Before we discuss how to develop critical skills for SDRs, let’s review how the SDR position differs from other sales roles.

What does a sales development representative do?

Many sales reps are focused on closing deals to meet or exceed their quota for a given time period, and their performance is measured by their ability to meet targets. In a sales development role, reps are focused on moving leads through the sales pipeline emphasizing quality lead generation over closing individual deals.

For SDRs, successful performance is measured by how effective they are at moving leads through the sales pipeline. With this team structure, SDRs often receive lead information from their marketing team, and are responsible for qualifying and nurturing leads before introducing them to account managers or sales reps to land the sale.

So if you're an SDR, here are the top 10 skills to focus on gaining or honing. And if you're a manager, here's what you should be teaching to your team.

1. Video Prospecting

"Video prospecting" is a buzzword, but at HubSpot, we've seen great results. My team uses Vidyard — an easy-to-use tool that lets you quickly create videos using your webcam and screengrabs. But there are several options out there, including Loom and Soapbox by Wistia.

SDRs don't need to be technical masters or Oscar-worthy movie stars to create effective videos. They do need to be comfortable on screen. Practice creating short, engaging clips (no more than two minutes) during which you introduce yourself, deliver value with a quick tip, and ask to schedule a call.

The more videos you make, the more efficient you'll become. In time, you should be able to whip up customized videos like they're emails.

2. Highly Customized Outreach

It's always been tricky for SDRs to balance quantity and quality when prospecting. I'm seeing that balance shift — the most successful reps are actually slowing down, spending more time on outreach and connecting with fewer prospects.

Brandon Kirsch, an Inbound Growth Specialist at HubSpot, is a fantastic example of someone doing this right. His emails are really personal and hinge around a triggering event. Here's an example:

I don't want to suggest quantity no longer matters in the SDR world. During my weekly one-on-ones with SDRs, I do a pipeline review. I often find they're spending too much time qualifying before picking up the phone.

Connect calls are a lot like voicemails — to get good at them, SDRs have to do a lot of them until they've developed "muscle memory." Allocating time wisely based on lead quality is very important, but SDRs need to get on the phones as much as they can to hone their skills.

New SDRs will benefit from hearing their prospects' most common objections, begin to understand which soundbites resonate best with target personas, and start to sound much more confident on the phone if they make a lot of calls up front.

So with that in mind, I'd recommend developing a scalable process for writing customized emails and doing prospect research. LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a big help; you can save leads and accounts, learn important information in one glance, and get notifications when they've had a notable change.

A tool like HubSpot’s free meeting scheduling can help make arranging connect calls a breeze. A prospect can easily schedule time on an SDR’s calendar.