The Challenge (And Irony) of Hiring a Successful BDR

There is a certain irony that we're seeing in recruitment lately. It starts with the ongoing demand for candidates to fill the role of the Business Development Representative. Despite this being a hot job right now, most organizations don't actually understand how to recruit for this. That's because to successfully hire a business development representative, you don't go looking for a current business development representative.

By Jamie Savage, Founder of The Leadership Agency

Elizabeth Tufegzich, COO & Partner of The Leadership Agency


BDRs are a vital part of a sales team. This is why organizations from enterprise to startups are competing to hire them. Well, sort of. Though the role is key, and the demand is fierce, companies are not throwing a great deal of money at the problem. While offering a higher wage is one of the classic ways to compete for talent, this isn't happening with Business Development Representatives.


Why not?


Because being a Business Development Representative is the starting point to many people’s sales careers. It is often seen as an entry-level position. It is where you land your first role on the Sales team and start building your career from there. So, despite the need for people to fill these jobs, companies aren’t willing to start offering competitive salaries for such a junior role. And despite the competition, they shouldn't.


Even seasoned recruiters and sales leaders struggle with finding and hiring talented BDRs. They look for the top candidates out there, ones who have two-to-three years of successful experience on the job, and then they can't find them.


Which leads me to one of the ironies on the talent market that I mentioned earlier. You can't hire a skilled, experienced Business Development Representative. They don't exist. Trying to fill an open position for a BDR with a BDR will only lead to futile searches or subpar hires.


This is because a BDR is a salesperson. As such, successful candidates will have the sales personality. This means they are achievers. They are competitive, problem solvers, and people persons. They take an entry-level job in sales because they want to launch a career in that field.


If you can find a Business Development Representative who has two to three years of experience, and who is willing to make a lateral move to another Business Development role, then you've found a salesperson who has stayed in that entry-level role for several years without moving on, moving up, and taking on more. Worse still, if you aren’t willing to pay them more, then you are hiring a salesperson who is willing make a lateral career move for less or equal pay. As sales recruiters and sales leaders…we know this doesn’t make sense!


Even if you can find a successful BDR who is still in the role, you won't be able to hire them for a reasonable wage. Since, if they are successful then they have demonstrated to their current employer that they are ready for more. They have already achieved what an entry-level job is supposed to prove. Taking a new job with your company would mean starting over. They would be taking a new entry-level position somewhere else and having to prove themselves all over again. The only reason a candidate might consider this kind of a move would be if you offered a much higher salary to buy their time.


Even then, we know that the best candidates are those who are looking to grow their careers and take on new challenges, not those who simply want more money to keep on doing what they are already doing.


So, again, you are over-paying for the talent you're getting.


You don't hire a BDR to be a BDR. So, how do you fill this position?


Sales teams need BDRs. They are often the first person to contact new customers in outreach initiatives or to process leads and move them into the sales funnel.


You start by not hiring an existing BDR for the role. Since any BDR with talent and ambition is only going to stay in the position for six months to a year, looking for one with multiple years of experience is a losing proposition.


Don't hire for experience. Hire for potential.


As I mentioned, this is an entry-level job, so look for the candidate who is hungry for that foot in the door. One who has that sales personality and the motivation to prove what they can do when given the opportunity.


How you can recognize potential:


Granted, it can be more challenging to evaluate a candidate without that proven track record of accomplishments from years of experience on their resume. But that is another recruitment irony; the Catch-22 of the entry-level job search. How can you gain experience without a job / how can you land a job without experience?


You look at what else the candidate has demonstrated in their activities up until now. Are they ambitious and competitive? Have they won awards in sports or in academia? Have they led community projects, been successful fundraisers, or achieved challenging goals in other ways?


Look for that vital sales personality in interviews. To be sure, a person with the aptitude for a sales role will be friendly and outgoing, but it is more than that. Successful salespeople are personable with purpose. They are good listeners, they empathize, but they enter a conversation with a goal in mind. A goal to close.


Look for candidates who are confident around someone they have just met. Can they speak with ease, tell engaging stories, and answer questions convincingly?


Ask them why they are interested in working as a Business Development Representative. It is a sales position, so they must be eager to kick off a career in sales. Anything else is a waste of time.


It is also essential that you ask them how they handle rejection. Look for instances where they have rebounded from setbacks. Do they have a thick skin? Business Development Representatives encounter rejection after rejection on the job. It is the nature of the role.


Successful hires for this position will roll with the punches and keep going without taking it personally. They will weather the rejections in order to break through to the successes.


To hire a successful BDR, you need to change your expectations.


Hiring an experienced BDR to be a BDR is self-defeating. It isn't the years of experience on a resume that will indicate the top candidate for the job. Quite the opposite, in fact.


No, the person you are looking for will be just starting out. But they will be raring to go. They will be ambitious, self-aware, and resilient. They won't have years of professional work behind them – but they will have a hunger to prove what they can do with the challenges ahead of them.



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