SDR Industry Challenges and Ways to Solve Them

There is no such thing as an easy job. But some jobs may be a bit more challenging than others. In sales, it’s a sales development representative (SDR) position.

An SDR is one of the most valuable figures in the chess set of sales. They are responsible for the outreach and the beginning of sales conversations. They bring in qualified appointments and are the main facilitators of your sales process. However, it’s not a job for everyone.

Struggles like rejections and repetition in tasks can cause stress in the workplace, although many SDRs have the coping skills to handle the pressure. However, other challenges, such as lack of training, tools, or supervision, can only be improved by a supportive management team that can eliminate these types of stressors.

Nowadays, modern leaders are more and more oriented toward making an SDR space safe and productive. Because when you identify the issues and fix them to make your SDR team stronger, the turnover rate goes down and metrics like productivity rise up.

To fully support your SDRs, let's look at six industry challenges and solutions, and what management has to say about improving SDR performance.


SDR Challenges and Solutions

Have you ever seen the movie Boiler Room? Everyone is yelling, the pressure is enormous, and the selling is nonconventional and self-centered. Not to mention selling a "product" built on lies. 

This sink-or-swim mentality was popular in sales of the past: SDRs had no training, qualified contacts, and a barely reachable quota. It led to burnout of employees and a spread of prejudice toward sales in general.

Although most modern companies try to create the best work environments for their employees, some problems are still in place. 

1. Too much pressure

While some workers have deadlines, SDRs have quotas. Often, quite unrealistic ones. SDRs have to face various obstacles that may lead to burnout, but the stress of not making a quota can be the toughest one. 

Realistic quotas set by management should motivate the SDRs. If your workers chronically can’t make their quotas, then you should consider revising your quotas and outreach.

Although, some companies feel that raising quotas may answer the productivity question. Here’s what our CMO, Eric Quanstrom thinks about this idea: 

"In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes is when a company decides to run its SDRs in a volume-centric manner," said Quanstrom. "Not getting better results? Make more calls. Need more sales? Send more emails.

It’s more, more, more as the answer to any question. However, there’s a difference between more and a more thoughtful, measured, targeted approach that considers both the capacity and motivation of the SDR and the needs of the prospect on the other line.

By the way, the best messages to scale (greater volume) are the templates, scripts, and talk tracks that are working."

Solution: More calls and emails probably won’t solve your problems if there’s a “glitch” in your messaging. Try A/B testing parts of the outreach that need perfecting and see if it improves the number of appointments. Let your SDRs know that mistakes are a natural part of learning and guide them toward excellence.

Pro Tip: One of the reasons your SDRs may not be as productive as you wish is if they don’t have the right tools. Consider expanding your tech stack with CRMs, sequencers, dialers, research subscriptions, or conversational AI. 

2. Lack of training

Although sales experience is not required to excel in the SDR field, not all companies are eager to teach them from the ground up to a mastery level because a) it's expensive and time-consuming, and b) an SDR could leave to go to another company.

It might seem cheaper to perform a bulk telemarketing outreach: Here’s the script, here are the contacts, and here’s the phone. However, this style creates complications and stress for the employees. Sounding robotic and impersonal, they rarely succeed in making a sale without deeper knowledge of the client’s persona or product. 

Training SDRs is vital for their future progress in your company," said Angie Junas, training manager at CIENCE. "You give them a certain base and develop skills that they can apply at the early stages of the work. Under the further guidance of their mentor (team leader or manager), they will learn from their mistakes and evolve.” 

sdr-industry-challenges-how-sales-leaders-can-support-sdrsAccording to Doug Landis, Growth Partner at Emergence Capital and self-proclaimed OG SDR, the treatment of SDRs is critical to business success: “Even if the training is present, it often shifts its focus to selling," said Landis. "In contrast, it’d be much more productive to teach SDRs how to talk, relate, assess businesses in a matter of minutes, and lead meaningful business conversations.” 

Check out the CIENCE podcast with Doug Landis.

Additionally, training can ease the transition of SDRs to the new workplace and make them feel valued. 

“Being a trainer is like being a teacher/psychologist. Every person is unique and needs a custom approach. Some need guidance, some need more rules and strictness, but all need to be praised for making progress. That will make them feel more confident when it’s time to do the work on the field.” —Angie Junas, training manager at CIENCE.

Solution: Define how much time it takes to introduce a newcomer into your company’s specifics. While teaching, use a lot of practice exercises that will build the “muscle’” and help them during their ramp-up time. Supervision at these stages is needed to spot mistakes and fix them. 

3. Lack of communication

Lack of feedback, supervision, or communication with colleagues can lead to feelings of isolation. This issue has become even more pressing since the start of the COVID pandemic. According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work, two of the top three challenges that remote workers faced were difficulties with communication and loneliness.

When isolated, it’s easy for an SDR to focus on the negative and not feel like a success.
In fact, 92% of millennials interviewed by Akumina state that recognizing their accomplishments by senior staff or colleagues is very important. 

Communication with colleagues can bring inspiration, as noted in an anonymous Comparably review left by one of our employees: 

“My favorite thing is talking to clients, hearing success stories from other SDRs. How they were able to turn a negative into a positive one or referral into a positive.”—SDR at CIENCE

Solution: Set up regular meetings where SDRs can collaborate, share success stories, ask for advice, and just bond, creating a friendly and productive work environment.

“Putting strong leaders into place for SDRs is key," said Diana Kacheyshvili, director of operations at CIENCE. "And not only for SDRs but for all the personnel. Lack of communication and engagement is solved when strong leaders are guiding your teams.” 

sdr-industry-challenges-how-sales-leaders-can-support-sdrs-24. Lack of freedom 

Lead generation is a complicated process that needs adjustments all the time. Companies should encourage SDRs to recognize possible problems and suggest creative solutions. Nonetheless, it doesn’t happen all the time. 

We’ve asked our SDRs if they faced any challenges in the previous places of work, and some highlighted that lack of creativity and freedom decreased their will to try new things and lowered their performance.

Outreach needs tweaking all the time, especially when something doesn’t work properly. The process of adding changes to templates shouldn’t be overcomplicated, because it can exhaust SDRs, limit their creativity, and even contribute to their decision of leaving their job.

Solution: Encourage brainstorming and collaborations between your SDRs using free brainstorming tools. Let them know that you are open to their ideas and possible innovations. 

“Creativity can be enjoyable and useful," said Kacheyshvili. "Organizations should create a space for SDRs to be free and innovative and bring all those wonderful ideas to the table. It can expand horizons and open new, rational ways of doing things.”  

sdr-industry-challenges-how-sales-leaders-can-support-sdrs-45. Lack of growth opportunities 

Another old cliché about becoming an SDR is that it’s not a career path. It’s something temporary with no promotions or growth. This is, of course, an incorrect assumption. 

Choosing SDR as a career can be very fulfilling and rewarding, but it also is up to management how to promote a person in this role. Retaining employees is much more complicated than hiring new ones; however, it is also 20% cheaper. So, if you’d like your biggest talents to stay with you (and save some money), you should provide enough growth opportunities. 

“SDRs learning valuable skills and being promoted within the role is very company-dependent," said  Quanstrom. "For instance, CIENCE has promoted well over a hundred SDRs this year alone into new roles (TLs, TMs, trainers, coaches, Sr. SDRs, and cross-department promotions).” 


Solution: Let your employees know that you are interested in promoting them based on their performance, discuss their career goals, and provide additional training to prepare them for the roles. 

6. Burnout 

One of the biggest challenges there is in any industry is burnout. To illustrate, 75% of workers have experienced burnout, with 40% saying they’ve experienced burnout specifically during the pandemic. 

But it is especially painful for SDRs who burn out more quickly due to the rejections, high expectations, and every challenge we’ve mentioned above. Burnout leads to an extreme decrease in the productivity and happiness of a worker. 

“Burnout is a complicated topic and should better be prevented rather than solved," said Kacheyshvili. "There needs to be trust between the direct supervisor and employee to acknowledge burnout. For tackling the issue, unplugging is the only way out. Distract yourself with positive things, get outside, and rethink your work routines.”  

sdr-industry-challenges-how-sales-leaders-can-support-sdrs-5Solution: Connect with your teams to find out what they may be struggling with and tackle those challenges. Also, a company’s management can set an example of work-life balance and advise their employees how to unplug and rest after work. 

There are also some things SDRs can do themselves to prevent burnout and stay positive in sales


Lead Your SDRs into the Future

All of the challenges we’ve discovered can cause discomfort and slow down the progress of B2B companies. However, we also believe that it’s only a matter of time until we can eradicate these obstacles. It’s in our power to change the industry for the better and treat SDRs like our sales heroes!

Learn about SDR outsourcing ROI