Guest Post by Sara Tatnall, Director of Marketing and Business Development at PFL

Move your SDR team under marketing? Say what? It’s been an increasing trend in the sales and marketing world for the past couple years. Consider what a Sales Development Rep (SDR) does each day, and it doesn’t seem like such a stretch. They work hard to generate leads — qualifying calls, speaking to different personas and prospecting — so why shouldn’t they be the key that unlocks the almighty smarketing divide?

We decided to give the shift a whirl here at PFL. It was scary, but we found that our SDRs continued to have good communication with sales — regardless of where they reported. What we received in exchange was a host of other benefits that we did not anticipate.

Insight #1: Giving marketing a closer relationship with our SDRs offered more value to our organization as a whole.

Before we made the shift, our marketing team found it difficult to keep a pulse on the SDRs. We had a black hole situation between our MQLs and SQLs, with an additional barrier related to platforms: our sales team uses Pipedrive and marketing uses Marketo. While we wanted to produce high-quality leads that turned into high-quality opportunities, we didn’t have enough overlapping knowledge between the teams to understand what best practices should be kept — and what could be dropped, or improved upon. Now that marketing owns every stage of the funnel right up to sales qualified opportunities, we’ve seen higher quality leads, increased conversion rates and, overall, better transparency.

Insight #2: Our SDRs are vessels full of valuable insights about our market — now we treat them like prized possessions.

As a marketer, I knew that sales calls are like little pearls of wisdom. But who actually has time to listen to them? As a sales manager, I started listening to call recordings in order to better coach my team. The result: I now hear customers’ needs, directly from their mouths, on a regular basis. Now, these insights inform our marketing initiatives as a whole.

More importantly, syncing the SDRs with Marketing gave us real-time feedback on all our programs. It’s the most efficient way to discern what works and doesn’t, and allows us to understand what sales needs, hates, could use more or less of — and why. The SDRs are now the first, feet-on-the-ground testers of all of our messaging. Their prospecting calls are a great place to both roll out new messaging and see how old messaging works, both of which are quite helpful to marketing.

Insight #3: Sales and marketing alignment gets easier when both sides speak the same language.

As we hoped, the move served as a helpful, much-needed bridge between sales and marketing. Now that marketing is part of the process, we are having the hard conversations that need to be had. We’ve had more big blowups, but they have also been needed and productive — the necessary result of real problems being brought to the surface, rather than being allowed to fester in an unproductive hole. Alignment just gets easier when both sides start speaking the same language.

Insight #4: Moving our SDRs out of sales helped formalize prospecting as a specialized activity.

The change also helped us revolutionize what it means to be a SDR at our organization. Our salespeople may be experts in selling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re equally skilled at prospecting. The shift allowed us to hone in on that part of the sales journey and made prospecting its own discipline. While historically the general trajectory of a SDR was to one day become an account executive, that’s no longer true. With more specialization and attention, new career paths have emerged within the sales development role. This better supports our organization’s needs and allows for more flexibility and options for our SDRs as well.

We’ve have had some great successes with our move, but at the end of the day it takes daily care to maximize the benefits of having SDR team, no matter where they report. Many of the results we saw came as a result of digging in on coaching, process, accountability and culture — which doesn’t happen overnight.

Enough about PFL. If you have questions, comments, or opinions on this subject, I’d love to hear from you!