Where Should Sales Development Representatives Report?

Written By
Rahul Thakur

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One of the most significant strategic considerations you will have to make in relation to your sales and marketing teams is how you will position your Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) in the company structure. Determining where your SDRs report can change the way that leads are handled and can make or break the level of collaboration between departments.

While marketing and sales are working towards exactly the same thing, this is one area of business where there is often a lot of friction because of the targets and means of reporting that is in place. Both departments can often benefit from over-representing themselves in relation to the other. Marketing is tasked with lead generation and sales are tasked with converting leads, so any success or failure is easily claimed by one or passed off and blamed on the other department. For businesses, this can be very challenging as it stifles collaboration and often causes friction that is costing you sales.

One way to help ease this process is through correctly positioning your SDRs so that they report to your marketing department instead of reporting to sales. A 2016 Sales Development Benchmark Report performed by Topo found that 64% of sales development teams report to sales, but this can be harmful to the business. Here we explore why you should instead position your sales development team so that they report to marketing.

Think Like a Marketer to Develop Sales

When prospecting for that one lead in the crowd it is essential that sales development representatives think like marketers. If they think like sales reps then they will be using techniques that are too developed for the initial contact. An initial contact needs to focus on hooking that customer and standing apart from the noise that is ever-present online. A typical sales approach simply does not work in this manner and the SDRs need instead to think like marketers in order to capture the lead’s attention. If an SDR fails to market correctly then there will be no opportunity to develop that sale. A sales development rep needs to behave like a marketer and needs to utilize the skills of a marketer, so positioning them under the marketing department simply makes sense.

Marketing Departments Hold the Resources

Marketing is also the department that holds all of the resources needed to generate and develop sales. While the marketing department may hold the portfolio information and the details of the deals that can be offered to secure a lead, it is also marketing that possesses the power to analyze and build the promotions to best effect. These resources are invaluable for sales development reps so that they can ensure their prospecting is being targeted at the right demographics using the best resources available. With access to the imagery and resources housed in the marketing department, a sales development rep will also be able to produce the best possible promotions. This removes the common problem of failing to capitalize on the company resources in promotions. Placing sales development representatives in the marketing department will give them access to the resources that they need.

Marketing Goals Align Perfectly with Sales Development

SDRs are not trying to make and secure the sale. Instead, they are trying to generate and nurture a good quality lead that can be auctioned by the sales team. Effectively this is the same aim as the marketing department who are tasked with lead generation. As the marketing and sales development goals align so perfectly in this manner, these departments should be linked to ensure that there is just one channel through which new leads are passed on to the sales team for execution. Marketing and sales development are working towards the same goal with only slightly differing tactics, so grouping them together is sensible.

Marketing Teams are The Best at Fostering New Engagement

The marketing team is also brilliant at fostering new engagement and this provides leads for the sales development teams to pick up on. The marketing team is effectively the advanced guard and is the first point of contact to generate an engagement that can then be further developed. With the marketing team linked to the sales development team, these engagements can be more easily targeted and transformed into effective leads that are ready to be passed on to the sales team. By linking the marketing team with sales development reps you will see better information transfer about engagements and you will be able to increase the rate of conversion that is realized because these engagements will be more effectively followed up. The marketing team will not follow up on engagements but the sales development team will see each as a potential lead to be chased and turned into something tangible.

Outgoing Promotions must be Performed with a Marketing Mindset

One of the most important forms of promotion that can be carried out by the sales development team is that of direct email communications. Targeting people who have engaged with the company with direct mail-outs is one of the most effective ways in which you can reach out to these people, but this outreach is a marketing communication. The sales team do not necessarily have the skills to optimize such a communication so that it is the perfect hook to attract the customer. This is a skill that the marketing team can impart to the sales development reps if they are reporting to them, however. The sales development reps can glean a great deal from the experience and expertise of the marketing team if they are positioned to report to them instead of to sales. If they are reporting to sales, however, then often this department can simply become an extension of sales that attempts to target less developed leads with fewer skills and resources with which to do so.

Marketing will Protect Your Reputation

It is also always important to remember that there is more at stake than just the lead that the sales development team are trying to foster with each communication. While sales development reps are junior within the company, they are also representing the company and they are the faces that you have chosen to put your services and practices forwards with. This means that their communications need to be monitored and need to be checked for accuracy, appropriateness, and effectiveness. An SDR can damage a company’s reputation if unchecked and it should always be the responsibility of the marketing department to take the lead on this. The marketing department sets the policy for communications and writes the book on how the company communicates so they should also be the ones with control over what is sent out to potential clients. While the SDRs should be given some freedom when prospecting, marketing needs to have oversight of the full sales process. Giving marketing oversight of the sales development team can help to protect the reputation of your business as well as helping to improve the rate of conversion of leads.

SDRs Need a lot of Coaching

Another reason to bring the SDRs under the wing of the marketing department is that they often need a lot of coaching. According to Forentrepreneurs, the average ramp time of SDRs 3.3 months.

This body of employees is usually one of the most junior in the business and as such, they require guidance and support in their attempts to generate leads. As sales teams are so heavily orientated around their big-hitting sales and the weekly targets that they need to hit, while SDRs can often be left out without the coaching and support that they need to develop into more effective representatives. In the marketing department, however, there is usually more resources with which these employees can be nurtured and their skills can be fostered. The marketing team will also see a closer connection between the goals of the SDRs and importantly have the skills that are needed to optimize communications and maximize results. Pairing these teams together so that sales development reports to marketing can see far better results in employee development through coaching and management.

SDRs Usually Aspire to Join the Sales Team

Members of the sales development team are also usually on a career trajectory that will take them to the sales team. While on the surface this may suggest that it is more sensible to place them on the sales team from the outset, there are actually some very good reasons for the opposite to happen:

– They Can Be Easily Manipulated

The sales team are all about results and members will often seek to get the SDRs to focus too heavily on their own area of sales. A common occurrence with SDRs who are reporting to the sales team is that they are cajoled into focusing only on one aspect of the business and they do so in order to impress and please the member of the sales team asking them to do so. While this may result in the good lead generation in one area, it often stops the employee from being used to their full potential to maximize the sales that are being made. By taking these employees out from under the wing of sales and placing them under marketing the goals become more disparate. The marketing department needs to generate leads in all areas so they will promote a wider approach to the lead generation and in doing so will achieve more effective utilization of these employees in lead generation.

– They Learn a New Range of Skills

If these employees are going to develop onwards into the sales department then putting them under the sales department can channel their skills, but it can also limit their development. Placing them instead under the marketing department means that they can then broaden and develop their skills and knowledge in a manner that will later be invaluable in their sales careers. By coaching these employees within the marketing team you can expand their understanding of communications and effective optimization and this will later benefit you in having a higher skilled sales team with a breadth of experience.

– You Can Harbor Better Relations

The relationship between sales and marketing is always a difficult one but you can harbor a better relationship if you encourage this progression from reporting to marketing into reporting to sales. Given the nature of sales and marketing, friction is very often present because the departments are working towards the same goal and are rewarded for success separately. The result is that both departments often try to claim successes and pass failures on to the other. If you bring your sales development team under the marketing department, however, then they will gain experience in this arm of the business before inevitably developing into members of the sales team. Over time your sales team will develop to be made up of individuals who have experience in the marketing arm of the company and have better relationships with the marketing management team as a result of this period. This can, in turn, make the company more effective at lead generation, sales development, and sales conversion by encouraging collaboration between two departments that will understand each other better.

– Lead Generation is Marketing’s Job

Ultimately lead generation is marketing’s job and this means that the tools driving towards this should sit under the arm of marketing. Having sales developments representatives that sit outside of the marketing department’s control simply means that you have two teams driving at the same results without communication or coordination between the two. If you bring them together and bring the sales development team under the wing of the marketing department then you can encourage collaboration between the two departments and you will often be able to generate greater success from both departments. These developed leads can then be passed directly on from marketing to sales in a trackable and recordable manner.

– It Gives a Better Understanding of Processes

By bringing these functions together and making the passing on of leads to sales more trackable it will then be easier to understand and analyze the successes and failures of the company. With one point at which sales leads are passed on to the sales department, you will be able to keep track of how many leads are being generated and how many are being converted, which will give you better control over the departments and their resources. With a more trackable system in place, you will be able to truly determine where the successes and failures lie to better develop and grow these two key departments.

– Clarifying Sales and Marketing Alignment

The result of moving sales development under the management of the marketing department is the clarification of sales and marketing alignment. When sales development sits under the sales department the company will suffer a blurring of boundaries between the two that always leads to a lack of clarity and focus. In business, a lack of clarity must be purged as it always results in inefficiencies that can be avoided. Bringing marketing and sales development together prevents this from happening and can positively impact on the success of lead generation for your business.

A large proportion of companies place sales development reps under the management of the sales team. While this can work effectively for a company there is a wide range of reasons why doing so can hinder and cloud the development of sales leads to your company. The marketing department can benefit from taking control of the sales development team and the resultant output can be dramatically increased by changing the structure of this arm of the business too.

As well as improving the results of lead generation and sales development, this structure can also give you a far better insight into the performance of both teams and can enable you to better develop each department. The management of sales development by the marketing team can also encourage the development of new skills in employees who are destined to progress into the sales arm of the company. Upskilling the sales team in this manner can result in significant improvements for the company and growth in the sales development performance.

The sales development team in your company is best placed reporting to the marketing department. This will mean that there is one point at which the sales leads are passed on to the sales team, making results more trackable. It also brings the parallel goals of the marketing department and sales development teams together to maximize the skills of both and produce a greater rate of lead generation.