You might be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Abraham Maslow’s psychological theory about human needs and development.

But, have you ever applied this theory to your sales team structure? Below, ZoomInfo’s Senior VP of Revenue Patrick Purvis explains how Maslow’s Hierarchy can help you build a well-rounded SDR team!

While structuring our SDR team, I thought about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This concept is often referenced in relation to sales teams’ revenue and technology needs, most prominently by leading sales consultant Nancy Nardin in her Hierarchy of Revenue Needs.

But Maslow’s Hierarchy can also be applied to the SDR team-building process. After all, a team is just a collection of individuals. And like individual human beings, teams have certain needs, some more basic than others, in order to thrive and succeed. For the sake of growing an SDR team, those needs include: hiring, building, scaling, and optimizing. The question is, what order should these needs be prioritized?

After some trial and error, I managed to connect the different stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the various goals of building a successful SDR team. Let’s get into it!

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

If you’re well-versed in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, feel free to skip to the next section. But here’s a quick a refresher:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory that attempts to categorize the different needs that motivate human beings. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the most basic needs — physiological needs like drinking water and eating food. Then comes safety, love/belonging, esteem, and finally, self-actualization. Maslow’s theory states that once a basic need is met, we move our way “up” the hierarchy and the next category of need becomes our focus.

Physiological: Hiring the Right People

In Maslow’s model, physiological needs refer to the basic needs for survival. The most basic need for a successful SDR team is rather obvious: people. No training, tools, motivational advice, or management tactics will make a team successful if that team isn’t made up of the right people.

That’s why hiring is the single most important decision we make as sales leaders. A bad hire has the potential to act as a virus and negatively impact various functions within your team. On the other hand, good hires continually evolve and improve to keep a business healthy, profitable, and growing.

For more on how to hire the right sales employees, check out this post: 9 Most Important Interview Questions to Hire Sales Reps

Safety: Tools and Resources

The next step to building a high-performing sales team is to provide them with the right tools and resources to get their jobs done.

By ensuring equitable access to resources, we also provide aspects of safety within the team we’re building, and within the company at large. The people feel safe because they have the tools required to achieve their goals. The company feels safe because its foundation isn’t full of growing cracks in productivity due to access to resources.

The reasons you need a phone, email, CRM, and data are pretty evident, so I won’t say much here. But ask yourself: “If you were stranded on a desert island and still had to hit your quota, what three things would you take?”

For me, it would be my phone, my computer, and a list of my prospects and their contact data.

“Data isn’t this bright, shiny, sexy toy that people become enamored with and want to run out and buy,” said Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group consulting firm. “Data is just ugly, old data. But it’s more important than ever before.”

In addition to tools, don’t underestimate the importance of great data on your prospects. It’s not just “nice to have” – it is foundational.

Love/Belonging and Self-Esteem: Messaging and Audience Segmentation

The next two stages of Maslow’s hierarchy, love/belonging and esteem, deal primarily with the internal and external actualization of feelings.

Now we can take our pitch to the next level by refining and segmenting it to connect with the right audience at the right time (love/belonging) while presenting our product in a positive light (esteem).

Our buyers are B2B sales and marketing professionals with different lead generation targets and objectives, in different industries, with different roles. As a result, our sales and marketing teams segment our messaging by role and objective.

My message to a VP of Sales at a security company will talk about how we have direct dial phone numbers on every Chief Information Security Officer they could dream of selling to waiting for them.”

On the other hand, my message to the VP of Marketing at the same company might talk about data enrichment, or segmenting their audience by new parameters like technologies installed.


The most important things for successful audience and messaging segmentation for SDR teams:

  1. Sound personalized: Don’t make it look like marketing copy, and don’t use HTML. Make it seem like a 1:1 “handwritten” message.
  2. Be short: Seriously, keep it short. Someone once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.” (A quote often misattributed to Mark Twain). Take the time to craft a compelling, but concise, message.
  3. Be persistent: Our reps put our prospects through an 18-touch-point cadence – a mix of phone, email, and social connects – over a 6-week period. When we do that, we get a 30% response rate from our prospects.

The ultimate takeaway?

Figure out the most important dimensions of your prospects – their role, their industry, the size of their company – and segment them by those dimensions. Then, figure out the shortest way you can communicate your value to each of those personas.

Self-Actualization: Optimizing Processes

Maslow’s concept of actualization relates to self-evaluation and a constant commitment to self-improvement. Similarly, an effective SDR team must commit to improvement through analysis and iteration of their processes, tools, and individual workflows.

Note: Many companies seem to love to jump to this step without performing the due diligence in those that lead up to it. They rapidly iterate, update, and revamp their processes and end up with skewed results and circular patterns. Why? Because they didn’t pay enough mind to the stages we’ve already discussed.

I would argue that hiring the right people is far more impactful than dialing in a process. Focus on quality hiring first. After getting people who will help crush sales goals, get quality data. Having quality data to call and email on is far more important than ensuring, say, a dialer that makes those calls get executed in a quick, systematic way.

Maslow’s Hierarchy for Sales Team Development: Final Thoughts

Wherever you are in your process of building an SDR team, understanding the connection between Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (building a highly functional adult human) and the hierarchy we built in today’s post (building a high-functioning sales team) will help improve results and create a scalable model for future success.

The specific methods we provided have helped us quadruple our SDR team effectively over the last year. We’d love to hear what has worked for you or which of these you are most excited to add to your arsenal.

Patrick Purvis is the senior VP of revenue at ZoomInfo, where he is responsible for strategic account growth. Formerly Chief Revenue Officer, Purvis is a graduate of Oregon State University where he studied Economics.

To learn more about how ZoomInfo can dramatically scale and improve all aspects of your go-to-market strategy, contact our sales team today. We offer the most intelligent B2B contact database on the market.

About the author


ZoomInfo combines the leading business contact database with best-in-class technology to pinpoint, process, and deliver the marketing and sales intelligence you need— exactly when and how you need it, to always hit your number.

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