us sdr market map

The State of the Sales Development Talent Market

We recently evaluated the major US tech markets for Sales Development talent as we are considering where to expand our service coverage in coming years. SDRs are the foundation of modern sales organizations and for us, a leading indicator of where the sales talent market is headed.

Most modern sales teams are using LinkedIn for prospecting and social selling so it seemed reasonable to base our analysis on LinkedIn data. While not perfect, it should give us a relative sense of current state. In this article, we’ll run you through some interesting insights we found.

What is Sales Development

The Sales Development business unit connects the marketing and sales funnel. The roots of this role traces back to Oracle in the 1980s with more recent popular works like Predictable Revenue and The Sales Development Playbook bringing it into the broader attention of high growth B2B tech companies.  

Originally, the most common job title for this role was Sales Development Representative (SDR). Over the years, several other variants has popped up like Business Development Representative (BDR), Account Development Representative (ADR), etc. For the purpose of this article we’ll refer to it as XDR’s since the first word of the title can be interchangeable.

The role of an XDR is to identify, connect, and qualify leads for the sales team. In some organizations, XDRs will connect the prospective buyer to a sales person on their team as soon as there is any indicator of buyer interest (ex. a positive email response) while at other organizations, XDRs will conduct a discovery call to qualify the prospect before setting up a meeting with the sales person.

XDRs tend to be recent college graduates who wants to become a sales person and is willing to put in the hard work (often times performing repetitive tasks) to learn the top of the sales funnel and get a chance to rise to a more lucrative position of closing deals. As such, XDRs are kind of like sales people in training and is a great entry point into tech sales.

XDR Titles

While titles don’t mean much at startups, it does help clarify the role to prospective customers and candidates you’re looking to attract. We thought it’d be helpful to take a quick look at what companies are doing.

On LinkedIn, there is currently over 75,000 people with a variant of the modern sales development title. BDR (Business Development Representative) has actually become the most popular title accounting for approximately 56% of total with SDR second at 32% (see table below). The less popular variants of ADR and MDR accounted for 7% and 5% respectively. There is a long tail of other variants (startups can get overly creative with titles) but we left those out below for simplicity.

Title on LinkedIn Global US US Share of World Title Share of XDR
Business Development Representative 43,831 30,722 70% 56%
Sales Development Representative 23,511 17,515 74% 32%
Account Development Representative 4,859 3,626 75% 7%
Market Development Representative 3348 2,621 78% 5%
TOTAL 75,549 54,484 72% 100%

XDR Titles for Top 3 US Markets

Within geographies, we found there were some interesting differences in which version of XDR title was prevalent. Looking just at the top three major markets, the SDR title is more popular in San Francisco but actually less popular than BDR in Boston and NYC.

San Francisco Bay Area 33% 56% 8% 3%
Greater Boston Area 69% 25% 5% 1%
Greater New York City Area 55% 36% 7% 3%

Anecdotally, some sales leaders tell us they prefer BDR over SDR as it sounds more consultative in certain industries. While there are arguments to be made around industry norms and ultimately what you’re trying to optimize for, it probably is worth you checking your local market data to ensure your job titles are SEO friendly for potential applicants.

XDR Market Breakdown & Turnover

In looking at the top XDR markets in the US, it was clear that the lionshare of talent was concentrated within a few not-surprising cities (SF, NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc.) but we’re particularly interested in tracking future trends given the growth of many emerging tech hubs in the US.

We also looked at turnover data on LinkedIn. While the % change jobs in last 90 days includes both promotions and employee turnover, it’s a great proxy on the speed in which you need you figure out your XDR career ladder (or someone else will!).

The average of the top 5 markets was 17% turnover in last 90 days or 68% annualized in XDR’s on LinkedIn who changed jobs (internal or external). This is a very crude number as it doesn’t account for seasonality or corner cases but it certainly doesn’t feel far from the reality in our experience building XDR teams for startups.

Market XDR Employee Estimates % Changed jobs in last 90 days
San Francisco Bay Area 6,151 19.1%
Greater Boston Area 4,922 15.4%
Greater New York City Area 3,300 16.3%
Greater Chicago Area 2,780 18.2%
Austin, Texas Area 1,739 14.6%
Washington DC 1,638 19.6%
Greater Seattle Area 1,562 16.8%
Greater Los Angelos Area 1,557 14.9%
Greater Denver Area 1,500 16.5%
Phoenix, Arizona Area 845 9.5%
Greater Salt Lake City Area 801 13.0%

Final Thoughts

As many companies are looking to plan their XDR hiring plans for 2018, it’s important to confront the challenges of attracting and retaining your talent. Putting together the right job description, creating a diligent interview process, and building the right onboarding process and career ladders are just a few things you can do to fight the macro challenges of XDR turnover.

Jordan Wan

Founder & CEO of CloserIQ. Previously Sales Strategy & Management @ZocDoc, Head of Analytics @PayPerks and Trading Strategist @Bridgewater Associates. MIT Bachelor’s & Master’s in Computer Science. CFA Charterholder.