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What is the Difference Between BDR and SDR roles?

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Is there actually a difference between BDR and SDR roles?

In an academic sense, yes there may be a general consensus, distinct difference between the BDR and SDR positions.

In many/most organizations, it’s as simple as BDR = Outbound prospecting, and SDR = inbound lead qualification and follow up.

In the real world, these two terms often get used interchangeably. Both are front end of the sales cycle roles, mostly tasked with prospecting, qualifying, and helping nurture leads to the point of agreeing to a demo with an Account Executive (AE) who is in charge of closing deals.

SDRs are often assigned to a specific AE or AE’s. BDRs might more typically be assigned to a region, vertical, product, or other specific territory.

In some organizations, SDRs may be focused on SMB companies (often more likely to fill out forms or raise their hands to be contacted) vs. BDRs which are more focused on enterprise level accounts that are more difficulate to engage and penetrate.

In some organizations, SDRs are a bit more junior role and BDR more senior.

Sometimes, more sales focused organized use SDR (SaaS, ) while a more services oriented (consulting) or soft sales approach might lean towards BDRs.

One theory is that the “BDR” title stems from a desire to not immediately associate your role with the term “sales” when doing cold outreach to a prospect. “Business Development” at one point was thought to be more strategic vs. pure sales.

What is an Account Development Rep “ADR”?

An Account Development Rep, or ADR is a hybrid BDR/SDR role that is engaged in both following up on inbound leads and outbound outreach. The ADR role makes most sense for B2B companies with a bit larger ARR, where a buying team is part of the research process and there may be a longer, more considered purchase (and thus sales) cycle. An Account Based Marketing (ABM) approach often makes sense here with sales efforts being driven by the ADR and account based marketing program support from the marketing team across different channels.

An ADR may also have upsell and cross-sell responsibilities to existing  (usually enterprise level) customers.

Other Related Sales Titles

  • Market Development Rep
  • Lead Development Rep
  • XDR - Basically a hybrid BDR/SDR Role, tasked with both inbound and outbound sales

In the end, these are all made up titles that an HR or Sales leader may conjure up for very similar roles.

Dangers of Inbound Only Focus for SDRs

Depending on the size of your sales organization and the total amount of leads coming in though, it may not be possible or even desirable to have top of the funnel focused sales reps solely focused on inbound leads.

  • Developing SDRs:  There is a school of thought that any sales professional should “Always Be Prospecting”.  In many organizations, SDRs are the future Account Executives and Sales Managers. Prospecting is a critical skill

that needs to be learned and developed early on in a sales career.  If a rep is solely focused on inbound lead follow up, a dangerous mentality can creep in that leads are always going to be delivered on a silver platter by marketing

  • Surround Buying Teams at the Account Level

Most B2B purchases involve multiple decision makers at the account level. Research, consideration and evaluation occurs over a long period of time (3-6 months or even longer). If a sales org and an SDR is 100% focused on just the individual inbound lead, the entire account is not going to be effectively surrounded and nurtured. Here a good SDR will do some account research and send out personalized outreach to other key potential stakeholders of the buying team.

  • Inbound Only Approach May Not Align with Ideal Customer Profile

If an SDR (and company) solely relies on inbound leads, there is a danger that the perfect fit companies for your product or service may or may not be self selecting in to your funnel. That is clearly a larger marketing problem, but has a clear effect the SDR role and success metrics. A classic inbound problem is that your SDR’s day is filled with too large a proportion of SMB leads (often more likely to fill out a form).

What is the Average Time Before a BDR or SDR is Promoted to AE?

This can obviously vary by company size and structure,  job market conditions, how quickly a company is growing or expanding, etc. Typically the average time before an SDR or BDR is promoted to AE is 12-24 months.

Many companies have a 12 month “lock out” period before a BDR or SDR can be promoted. This makes sense as these junior sales roles are often hired and trained as a cohort and managed by an SDR Manager.

What are Typical BDR and SDR Goals - Demos or Revenue?

The SDR teams have goals to hit in support of the larger sales organization. This is most typically a set number of demos or Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) per month vs. pure revenue goals. There may be still some portion of variable compensation tied to revenue, but the BDR and SDR role starts to get a layer removed from whether a deal closes or not and when revenue is recognized. The skill and competence of the AE and revenue recognition complexities are just two of the factors out of an SDRs control. The BDR/SDR role is often a high turnover role as well so it is difficult to tie the compensation to longer term revenue targets. If an average SDR is in the role for 12-18 months and the companies sales cycle is 6-12 months, incentives and value driven by the SDR get out of alignment.

Outsourcing a BDR/SDR Role or Team

Depending on your sales organization and goals and objectives, it can make a lot of sense to outsource the BDR/SDR function to get drive more demos. See Outsourced SDR and BDR Services for a deeper discussion around the Pros and Cons, Best Practices, and Pricing.

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