A salesperson who doesn’t sell is no salesperson at all—even if they have a nice eggshell-creme business card with a title that includes the word "sales." You learn to sell like you learn to swim: by jumping in and doing it. When an SDR or BDR is intentionally deprived of sales experience, they cannot acquire the competencies and skills they need.
Adherents of the Silicon Valley ethos, who insist they are building the future of sales, evidently chose Fredrick Winslow Taylor as their patron saint. They have sliced up sales into a dozen different roles, each with employees specializing in different conversations. In their minds, younger, less experienced salespeople are fit only to schedule meetings for older, tenured salespeople, who should in turn take the meeting and close the deal.
The Is More to Sales Than a Cold Call
These same people believe sales is some sort of conveyor belt on which to place their prospective client, with the SDR or BDR acquiring a meeting and the account executive handling the rest of the conversation and closing the deal. There is much more to sales than a cold call, and relegating SDRs and BDRs to this incredibly limited role results in a form of arrested development, as they get shuffled back to their open office environment with only the consolation prize of playing ping pong on their lunch break.
There is an advantage to learning how to call prospective clients to schedule a meeting, a skill that every top-ranked salesperson has mastered. But stopping there is more likely to stunt professional growth, even for SDRs and BDRs with the potential to be a full-cycle salesperson. Some even have the natural character traits that would let them exceed the account executive to whom they hand "qualified opportunities." It’s a shame to treat these future salespeople like bird dogs, having them run through the underbrush to scare up a client or two.
Accessing the Full Sales Conversation
Withholding access to the rest of the sales conversation prevents the experiential learning that would improve the SDRs’ and BDRs’ development in sales. When they prove themselves competent in scheduling meetings and interacting with clients described as "qualifying," SDRs and BDRs should gain access to other important conversations, starting with discovery. It's one thing to listen to an experienced salesperson engage in a discovery call, but quite another to have to fumble your way through that conversation yourself.
To be clear, there is little value created for the prospective client on a cold call, and qualifying actually creates negative value. After all, the client learns nothing by either confirming that they have purchase authority or agreeing to bring in someone with a bigger title to make the buying decision. The discovery call provides the best opportunity to create the kind of value that creates a preference to buy from the salesperson. It's where deals are generally won or lost.
By limiting an SDR or BDR to the conversations that don’t require them to create value for the client, they will not develop many competencies and skills they need to sell effectively. Many SDRs and BDRs are being taught that they shouldn't even have to do their own prospecting, as they watch senior salespeople sit idly while someone else schedules a meeting for them—a destructive pattern, and one with terrible repercussions.
SDRs, BDRs, and Full-Cycle Sales
Those of us who sold in a time where there was no such thing as an SDR or a BDR learned that getting a meeting meant making a cold call, walking in the front door of company, and asking to speak to the person who buys what you sell. It also included walking in the back door and speaking to the person who uses what you sell and striking up a conversation that got you to a decision-maker's office.
Sales is already broken, mostly since the large majority of salespeople are still using a legacy approach to sales and falling farther behind. In full-cycle sales roles, you prospect, handle discovery, develop the right initiative, present and propose, resolve the client's concerns, provide a contract, negotiate price, and do all the other work that allows you to acquire a client. That list of conversations and commitments doesn't include the new competencies of building insights, sense-making, building consensus, and facilitating a needs-based buyer's journey.
If your team uses SDRs and BDRs, you really only have two options: either give them increasingly more challenging conversations to learn from or limit them to cold calls, ensuring that they are not prepared for greater responsibility. Only the first approach will help them become the kind of salespeople you will need.
A Sales Experiment
Take all your SDRs, BDRs, and Account Executives and make them all full-cycle salespeople for, say, thirty days. Make each salesperson schedule their own meetings and manage the entire sales cycle, from creating the opportunity to advancing the conversation and closing the deal. You might find your AEs gain far fewer meetings while some percentage of your SDRs and BDRs outperform more senior salespeople in closing deals.
Some salespeople are born with natural advantages, while others are made and developed. You will never know who is a natural and who needs development if they only make cold calls, shut off from professional experiences that will speed their growth.