The Many Different Selling Roles and How They Differ - Part 1

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 27, 2022 @ 12:07 PM

car-comparison

When you think about cars, you know there are coupes, sedans, crossovers, SUVs, and sports cars.  You also know there are luxury cars, mid-range cars and economy cars.  You also know there are fast cars and slow cars, flashy cars and vanilla cars, big cars and little cars, white cars, black cars and every color in between.  But if you were to think about specific features that differentiate one car from another, you would have to really think about it, wouldn't you?  It used to be easy.  Air conditioning, power brakes, power steering, power windows, power seats, side mirrors and automatic transmissions were standard in the expensive cars but not available in the budget-priced cars.  Today, most cars, in most classes include all of those features as standard.

The same kind of thinking is required when thinking about the various roles of salespeople.  We can name them: Account Executive, Territory Manager, Business Development Rep, Sales Development Rep, Account Manager, Key Account Manager, National Account Manager, Channel Manager, Application Engineer, Sales Consultant, Inside Sales, Outside Sales, and more.

To further complicate things, in some companies and industries, Sales Managers function as salespeople and Sales VPs function as Sales Managers.

While the above roles have selling as a primary responsibility, there are as many differences to selling roles as there are differences to the class or style of cars.  Today, we'll explore the difference between an Account Executive and a Business Development Rep.

I collaborated with Joe DiDonato, Chief of Staff at Baker Communications, and together we produced the following comparison.

Role Comparison for 21 Sales Competencies

While both roles overlapped in 10 key competencies, the capabilities in the remaining 11 competencies were very different. 

A successful AE needs to excel at 18 of 21 competencies that OMG assesses, while a successful BDR needs to excel at 13 of the 21 competencies. BDRs perform lead follow-up, send emails and connection requests, and conduct cold-calling. The reality is that most individuals in that role aren’t very good at it, based on the data we've collected. There is a prevailing misconception that those 3 tasks don’t require much selling ability because it’s “all top of the funnel,” but success in the role requires proficiency in 11 different sales competencies.

It’s the nature of each role’s responsibilities - and the prospect’s point of entry into the sales process and funnel - that requires different strengths. A BDR is focused on closing the prospect on initial sales and proof of concept steps at the top of the sales funnel. They’re going to be faced with 9 out of 10 callers rejecting them – if not more - and must be able to shrug that off without taking the rejection personally. As a result, the BDR must be “rejection proof” in addition to having strong hunting and closing capabilities. 

In contrast, the AE role relies on relationship building to move the opportunity down the sales funnel and through the formal sales process. Included in that effort is a strong consultative selling ability, as well as the knowledge of how to convincingly sell value to the prospect – both essential skills in moving the opportunity forward. 

Next comes strong presentation skills as the proposed solution has to be presented to multiple stakeholders, as well as a keen understanding and respect of the formal sales process that successfully moves the opportunity forward. Rounding out the AE's portfolio of skills is that the AE must have a considerably stronger comfort level around discussing money. 

So many opportunities are squandered as a result of an AE's failure to verify that the money is there, it can be spent, they are willing to pay more, and the value of more has been established. AEs who are comfortable having that conversation will outsell those who don’t. When they skip, avoid, or vaguely cover finances, proposals are generated for prospects who either won’t buy or won’t pay the price resulting in price objections, delays, business lost to competitors, or prospects choosing to do nothing. 

One of the most significant differentiators between the most successful AEs and their less successful counterparts can be found in the sales competency called Supportive Buy Cycle (shown in the table above). The attributes in the Buy Cycle competency correlate to how salespeople go about the process of making a major purchase for themselves and salespeople tend to sell in a way that is consistent with how they buy. The best salespeople determine what they want to purchase and simply buy it - without much consideration of price, alternate sources, having to think it over, and more. 

Conversely, the weakest salespeople tend to conduct research, comparison shop, look for the lowest price, think things over, and some of them even hate salespeople and "being sold" something. As you might imagine, the weakest salespeople understand it when their prospects want to buy the same way that they do, while the strongest salespeople don’t understand that buying behavior, push back, and ask questions. 

Strong salespeople have the ability to eliminate competition, shorten the sales cycle, and help prospects buy on value instead of price. It’s difficult for some salespeople to grasp the concept and consequences of this competency. But when salespeople change the way they buy so that it supports ideal sales outcomes, their revenue increases by 50%.

As you can see from the analysis, the skill sets are very different. Many companies treat the BDR role as an entry-level position in preparation for the more demanding AE role at some future date. But as closely aligned as these two roles are in objectives, they require different skills to be successful. As a result, the movement between roles is not as easily accomplished as most sales managers hope.

Before we conclude the article, it's important to note that for each of these 21 Sales Core Competencies, OMG includes 8-10 attributes (64 on one of them) for a total of around 275 specific sales findings and scores.  We have a site that shows the following data for each competency:

  • Average score for all salespeople
  • Average score for the top 10%
  • Average score for the bottom 10%
  • Average score in your industry
  • Average score for your company (you'll need some of your salespeople to take the evaluation to populate this bar on the graph - it's free for them to take it and populate the bar graph with your aggregate scores but you'll have to pay for the 30-page reports if you want them)

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, relationship building, prospecting, sales core competencies, sales CRM, top of the funnel

Why I Believe We Should Blow up the Business Development Rep (BDR) Role in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 29, 2021 @ 07:03 AM

call-center

Did you ever notice how most supermarkets place the least capable cashiers in the Express Lane?  Drives me nuts!  The Market's perspective:  Small orders will be easier for them to handle.  My perspective:  Let's go!!!  They call it Express for a reason!  

Did you ever notice that companies that utilize the Business Development Rep (BDR) role put their youngest, most inexperienced new hires in that role?  The company's perspective: The top of the funnel is easier to handle than a full-blown quota and responsibility for an entire sales cycle.  My perspective:  Why put newbies in the role that is the most difficult of all selling roles?

For decades it was normal practice for Copy Machine, Office Supply, Cell Phones, Life Insurance and Residential Real Estate companies to recruit and train (a little classroom) rookie salespeople and then have them spend years making Cold Calls.  Industries like those continue to suffer from the highest voluntary turnover rates you can imagine and the practice is not entirely different from what tech companies are doing with the BDR Role.  

But why?  Whose brilliant idea was this?

The most difficult companies to prospect your way into become the easiest companies to sell to because when the prospects are saying "no" to inexperienced cold callers there is very little competition for those who are talented and effective enough to book meetings.  But are those young rookies the ones booking those tough meetings?  No. Chance. In. Hell.

Only the best salespeople are capable of getting through to top-level decision makers, getting them engaged on a first call and booking a meeting with those decision makers.  The best our young BDRs can hope for is a meeting with someone who hardly matters in the context of influence, authority and decision-making. 

The originators of this idea had good intentions.  Why waste an account executive's (AE) time making cold calls when someone else could do that and the AE could just handle the actual meetings.  It makes sense on paper but in the real-world it contributes to the sense that we have too much role specialization in sales, horrible conversion ratios and pretty bad win rates too.

While only 46% of all salespeople reach who they believe are actual decision makers, and only 13% actually reach decision makers, only 1% of salespeople with less than one year of sales experience reach actual decision makers.

I think we should blow up the entire BDR concept.  There are other ways for AE's to generate enough quality meetings to fill their pipelines, meet, and exceed quota and in a future article, I will share all of those methods.  In the meantime, it seems to me that the cost and inefficiencies related to having a team of BDRs struggling to book 1.5 meetings per week no longer makes sense.

Dave Brock wrote a great article about what happens when we put our most experienced salespeople in the BDR role.

What do you think?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, cold calling, inside sales, scheduling sales appointments, top of the funnel, BDR

What Percentage of New Salespeople Reach Decision Makers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 @ 11:06 AM

deadend.jpeg

It isn't as good as the Father's Day gifts I received from my wife and son, but I love it just the same.  My team at Objective Management Group (OMG) built a great new tool and this one does not help us to more effectively evaluate sales forces and assess sales candidates.  We're already pretty darn good at that.  The new tool allows me to quickly grab and analyze data faster and more effectively than I ever could before.  For example, I used it last week for the first time and within a few minutes I was able to write this article that showed 2 of our 21 sales competencies in a completely surprising way.  While this is very cool for me, I think this could be even more awesome for you!

For example, I reviewed a new set of around 8,500 rows of data today.  I wanted to know what percentage of salespeople were able to get past gatekeepers, including voice mail systems, and reach decision makers. This was very interesting!

Overall, 46% of all salespeople are able to get past gatekeepers and reach decision makers - but that's only when we include procurement folks as decision makers.  If we filter the data on salespeople who do not begin with procurement, that number drops to just 13%!  But there's more!  When I filtered the data by salespeople who are brand new to sales it drops to only 1%.  ONLY ONE PERCENT OF NEW SALESPEOPLE ARE ABLE TO REACH DECISION MAKERS!!  And who are the people filling all of the new sales development and business development roles - the top of the funnel roles where BDR's and SDR's call to make appointments for the account executives to meet with Decision Makers?  Brand new salespeople!!  This data is only about getting through - prior to having a first conversation with a decision maker - is it any wonder that they average only 1.5 meetings booked per week?

There are plenty of people writing articles about the differences between good salespeople and everyone else.  I attempt to debunk as many of those articles as I get to see but there are more than I could ever get to. Compared to the science based data that OMG has, those articles are based on opinions and anecdotal references and generally quite false.  Do you have a theory about salespeople?  Have you observed a difference maker?  Have you worked with some great salespeople?  With this new tool at my disposal, I can accept any and all of your theories, questions, assumptions and requests, run an analysis, and report on what we learn!  I'm very excited about the process.  You can enter your request in the comments below, or if you prefer anonymity, email it to me at dkurlan@objectivemanagement.com.  I won't use your name if you don't want me to.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, booking appointments, reaching decision makers, phone prospecting, top of the funnel

How Boomers and Millennials Differ in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 18, 2016 @ 13:05 PM

boomer-v-millennial.jpg

I hate this article already - the last thing we need is another article to help us to understand Millennials.  Except for one thing.  Most of you reading this are Millennials and you probably need to better understand boomers.

We've all heard many of the distinctions of Millennials - how they like to work, where they like to work, when they like to work, how little they like to work, how entitled they are, how money isn't that important, how they want to change the world and be a part of something bigger than themselves.  So I'm not going to write about any of that in this article.  Instead, I'm going to talk about several tendencies that differentiate these two generations of salespeople.

We can begin with Motivation.  Boomer salespeople are generally extrinsically motivated - motivated by money and things - while Millennials are typically intrinsically motivated.  They would prefer to love what they do and strive for mastery.  Here is more on the difference between these two types of motivation in sales.

We can talk about New Business Development too.  Boomers are much more likely to pick up the phone and make a call - even a cold call - to initiate contact and follow up and they prefer to meet face-to-face.  Millennials are more likely to use their social networks - LinkedIn, Twitter, Text and Facebook - to initiate contact - and email to follow-up and they tend to prefer selling by phone.  The two newest selling roles - SDR's and BDR's - are both top-of-the-funnel roles where the reps simply schedule meetings and calls for account executives.  These roles are filled almost exclusively by Millennials.  I hear you.  "But they are on the phone and you said they don't like using the phone!"  Exactly.  And that explains why they are so bad at it. The latest statistics from ConnectAndSell tell us that these reps book, on average, 1.5 meetings per week.  If that is the only thing they are required to do, shouldn't the number be more like 2-3 meetings per day?

And speaking of Selling Skills, Boomers are far more likely to have professional selling skills while Millennials are more likely to frame selling in the context of demos, proposals and follow-up.  It might not be their fault, as most of them are in the aforementioned top-of-the-funnel roles, while Boomers are almost always found in outside territory, major account, vertical or account management roles.

One of the new things that Objective Management Group (OMG) introduced last month is industry statistics where the results of a company's sales force evaluation are compared against other companies in their industry.  Here's an image from a slide that looks at the average scores for salespeople in 6 major strands of Sales DNA and how this sales force (burgundy) compares to similar companies (blue) as well as all companies (green).

industry-comparison.png 

Regular readers know that OMG has evaluated salespeople from companies.  I am hoping that in the coming months, we can filter our data by generation and share the differences in the 21 Sales Core Competencies that we measure.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, inside sales, selling skills, top of the funnel

Selling Value - Everything You Always Wanted to Know

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 23:12 PM

value

Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo

Some news stories just don't go away.  Today those stories include Ferguson, Bill Cosby, ISIS and The NFL's Domestic Abuse Problem.  There is also Obamacare, Immigration and Ebola.  They remain in the news more because the media continues to milk these stories then readers demand to know more.

When we look at the sales stories of the recent past, the topics that sales experts continue writing about are Social Selling, Inbound Marketing, LinkedIn, Twitter, CRM and Lead Nurturing.  They remain in the news more because the writers are attempting to sell their own services that happen to support those topics more than readers demanding to read more about it.  There's nothing wrong with these topics of course, but sales experts should be addressing topics more closely aligned with helping sellers sell, instead of so much space being devoted to what takes place at the top and above the top of the sales funnel.

So if not those topics, then what should we all be writing about - all the time - that would be a real difference maker for salespeople?

I believe that it's the importance of and ability to sell value.  Why, you ask? 

Selling value is the one thing that all salespeople, operating without benefit of the lowest price, absolutely, positively, must be able to do well in order to consistently earn the business.  

Despite the need to effectively sell value, it happens to be one of things that salespeople do very poorly. The importance of selling value isn't going away, but sales experts are not spending enough time talking about it, writing about it, explaining it, or providing training on it.  The most critical aspect of this topic is understanding the many factors that support a salesperson's ability to sell value.  Selling value isn't a specific thing that one says or does, as much as it's an outcome of several other things.  According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics (close to one million salespeople assessed), of the 6 most important factors required to sell value, most salespeople have, on average, only 2 of them as strengths or skills.

This is such an important topic that last week I hosted a broadcast on Selling Value in Modern Times.  If you would like to watch it, run time is 46 minutes.

According to a Google search on my blog, I've written about or mentioned selling value, in some way, shape or form, 766 times in the past 10 years.  Here are 10 of my favorite articles on selling value and when you extract the major points from each, it provides a very nice collection of guidelines for selling value:

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Closing and Negotiating Challenges - Symptoms of Another Selling Problem

Sales 102 - The Pitch Deck, the Price Reduction and the Data

This Simple Strategy Will Sell Your ROI and Value Proposition Every Time

Why This is Still a Great Selling Sales Book After 10 Years

Price Quotes and the Inability of Salespeople to Sell Value

The One Thing Most Salespeople Are Unable to Do

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

Top 10 Outcomes When Salespeople Screw Up Selling "Value Added"

Top 5 Sales Issues Leaders Should Not Focus On

This is the One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling

Do You/Should You Have a Complex Sale?

Top 10 Reasons Why Salespeople Let Price Drive the Sale

How to Add Value to Your Sales Offering

New Metrics for the Sales Force - Unusual Thoughts for Unusual Times

Boston Ballet and Money Tolerance - What it Means to Your Sales Force

As I mentioned above, selling value does not stand on its own.  You should now understand that from the value selling broadcast and the articles above,  there are several other factors that contribute to selling value.  Unless salespeople are able to effectively integrate all of the necessary factors (Sales DNA, sales process, strategy and tactics), then the end result will always be salespeople that are only able to talk about value, instead of actually becoming the value.

I'll be hosting a webinar on December 10 at 11 AM Eastern Time.  We'll be discussing the 5 Hidden Factors that Determine the Fate of Every Sales Force.  Selling Value is certainly one of those factors!  It will run for about 45 minutes.  If you would like to attend you can register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, crm, twitter, Pipeline, linkedin, social selling, selling value, Lead Nurturing, top of the funnel, Bill Cosby, Value Proposition

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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