In February, I was promoted to Business Development Manager at Cloudability, a cloud financial optimization firm. One of my first responsibilities at Cloudability was building the company’s first business development representative (BDR) team … from scratch. Luckily, I’ve been exposed to how businesses and programs are made, and was able to rely heavily on entrepreneurs within my family, former bosses and mentors who had already gone through what I was getting ready to embark on.
Within 5 months of starting this journey, the BDR program at Cloudability has become increasingly effective at identifying qualified opportunities, resulting in a 67% increase in pipeline contribution quarter-over-quarter. While we are just getting started, it’s always good to look back to the roots of the program in order to understand how the foundation of success was laid. This how-to guide will take you along the methodology used to build a more capable sales + business development team. Enjoy!
1. Get Aligned: Understand Business and Executive Value
Business and executive value will define the requirements of your program. Everything from your hiring plan to your processes to whether Sales Development is seen as a cost-center or a value-driver is dependent upon how the business and your executive(s) perceive the world. Aligning your program to what the business wants and needs is a critical first step in building for success.
2. Own Your Business: What You Have Been Chartered to Do
You have to know who you are and what you have been chartered to do, and own the fact that you are tied to delivering value and results. Are you someone who needs to build something that has never existed? Cool, own it. Inheriting a program in need of a makeover? Know that and own it. Unclear what you have been chartered to do? No problem: Define your charter, get buy-in from the business and executives and then OWN IT!
“Define your charter, get buy-in from the business and executives and then OWN IT!”
3. Make a Statement: Vision, Mission, Values Statement
Once you know yourself, you need to know what your program is going to be. For me, this means drafting a vision, mission and values statement. My vision is for Cloudability to have a world-class business development team that challenges the status quo, executes with immediacy and persistence, and drives significant results for the revenue team and greater organization as a whole. Our mission is to contribute to the sales pipeline with increased effectiveness so that more than 60% of leads and accounts identified by business development reps convert into sales-qualified opportunities. We will do this by staying true and holding firm to our team values: accountability, empowerment and gratitude.
4. Get Real: Know What is Acceptable and What Isn’t
There is a reason why accountability is the first value within the program: You have to define and be able to articulate what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. This plays a crucial role when considering the quality standard of your entire program, including people, process, technology, content, etc. Once you have your standards in place and have a way to gauge in a consistent and predictable manner whether existing assets meet that threshold, you can identify which assets stay, which assets need work, and which assets can be recycled altogether. This will help drive intended behaviors, improve efficiency, increase effectiveness and drive the capability and maturity of your program.
5. Mind the Gap: Identify the Missing or Suboptimal Pieces and Plan Accordingly
As you refine the plan and framework of your program, you absolutely, positively, 100% cannot neglect a gap plan. For anything that is not acceptable, how are you going to bridge that gap? For example, with training and onboarding, if the company does not have a formal or standardized program for SDRs or sales, you’ll need to understand those limitations but then map a plan toward a resolve.
Tip: If your company has a knowledge base for customers, look there for some goodies and then partner with your colleagues who manage the content and training for existing clients.
“As you refine the plan and framework of your program, you absolutely, positively, 100% cannot neglect a gap plan.”
6. Pick a Motivational Quote & Go: “You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don’t Take”
As you begin your program it can be easy to stop or pause, especially if what you’re doing is something the company has never done before and/or something you’ve never tried previously. Being able to stay focused and motivated as you get started on the program will help set the tone and pace of the team. As an SDR at my first software firm, each week the team would post a motivational quote on the whiteboard to encourage us and drive effort. This was done first thing on Monday and it set the tone for the rest of the week. This is a routine I’ve kept the past 2+ years and have even incorporated a Monday Motivational Quote section in my business and executive reports.
7. Never Settle: Collaborate, Invite Feedback, Be Open to Challenges and Strive for Improvement
Things are constantly changing, including priorities, investments, territories … you name it. Being in lockstep with your stakeholders – marketing and sales leaders – is incredibly important as you work to make your program as sticky as possible within the company. In addition, seek feedback and invite people to share their perspective on how to improve the program.
Final note: Building an SDR program isn’t without its challenges, but following these guidelines can help you become more agile and mature capabilities as your program takes shape.