How AI SDRs Will Impact Sales Development in 2024

Will 2024 be the year of the AI SDR? While the sales development role may seem like the first in line to be automated, the reality is a little more nuanced. Read on to learn what the rise of AI in sales means for SDRs.

Dan Moran
2023-12-05

The rise of AI in Sales has sparked a pivotal question: Will AI automate the SDR role?

Because a typical sales development representative (SDR) workflow is highly structured and repeatable by design—which is the exact type of thing AI excels at—surely they’re first on the cutting block, right?

The answer is more complex than it appears on the surface.

This article explores the implications of the rise of AI in Sales, and how they will affect the 666,491 SDRs currently employed in the US alone—and hundreds of thousands more of their colleagues around the world.

So, are AI SDRs coming for the human ones?

Let’s get straight to it.

Will AI replace SDRs?

The short answer is… no.

AI won’t entirely automate the SDR role. But it will make it look dramatically different to what we’ve become used to seeing over the past several years.

Traditionally, outbound results were directly proportional to the number of SDRs businesses could afford to hire. ROI scaled, and was capped, in accordance with how many ramped SDRs were on the team.

This is no longer the case. AI prospecting tools have uncoupled the previously unbreakable link between results and headcount. By integrating AI into the sales process, a single SDR equipped with a powerful AI sidekick now achieve what previously required the efforts of 4-5 reps.

Therefore, the most obvious change will occur around team size. They will get smaller.

This shift highlights the true nature of the impact of AI on the sales development function: it augments, not replaces.

  • While AI tools are exceptionally proficient at automating repetitive tasks and digging through data to provide valuable insights, they cannot replicate the human elements crucial to Sales.
  • Elements like building trust, understanding nuanced customer needs, and developing personalized relationships remain inherently human tasks.

So while the number of SDRs a business needs may decrease, their role arguably becomes more vital.

A synergy of human intelligence and artificial intelligence is the key to scaling outbound sales efforts more efficiently, without necessarily scaling the team size in parallel. The future points towards a more streamlined sales model where SDRs, empowered by AI, can focus on high-value aspects of their job rather than tedious manual work, which is taken care of by automation and AI.

The role of SDRs is evolving, not disappearing. A good sales rep must stay at the helm to effectively guide and deploy AI to drive sales, lead engagement and company growth.

3 Reasons Why AI Sales Development Accelerates the Sales Cycle

Skepticism around whether AI will truly have a significant impact on the sales development function is warranted.

While artificial intelligence technology has been around for a while, it’s only really been adopted on a large scale among B2B companies and more broadly in the last twelve months, kickstarted by the pivotal release of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November, 2022.

However, we are already seeing the disruptive power of AI technology as it relates to the SDR function. Specifically in three key areas: Personalization around customer behavior on a greater scale, the reduction of manual work, and improved overall prospecting efforts.

Greater Personalization

One of the key strengths of AI in sales development is its ability to significantly enhance personalization.

Skeptics may question AI’s capability to authentically engage with prospects (who are very human). But it’s not AI’s generative capabilities—the text or material created by the AI—that enhances personalization; it is its ability to analyze and synthesize huge amounts of data that does.

For example, AI can quickly analyze data and intent signals around a prospect or buyer's journey and deduce what this person cares about and kind of outreach will capture their attention. This research is an essential part of the prospecting process, yet AI can conduct it at a depth and speed far beyond what is humanly feasible.

The salesperson, equipped with a neat AI-generated summary of these insights, can then include valuable insights from this context in their outreach efforts and tailor messages to each individual prospect. This is an illustrative example of how AI and human intelligence working in sync can produce better results than either working in isolation.

Less Time Spent on Manual Work

The less time an SDR needs to spend on manual work, the more time they can spend on innovative and creative ways to further customer relationships and connect with potential customers.

Instead of:

  • Searching databases for high quality leads
  • Qualifying and researching each prospect
  • Writing individual messages from scratch
  • Adding more and more leads to sequences

And other repetitive manual tasks, reps can now focus on higher-value activities, like:

  • Creatively incorporate intent signals into their outreach efforts
  • Know exactly which leads to prioritize based on AI-powered data analysis
  • Tweak and edit AI-generated messages rather than start from scratch every time

This shift from manual to strategic work gives SDRs space and time to craft the thoughtful and creative outreach that modern buyers expect. With the manual gruntwork taken care of, it also relieves some of the intense pressure of high activity levels and quotas.

Better Prospecting = More Revenue

AI revolutionizes prospecting by identifying high-quality leads more effectively, a task that can be challenging and time-consuming for human SDRs.

AI's advanced algorithms can predict the likelihood of conversions with greater accuracy, ensuring that SDRs spend their time on the most promising leads. This smarter prospecting directly translates into more revenue, as SDRs can target their efforts more effectively and convert leads at a higher rate.

Again, AI in sales development is not about replacing human intelligence but augmenting it. By collaborating with AI, SDRs can achieve greater personalization in their outreach, spend less time on manual tasks and scheduling meetings, and improve their prospecting efforts—all of which accelerates engagement and drives revenue.

How AI Can Help SDRs and Sales Teams

Now we’ve taken a look at why AI can accelerate an SDR’s ability to generate revenue from outbound tactics, let’s explore how.

Specifically around a key metrics of sales development representatives' jobs to be done: sourcing leads, gauging intent, conducting outreach, and improving workflows.

1. ICP Lead Generation

When done manually, sourcing qualified leads is the most time consuming task for SDRs.

Manually, reps must painstakingly search databases for leads that fit a predetermined profile. Once selected, the leads are then scored, filtered, qualified, and uploaded into a sequencing tool. This analysis and data entry is slow, tedious work that can take hours. And SDRs need to repeat it for every campaign.

AI eliminates the need for manual lead generation by automating it. AI excels at processing vast amounts of data quickly, and can comb databases to pinpoint ICP leads far faster and with more accuracy than a human can.

💡Tip: OneShot’s AI searches multiple data sources for leads that fit a given criteria based on dozens of filters, reducing the time it takes to source good-fit leads from hours to minutes.

2. Gauging and prioritizing intent

Intent can make or break a prospecting campaign.

Buyer intent signals are digital breadcrumbs your prospects leave behind. They’re clues that indicate someone is searching for a solution to a problem. By tracking the right intent signals, you can infer that the challenge they’re facing is one you have a solution for.

Intent signals can be as simple as whether someone has visited your website, or as sophisticated as which keywords they are using to search Google with. With technologies like Clearbit and 6Sense, revealing these signals is getting easier and more accessible.

The challenge is actioning it. That’s where AI comes in.

AI can not only search for multiple intent signals simultaneously, but also suggest how to best incorporate this information into effective outreach. A helpful nudge from an AI assistant that someone from an ICP company is checking out your pricing page can help SDRs reach out with the right message at the perfect time.

3. Multichannel outreach

Outreach always starts with the same thing: the message.

In a landscape where prospects' mental spam filters are set to all time highs, emails need to go beyond good copywriting and simple personalization. For your message to resonate, it needs to appeal to a problem your prospect is actively experiencing and searching to solve for.

This is why intent is so critical. It indicates a warm prospect; someone who, even though they may not be aware of your company yet, they are aware of the fact they have a problem and that there are solutions out there for it.

Generative AI can help translate raw intent data, like someone’s experience with your website, into compelling messaging. By combining processing power with cold email frameworks and best practices that are designed to capture attention, AI can generate a passable first draft for an SDR to edit and polish.

By automating the outreach itself across multiple channels like email and LinkedIn, AI can help SDRs engage potential customers more effectively with tailored messages.

💡Tip: OneShot.ai combines research and messaging into the same one-click step so you can finally achieve true personalization at scale.

4. Workflow automation & optimization

The great boon of AI is its ability to remove important but time-consuming manual work through automation.

There are few applications of AI in B2B where this automation is more profoundly felt than when applied to an SDR’s workflow. As we’ve established, prospecting is time consuming work. By reducing the amount of time it takes to complete tedious tasks to minutes and even seconds, reps can instead focus their energy on things that actually move the needle.

The best example of this is in prospect research.

Researching prospects is critical if you ever want to catch their attention and create a connection. Good outreach revolves around a trigger—something that acts as the reason for reaching out in the first place.

Finding this trigger is the goal of research. It could be that they are hiring for key roles, or opening an office in a new city, or posting thought-provoking content on LinkedIn. The important thing is that it is relevant to the reason you’re reaching out. Yet this research takes time, sometimes up to 30 minutes per prospect. Given the scale at which SDRs need to operate, this is a luxury that they cannot afford when prospecting hundreds of leads per week.

AI streamlines this research, cutting it down to seconds per prospect. By scouring publicly available data, AI can build a research profile on a prospect and generate a neat summary for an SDR to use in their outreach. This is yet another example of the importance of maintaining the human element in AI-powered prospecting.

How to Integrate AI into SDR Workflows

Integrating AI into SDR workflows is a strategic process.

The goal is to strike that all-important balance between artificial speed & efficiency and the irreplaceable human touch in Sales. To achieve this synergy, sales leaders and sales teams must take a thoughtful approach that starts with a clear analysis of needs new opportunities and objectives.

Analyzing and prioritizing needs: The first step is a thorough assessment of your sales team and sales cycle to identify areas where your team could benefit from AI integration. This could include skill gaps, process gaps, or campaigns that have seen decreasing results. Understanding these areas helps identify and prioritize goals for AI adoption, ensuring that the chosen solution addresses specific challenges and complements your team's strengths.

Choosing the right AI tools: With goals in place, the next step is selecting the appropriate AI tools. The market is replete with options, each offering unique capabilities from automating cold emails and LinkedIn outreach to advanced lead scoring and workflow automation. Opt for tools that align with your prioritized needs and seamlessly integrate into your existing sales process.

💡Tip: The boom of AI tools has seen the rise of many point solutions, but OneShot.ai is the only end-to-end platform designed to run prospecting strategies from start to finish.

Training and monitoring adoption: Implementation is only the beginning. AI is new technology and there will likely be a learning curve. The training should be comprehensive, covering not only the technical aspects but also how to think about and leverage AI for strategic advantages. Encourage your sales reps to experiment with new prompts and approaches. This freedom can lead to innovative applications of AI that might not have been initially apparent.

Encouraging exploration: Allow reps the flexibility to explore the full potential of AI tools. This exploration can lead to discovering new, innovative ways of enhancing sales processes, prospect engagement, and overall sales and marketing performance. Encouraging a culture of innovation and adaptability is key, as it helps in uncovering unique applications of AI that are tailored to your specific sales environment.

💡Tip: In a recent episode of the OneShot.ai podcast, sales legend John Barrows makes the case for turning the sales team into an AI lab through regular hackathons.

AI in Sales Is Here To Stay

The AI wave is here, and it’s poised to change how sales teams do outbound sales for good.

The days of spray and pray prospecting are over. Sales leaders need to come up with innovative approaches to prospecting to make sales representatives stay relevant with modern buyers. The ones that prioritize innovation and experimentation will have a huge advantage over those that don’t.

AI can provide that advantage.

By embracing AI in the sales process, and especially in the outbound process, sales teams have an opportunity to exponentially increase the efficiency and effectiveness of sales development representatives conducting outbound.

AI SDRs won’t replace real ones—not in the near future anyway.

Yet by integrating the superhuman speed and efficiency of artificial intelligence with the ingenuity and creativity of human sales reps, revenue teams can experience the best of both. The outcome is thoughtful, personalized outreach modern prospects expect, at scale.

And OneShot.ai can help you do it.

OneShot.ai combines deep intent signals with advanced generative AI to reach out to the right person with the right message at the right time, every time. To see how OneShot.ai can help prospect with intent and generate more revenue from outbound, grab your demo right here.

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