The role of BDRs and SDRs in appointment-setting

Stephanie Trovato
Stephanie Trovato
Reading time:10 m

The efficacy of your sales process directly impacts your bottom line. Central to converting prospects into customers is the crucial step of setting appointments. However, burdening your sales reps with both appointment setting and lead management may not be the most efficient use of their talents.

Sales reps excel when they’re engaging with prospects, nurturing relationships, and closing deals — activities that directly generate ROI. To optimize this process, it’s beneficial to consider delegating appointment setting and lead management to dedicated specialists.

Introducing 2 key roles into your sales strategy can make a significant difference: business development representatives (BDRs) and sales development representatives (SDRs). These roles are designed to focus on specific stages of the buyer’s journey, ensuring that your sales reps are free to concentrate on what they do best. BDRs specialize in identifying new business opportunities, while SDRs are adept at nurturing these leads, setting the stage for successful appointments.

In this article, we’ll highlight the distinct functions of BDRs and SDRs, demonstrating how each contributes to a streamlined sales process. We’ll also examine how each position can help your organization reach its goals, and explore how to set up these teams while following best practices.

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Differences between BDRs and SDRs during the sales process

Both BDRs and SDRs play integral roles in lead generation and top-of-funnel sales. While the 2 roles can sometimes look similar, some key differences can help create a well-rounded sales team.

Business development representatives

BDRs, like any sales representative, are focused on acquiring new customers. However, this specific type of sales rep generally focuses exclusively on outbound lead generation. They’ll likely make cold calls and send emails and direct messages to foster relationships with new prospects. 

Because BDRs interact with prospects unfamiliar with the organization, BDRs move slowly and strategically to keep their leads interested. BDRs collaborate with sales teams to create an effective outbound strategy that nurtures leads down the appointment-setting funnel.

What BDRs do at Belkins

At Belkins, our sales team structure is slightly different from what is traditionally the case. Because we’re a sales outsourcing agency, we manage lead generation and appointment-setting for both ourselves and our clients. Rather than differentiate BDRs and SDRs by inbound and outbound strategy, we differentiate them by who they generate leads for.

Our BDRs are in charge of lead generation for the Belkins agency. They use inbound and outbound methods to find new clients. BDRs are also in charge of a long list of pre-sales responsibilities for our company, including ICP planning, lead qualification and scoring, inbound lead management, appointment setting, and nurturing.

Sales development representatives

SDRs play a different role than BDRs, focusing primarily on inbound lead generation. This means they’re looking at prospects slightly further down the funnel. They come through content or other inbound channels, and SDRs help guide them toward making an appointment.

Because of the higher level of company awareness that inbound leads have, SDRs can move quicker than BDRs. Rather than collaborating with the sales team on outbound tactics, SDRs collaborate with marketing teams on content that drives action. 

What SDRs do at Belkins

As highlighted above, SDRs have a different role at Belkins than is often the case. Rather than just managing inbound prospects, SDRs manage lead generation and appointment-setting for all our clients. They’re a critical part of our client delivery team.

SDRs for Belkins are in charge of email outreach and appointment-setting, but they also support account managers with project management and client communication. They’re integral to client-focused projects, driving action and facilitating team communication.

Key differences between BDRs and SDRs

While each organization functions a bit differently, the 3 most common differences between BDRs and SDRs are:

  1. Focus: BDRs are focused on outbound lead generation, while SDRs are focused on inbound lead generation. BDR appointment-setting is for leads with less company awareness, while SDR appointment-setting is for prospects more ready to close the deal.
  2. Nurturing: BDRs move slower and more strategically because they nurture leads with less company awareness. SDRs, on the other hand, have leads that are further down the funnel and, therefore, need to do less nurturing.
  3. Collaboration: BDRs most often collaborate with sales teams, fostering leads from cold calls and other outbound strategies. Conversely, SDRs are more collaborative with marketing teams that create content and other inbound tactics.

Each organization may define these roles differently, but both are beneficial for your sales goals. For Belkins, differentiating by who they’re lead-generating for empowers clarity in our sales teams.

Common challenges and solutions for BDRs and SDRs

BDRs and SDRs face numerous challenges that can impede their ability to set appointments and generate leads effectively. One common obstacle is the qualification of leads — distinguishing between those who are genuinely interested and those who are not yet ready. To overcome this, adopting a lead scoring system that evaluates leads based on specific criteria such as engagement level and fit can be invaluable.

Another challenge is managing the sheer volume of outreach attempts. Automating certain aspects of the outreach process, like email follow-ups, can save time and ensure consistent communication. Additionally, overcoming gatekeepers requires tact and persistence. Tailoring your message to highlight immediate value and using social proof can help in gaining access to decision-makers.

Setting up effective BDR and SDR teams

For your BDRs and SDRs to bring in more high-quality leads, you need to satisfy a few foundational prerequisites. We suggest making sure you check these 3 boxes as you establish your BDR and SDR differentiation:

Hiring effectively by defining your roles

As seen above, BDRs and SDRs have slightly different roles, which means different strengths are necessary for each type of representative. However, it’s not common knowledge how BDRs and SDRs differ. So, we recommend clarifying precisely what you’re looking for in each role in your job posting.

For example, BDRs need to be patient nurturers, seeking outbound leads and moving slowly. SDRs, on the other hand, can move quickly because their leads are already more aware. Throughout the interview process, ensure your candidates exhibit traits that align with the differences in the roles.

Establish clear goals and metrics

One of the best ways to ensure team success is by making clear goals and metrics for goal measurement. Whether you’re a BDR or an SDR, having a clear direction for your lead generation strategy is pivotal to achievement. 

Depending on how your sales team is organized, BDRs and SDRs may have slightly different goals. At Belkins, both BDRs and SDRs have appointment-setting goals that drive decision-making. But if your BDRs focus on outbound and your SDRs focus on inbound, you may choose different KPIs for each that reflect the pace of the role.

📚 Relevant article: Learn more about how to measure key B2B sales metrics.

Foster a positive team culture

Sales teams can learn one of two ways: collaborative or competitive. While some healthy competition isn’t harmful, a positive team culture is a must — and collaboration needs to be a part of the picture. Some ways to foster a collaborative sales team include:

  • Celebrating success
  • Ensuring open communication
  • Engaging in knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer coaching
  • Clear task differentiation
  • Avoiding reward structures that pit team members against one another
  • Incentivizing team success in addition to individual success
  • Addressing unhealthy competition immediately

At Belkins, empowered collaboration defines our culture. While our BDRs and SDRs focus on distinct stages of the sales journey and drive different types of customers, they do not work in isolation. Instead, they actively share insights and strategies on outreach and appointment setting, enriching each other’s work. This collaborative spirit is key to guiding customers smoothly through the sales funnel, showcasing the strength of unity in our approach.

Best practices for BDR and SDR appointment-setting

Now that you’ve got your BDR and SDR teams set up for success, let’s look at some best practices that can be applied to each role. 

Personalize outreach and messaging

It’s no surprise that all leads, regardless of whether they’re inbound or outbound, appreciate personalized outreach and messaging. While canned messages are sometimes a part of outbound strategy, take every appropriate opportunity you can to personalize for the best results — and that means going beyond just personalizing the name!

For BDRs, personalized outreach is key to attracting prospects’ interest in your brand. In your cold messages, explain why you think your company is a good fit for them using specifics. Address their organization’s unique pain points rather than generic issues to spark a productive sales conversation.

For SDRs, personalized outreach will look slightly different, as you’re likely corresponding with inbound leads. These leads might be more familiar with your company, so part of personalized messaging is understanding where they are in company awareness. If you’re confident they’re in the middle of the funnel, you can skip over cursory information, instead answering more in-depth concerns that match their awareness level. 

Leveraging multiple communication channels

Both BDRs and SDRs should take advantage of more than one communication channel. We know statistically that different demographics respond to different channels. For example, millennials and Gen Z are most responsive to digital platforms, while Baby Boomer leads prefer communication by phone.

BDRs, as outbound sales reps, need to be familiar with a few different channels to meet various ICPs. They need to know who they’re interacting with so they can contact them in the best way. This means each lead may vary substantially.

For SDRs, you likely know more about your inbound leads than BDRs know about their targets. Use this to your advantage when you’re deciding what the best communication channel is. If they’ve interacted with your company on social media, you know they’re comfortable on that channel. If they’ve inquired over the phone, you know that may be a better communication method. Personalization in channels is vital to closing inbound deals.

Measuring and continuously improving

Effective goal measurement is one of the best ways to spur growth within sales teams. KPIs are a great goal-setting method that can encourage quantitative assessment of success for BDRs and SDR teams.

The right metrics for your BDRs and SDRs will vary based on their specific role in your company. For BDRs, common KPIs include client acquisition rates, proposals sent, and sales pipeline generation. For SDRs, appointment-setting is often a leading KPI. Lead qualification rate, conversion rate, and activity metrics like the number of emails sent can also be good indicators.

Real-world success: Salesforce story

The most common approach is differentiating BDRs and SDRs by outbound or inbound focus. Salesforce is a successful company that organizes its sales representatives this way. Salesforce has the largest SDR team in the United States, with just under 2,500 active SDRs!

The company emphasizes collaboration and innovation within its sales teams. Rather than fostering a harsh competitive environment, Salesforce takes the collaborative approach, arguing that a “rising tide lifts all ships.” With a compound annual growth rate of 51.22%, there’s no doubt that Salesforce’s sales structure works well for them.

Achieving success in appointment-setting with BDRs and SDRs

Differentiating BDRs and SDRs within your organization is an essential key to success when it comes to achieving high appointment-setting rates. With specialized responsibilities, regardless of how you’ve differentiated the roles, BDRs and SDRs can focus on driving action.

Clarifying your sales representative team strategy is a recipe for success, whether you’re following Salesforce’s traditional BDR/SDR differentiation or forging your own path, as we do here at Belkins. 

If you’d like to take advantage of our SDR’s expertise in appointment-setting and lead generation for your organization, we’d love to connect you with our team. Book a call with our sales representatives here. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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Stephanie Trovato
Stephanie Trovato
B2B copywriter
Stephanie is an experienced marketer and content expert in the B2B space with a background in international trade and marketing analytics. A multi-channel storyteller and strategist with over a decade of content marketing experience, Stephanie's expertise spans the marketing, technology, SaaS, eCommerce, and workplace management industries.