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Rethinking BDRs?

by David Brock on April 1st, 2021

I recently read a post from Dave Kurlan entitled, “Why I Believe We Should Blow Up The Business Development Role….”

He makes the argument that we put our most inexperienced sales people into one of the toughest roles in selling–inciting interests, identifying new opportunities, and prospecting.

A lot of what Dave says makes sense. Why would we use our least experienced people to create the first impression with many of our customers–particularly senior decision makers? How could they possibly have a high impact conversation with senior people? Aren’t we setting them up for failure?

I have huge problems with our concepts around BDRs, virtually since the role was created. It’s not the role, I think the role can be very impactful. But it’s the principles around which we structure and staff the role.

Classically, the role has been an entry level role. BDRs are recruited, trained, scripted—yet they are doing one of the most important and difficult jobs in selling.

They are expected to be the first contact for prospects/customers. They are supposed to create enough value or interest to get the prospect to ask to learn more. They are expected to have credible/impactful conversations with those customers. They are expected to represent our companies in a positive way, building a powerful brand image.

Think about these? Are these reasonable expectations for an entry level job? Or are we setting them up for failure? And, through this, are we creating a negative first impression of our company?

What is we started looking at things differently? What if we started with thinking about our target prospects/customers–our ICP? What if we thought about, who we want to reach, what they are most interested in, what skills/capabilities/experience and knowledge to we need to engage them credibly?

What if we started looking at the numbers differently? Currently, we focus on volume/velocity. If we aren’t making our outreach goals, we increase the volumes until we do. But what if we changed our thinking? What if we started to think, “How do we get more yield out of the calls we are making? How do we get more people that we call interested in having a conversation?” Stated differently, what if we changed our thinking from ever escalating volumes to “how do we get more yield out of what we currently do?”

What if we completely reversed our thinking about BDRs? What if we put our most experienced people into these roles? What if we created career paths, where our senior/experienced people moved into BDR roles?

After all, if prospecting is one of the most difficult things in sales, why wouldn’t we put our most experienced people in those roles? Why wouldn’t we align the resources that have the ability to have high impact conversations with the people we are targeting?

Once when I proposed that idea, the response was, “You don’t understand! They are too expensive, BDRs are only around $100K, we can’t afford to put high priced sales people into the role?” But if these experienced people can double or triple the engagement from the calls they make, the economics change profoundly.

When we look at hiring sales people, we look at the skills, capabilities and experiences critical to effectively engaging customers and producing results. But somehow, we don’t include that in our recruiting of BDRs, we don’t look at the skills, experiences and backgrounds critical to engaging customers in credible/high impact conversations.

Some years ago, I created some controversy by talking about my $500K SDRs. I created a small team of very experienced people to drive new initiatives and develop pipeline for my sales organization. The target customers were CEOs, VPs of Development, VPs of Engineering, VPs of Manufacturing. I needed people who could engage people like the President of Boeing Commercial Aircraft, or the Chief Product Design Engineer for GM, and similar personas in other large manufacturing companies.

No team of entry level SDRs could have had those conversations. Even my account managers couldn’t have those conversations—but they could manage the follow up to those conversations.

The SDR/BDR role can be very impactful. Unfortunately, I think we look at it incorrectly. We need to think about our target prospects/personas and align the resources that can most effectively engage them in these roles. Anything else is a waste of talent, resource, and opportunity.

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