What’s the Difference Between an SDR and a BDR?

a month ago   •   5 min read

By Sam Saulsbury

If you’re journeying into the world of sales for the first time, it’s easy to become thrown off by the whirlwind of acronyms and jargon. Terms like SDR vs. BDR are thrown around frequently and seem frustratingly interchangeable.

However, these sales roles are two unique pillars of a sales pipeline and it’s important to know the different roles they play. Let’s clear the air on the difference between a SDR and a BDR.

Table of Contents:
-SDRs vs. BDRs
-Outbound Prospecting vs. Inbound Prospecting
-How to Succeed as an SDR or BDR

SDRs vs. BDRs

First, let’s tackle what a business development representative is. A BDR is responsible for handling outbound leads, while an SDR handles and qualifies inbound leads. In this sense, a BDR’s station is ahead of an SDR’s in a sales pipeline.

A business development rep's day will mostly consist of outbound prospecting to potential customers. Once a connection is established, a BDR will then begin to qualify the prospect themselves, or in some cases, send the prospect along to an SDR. How this process works is completely dependent on a sales team’s strategy and size.

Meanwhile, a sales development representative focuses on inbound prospecting and inbound lead qualification. Often, this means less cold calling and more qualifying leads generated on the SDR’s part. A sales development rep will most likely be in charge of sorting a prospect into three common tiers: MQL, SQL, or SRL. Ranking a prospect correctly is crucial to an SDRs success, so it’s important to know the difference between these three types of leads:

  • MQL - Market Qualified Lead: This is the lowest tier for prospects. This is when a lead has shown slight interest in a product, but still needs some convincing.
  • SQL - Sales Qualified Lead: A prospect ranks here after showing a direct interest in purchasing. These leads demonstrate a readiness and willingness to buy, but need to know more particulars about the product and how much it will cost.
  • SRL - Sales Ready Lead: These are most often inbound prospects who are ready to make a deal. These are leads that are immediately handed to a sales team’s closer.

Every team uses a different approach to qualifying leads, so the exact terminology may differ from company to company. But as long as an SDR/BDR understands their role within the sales team, they should be set up to succeed in the sales discovery process.

While these roles are similar, they do require different skill sets to truly prosper. As a BDR is most commonly going to be cold calling, they need to be an expert people person with great communication skills. An SDR, meanwhile, will need to be well organized and well-versed in marketing, data analysis, and communicating within a sales team. Obviously, an ideal sales rep will have all of these skills, but if you feel you are stronger in one area over another, it’s a good idea to aim for the role that utilizes your skills best to put yourself on a successful sales career path.

Outbound Prospecting vs. Inbound Prospecting

SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) and BDRs (Business Development Representatives) both work in the same terrain of a sales pipeline: they manage and qualify leads. These are both entry level sales positions at the front end of a sales cycle. But, before getting into the nitty gritty of how they differ, we need to understand some basic fundamentals of prospecting. There are two different types of prospecting, inbound and outbound.

Put simply, inbound prospects are prospects that come to you. The funnel for an inbound prospect usually begins with an interested party responding to a piece of content from your company. This is often as simple as a prospect signing up for something your company offers, say a newsletter or e-book. Their email and info gets scraped and sent to a rep who will begin outreach.

You can probably surmise that outbound prospects are the opposite. Outbound prospects are prospects that haven’t shown interest in or aren’t even aware of your product or service. It’s up to a sales rep to cold contact these prospects with the best pitch and value proposition to fit the client. Quite a bit more work needs to be done on the sales rep’s side for this type of prospecting, but outbounding is still very relevant in today’s sales world.

Inbound and outbound prospects both need to undergo a process known as qualifying to move through a sales funnel. This is where SDRs and BDRs come in. Lead qualifying is how a sales team gets a feel for how ready and interested a prospect is to make a purchase. If a prospect is keyed-up and ready to make a purchase, it’s the job of a sales team to know that and place them with the right salesperson to close the deal. SDRs and BDRs alike are in charge of doing the research and outreach needed to sort leads into different tiers and insert them into the proper stage of a sales cycle.

Now that you understand the basics or prospecting, we can dive into what it takes to succeed as an SDR or BDR.

How to Succeed as an SDR or BDR

As you can see, SDRs and BDRs swim in similar waters, and on smaller or startup sales teams, often function as one in the same. This is a great advantage to a young salesperson seeking advice for a career in sales as most tips are transferable to both positions. Here are a few to help you excel in your first SDR/BDR role.

  • Build out a calendar and keep a task tracker. Being at the front end of a customer’s sales cycle means you’re dealing with many more accounts than upper management. It’s easy to lose track of who you’ve cold called, who you need to follow up with, and who you need to set appointments with. Keep a schedule and use a task tracker to stay organized and on top of where each of your prospects are.
  • Be an active listener. As an SDR/BDR, you’re likely the first person a prospect is speaking to. To get all the data you need on a lead’s goals, pain points, and more, you’ll have to make sure your active listening skills are sharp. Remember, your job is dependent on the quality of the leads you pass along to senior sales people. Learning as much as you can about a prospect will ensure you’re making your AE’s job easier.
  • Be open to coaching. If you’re working as an SDR/BDR, you’re probably near the start of your sales career. This is a great opportunity to learn from senior sales reps on how to best optimize your performance. Seek out mentors within your company and ask for feedback on your cold calls and correspondences. Communicate frequently with your AE and ask for guidance on how to best make their job easier. Your future self will thank you.
  • Be persistent, but don’t be aggressive. You’re going to hear ‘no’ a lot. That’s just a fact. But handling objectionsis a great opportunity to become a better salesperson. Instead of giving up, ask your prospect what are the main challenges that get in the way of moving forward. Follow up with an email a few days later with a different offer or different value proposition. Show them that your job isn’t to make a sale, it’s to make their life easier. But don’t be too pushy: over time, your instincts will sharpen enough to know when a prospect just needs a little convincing or if the road is a dead end.

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