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Should SDRs report to Sales or Marketing?

Is the start of the sales funnel really Sales? Or should SDRs be part of your organisation’s Marketing Team? Let’s finally put this argument to bed. (Clue: It’s not that important)

As someone who spends a lot of time helping sales teams develop their strategy, it’s a question I get asked quite often. ‘Should a company’s SDR team sit with and report to Sales or Marketing?’ So, I thought I’d write an article about it. Maybe it can help you as you develop your SDR team.

Why is this a question?

Before I give you my answer, I need to explain why this is such a hot topic in the sales world at the moment.

Investment in Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has risen significantly in the last couple of years. SDRs play an essential role in a successful ABM operation, digging deep into the organisational structure of target companies in order to make sure every decision-maker is covered. They also play a part in nurturing leads. For these reasons, although SDRs are traditionally thought of as salespeople, you could also argue that they are marketers.

On the other hand, SDRs are also a vital component for outbound go-to-market strategies, which definitely comes under the remit of Sales.

So, where should they sit to get the best results?

The answer...

OK, here’s my answer. It’s not that important. There are several things that matter much more when it comes to performance than whether SDRs are part of Marketing or Sales. Get those right first before you worry about this.

In my role helping sales teams develop strategies for high performance, I’ve seen SDR teams that report to Sales and others that report to Marketing and they both work. I’ve also seen SDR teams that come under Sales Operations and even Sales Enablement. Again, they both work.

That is, if the fundamentals are right.

Conditions for high-performance

In an organisation that functions well, the SDR team is the bridge between Sales and Marketing. Therefore, leaders need to create conditions that allow them to fulfil this role effectively:

  • SDR teams need to be accountable for their section of the sales funnel; whether that’s converting leads into meetings, demos or anything else.
  • A Service Level Agreement (SLA) between Marketing and Sales is an excellent way to hold both teams responsible for achieving agreed-upon targets.
  • Sales and Marketing must agree on specific definitions. For example, on what is a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and what is a sales-qualified lead (SQL).
  • SDR teams must adhere to the sales process laid down by the leadership team.

SDR Managers

Whether the SDR team sits in Sales or Marketing, I see better performance from SDRs when there is a dedicated team lead. Whether this is a player-manager or you create an SDR Manager role, there needs to a bridge between the SDR team and the leadership.

I don’t think that SDRs reporting directly to VPs of Sales leads to great outcomes in the long term. VPs of Sales are under different pressures and may lack the time, willingness or resources to manage the specific needs of SDRs.

Career Path

You can’t run a successful SDR team with significant amounts of churn. The time spent and the revenue lost through recruiting, onboarding and ramping up is too great.

Helping SDRs plot a career path is much more important than whether they sit with Sales or Marketing. Leaders must help SDRs build out a career path, whether it’s to become an AE or anything else.

For the record, this is something that companies are getting better at. Tenure amongst SDRs is getting longer.

Over to you

To sum up, collaboration between Sales and Marketing teams is essential in today’s sales world, particularly if you are executing ABM strategies. However, spending time weighing up whether your SDR team sits in Sales or Marketing is not advisable. You need to create a productive environment for SDRs to thrive in first.

That’s my opinion anyway. Now, I want to know what you think.

Do you think SDRs are Sales? Or do you prefer that they report to Marketing? Why is that?