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Teri Hardmon

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Sales development reps (SDRs) are generally tasked with identifying and qualifying sales opportunities from inbound channels. Business development reps (BDRs) are mainly dedicated to finding new business and exploring new markets through outbound channels.

Both BDRs and SDRs are important positions within the sales cycle. With these two inside sales roles being fairly similar, it can be hard to differentiate between the two.

This article will explain the differences between the roles and how they fit into an organization so you can make an informed decision on which role is the best choice for your team.

An SDR is a role that is primarily focused on qualifying inbound leads and eventually turning those that are a good fit into customers by handing off the opportunity to a senior sales executive. SDRs often work closely with marketing and sales to identify prospects, build lists, and then engage those prospects via phone, email, or other communication channels. They are responsible for driving conversations that ultimately lead to appointments for the account executive (AE) to close an opportunity.

A BDR focuses on generating new business opportunities by adding new contacts to the sales pipeline. This is accomplished through outbound prospecting and ABM, also called “cold outreach.”

Every day, a BDR is continually thinking of fresh lead development ideas and strategies to source possible prospects for your funnel. This is typically done through cold calls and emails, and it involves working closely with marketing to support their campaigns.

So, what are the differences between SDRs vs. BDRs, both in how they operate and what they need to focus on? Let's take a closer look:

SDRs have one primary focus: to generate leads for account executives (AEs) to close. They start by qualifying inbound prospects and then moving those prospects through the initial stages of the sales cycle until they become qualified opportunities for AEs to pitch and close.

BDRs also generate leads, but their focus is on generating potential opportunities within their territory instead of passing them off to AEs as soon as possible.

An SDR is responsible for qualifying incoming leads; a BDR is responsible for generating new ones.

An SDR is responsible for moving inbound prospecting and creating new opportunities for other Senior Sales Executives to work with potential clients. Due to the high turnover rate of prospects in this position, SDRs must put in more hours to make more calls and send more emails to prospective clients who may not be as interested in signing up.

A BDR is responsible for nurturing leads that were generated by cold efforts and turning them into opportunities for a senior salesperson to close. They focus on developing relationships with their leads and ensuring that their prospects are a good fit for what their company has to offer.

In conclusion, an SDR has a higher quantity of inbound leads while a BDR has fewer leads, but BDR leads should be of higher value because they are considered a strong fit target within the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

SDRs focus on inbound leads, while BDRs focus on outbound leads. Inbound leads are generated by the company's marketing efforts, such as website visitors who fill out a form or convert through an ad. Outbound leads are generated by the sales team through lead generation efforts, such as prospects who have been cold-called or cold-emailed.

The next big difference between an SDR and BDR is sales vs. business development. SDRs are focused on selling a product or service to potential customers, while BDRs focus on developing new relationships with ideal customers and bringing them into the sales funnel.

SDRs need to be able to sell a product or service, while BDRs need to be able to develop relationships. Both skills are important, but they're different.

The answer to this question depends on your company's needs. If you're looking for someone to pick up a large number of inbound leads in a short period, then an SDR is likely the best choice. If you're looking for someone to develop relationships with your ideal clients, then a BDR is the better choice.

It's important to remember that both SDRs and BDRs are important parts of your company's sales cycle. Without SDRs, you'd have no one qualifying your leads and making sure that the information being passed to your AEs is accurate. Without BDRs, you'd have no one turning qualified leads that haven’t heard of your product(s) into actual opportunities.

It is also important to keep in mind that some companies try to define roles that are a mix of both an SDR and a BDR. The complexity of your product and your audience’s size, among other factors, will dictate if you should keep these roles separate or not.  You’ll find that both roles are often necessary at some point for a company to be successful. To see some examples on how some SaaS B2B companies like Salesforce, G2 and others define these roles read this T2D3 blog.

If you enjoy looking at real metrics and reading reports.  The Bridge Group, a well-respected B2B sales consulting organization, delivers an insightful report every year called "Sales Development Metrics and Compensation Study Report," which in 2021 gathered data from 406 executives at different firms with a median revenue of $35M and median ACV of $55K. We've included six essential points below.

SDRs report to the head of sales rather than marketing in 68% of cases. "However, it's worth noting that inbound teams are approximately twice as likely to report to marketing as mixed or outbound groups," according to the research.

There are generally 2.3 BDRs (outbound) for every 1 SDR (Inbound).

1 SDR to 2.6 Account Executives is the average ratio. This is in line with studies from 2018.

Two things to note: Firstly, smaller companies are much more likely to deploy one or more SDRs per AE.  Secondly, even controlling for revenues, high-growth companies report lower SDR-to-AE ratios than those with slower growth.

SDRs/BDRs hired today have, on average, only 1.2 years of experience.  In 2010 it was 2.5 years.

Reps with the same function working in various locations were reported by 48% of businesses in 2018. This number has risen to 64% due to COVID/remote/WFH. It's worth noting that 23% of businesses say they want to create "completely remote" SDR teams in the near future. Just a few years ago, that was practically inconceivable.

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