Confessions of a Business Development Rep: Making Warm Calls to Avoid the Cold Shoulder

Confessions of a Business Development Rep

What it Means to Be a BDR

After graduation last May, I moved to Boston to become a Business Development Representative, or BDR, for Xtium, one of OpenView’s portfolio companies. As I described the “bizdev” role to family and friends, many had a similar response: “So you’re cold calling?”

…Sure. Close enough. Secretly, though, a small piece of me — my soul — died at the thought of my job equating to that of the pesky telemarketer or door-to-door encyclopedia salesman.

But the thing is, a BDR aims to never cold call. His role is better described as “outbound lead generation.” Read on and I’ll break down the differences between the two, just for you (Okay, mom?).

Outbound vs. Inbound

Let’s start with the word “outbound,” because that’s where the similarity lies between BDR’s and cold callers. Outbound refers to the notion that you, the BDR, are the one reaching out to a prospect.

The opposite would be Inbound sales, meaning the prospect calls you to start a relationship. With new marketing strategies, social media platforms, and communication channels, inbound sales are increasingly frequent and cost effective. However, a BDR does not often qualify inbound leads. In an inbound sales utopia, a qualification call might go like this:

“Oh, hello, Mr. Prospect. Thanks for calling my direct number. What’s that? You’ve connected with our company online and are ready to talk to a sales rep?!” (That’s when Brian Halligan and 100 HubSpotters burst through the door with Funfetti cake and champagne. You proceed to high five for the next twenty four hours straight. Forbes blogs about your experience, which produces more inbound leads for tomorrow!)

Unfortunately, this is hardly the case in the real world. Besides the fact that your arm would fall off after that many high fives, businesses will always have an outbound channel. This is partly because they drive new revenue, but mostly because they provide invaluable market insight that steers the product — and company — in the right direction.

Lead Generation

This brings us to the second part of the title: “lead generation.” This is the primary function of the BDR, and is what ties him to inbound sales. A BDR is impactful in his ability to generate consumer interest in the product, and he does so by finding ways to turn a cold call into a warm one. President and Founder Ken Krogue wrote in Forbes that BDRs can warm up leads “…through referrals, relationships, recommendations, groups, discussions, sales intelligence, rapport.”

By warming up leads, I mean the BDR tries not to be an annoying telemarketer. He should find the people around the top of the funnel and provide content relevant to their pains to move them through the buyer journey. Essentially, it is between the hell of cold calling and the heaven of inbound sales that the BDR lives. Here are some more key differences:

 Outbound Lead Generation vs. Cold Calling

Outbound Lead Gen (BDR)Cold calling (Telemarketer)
I want to understand and alleviate your painI’m a pain in your ass
I will connect you with a helpful product (and a sales rep) ONLY IF it will helpI would sell a canister of gasoline to a man on fire
I learn a prospect’s roleI learn a prospect’s budget
I target a specific buyer personaI’ll call your bedridden grandmum if she’s buying
I connect with bonding & rapportI will be coy and misinform you
I engage the prospect with relevant, helpful information throughout the buying cycle (60% of prospects make their purchasing decision before talking to sales)What is a ‘buying cycle’? I know this guy is home eating dinner, so I’ll call

The most important distinction is a matter of value to the company.

4 Essential Elements of a BDR

Okay, say we’re both spiders — while a company may value a cold caller by the number of flies he manages to catch, it values the BDR by the strength of his web. Why? Because business development isn’t about the end-goal of a single sale; a BDR’s true purpose is to create a business process that is:

  1. Effective: I am finding the right people with the right pains, and providing them with the right solution.
  2. Insightful: My feedback helps evaluate marketing campaigns, product developments, and sales processes.
  3. Scalable: We can expand this process to a larger team as our business grows.
  4. Predictable: We have a clear sense of our advantages, disadvantages, and how the company should evolve.

You got comments? You got questions? You got beef? Lay it on me. Email me at or leave a comment below.

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