3 Reasons Sales Development Reps Fail (None of Which Are the Reps’ Fault!)

It all starts with the best of intentions. Sales aren’t where they should be. The pipeline is looking a bit dry. And so, the decision is made to invest in the hiring of Sales Development Reps to prospect and get qualified leads flowing through the organization’s sales pipeline.

And then it all falls apart.

Why? According to Shabri Lakhani, founder of Salesworks, there are 3 main reasons companies have trouble implementing a successful SDR program and filling Sales Development Rep roles.

Reason #1 – Right Rep, Wrong Sales Enablement Content

Sales management forgets that less experienced reps need to be matched with a sales enablement program that actually teaches them how to sell. Management focuses:

  • too much on their lack of product skills and industry knowledge, and 
  • too little on their lack of selling judgment and sales skills. 

Even if a new hire has the potential to become a top SDR, without the appropriate sales development content, they are unable to succeed.

Reason #2 – A Sales Development Role Is Created, But Not Respected

Often Sales Development roles are created as junior positions. So, the respect that is required in order for any recommendations to be made is lacking. Sales development roles can also be misaligned, ending up in the marketing department or as a junior role in field sales. Growing and nurturing a sales development team takes internal buy-in, recognition, and support.

Reason #3 – Sales Development Without a Mission

According to Shabri, she makes a point to ask a company’s sales leadership, “What’s your mission statement for your SDRs?” When she’s met with a blank stare, or silence – it’s a big indicator that the company’s Sales Development reps are struggling. Having no clear mission for the SDRs – whether it’s generating leads for the pipeline or creating a talent bench for the organization – is a top reason Sales Development initiatives fail.

The Four S’s of Setting SDRs Up for Success

Some of these issues hitting home? Then it’s time for your sales organization to do some reflecting. Shabri offers a simple framework of four areas that need to be aligned in order for companies to implement a successful Sales Development program:

1. Skills

2. Strategy

3. Structure

4. Systems

Most companies already have one or two of the areas down. But, Shabri stresses, just one or two isn’t enough. Companies really need to have all four areas in focus and in sync to be successful. “It’s the alignment of all four areas that are key to success. ” Piqued your curiosity? Follow us on LinkedIn, and stay tuned for more about the Skills, Strategy, Structure, and Systems necessary to get your company on the road to a successful sales development launch.


Dario Priolo
Author: Dario Priolo

Dario brings over 20 years of experience in the sales enablement and talent development industry. He has led marketing and strategy as CMO for leading companies like the Hay Group, Miller Heiman and Profiles International and has been part of 4 successful exits, including his own start-up.