(How not to build then dissolve your BDR team)
There are a couple of flip flopping decisions that companies make on a routine base. Product marketing, for example, flips between marketing and product management. Product management is sometimes its own function, but other times it gets stuffed into engineering. Customer success teams can come and go. Product evangelists can move from marketing to product to the CTOs office.
With BDRs, they get flipped between marketing and sales. Sometimes they just get cut, only to reappear a few years later. Why is there no consistency with BDR programs?
My thesis is that BDR programs get put into place for the wrong reasons without organizational alignment to both internal lead flows and also the overall go to market strategy. Unless there is agreement on the strategy, their placement and even existence can be called into question routinely when they don’t produce the “ROI”. Once in place, without a disciplined approach to their goals, mission creep can set in as ambitious BDR leadership wants to take on more responsibility. This added responsibility might not align to the go to market strategy. Over time, this mission creep translates into added headcount, and a misalignment over the original mission.
Below are five use cases for BDRs and a recommendation on where to place the teams, how to compensate them, and what activities make sense for them I probably missed some use cases, so comment away.
#1 – Sales Development Program
This is one of my favorite reasons for a BDR program, but also fraught with peril. In this case, BDRs are hired purely as an onramp to the inside sales team to train new reps, and hire especially junior reps at a lower cost. Without mission discipline, however, these types of BDRs teams can hunt for an expanded mission. Other people see these BDRs “sitting around” and work to get them tasked. Suddenly your BDR team isn’t big enough, and you need to hire more BDRs to handle these “tasks” that are coming their way. Over time, the ROI goes upside down from the original mission, which was to train new sales people.
If done correctly, BDRs as a sales feeder provides great career progression for the BDRs with fairly low compensation and little variable compensation. An up or out mentality means your best BDRs become sales people, and other other BDRs might move out of the company or into other roles that match their career desires closer. These types of programs have to report into the sales team since they are essentially recruiting programs. Expecting high attrition is fine. The size of the team is driven by overall inside sales hiring demand.
#2 – Enterprise Sales and Marketing Bridge/ABM Support
With enterprise selling models, enterprise teams spend a majority of their time late in the sales cycle trying to move developed deals forward. Marketing, spends a majority of their time early in the cycle developing awareness and “leads”. In between is the gap of attention where opportunities go to die. BDRs filling this role providing the attention needed to early stage leads. Since these BDRs are handling enterprise accounts, this is no territory for first time sales reps. BDRs in this role should have selling experience and are using this position to understand how to do complex sales cycles work. Compensation should be based on leads moving through the sales process or in an ABM system, accounts penetrated. Payment should be made for meetings/demos, then opportunity creation by the rep, then deals closing. By keeping the compensation system aligned with the sales process, BDRs in this role will constantly circle back to opportunities the enterprise reps didn’t think were developed enough and will keep pushing them forward.
BDRs have to be senior in this role. If not, the sales team will not feel comfortable with them poking around their enterprise accounts if they are working to close high six and seven figure deals.
With an ABM process, reps have a targeted lists of accounts they must either engage and move forward, or convince the BDR manager that the account won’t buy for many years into the future. By keeping the BDRs focused on a specific account list, a company can methodically cover off their target account list.
Career advancement in this role is difficult. Jumping from inside sales/BDR type role to enterprise role has challenges especially if the field team is remote. In addition, the compensation jump between the two roles can be wide. Finally, this type of role will be most successful inside marketing as an extension of the marketing lead process. Placing the role in sales can result in the team becoming the admins for enterprise sales reps. However, by placing the team in marketing, the career progress becomes that much harder.
Staffing levels for this role depend on the rate at which the company wants to penetrate the target market. Let’s assume a BDR can go through 200 accounts in a year and either get them engaged with the company or prove that they are a prospect. For a target market of 200 companies, 1BDR is all you need. For a target market of 10,000 companies, one BDR would take 50 years. Marketing in this case needs to decide the most effective way to spend money to get the required growth.
#3 – Inbound Lead Catcher
BDRs teams in this role triage incoming inquiries and provide assistance to get buyers to their next step in the buyers journey. There are a couple of key nuances in the first sentence. First, is the use of the word “incoming inquiry”. These are actual inbound inquiries where someone wants to engage the company. The inquiries could be from Contact Us forms, or demo requests, pricing request, even someone asking product questions on a community site. In these cases, having a BDR rapidly respond, determine where someone is in the buyers journey, and assist them to get to the next stage is a highly effective use of BDRs.
The second nuance is the use of the word “buyers journey”. This is all about the buyers journey, not the qualifying of incoming leads. No one likes to be qualified. Prospects know they are getting qualified. In this model, BDRs help figure out where someone is in their buying process and help them get to the next step. BDRs get compensated when the buyer passes a checkpoint – maybe a demo, or a meeting, or a quote. Using BDRs for “lead qualification” ultimately ends up creating a lead cooler where leads go to die. Inbound inquiries don’t need qualification, they need assistance.
By using BDRs in this role and not relying on an inside sales team, buyers get prompt responses and the company gets a repeatable, measurable model for moving these buyers forward.
Compensation in these models is base plus some achievement component. Many times these companies are inside sales driven and career progression from inbound lead catcher to deal closer can be easily accomplished. Lateral movement to customer success teams is also a possibility.
This role can easily be staffed in the sales organization and the level of staffing is a direct correlation to the number of inbound leads.
#4 – Chat
Chat is a great way to engage prospects. I am no chat expert, and there has been lots of work done by companies like Drift on best practices. What I do know is that BDRs answering chat questions are a great way to engage prospects. I also know there a some large pitfalls with BDRs on chat depending on how you compensate them and the expectations.
Chat is like person at your trade show booth who asks people “Can I answer any questions for you?”. Chat is the person at the trade show booth whom someone randomly walks up to and starts asking questions. You never know to whom you are speaking. It could be a student, a job seeker, someone trying to sell you trade show space for next year, a potential investor, a prospect, or the CxO of your biggest prospect who wanted to stop by and see what you were all about.
You just don’t know.
The conversion percentages of this interaction to an opportunity can also be quite low.
Chat is the person who used to answer phones at your company.
With these expectations, how do you set up BDRs for success with chat?
First off, if you try to have them “handle chat” and also handle other leads, chat will get the short shift. Chat as a lead source is less effective than say the “get a demo” form. How you deploy chat on your site can provide some better predictability to the type of inquiries you are getting. But in general, there is going to be a broad spectrum of inquiries. BDRs want the Glengary leads. Chat might not be those leads. Getting stuck handling chat might not get them excited.
Second, while chat gets lots of random questions, you should also expect highly technical questions that should theoretically be handled by support or SEs. It is like someone walks into your company and starts asking the front desk technical support questions. Hence BDRs on chat need to be backed up by lots of different teams in the company to successfully catch inquiries and route them to the right team where they respond.
So how do you staff chat? Round robin assignments of BDRs might work if they are 100% assigned to chat for the day. This is super tough to pull off. Another possibility is to make chat your pre-BDR job or a new hire BDR position. First day on the job, a new BDR starts on chat and stays there for three weeks. In this scenario, they quickly learn their way around the company and figure out how to handle basic sales questions. Regardless, chat is a job itself that requires thoughtful staffing. It isn’t an adjunct position placed on top of a team. As chats increase, staffing to the chat lines should also increase.
Chat management is a marketing function. Anything with respect to site conversion sits in the wheelhouse of marketing. If the BDR function long term sits in sales, sales should agree to staff chat with new BDRs. If BDRs sit in marketing, then it makes the staffing easier.
#5 – Prospecting the Database
In an ideal world, prospects would raise their hand to be contacted. The reality is that many customers are engaging in a buyers journey just without you. They might stop by for a quick white paper, or ask an innocuous question on chat. Behind this question might be a large enterprise deal. Outbound prospecting might be the only way to reach these people.
If you have a primarily inbound model, asking inbound lead catchers to go outbound is a strange motion. It also needs to be supported by a campaign team in marketing that drives email, advertising, and list selection for the BDRs.
The yield is also really, really, really low.
So low, that unless you have a high ASP, the ROI model starts to break.
Outbound prospecting is one of the hardest BDR jobs. Compensation should follow with more leverage than an inbound job. With the case of outbound prospecting, the sales team is essentially dividing the sales function into two groups. On group is for early stage pipeline development and another group for later stage pipeline development. BDRs in this capacity are fulfilling a sales motion and hence should be in sales. In addition, there should be some common agreement in sales as to why this function is needed and the regular inside sales reps are not prospecting.
The BDR function is a generic term applied to people who work early stage leads/deals. Depending on the company’s go to market model, the BDR team can sit in sales or marketing. Mission discipline for BDR teams is critical so mission creep doesn’t make the model turn upside down.