Everything You Need to Know About Inbound SDRs

849 565 Pete Furseth

What is the role of an Inbound SDR?

An Inbound Sales Development Representative (SDR) is responsible for qualifying inbound leads. These professionals are responsible for taking your qualified marketing leads (MQL) and turning them into sales qualified leads (SQL). Typically we describe SQL as the first stage of a sales opportunity.

Sometimes this position is referred to as Inbound Sales Reps, Business Development Reps (BDR), Lead Generation Reps (LGR), or perhaps something different at your company. We will use the term SDR for the purpose of this discussion.

Specialized Sales Roles

Yes, your sales team should specialize. As a former professor of economics, I can tell you that Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) would have advocated for a specialized sales team way back in 1776. Adam Smith advocated for the division of labor through specialization. Your inbound SDR team should specialize in converting inbound leads to qualified sales opportunities. This is a different skill than outbound prospecting and different still from an Account Executive who is focused on closing deals. While your outbound and AE teams certainly have the ability to handle the inbound SDR tasks, you should carve out a specialized role for the inbound SDRs.

Here is why

An inbound lead has already visited your website and interacted with your content. They are aware of your company and want to know more details about how your product can help them. This means it is an inbound SDR’s job to move the lead from interested in your product to evaluating your product. To that end, an inbound SDR is expected to know more about your product than a typical outbound sales rep. Additionally, they face different objections than outbound sales reps and need the skills to handle these objections.

Inbound SDR vs Outbound SDR

An outbound sales rep will always choose to follow the warmest leads. You guessed it, those are the inbound leads. If you give a sales rep the option to chase inbound leads or make cold calls, they will certainly choose inbound leads. Additionally, the skills required to prospect to new (cold) leads are different than the skills required to handle inbound (warm) leads.

Inbound SDR vs Account Executives

Full quota-carrying Account Executives (AE) typically have a competitive compensation structure. This means they cost too much to be handling inbound calls. These key resources should be closing new business. They should still prospect for themselves, but they should only be prospecting to the extent where it closes new business.

How much time do you have to qualify a lead?

Time is of the essence when qualifying inbound leads. In fact, according to a study done by a Professor at MIT and InsideSales.com:

  • The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes are 100x higher versus 30 minutes.
  • The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes are 21x higher versus 30 minutes.

It pays to be fast when contacting inbound leads. Make sure you have a process and technology in place to capture and follow up with inbound leads.

How many times touches do you need?

We define a touch as a call, email, voicemail, social media interaction, or anything else that allows you to connect with your inbound leads. Ultimately, the goal is for the SDR to qualify the inbound leads, so eventually, this ends up being a call. But, an SDR might make several touches before actually getting someone on the phone.

There are a lot of theories out there, but most put the optimal number of touches between 7 and 13. The research we’ve done at ORM indicates that, on average, a lead that goes on to win has 9 touches.

How many leads can an inbound SDR handle?

A well trained inbound SDR can accomplish about 50 touches a day. If you assume there are 20 workdays per month then each inbound SDR has the capacity for 1,000 touches per month. Further, if you assume that each lead requires 9 touches then it implies that each SDR can handle 111 leads per month.
50 Touches per Day * 20 Days per Month / 9 Touches per Lead = 111 Leads per Month
We make a few assumptions here about how many touches an SDR can handle as well as the number of touches each inbound lead needs. Perhaps your SDR team can process more tasks due to automation, or your business only requires 3 touches per lead. Either way, the basic process for determining how much work an Inbound SDR can accomplish remains the same.

Is the lead sales ready?

There are several acronyms for qualifying a lead, and in many cases, people advocate for using other criteria for qualifying leads such as a scoring matrix. Whatever your method, it is important to remember that the SDR is responsible for determining if a real sales opportunity exists for each lead.

Here are a few methods to consider:


  • Budget – Does the prospect have an appropriate budget?
  • Authority – Does the lead have authority to buy, or access to the person who does?
  • Need – Has the lead identified a pain that you can solve?
  • Timeline – Has the lead identified a pain that you can solve?


  • Funds – Does the lead work for a company that is large enough to purchase your solution?
  • Authority – Does the lead have authority to buy, or access to the person who does?
  • Interest – Were you able to generate interest from the lead?
  • Need – Has the lead identified a pain that you can solve?
  • Timing – Does the lead have the intent to purchase and a timeframe to do so?


  • Authority – Does the lead have authority to buy, or access to the person who does?
  • Need – Has the lead identified a pain that you can solve?
  • Urgency – Does the lead have intent right now?
  • Money – Does the lead work for a company that is large enough to purchase your solution?

No matter which method you follow, the SDR’s goal is to answer these questions to qualify the lead. If they can answer these questions in a positive way then it is time to turn the lead into an opportunity and pass it to an AE to win.

If the lead does not qualify under your criteria, they are unqualified and you should send them back to marketing. The SDR should either reset their behavior score and send them back to your marketing database, or the SDR marks them for follow up (perhaps the timing was wrong) and put the lead into a nurture campaign (which can also be run by marketing). There should be an agreement in place between sales and marketing, usually codified in a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that determines the final disposition of the lead.


Your inbound SDR team is a key asset to your business. These are the people responsible for taking your precious inbound leads and turning them into real-life sales opportunities. Since the people in these roles are often junior and do not carry big quotas it is easy to overlook them. Take the time to build your process and get the technology in place to measure the effectiveness of your SDR team.

At ORM we are experts in sales and marketing analytics. If you would like to know more about how we can help you please send a note to: info@orm-tech.com.

DOWNLOAD your free guide on the Role of an Inbound SDR.