing It All Up

If the SDR function is part of the marketing function, marketing MUST be part of the sales process and share the same goal or revenue (or at least qualified sales opportunities) — and not tasked with generating MQLs.

Personally, I’ve always found it more rewarding (and fun) to work with sales people and to help sell through demand creation, demand management, product marketing, field marketing and sales enablement. As a result, I like to build a marketing organization that includes a very strong demand generation team and an equally strong demand management team (Sales Development Reps). This is dependent on a strong working relationship with the sales team and a dedication to driving meetings that convert to qualified sales opportunities.


<< INSTANTLY DOWNLOAD a Sales & Marketing Quick Reference Card Now >>