A career in sales has many paths, but each one starts at the same exact place: the SDR role.
An SDR, or Sales Development Representative, is an entry-level sales position. SDRs work with upper-level salespeople -- usually an account executive -- to book meetings with best-fit leads for them so that they can close them into customers.
SDRs lay the groundwork for the entire sales process. The leads they source, qualify, and book meetings with turn into the customers that generate their company’s revenue.
However, an SDR isn’t just your average salesperson. They genuinely help people by solving their problems with their company’s software. It’s one of the most rewarding -- yet challenging -- jobs around.
But before we dive into how you can launch your tech sales career, let’s explore what an SDR actually does, what skills they need, and how much money they make.
What Does an SDR Do?
An SDR’s job is to create a large pipeline, or high quantity, of qualified leads for their account executive (AE).
Usually this means trying to schedule meetings for the AE with the right people who are interested in your company's product. If their AE closes one of the leads and turns them into a paying customer, they earn a commission on that sale.
SDRs take on four main responsibilities in order to book as many of these meetings as possible:
Qualify inbound leads
Inbound leads initiate conversations with businesses in order to learn more about their product or service. SDRs filter qualified inbound leads from unqualified ones by determining if they fit their ideal customer profile, which usually depends on their employee size, revenue, and industry.
Prospect outbound leads
Outbound leads are companies that SDRs reach out to first to see if they’re interested in learning more about their product or service. SDRs find these companies through their own research. After they do that, they pinpoint each of the company’s key decision-makers and reach out to them through email, phone, or LinkedIn.
Gauge each lead’s chance of closing
For both inbound and outbound leads, SDRs have to suss out their interest levels, their need for their product, and, most importantly, the amount of budget they have available. These three markers can indicate the lead’s probability of closing and whether they’re worth pursuing or not.
Set up meetings with qualified leads for their AEs to close
Like we mentioned before, an SDR’s main responsibility is to book meetings with qualified leads for their AEs to close into customers. This way, their AEs can spend the majority of their time selling.
With SDRs and AEs all specializing in their own tasks, the entire sales team can operate at maximum efficiency.
What Skills Does an SDR Need?
SDRs spend most of their day researching companies and talking to leads, which means the job requires a mastery of soft skills, not hard ones. With this in mind, you do not need a college degree to become an SDR. But you do need the following:
SDRs must be able to build rapport with leads, create interest in their product, and persuade leads to take time out of their day to meet with their AE, sometimes having to straddle the line between persistent and annoying. This requires charisma, tact, and creativity.
SDRs also have to collaborate with their AE to truly understand the type of lead they want to meet with and close into a customer.
The SDR role is one of the most challenging jobs in the working world. Not only do they get hung up on all the time, but they also face the most amount of rejection out of any position on the sales floor.
The sheer amount of rejection an SDR faces can burn anyone out, but the best SDRs are able to sustain their passion and effort throughout the toughest trials and tribulations. They know that constant rejection is a part of the process and is actually necessary to close deals, so rolling with the punches becomes second nature.
Again, constant rejection is a reality of working in sales. And the best SDRs know that getting knocked down sucks. But since they can give themselves grace, learn from their mistakes, and get right back up, they can separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
With all the rejection that an SDR faces, it’s extremely easy to get discouraged. But if they’re able to keep the glass half full and see the light at the end of the tunnel, that level of optimism can help them slog through the mud and eventually reach those greener pastures.
SDRs must research their leads’ websites, sift through LinkedIn profiles, find key decision-makers, send personalized, relevant emails and LinkedIn messages, and make personable phone calls.
To do any of these tasks successfully, they need to be disciplined and detail-orientated.
SDRs must communicate clearly, concisely, and compellingly -- they only have so much time to chat with leads. They also need to be able to make call scripts sound natural and convincing.
However, working in tech sales doesn’t mean you need to know how to speak the same language as a tech guru. You just need to know how to talk to people. After all, that’s who you’re selling to. Folks who have worked as bartenders, servers, car sales professionals, coaches, social workers, etc. all have the skills and experience to sell tech.
SDRs need to know the ins and outs of their product, industry, and their leads’ role and company. They should also be willing to ask AEs for advice and guidance.
SDRs must be able to receive constructive feedback from AEs and understand that accepting it and applying it to their roles -- not getting defensive about it -- is what will propel them in their careers. Feedback is a gift.
SDRs must be able to ask nerve-wracking questions like if their lead has enough budget to purchase their product and if they’re the main decision-maker on their team. They also need to muster enough courage to ask their leads to meet with their AE.
How much do SDRs make?
According to our internal data, the average first-year earnings for a Flockjay Tech Fellow is $75,000. Their base salary is $52,000 and their variable compensation, which is comprised of their commission and bonuses, is $23,000.
SDRs who consistently hit or exceed their quota are also often promoted to account representative or account executive within a year or year and a half. As an AE, you can earn from $100,000 all the way up to $300,000.