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Grasshopper to Sales Assassin: My secret for developing SaaS BDRs

About the author: Brett Harker has an acute understanding of how to build top-of-funnel pipeline. He oversaw sales recruiting at Signpost, led a team of SDRs at Greenhouse and currently manages a team of BDRs at Oracle Netsuite.

Setting meetings doesn’t have to be hard or monotonous. As a BDR Manager, I’ve worked closely with a fair share of BDRs—from wide-eyed juniors to seasoned veterans. I’ve analyzed countless different strategies that sales reps use to get meetings, and here’s what I’ve found.

The main thing that separates high-performing BDRs from their junior counterparts is the degree to which they personalize their outreach.

This article will explain the 3 different stages of personalization and the effect that each stage has on sales performance.

Stage one: Grasshopper BDR

New BDRs are ideally taken through an onboarding program that introduces them to the product, the company’s sales methodology, and what’s expected of them in the role. They tend to focus on the latter (daily metrics, quota, etc.) more than anything else.

Because they’re coming into a new role where the tools or the product are selling can be fairly complex, the clearest path to hit their targets —as far as they can see—is to “spray and pray”.

They take the templates given to them by sales trainers (with the intent that they will personalize) or veteran peers and start hurling them at prospects, because as reasonable humans we are raised to expect that when you send someone an email, they in turn respond with their level of interest.

But, of course, the result is that they barely collect the low-hanging fruit. Their emails hardly get opened, and the few responses they get are the dreaded unsubscribe.

Stage two: Apprentice BDR

Once the young grasshopper becomes more efficient with processes and more comfortable with product knowledge, they find some free bandwidth. They start to research their prospects.

Maybe they look into company websites at first. Then maybe they start to develop an understanding of specific target personas. Then maybe they collect questions to ask according to each unique persona.

Once they start flexing this basic personalization, they start seeing an increase in open rates. Their conversations begin to extend further. But what’s perhaps most impactful is that now they’re getting specific objections instead of just “no thanks.”

The more time and thought that goes into their outreach, the more time and thought they get from their prospects in return, and thus conversion goes up.

Have you ever gotten an email and thought, “man, they put some real effort into this, I can’t not respond”?

Stage three: Master BDR

This is where BDRs move beyond just reading the homepage or figuring out where the prospect went to college. Instead, they start looking for articles that the prospect has published projects they’ve worked on, recent accomplishments, personal interests they have (without coming across too creepy).

Master BDRs will artfully weave these tidbits into their value statements and their questions. They also go beyond just using email and phone as the sole medium to share these personalizations. They leverage video, Linkedin voice messages, creative gift drops, & handwritten letters, all the while taking ongoing strategic notes for each lead so they can revisit the previous touchpoint without missing a step.

With this deep level of personalization, they see a measurable increase in reply rates, which allows them to work through their leads faster. Instead of sending 10 generic emails and reaching the end of their sequence empty handed, they can send 3 personalized messages to get a response. The remaining 7 emails that weren’t needed can be sent to other prospects, resulting in more meetings scheduled and revenue for your team.

The added benefit of a higher response rate is that now the BDR has a bigger bank of nurtured leads to tap into and a long term pipeline to hand off to the next grasshopper upon this master’s inevitable promotion.

Develop your personalization skills to evolve as a BDR

It takes time to evolve beyond just choosing that bit of info you found on the “about” page, but it’s worth the effort. If you can find a published article, or a specific project, or an accolade that your prospect takes pride in, referencing it is probably going to trigger a slight dopamine release which will immediately make you stand out from all the other BDRs pushing templates.

If you’re a BDR and this article resonates with you, I’d like to challenge you to leverage some of your master skills to reach out to me. I’ll happily give you feedback on the approach you choose.

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