Some companies call them Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). Others call them Market Development Representatives (MDRs). Still others simply call them inside sales.

But in each case, the role is similar. This critical team is responsible for qualifying inbound marketing leads and identifying new, short-term sales opportunities for the senior sales executives. In some organizations, this is purely an appointment-setting function. But for others, it’s a critical and strategic part of an efficient, scalable sales process.

Whether you’re launching a new SDR effort for your company, or seeking to improve it’s effectiveness and success in the New Year, here are five steps to get you off on the right track.

1. Do the math
Although successful SDR teams are far more than pure appointment setters, understanding how to manage them does start with knowing what the math will look like. How many qualified appointments do you need each month, and how much effort will it take to get them? And further, what will it cost you to get them?

Whether your SDRs are responding to marketing leads or cold calling (or a mix of both) a simple mathematical model can help you not only understand your starting point, but demonstrate where exactly to focus to improve your metrics and economics moving forward.

This simple appointment-setting model can get you started and be modified as needed.

2. Build a process
Assuming you have sales stages to begin with, which will your SDRs be responsible for? When they receive marketing leads, how quickly do they call? How often? And when do they give up and work other leads instead?

Your SDR team will need guidance for how to manage their day. They’ll need a lead disposition process, including voicemail scripts and email templates for their follow-up. And they’ll need all of this enabled and embedded in your CRM system. Build them a process and give them tools to succeed.

3. Hire reps with experience
I’ve seen far too many sales teams hire their SDRs either right out of school or with zero sales experience previously. And although every sales rep starts somewhere, you don’t want an entire team of newbies. Look for those who have some experience, who can quickly execute your process, but who are motivated to move into a more senior position down the road.

4. Focus on needs discovery
Although most SDRs are less experienced sales professionals, they absolutely need to have business conversations with their prospects. In fact, it’s far more important that SDRs can have needs-based, business objective-oriented conversations than it is that they understand the details of your product!

True qualification of prospects is based on their objectives, not your product. If they have a problem your product or service can address and solve, that often is enough to generate interest and a next step.

5. Daily observation, role-playing, training & best practice sharing
Although you may have given your SDRs the initial tools, processes and training they need, that’s not enough. Just like any sales team, they need constant feeding. Observe their calls and help make them better. Give them time to practice with each other to improve their skills & confidence.