What is a business development representative, anyway?

September 6, 2022

At LaunchSource, we spend a lot of time with entry-level candidates, many of which are coming right out of college, looking to start their business careers. Unfortunately, whatever your major is, it probably isn’t the title of a role you can find in the real world. So entry-level candidates are faced with having to figure out what kind of job they should take based on their experiences in college.

One of the most popular and in-demand roles for entry-level candidates is a Business Development role. This is often known as Sales Development Representative or Sales/Business Development Associate as well. Whatever the title, the role is generally the same. It’s the tip of the spear in the sales cycle for a company.

Before we get into what a BDR does, I first need you to think about your idea of a typical sales role. Got it? Ok now remove that idea from your head and never think about it again. Modern day sales (also known as Sales 2.0) has evolved drastically from the environment of a “boiler room” or the tactics of a “used car salesman” (apologies to any car salesmen, you’re honorable people, but there is an unfortunate stereotype attached).

Modern day sales requires an inquisitive mind, a consultative approach, and strong communication skills – both written and verbal. Solution selling, which has become the dominant form of sales in the software and tech industry, requires someone who can listen well, understand what a potential customer’s needs are, and coordinate a solution that helps that customer solve his or her problem.

A Business Development Representative is the first point of contact for a potential customer. BDRs are typically tasked with doing market research, identifying potential customers, and reaching out to them via email and phone to see if there is a need worthy of a longer conversation. Most BDRs then coordinate a time for that potential customer to meet with a more experienced sales representative like an Account Executive.

Really good BDRs become masters of identifying the right person to talk to and are great at asking the questions that set up a successful sales call at the next stage. They are absolutely crucial to an organization’s success, and often the feedback that BDRs provide to their company will help shape the company’s sales strategy.

So why should I begin as a BDR rather than some other entry-level position? 

To be honest, starting as a BDR will give you the most well-rounded real-world business education you can find. Sales managers know that you are just starting your business career, and it’s likely that they started as a BDR not too long ago. If you want to learn the ins and outs of business, are coachable and willing to listen, and are willing to try new things, your sales managers will help set you up for success.

As the front lines of an organization, BDRs are included in sales kickoff meetings where they learn the company strategy, new verticals to target, and get a chance to listen to high-level executives talk about business.

The career path for a BDR offers rapid advancement and the ability to move into a senior sales role, management, roles that ensure customers are successful and in some cases marketing. The great news is in most cases companies are looking to promote you in 12-18 months. Some of the candidates that LaunchSource has helped get hired even come back to us as clients looking to hire new entry-level sales reps!

But I majored in marketing and want to start a career there!

Hey there’s nothing wrong with a marketing career, but real-world marketing has changed too. The majority of entry-level marketing roles perform a couple things:

  • Posting to social media (and companies typically only need one or two people to do this)
  • Pushing “send” on an email generated by a more senior person
  • A LOT of writing (think blogs, case studies, e-books, and emails)
  • Specialized/trained technical marketing including SEO and monitoring PPC campaigns

Marketing professionals also don’t get paid based on their performance. BDR’s typically get paid (in addition to their salary) based on the number of appointments they set up.

The bottom line is, if you’re looking to get into business, becoming a Business Development Representative is the place to start. It’s got a ton of room for professional growth, gives you the foundational skills that will help you continue to grow throughout your career.

Do I have what it takes to be a BDR?

Great Business Development Representatives come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, but there are some common things that we see in successful BDRs. If you are intellectually curious, and possess good listening skills, you’re off to a good start. You’ve also got to have persistence and the drive to succeed. As you can imagine, often it’s not the right time or the right solution for many people or companies. It’s a BDR’s job to discover that, but if you’re motivated by a successful hunt, you’ll thrive in this role!

If you’re interested in becoming a Business Development Representative, you’re already in the right place. LaunchSource works with the coolest startups in the area and makes sure they provide room for growth, competitive pay, and a cool atmosphere that us “millennials and Gen Z” like to work in!