Sales Empowerment Group Blog

Building a BDR/SDR Team from Scratch: 9 Best Practices from VP of Sales Josh Fosburg

We were thrilled to have Josh Fosburg (VP of Enterprise Sales - WordPress VIP) join us for a webinar focused entirely on building BDR/SDR teams from scratch. Josh is a sales leader with 15+ years experience building inside sales teams. He was building BDR teams before they were even called BDRs!

You can watch the full webinar on-demand here. In this blog post, we'll look at nine best practices for growing your BDR/SDR team; whether you have reps already or you're starting from square one. 

1. Where should we start when building a BDR/SDR team?

The great "Chicken vs. The Egg" question when building a BDR/SDR team: Do you start by hiring BDR/SDRs or hire a manager/designate a sales leader?

Pros of starting with BDR/SDRs

It's great to get the talent in the door, especially in that April - July range when the job market's super competitive for new college graduates. You hire your 2-3+ BDR/SDRs and the focus becomes all about ramping them up vs. continuing to recruit. Keep in mind - Recruiting/hiring BDR/SDRs can take 6-8+ weeks if you're doing this in-house.

Downside of starting with BDR/SDRs, but not having a manager/Team Lead

But how do you ramp them up without a Team Lead? And what does their training look like? Sales playbooks? Coaching? Will this fall on the plate of the VP of Sales who's already juggling 20 other things? 

Josh Fosburg emphasizes the need for a "Team Lead" (think player-coach) early on who handles the following responsibilities:

  1. Coaching the other BDR/SDRs
  2. Helping BDR/SDRs identify the ideal customer profile
  3. Helping with messaging - Phone, email, LinkedIn
  4. Offering direction, advice on different accounts and contacts

In the beginning, this Team Lead will likely still be doing the job itself - landing meetings, prospecting, cold calling. As the team grows, this Team Lead becomes a perfect candidate to be a BDR/SDR Manager. 

So, chicken or the egg? Both. Start by hiring BDR/SDRs, but do so with the intention that one of those first hires will quickly become a Team Lead. 

2. What should we look for when hiring a BDR/SDR?

We mentioned the April - July hiring window for college graduates, and while this is the most common route when hiring BDR/SDRs, it's not the only option. You also don't have to limit your search to people who've been a BDR/SDR before or done this role in your specific industry. 

Unique backgrounds that have made for great BDR/SDRs, both for Josh as well as our hires over the years at SEG: School teachers. Social workers. Door-to-door salespeople. Bartenders. Folks from the restaurant industry. 

This is not a one-size fits all role. Besides, there are very few people who graduate with a "Inside Sales" degree. Josh encourages sales leaders to widen their search, embrace the variety of candidates, and create a high-performing, diverse team with different backgrounds. 

3. Any advice on BDR/SDR messaging? How can we warm up our phone calls and stand out in our prospects' email inbox?

Everybody has an opinion on what types of email messaging works best for inside sales teams. Advice like: Here's what subject lines to use. How long the email should be. What you should say in the first two sentences. Etc. Etc. 

But in Josh's experience, sometimes the email you wouldn't expect to work (super long, doesn't have the recommended buzzwords) ends up doing great. Gets a ton of responses. And then the perfect, by-the-book one is met with crickets. 

So, is it all guesswork? Is there any secret to email messaging from your BDR/SDRs? 

"Messaging needs to be relevant to the person," Josh said, "that can mean personalization, could mean snappy, could mean long. Try your darndest to include genuineness inside of that, I think people can feel that." 

Josh also shared how much of your team's success is dependent on timing. Send an email over to the right prospect, right time, it won't matter so much how well the email is written. Likewise, you could have the best email ever written, but if it's not the right person, not good timing, it probably won't receive a response.

This is why it's so important to have active BDR/SDRs putting in there email campaigns every day. The steady volume of emails increases the odds that you'll have scenarios of "right place, right time."

Now this next point might be a whole separate blog or webinar someday, but Josh mentioned the increasing importance of avoiding the spam filter/block lists. Email filters have become far more strict in recent years (and will continue to be so). If your domain/company name ends up in one of these, it's devastating to your outbound efforts. 

Here's a helpful resource from Hubspot. They share a list of words to avoid for spam filter reasons. 

Also, while software makes it easy to upload a list of 1,000 new contacts, send out a mass email from a BDR that looks like it's personalized, we advise against this. This might be faster in the short-term, but high bounce rates, low open rates, unsubscribes, people marking the message as spam, this can be devastating long-term for your open rates. 

Slow down. Personalize your messages. Let marketing build your email domain strength. This way your BDR/SDR efforts are not lost in the junk folder.  

4. What sort of "tech stack" should we invest in for our BDR/SDRs?

Tech is important. Getting the right tools for your BDR/SDRs, most up-to-date software solution, all of that matters, but here's a common problem Josh sees in our modern tech-enabled world of sales. 

"I've seen it happen often where folks can't get started because they don't have all of the pieces lined up," Josh said. "Outreach isn't connected to LinkedIn. LinkedIn isn't connected to Zoominfo, which isn't connected to email, so I can't do anything."

Technology should power-up your existing efforts, making things more efficient. Your CRM makes things more organized compared to jotting down notes on pieces of paper or random Excel spreadsheets. But technology is not a substitute for doing the daily grind. Activity from your sales reps is as important in 2021 as it was in 2001. 

All in all: Good old fashioned hustle will never be outdated. Pair that with technology and you've good a winning formula. 

5. How should data impact our BDR/SDR team's strategy? Does this impact how we're coaching our reps?

Josh shared how technology helps him determine and adjust his sales strategy, both at the macro and individual levels.

Macro Level

Identify trends in terms of campaigns, templates, messaging, and customer profiles. What's the data saying? What efforts are working and what's not? 

Individual level

For each of your BDR/SDRs, you'll be able to see things like # of calls, # of emails, # of meetings set. From those meetings, how many are progressing to a second meeting?

This data takes the guesswork out of your coaching sessions. Through the data, you're able to go in and focus on a specific aspect of the job and help your BDR/SDRs build on their strengths and improve their weaknesses.

6. Any recommendations for developing a strong team culture?

What comes to mind first when you think of a great team or company culture? Ping pong table? Catered lunches? Regulation-sized basketball court on site?

These things are all great, but Josh emphasized four equally--if not more important--aspects in developing a strong culture for your BDR/SDRs.

  1. Place for growth - Does your BDR/SDR team function as a Farm System? Can they move up the ranks in your sales organization? Is there a clear path for their long-term development?
  2. What does success look like in role - Transparency so your BDR/SDRs know if they are doing a good job or not.
  3. Leader who coaches - Helps them develop skills to thrive in their role 
  4. Leader who cares - Cares about them as an individual. Checks in, mentors. The one-on-one meeting isn't just a dive into the performance numbers. 

Develop these four areas and you've got a great framework for great team culture.

Develop these four areas PLUS the ping pong table, catered lunches, and regulation-sized basketball court... hey, now you've got something really special. 

7. What are some of the things we should monitor/measure in terms of BDR/SDR performance tracking?

Yes, there's a numbers game aspect to BDR/SDR outreach. Make this many dials a day. Send this many emails. This many LinkedIn connection requests/inmails. Putting in high volume, regular activity will always be part of outbound sales. 

But Josh also emphasized the importance, again, of having both Macro and Individual metrics. Here's what this looks like in action:

Macro Level

  1. Conversion Rates - What messaging is working? What offer is appealing to prospects? What piece of content are people opening/clicking on more than others? Find these answers and you're setting up each new hire with a proven sales playbook. 
  2. What types of accounts are converting - Do you know who your top 3-5 industries are? How about the ideal prospect and what time of year they make decisions? You want to channel your BDR/SDR efforts in the right direction. Otherwise it can be deflating on the rep who's working hard but not making any headway. 

Individual Level

By addressing the Macro first, now you can meet with your reps and determine if they're using the right messaging and going after the right prospects. If they're doing this, and they're still not having success, now you can look to the # of calls, # of emails. How do they sound on the phone? You can be more specific in your coaching, addressing which aspects needs to be improved. 

Having this Macro + Individual system in place allows you to start scaling your team from 2-3 people to 10-15+. As you develop a proven sales playbook, your new hires join and ramp up faster, growing the top of the sales funnel.

8. How can we turn our BDR/SDR team into a sales team "Farm System"?

What's the advantage of promoting from within, moving a BDR/SDR up the ranks vs. hiring from outside your organization?

"It's so great to hire a BDR and then promote that person into another sales role," Josh explained, "mainly because when you have that person who starts as a BDR, she learns something about the people you're selling to, the type of messaging that works, the reasons why your product is a right fit or not a right fit and then it's a natural progression into selling for your company/organization."

BDR/SDRs go on to be Account Executives, Account Managers, Sales Managers. But Josh has also seen former BDR/SDRs stay at the organization but move over to roles in marketing, customer success, support. The BDR/SDR team isn't just a Farm System for your sales function, it's a great place to grow future leaders throughout the company. 

In our experience, BDR/SDRs are often only in that specific role for 1-2 years. They're hungry and looking to grow and move up the ranks. If there's not a clear path for the long-term at your organization, they'll look to grow their career somewhere else.

9. Any final tips and tricks for BDR/SDR team leaders/managers? How about for all the BDR/SDRs out there?

Josh's advice for sales leaders/managers:

"Have a plan, as best you can. And be ready to pivot. You're gonna learn a lot in those first few months. And set the right expectations. This isn't a switch that flips on overnight. Deals need to mature. Markets need to mature. But if you have the right expectations as a leader, the program you setup, running through those activities, you're gonna have a successful program."

Advice for BDR/SDRs in role:

"Don't take it too personally [when you get a no]. A lot of times all of this does come down to the right time, so find the small wins in your day. Find the 3 or 4 folks who said they'd refer you to another person and say, 'Hey, I did a nice job. I'm gonna use that to springboard a meeting with somebody else.'"

We're referring to this webinar as part of our "BDR/SDR" trilogy. If you found this helpful, we also recommend checking out our recaps on "Building a BDR Team: 5 Things We Learned from Brian Bourke at SEKO Logistics" and "How Aligning Sales and Marketing Bolsters Pipeline: 11 Best Practices from Jason Torgler at A-LIGN." If you'd like to talk about your team's specific situation or you're looking to build a BDR/SDR team for the first time and need some help, feel free to contact us here. We love helping companies grow and scale their outbound sales function.

Tags: Sales Tips, Sales Success, BDR

Written by Brian O'Neil