How AI Is Revolutionizing the Role of the SDR

By Brian Vital, VP of Sales Development, ZoomInfo
A man in a business suit points to a screen while talking to another man.

AI is rapidly shifting the role of sales development representatives (SDRs) from time-consuming spray-and-pray strategies to understanding how to use AI to their advantage and leveraging the technology to be more productive, innovative, and automated. Ultimately, SDRs will be able to help close more deals once they can adapt and develop new skills.

While AI has caused some hysteria about job loss, it’s not eliminating the SDR role. In fact, ZoomInfo data shows there are around 125,000 professionals working in an SDR or similar role today.

Lead Prioritization

One of the biggest challenges for SDRs is managing a large number of leads and determining which are worth pursuing. AI technology assists in lead prioritization. By analyzing large, varied amounts of data like Website visits, email opens, intent data, company details like size and location, and social media engagement, it identifies the most engaged and suitable leads. SDRs can then focus their efforts on prospects more likely to convert.

AI augments form-fills on your Website – enriching forms that don’t have enough information. This negates having to find missing pieces from incoming incomplete leads and makes it easier to route leads to the right reps so they can reach out at exactly the right time.

Speed to lead matters: Studies show that conversion rates are 8x higher within the first five minutes. Yet only 37% of companies are following up within the first hour.

Personalized and Relevant Outreach

It’s easier than ever to personalize outreach and make every prospect touchpoint feel unique and specific. By leveraging customer data and algorithms like natural language processing (NLP), AI can analyze past prospect interactions and preferences to tailor messages and content specifically for them. This leads to a more relevant conversation, which in turn increases the chances of landing a deal.

Personalization is not just a nice-to-have. 90% of consumers prefer purchasing from brands that prioritize personalization, and McKinsey data shows that these types of companies see a 10–15% increase in revenue.

Automation at Scale

The incorporation of AI tools is swiftly increasing SDRs’ momentum. Where sellers used to spend hours upon hours manually scouring databases and sending out generic emails, they now can personalize messaging and target the right prospects at scale with AI-powered technology.

AI can automate data entry and lead qualification, letting SDRs focus on high-value activities like building relationships with prospects. This not only increases productivity but ensures that no potential lead slips through the cracks.

Streamlined Processes

Time management is another challenge AI can mitigate. Between researching prospects, crafting personalized messages, and following up with leads, there’s little time left for driving prospects forward. But with AI tools like automated email sequencing and lead prioritization algorithms, SDRs can streamline their processes and focus on closing deals rather than tedious and distracting tasks.

An above-average lead-to-opportunity ratio is about 30%. The other 70% of outreach falls flat, which means there’s a lot of time saving that can happen with AI.

Predictive Analytics

AI also supports SDRs through predictive analytics. By analyzing large amounts of customer data, AI algorithms can identify patterns and essentially predict which leads are most likely to convert into sales.

Predictive intelligence reviews the following types of data:

  • Fit data. This identifies if your prospect fits into your ideal customer profile. It may include company size, industry, and location.
  • Opportunity data. This details opportunities where your company could be of service. We call these types of data “scoops,” and they include things like company problems, funding announcements, and relocations.
  • Intent data. This shows that your prospect is interested in purchasing your product. This includes time spent on your Website, social media activity, and competitive research.

Having an AI assistant review these types of data saves SDRs valuable time and effort and helps them focus their energy on the most promising leads.

Social Selling

Social media has become integral to modern sales strategies, especially for SDRs. With the help of AI, SDRs can better identify and engage with potential prospects on social media platforms, building relationships and increasing brand awareness.

These tools help construct the overall messaging and campaign and track and analyze interactions – allowing sellers to maximize their strategy’s impact.

Bridging the Gap with AI

Propelling your SDRs into the future depends on a few things:

  • A good data foundation. Without a solid, clean, accurate layer of data, AI can’t and won’t work. Garbage in, garbage out.
  • Strong, intuitive AI technology that can harness the power of this data.
  • The connectivity between the tools in your tech stack. Better yet, using a single comprehensive platform effectively eliminates obstacles for both your prospects and your GTM team. ZoomInfo’s recent announcement of Copilot – an intuitive AI assistant that combines your first-party data with ZoomInfo data to deliver new insights and opportunities – was created for this purpose.
  • Team members who understand how to use these elements to their advantage. That includes prompting AI to return quality answers, editing and iterating when the output isn’t quite right, and being able to adapt with the technology.

Today’s most successful SDRs are empowered by AI, not burdened by it. AI is just another complementary tool in your selling arsenal, and it’s exciting to think we’re just getting started.

Brian Vital is vice president of Sales Development at ZoomInfo.