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BDRs in sales: everything you need to know

BDRs in Sales
Topics
What is a BDR in sales?
What does a business development representative do?
BDR vs. SDR: What’s the difference?
3 reasons to become a business development representative
How to succeed as a BDR: 6 top tips
Final thoughts

Business development representatives (BDRs) are often the first point of contact with customers, making them vital to most companies.

However, with so many similar job titles floating around, it’s easy to misunderstand what BDRs are responsible for and how they add value.

In this article, you’ll learn what BDR means in sales, where they differ from sales development representatives (SDRs) and how to succeed in the role.


What is a BDR in sales?

A business development representative, or BDR, is a sales professional who brings new business opportunities to their team through activities like cold outreach, networking and first-hand research.

BDRs bridge their companies’ marketing and sales teams, although not all of their responsibilities are directly sales-related.

Along with representatives from other departments, they work on all aspects of company growth, such as maintaining stakeholder relationships, identifying new partners to work with and finding other missed revenue opportunities.

While salaries and employer expectations vary, a business development representative is typically an entry-level role. It’s ideal for anyone with limited experience looking to kickstart a career in B2C or B2B sales.


What does a business development representative do?

Business development reps’ primary focus is forging new business relationships with potential clients and partners.

They rarely close the deals themselves, though. This responsibility usually lies with inside (remote) and outside (face-to-face) sales representatives.

Instead, most BDRs create business opportunities through the following activities:

  • Cold outreach. Contacting prospects who’ve had no prior interactions with your business, typically through calls or emails. Cold emails and sales calls usually contain high-level business pitches or invites to talk further through other channels.

  • Social selling. Using social media platforms to connect with, engage and nurture potential leads and clients, often by sharing relevant content and insights.

  • Networking. Connecting with people from your industry or business community to create opportunities for collaboration, partnerships and business growth. Networking can occur online (e.g., social media groups) or offline (e.g., industry events).

  • Arranging product demonstrations. Setting up appointments where potential clients can see a product or service in action, helping them understand its value and functionality.

Here’s an example of a BDR job posting from LinkedIn, showing some of the role’s key responsibilities.

BDR Job Posting


Here’s what a BDR may do on a typical day:

  • In the morning, they cold call a list of prospects and (hopefully) engage a few on an initial call.

  • Before lunch, they check in with the product team to learn about planned updates.

  • In the afternoon, they co-host a webinar with a more senior sales rep on LinkedIn.

  • Before wrapping up the day, they update the CRM with today’s leads, adding relevant industry news and posts for the sales team to take the deal further.

A big part of daily BDR activities is maintaining up-to-date records in their companies’ customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.

A CRM helps sales and marketing teams track where each lead is in the sales pipeline, so they can deliver helpful information at the perfect moment and make sales more likely.

For example, a BDR cold calls a prospect and books them in for a product demonstration. The BDR then updates the buyer’s profile in their CRM to show they’re now a lead.

The team can now schedule a follow-up call to see how the demonstration went, offer additional help and hopefully move the lead closer to a buying decision.

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Download these customizable cold calling scripts to convert more conversations into qualified leads


BDR vs. SDR: What’s the difference?

Business development representatives and sales development representatives (SDRs) are closely related sales jobs that differ slightly in scope.

Exact definitions vary by company, with the titles sometimes being more of a semantic choice than anything.

Where larger companies have both these roles, BDRs typically focus on prospecting outbound leads while sales development representatives (SDRs) spend more time qualifying inbound leads.

Outbound leads

Potential customers identified and approached
by a business through proactive outreach, such as cold calling and emailing.

Inbound leads

Potential customers who initiate contact
with a business through various marketing efforts.


In the LinkedIn job description in the above section, the BDR is also responsible for inbound qualification. You can see how the roles overlap depending on the business.

Many BDRs are also in charge of maintaining relationships with new leads. SDRs, who typically report to marketing leaders rather than sales, move on to finding new prospects much faster.

Like BDRs, SDRs don’t usually close deals themselves.


3 reasons to become a business development representative

There are so many sales positions to consider, so why become a BDR?

Here are three key reasons.

It requires minimal experience

Becoming a BDR is one of the fastest and easiest ways to enter sales. Employers typically look for helpful characteristics rather than experience, meaning you can transfer from almost any industry without formal sales training.

Skills and traits to hone before applying for BDR roles include:

  • Communication

  • Relationship-building

  • Organization

  • Time-management

  • Technology proficiency

If you’re moving to sales from another field, a beginner’s sales course can help you learn some basic processes and techniques.

It’s a useful stepping stone to other sales careers

BDR activities allow you to demonstrate your value as a salesperson. By gaining first-hand experience and impressing employers, you can work toward more advanced, higher-paying sales roles.

Job titles you could aim for include

  • Sales representative. Nurtures qualified leads at the middle and bottom of the sales funnel, closing the deals set up by business and sales development reps. Sales reps can work remotely (inside sales) or in the field, meeting customers face-to-face (outside sales).

  • Account executive. Responsible for managing relationships with existing clients, ensuring the company consistently meets their needs. They may also upsell or cross-sell additional products or services to increase revenue.

  • Sales leader. Manages and guides the sales force, setting targets and ensuring the sales team fulfills the company’s sales objectives. They play a crucial role in motivating and training all other sales professionals.

It involves many transferable skills

You can use the skills you develop as a BDR in many different roles, in and away from sales. Building these skills means there will always be the potential to change careers without starting from scratch.

Throughout your time as a BDR, you’ll work on transferable skills like active listening, written and in-person communication, problem-solving and public speaking.

Note: As in other sales areas, BDRs have fantastic earning potential – even in the early stages. According to current (Q4 2023) Indeed.com data, the average BDR salary in the US is just over $71,000, with $10,000 annual commission.


How to succeed as a BDR: 6 top tips

Entry-level position or not, achieving success as a BDR still requires plenty of hard work.

Above all, you need to understand how the sales process works, how to support other team members and which development areas to prioritize.

Here are six tips to help you thrive as a business development rep.

1. Refine your communication skills

As a BDR, you’ll spend a lot of time speaking to people who are new to your business and products – and competing with other salespeople for their attention.

The faster you can get the key points across, the more likely you’ll keep potential customers’ attention. It’s vital to convey your company’s value proposition clearly and engage prospects quickly through any channel.

Work on your verbal and written communication skills by refining your:

  • Active listening. The practice of fully focusing on what others say, processing their words and showing your understanding through responses or feedback. Active listening helps you understand prospects’ needs and build rapport by demonstrating genuine interest.

  • Tone of voice. The way you convey your message. BDRs benefit most from using a friendly tone to gain prospects’ trust while closing deals typically demands a more authoritative tone.

  • Choice of language. Using clear, persuasive and customer-centric language supports effective communication and engagement. Avoid jargon from your industry but use terms from your prospects’ field to make your pitch more relatable.

Seek feedback from colleagues and managers as you work on your communication skills. Those with more experience than you should have plenty of helpful tips to help you grow faster.

Note: A value proposition is a concise statement outlining a product or service’s unique benefits to customers, highlighting why it’s better or different from competitors’ offerings. Learn more in our guide: How to write a value proposition.


2. Be persistent and consistent

Overcoming rejections and setbacks is part of being a BDR at any level. If you can stay motivated even when prospects say “no” – and equip yourself with tactics for pushing difficult deals forward – you’ll achieve more than your competitors who prefer to switch off.

Sometimes, an objection is just your prospect’s way of expressing a need you have yet to address. With that in mind, plan your responses to common sales objections relating to:

  • Price. Consider what deals you could offer, or highlight the prospect’s potential return on investment (ROI) using relatable case studies from their industry.

  • Lead time. Explore any expedited options or product customization that can reduce lead time, emphasizing the value of your solution and how it can save your client time in the long run.

  • Commitment. Break clauses and flexible pricing tiers can ease hesitant buyers’ concerns about long contracts. Discuss these options early to remove obstacles and keep prospects engaged.

  • Need. Most companies’ goals fall into one of three categories: saving money, increasing efficiency or minimizing risk. Identify what your prospect wants most and determine how your product fits that need.

When it is time to let a deal go, remember that you’ll never have total control over your leads’ buying decisions.

All you can do is provide the most helpful information at the right moments and hope the customer buys in. Instead of dwelling on what could’ve been, move on to the next potential customer and stay productive.

3. Stay organized with technology

Working at the top of the sales funnel means BDRs typically deal with high volumes of leads.

Keeping track of who you’re speaking to and what they need can be challenging, so use the tools available to stay organized.

The two most important technologies here are:

  • CRM software. Tools that enable you to manage contact data, interactions and sales activities so you can nurture customer relationships (e.g., Pipedrive).

  • Project management software. Programs that help businesses, teams and individuals organize and manage projects and workloads (e.g., Trello, Asana).

As a BDR, you’re unlikely to have a say over which CRM and project management tools your team employs but you can ensure you use them properly. Take time to learn how your software works and keep data up-to-date and accurate so that you and other team members can rely on it.

Pipedrive, a sales CRM and tasks management tool, is easy to navigate straight out of the box. However, you can dive deeper into the software’s most helpful features in our Academy Courses.

Note: The order in which you complete tasks can significantly impact your productivity. “Eat the frog” is a time-management hack involving completing your biggest, most challenging task first. It’s particularly helpful for people who procrastinate and struggle to prioritize tasks.


4. Know your products inside-out

Even at the top of the sales funnel, it’s vital to know all the possible details about what you’re selling. Most prospects will find basic information as part of their own research process before responding to your outreach efforts, so be prepared to support their next steps.

According to Gartner, B2B buyers spend only 17% of their customer journeys with salespeople. Make the most of that time by being ready to answer more in-depth questions and highlight less obvious (e.g., industry-specific) benefits.

As a new BDR, your company should provide some product training. However, you can excel beyond expectations by going deeper. Learn in more detail by…

  • Using the products daily

  • Shadowing product managers and developers

Say you sell a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product. You could ask your company for login details to get a real feel for how it works. You’ll soon know which details and features make users’ lives easier.

5. Diversify your outreach tactics

Experiment with different ways to engage prospects, as a little creativity can set you apart from your competitors.

For example, if your cold email response rates are low, it could be down to how much detail you’re squeezing into your pitch.

Instead of bombarding prospects with information – as many of your competitors will no doubt be doing – practice expressing your product’s value in a single sentence.

Here’s how we could do that for Pipedrive:

Hi [NAME], this is James from Pipedrive. I’m contacting sales organizations in our industry to see if they’d benefit from our CRM solution.

We help sales managers save time and improve sales performance by automating all the busywork that goes into selling.

If that sounds valuable, let’s schedule a call.

James


Brainstorming with colleagues allows you to share tried-and-tested ideas. If something works well for you, bring it to the table. Otherwise, listen carefully and stay open to new approaches, even if they seem unconventional.

6. Never stop learning

Outbound sales is an ever-evolving field, with buyers’ preferences changing often.

To excel as a BDR and advance your career in other sales roles, you must commit to continuous learning.

There are two main types to focus on:

  • Personal development. Gaining new skills and improving existing ones.

  • Industry trends. Monitoring changes to competitors’ strategies, buyers’ behavior and product-related advancements.

With that in mind, here are seven simple and efficient ways to improve your knowledge:

Reports

Explore reports from companies and researchers in your field to learn about product trends and your company’s place in the market – our state of sales and marketing reports are a good place to start.

Newsletters

Join the email lists of key industry figures, tech vendors and even competitors to keep up with trends and best practices.

Social media

Follow sales influencers and participate in relevant discussions on platforms like LinkedIn to stay connected with industry trends.

Webinars

Register for webinars to absorb knowledge from a diverse range of hosts in your industry without needing to travel.

Podcasts

Subscribe to interview-based sales podcasts to access a convenient and continuous stream of ideas from various perspectives.

Shadowing

Pay close attention to experienced people in your field. Their knowledge could help you skip basic mistakes early on in your career.

Sales books

Read well-reviewed sales books to expand your understanding of core sales concepts, such as sales methodologies, lead generation, public speaking and customer experience (CX).

Online courses

Fill gaps in your knowledge by taking online sales courses. It’s a convenient and affordable way to learn from highly esteemed sales experts.


Even if you move on from a BDR or SDR role to another sales area, it’s essential to keep learning.

Sales trainer David Hoffield put it perfectly in his 2016 book The Science of Selling:

Talent is not enough to become a top performing salesperson. Those who have a growth mindset are far more likely to be successful.


Final thoughts

Business development rep may be a common entry point to selling but this role is as valuable as any other in the sales organization.

Given that BDRs focus so heavily on outbound prospecting, they deliver the very first interaction of many customers’ buying experiences – so it’s an important job to get right.

Whether you’re considering applying for a BDR position, are new to the job or have been sales prospecting for years, keep building on your skills to ensure you’re as valuable as possible to the rest of your team.

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