Digging Deeper: Business Development in IT
DateJun 3, 2020
In this edition of Digging Deeper, we sat down with Viktor and Patrik, members of our Sales department, and got them to tell us more about the role and position of Business Development Representatives (BDR) — their work, challenges, projects and mindset.
OK guys, you already know how we begin these interviews — what is a Business Development Representative?
VIKTOR: In its core, the work of BDRs is the first step of the sales process, and their job is to help the company open the doors to potential clients. As there are a lot of businesses all around the globe, we have to be aware that all of them aren’t familiar with what we do, or they might not know that Croatia has a strong IT scene with great developers… that’s where BDR comes in.
They are the ones whose task is to basically get into the minds of our prospects or potential clients — BDRs introduce our company to potential clients and show them what we do. And this is all done with the goal of starting a conversation, learning more about the prospect itself and detecting how the solutions we offer can help their companies grow.
If I were to talk more about Business Development Representatives from a specialist standpoint, I’d say that it is a very important function with a lot of responsibilities and that it revolves around the ability of the BDR to approach and start a conversation with complete strangers… all without feeling discomfort or being anxious about it. Basically the type of people who can attend a conference and meet a hundred new people without breaking a sweat, or hop on the phone and ask a person to connect them with another person.
OK, got it. Our sales department consists of two teams — business development and strategic partnerships. Why?
VIKTOR: When we started, we only had a strategic partnerships team. Now, the logic behind our decision to create a separate business development team within the same sales department lies in the simple fact that sales as a process is extremely complex as it consists of a lot of steps and activities… much more than one person alone can do well.
You see, you first need to define which types of companies to contact, then find the companies that fit the bill, contact them, nurture the communication, get to the point where they’ll tell you about the issues and challenges they’re facing… that’s a lot of steps, a lot of activities and a lot of time, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of the sales process. To streamline the process, our only logical step was to separate it into two aspects — business development and strategic partnerships. Both of those teams work together, but they focus on specific parts of the sales process, which makes the entire process much more organized.
Patrik, hop in!
PATRIK: Yeah, let me just quickly jump back to the first question. Another important aspect of Business Development Representatives is the need to be solution-oriented, because a good BDR must know what we as a company do, how we do it and what can we provide to our clients, but they also need to be able to research other companies, industries and business models, and detect opportunities where our solutions can enable other businesses to improve their processes, increase revenue or make their business better overall.
Through this research and the initial contact with the potential client, a good BDR will be able to pinpoint challenges a potential client is facing, see how our services and solutions fit the picture.
From Bornfight’s perspective, what would you say is the biggest benefit of BDRs?
PATRIK: I’d say it’s financial stability and control. Through business development activities we can plan ahead and we have better control of how many clients we can get, how many deals we can close in a certain period of time and how many projects will we work on.
With the outreach process, we structured and organized, and looking from a project standpoint, we can now know what to expect both from a quantitative, as well as a qualitative standpoint within a certain period. This enables us to control our project pipeline and have predictable revenue, but it also allows us to create strategic plans that are much more detailed than before and also much more long-term. And all of this ultimately helps the entire company grow faster and more efficiently.
I know that people tend to have a kind of a skewed look on the whole aspect of business development and the work of representatives, but when you put it in perspective of the sales process as well as the big picture of the company, you can see how important and beneficial it actually is for a company’s bottom line, as well as overall growth.
We talked about the sales process. Take me through its steps — what’s the focus of BDRs, and when does the strategic partnerships team take over?
VIKTOR: OK, let’s go through an ideal process. The first step is to define our target personas or industries and businesses we want to get in touch with. This is defined based on our past experiences, the situation on the market, and potential opportunities… and this element is defined by the members of the business development team, strategic partnerships, our unit managers and the marketing team.
Once that step is completed, BDRs start researching the industry we specified — their goal is to determine who are the decision makers in a type of business we’d like to get in contact with… is it a CEO, is it a marketing manager, maybe a tech lead. BDRs try to get to know more about these people — what drives them, what are their motives and what are some of the challenges they are facing.
During this step, BDRs conduct their research with the goal of detecting specific companies that fit our specific target and that are located in a specific market. To simplify and streamline this process, BDRs create lists either through some specific tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator or through their contacts and online address books. This is all done with the goal of getting to a specific decision-maker as easily as possible.
Once this list is complete and added to our CRM system, a BDR starts creating a way of contacting these people. Because of its research, a BDR will know how these people use digital media and what interests them, as well as how they communicate, so they’ll know if it’s better to contact them through Linkedin, to send them an email, to call them…
The end goal is to get some time with the potential client, ideally a meeting or a call where they’ll be able to introduce our company to them and to get a bit more information about the challenges their business is facing. During that meeting or a call, it’s important for a BDR to listen really well in order to be able to detect our potential client’s problems and whether we can do something about them through the services we offer.
Now, depending on the depth of the research and the available information, BDRs will sometimes be able to approach potential clients with direct solutions to specific issues they detected within their business or their industry or their software or applications… that is a good trigger that can prompt the clients to meet with us and see how we can help them solve those issues.
After BDRs detect that Bornfight can help in solving those issues, their goal is to introduce the strategic partnerships team that will handle the offer and close the deal. After this part, our strategic partnerships team starts working more deeply on the project itself, and that is done with both the client, as well as our project management team and other specialists.
And that would be the outline of BDRs work. Although it may look like there are two very separate focuses, one for BDRs and one for strategic partnerships, they work closely together and they depend a lot on each other, because the better the BDR prepares the client and builds that initial relationship, the more streamlined will the work of our strategic partnerships team be, and the better the work of strategic partnerships, the better will be their insights that BDRs can use in their future prospecting.
Wow, that really is a lot…
VIKTOR: What you have to keep in mind is the fact that this can be a numbers game, and I’m sure Patrik can attest to that, but the thing is — you sometimes need to contact hundreds of people to get one to say they have 10 or 15 minutes for you.
This is not an easy job and, as I already said in the beginning, to be a good business development representative, you really need to have that special dose of self-confidence that will enable you to go through all of the steps and activities we just mentioned — you need to believe in your skills, you need to believe in what we as a company offer clients, you need to believe in our quality and you need to have that great communication skills that will enable you to connect with and talk to hundreds of people until you get to that one that will fully open and say: “yeah, I have an issue with my business and I want to see what you can do for me”. And that’s the truth when it comes to this position — sometimes you’ll contact hundreds of people only to get 1 response, and you need to be OK with those odds, you need to get the insights you can, upgrade your approach if needed and move to the next 100.
PATRIK: I completely agree. It sometimes is a numbers game, and you can’t be gunning for a 100% win rate as your definition of success, so you really need to be highly motivated to do this job. What I like to do is look at every action I conduct, every email I send, and every call I make as a learning experience — what did I do well, what could have I done better, how should I modify my communication or approach in the future… couple that with all of the successes like established connections, new clients or started projects we got, and you can really get a great boost when it comes to the overall motivation and work satisfaction.
Nice. Is there anything more about the process you’d like to mention?
PATRIK: Generally speaking, Viktor said pretty much everything, so there isn’t a lot more to add if we don’t want to turn this from a blog into an ebook. But basically, there are those three phases — the first one where our goal is to define specific targets and conduct research, the second one where our goal is to reach the right decision-makers and the third one in which we conduct introductory meetings where we try to uncover our potential client’s needs and present why and how our company can bring value to theirs through our services.
And when these connections and this communication between our prospects and BDRs turn them from potential clients to clients or from cold leads to qualified leads, that is when we introduce the strategic partnerships team into the process who then “close the deal” and handle the rest of the communication.
VIKTOR: I’d just like to add one aspect of BDRs work that we haven’t really mentioned, and that is the creative part. You see, the process of nurturing a lead isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing — it can take months, so you as a BDR really need to constantly upgrade your approach. And this is where that creative aspect really comes into play — from tailoring your communication in emails and calls to conducting a wide variety of additional activities, your goal is to keep in contact with that potential client, build that relationship and continuously find new ways to discover their needs and present solutions. When it comes to nurturing leads, calls and emails aren’t the only thing in a BDRs arsenal, and good ones are being creative and constantly adding something new.
You mentioned that the work of BDRs is often a numbers game. So when does it turn into a game of skill?
PATRIK: The nature of the job and the fact that there are much more businesses with specific needs than there are development agencies makes it a numbers game. If you contact all of the companies, you’ll probably get a few hundred responses and a couple of projects. But you can’t contact them all, that is not efficient and/or possible — you need to focus in order to maximize the opportunity of connecting with someone when the amount of contracted companies is much smaller and much more reasonable. That is why you need skill.
I can honestly say that in order to be a good BDR, you need to employ your skills during every single step of the sales process. Better yet, you need to employ your skill to create a sales process and a customized approach that could lead to better results. Without a clear process, you’re just randomly contacting anyone and changing your approach based on a feeling instead of a clear plan, and that is a surefire way to avoid success. Building a process, that is where your skill can really shine.
But a process is just the playing field, and there are times when the right course of action is to experiment a bit. That is why you also need to employ your skill when it comes to every other aspect of the BDRs work — from knowing how and what to research, crafting your messages and communication, being able to listen, observe and detect problems and get that extra bit of information during meetings, all the way to just being able to introduce yourself to someone new… the skills you have and nurture will help you make your work more effective and enable you to get better results. Yes, it will still feel like a game of numbers, but with better skills, it will feel like it shifted just a bit more in your favor.
All in all, the overall experience and skills in this type of work are very important because they enable you to predict things that might occur and you’ll also feel much more in control if you sometimes need to set the process to the side and experiment. I mean, you always have to take into account that every client is unique and while a process can cover a majority of situations, it won’t cover all of them. But constantly working on your skills, getting insights from your fails and successes, and building that experience will help you do exactly that.
And that’s the great aspect of business development at Bornfight — yes, you have a sales process, but you also have a lot of freedom to test something new and build that process through experimentation.
Let’s talk a bit more about our current selection process. What will be the main focus of this new BDR that we’re hiring?
VIKTOR: This new business development representative we’re looking to hire will be working with the software unit and helping them bring in new clients. This person will be researching, prospecting and networking with people from a wide variety of companies that could use custom software solutions to improve their internal processes or create new digital products.
PATRIK: Exactly. Let me just add a little bit to it. When it comes to being focused on one service like we have the case here, it’s extremely important for a BDR to understand all of our internal processes when it comes to developing custom software — to understand production steps, which technologies are used to create those solutions, what information do other teams need in order to better understand the potential client’s needs or challenges, what are our references, what solutions did we create for other clients, what did they achieve, how we communicated with those clients… and this is all done with the goal of making it easier for the BDR to detect opportunities when they meet or talk to the potential client for the first time, as well as to make it easier for strategic partnerships and our other teams to take over the project once it’s established as a qualified lead.
What about the focus on specific industries?
VIKTOR: Well, the beauty of this position is that the new BDR who joins us will be able to create specific plans for targeting specific industries — this will be done together with the manager of the product unit, marketing team and me.
Right now, we have a couple of go-to industries in which we have some more experience and where we already delivered a couple of successful projects, but we are always working on creating plans for expanding to new industries.
For example, quality assurance is a part of our product unit, so we’re currently working on defining specific industries and businesses that could benefit from having a QA team. Those are, for example, other software development companies that don’t have their own in-house quality assurance team, or startups or SaaS companies that usually don’t have enough capabilities to hire a set of QA specialists to work on their solutions. On the other hand, we have strong data gathering, processing and visualization capabilities within the unit, so we’re looking for new industries that need a customizable data management solution to improve their business processes.
As I said, we’re constantly looking to expand to new industries, and we’re now in a position where we have quite a bit of experience in building custom software that can be adapted to work for warriors companies in various industries. What it boils down to is the simple fact that our new BDR doesn’t need to know how to code, but needs to understand the business logic behind a specific product in order to see how that product might solve a problem that occurs in another company or another industry.
PATRIK: Problem-solving and solution-oriented. We’ll be looking for a BDR who has a problem-solving and solution-oriented mindset.
Can you take me through a typical day of a business development representative?
VIKTOR: OK, let me just give you a quick overview, and then Patrik will go into all of the details.
One of the bigger aspects of our work is our “unit revenue meet” that happens once a week. This is where the unit manager, business development, strategic partnerships and marketing teams go over the progress of all the sales-related activities they conducted from the last meeting.
When we talk specifically about BDRs, this is where we plan out the goals and targets for the following sprint — a period of 2 weeks that we implemented from the agile methodology. During this meeting, we define the main focuses and the overall numbers we’re trying to reach. For example, this plan might look something like this — the focus for the next two weeks is to reach out to 100 companies in the US market that have similar needs to one of our specific clients within the manufacturing industry, and by the end of this sprint it’s our goal to have at least 1 or 2 successful connections.
This is where BDRs get the freedom to define all of the other steps — how they’ll find those companies, how they’ll approach them, which tools will they use, and which method of communication… this is where their skills, experience, familiarity with the markets, understanding the industries and good research come into play.
What I just described was the high-level overview, that one point of planning we all have. As for the day-to-day activities and details…
PATRIK: …that’s where I jump in. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most important aspects and activities that a BDR conducts and goes through during a workday.
And it all starts with the first segment — research. This is the part during which BDRs look for and create lists of companies and specific people within those companies that they can contact. This is also the segment where BDRs create personalized emails they’ll use to make that first contact — these emails often based on the insights and specific information BDRs acquire during the research.
The second segment would be cold calling. This is basically the process of contacting the people and companies whose information BDRs acquired during the research. The goal of this activity is to make a first connection and ideally schedule a brief meeting where BDRs could introduce our company to a potential client, as well as to learn more about their needs and challenges.
And the third segment is lead nurturing — ensuring that you’re staying in touch with all of the potential leads. This means sending follow-ups, emails with additional information, calling potential clients at a specified time, meeting them… and a lot of other activities that this nurturing segment consists of.
These three segments are the core of a BDR’s work, and we are constantly optimizing them and the entire sales process to make it more streamlined and efficient.
But, of course, this is just one side of our work. The other side would be improving the workflow and implementing new tools, technologies, techniques and approaches that can help us all be more efficient and get better results. This is the part where we look for ways to improve every single aspect of our work — from finding new ways or tools to conduct research to creating scripts that outline the optimal way to communicate with certain personas from certain industries…
As every step and every activity of our work can always be made better, we can go really deep with all of this, but what it all ends with is — every improvement or insight or a new tool, no matter how small, can make us all work better and grow faster. And that’s the point of that other side of our work.
How would you describe the ideal BDR we’d like to hire — skills, experience, approach, mindset?
VIKTOR: I think that our new BDR should, above all else, be the person who loves people, who has no problem meeting and talking to complete strangers and who can make all of those people feel good. When you talk with a BDR, you should remember that conversation as pleasant, you want to remember meeting a person from Bornfight and have positive memories of it. And that’s a skill — one that can be worked on.
In addition to that, it’s extremely important to be confident and not let little failures derail your motivation. As I already said, as a BDR you’ll be contacting hundreds of people, and the majority of them will probably never answer you back — if that’s something you can’t stand, then this position is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you can see that as a way of gaining insights and changing the way you approach people to ensure that the next 100 people you contact lead to better results, then you have the right BDR mindset.
If you’re also interested in technology, software and IT in general, that’s something that will be extremely beneficial to your work — as we already said, you don’t need to know how to write code, but understanding technologies, architectures and the way software is built will greatly improve the work you do.
In the end, it all boils down to being genuinely open — building connections with others by trying to understand their needs and looking for ways to help them conquer their challenges. This is the road to achieving success as a BDR.
Patrik, give us some more…
PATRIK: Being accountable and standing behind your work is very important for a business development representative — whether your results are good or bad, whether the process you’re using gives results or doesn’t, you need to be able to explain what you did, how you did it and what should be changed. If it’s good, we can all learn from it and create something even better on top of it. If it’s bad, we can again learn something from it and create something better because of it.
As this is a middle to senior position, some of those “more standard” skills come as a must-have — there’s the extensive experience in sales, familiarity with the IT industry and its processes, excellent usage of the English language in a business setting, really polished communication skills… and, of course, problem-solving is a big plus when it comes to sales, especially in the IT industry.
Excellent. Last question — why would someone join Bornfight as a business development representative, what are we offering?
VIKTOR: I have to say that one of the biggest benefits that Bornfight gives all of its employees, and that will be especially true for BDRs, is that they have the freedom to try new things, suggest improvements, new processes, new approaches, new solutions… The entire company culture is like that, transparent and open — you can speak your mind, you can experiment and your suggestions can help us all improve.
Another great aspect is that in Bornfight, you’re able to learn so much from a wide variety of specialists. You can multiply your knowledge just by talking to people around you.
As we’re a company that primarily works with international clients, our new BDR will have the opportunity to communicate with and expand its list of contacts with people from all around the globe. And that is an extremely valuable aspect of this position.
And to put a cherry on top, our new BDR will start working in one of the rare industries that are constantly expanding. Even during a world crisis, when the majority of industries start to fall or even collapse, IT is at worst being stable, and most of the time it continues rapidly growing and expanding. And that is great for ensuring personal financial stability.
PATRIK: I’d like to add that this new BDR will join a team that has a mindset revolving around the fact that a failure is not a failure, but an opportunity to learn, gather insights, tailor your approach and a way of ensuring that the entire team will reap benefits in the future.
There are a lot of opportunities to be proactive, to implement new things, to modify and improve existing processes, and to grow both personally and professionally. While I’m on the topic of professional growth, the opportunities are immense — who knows, in some time, a BDR that joins us now might become a team lead and manage their own team of business development representatives who’ll help us all grow together.
From the culture, the overall mindset of the people within Bornfight, opportunities for growth as a professional, available education, projects you’ll work on, clients you’ll communicate with — it’s a package that any sales professional, and especially one in IT, would have no problem signing up for.