Business development reps (BDRs) have always been pivotal to the sales process. And while sales development and customer success reps have emerged in recent years to further improve the sales experience, BDRs remain crucial.
Business development reps are essential for getting people through the door and turning prospects into clients. But in many cases, that’s tougher than it’s ever been.
Why? Because the way buyers make decisions has totally changed and these changes are here to stay.
A lot of the key changes mirror the sales velocity equation, which I talked about back in September:
- Slower decision making: The speed of the sale has slowed dramatically
- Number of opportunities: It’s harder to get decent opportunities in front of more people
- Average order value: More clients are arguing down the price
- Conversion rate: Decisions are lingering and not actually converting, however strong they felt in the first place
Despite this, I’ve seen BDRs still reaching out to prospects in the same way, having the same conversations and giving the same pitches.
It isn’t working, for one simple reason – the buyer now needs something different.
There are more decision makers than ever
One change that’s having a massive impact is the increase in the number of decision makers.
More decision makers means there’s greater scrutiny over ideas and business development reps need to work harder to provide justification. As a result, there’s a higher likelihood of a decision not going through.
Gartner estimates that an average of 6.8 people are now involved in each B2B purchase decision, but that the number can go as high as 11.
Whatever the true figure is for your clients, most of the time it’s going to be multiple decision makers. And once it’s more than one person, the chance of a deal going through goes off a cliff.
This has an impact in a few different areas:
- Your sales experience needs to be far more professional. It has to be watertight if the people you’re speaking to are going to convince the other stakeholders.
- The extra scrutiny makes ROI more important. If they’re going to buy a product or service, people need to be convinced that it’s going to work and that they’ll be able to measure the impact.
- Your buyer needs to be prepared to shoulder the risk. It’s on them to sell the deal through to multiple stakeholders. If the product doesn’t work, they’re going to end up shouldering the blame.
Four mistakes business development reps are making
Let’s look at some common mistakes – and what your buyer needs instead to be able to make a purchase.
Mistake one: Selling to the company, not the role
Building relationships with prospects has always been at the top of a business development rep’s agenda. But what building a relationship means now is very different to what it meant in the past.
Traditionally, you’d try and build as much rapport as you could with that person: think lunches, golf trips, whatever you could do to get them on side. And while you’re doing that, you’re probably talking about how you could help their business and the features or benefits they’d get from your product.
The problem is, with the extra scrutiny I talked about – the additional stakeholders, the focus on ROI – that rapport isn’t going to be of any use when the person is actually trying to sell it on.
So the question to ask is, how can you make it easy for that person to want to use your product but be brave enough to sell it onto the business as well?
The missing link
In truth, there’s a missing link between connecting on a personal level and connecting with a company: connecting with the individual in their role.
You need to convince them that you’re going to make them look like a superstar and that you’re the person to help them perform better in their role.
To pitch those things with confidence, you need to personalise the conversation. They’re more likely to advocate for your product if they can clearly see what’s in it for them.
That means you need to be asking:
- What do you need to achieve in your role?
- Where do you want to be in six months’ time?
- How is your success measured?
Once you’ve got that information, it’s on you as a BDR to explain how you’ll help them drive those specific outcomes.
Mistake two: Only asking questions rather than building true value
Some business development reps will go into a meeting and pitch their product straight away. More developed reps will go in and ask questions, then give a relevant pitch based on the responses.
It’s crucial to ask the right questions and listen to your prospects’ needs so you understand their desired outcomes. However, you should also aim to add strategic value that will help prospects understand why they need to change and the option that will help them succeed in their role.
Ultimately, you want them to come away from the conversation thinking, “that was genuinely valuable and worth paying for in itself”.
The strongest BDRs are now building narratives that give clients “Aha!” moments. It might be social proof and consensus through stories. Or it might be teaching them things they didn’t realise they needed to know to give them a competitive advantage.
A massive part of that is understanding end user behaviour and what value you can build in.
Mistake three: Believing the customer is always right
The old adage is that the customer is always right.
However, technology, competitors and the buying process have evolved to such an extent that there’s a lot more risk involved in making decisions. That’s made it difficult for buyers to make the correct decision around what to move forward with.
Often, people will have a knee-jerk reaction deciding what they do or don’t want. That reaction might have been right five years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s right now or is the best option for the end user.
As a BDR, you need to be using the knowledge you pick up doing research, working with other stakeholders and hearing the mistakes of other people in similar roles.
That should give you the confidence to go in and lead the customer with statements like:
- “In companies looking to X, there are often challenges in the decision making process like…”
- “Other people looking to X in this industry are facing A, B and C challenges. How are they affecting you and what’s your priority right now?”
Part of doing this is learning how to say ‘no’ politely, give feedback in a strong way and take control.
There’s a great book called Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity that will really help with this. It’s about being disruptive for the greater good of the other person and how it’s possible to care personally and challenge directly at the same time.
You don’t need to tell prospects they’re doing something wrong or be combative – bring in your knowledge of end users, other clients and stakeholder groups to help them move forward.
Mistake four: Failing to tap into the core reason they’re buying
Many BDRs will know the ins and outs of their product and features, and focus on those when they’re talking to customers. Decent business development reps will talk more about the benefits of using those features.
However, the challenge with just talking about benefits is that it doesn’t tap into the core reason they’re buying – to drive outcomes.
Buyers need the process to be de-risked. Essentially, they need to be confident they’re going to be able to drive outcomes.
BDRs should lead conversations where they help the buyer articulate the specific outcomes they want to drive and then provide advice on how to get there.
Fundamentally, they’re going to be looking at those things with the rest of the team anyway. You’ll see the same questions about internal changes come up time and time again. Things like, how do we implement this anyway? Is it going to integrate with X department?
A big part in achieving ROI is going to come from how the solution is implemented, integrated and adopted by the prospect. They need to know that you’re not just leaving them to it.
Being able to remove the risk and help make it work is a fantastic way to stand out amongst other BDRs who just sell the features and benefits and leave them to make it work by themselves.
You can show them exactly how you’ll overcome the hurdles (for example, what your customer success team can do) and convince them of the results they’re going to get.
Creating case studies
One other key thing you can talk about here is case studies. Share the outcomes of what you’ve helped others to achieve in their specific role. This will give them more confidence and more collateral that makes it easier for them to sell on to other people.
That way, you don’t get caught up just talking about the benefits. You can say, here are the outcomes based on what you’ve talked about, here are the KPIs you should be measuring and here is how we’ll work with you to get to that place and achieve those goals.
Supercharge your sales for a changed world
Buyer behaviour has changed – and those changes are here to stay. Sales teams urgently need to adapt to be able to deliver a stand-out experience.
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