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12 reasons BDRs are more critical than ever

If you want to close more sales, you need business development reps.

If you have business development, you need to maximise their impact now.

When business development reps are part of the sales cycle, the close rate is 22% – a significantly higher percentage than if salespeople go it alone, according to research from TOPO.

In addition to increasing the closing rate, here are 12 reasons sales development reps are more critical than ever.

1) They put you in the lead car

A sales team has a 56% greater chance to hit quota if they engage prospects before those buyers have to contact a seller.

With business development reps in control of the first steps in the sales cycle – finding and qualifying prospects – more contacts are made early, sometimes even before prospects recognise their new or changing needs.

2) They keep you ahead of the competition

“The role of the sales development rep is becoming sophisticated,” says Lorraine Ferguson, author of The Unapologetic Saleswoman, sales trainer, coach and associate with Sandler Training. “It merges well with marketing and sales and puts companies ahead of the competition.”

In addition to prospecting and qualifying, BDRs can spend more time handling the social media aspect of sales for salespeople who are time-crunched and less inclined to be online. While the competitors handle every step in the sales cycle, salespeople with an BDR have more opportunities to build rapport, present, negotiate and close.

3) You can streamline training

Everyone needs training – on products, processes and selling. But experienced salespeople aren’t often offered – or reject – prospecting training.

“Most companies don’t train salespeople to prospect effectively, give them helpful tools or reasonable goals,” says Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue, who is often considered the father of business development. “Usually the guidance is along the lines of ‘make more calls!’ Wow, that’s helpful.”

In contrast, BDRs often work in a group near each other and can learn together. So sales leaders can train them regularly on the biggest customer needs, your products and the questions they can use to align the two – or recognise a disparity that disqualifies a lead.

Leave training on closing to your closers.

4) They qualify more thoroughly

When the sales task ends at “qualify the prospect,” BDRs can focus on doing that thoroughly, rather than on the many next steps – and obstacles – in the sales process.

“Sales development reps can get a better feel for prospects – the information they need, the pain they feel,” Ferguson says. “They know the acceptable level of connection, when a lead is good and when it’s not. So very few unqualified leads get through.”

5) You can standardise the process

Every qualifying conversation might be different. But having a business development team that follows a similar protocol allows companies to standardise part of the sales cycle. With that, they can create a repeatable, scalable process – which is more difficult with an army of maverick salespeople.

“In the old days, we would leave sales reps to ‘figure it out,’” says Craig Rosenberg, TOPO founder and chief analyst. “As a modern sales leader, you can’t answer the question of ‘What’s working?’ with “’I don’t know.’”

Once companies and leaders identify the steps buyers take from lead to close – by analysing how it’s done these days – BDRs can be part of designing a measurable process that meets those needs.

6) They’re aggressive (enough)

Prospecting and cold calling aren’t effective if they’re passive. Sales development reps can be aggressive with the number of contacts they make … as long as they create value each time.

Because business development reps concentrate specifically on finding the right leads, they can focus on creating value with every contact. A series of contacts by BDRs isn’t perceived as an interruption or too aggressive if it creates value. So BDRs need to be able to align the data they have on prospects with valuable information they have to share.

7) They increase lead quality

Business development teams are successful when they’re measured on two fronts: quantity (contacts made, number of leads passed along) and quality (number of leads that close, average transaction size, time to close).

BDRs that are only measured on quantity will pass poor leads just to maintain expected numbers. Then salespeople will waste time chasing invaluable leads, decreasing revenue.

“Prospecting might take a back seat for account executives,” Ferguson says. “But for sales development, it’s their goal.”

8) They add the right kind of crazy

Most business development reps are the right kind of crazy. They stay upbeat and determined to prospect at times when salespeople might turn to other sales activities just to avoid the rejection.

If you hire well, you’ll have a group of people who hit goals because they are:

  • Different. Most workers can’t do what BDRs do every day – make hundreds of calls, get mostly rejected and have a dozen or so conversations. They push and push despite frustrations, which makes them different – in a way that’s important to sales.

  • Opportunistic. Good BDRs see opportunities nearly everywhere. That may need to be tempered when they’re going toward a dead end they can’t see. But for the most part, it’s an important attribute for a sales team.

  • Impatient. BDRs have lots to do, and the best never stop going at it. Give them the right leads, and they’ll pursue them with urgency.

9) They’re flexible

Employees who are focused on a few core tasks – such as BDRs – can adapt to and overcome changes more quickly than those who have to adapt to many tasks and functions.

When you recognise a shift in the industry, priorities or prospects’ attitudes, you can quickly change how BDRs approach them without losing too much time on training. On the other hand, salespeople who handle the entire sales cycle would have to change more, and likely at a slower pace, because of other responsibilities.

10) They’re faster than advertising

Prospects spend a lot of time with their heads online and in their email – almost a third of their work week, a McKinsey Global Institute study found. But they mostly delete mass market email and ignore ads – from banner and display to social and native.

But prospects are less likely to ignore a ringing phone, personalised email message or intriguing voice mail from one of your sales development reps.

11) Salespeople see the benefits

Some organisations that consider adding a business development role (or actually implement it) run into a peculiar problem: Salespeople don’t embrace it. Why? Many say it’s because salespeople by nature are control freaks and want to have a hand in the whole sales cycle.

But research shows organizations that create the BDR role increase sales and revenue. To gain buy-in:

  • Transition after you see results. Ask salespeople to partner with BDRs once their role is established and their efforts produce results.

  • Play it by the book. Create guidelines that define a qualified lead and a proper handoff and lays out the process for executing it.

  • Keep it clear. Regularly share data on expectations, results, progress and pipeline status with the entire team.

12) They might be your future

About 30% of sales development reps become full-on salespeople, one small study found. Because they’ve established themselves as solid openers, they have great potential to be decisive closers.

They know your products and processes. They have experience in your sales cycle and are able to identify the most qualified leads when they land in their inbox. They need a little less training. (But will need help to make the huge jump from identifying prospects with authority to sign on the dotted line to getting buyers to actually sign it.)

Finally, they’re already engaged in your company. A match made in BDR heaven.

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