Is the era of the BDR function coming to an end?
It's 5:30 on a Friday and my phone rings from an unknown number. I know it's probably a sales call but take it anyway.
"This is Jason," I say as a cheery female voice asks me if this is a good time to talk.
I'm in a good mood and she's working hard so I let her go into her pitch.
"Sure--let's hear it."
"We connected on Linkedin and I wanted to follow up and see if you got the information I sent to you regarding..."
"No, I don't remember anything like that. Can you tell me more?"
It's some sort of sales management system that tracks conversations of your sales reps to determine what's working and what's not to close deals faster.
It sounds a bit Big Brother to me, but I tell her that I think it sounds like an interesting product, but I'm not qualified because I don't manage sales teams.
All outbound efforts today (especially post-COVID-19) need to be contextual, convey what's in it for them, and why now.
Otherwise, it will go nowhere.
That's been the problem with the Predictable Revenue model established in Aaron Ross's 2011 book where entry-level BDRs are doing most of the prospecting grunt work, and because authenticity and relevance are more important than ever, many companies are quickly changing this model.
So Much for Predictable Revenue
Based on his experience at Salesforce.com, Aaron Ross's book Predictable Revenue launched a new era of prospecting that provided a solution to the problem of salespeople becoming too inundated with prospecting to close enough deals to make quota.
The duties of prospecting were divided up between marketing, who serves up leads at the top of the funnel; the business development rep (BDR) who nurtures those leads until they're ready to take a meeting, and then the closer who runs their consultative sales process.
This model was attractive for several reasons:
- It recognized that branding and awareness were not enough for salespeople to find enough opportunities and marketing had to generate leads at the top-of-the-funnel.
- Companies could train and test future salespeople with smaller investments by installing them as BDRs allowing them to focus experienced salespeople where they have the most (perceived) value--moving clients through the sales process and closing.
- Some of the dreaded tasks involved in prospecting shifted to marketing and business development, better utilizing "expensive" consultative sales resources on closing deals.
- It established repeatable processes where leads come in, BDRs nurture, salespeople run consultative sales process and close. (Nice work if you can get it.)
This model worked--except, now it doesn't.
Hello, is anyone there?
When a repeatable process in sales and marketing works, everyone jumps on board, and that's why our inboxes are filled today with automated chains of sequenced dribble. It’s like strip-mining that poisons the well for everyone…
"I'm just following up on my last email to..."
Prospects are on to this game:
- BDRs are sending out email sequences and making calls that go nowhere (if they can even get a mobile number).
- Many sales managers are still requiring their BDRs to nurture every lead and stick to their process, regardless of whether or not it fits with their ideal client profiles (ICP) or not.
- And too many "closers" aren't doing enough of their own prospecting, either because they're not expected to, or they don't know how to do it digitally.
And worst of all, in an age where engagement with senior executives requires authenticity, individualization, and context--we've placed that burden on a bunch of 20-somethings.
It's not going to happen--especially post-COVID-19 when sales messages that aren't highly contextualized get deleted and few are at an office where they have a business phone.
And there's another problem with this model.
When I was a business development representative (BDR), I always had a problem turning over my connections to a salesperson. After all, Why should they get all the commission when I've done all the years of hard work building my network?
The Return of the Sales Prospector
Salespeople must always be prospecting, and we should have never built a model that encouraged them to stop. And now, with fewer options for in-person prospecting:
- Very few are in an office where you can call them (and they don't pick up if they are).
- Conferences, trade shows, and networking are on hold (and the virtual replacements provide a little substitute for in-person opportunities.)
- Sequenced email templates get deleted.
Even though many of these options are no longer available, the process of prospecting for engagement has not changed. It's just moved online. You still want to:
- Use your advocates as referrals
- Sell more to your current clients
- Identify buying triggers and intent
- Educate prospects and nurture
- Find prospects that have entered the buying window
If you require a salesperson to touch a deal before it becomes a client, the end goal is engagement with qualified prospects who are entering the buying window at any given time.
Whether it's through marketing or sales outreach, the goal is the same: How can we engage with our prospects in a meaningful way?
We just have to do it digitally.
That requires collaboration between everyone that is client-facing, and because every sale is different, there's no predictable handoff stage where marketing can pass a lead to sales and then say, see ya!
Everyone that is client-facing needs to contribute to the prospecting process and collaborate on what they're hearing from customers and prospects on an ongoing basis.
Doing that effectively means that marketers have to concentrate on what the sales process looks like first, and then developing content that supports it at each stage.
So what does that look like?
Now's the Time to Operate Differently
First of all, get rid of any silos between sales and marketing.
I know that's easier said than done. But it's the CMO's responsibility to bring the organization together and work cross-functionally to prioritize customer acquisition.
Account-Based Marketing is a good example of what this looks like, and even though there are multiple levels of maturity, start wherever you're at.
And even though the buyer has more control, you can use that to your advantage. But everyone (Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Product Management) has to get on board with prospecting together.
The most successful B2B companies are adopting this approach and seeing some huge returns.
We’d welcome a conversation about your go-to-market strategy, sales and marketing alignment or content to support thought leadership and lead generation. Book a meeting with our president, Ken Lempit to get started.