Why Do Sales Development Teams Fail?

Sales development is not something you can just set and forget. It’s an ongoing process. 

In our experience, most people underestimate the effort required to build a successful SDR team. You can’t just hire some people (however talented they may be), give them a phone, and expect them to get on with it. There’s so much more to it than that.

At FullFunnel, we talk about getting 4 S’s in alignment to ensure sales development success:

  • Skills – Ensuring your reps have the attributes they need to succeed
  • Structure – Setting your team up for success with the right roles and metrics
  • Strategy – Targeting the right people with the correct messaging
  • Systems – Enhancing your team with the best tech

But, when you go a little deeper, there are three critical areas that leaders tend to underestimate. In this article, we’ll examine them.


1. Training & Coaching

It makes sense to hire graduates as SDRs in your sales development team. It’s cost-effective and it creates a bench of talent that you can use to fill other roles in the future. However, if you think you can hire a bunch of grads, give them a week of product training and then expect them to be successful at outreach, you need to think again.

Training SDRs should be an ongoing process – and while product knowledge is necessary, it’s nowhere near as important as being able to handle conversations with prospects. You must train your SDRs in things they’ll actually have to do in their job, including:

  • How to be creative and relevant in their outreach
  • Navigating accounts
  • Objection handling
  • Grabbing the prospect’s attention
  • Qualifying the prospect in and out of the sales process

People learn better by doing, not by being lectured in a classroom setting. They also need continual reinforcement to make sure they remember what they learn.


Doing The Right Thing

In sales, time is a precious and finite resource. Sales development teams fail when leaders either undervalue an SDR’s time or don’t help them make the most of it. SDRs are of value to your business when they’re on the phone (or another channel) with your prospects. If they are doing other things, then you are missing out on value. Good leaders enable their team to spend as much time as possible prospecting. 

If your SDRs do too much admin, there’s a problem. SDRs need to have a simple process that they can work to, so they always know what to do and can see the part they play in bringing in deals. We've seen CRMs that are like a maze just to hand off a lead. If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time for a new CRM. You can also look at technology that automates administrative tasks. 

If your SDRs perform tasks that don’t add value to the business, that’s another problem. At my previous company, where I was an SDR manager, someone from marketing came to me and asked if my team could focus on inviting customers to our annual forum – obviously not linked to their quota!

Instead, focus on giving your SDRs as many opportunities as you can where they can overachieve.


Not Knowing What Success Looks Like

How do you define success in your SDR team? It all comes down to measurement.

We've undertaken projects where the CEO or Founder says they have no idea what the sales development team do and the sales team doesn’t think they’re producing quality leads. 

Don’t let opinions, guesswork, or gut instinct devalue your sales development team. Let the numbers tell the story. Set internal expectations of what the team are there to do. For example, it’s essential to have mutually agreed upon definitions of qualified leads and service level agreements.

Focus on targeting your SDRs on things they can control. SDRs don’t close deals, so if you must compensate them on closed-won deals, make it extra. If you target them on closed-won, they’re sales admin, not sales development!


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