Will Sales Development Ever Be Fully Automated?
Sales Prospecting 09.15.2021

Will Sales Development Ever Be Fully Automated?

Subscribe and listen


Lars Nilsson shares actionable insights on the past, present, and future of sales development.

  • Defining sales development & sales development representative (SDR)
  • How the SDR role was created
  • What sales development looks like in 2021
  • The role of automation in sales development
  • What sales development looks like in the future
  • Tips for implementing these sales development concepts in your business/career

About the Guest

Lars Nilsson is a global leader in enterprise software and selling solutions. He is currently VP- Sales, Global Development at Snowflake. Prior to Snowflake, Lars was CEO of SalesSource, a premier Revenue Operations consulting firm specializing in industry-leading best practices and advisory for the optimization & buildout of sales operations & inside sales teams. Prior to that, he was VP of Global Inside Sales for Cloudera. Lars has also served in sales executive roles at ArcSight/Hewlett Packard, Riverbed Technology, and Portal Software – all three of which achieved IPOs, in addition to Cloudera.

Connect with Lars Nilsson


“The hardest part of closing any deal is finding it.”

Highlights from the interview

What is sales development?

Back in the day, sales development used to be called telemarketing and were a role that was geared towards a group of people that were qualifying and managing inbound leads through the phone. Over the last 20 years, it’s developed into a must-have role for B2B technology companies. With all the Martech, Sales tech, and Revenue technology companies, it’s afforded the non-quota-carrying sales resource to prospects in a way that allows sales reps to focus efforts on selling, negotiating, and closing. This accelerates pipeline generation. Sales development is finding that interested party that’s curious enough and wants to learn more and teeing that meeting up for the sales rep.

How was the sales development representative (SDR) role created?

I worked with a company called Portal Software that sold an online billing system and later closed a deal with Microsoft in 1997, which really got us noticed. We started to get a bunch of inbound leads via phone and email. My boss didn’t want the sellers to slow down by managing and qualifying these inbound leads because it slowed down the reps that were actively selling, negotiating, and closing. He then told me to build a team specifically for prospecting, so the sales reps didn’t have to. We started doing targeted outbound, priming leads for the account executive, so they didn’t have to stop their selling motion. That was the key.

What does the best sales development look like now?

It’s all about technology, process, and play booking out what an SDR does when they wake up in the morning and what they do during the day, week, and month. CRM was a massive force multiplier for the sales space. Sales engagement, data providers, and companies that automate intent and deliver qualified personas have helped immensely. If I need a list of specific personas, I can get it in seconds. Then, I can create personalized outreach processes that will engage them. You have to know what people’s pains are and align with them to sell your solution. You have to do the research.

What will the future of sales development look like?

Technology and automation are such significant factors in sales and marketing, and the art is finding that revenue/sales and marketing operator that understands how to pick the right technologies and mash them together so that you can launch an effective, personalized outbound sequence. With that mentality, you can reach out to thousands of people every day and allow them to opt-in or opt out of a brilliant nurturing path. The language you use, the number of touches, and the assets you embed as links into the outreach all have to be slightly different.

Will sales development ever be fully automated?

I think we’ve already seen that. If you have a sales cycle that is 1-4 weeks and is in the thousands, you have to set up an environment where someone looking for that solution can learn about it and buy it right there. That already exists. If you’re talking about more complex solutions in a multi-stakeholder environment, customers likely want to see a custom demo or a proof of concept over 3-4 weeks. You’re going to need human interaction.

Demandbase image

Sunny Side Up

B2B podcast for, Smarter GTM™

More like this
Demandbase image
Demandbase image
Demandbase image
Demandbase image
Demandbase image