SDRDefenders: Fighting for Change in the Sales Community from the Ground Up

It’s no secret that being a salesperson is challenging. The turnover rate for entry-level B2B salespeople is nearly 35 percent, with 1 in 10 companies experiencing up to 55 percent turnover. However, a career in sales can also present ample advancement opportunities and financial benefits for those who are successful. 

So, why the churn?

SDRDefenders co-founder Nikki Ivey has a clear picture of why there is so much turnover–especially within entry-level sales–and the deep-rooted issues within the profession as a whole.

That’s why Ivey and her co-founders started SDRDefenders: To advocate for SDRs and meaningfully impact the sales community. By democratizing access to skills and information SDRs need to advance their careers, SDRDefenders seeks to attract and support a more diverse and inclusive generation of future sales leaders.


Addressing The Diverse Candidate Pipeline Problem

In today’s business culture, the lack of diversity in all levels across organizations is under scrutiny. It’s no surprise this lack of diversity also extends to B2B tech sales.

“What we’re seeing, and what we have seen for a long time, is a high level of homogeneity in terms of who is doing B2B tech sales,” Ivey explains. “My thinking is that B2B tech sales actually has an attraction problem. If people are telling the truth when they say they don’t have a diverse pool of candidates applying for a job, a lot of that is because the brand, relative to those diverse candidates, isn’t very inviting.”

Although there could be many reasons B2B tech sales isn’t inviting for diverse candidates, one of the most poignant is that the people who have long shaped the culture within B2B tech sales do not come from different backgrounds. 

“What I also know as a Black woman, and one of the merely 7 percent of B2B tech professionals who are Black, is that most of the people in the roles that have shaped current sales culture don’t share my background and haven’t created a welcoming culture, and they aren’t, or haven’t been, intentional about changing that,” added Ivey. 

“I’m a former teen mom of color, and I know that I’ve been building the traits sales hiring managers say they’re looking for–resilience, grit, adaptability–that is my life,” said Ivey. “But because of everybody who already works there, there are sometimes subtle, and sometimes overt, social cues that don’t communicate that I belong. So I’m going to take my talent, my education, and I’m going to go somewhere else.”  


The SDRDefenders Solution: Redefine Who Belongs

SDRDefenders is challenging and redefining who belongs in the sales profession.

“When it comes to performance, the numbers are there. Women are outperforming their counterparts,” said Ivey. “And when you look at Black women and consider the many obstacles that come with that intersection of identity, we’re still the fastest rising group of people graduating from college and entering entrepreneurship.”

Ivey believes it’s important to not only continue making the ROI case for hiring diverse candidates, but to also start making sales roles more visible and attractive to these candidates.


A Culture Of Paying Dues

SDRDefenders exists to question and transform the current sales culture. Another long-standing issue existing within this culture, and one that is likely a huge driver of turnover, is the idea that to become a successful entry-level SDR, you must “pay your dues.”

When SDRs join an organization, they are often the least respected team members, yet they are integral to the success of that company. “Sixty percent of the revenue pipeline is generated by SDRs,” said Ivey. “So we have a population of people contributing to the pipeline who are across the board the least respected people within the organization, which also feeds into this attraction problem.”

That’s why Ivey and the team were very intentional about naming their organization SDRDefenders. 

“We’re really trying to defend SDRs, and ensure that what ‘paying your dues’ has looked like in the past, doesn’t have to be that way for SDRs in the future,” said Ivey.


Providing An Alternative To Misleading Sales Information

Another key issue SDRDefenders is tackling is the existence of misleading sales advice and information on LinkedIn. 

From personal anecdotes about sales leaders’ journeys to success, to lengthy advice about what makes an effective sales pitch, there’s plenty of information geared toward salespeople on the platform. The issue is, new salespeople often have a hard time identifying what advice is good and what advice could be destructive.

“Myself and the other SDRDefenders have thought through how to mitigate this issue on LinkedIn; namely, if we need to respond and call people out directly,” said Ivey. “Instead, we’re creating new content geared toward SDRs, as opposed to speaking over their heads like a lot of content out there does.”

The SDRDefenders blog is a great source of SDR-specific content and information, but the team has recently rolled out the SDRDefenders hotline, where reps and leaders alike can confidentially call and leave sales-related questions for the team. 

“It’s important to us to be as connected as possible to the folks we set out to support, and this is literally a direct line to that support,” Ivey said. 


Building A Better Future For The Sales Profession

The SDRDefenders team agree on what’s broken in current sales culture and know that the way SDRs have historically been treated needs to change. But that change can only begin by taking a good look at where it stands today. 

“If we’re going to build a strong and diverse pipeline of the sales leaders of tomorrow, we’ve got to tell the truth about the state of things–the way things are. We need to acknowledge what’s broken within the culture, so we can be constructive about the path forward,” said Ivey.

Since it was founded just over five months ago, 2,500 SDRs and sales professionals have joined the SDRDefenders Community. With this kind of traction so early on and a clear path forward, SDRDefenders is poised to create lasting change in the sales community, from the ground up.

Nikki Ivey is in sales development at Emtrain and co-Founder of SDRDefenders. Ivey is an inspiring storyteller with a passion for prospecting and the social savvy to turn relationships into revenue. With a decade of sales and marketing experience, she helps motivate SDRs to build their brands and break into opportunities with authenticity and empathy, with a focus on turning moments into movements.

  • Originally published August 10, 2020, updated January 16, 2021