How do I motivate my BDR or SDR team?

David Aronica
September 13, 2017

The SDR or BDR role is demanding, repetitive, and often frustrating, but it's an essential part of your outbound sales team. So as a manager, how do you make sure the people in the role stay motivated and do not get discouraged? David Aronica, the BDR Manager at Splash was kind enough to give us insight into how he leads his team, achieves goals, and creates future stars for his other parts of his organization. Below are David's 5 ways to help motivate your team.

Paint a vision of the future

The BDR role should be treated as an entry point into your organization and an opportunity to learn from the ground level how a successful startup works. From Day 1, BDR Managers should encourage their team to get involved across the entire organization to expose themselves to all of the opportunities ahead of them. For BDRs, the most natural progression is into the AE role, and the synergy of these two roles is critical to success. We have seen that the AEs and BDRs who work closely together have the most success not only in pipeline and revenue generation, but also in career development (on both sides!).

But sales shouldn’t be the only path. BDRs serve as the bridge between marketing and sales and BDR managers should encourage the deep understanding of marketing programs and demand generation as this can serve as another career path. Further, most organizations, especially if they work with freemium or trial users require the BDR role to serve as support in many instances. BDRs who take this seriously and are curious about the inner workings of the product and how clients use them are set up for success on client services and customer success teams.

Okay great. So, we know that the BDR role is exposed to many facets of the organization. What next? Managers should be assessing career development from Day 1 and helping BDRs hone their focus on their next move. There are skills that must be learned, leaders to align with, and goals to be met before any move can be made. However, it’s never too early to start painting the picture of success in a BDR’s head and showing them the different paths they can take. A BDR without a sense of purpose and ability to see the ends to the means will never be successful. Invest in career development. Invest in coaching. Help your BDRs succeed not only on your team but set them up for greater success throughout the organization. This will keep them hitting quota month over month and build life long trust.

Be uber-transparent

BDRs crave transparency. And the truth is, they deserve it. Because of the aforementioned involvement in all departments in the business organization they are exposed to everything, and even small changes can have immense impact on their day to day. The more BDRs know what is going on, they can use it to their advantage and will trust that the organization has their best interests in mind. This is critical to keeping a team motivated and morale high.

As a BDR Manager this work a two-sided game. Not only do you have to communicate with uber-transparency to your team but you must be their voice in management and executive meetings. You have to tell it how it is. You have to communicate their needs, grievances, and perspectives in all conversations and strategic meetings you are privy to. It is your duty to represent them and you must always act in their best interest even if that requires sacrifice on your behalf. Trust me, this will create a bond a culture that will drive success - and one that every millennial will crave to be a part of.

Give advice, but don’t demand that they listen

The last thing BDRs want is to be told what to do. BDRs want to collaborate and have input on the strategies and decisions that they will have to adhere to. This comes to process, technology stack, email and call verbiage, and commission plans. Now, as an effective manager you should be guiding conversations and leading them down a successful path. However, the best managers will acknowledge that they don’t have all of the answers and that often the best solutions are crowd-sourced. I mean, you hired these people, shouldn’t you trust them?

Just because you are in a position of authority does not mean that you are better than them. It does not mean that you need to have the final word. Consider the opinions of the people on your team, and don’t dismiss them. Their perspective from sitting in the seat is critical for making smart decisions, considering most of us haven’t been in that role for more than a year (and often much, much longer).

From my personal experience it is best to give advice but not demand that they listen to it. If a BDR comes to me and says “you know what David, I think you’re wrong and here’s why” I love it. I have worked hard to develop open and healthy relationship with the BDRs I manage. I want them to have their own ideas and own their strategies. That being said, if a BDR is continuously struggling given a set of strategies they have put in place, I will work with them to adjust and get them back on the right track. They will trust you if you allow them to fail on their own instead of forcing them to do it your way from the start.

Own your mistakes

A manager nobody is willing to get behind is a manager who makes a terrible decision and fails to own up to it. This is the fastest and most surefire way to lose trust from your team and colleagues. If you know that you made a mistake, it is critical to come out and own it publicly so that your team doesn’t have to take the hit for a strategy you put in place. At the end of the day, your team will respect your ability to have their back by owning your mistakes. Your peers and executives will respect your dedication to doing the right thing and trust that you will do better in the future.

Owning your mistake also means not making them again. If you learn something in a previous quarter, year, or job, make sure you carry it with you every day. Your ability to improve your decision making over time is what will build long-term trust. Yes, you can make mistakes every now and then and own them, but you only have so many chances to say “yup, I messed up”. If you aren’t serious about getting better then your team will lose trust in you in the end and you’ll lose the ability motivate them.

Constant acknowledgement and feedback

The BDR role is insanely hard. That’s why I say to every single person that I interview with a straight face. It’s important to set that expectation upfront. That’s why when you see a rep succeeding, going above and beyond, and helping others that you acknowledge them publicly. The role is one that can often be overlooked at many sales organizations. The handoff is made and it’s back to the grind. Organizations that fail to celebrate where a deal is sourced and the effort put in on the BDR level will constantly suffer from unmotivated BDRs.

It is on the BDR Manager to communicate the victories, big and small, to the team and ensure that their achievements are acknowledged. For continuous success, this shouldn’t just happen quarterly or monthly, but daily. Celebrate the small wins the same way you celebrate the big ones and your team will be motivated every day.

That being said, it is important to be transparent and provide constructive feedback. A BDR cannot develop if they are only being told how well they are doing and a manager is overlooking where they can get better. If you find yourself in a situation where you must have a “tough” conversation with a BDR, make sure you can back up your position with metrics and a plan to help them improve. A lazy manager tells them where they are suffering but does not provide a path to help them. Motivate through transparency and commit to them.

Lastly, Be Genuine

Everything I’ve written about in this article only matters if you genuinely care about the people on your team and the mission of your company. Passion and commitment cannot be faked and you’ll never motivate your team with flimsy promises and clips from Boiler Room. Your passion should be palpable, it should change and ignite a room when you walk in. If you genuinely want to help your team, they will feed off of that and sprint into battle with you.