Sales Development Representatives


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You’ll need at least a high school diploma to work in most sales positions. In high school, take classes in marketing, sales, English, speech, mathematics, psychology, business, and economics to help build a wide range of knowledge and skills that will serve you well—whether you decide to go on to college or head straight from high school to a career.

Postsecondary Education

A growing number of salespeople have associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in sales, marketing, or related fields. Some areas of sales work may require specialized college work. Those in engineering sales, for example, usually have a college degree in a relevant engineering field. Other fields that demand specific college degrees include pharmaceuticals and drugs (biology, chemistry, biotechnology, or pharmacy), chemical sales (chemistry or chemical engineering), and office systems (accounting or business administration).


Many colleges and universities offer certificates in sales, marketing, communications, and other related fields. For example, Cornell University offers a certificate in sales growth to students who complete the following classes: Discovering Sales Growth Opportunities, Getting the Most From Your Sales Efforts, Winning With Your Key Accounts, Sales Negotiation to Maximize Value, and Managing Sales Performance for Growth. Contact schools in your area to learn more about available programs.

Other Education or Training

Many professional associations offer continuing education webinars, in-person classes, and other educational opportunities that help SDRs develop their skills and keep up with industry developments. For example, the National Association of Sales Professionals, offers Sales 101, an online, six-week program that “provides a psychology-based foundation for understanding, influencing, and transforming sales behaviors.” Visit https://www.nasp.com/programs/sales-101 for more information. The Manufacturers’ Agents National Association, Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation, National Association of Sales Professionals, The Sales Association, and Sales Management Association also offer professional development opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Pursuing voluntary certification is a good way to enhance your skills and improve your chances of getting hired and promoted. Several professional associations offer certification to those who pass an examination, complete online or in-person courses (for some certifications), and meet minimum work experience requirements. Credentials are offered by the National Association of Sales Professionals (certified professional sales person and certified professional sales leader), The Sales Association (consultative sales certification), AA-ISP (certified sales development representative and other credentials), and the Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation (certified sales professional and certified professional sales consultant). Contact these organizations for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

No previous experience is needed, but any sales experience one can obtain in the field—such as volunteering, an internship, or a part-time job—will be useful.

Sales development representatives need a variety of traits to be successful on the job. For example, they need excellent research and analytical skills in order to identify sales prospects, learn about their products and services, and determine if their company’s products are a good fit for the prospect firm’s needs. They also need to be knowledgeable about their employer’s products and services in order to effectively explain and “sell” them to sales prospects. It helps to know both the pluses and minuses of their product or service in order to craft an effective sales pitch and to be prepared for questions from potential customers. Sales development representatives need top-notch interpersonal and communication skills (including active listening ability) in order to develop relationships with sales prospects and explain their company’s products or services. They must understand verbal and silent signals that will give them hints that the customer is ready to buy or has reservations about making the purchase. They need to know when to push forward with their sales pitch and when to perhaps hold back and use different strategies to convince the sales prospect to make the purchase. For example, some prospects may not like a “hard sell,” and would rather review information that the SDR provides and then follow-up with questions via e-mail.

Some SDRs use webinars, videos embedded in e-mails, and other types of online communication in order to market their company’s products or services. As a result, they need to be confident public speakers and comfortable on camera. Other important traits for SDRs include strong time-management and organizational skills, a “thick skin” and the ability to handle rejection, coachability and a lack of ego (so they can be taught by more experienced SDRs to improve their sales pitches), self-awareness (the ability to know their strengths and weaknesses), curiosity, self-motivation, and familiarity with sales software and lead generation tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator and customer relationship management software such as Salesforce.