What you need to know to hire a business development representative

Startups thrive when they can build a great shared culture of values and aspiration. When it comes to a new business development representative for your innovative business, look for someone who shares your vision, and who has the talent to help build it out.

Look before you leap

Any startup leader knows that a big barrier to growth is finding top-quality talent for your sales and marketing teams. Hiring a skilled business development representative is critical, since they’re directly responsible for bringing new leads to your business. So what is the best strategy when it comes to hiring a great BDR for your new company? Opting for the candidate with the most experience can be expensive, especially now when there is an acknowledged shortage of skilled workers. As it stands now, the average base salary of a BDR in the US can start at $55,000. What to do?

Hiring new talent is always risky. But hiring the wrong person can jeopardize critical growth. So with that in mind, let’s understand the role of a BDR a little better, and then look at a few tips for finding the right person. 

What is a business development representative?

A business development representative (BDR) is a sales rep focussed on gathering qualified leads. BDRs focus on prospecting for outbound leads, whereas sales development representatives (SDRs) focus on qualifying inbound leads. Both report directly to sales managers, who in turn report to account managers and, ultimately, to customer success managers.

Of course, these roles are related. But it’s important to understand how they are different, so you can zero in on exactly the kind of person you need to hire. When your go-to-market strategy is in its infancy, chances are your first priority will be to acquire new outbound leads, not least because it can take a lot of time to build an effective inbound marketing program. At the end of the day, you’re going to end up needing both roles in your business, even if it’s being played by the same person! Finally, understanding your customer’s journey can help you appreciate—and manage—the balance between these two important sales roles. 

Characteristics to look for

If you’re reading this, you already know that finding effective business development people isn’t easy. That’s because great BDRs bring a range of soft and hard skills to the table. For example, effective BDRs are excellent communicators who can think creatively and work effectively as an integral part of your sales and marketing teams. At the same time, they should have a clear, information-based understanding of the market, and know exactly what their prospects need. While BDRs often go in for hard selling, they need to be effective negotiators, and be able to understand key pain points for the people they talk to.

So how do you begin to shortlist talent for this kind of role? It’s tempting to choose the candidate with the most experience, and who brings well-developed skills. But is this realistic for a startup? Remember that soft skills are critical, and these include a willingness to learn, adapt, and build lasting relationships with potential customers and your existing team members. Harder skills, like understanding sales processes and identifying promising opportunities, can be learned quickly, and by rote. But the talent for connecting with people doesn’t necessarily come with long experience, and in fact, the opposite may be true. Ultimately, an effective BDR isn’t focused only on the number of leads they bring to your sales team, but on the quality of those leads.

Don’t let any of this intimidate you when it comes to hiring a new BDR for your startup. None of this is rocket science, and in fact, we already know what the most important characteristics are that you need to be looking for. Here goes: 

  • Negotiation skills are critical for business development.
  • Humility is the secret sauce that allows BDRs to understand the needs of a potential client.
  • Adaptability is key. A startup environment requires someone who can be flexible, and who can ignore traditional hierarchy when need be.  
  • A talent for communication can help cohere a winning sales team.
  • Creative skills help BDRs communicate your company’s vision and values. 


Flags to pay attention to

Some BDRs might be great at selling, but bad at following up – or the other way around. Raw charisma is powerful, but it doesn’t tell you anything about a person’s sales substance. Avoid candidates who can’t think like a business owner, or who show signs of being enthusiastic, but disorganized or unstructured. 

Look for people who aren’t afraid of taking on new responsibilities that come with the role. For example, prospecting for outbound leads requires a good knowledge of laws and regulations. If a BDR has a habit of shifting these responsibilities to the legal team, they probably don’t have the depth you’re looking for in your  sales and marketing team.

You should also be on the lookout for team players. Be aware that some candidates may use your position as an opportunity to build relationships for their own benefit, rather than in the interests of your team, and your company. That’s fine for some environments, but not in yours. Look for a strong team player who takes honesty and transparency seriously.

Trust your vision

Let’s not overthink this. If you are heading a great new startup, you already have an intuitive grasp of the kind of dynamic talent you need in order to drive your early growth. Don’t be afraid to to choose someone who just fits well. For example, a BDR who has a background in the finance sector might not be so effective in B2B tech sales—where a grasp of tech savvy will be important. Understand your needs by first analyzing your customer personas.

Ultimately, startups thrive when they can build a great shared culture of values and aspiration. Look for someone who shares your vision, and who has the talent to help build it out. 

Are you a fast-growing startup looking to hire your first business development representative? Palette Skills can help you find high-quality candidates via our SalesCamp program. Become an employer partner with Palette Skills to match with pre-vetted participants from our B2B SalesCamp program.

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Eligibility for SalesCamp

To be admitted and accepted into the program, you must be:
  • Be actively searching for work and ready to take on employment opportunities tech sales.
  • Be able to legally work in Canada. 
  • Not be a full-time student.
  • Be a highly motivated individual actively seeking out new opportunities.
  • Have least 3 years of formal work experience in Canada or abroad.
  • Have an English language rating of CLB Level 8, or IELTS of 6.5 overall.
  • Be available for Zoom sessions, many of which will be full-time.
  • Be able and committed to attending networking day events as part of regular programming.
  • Be comfortable using technology and learning online.
  • Live or intend to live in the province where the program is being offered.
  • Have a reliable internet connection, device, and a quiet environment for virtual learning.
  • Be committed and able to join the Canadian workforce full-time immediately following the program.
You may not be eligible if:
  • You do not pass our application and/or interview skills assessment. 
  • You are not actively searching or able to start a job in business-to-business tech sales.
  • You are not able to legally work in Canada.
  • You do not reside in the province where the program is operating.
  • You are going to school full-time.
  • You do not have three years of work experience outside of your studies.
  • You are interested in taking SalesCamp solely for learning purposes, but are building your own business and not intending to work in the field.

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