Learner stories

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about being a SDR

Caitlyn Wright, former teacher, now account executive
August 30, 2022

Learn what an SDR is, what they do, how much they make, and how to get promoted.

SDR (sales development representative) continues to top the list as one of the most in-demand roles in the business world, which is good news for talented professionals looking to break into a lucrative sales career. But, what exactly is an SDR? What do they do? How much do they make and how can I get promoted once I become one? Gain answers to those questions and more from real-life sales professional, Caitlyn Wright, a former classroom teacher who increased her annual income by 300% in just nine months after launching her SDR career with the Satellite Career Accelerator.

What is an SDR?

SDR stands for sales development representative. An SDR is also sometimes referred to as a BDR, which stands for business development representative. SDRs are sales professionals responsible for outreach, outbound prospecting, and lead qualification. To put it in really plain terms, an SDR understands who the target audience is for a particular product or service and uses communication and sales tools to find them, qualify them (i.e determine whether they are a fit for the product or service your company sells), and then add them to the organization’s sales pipeline.

What does an SDR do?

One of the primary responsibilities of an SDR is to practice outbound sales in order to bring in new prospects that match a company’s ICP (ideal customer profile). The SDR may even go as far as setting up the initial meeting prior to handing the prospect off to an account executive (AE), or other more senior-level sales role, to work on closing the business.

From a tactics standpoint — a typical day-in-the-life of an SDR is going to include a mixture of various activities to generate interest in the company’s product. An SDRs day will consist of qualifying accounts through research, adding target prospects to the top of the funnel (“funnel” is a marketing term used to describe the customer journey toward making a purchase), and then executing outreach on the prospects through calls, emails, and LinkedIn.

From a mindset standpoint — it’s critical for an SDR to be resilient and comfortable in a performance-driven environment where success is determined by the SDR’s ability to hit defined goals. SDRs need to practice resilience, self-reflection, ownership and accountability, and proactively taking action on feedback.

I’ve outlined what my typical day as an SDR looks like in order to demonstrate the more nitty gritty tasks.

A typical day in my life as an SDR

Every SDR position will vary, as will every company. No day is exactly the same, but the most important daily objective as an SDR (or in my case BDR) will remain consistent: research, engage, qualify and add potential buyers to the sales pipeline.

7 am: The morning scramble

Whether your SDR role is remote (like mine) or in an office, this part of the day represents the morning must-do tasks you need to complete so you can start your workday without distraction. I happen to be a parent, so this half hour is devoted to making and eating breakfast, finding lost shoes, packing lunches, reviewing spelling words, and generally trying to remain calm. Some days I’m successful, other days I’m less so.

7:30 am: Calm before the storm

Kids are off and I make my first, of what will likely be two, pots of coffee for the day. My workday doesn’t officially start until 8 am, but I’ll usually check my Slack (which is a messaging application that allows you to communicate with your colleagues) and email so that I can address anything important that may have bubbled up overnight. It’s always fun to check your email in the morning and find that one of the opportunities you nurtured has finally closed — one of the best feelings ever!

8 am: The workday officially begins!

I make the arduous commute to my office (12 steps from my kitchen). Unless I have an early meeting, I spend the first 15-30 minutes of my day in my calendar, mapping out my priorities, analyzing my tasks and blocking time to make sure they all get done. Effective time management is critical as an SDR, and it’s important to set each day up for success with a solid plan of action.

8:30 am: First qualifying call of the day

The prospect I’m talking to today happened to come in through the inbound funnel, meaning that they reached out to my team to learn more about our product and scheduled a demo. Some SDRs are specifically inbound or outbound (meaning they research prospects and do the initial outreach via calls, emails, and LinkedIn requests), but within my current role, I split my time between outbound prospecting and responding to inquiries that come in through the inbound funnel.

The conversation on the qualifying call flowed really well. The best piece of advice I can offer you for your qualifying calls is this: don’t forget that the person you are meeting with is just that — a person. People love to feel heard and understood, and that is exactly what our job is. Remember that the goal of this call isn’t to sell your product, it’s to build trust and sell them on the next meeting. My favorite qualifying question is, “What would happen if you didn’t implement a solution for the problem you just shared with me?” This question reminds them of the pain they are either currently feeling or want to avoid. It sets us up nicely for next steps. The prospect I speak with today wants to see the platform so we schedule a demo for later in the week.

9 am: Post-qualifying call due-diligence

I put my notes from the qualifying call into our CRM (which stands for “customer relationship management” and is software that helps sales teams log and track interactions with potential buyers) for my VP of sales, who will lead the demo. This is an important step! Having updated data and records in your CRM is necessary for tracking and forecasting opportunities in the pipeline.

9:15 am: Second qualifying call of the day

This was an outbound qualifying call. I had been researching this company the week prior, and scheduled the meeting while connecting with the prospect on a cold call. I always set an agenda at the beginning of every call, so everyone is aligned on the goals of the meeting. It’s also important to mention the demo at the start of the call, so you aren’t scrambling at the end to get one scheduled. My agenda usually looks like this:

  1. Introductions
  2. Learning more about their company — current initiatives and goals
  3. High-level overview of our company and how we partner with groups similar to their company
  4. Next steps — determine alignment and schedule demo
10 am: Marketing meeting

After a morning of external meetings it’s nice to see my fellow BDRs! My team meets with marketing to align on messaging and goals. We share themes we’ve noticed on prospect calls, what resources seem to resonate, upcoming marketing events and launches, etc.

10:30 am: Third qualifying call of the day

My third call is another prospect that came in through the inbound funnel. It’s a great conversation and we schedule the demo for next week. Hilariously, in conversation we discover that she knows my second cousin? Again, I can’t stress this enough: lean into the humanity of these moments. Stay curious.

11 am: BDR stand-up

Stand-up is a daily 15 minute meeting where all of the BDRs provide updates and share goals for the day. (Side note: the meeting is called a “stand up” as it’s taken from agile methodology and at its origin it literally was a meeting where people stayed standing as a way to keep it brief. This isn’t so much the case anymore, but the name has stuck.)

11:30 am: Conference follow-ups

I attended a conference last month and have a number of high level contacts in a high-touch sequence that I’ve been nurturing. A sequence is a scheduled series of sales touchpoints that typically includes cold calls, emails, social media messages and video messages. I use this time to complete my tasks for prospects in this sequence. I make a handful of phone calls, and craft highly personalized emails.

12 pm: Team training

Our BD (business development) team meets for training on a new sales enablement platform we are implementing. This is an exciting time to be in tech sales — there are so many new, high-powered tools to drive your success!

12:30 pm: Break, lunch, walk, stretch

It’s been a productive morning and I’m ready for a bit of a break. Sometimes, I take a walk, sometimes I watch Seinfeld reruns on the couch. The point is to let your brain reset and refresh so you’re ready to tackle the second half of the day.

1:15 pm: Hit the phones

Time to make a dent in my call tasks! Whenever I leave a voicemail I immediately follow up with an email. Pro tip: create a template for the post-voicemail email follow-up, so you don’t get bogged down during your call block. My philosophy on cold calls is to always lead with empathy and active listening. Let’s face it, the world is a lot right now. Be the person that calls and makes their life easier!

3 pm: Research!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to carve out time to research prospects. I spend at least 45 min each day dedicated to searching for and taking the time to understand the information I need in order to inform messaging, personalize, and overall optimize my outreach. The research I’m doing today is typically focused on the outreach I’m planning to do tomorrow. Smart research starts with knowing what your ICP cares most about. If you don’t know this, work with your fellow BDRs and the sales leaders on your team to make sure you do. Once you understand the key motivators of your ICP you can use that to focus your research efforts.

3:45 pm: Social, email and phone follow-ups

I use this hour to complete my cold calls, emails, and LinkedIn tasks and prep my call list for the next day. I have a “Thanks for Connecting!” video that I send to prospects who accept my LinkedIn connection request. It’s an easy way to breeze through LinkedIn tasks while standing out from the other BDRs likely flooding their inbox.

4:45 pm: End of day wrap-up

I use this last bit of the day to reflect — what was learned? What could have gone better? At the end of each day I record 2-3 personalized videos for prospects and schedule them to be sent via email the next morning. I take some time to review tomorrow’s calendar and make sure I have everything I need to start fresh the next morning.

5 pm: And beyond

Life. The reason we do the 9 to 5 — so we can enjoy our life outside of work!

That pretty much sums up what a typical day looks like for me as a BDR! I often get asked about how much money BDRs make and how to go about getting promoted. Read on for my answers to those popular questions.

How much does an SDR make?

According to ZipRecruiter, SDR (or BDR — remember that these titles are pretty much interchangeable) annual salary in the United States ranges from $11,000 to $93,500 with the national average coming in around $58,625. Satellite has set a minimum salary requirement in order for a company to be eligible as a hiring partner. This added layer of advocacy has resulted in the average annual income of $75k for Satellite Certified Talent placed within the Satellite Employer Network. Most SDR roles will also have additional bonuses tied to revenue performance, which is definitely an added benefit!

How do I get promoted?

An SDR is a gateway position that opens a multitude of career pathways both in and outside of the sales organization. According to Rainmakers, Sales Career Advice Blog, the average SDR is promoted to account executive within 1.5 years. The SDR Career Paths graphic below visualizes the typical career path that opens up to someone with SDR experience.

SDR Career Paths

While being a SDR opens you up to a broad range of career paths, the typical career progressions are going to include: 1) account executive, 2) SDR lead, or 3) account manager (also referred to as customer success). (See the SDR Career Paths graphic as a visual.) To increase your odds of being promoted, I encourage you to follow these steps:

  • Know which path you’re most interested in
  • Communicate your interest with your manager
  • Understand what it takes to be successful in the next-level role for the path you’re interested in
  • Actively practice and demonstrate those skills while in your existing job
  • Ask your manager and colleagues for feedback
  • Continue to crush it in your existing role

How do I get started in sales?

There are many different ways to get started in sales. I personally decided to commit to a training program that would give me the go-to SDR fundamentals while also providing me with a way to stand out with potential employers. Not all sales training programs are created equal and many require steep tuition fees and/or an ISA (Income Share Agreement), which requires you to pay a percentage of your future income back to the training company. I chose to apply for the Satellite Career Accelerator because there is no financial investment required by the learner — not before, and not after. Here are a few other reasons I’d recommend launching a sales career with Satellite:

  • 6-week, fully-online program
  • Free career coaching and mentorship
  • Intros to their vetted hiring network and interview prep
  • And (worth repeating) no financial obligations

I hope you’ve found this article helpful as you evaluate whether sales is the right career for you!

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Article Author
Caitlyn Wright, former teacher, now account executive
Prior to launching her sales career, Caitlyn served as a Pre-K and kindergarten teacher for 8 years. She spent nine hours in a classroom each day and loved (nearly!) every moment of it. When she became a parent, she made the decision to transition out of the classroom and ended up working for an incredible nonprofit, doing meaningful work, but still working 8-5 in an office and making little money. In 2020, when the pandemic put the world on pause, she had the time to evaluate what she really wanted in life. Caitlyn wanted flexibility to spend more time with her family and a career that valued her worth and talents with compensation and growth opportunities. It was for these reasons that she decided to launch a sales career by joining the Satellite Career Accelerator. At Satellite she learned that her skills and past experience were highly transferable and of great value for a sales team. Today Caitlyn has a career that provides the flexibility, freedom, compensation, and professional growth she's always wanted.

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