Maven Sales Group Blog

The Difference Between an SDR and an Appointment Setter

1/30/19 12:17 PM / by David Fletcher

In sales, first impressions often play a critical role in helping the prospect begin his or her buyer's journey. However, far too often businesses fail to remember that a Sales Development Representative (SDR) plays an entirely different role than an appointment setter. Failing to understand the key differences between these two roles can lead to fewer conversions, a limited number of prospects in the beginning portions of the sales funnel, and inevitably fewer sales. The good news is that understanding the following four differences can help businesses maximize their approach to contacting new prospects and warm leads. 

Understanding The Difference In Focus
As its name suggests, the focus of appointment setting is to make an appointment with someone who meets a set of basic criteria. The assumption of appointment setting is that if someone is open to talking, then they will be amenable to a sales conversation. In this way, the focus of appointment setting is to book as many appointments as possible. On the other end of the spectrum is the role of a SDR. Focus on the right leads

A SDR is focused on delivering Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) to the sales team. In this vein, while SDRs are focused on setting qualified appointments, their key objective is to set appointments that will lead to sales. To achieve their objectives, SDRs spend more time asking questions and ascertaining the lead's level of interest in purchasing products or services.

Understanding The Difference In Depth
As noted in the previous section, another major difference between a SDR and an appointment setter is the depth of the conversation. In appointment setting, the focus is on setting the appointment; as such, the conversation doesn't have a lot of depth. Instead, the "sale" component is to set the appointment. This means that appointments can easily be set with prospects who are not actually ready to either begin their buyer's journey or make a purchase. 

Conversely, a SDR is focused on having a more in-depth conversation. To this end, a SDR will ask more detailed questions so that they can better ascertain the pain points, objectives, and key selling points for the potential lead. Additionally, the SDR will approach each call as the "discovery phase" portion of the sales funnel, which means that they will also complete an initial assessment of the lead's needs, wants, challenges, and desires. All of the information that a SDR gathers can then be used to complete a sales profile for each lead. Additionally, the extra details that a SDR gathers will help a sales team more effectively identify the person (or persons) that are responsible for vetting and eventually purchasing your solutions. In this vein, a SDR helps to eliminate unnecessary conversations with non-decision makers. 

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Understanding The Difference In Process
Since the focus and depth are different, it should come as no surprise that appointment setting is a more simple process. The appointment setters work from a list of contacts with the goal of setting as many appointments as possible. Once the appointment is set, it is then turned over to the sales professional or Account Executive. On the other end of the spectrum is sales development. A SDR completes a far more complex process. In fact, the SDR and Account Executive will work hand-in-hand to ensure that there is a smooth transition for the high quality lead. 

For example, the SDR might work to connect with and establish a relationship with the COO of an organization. However, in order to eventually connect with the COO (who is the decision maker in this example), the SDR might start with a person who has a lower rank within the organization. After speaking with this person and having a more in-depth conversation that focuses on the unique needs of the organization, the SDR will be able to set a meeting with the COO. The meeting will be attended by both the SDR and the Account Executives. After a successful meeting, the process will restart until the SDR has connected with the COO, at which point the Account Executive will take over the sales process. 

Understanding The Difference In Impact
The last (and perhaps largest) difference between a SDR and an appointment setter is the impact of the two roles. As a general rule of thumb, appointment setters tend to generate more activity. Every sales leader loves more activity, right?!? But that's not always the key to more sales! It is important to note that this activity doesn't necessarily mean that appointment setters are creating more sales qualified leads for your sales team. As discussed in the sections on focus, depth, and process, the challenge for appointment setters is to set appointments with individuals who are actually interested in the sales process, and not just saying yes to a meeting. 

On the other hand, a SDR often has a larger time commitment and inevitably investment in the entire sales process. A good SDR can set appointments with individuals who are not only interested in the sales process, but who are qualified and ready to buy. Through a heightened focus on high quality leads, as well as more in depth conversations, and a more complex process, SDRs are more likely to generate greater ROIs. Finally, a motivated SDR can help businesses to more effectively manage their sales resources as they fine tune their sales development process to achieve better and more predictable results. 

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The Bottom Line: SDRs and Appointment Setters Play Critical Roles
While there are four key differences between a SDR and an appointment setter, it is important to note that they both play critical roles for businesses. An appointment setter is qualified to help generate a large amount of leads. An SDR is the go-to person to begin a complex sales journey that requires patience, tact, and business acumen so they have the ability to ask the right in-depth questions. However, with the right sales coaching, both individuals can be valuable members of a sales department. 


Topics: sales process, Sales Process Design, SDR, SDR recruiting, lead generation, Sales Management, sales team success, increasing sales, inbound sales, get more leads, get more sales, blog, Maven Sales Group

David Fletcher

Written by David Fletcher

David Fletcher is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Maven Sales Group, a HubSpot Sales Partner and sales enablement firm located in the Washington, DC area. David is also the Sr. Global VP of Sales for ClearSale, Maven's largest client, which is a fraud management and protection services company. David is a graduate of The George Washington University, graduating with dual majors in Business Management and Criminal Justice. After graduation, David stayed in the DC area as a sales professional before starting his own systems integration firm. Once his firm was acquired, David moved on to become the President of a marketing agency providing HubSpot Consulting and inbound sales strategies to B2B clients. David has a unique perspective on sales and marketing in which David doesn’t approach issues as a “sales problem” or a “marketing problem”, but as a “revenue problem”. As a seasoned sales and marketing professional, David has worked with the HubSpot product development teams in an effort to create a better user experience for HubSpot customers. David enjoys reading, golfing, fishing and the outdoors. He lives in Lake Shore, MD with his business partner & wife Shannon, and their 5 sons.

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