In the world of sales, business development has a reputation as one of the toughest, most emotionally-draining, and demanding jobs. Paradoxically, it’s often the job given to the newest and most inexperienced sales reps – often recent college grads who are out to prove themselves by any means necessary.
But what is it really like to work as a Business Development Rep? To find out, we spoke to new reps, established reps and sales managers from a number of companies to get a glimpse into the day-to-day life of BDRs (also known as SDRs). They’re working long hours, researching prospects on LinkedIn, overcoming objections, and always trying to stay motivated to make more calls and find new leads. These talented sales professionals shared how they’re working hard to grow their businesses, so you can improve your own sales team.
New to the Job
For someone with enough ambition and drive, sales development can be an incredibly rewarding career – but the first few months is often a trial by fire. New reps are sometimes immediately thrown onto the phones and have to rapidly learn the skills necessary to become an effective prospecting rep. Rachael Tiow, Sr. Sales Development Rep at Invoca, has been on the job for less than a year, but has quickly learned that the key to a great prospecting call is exhaustive research into her prospects.
“Knowledge applied is power,” she said. “I spend a lot of my time learning about my prospects’ industries, their roles, and how they have contributed to their company and industry. You want to use that discovered knowledge for your cold call or email outreach because it signals to them that you have gone above and beyond. Why do you deserve 1 minute of their day? You have to earn that minute.”
This is the first job out of college for Elise Shulman-Reed, Business Development Rep for InsightSquared. She’s only had a few months working the phones, but said she’s calling and talking to entrepreneurs, CEOs and VPs of Sales who really listen to what she has to say.
“It’s amazing to have someone who’s been in the industry for 20 or 30 years be floored by the insights we provide with our product,” she said. “However, I don’t expect to out-sell a VP of Sales. A lot of the professionals I’m working with are well versed in Sandler Selling and The Challenger Sale. People will say, ‘I know you’re pain-funneling me right now. ’”
Instead of trying to outsmart the seasoned sales professionals that are in her target market, Shulman-Reed said she is comfortable admitting that she doesn’t know everything.
“If someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I’ll say, I don’t know that specific thing, but I can absolutely find out for you,” she said. “It puts people at ease. Being honest and open – I’ve found this super useful. As a new sales rep, I look at my own strengths and weaknesses and think about how to improve moving forward.”
The other challenge for new BDRs is a tendency to burn out in the face of rejection from so many prospects. Tiow encouraged new reps to look at every difficulty as a challenge to improve.
“Do not give ‘No’ the power to bring you down,” she insisted. “Let that be the motivation to earn yourself the opportunity to present to the decision maker how your solution is that painkiller to their headache.”
With more experience comes better selling skills and the ability to think outside the box. Alex Gates, Business Development Manager at TinderBox, has been working in sales development for nearly 5 years, and so he has realized what works, and what doesn’t.
“Don’t stick to one method of prospecting,” he said. “What may work for a few weeks or months may go cold after a while. Always be thinking of new and creative ways to find that one or two contacts that you need to either get that first introduction to a company or for moving a deal through the sales cycle.”
He said that he focuses on researching specific verticals to find the right prospects for the business. While he uses sales tools like SalesLoft, Pardot and Yesware, he’s also found some creative new ways to qualify prospects.
“My newest sales prospecting technique is looking at a company’s job postings,” he said. “For us, Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM users are great prospects. So if I see in a job posting that’s something they require for applicants to have knowledge of, I can come to an early conclusion that this company could be a great fit for TinderBox.”
In addition to getting better at prospecting, experience also brings more confidence. Ross Nibur, Business Development Team Captain at InsightSquared, said that if he could go back and give himself advice as a new BDR, he would tell himself to ask for respect when calling prospects.
“You are not an annoyance,” he said. “Your time is valuable. You have nothing to apologize for. One of the worst things a BDR can do on the phone is act like they’re subservient to the person they’re engaging with – ‘I’m so sorry, please can I have 10 mins of your time?’ If you act like your time is valuable, they will treat you like a real person. Respect given is respect gained.”
Nibur also said new BDRs shouldn’t be too upset if they make mistakes. Every rep, including him, has a few horror stories that are now amusing to look back on.
“My third day on the job, I was calling this company and I asked, ‘Is Daryl in?’ The man who answered said, ‘This is his brother Bob. Daryl died yesterday.’ Then he burst into hysterical tears. I was so new, I still tried to sell to him. I said, ‘So sorry about that, I’m just reaching out to talk about InsightSquared.’ The tears kept coming and I apologized for his loss and hung up.”
While every rep has crazy stories like this, he said, it’s not the end of the world. Everything is a learning experience, and teaches you something else that will help you to improve.
Wisdom in Leadership
For managers who have been in the industry for longer, they’ve seen changes in technology and seen sales prospecting evolve. Ralph Barsi, Senior Director of Sales Development at Achievers has worked in Sales Development since 1994, both as an individual rep and as a sales leader. He said that he coaches his team to push themselves and achieve new goals every day.
“I tell them to hustle until they no longer have to introduce themselves,” he said. “I constantly remind them that success is something you attract by becoming an attractive person. It’s a quote from the late motivational leader, Jim Rohn. The more value you add to the marketplace, the more valuable you become. Plain and simple.”
He emphasized the importance of sales basics, like leaving brief, concise, compelling voicemails and emails, and knowing how to maintain conversation flow when speaking with prospects to establish rapport. Barsi said his team is especially talented at working together to reach new prospects.
“My team does a lot of power hours, where a number of SDR’s will sit at a conference room table for a dedicated hour,” he noted. “Each will bring a list of prospects they REALLY want to reach, and they’ll make calls with their peers in the room. Once in a while I’ll join, too, and make calls with them. Power hours keep everyone’s energy level high, expose reps to different styles, and maintain everyone’s accountability.”
This kind of teamwork will help new reps improve, and can build up the skills reps need to succeed in the industry. That was Barsi’s main advice to reps – keep working hard to learn more and more every day.
“Master your craft,” Barsi said. “The role you’re in right now is the role you need to master. Your future self will need the skills you’re developing today. Don’t sell that future self short. If you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready. As you seize opportunities, opportunities multiply. Be prepared for those opportunities.”