The Evolving Role of SDRs in Health Tech: From Cold Calling to ABM

In today’s evolving health tech landscape, the role of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) is transforming. As companies navigate longer and more complex sales cycles, SDRs play an even more important link between Marketing and Sales. They are a lynchpin in an effective growth enablement operation.

In the most recent episode of the Healthtech Marketing Show, I spoke with two healthtech sales and marketing veterans to understand the changing responsibilities of SDRs and the best practices to adopt to drive results.

Kelly McDermott is Caregility’s Chief Marketing Officer, where she built and managed the SDR team in an ABM-based model. Ross Whittaker, NA Marketing Director of InterSystems, has been a sales executive for several decades and most recently managed a global SDR team prior to shifting into marketing.


  • Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) play a crucial role in connecting Marketing and Sales in the evolving healthtech landscape.
  • SDRs focus on outbound prospecting, while BDRs handle inbound leads.
  • Measuring SDR success involves tracking dials, connections, and booked meetings but also recognizing small wins.
  • Motivating SDRs requires celebrating achievements and providing career development paths.
  • In Account-Based Marketing, SDRs research target accounts and engage stakeholders through personalized outreach.
  • Effective collaboration between marketing, SDRs, and sales is essential, and the reporting structure depends on the company’s needs.
  • Intent data and lead scoring help SDRs to prioritize outreach.
  • Organizations can outsource or build in-house SDR teams based on resources and goals. Success requires clearly defined roles, comprehensive training, leveraging technology, fostering collaboration, setting realistic expectations, and providing career paths.
  • Continuously refining processes based on data and feedback is key to building a high-performing SDR team that drives long-term results in the complex healthtech industry.

Defining and Differentiating Between SDRs, BDRs, and MDRs

The whole area of sales development is a festival of acronyms. While the terms SDR, BDR (Business Development Representative), and MDR (Market Development Representative) are often used interchangeably, these positions have subtle differences.

SDRs typically focus on outbound prospecting and developing new leads, while BDRs handle inbound leads and respond to inquiries. MDRs, a term used by some organizations like InterSystems, take a more targeted approach, investigating organizational charts and specific markets to identify key decision-makers.

Regardless of what you call them, the key thing is to clearly define each position’s roles and responsibilities based on your organization’s unique needs and goals. Ensure that everyone understands their part in the lead generation and qualification process, and provide the necessary training and support to help them succeed.

The Typical Day and Activities of an SDR

An SDR’s day balances preparation, research, cold calling, and lead follow-up. To set your SDRs up for success, encourage them to start each day with a clear plan and prioritize their activities based on what will have the greatest impact.

  • Preparation is key to a productive day. SDRs should research prospects, craft personalized outreach messages, and collaborate with their assigned account executives to develop targeted strategies. As a marketing leader, you can ensure that the team has the tools and resources to gather insights about their prospects. This includes intent data, lead scoring, and market intelligence.
  • While cold calling remains an essential part of an SDR’s role, SDRs need to take a multi-channel approach, combining phone calls, emails, and social media outreach to increase their chances of connecting. Help them develop a cadence that balances persistence with respect for the prospect’s time and preferences.

As a leader, your most important role is to maintain motivation and avoid burnout. Teach your SDRs to break their day into manageable chunks and celebrate small victories. Recognize the value of each conversation, even if it doesn’t immediately result in a booked meeting. This will help keep your team engaged and focused on continuous improvement.

The Expected Hit Rates and Success Metrics for SDRs

Measuring the success of your SDR team is the foundation of making continuous improvements and demonstrating the value of their efforts to the organization. While the specific metrics may vary, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind.

Traditionally, SDR success has been measured by the number of dials, connections, and booked meetings. A good benchmark to aim for is around 10 connects per 100 calls, with one or two of those connects resulting in a meeting or further engagement.

In complex sales cycles, it is even more important to recognize the value of small wins. Encourage your SDRs to track and report on the quality of their conversations, the insights they gather about prospects’ needs and challenges, and the strength of the relationships they build over time. These intangible factors can be just as important as the number of meetings booked in determining the long-term success of your sales development efforts.

Work with your SDRs to establish achievable goals aligning with your organization’s objectives. This will help you set realistic expectations and keep your team motivated, Regularly review and adjust these targets based on data and feedback from the field, and celebrate progress along the way.

Motivating SDRs

High turnover is very common among SDRs. How do you keep your SDR team engaged, motivated, and less likely to leave? 

Ross and Kelly discussed key factors that contribute to long-term success:

  • Recognize and reward SDRs for gathering valuable insights about target accounts, identifying key decision-makers, and building rapport with prospects over time. These small victories may not immediately result in a booked meeting or closed deal, but they lay the foundation for future success.
  • Provide your SDRs with a clear career development path within your organization. Many companies view their SDR team as a “farm team” for future account executives, providing training and mentorship to help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in more advanced roles.

Note that not all SDRs aspire to be account executives. Some may be interested in other career paths, such as customer success, marketing, or operations. Work with your SDRs to understand their individual goals and provide opportunities for growth and development that align with their interests and strengths.

By investing in your SDRs’ long-term success and showing them they are valued members of the organization, you can build a motivated, high-performing team that drives consistent results.

The Role of SDRs in Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

As more health tech companies adopt Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategies to navigate long, complex sales cycles, the role of SDRs is evolving to support these efforts. In an ABM context, SDRs play a critical role in researching target accounts, identifying key stakeholders, and engaging with them through personalized outreach.

 SDRs must work even more closely with their assigned account executives to develop and execute account-specific strategies. This requires a deep understanding of each target account’s unique needs, challenges, and decision-making processes.

Encourage your SDRs to leverage intent data, lead scoring, and other insights to identify the most promising accounts and tailor their outreach accordingly. Help them develop personalized messaging and content that resonates with each stakeholder and demonstrates a genuine understanding of their situation.

As SDRs engage with target accounts, they should focus on building relationships and trust over time. This may involve multiple touches across various channels, such as email, phone, and social media, as well as providing valuable resources and insights along the way.

Throughout the sales cycle, SDRs should continue to support account executives by gathering intelligence, identifying additional stakeholders, and helping to move the opportunity forward. This requires regular communication and collaboration between SDRs and account executives to ensure a seamless handoff and a consistent experience for the prospect.

The Handoff and Relationship Between Marketing and SDRs, and Between SDRs and Sales

Effective collaboration between Marketing, SDRs, and Sales is essential for a successful lead generation and qualification process. In an ideal Go-to-Market model, the three teams work together to move prospects through the funnel and ultimately close deals.

Marketing is typically responsible for generating initial leads through various channels, such as events, webinars, content marketing, and advertising. These leads are then passed to the SDR team for qualification and further nurturing.

To ensure a smooth handoff between Marketing and SDRs, establish clear criteria for what constitutes a qualified lead and provide SDRs with the context and insights they need to engage with each prospect effectively. This may include information about the lead’s behavior, interests, and engagement with your brand, as well as any specific pain points or challenges they have shared.

As SDRs engage with leads and determine their readiness for a sales conversation, they need to work closely with account executives to ensure a seamless transition. This involves providing detailed background information on the prospect, their needs and goals, and any relevant insights gathered during the qualification process.

To facilitate effective collaboration between SDRs and account executives, consider implementing regular meetings, shared goals, and clear communication channels. Encourage SDRs to shadow account executives on calls and meetings to better understand the sales process and the types of conversations that resonate with prospects.

By fostering a culture of collaboration and alignment between Marketing, SDRs, and Sales, you can create a more efficient and effective lead generation and qualification process that drives better results for your organization.

Should SDRs Report into Marketing or Sales?

One of the organizations’ most common questions when building an SDR team is whether they should report to Marketing or Sales. There are valid arguments for both approaches, and the right decision ultimately depends on your company’s specific needs, structure, and goals.

Having SDRs report into Marketing can provide a stronger alignment between lead generation and qualification efforts. In this model, SDRs serve as a bridge between Marketing and Sales, ensuring that leads are properly qualified and nurtured before being passed along to account executives. This can be particularly effective in organizations where Marketing significantly drives the overall go-to-market strategy.

On the other hand, having SDRs report into Sales can create a more seamless handoff and a clearer focus on revenue generation. When SDRs are part of the Sales organization, they are more likely to be aligned with the goals and priorities of account executives and can work more closely with them to develop and execute account-specific strategies.

Ultimately, the most important factor in deciding where SDRs should report is ensuring that they have the support, resources, and leadership they need to be successful. This means having a clear understanding of the SDR role, providing ongoing training and development opportunities, and fostering a culture of collaboration and communication between Marketing, SDRs, and Sales.

It’s also important to consider the background and skill set of your SDR leadership when making this decision. If your Marketing leaders have a strong background in Sales and a deep understanding of the SDR role, they may be well-equipped to manage and support the team. Conversely, if your Sales leaders have experience building and scaling SDR teams, they may be better positioned to provide the necessary guidance and direction.

Outsourcing the SDR Function Versus Building It In-House

There are pros and cons to both inosurcing versus outsourcing. It all depends on your company’s specific needs, resources, and goals.

Outsourcing the SDR function to a specialized firm can provide several benefits, including access to a pool of experienced professionals, faster ramp-up times, and reduced overhead costs. Outsourcing can be particularly effective for organizations just starting to build their SDR function or with limited internal resources to dedicate to recruiting, training, and managing a team.

However, when you outsource your SDR function, you may have less control over the day-to-day activities and performance of the team. Additionally, outsourced SDRs may not have the same knowledge about your product, industry, or target audience as an in-house team would.

On the other hand, building an in-house SDR team allows you to have greater control over the hiring process, training, and performance management of your team. In-house SDRs are more likely to be aligned with your company’s culture, values, and goals and can develop a deeper understanding of your product and target audience over time.

This requires a significant investment of time, resources, and expertise. You’ll need the right leadership in place to recruit, train, and manage the team, as well as the infrastructure and technology to support their efforts.

Ultimately, the decision to outsource or build in-house depends on your organization’s specific situation and priorities. Some companies may start with an outsourced team and then transition to an in-house model over time, while others may prefer to build their team from the ground up.

Regardless of your chosen approach, it’s important to have clear goals, metrics, and processes in place to ensure that your SDR function drives the results you need to support your overall business objectives.

Requirements for Success with SDRs

Building a high-performing SDR team requires a combination of strategic planning, ongoing support, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Here are some tips for setting your SDRs up for success:

  1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities: Ensure that your SDRs clearly understand their role within the organization and how their efforts contribute to the company’s overall goals. Provide them with specific, measurable targets and expectations for their performance.
  2. Provide comprehensive training and ongoing development: Invest in a robust training program that covers not only the technical skills needed for the job but also the soft skills, such as communication, active listening, and problem-solving. Offer ongoing development opportunities, such as coaching, mentoring, and access to industry events and resources.
  3. Leverage technology and data: Provide your SDRs with the tools and technology they need to be effective in their role, such as CRM systems, email automation, and intent data. Use data and analytics to track their performance, identify areas for improvement, and optimize their efforts over time.
  4. Foster a culture of collaboration and communication: Encourage open communication and collaboration between Marketing, SDRs, and Sales. Regularly bring these teams together to share insights, align on goals, and identify opportunities for improvement. Celebrate wins and learn from losses as a team.
  5. Set realistic expectations and celebrate small wins: Recognize that success in the SDR role is often a long game, particularly in complex industries like health tech. Set realistic expectations for your team and celebrate the small wins along the way, such as booking a meeting with a key decision-maker or gathering valuable intel on a target account.
  6. Provide a clear career path: Show your SDRs that there is a future for them within your organization by providing a clear career path and opportunities for advancement. This could include moving up to a more senior SDR role, transitioning to an Account Executive position, or exploring other roles within Marketing or Customer Success.
  7. Continuously refine your processes: Use data and feedback from your SDRs, Account Executives, and customers to refine your processes and strategies continuously. Be open to new approaches and technologies, and be willing to pivot when something isn’t working.

The role of SDRs in health tech is evolving rapidly, and organizations that can adapt and optimize their approach will be well-positioned for success in the years to come. By understanding the unique challenges and opportunities of the SDR role, providing the necessary support and resources, and fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, you can build a team that drives results and becomes a valuable asset to your organization over time.

If you liked this post and want to learn more…

  1. Check out more posts like this in the Healthtech MarketingLearning Center. It is chock-full of articles, use cases, how-to’s, and ideas to get you started on your ABM journey.
  2. Follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn. I publish videos and articles on ABM and healthtech marketing.
  3. Buy Total Customer Growth: Our book on how to win and grow customers for life with ABM and ABX.
  4. Work with me directly. Let’s book a growth session and we can explore ways you can improve your marketing using the latest techniques in account-based marketing.
Posted by Adam Turinas
Posted in ABM and Sales Enablement, Growth Enablement, Healthtech Marketing Show on April 2, 2024

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About the Author Adam Turinas

Hi, I am Adam Turinas, Healthlaunchpad's founder. I am passionate about helping healthtech firms succeed through better sales and marketing. I have hard-earned experience in healthcare technolgy as I started two healthcare businesses in the US, the first with zero healthcare experience. We sold the second business to a strategic buyer seven years later. Over 9 years building a healhtech businesses, I have learned how to sell and market effectively to healthcare organizations. Prior to this, I spent two decades in digital marketing across healthcare and other consumer industries where I sold over $100 million in products and services to corporations and healthcare orgs. I would love to talk with you. You can book a call with me on the right hand side. Best Adam (This is page 0 of many)