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What Backgrounds Breed the Best Sales Development Reps

4 min read
Updated Oct. 18, 2023
Published Jul. 10, 2015

Knowing what you want to do with your career when entering the workforce for the first time doesn’t feel a whole lot different than it does when you’re five years old. Suddenly the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has more weight than ever.

When Sean Kester graduated from UGA and started his first job in recruiting, he had no idea that he was teeing himself up to become one of the most badass sales development reps in SaaS.

Fast forward about 2 years — Sean is now Head of Product at Salesloft. After starting as an inbound SDR, growing to an outbound role, and then eventually rising to Head of Sales Development, sales development served as the springboard to Sean’s career. And it all started with an entry-level job in recruiting.

Many think, “to work in sales development, you need sales experience.” But hundreds of SDR candidates, like Sean, come from tons of different backgrounds and job experiences that are not sales. As you ramp up your sales development team, keep an eye out for applicants with backgrounds in fields that breed the best SDRs. Here are a few to look for:

No Experience (at all)

These kids are fresh out of college. Their resume bullets are most likely riddled with grade point averages, summer babysitting gigs, and extracurricular activities galore. But, surprisingly, having no real job experience makes you a killer SDR. On top of the fact that millennials make great hires, these recent grads come to your team bad habit-free. They’re excited and eager to learn — and you can mold them into exactly the kind of rep you need.


Because post grads aren’t available for the picking on a year-round basis, you have to think beyond entry level. Looking for that 1-2 year range of experience in a comparable field, like recruiting, is going to be the next best thing. Recruiting is comparable to sales because it’s essentially the business of selling people. People are their product, the price is salary, and their prospects are hungry hiring managers and CEOs. They’re used to the grind, and they’ll sell whatever you ask them to.


Be it telemarketing, event coordination, or any other type of PR and communications specialization, marketing experience is invaluable to a sales development rep. They’re masters at lead generation and they believe in your product. And if they have a background in content creation, they’re most likely great linguists that can make prospects believe, as well. The roles of a marketing rep are so similar to those of an SDR that the transition from one to the other is relatively seamless.

Customer Service

Like a telemarketer, customer service reps have zero fear of the phone. Think about it — when are people most likely to call a customer service rep? When they’re unhappy with a product or service. These folks have dealt with it all — from disgruntled customers to constant hangups — and they take it all in stride. For an SDR, prospects aren’t always the easiest to get (or keep) on the phone, but customer service reps will have an arsenal of tools to handle prospects like pros.

Sales development is frequently thought of as an entry-level job and, in many ways, it’s the best first job a person can have. The skills gained in a sales development role are skills that will carry through any future role.

But any of these aforementioned backgrounds have the potential to produce the strongest SDRs in the industry. Keep an eye out, hiring managers. These people may be your future sales development team.