SDRs and BDRs– sales development reps and business development reps– are often lumped into the same category. Often viewed as extensions of one another rather than entirely separate roles, there are some serious benefits to understanding the distinction between these two essential elements of your company’s sales efforts.
What exactly are sales development reps and business development reps, and where do these roles overlap and diverge? What are the benefits of separating sales from these development roles?
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the similarities and differences between sales development reps and business development reps and understand the value of having different individuals qualifying leads versus working to close them.
What Are Business Development Reps (BDRs)?
The primary function of a business development representative is to generate leads. These professionals identify business opportunities by generating interest and finding potential customers.
Business development reps are, essentially, in a creative role. They are constantly coming up with new, fresh ideas for how to create new leads. There are countless places that lead can come from– emails, networking, social media, search engine results, cold calls, and so on. BDRs are tasked with coming up with the most effective ways to bring in new leads for your brand.
By finding potential clients and starting to build relationships with them, business development reps are able to take cold leads and turn them into warm leads.
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What Are Sales Development Reps (SDRs)?
Like a business development rep, a sales development rep isn’t carrying quotas or working to close deals. However, rather than focusing on outbound leads, their area of expertise is inbound leads.
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Any time a potential customer reaches out to the brand in one way or another, this falls within the realm of a sales development rep. They work to connect with warm, inbound leads rather than cold, outbound leads. Both SDRs and BDRs must work to qualify leads before they can be passed through the sales funnel to the sales team. The sales team will then work to continue the journey down the pipeline and, ultimately, close the deal.
Depending on the size and structure of an organization, a sales development rep might receive their warm leads from business development reps, who have transformed cold leads into warm leads. However, each brand might choose to structure its pipeline differently, and business development reps might just pass their qualified leads onto the sales team.
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What Is a Full Cycle Sales Rep?
A common business model is to have sales teams and business development teams comprising their sales group. At the same time, some brands (particularly smaller ones) will simply have what is known as full-cycle sales reps.
These professionals are also referred to as full-desk sales reps. Rather than dividing the tasks of development and closing among separate individuals and teams, full-cycle sales reps go through the entire sales funnel with prospective customers– prospecting leads, qualifying them, closing deals, and managing their accounts once they have been converted into customers.
This isn’t an unreasonable solution for smaller companies that don’t have a huge client base. However, as the brand succeeds and grows, there will likely come a point when full-cycle sales reps are handed more responsibilities than they can handle. This can mean they shift their attention away from their current pipeline and focus more on managing existing accounts, which can have damaging repercussions for your company’s growth.
Why Bother Separating Sales and Business Development?
You might be wondering whether it’s worth it to make a distinction between sales and business development reps or if you should just have the same individuals perform both roles.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might be compelled to divide these two functions among different professionals and departments.
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Streamlining the Process of Reaching Buyers
These days, it’s harder than ever to reach potential buyers. Advertising has evolved over time, but so have the people that advertisers are trying to reach. People these days want to feel like their needs and problems are understood by a brand, which means that a lot more brainpower is necessary to reach a target demographic.
Developing the deep understanding necessary to really connect with prospective customers is something that requires some serious resources. By allowing a dedicated business development team to focus on this alone, you are able to more effectively create strategies that allow you to connect with these customers.
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Tapping Into the Benefits of Specialization
If your best sales representatives are spending time searching for leads or doing research, it means they aren’t out there doing what they do best. At the same time, reps who are more suited for prospecting and qualifying will be burning energy on the sales end of things inefficiently.
By dividing development and sales into two different areas, you can achieve an otherwise impossible efficiency. Each team can focus on what they do best without losing time in transition or spending time doing things that aren’t their specialty.
Reducing Hiring Costs and Attracting Top Talent
Another benefit for companies of dividing these roles is the ability to shape reps in both camps from the very beginning of their careers.
This can ultimately reduce hiring costs and help you attract top talent.
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SDRs Vs. BDRs: The Differences
There are a lot of similarities between sales development reps and business development reps– in fact, many companies don’t bother to make a distinction between the two roles. However, regardless of how the brand defines these roles, one important similarity is that neither carries quotas nor closes deals.
Ultimately, both SDRs and BDRs are charged with moving qualified leads through the sales funnel designed by the company. The most notable distinction in most cases is whether a professional engages with outbound leads or inbound leads.
The short story is that SDRs typically take care of inbound leads while BDRs focus on the outbound side of things. Both must research leads thoroughly, reach out to prospects, work to become highly knowledgeable about relevant niche markets, and more.
Inbound Vs. Outbound
One of the major differences between sales development reps and business development reps is the type of leads they focus on. Sales development reps focus on the inbound leads that are generated by the marketing efforts of the brand. For example, when a visitor to the company’s website fills out a form or a prospective customer converts through an ad, this falls in the lap of sales development reps.
Business development reps, on the other hand, focus on outbound leads. This means that they go out and track down potential leads through means such as cold emailing or cold calling.
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Leads Vs. Relationships
Sales development reps aren’t the ones who are working to close accounts– this is typically the responsibility of account executives. What SDRs do focus on, however, is qualifying the leads that account executives will work to close.
SDRs will qualify the brand’s inbound prospects and then help move them through the first steps of the sales cycle. Once they reach the point where they are qualified opportunities for account executives, they can be passed on so that they can be pitched and closed.
Business development reps are also tasked with generating leads. However, they’re more focused on creating potential opportunities rather than helping to coax along relationships initiated by the existing customer.
Identifying the Proper Point of Handoff Between Development Reps and the Sales Team
When, precisely, should sales development reps and business development reps hand their leads over to the sales team? The answer to this, ultimately, is going to vary from brand to brand. At the end of the day, it has to do with how your sales team differentiates a qualified lead from an unqualified lead.
There are a number of different popular frameworks that are used for sales qualification. These include ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money), BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline,) and GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline).
Regardless of the framework your company chooses to utilize as a part of the lead qualification process, development reps will need to be able to answer a number of questions quickly and effectively. These include whether they’ve managed to start talking to a decision maker, whether the company they’re talking to can legitimately use what you have to sell, and whether your offering can solve the lead’s problem.
It’s common for brands to have their development reps push a little beyond this point, though. By gaining more information, they can determine whether the lead is ready to make the purchase. This includes how imminently the lead will need the solution you have to offer and the type of budget they have access to to solve their problem.
Development reps are going to spend the bulk of their time talking to prospects, asking them questions, and carefully listening to their answers. At the same time, they offer information about the company’s offerings to ensure resources aren’t wasted engaging with prospects that simply don’t align with your brand’s solution.
Ultimately, SDRs and BDRs are charged with learning as much as they can about a lead, what the problem is they’re trying to solve, and what type of solution they’re searching for. Once SDRs and BDRs have fulfilled their part of the process, the lead can be passed on to the sales team. From there, the sales team can work to demonstrate your brand’s value proposition, set up product trials, explain what makes your product stand out from the crowd, and more.
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Claudine is the Chief Relationship Officer at Level 6. She holds a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology. Her experience includes working as a certified conflict mediator for the United States Postal Service, a human performance analyst for Accenture, an Academic Dean, and a College Director. She is currently an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Southern New Hampshire University. With over 20 years of experience, she joined Level 6 to guide clients seeking effective ways to change behavior and, ultimately, their bottom line.