Jonathan has spent over 15 years of his career in technology, cybersecurity and entrepreneurship. He is currently the Founder/CEO of Teepee — a managed service for vendor risk. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is based in Chicago.
Account Executive (AE), Business Development Representative (BDR), and Sales Development Representative (SDR) are common business development titles that can mean different things to different people. How would you define them?
An Account Executive works with a potential customer throughout the entire sales process. They need to focus on understanding the customer challenge, communicating the value of their solution through presentations and negotiate pricing and contract terms.
A BDR or SDR is responsible for finding potential customers and setting appointments for AEs. They do that through cold emailing, cold calling and reaching out to people on Linkedin.
Companies have always employed appointment setters in one form or another but it’s really been taken to the next level. Many companies will employ a dedicated BDR for an individual AE.
Are these roles and responsibilities consistent across sectors, company sizes and countries? Or, is there a high degree of flexibility in their usage?
I can only speak to the technology sector and can confidently say that with the growth and profits in technology, there has been an explosion in the number of salespeople and their compensation. I’m amazed that someone with a degree in Political Science can on average make $150,000+ with as little as 3 years of sales experience.
How has business development changed in the last few years?
Too many people don’t realize the pace of change is accelerating. It’s cliche to say, but what worked yesterday doesn’t work today. And most certainly what works today, won’t work tomorrow.
For instance, a few years ago, Account Executives (AEs) would do their own cold calling and prospecting for new business. Now, there are dedicated reps known as BDRs or SDRs that almost exclusively set appointments for AEs. Companies don’t want their AEs spending time on prospecting because it is almost an entirely different function than closing a deal.
How have these changes helped or hindered the sales process?
It’s been a huge positive – helpful to the employers and customers. The more that someone can focus on one function, the easier it is to give ongoing training, to buy and implement tools that will help them and to measure their results.
What do you see happening in the future for BDR/SDR?
Looking forward, I am starting to see full scale outsourcing of BDR/SDR prospecting activities. We’re at the infancy of this movement but as I mentioned, the rate of change is accelerating. This is something that previously existed but never had a lot of success and the companies that were doing the prospecting were somewhat considered ‘shady’.
Change and acceleration often bring opportunities for Start-Ups. What kind of issues do you see companies needing addressed?
Startups are disruptive and innovative because they have amazing focus on solving one problem really well. Outside of startups, companies have too many products and segments and are pulled in too many directions, which ultimately brings innovation to a grinding halt. The companies that will grow and succeed are the ones that recognize the power of focusing on fewer areas of opportunity.