When the weather is nice, I prefer to walk to the office as it’s not far. Perhaps a good 30 min walk. It helps me rearrange my thoughts and keep my mind at peace. As I was passing through a parking zone once, I couldn’t help but notice a guy probably in his 30’s, arguing over his phone. I kept my pace, but the voice was so protruding. After a few steps, I could already see him panting, and waving his arms furiously. It seemed that he was talking to his boss or a colleague, about not receiving the promised bonus from a closed sale. Oh, so sad. I feel this because I have been in sales myself. It can be rewarding, but can also be a highly ungrateful job. Especially if your boss doesn’t appreciate your efforts, and the skills it takes to be a great SDR and BDR.

Sales Development Rep and Business Development Rep respectively.  

However, I moved from doing sales myself, to managing a team of amazing sales and business developers. And they receive their payments and bonuses on time, you know why? Because without them, my company wouldn’t exist. Wouldn’t make any profit whatsoever. And because they are people too, they have families to feed. My team is the core of my business.

When I first started my business, it was just my wife and me. And 4 interns. We were doing market research, business planning, databases, sales all simultaneously. Everyone was doing everything. A real mess. Now, I managed to expand my team within departments. I figured that setting your business this way results in higher efficiency, increased productivity, and happier employees. Every department has a different role and responsibility. In this blog post, I wanted to talk about the differences between cold outreach, SDR and BDR, and how we all manage to work and prosper in sync.

What is a cold outreach?

Let’s start with the basics. What is cold outreach? Outreach, simply put, is contacting someone that you don’t know and is unfamiliar with your solution via email, LinkedIn messages or any other communications platform. Cold calling is cold outreach too, only it’s executed via a phone call, not a message. We call it cold plainly because you and the prospect interact for the first time (if they reply or pick up the phone), and you have no bond or prior relationship with each other. Outreach is contemplated to be one of the oldest ways of initiating conversations with the intent to sell. It’s also called an outbound method of selling, as it means that you knock on the prospects’ door, not the other way around. 

Usually, when a company enters the market, in the B2B industry (business to business), the inbound method doesn’t work immediately, or sometimes at all. That’s because inbound works towards attracting potential customers with a variety of things like useful, relevant content, good SEO, blogs, newsletters and more. So, does that mean that cold outreach is better than inbound practises?

Not necessarily. It’s just faster. For a young company, like mine, doing outreach on a regular basis is essential. Why? 

When you first show your face to the market, the chances are that they will barely notice you. There’s so much going on. Plenty of companies going in and out, the fierce competitors and trends are changing in a blink of an eye. And there are those well-known companies already settled, with an undestroyable reputation, that only keep growing. How to keep up, or more importantly, how to get through and succeed without hitting the wall? 

Maybe paid ads are the first thing that pops on your mind. Surely you can pay for some traffic. You heard that a lot of people do it and are highly successful. Well, let me let you in on a little secret. If you are selling a pricey solution or a service, paid ads rarely work. I mean, who will buy a $20.000 or even a $2000 service based on the content of a FB ad?

Not me. For this type of services, you don’t just need an amazing copywriter, but you need a fantastic outreach strategy. And the time and means to build proper business relationships.

Man holding a sign - strategy plan for success.

Now, in order to start with the outreach, you need to make some preparations. I am sure you already know what that means, but let me tell you how we at Bizzbee do it.

We have a guy that does the ICP (ideal client profile). He is our go-to research guy, and that is his expertise. Based on that, another dedicated bee is determining the channels and the target for the campaign. Once we know who we are targeting and where – the copywriter takes over. She takes her time to craft resonating messages and optimise the respective LinkedIn profile. And that concludes the preparation phase. Then, the execution team takes over. They start the outreach, set up the automation tools, and wait for the responses to start flowing in. Once the first response kicks in, a dedicated bee is starting the lead nurture. As I said, it’s all about building relationships. And having a well-oiled team. BizzBee’s speciality is cold outreach, so that doesn’t come as such a big surprise.

But some companies have whole teams specialised just for that. For outreaching, for prospecting. Some have BDR, some have SDR teams, some have both SDR and BDR teams, and at times all these distinctions can be a bit overwhelming.

So, let’s examine and analyse the characteristics and differences in both reps.

SDR (Sales Development Representative)

Searching online, I came across a variety of definitions about what SDR and BDR mean, and what are their roles. Putting everything in perspective, the roles are not that distant from one another. Quite the opposite. The reps may even work together in some cases. They interfere in the ongoing processes and communicate in order to achieve the same goal. Which is selling. Let’s start with the Sales Development Representative. The general rule is that usually, the SDRs make their way to the inbound leads. Meaning, they focus on persuading and qualifying inbound prospects, or the prospects that once showed interest in the product/solution, and a contact has been previously made. Where do these prospects come from? 

Most of the time, inbound prospects come from social media or the website. Furthermore, other platforms or referrals. Before the prospect is contacted, the sales rep needs to make sure if they are interested, or warm enough. Of course, every call or a message is a risk, but if calculated  – it could be worth it. Once in a while, you need to get yourself out of your comfort zone. With sales, you need to do that constantly. If you are not already used to it. 🙂

By this definition, the sales development rep has no responsibility for closing deals. Instead, they move the qualified inbound prospects through the funnel and push them to the Account Executive. This name varies from business to business. Account Manager, Sales Executive or something else, are all with similar responsibilities. After the prospect is warmed enough by the sales rep, the above-mentioned Account Executive closes the deal. Of course, this is more a practice of the larger corporations that have countless prospects and a legion of SDR and BDR teams needed for handling the growing numbers. 

Therefore, if your company is not that large, like mine, usually, the roles of the SDR and Account Executive merge into one general sales role. This person follows the leads and interacts with them through the whole sales funnel. Another definition, a little bit less common, is that the SDRs are going after outbound leads, aka prospecting. However, we will keep with the definition explained above, supported by Salesforce and LeadFuze.

How to become SDR, tips and skills needed

In the sales world, it’s all about empathy and then comes persuasion. You need to be able to understand the buyer, their pain points and needs. A lot of sales reps study some psychology basics to understand how the human mind works, and what is the easiest way to establish trust with the prospect. And that’s okay, as long as it’s not manipulative. No matter the way you interact with your prospects, you should avoid lying. Be honest and transparent. 

In most cases, you don’t even need a degree to be a successful sales rep. But indeed you have to have some skills. 

Communication is crucial. Master the nuance of voice tones. Understand what’s not being said.

Active listening is a must. This goes hand to hand with communication. With active listening, you’ll be able to connect better and catch the subtle signals. People, generally, are bad listeners. So, improve your active listening and see how the numbers go upwards. 😉

Adaptability is another skill you need to master. Different people – different personalities. Sales reps receive a lot of questions, critics and comments, that’s why they have to be ready to answer or redirect them all.

BDR (Business Development Representative)

As I previously stated, there are conflicting definitions regarding these two terms. I would say, the roles of both reps mostly depend on the company they are in. The widely accepted opinion is that the BDRs need to focus on outbound prospects. The business development role is pivotal in every company. Why? Because they are the ones bringing new business opportunities. In this case, bringing new clients. Traditionally, that’s done via cold calling or cold emailing. Now, we have social selling too. BDRs go on a hunt for fresh new leads. They aim to spark interest in unknown prospects that may even not know they need your solution. That’s how BDRs can help you expand your market.

So, what exactly does a business development representative do?

In many companies, sales executives are the only people doing sales. But, if you want to scale faster, or you notice that the inbound leads are not enough to fill the pipeline, you need to do some outreach. And for that, you need a BDR team. As with the sales reps, here also we got Account Executives, that are in charge of closing. But, again, this is usually the practice of larger companies.

BDRs often go and explore the market, identify the people that are potential prospects, approach them, and move the sales conversation forward. So if you are an SME, like we are, and you can’t afford a team of BDRs that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do any outreach. On the contrary, outreach is one of the main means of company growth. And this is where companies like ours come in. We replace a whole team of BDRs and serve warm leads to the company’s closer. To make this affordable and suitable to SMEs, we don’t do the whole process manually, as BDRs would. But we combine the exact amount of automation and human touch. The prospects can’t even feel the difference.

By another atypical definition, business developers are the ones doing inbound sales. But, of course, that is far from wrong. After all, these are just titles and roles. The most important thing is that the work is done right. If you are happy with your company’s growth, there’s no need to change anything.

Based on all this, we can say that both SDR and BDR teams have similar responsibilities, only with different types of prospects.

We asked Petra Odak, Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals about her view on outreach experts, SDR and BDR teams, and here’s what she had to say:

“Cold outreach is a strategy used by BDRs. A business development representative in our case sends cold outreach pitches to potentially interested companies, hoping to start a conversation. On the other hand, a SDR is in charge of qualifying inbound marketing leads who already showed interest and getting them to sign up or convert from a free to a paid plan. In that sense, LinkedIn (and email) cold outreach is the job of a BDR only. This makes a clear distinction in who does what and both teams work more effectively.

Petra Odak, CMO at Better Proposals

How to become BDR, tips and skills needed

The skills I mentioned for the sales reps are also applicable to the business reps. In fact, there are few that I missed stating above. 

Patience. You need to be really patient most of the time, to reach your goal. Finding prospects that are genuinely interested in what you offer is not an easy task. You will get a lot of unanswered calls, a bunch of No’s before you get one Yes. Don’t get discouraged. Always remember the golden rule – WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). Others will be interested in your solution or service only if you can truly help them with it. And that is your ultimate goal, right? In helping them, not selling them some useless solution. You can also convince them by giving them something for free, or explain to them how this is the best deal they can get. 

Be helpful and assist. Many of us are self-centred and lazy.
Yeah, we can’t help it. Always try to assist them in whatever problem they may have. Be open and friendly. If you have to persuade someone, build trust first. 

Selling is hard. Things slip. Don’t overthink it. You should be proud of yourself.

What works best for your company?

These terms are often used interchangeably because different companies have different requirements. And the harsh reality is that different companies have different budgets as well. So they need to act accordingly. To sum up, the main differences between outreach, SDRs, and BDRs is who does what and is it all manually done. 

Outreach is the act of reaching out to qualified prospects that correspond with your ICP. SDRs are the reps that take care of the inbound leads, and BDRs work with outbound prospects. But every single one of them works towards growth. And if you don’t have the resource to have your own SDR or BDR teams, or even to train them properly, you should consider asking for help. Hiring an outreach professional can be a real company lifesaver. Or the sprout to company growth.

So, whether you have a young company searching for your place under the sun, or you are an already established one, at some point, you will need to increase your sales team or strategy. Making more sales is the way to success. These definitions are not something you need to abide by. The right way is the one that best works for you and your team. And if you don’t have an outreach team in place, don’t be afraid to reach out. I’m more than happy to help. 😉