Slowly and steadily, over the past decade, the industry has evolved from a mentality of “all salesreps must do everything” – including some percent of their time prospecting — to one of specialization. We, with the help of books like Predictable Revenue, have collectively decided that in-bound lead processing is different from outbound lead prospecting is different from low-end, velocity sales is different from high-end, enterprise sales.
Despite the old-school, almost-character-building emphasis on prospecting, we have collectively realized that having our top hunters dialing for dollars and digging through inbound leads isn’t, well, the best use of their time.
Industrialization typically involves specialization and the industrialization of once purely artisanal software sales has been no exception. As part of this specialization the sales development representative (SDR) role has risen to prominence. In this post, we’ll do a quick review of what SDRs typically do and discuss the relative merits of having them report into sales vs. marketing.
“Everyone under 25 in San Francisco is an SDR.” – Anonymous startup CEO
SDRs Bridge the Two Departments
SDRs typically form the bridge between sales and marketing. A typical SDR job is take inbound leads from marketing, perform some basic BANT-style  qualification on them, and then pass them to sales if indicated. While SDRs typically have activity quotas (e.g., 50 calls/day) they should be primarily measured on the number of opportunities they create per week. In enterprise software, typically that quota is 2-3 oppties/week.
As companies get bigger they tend to separate SDRs into two groups:
- Inbound SDRs, those who only process in-bound leads, and
- Outbound SDRs, those who primarily do targeted outreach over the phone or email
Being an SDR is a hard job. Typical SDR challenges include:
- Adhering to service-level agreements for all leads (i.e., touches with timeframes)
- Contacting prospects in an increasingly spam-hostile, call-hostile environment
- Figuring out which leads to work on the hardest (e.g., which merit homework to customize the message and which don’t)
- Remembering that their job is to sell meetings and not product 
- Supporting multiple salespeople with often conflicting priorities 
- Managing the conflict between supporting salespeople and executing the process
- Getting salespeople to show-up at the hand-off meeting 
- Avoiding burnout in a high-pressure environment
To Which Department Should SDRs Report: Sales or Marketing?
Historically, SDRs reported to sales. That’s probably because sales first decided to fund SDR teams as a way getting inbound lead management out of the hands of salespeople . Doing so would:
- Enable the company to consistently respond in a timely manner to all inquiries
- Free up sales to spend more time on selling
- Avoid the problem of individual reps not processing new leads once they are “full up” on opportunities 
The problem is that most enterprise software sales VPs are not particularly process-oriented , because they grew up in a pre-industrialized era of sales . In fact, nothing drives me crazier than an old-school, artisanal, deal-person CRO insisting on owning the SDR organization despite the total inability to manage it. They rationalize: “Oh, I can hire someone process-oriented to manage it.” And I think: “but what can that person learn from you  about how to manage it?” And the answer is nothing. Your desire to own it is either pure ego or simply a ploy to enrich your resume.
I’ll say again because it drives me crazy: do not be the VP of Sales who insists on owning the SDR organization in the annual planning meeting but then shows zero interest in it for the rest of the year. You’re not helping anyone!
As mentioned in a footnote in a prior post, I greatly prefer SDRs reporting to marketing versus sales. Why?
- Marketing leadgen and nurture people are metrics- and process-oriented animals, naturally suited to manage a process-oriented department.
- It provides a simple, clear conceptual model: marketing is the opportunity creation factory and sales is the opportunity closing machine.
In short, marketing’s job is to make opportunities. Sales’ job is to close them.
# # #
 BANT = budget, authority, need, time-frame.
 Most early- and mid-stage startups put SDRs in their regular sales training sessions which I think does them a disservice. Normal sales training is about selling products/solutions. SDRs “sell” meetings. They should not attempt to build business value or differentiation. Training them to do so tempts them to do – even when it is not their job.
 A typical QCR:SDR ratio is 3-4:1, though I’ve seen as low as 1:1 and as high as 6:1
 Believe it or not, this sometimes happens (typically when your reps are already carrying a lot of oppties). Few things reflect worse on the company than a last-minute rescheduling of the meet-your-salesperson call. You don’t get a second chance to make a firm impression.
 Although most early models had wide bypass rules – e.g., “leads with VP title at this list of key accounts will get passed directly to reps for qualification” – reflecting a lack of trust in marketing beyond dropping leaflets from airplanes.
 That problem could still exist at hand-off (i.e., opportunity creation) time but at least we have combed through the leads to find the good ones, and reports can easily identify overloaded reps.
 While they may be process-oriented when it comes to the sales process for a deal moving across stages during a quarter, that is not quite the same thing as a velocity mentality driven by daily or weekly goals with tracking metrics. If you will, there’s process-oriented and Process-Oriented.
 One simple test: if your sales org doesn’t have monthly cadence (e.g., goals, forecasts) then your sales VP is probably not capital P process-oriented.
 On the theory you should always build organizations where people can learn from their managers.