3 Lessons Learned by a CMO After Spending a Day as a BDR, as seen on AdAge

April 24, 2020 Latane Conant

Steve Martin is famously attributed with saying, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you'll be a mile away and have his shoes.” While I didn’t steal anyone’s shoes, I did step out of my own as chief marketing officer into those of a business development representative at my company, an account engagement platform.

I started my career in sales, and from my perspective, we all need reminders of the hard work that goes into selling. I believe in what our business development reps do, and I know they bring their whole selves to work every day by engaging accounts and moving them through the buyer journey. So recently, when monthly numbers dipped below our company’s pipeline-per-BDR quota, I wanted to know what was happening. I went to the BDR front lines to find out.

One Day As A BDR

To get to the bottom of this mystery, I spent a day with my company’s BDR team. What first shocked me that morning was seeing how much time and energy they spent researching accounts. They went through 10-Qs, websites and articles — so much content — to try to understand buyers’ needs and desires. We dedicated the whole morning to this research, unsure if it was even valuable for the prospects we wanted to call.

Even after all this research, my team still struggled to figure out exactly what buyers wanted. Once we got prospects on the phone, it felt like we were missing the mark. We didn’t have the right insights to understand what our prospects needed right then and there, so we didn’t make great first impressions or hold meaningful conversations.

It was a long day, but afterward, I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d failed my team. There they were, a group of brilliant and talented folks, and I wasn’t enabling them to succeed. They spent all their time researching and guessing at prospects’ needs, and they weren’t able to use their creative brains and boundless energy to close deals.

It turns out this wasn’t just a problem for my own team. My company conducted a survey (download required) to find out what wasn’t working for BDRs across industries. We found BDRs spent 31 percent of their days on unproductive activities such as meetings, administrative work and bad prospecting. On top of that, once they got on the phone, 46 percent of BDRs said the prospects they called weren’t ideal fits, and 57 percent got negative responses when engaging with prospects.

A study from 2017 also found that sales representatives spend most of their time on non-sales-related activities. Similarly, Salesforce's third "State of Sales" report (registration required) found that nearly 60 percent of salespeople expected to miss their quotas in 2018.

How To Make BDRs’ Days Better

I realized I needed to lead the charge on changing some of the ways we did business. Our BDRs needed more relevant accounts and prospects to target; they needed the information to walk away with a positive prospect interaction; their efforts needed to be scalable. As business-to-business marketing leaders, it’s on us to think through how we can solve these problems and empower our revenue teams to succeed.

I replayed my day as a BDR and talked with my team to figure out what to do. We came up with a few solutions that I believe all companies can leverage on their own:

1. Use valuable insights for outreach. When your BDRs are conducting their own outreach, leverage insights that are truly valuable to help you connect with accounts. For example, if an account is researching a certain keyword, that should be what you reach out about, not their favorite football team or college mascot.

2. Let marketing warm up accounts for BDRs. We made a commitment that marketing would warm up accounts before BDRs reach out. To ensure the ads and content hit the mark, personalize them for the keyword most relevant to the account, and dynamically change the content and creative based on the account's buying stage.

For instance, when someone is early in their journey, your marketing team might provide them with thought leadership content. Later in their buying stage, you might share a how-to video. BDRs can then focus on the accounts in-market — the accounts you know are ready to engage (more on this below) — and spend their time having meaningful conversations and closing deals.

3. Determine which accounts are priorities. There are four key models important for BDRs that can help you determine which accounts to focus on: account fit, persona fit, buying behavior and in-market. Account fit and persona fit help you determine whether the account is ideal for you to sell to. Looking at an account's buying behavior allows BDRs to tailor outreach based on engagement levels, and in-market, the most important score, indicates someone is likely to open an opportunity with your brand. This is how your BDRs should prioritize their days because you want to be the first to engage in-market accounts.

Some organizations choose to use artificial intelligence in order to help predict which accounts BDRs should prioritize. (Full disclosure: My company's platform uses AI.) If you choose to leverage AI, ensure the technology is incorporated into your team's normal workflow. Do not make it an extra step or solution they need to log into. Also, the AI should not just spit out a score or action; it's important that the context behind the prediction score or action is available. This gives your team the trust to use the information.

In summary, ensure you're giving your BDRs the tools to work smarter, not harder. It took alignment and a long, interesting day as a BDR, but by putting our resources to work, we ensured our revenue team had exactly what they needed to succeed.

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