"While only 46% of all salespeople reach who they believe are actual decision makers, and only 13% actually reach decision makers, only 1% of salespeople with less than one year of sales experience reach actual decision makers."
In B2B SaaS companies, the most common model for business development uses business development reps (BDRs) or sales-development reps (SDRs) to help fill their sales pipe.
The model was popularized by Aaron Ross and his book Predictable Revenue: How to Turn your Business Into a Sales Machine with The $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com. (2011). The book explains a process he uncovered while working at Salesforce in 2003.
Ross's model has many advantages and proponents, though it isn't nearly as effective now as it was nearly 2 decades ago.
(Almost nothing in B2B sales and marketing is as effective today as it was in 2003.)
In an interview that helps summarize Ross's key points, he maintained in 2019 that sellers shouldn't do their own prospecting. That view puts him at odds with a growing body of sales consultants who say the opposite.
Use of BDRs and SDRs also has big weaknesses—especially for SaaS companies that sell higher-ticket, complex products to big companies.
Ideas to consider
All these ideas apply if you sell a high-ticket product to senior-level executives:
- Your use of young and inexperienced BDRs probably hurts your brand. It may also be exclude you from good opportunities. These risks are worth considering if your company serves a relatively small Total Addressable Market (TAM). In small TAMs, you can't afford to burn bridges with any prospects.
- If you have high turnover of BDRs or SDRs, you're doing something wrong. You may not be paying them enough, giving them enough training or support, or hiring the right people for the role.
- Some companies hire too many BDRs too early and too fast. Then their marketing team find themselves trying to generate enough leads to keep the BDRs busy. To keep pace, marketing generates a lot of low-quality leads that never generate revenue. Then the BDRs are busy processing low-quality leads. If this happens in your company, your demand-generation engine needs an overhaul.
- For anyone who does outbound prospecting, it makes no sense to pitch your product early in your relationship with a new prospect. If a prospect asks for a pitch, only a novice, tired, or poorly trained seller will provide one. Highly experienced sellers will not talk about their offering until they've learned enough about their prospect's business, including its goals and current operations.
"Why I believe We Should Blow Up the Business Development Role in Sales." Dave Kurlan. March 29, 2021. OMG blog.
"Why Your Salespeople Shouldn't Prospect." Aaron Ross. May 25, 2019. Predictable Revenue blog.
In this article, Aaron Ross talks with David Skok, a serial entrepreneur in SaaS companies and a legend in venture capital. If you're not already following Skok's blog and website, ForEntrepreneurs, you're missing something important.
"Why Your SDRs and BDRs Are Broken." Anthony Iannarino. September 25, 2016. Blog post.
This is an older article, but it's still current.
"Ditching the ’Itch to Pitch.’" Bob Apollo. April 2021. Membrain blog.
"Rethinking BDRs?" David Brock. April 12, 2021. Partners in Excellence blog.
"Finding, Growing, and Keeping A-Player BDRs." Brian Waters. March 24, 2021. Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) blog.
"What Do B2B Buyers Want from Inside Sales?" Marketing Charts. July 22, 2020. Blog post with link to original survey research about virtual selling, by the RAIN Group.