The Anatomy of Sales Development

This is the first of a series where we’ll be diving deep into Sales Development – what it is, how it has evolved, what it looks like today, and why it’s a critical function.

According to Salesforce, Sales Development is defined as a specialized group that focuses entirely on the front end of the sales cycle: setting qualified appointments and demonstrations.

We thought it might also be prudent to differentiate between SDRs, Inside Sales Reps, and Account Executives as they are sometimes interchangeably used. Sales Development Reps and Account Executives go hand in hand. While the former looks after setting up meetings with qualified leads, the latter looks at delivering demos/having meetings and closures. Inside Sales is remote sales.

When a startup in India sells to a client in Timbuktu (now, wouldn’t THAT be interesting), it’s Inside Sales as no one is going across the Sahara to meet up in person (though that would be pretty interesting as well).


Sales Development’s history goes back by about 3 decades but the term has been most used over the last three years or so. The forerunners included Oracle. Sales Development started out with reps making calls, then came toe ‘email first’ strategy post which was the calls+emails+social engagement phase. Sales Dev Reps today seek to maximize response rates by a multi-channel strategy to intrigue and invite a prospect to respond to their outreaches.

What Sales Development Encompasses

Though the exact role varies from company to company, here is what Sales Development broadly covers in today’s world:

  1. Have a deep understanding of the product, current customers, pain points, competitors and value proposition.
  2. Creating a “Buyer Persona”: a fictional representation of your ideal buyer.
  3. Identifying and qualifying leads that satisfy the “Buyer Persona”.
  4. Gathering contact details and sending out emails and getting on calls with qualified leads. Keeping them engaged and getting them to elicit a response.
  5. Handles all conversations until the meeting/call is set up with the qualified leads.

A sales development representative puts a lot of effort in the qualification phase since this involves a lot of research on the company and lead. This, along with gathering contact details, is time-consuming, yet necessary, steps. This is why many organizations get help on lead generation and qualification processes.

There’s a reason why David Cummings called Sales Development “the most important sales process innovation in the last 10 years”. Setting up meetings and closing deals require two very different skillsets. A team can spread itself too thin when it focusses on both of them. Companies such as Salesforce, Oracle, and Marketo have achieved much success from decoupling the two functions and creating SDRs and AEs.

It’s time that you embraced this and created your own SDR function. How? See our post on How to build a Sales Development Team from scratch, and our ebook on building your Sales Development Team in 150 days.

Deepak Anchala

Deepak Anchala

Deepak is the Founder and CEO of Slintel. A graduate from IIT and IIM, he started his career in investment banking and later made his way into the technology world. He has spent most of his career in sales and marketing roles; first at Fortune 500 companies and later at Silicon Valley startups.

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