A-Player BDRs are tomorrow’s rock star account executives and sales leaders. Will they be on your team—or your competitors?

If you are not using BDRs, you probably have at least considered them.  I have worked with many clients who have deployed them to marketing to qualify leads and to sales to prospect ideal target accounts. But what separates BDRs who are ringing the gong in success from those who are pounding the phone in frustration?  Two key things – role competencies and performance conditions.


Even more important, having the wrong BDRs with the wrong on-boarding, enablement and coaching put your brand at serious risk.  BDRs quite literally personify your brand.  You might be able to lose a sale, but you cannot afford to make a wrong impression with long-lasting repercussions.  Getting it right not only drives revenue today but also builds your talent pipeline – BDRs that become account executives with shorter ramps-to-productivity, higher win rates, and higher average sales than recruits from outside your organization.


Need help coaching your current A-Players in a more virtual environment?  Download our A-Player One-on-One Coaching Guide.


Download the A-Player One-on-One Coaching Guide Here


Market Leaders Focus on 3 Key Items in Hiring


In our experience, firms that outperform their peers do the following to hire A-Player BDR talent:


Build a First-Class Role Profile

Although the role profile forms the basis for the job description, it is more than that.  The entire team should develop it – sales, marketing, operations – who understand what is needed so that A-player candidates have clarity on what it takes to be successful (which is important to them).  Include the following:


  1. Metrics.  Focus on quality versus quantity.  One mistake we often see is a myopic focus on calls made and meetings set.  Yes, those are critical leading indicators.  But what behaviors will ensure the SDR actions are aligned with buyer needs and their journey?  And consequently, what skills are required to do them throughout discovery and outreach?
  2. Industry/Technical Knowledge.  Do they need to be an expert?  No.  Do they need to be intellectually curious?  Absolutely.  Outline the industry or domain knowledge you require, whether they bring it to the table or develop it.
  3. Professional Sellers.  Attract candidates who desire to be professional sellers – they will have the drive and are more likely to stay with your team for the long haul.  Look at colleges and universities that offer professional selling programs.  A good place to start is the Sales Education Foundation which publishes an annual list of top schools.


Identify Core Competencies


BDRs are an extension of your brand and often the first interaction a future customer has with it.  As such, your BDRs must create a favorable first impression – they are informed about the prospect’s business and have a genuine desire to help.  A-players are most proficient at the following:


  1. Active Listening.  Most BDRs can speak to the features and attributes of the product, service, or solution.  But few are good at listening to what the prospect is really saying.  Great BDRs can read between the lines, follow both the rational and emotional narratives and ask the right questions to move the conversation forward.
  2. Tenacity.  Not all SDRs are successful at seeing the process all the way through.  Our research indicates it typically takes between 8 and 12 interactions, through multiple modalities like email, phone, social, to move the prospect forward.  It requires grit and discipline.
  3. Adaptability.  It is not uncommon for BDRs to support multiple campaigns and sales plays.  As a result, A-Player BDRs move among different offerings quickly and seamlessly.


Adaptability is even more important now with a move towards more virtual selling.  Learn more about How Sales Leaders are Prospecting in a COVID-19 World as you coach your BDRs.


Conduct an Objective Assessment


Unfortunately, many sales leaders rely on gut and limited information (such as the candidate played team sports in college), leading to suboptimal hires.  Invest time in the following:


  1. Asking Scenario-Based Questions.  BDRs tend to be earlier in their careers or have less of a proven track record of sales experience and a network of referrals.  In addition, they probably have limited familiarity with your product, service, or solution.  Provide a 1-2 page write-up of a particular scenario for background and base your questions on it.
  2. Role-Playing.  Use the same background scenario above.  Mirror the day-to-day in your business as much as possible.  And most importantly – how does the candidate react to your feedback?  Do they embrace it?  Or deflect it?  A-Players are lifelong learners – avoid candidates who are not receptive to a feedback conversation.
  3. Remove Biases.  Have a defined scoring rubric with objective criteria to measure candidate performance.  Seek to understand your own bias that can creep into gut-decision making.  Seek a diverse pool of candidates.


Market Leaders Set Ideal BDR Performance Conditions


In our experience, the following performance conditions will improve ramp-to-productivity and performance among A-Players:


  1. Onboarding.  BDRs have a high churn rate, and improper onboarding is a primary culprit. BDRs must have the tools – scripts, technology, sales plays, visibility to marketing campaigns, content – and the training.
  2. Clear View of the Buyer.  Educate BDRs on your personas, their motivations, their metrics, their means, their priorities, and the buying journey.  Ensure they have a vivid understanding of the rational and emotional narrative.
  3. Team Support.  BDRs can not be on an island and need the support of the broader sales team and one another.  Consider training in cohorts, so they have an initial network to lean on and share best practices.


Establishing an A-Player BDR team can drive meaningful results quickly.  Some clients who have effectively coached their A-Players with tools like this have observed:


  • Inbound lead follow-up times reduced from 4.4 days to 30-60 minutes within weeks.
  • Behavioral metric improvement (calls, conversions) to benchmark within months.
  • Marketing contribution from single digits to 27% within one year.


Getting Started

This Job Behavior Analysis Tool will help guide your thinking about A-Player recruitment by:


  • Defining outcomes that will drive success in the role
  • Define the critical behaviors
  • Identify the top five results you need BDRs to achieve


Once completed, you will be better prepared to recruit top-performing BDRs.  If you need a sounding board from a revenue growth expert, we are here to help at the Revenue Growth Help Desk.  Submit your question, and we will get back to you promptly.


New call-to-action


Brian Waters

Provides clients strategic insight and support to uncover new revenue opportunities to help them make their number.

Brian is a marketing and customer experience leader who has grown revenue, profit and satisfaction as a practitioner and consultant.


Prior to joining SBI, he built the new B2B marketing function at Hilton that generated over $30 million in revenue in one year.


Earlier in his career he held multiple roles at The Walt Disney Company including leading experience planning for a portfolio of attraction, resort, retail and dining concepts to yield higher per-guest spending and satisfaction. In addition, Brian led brand and revenue marketing programs that increased attendance and hotel room-nights.


Areas of particular expertise and focus include marketing strategy, campaign planning, lead generation and management, branding, content planning, segmentation, digital planning, product marketing, account based marketing and organizational design.

Read full bio >