3 Ways to Motivate your Business Development Representative

We all know that Business Development Reps have arguably the hardest jobs in sales. 

But what isn't so obvious is how to motivate them -- how to enable them to perform at their best over the long haul.

We don't claim to have the secret sauce here, but we've certainly made our fair share of mistakes in our attempts to motivate.

And so in this blog we're sharing 3 simple ways we empower our BDRs to take care of business for our MSPs.


Create Buyer Smoke Signals


One of the hardest parts of any business development rep's job is that all their leads look cold and mysterious.

They login to the CRM, view their activity tasks  in queues, and then see 100 or more call tasks with their name on it for the day.

The BDR knows that for every 100 prospects, maybe only 1 is actively looking for a new MSP, but she doesn't know which one that is.

Every day can feel like they're in a needle in a haystack, and over time this realization can burn the BDR out.

Well, what if a BDR Manager could turn the tables in the BDR's favor? What if it were possible to identify the leads that are leaving smoke signals behind about switching MSPs?

Do we think the BDR would be less desperate and anxious if there were smoke signals?


So how do we create smoke signals?

It's a three step process:

  1. Create an unique content offer
  2. Send it to the right prospects
  3. Track prospect engagement (opens, clicks, replies)

For example, we work with an MSP that specializes in healthcare IT solutions. They host over 1.25 billion healthcare records. So they made a cloud storage cost calculator, which allows a medical practice to easily compare storage pricing for AWS, Azure and the MSP's solution.

Then we created a series of emails and messages that centered around the rising costs of cloud storage and we offered the pricing calculator through a series of emails.

And finally we created a report in our CRM of the highly engaged contacts and then we added that report to our BDR's Dashboard.

Where many MSPs go wrong is in the offer itself. A free assessment is not novel any more. It's outdated and sounds sale-sy cause it's "free." In most cases, your prospect already has an IT provider as well that has plenty of IT information.

Instead, think about business problems your clients bring up during your QBRs. See if you can package those topics into content offers and solutions, like templates or checklists. 

Action Items
  • Create marketing assets that provide education on an industry challenge or topic rather than overtly promoting your products. Whether it’s a blog post, case study, ebook, or video, add your thought leadership into these assets.
  • Add these asset(s) to the outbound emails
  • Track the engagement of these emails for your BDRs  


Measure What Matters


Some Sales Leaders out there have what I call an "old-school" mentality when it comes to managing their Business Development Reps. 

For them, the way to get top performances from BDRs is by being very strict and controlling.

For example:

  • The BDR must come into the office 3 days out of the week.
  • The BDR must dial 80 to 100 times per day.
  • The BDR must work 5 days out of the week. 

However, in our experience, these types of requirements have the opposite effect; when BDRs are babysat, they burn out faster and jump ship more frequently.

According to The Bridge Group, in 2023 the median annual turnover for BDRs is 50%. The 25th and 75th percentiles sit at 35% and 74% annual turnover respectively.

If we go with an average replacement cost of 150-200% of an employee’s annual salary, it’s easy to see how a high turnover can cost a lot of money.

Now, if we don't micro-manage our BDR's activities and location, then how can a manager expect good results?

For us, there isn't one answer, but according to our BDRs, one of the answers is to measure what matters, which we do through our ALA, or Activity-Level Agreement.

One of our top performing BDRs, who's been with us for over 2 years, said our Activity-Level Agreement (ALA) is the most motivating factor in his job outside of financial compensation.

So what exactly is it?

The ALA is a tool that aligns our BDR's strengths with the sales activities we require of him or her.

For example, if a BDR's super power is his ability to consistently put in a high volume of outbound dials, then if also have his avg. connect rate %, avg. meaningful conversations rate % and avg. set rate %, we can forecast how many dials it will take for him to get his appointments. 

And so each month, we sit down with the BDR, run the calculations mentioned, and shake hands on the dial volume he must complete in the upcoming month. That's our ALA agreement.

If he dials less than the agreed number, his base salary will be go down proportionally, and he'll most likely have lower commissions; on the other hand, if hits the dial volume goal, his base is guaranteed.

So our ALA is a tool to drive the sales activities we require for each BDR and it matches their strengths and is based on historical data.

Do I care when he makes the dials? Nope.

Do I care if he comes into the office? No, I don't.

His ALA may require 1,150 dials per month, 500 emails and LinkedIn tasks and so that's what we care about.

But for another BDR, the ALA may require 800 dials. 

Why? Because BDRs are not identical. Maybe her super power isn't high volume, it's her ability to relate and connect with her prospects and therefore she can get excellent results with a lower dialing volume.

Now, imagine if we had forced the latter BDR to 100 dials a day? How long do you think she would have lasted?

In conclusion, to get the best results from your BDRs (and therefore your MSP), it's important to measure what matters and to treat your BDRs like people, not robots.

Action Items
  • Measure the sales activity metrics (quantity and quality metrics) that matter to establish a set of benchmarks for your BDR
  • Use their historical data to develop a pact with the BDR -- a required volume of sales activities they can commit to regardless of outcome
  • Continue to monitor the data in real time and adjust the plan accordingly


Create Rebounders for your BDR


In the first few years we onboarded our BDRs by giving them a cold-calling script with the introduction, services and contract questions, the objections and rebuttals.

We also did weekly training, call review meetings and 1 on 1 coaching. During individual coaching I'd ask them to identify an area to improve since we tracked the different parts of a call on a spreadsheet and scored them. I need to work on my tone or on objection handling "we have IT provider" and we shook hands on improving this one aspect.

And what do you think happened?

They would improve for a few days after our coaching and then they would go back to their old ways.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, writes that to go from “knowing nothing to being pretty good” actually takes about 20 hours of practice – that’s 45 minutes every day for a month. 

However, the problem with cold-calling nowadays is that most calls don't end up connecting to a decision maker! 

And so the BDR don't get to practice much on real prospects because it happens too sporadically. 

So we changed our improvement strategy by enforcing practice partnerships, where BDRs would partner up to practice, and once we started doing this, we saw more gains.


Overview of the learning pyramid for training providers


According to Arlo.com, the Learning Pyramid was first created by education specialist Edgar Dale in the 1940s. In his book “Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching”, Dale referred to it as the “Cone of Experience”.

So we went from teaching through lectures and YouTube videos, to Practice by Doing and this has helped our BDRs vastly improve their confidence and set rates. 

Action Items
  • Schedule time to practice what you want your BDR to fix
  • If you can't dedicate time yourself, designate a different person on your team to do so and commit at least 1 to 2 hours per week on this
  • Track progress and celebrate those wins

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