why SDRs should fall under marketing
a debate that will never end
Hello everyone, very happy to be in your inbox this morning.
First, I want to give a special welcome to my newest subscribers. About 10 or so of you have signed up in the past 2 weeks so thank you! I hope this edition meets or exceeds what you were expecting (let me know!). A brief recap on the structure for you:
Every other week, I post about a topic for startup marketers. I’ll cover various areas of the topic, case studies, my own stories related to it, and more. This newsletter does not have a very rigid structure as you will quickly learn…
I’m creating this newsletter as a resource for what I wish I had when I was building out a startup’s marketing team. Everyone’s experience is different so I hope to learn from you as well!
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Today I’ll be covering a fairly specific question/topic in the world of Marketing and Sales: Should SDRs fall under Marketing?
Many of you may not have directly experienced this though I do hope you find value in the various ways Marketing and Sales teams can work together.
But before I dig in, some announcements! I think this is my first announcements section (big deal, I know).
I just published my first info product! As some of you may know, I’m building multi-stream business for startup marketers. I’m trying out info products to see what lands with all of you (if anything).
The first one is a 19 page pdf on the key decisions I made when building a marketing team from scratch (along with some stuff I should’ve done a lot sooner).
It’s normally $7 but subscribers of Catch All - aka you wonderful people - can get it for free using code “catchall100” at checkout.
All of my info products will be free or heavily discounted for Catch All subscribers, fyi.
Here’s a free tool if you’re a marketer or work with salespeople who hire Sales Development Reps. I created a version of this at my first job when I was managing the implementation of SDRs into our marketing team. More context to all this in today’s edition…
Now, let’s get into it.
Marketing and Sales need to understand each other
A lot of people in the general business world joke about the stereotypical dynamics of marketing and sales (though they are rarely true to this extent):
Marketers think sales are overpaid, sociopathic brats
Sales thinks marketers play with crayons and take naps all day
In order for your company to do well, marketing and sales need to understand each other. They need to recognize the roles they each play in the buyer’s journey.
And this is different for every business but for the sake of argument, let’s say marketing covers 80% of the buyer’s journey - from initial awareness and discovery to qualification and intent to purchase.
Marketing is responsible for that 80% and there is A LOT there. Building awareness, generating demand, and delivering qualified leads to sales. Once those leads get pushed to sales, the salesperson should be spending all of their time researching and developing the best way to win them over.
Sales does not want to waste time on “qualified” leads that are not ready to buy or don’t see how their product will help them. Marketing should have helped them with that already.
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The glue connecting marketing and sales
You might be wondering: “Connor, that’s a lot for marketing to handle. I’m on a small team! We can’t handle all that!”
First, I hear you and I see you. Second, let me explain something.
The most common gap I see in marketing teams is their ability to efficiently and accurately qualify leads and get them over to sales. We’ve all heard stories of sales getting mad because marketing is sent a lead from a target account but it’s the maintenance worker. (Like most marketing and sales systems, it’s a learning process and should improve over time.)
Meanwhile, marketing is working on a million different campaigns and initiatives. They can’t (and shouldn’t) be constantly reviewing these leads for quality*.
*Marketing should absolutely review lead lists on a regular basis to understand who is getting brought in and how they can optimize. Lots of rich insights here. But for the purpose of passing off to sales, that should not be marketing’s job. The next section will explain this more.
Enter the Sales Development Rep, or SDR.
SDRs can be the connection between Marketing and Sales. Their job is to primarily qualify leads and route them to the proper channel. Here’s what that could look like:
Lead comes in. Maybe it checks off 2 of the 5 the qualities in a good prospect
SDR reaches out, tries to schedule a discovery call and quick demo
SDR conducts discovery on the lead, runs through the product at a high-level and now the lead checks off 4 or 5 of the qualities.
SDR passes the lead to sales.
Sales (or an account executive) is happy to work with this qualified prospect.
For many businesses, you need that human intervention between marketing and sales. Your product may have a lot of use cases across a variety of personas. That compounds the amount of reasons why your buyer is showing interest. SDRs are responsible for uncovering that.
Note: Keeping things simple should always be the priority. Marketers don’t need to get clever with forms or workflows to capture very specific qualifying info from their customer. They should be focused on making it easy for the customer to buy. Let the SDRs worry about the detailed qualification.
Now, there’s lots of nuance here such as when your SDR should reach out. If someone signs up for your newsletter with just their email, probably not a good time for your SDR to reach out. Let marketing do their job and properly nurture the contact (or leave the contact alone. That can be option too!)
This was super quick but I hope this explains how SDRs can help bring marketing and sales together. You want both teams to focus on what they are best at. SDRs are that glue that can bring together the best of both worlds.
But why would they get placed on the marketing team? After all, “sales” is in the name.
Let me explain...
The importance of the feedback loop
Many of you are at a smaller company, likely in some sort of growth stage, maybe less than $20M in revenue. You probably don’t know the exact inbound and outbound marketing strategies that work across your core segments.
So, you’re always testing and seeing what works. You need a strong feedback loop.
At any point in a startup’s journey - from 1 person to 100 - feedback is so critical. It is incredibly difficult to build in a vacuum. It is also difficult to build something inside a literal vacuum. Go ahead, try it. You can’t.
No one knows what works. Marketing doesn’t. Sales doesn’t. You both may have an idea of what to say (after all, you have to say something). But without a feedback loop from people on the front lines, you can’t be agile and experiment with a different approach.
A brief example
Your new campaign is bringing in a ton of new contacts (yay!). In your weekly meeting with the SDRs, they are telling you about all the calls they had with contacts from your campaign. None of the calls resulted in a lead passed to sales. Why? Lots of potential reasons here but one may be because it was bad timing for the contact.
Sales isn’t going to all the trouble of researching and prepping a prospect just to find out they aren’t ready to buy for another year. That’s what the SDR is for. Now, the SDRs can go back to marketing and say: “Most of these contacts were not ready to buy. What do we do now?”
It is then marketing’s job to say: “Well we don’t want to lose them so let’s create a nurture campaign over the next quarter or 2 that keeps us top of mind.” Now marketing can manage and optimize that campaign to encourage the contact to reach back out.
If you ran this same campaign without SDRs, most organizations would experience something like this:
New contacts come in
Sales gets them on a single discovery and demo call
Salesperson is focused mostly on the demo since it gets them closer to progressing the deal
No system is in place to get the feedback from the call
Prospect goes cold
Sales informs marketing of bad leads
Marketing broadens campaign reach
Leads increase, close rate stays the same or declines.
Marketing needs to know who this contact is, their goals, and their questions or concerns about the product. This will ensure marketing is focused on making it easier and easier for your customer to buy the product. They are usually responsible for the collateral and sales messaging so make sure they have the information to make the best decisions.
Note: this can all work especially well if you’re an inbound-focused organization. If you’re creating content, generating demand, trying to get people to come to you as much as possible then that’s a great indicator for bringing SDRs under marketing. If you’re primarily an outbound-focused business, then this structure may not work exactly how I’m describing.
Again, every business has its own nuances.
Other thoughts on this
SDRs - especially ones at pre-Series C or D companies - should be innovative and be really good at asking questions. You’ll need to create a tight feedback loop and they are the reason it will happen.
Do not undervalue your SDRs. I understand this is typically a junior role. And that’s okay, you don’t need to shell 6 figures as the base. But paying high wages brings in highly talented people. SDRs can be a make or break role for many deals so you’ll want to compensate them as such.
Should SDRs fall under Marketing?
As with literally everything in marketing, it depends.
Ultimately, I think they should but there’s lots of organizational requirements in order to do it successfully. And even then, some products or marketing strategies won’t support that kind of system.
Here’s a very recent poll on the topic from Brendan Hufford. See? Even I selected both Sales AND Marketing.
The comments have some additional insight too if you want to check that out.
I think that’s it for this edition. Again, welcome new subscribers! I hope you found this helpful and I look forward to sharing with you all again in a couple weeks?