What is a Business Development Representative (BDR)?
A Business Development Representative (BDR) is a sales rep who focuses on generating qualified prospects using cold email, cold calling, social selling, and networking.
The BDR (sometimes referred to as the Sales Development Representative) is the first point of contact for a potential customer. After identifying prospects, either through their own research, or with the help of a Business Development Associate, they approach them, via phone or email, to move the sales conversation forward. This usually involves setting up a time for the prospect to meet or speak with a more senior member of the sales team, usually an Account Executive.
A great report on the state of the BDR market right now is found here.
The BDR is the key to lead nurturing and setting more qualified appointments that ultimately convert to deals.
‘The hardest part of closing any deal is finding it,’ Lars Nilsson.
Business Development Representatives are the people who nurture deals. If your BDRs aren’t successful, your organization won’t be successful.
SDR vs. BDR
The term Business Development Representative (BDR) and Sales Development Representative (SDR) are used in different ways, and sometimes with conflicting definitions.
While there's no official definition, we're going to separate these two terms like this:
- A BDR focuses on prospecting outbound leads.
- An SDR focuses on qualifying inbound marketing leads.
Neither one is responsible for closing business. Instead, their aim is to move qualified leads through the pipeline to those who have more experience closing business.
Regardless of acronyms and definitions, here's an infographic by Kalungi that paints a great picture of the sales process and its key players.
Impact on your ROI
According to Tito Bohrt, a brilliant AE might generate 1.5-2.5 x more leads than an average AE. However, when he looked at an SDR, he saw the variability of performance could be much higher. A great SDR can generate 3-10 x the amount of pipeline deals, and increase the close rate of that pipeline through better qualification, which all dramatically increases revenue.
Nonetheless, most sales managers still believe the Account Executive is more important. After all, AEs traditionally tend to be more experienced, higher paid, and are the ones who close the sale. Whilst having amazing AEs is still vital, they can only work with the leads generated and nurtured by the Reps.
One thing you are probably experiencing right now is a lack of time. You have more distractions, choices, and things to do than at anytime in history, and this makes competition for time more challenging than ever. Time is a valuable commodity. It is finite.
BDRs are the ones who have the research in front of them, either from an Associate, or from their own work. This research can be time consuming but is less pressured. The pressure comes when the salesperson has to enroll prospects from all types of organizations and convince them to give up a proportion of their valuable time to speak with an Account Executive.
I am sure you have received one of these calls before. Think how unwilling you were to give up your time. In fact I am sure you have come up with every excuse in the book to get off the call, from having to pick up your non-existent kids from school, to tending to the chicken in the fictional oven, or most probably something a lot more impolite than that!
The job of the BDR is to get your attention, and time. It’s arguably the hardest job. Then factor that they tend to be speaking to the decision makers, usually the busiest people at an organization.
Once a time commitment has been agreed for the Account Executives to take over, the Account Execs are then speaking to people who are already warm and engaged in the conversation, an easier place to start.
It’s also the Business Development Rep’s job to qualify prospects and ensure they are quality leads. There’s a big difference between a prospect who is happy to chat with an AE, than a prospect who really wants to talk with an AE as they believe they can give them a genuine solution to the challenge they’re facing. A qualified lead that really wants to talk, is a lead that is a lot more powerful, and one that’s likely to generate revenue.
Top Reps generate both quantity and quality of leads. Find the combination of the two and a 10x increase in your pipeline really is possible.
Getting the right people in place
Traditionally BDRs are the least experienced members of the sales team. However, after what you’ve read above would you really want someone straight out of college to fill such an important role? This is such a crucial position you want to hire someone with a proven track record of success. Reps at the top of their game will take your organization to the top of its game.
This will cost more money but for the kind of gains that it can bring, it’s a small price to pay. Sales guru James Lemkin argues your top sales rep should be driving a BMW M6 convertible inside 12 months. After all if one of your Reps is buying an M6 convertible on his commission, think what your revenue will be.
Lemkin also advises to start out with not just one sales rep, but two. Why? Because if you start off with just one then it will be harder to learn from what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re exceeding targets for example, is the product great? Is the Rep great? Or a combination? And the same goes in reverse if you’re not selling. With two Sales Reps you’re in a much better place to compare, learn, evolve, and enhance your sales cycle.
Don't Underestimate the Sales Reps!
Business Development Representatives shouldn’t be the freshers in your sales team. Reps are where the start of every sales conversation begins and they’re where your organization's success begins. Of course a BDR is just one of 8 key job positions in an inbound sales team, but they really are the most important member.