How to Build an SDR Team: The Ultimate Guide

How to Build an SDR Team: The Ultimate Guide

Table of Contents

Last updated on July 13th, 2023 at 01:33 pm

At the foundation of any organization’s sales strategy is an SDR team.

If you’re serious about accelerating your company’s revenue, you need a talented team of sales reps to uncover new business opportunities.

To help elevate your lead generation and sales development efforts, we’ve come up with this guide on how to build an SDR team.

In it, we’ll cover:

  • How sales reps are organized and why they’re important
  • What the SDR hiring process looks like step by step
  • The essential tools every SDR team needs
  • And finally, how to keep your team together

Let’s begin by addressing two important questions.

Why do you need an SDR team?

We’ll start by referencing a 2022 report by the trusted SaaS sales consulting firm, The Bridge Group.

Within SaaS AE Metrics & Compensation Research, they find 81% of account executives (AEs) groups at companies use SDRs.

Moreover, the data shows the higher the annual contract value (ACV) the more significant the increase in AE groups supported by SDRs.

The report further adds that the percentage of “high-growth” companies that have SDRs is even greater at 87%.

This is all to say that SDRs are synonymous with growth.

You need SDRs to identify, qualify, and conduct outreach to potential customers.

They are responsible for generating leads through all outbound sales activities where a sales rep goes out to look for new customers.

As the team is in charge of first impressions and nurturing relationships with potential customers, SDRs are a pivotal component in generating business opportunities and eventually revenue.

Additionally, SDRs can qualify inbound leads provided by marketing.

Marketing typically attracts these inbound leads who are interested in your product and have reached out to your business. SDRs then determine if they’re a fit to move into the pipeline.

SDRs are only one half of the sales equation, though.

AEs often manage the latter part of a sales cycle, taking on leads after a discovery call. But while it’s AEs who close deals, it’s SDRs who find and hand off the interested prospects.

To run an effective sales process you’ll need one half to complement the other.

How are SDR teams structured?

The structure of your SDR team follows budget and need.

Organizations use varying combinations of the following roles. Some with and some without sales management.

The number of SDRs usually depends on how many a client wants to take on and assign to AEs.

Here, we’ll be focusing on top-of-funnel roles dedicated to the process of targeting, prospecting, and setting up meetings with potential customers.

The following work together to move prospects into the pipeline for AEs to close.

Let’s explore some of the main roles that make up an SDR team.


The SDRs (or sales development representatives) are the foot soldiers of your team.

SDRs attract and educate potential buyers at the top of the funnel. It is their responsibility to engage prospects and lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship.

Today, an SDR’s outreach is omnichannel, with messaging distributed over email, social, and calling.

Sales operations

Sales Operations (or Sales Ops) support SDRs. For many organizations, sales operations also handles lead management, data analysis, and strategy.

It’s their job to synthesize the data they collect to streamline workflows for more efficient and productive operations.

At Sellerate our sales operations team takes on administrative tasks from SDRs to free up more time for selling.

Team lead

A team lead oversees a team of SDRs.

They delegate tasks, provide coaching, and act as subject matter experts (SMEs) in a product to help fill in knowledge gaps for SDRs.

Essentially, they’re SDRs with a wealth of experience and management ability.

Their depth of knowledge is often used to train new hires and implement sales strategies.

Account manager

Although they share some of the responsibilities of a team lead, account managers (AMs) are more of an intermediary between the team and the client.

They are more focused on client satisfaction, and less on the day-to-day work of the SDRs.

In the case of Sellerate, our account manager collaborates with clients to determine the best strategy for their team of SDRs.

Like the team lead, they are often accomplished SDRs with a proven track record of success.

The SDR hiring process

Hiring for any position is an investment – both in money and time.

At Sellerate, our hiring process for SDRs takes about 3-4 weeks on average.

Industry average varies, but generally speaking, you should expect to commit at least 3 weeks or more to thorough recruitment.

How much does it cost to hire an SDR?

A commonly cited figure for the cost of hiring an SDR falls between $6,000-$10,000.

However, the cost of recruiting and hiring for any position can vary considerably.

There’s also the extra cost of onboarding and training and the wide range in cost of living per market and location. It may even be several months before you see a return on your investment to hire.

Concerning overall salary, SDRs are once again valuable.

The Bridge Group report found median on-target earnings (OTE or base compensation + commission earned at 100% of quota) at $167K in the US.

Note: as a median figure half of the 253 groups that participated in the study fall below that number and half above.

To this end, outsourcing SDRs remains the most cost-effective option for many organizations.

Partnering with a specialized company to run your sales development team often comes at a flat price and will save you the trouble of recruitment.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at a standard SDR hiring process, step by step.

Step 1: Identify the open positions and meet with the Hiring Manager

At this stage, you’ll mark the deadline for filling the position, determine where you’ll conduct your search, and define the specific skills each candidate must have.

Technical and hard skills will be client-dependent, but when it comes to general soft skills in an SDR you should look for:

  • Exemplary communication skills
  • Active listening
  • Natural curiosity
  • Resiliency
  • Proactive and strategic thinking
  • Ambition

Step 2: Coordinate with Marketing

Begin to advertise the open position by designing a marketing campaign to promote it across your website and social media accounts. Create additional job openings on Glassdoor, BambooHR, or Linkedin.

Step 3: Qualify inbound candidates

Review all applications submitted through your website or an external one like BambooHR. Contact those you believe are a good fit for your company.

Step 4: Conduct outbound recruitment

Align with Talent Acquisition and HR to start an outbound recruitment campaign. If you’re not working with external recruiters, have your internal team send personalized messages to potential candidates detailing the open position and how they’re a fit.

Step 5: Start screening interviews

Once you’ve found a qualified pool of candidates, coordinate with HR and Talent Acquisition again to start the interview process.

How to interview SDRs

In-depth screenings set out to answer two questions: does the candidate match the job description and are they a fit for company culture?

Ideally, the interview should prompt a conversation between questions, allowing the candidate to share a bit about their motivations and personality outside of their professional life.

Uncovering soft skills in this way is a more effective screening method since it identifies qualified candidates outside a strict rubric of hard skills that can often be taught.

Instead, you’re left with candidates who possess the will to learn and be coached according to your organization’s way of selling.

Moreover, a conversation around motivations is more likely to reveal if they’re right for your company culture.

Nevertheless, to help you interview SDR candidates, we’ve prepared the following questions you can use in the screening process:

A list of questions to ask when interviewing candidates for your SDR team.

And finally, one of the most common and insightful questions to ask an SDR:

How do you deal with rejection?

These questions aim to draw out answers about a candidate’s internal drivers. They also paint a picture of their problem-solving abilities by example.

Questions about specific tools or experience in select industries and how they relate to your company’s product and unique sales process are up to you. These expectations are subjective.

Ultimately, only you can determine if a candidate’s technical knowledge and hard skills meet your organization’s standards.

The SDR Onboarding process

With ramp time averaging around 5 months, new SDRs require a considerable investment in time.

Statistically, new sales recruits don’t stick around long either.

Once again, the SaaS AE Metrics & Compensation Research report found average SDR tenure fell to 2.2 years in 2022. After ramp time, that’s just over 18 months of productivity.

The pressures of management expectations and toxic work culture are major contributors to the quick churn of sales reps.

But even with a healthy, positive work environment, reps will still need to be properly onboarded to overcome the challenges of enterprise sales.

Exactly how you structure your day-to-day onboarding process will again depend on your organization’s goals and resources.

In any case, your onboarding system will always be a collection of first impressions.

To help you to get off to a good start, here are some of the key elements that make for a smooth onboarding process.

Introduce team leaders

We know good management leads by example, which is why it’s important to establish meaningful relationships with leaders early on.

This goes beyond simply introducing organizational structure. Frequent Meet & Greets – especially for remote teams – cultivates an interpersonal culture and transparent accountability.

Create a learning space

Information overload happens to the best of us.

To avoid overwhelming an SDR too much on their first week, be sure to schedule enough time between meetings where they can apply what they’ve learned in a practice session.

Follow up by complementing their new knowledge with an experienced mentor to shadow.

Set clear expectations

Set KPIs early to give an SDR a vision of the future.

Being clear about what’s expected builds trust. It places confidence in your new hire while mapping out how you’ll both find success.

What tools does an SDR team need?

Equipping your sales team with the right tech stack can be fun. Who doesn’t like shiny new digital toys?

Of course, you’ll have to live under your budget, but here are the essential tools every SDR needs.

A CRM program

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is the swiss army knife of sales. Keeping organized and easily accessible data on prospects is paramount to running a well-oiled sales team.

A great CRM program keeps tight records of all customer interactions to allow for holistic, updated data analysis.

It’s a buyer’s market with so much CRM software available. You’ll be sure to find one with just the right suite of features that fits your budget.

A sales engagement platform

The sales cycle can be long and will often require multiple touches over the course of weeks.

Keeping track of which prospect to contact and when is a tall task without the help of automation.

The best sales engagement platforms simplify the outreach process and give you insight into what parts of your cadence are working.

They also:

  • Track KPIs you set
  • Create reminders to follow up
  • Automate manual tasks in a cadence
  • Store templates of successful messaging
  • Analyze the success of different campaigns

Many email engagement platforms come with the ability to manage calls as well. Others include plug-ins to record your LinkedIn outreach.

Although they focus on email, these platforms more often than not support the kind of agile, multi-channel outreach modern sales demand.

Lead sourcing software

A database that keeps accurate, up-to-date data on your target prospects is invaluable. Bonus points for any that scrapes lead information from social networks like LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Prospecting is a significant part of an SDR’s role.

It only makes sense to provide yours with a tool that helps them quickly navigate and collect all the prospecting data they need.

Looking for some ideas on where to start shopping? Be sure to check out this list of our favorite account-based selling tools.

How to retain SDRs

The role of an SDR is difficult. The pressure of meeting quotas coupled with a competitive environment is the perfect recipe for burnout.

There’s a reason turnover in sales is higher than in other industries.

How much higher? Let’s take a look.

To start, LinkedIn cites the average turnover rate across all industries as just over 10%.

Now compare that with the most recent turnover rate in sales found in the aforementioned AE Metrics & Compensation Research study.

According to the data there, the total median annual turnover is 32% across B2B sales.

AE Metrics & Compensation Research, The Bridge Group

In short, building a motivated and committed SDR team for the future is a challenge, but far from impossible.

Let’s review some ways to reduce churn.

Find committed talent

Establishing a stringent hiring process as we explored above is the first step to finding the right talent for your team.

Screening a candidate pool for experience and hard sales skills is critical, but identifying motivated candidates is just as important.

Look for driven candidates who possess valuable soft skills like empathy and an ability to learn.

Finding a dedicated SDR who fits your company culture is more than worth the price. Most SDRs can be trained in on-the-job hard skills, but teaching a good attitude is much more difficult.

Lay out a clear career path

Once you’ve identified candidates with a passion to grow, give them a map of where their career within your company will take them.

Set achievable goals and measure their progress with regular performance assessments.

Meeting with SDRs to discuss how close they are to achieving goals reminds them you’re on their team. Many employees leave a company because they don’t see a path forward.

Help illuminate the steps your team will need to take to succeed.

Create a positive work environment

In addition to encouraging a healthy work-life balance, creating a positive work environment comes from encouragement.

Celebrate your SDRs’ successes! This goes beyond monetary compensation.

Everyone likes a good story, and this is no different at work.

Sharing achievements within the team and externally through marketing is a great way to motivate SDRs to keep working hard.

For remote and hybrid teams, don’t forget company get-togethers.

At Sellerate, we’re big on meeting face-to-face every month to encourage healthy social activities like company dinners and games.

Implement sales enablement

Another way to motivate an SDR team is through education, which leads us to sales enablement.

The strategies and Learning & Development programs that come from sales enablement benefit everyone within a company.

They foster growth among employees and create top performers by honing their skill sets.

Additionally, they provide a holistic set of standards that reinforces a company’s mission across all departments.

Sales enablement may have sales in the name, but its systems and processes inform strategy from marketing to management.

Final thoughts

Building a talented and well-equipped SDR team is building for the future.

Lead generation and sales development are critical to growth. If you want to scale your brand, you’ll need to invest in the construction of an SDR team.

At Sellerate, we specialize in that process, including recruiting and retainment. Our sales reps are experts in your target market and product. We bring opportunity to you.

Check out our use cases to find out more