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What Does a BDR Actually Do?

August 26, 2019

What is a bdr

What Does a BDR Actually Do?

By: Ashley Artrip

BDRs — or, Business Development Representatives — are some of the most highly sought after salespeople, particularly in the tech/startup sector. Chances are if you’ve ever browsed LinkedIn, Indeed, Angellist, or any other job posting site for entry-level positions, you’ve come across quite a few listings for BDRs. But what exactly is a BDR, and how does working as one fit into an overall career path?

BDRs are tech-driven, highly knowledgeable business professionals who leverage data, analytics, and creativity to find new business opportunities. As such, these employees will know their company and its products like the back of their hands — which gives them strong opportunities for advancement within their companies. Starting out as a BDR gives you high earning potential, the opportunity to learn valuable transferable skills, and powerful networking experience. The cherry on top is that BDR positions, while competitive, have much lower points of entry than many other jobs with the same outcome potential.

In this post you will find:

  1. What a BDR is and how success for the role is defined
  2. What the day-to-day duties of a BDR look like
  3. How to build a career out of a BDR position (in sales or in other fields)
  4. How to apply for and get a BDR job

What BDRs Do: Job Expectations and Duties

Business Development Representative (BDR): A Sales role that specializes in generating new business through techniques including email campaigns, social selling, and cold calling.

The BDR role helms all sales efforts — meaning the role is essentially the bread and butter of any company’s revenue. In practice, this means BDRs find qualified prospects (a business term used to define potential customers/clients who meet criteria that make them likelier to buy your product) and then reach out to them through whatever medium is best suited — be it a call, email, LinkedIn message, social media DM, text message, etc.

Being a BDR is challenging, in that you are expected to do almost exclusively cold outreach, which naturally comes with a high rate of rejection. However, this is not as daunting as it may seem: a well-trained and talented BDR has practically unlimited opportunity for success, and because sales is a highly meritocratic field, those who are successful advance quickly.

What does ‘success’ look like? BDRs are evaluated based on how many Sales Qualified Appointments (SQAs) they make. In other words, how many sales meetings you set up based on your outreach efforts.

To get to this point of success, you’ll do four things on a daily basis:

1. Define markets and overarching business opportunities

This step consists of identifying overarching business archetypes that could be potential customers based on firmographic data (the business equivalent of demographic data). For instance, you may determine that market research firms with 200+ employees and between $4M and $25M in revenue are the ideal target company.

At some companies, the sales manager or BDR manager will do this step, but at smaller or more inbound-focused companies entry level BDRs do the research and identification of new business opportunities.

2. Research personas, roles, and contact information

After you’ve determined your target firmographic, it’s time to figure out who in these target companies is the decision maker for purchasing your company’s product. Is it a manager or an associate? In sales, identifying the right decision maker is paramount to hitting your target SQAs. If you target the right company but the wrong person, your emails could just get relegated to the spam folder.

Once you’ve identified the decision maker (i.e. “Senior Associate”) then comes the ‘easy’ part: finding the actual people who hold this title within your target companies. There are numerous tools to help automate this, so don’t worry; you (probably) won’t be blindly Googling for this step.

3. Prospecting

Once you have a list of prospects, it’s time to start actually selling! Depending on the organization, BDRs will do a mixture of cold calling and email outreach as a way to identify and connect with potential customers. Depending on the tools at your disposal, BDRs will do a combination of automating the outreach through email campaigns in batches and/or autodialers to call large lists of phone numbers, as well as write personalized notes to prospects. As previously mentioned, BDRs are data-driven and will do A/B testing on messaging to determine which messages have the highest conversion rates.

4. Qualifying calls

After reaching out, BDRs conduct qualifying calls with prospects who respond in order to determine the level of interest from the prospect and qualifying factors such as price point and need. If a prospect is sufficiently interested, then the BDR will set an appointment to pass them off to the Account Executive as an SQA. While the process sounds straight-forward, it requires a lot of trial and error as well as resiliency for handling rejection from prospects.

How BDRs Fit Into the Larger Business Ecosystem (And How You Can Leverage This For Your Career)


As the graphic above shows, a BDR role can lead to numerous different career outcomes. Because business development is all about building relationships and gaining intimacy with your company’s product, there are myriad paths for advancement within an organization and elsewhere. BDRs have an arsenal of some of the most transferable skills in the business world.

Most BDRs tend to stay in business development initially, and work their way up to Business Development Manager or Account Executive. However some go into marketing, customer success or other sales positions from their BDR role. From a management position — be it VP of Business Development or Senior Business Development Manager — the world of business opens up to you.

As the graphic demonstrates, the skills that once made someone a good BDR (emotional intelligence, professionalism, communication, creativity, etc.) can translate to a COO role, VP of Sales and Marketing, or even a CEO role. In fact, one study found that over 25% of global CEOs have a sales or marketing background. From William C. Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, who started in sales at the company, to Howard Schultz, a former sales rep at Xerox who later became CEO of Starbucks, the world is full of powerful examples for how transferable a background in sales can be.

Are You Interested in Launching Your Career Through a BDR Role? Here’s How to Start

If you made it to the bottom of this article, chances are you’re considering pursuing a BDR role! The best way to embark on this path is to apply to a BDR training program such as SV Academy (if you haven’t already)! SV Academy partners with high-growth tech companies that are hiring BDRs, and trains talented candidates who then get placed at partner companies.
The tuition-free fellowship gives aspiring BDRs access to training in each of the four areas described above, as well as mentorship and coaching from successful sales and business leaders. To learn more about how SV Academy can help launch your career, visit sv.academy.

Elaina Ransford contributed to this article

Monday, August 26, 2019

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