6 Steps to an Improved BDR & AE Relationship

The relationship between a Business Development Representative (BDR) and Account Executive (AE) is crucial for an effective sales function. Often, this relationship can be strained, if not downright broken. It’s not uncommon to hear an AE griping about their lazy BDR or a BDR complaining about their unappreciative AE. In this scenario, neither party wins. The BDR doesn’t want to work any harder for the AE, and the AE doesn’t want to spend their valuable time coaching and developing their BDR. The result? Lowered morale, fewer meetings, a smaller pipeline, and less company revenue. Although the relationship may never be completely perfect, here are a few steps that can be taken to improve it.


1. Understand your BDR’s professional goals


A lot of assumptions can make their way into an AE <> BDR relationships, especially when it comes to a BDR’s professional goals. Many times, an AE simply assumes their BDR wants to be a quota carrying AE just like them. If they’re making dials all day, why wouldn’t they want to be? Well, similar to a good sales process, assumptions should be avoided.

If you don’t already, schedule weekly or bimonthly 1:1 meetings with your BDR. If you haven’t yet, ask them about their career goals. You might be surprised to find that they’ve been looking more into marketing or product, but want to have a lot of success in their current role before making the switch. Or maybe they want to go back to school in a year. Whatever their aspirations, make sure you’re both on the same page and do what you can to help them reach that goal. If you’re worried that this could be a distraction, remember that a track record of success will be necessary for whatever they want to do next. A better understanding of a BDR’s career goals is a good first step to a stronger relationship.


2. Understand what motivates your BDR


Different people are motivated by different things, and that’s no different for your BDR. Many times, reps assume that whatever incentive structure their org puts in place is good enough to motivate their BDR. Be cautious here.

I’ve had conversations with BDRs and found that they aren’t even compensated on meetings booked. Others have explained that if they hit their meeting or attributed revenue quota, there are zero incentives to overachieve. Although the execs making these strategic decisions are in place for a reason, they may overlook the BDR function despite how important it is for building a pipeline.

During your 1:1, have an open conversation about what truly motivates your BDR. Maybe it’s simply money, maybe it’s recognition, maybe it’s a promotion. Once you understand their motivations, discuss if the current incentive structure is enough. Outline what you as an AE can do to push them a little harder. Maybe you buy them lunch or toss them $20 whenever they book a quality meeting beyond their target, or maybe you figure out a way to put in a good word to management when they hit an agreed-upon target. Truly understanding your BDR’s motivations can go a long way in strengthening your relationship and getting them to put in 110%.


3. Build up trust


Mutual trust is key to forming a strong bond with your BDR. The best first step to building this trust is empathy. The BDR role isn’t easy. Working long hours making dials over and over again. Having the same conversations. It’s tedious, and it’s a grind.

As an AE, be empathetic. From step 1 and 2, be open and supportive. Do whatever you can to keep their morale high. If they see you as a trusted team member, they’re more likely to come to you if they have questions or don’t understand something. This will be a good opportunity to coach them, build your leadership skills, and help them become more efficient and effective. Strong trust between a BDR <> AE directly correlates with a stronger relationship and a fatter pipeline.


4. Empower your BDR and let them help mold the strategy


Empowered people are happy people. When your BDR is part of the tedious, daily grind, make them feel like they’re more than just appointment setters. During your 1:1, work together to build a prospecting strategy. I’m not just talking about a list of 1000 people you want them to call, but an actual strategic prospecting strategy.

For example, give them 10 of your target accounts that you know you aren’t going to be working. For the first account, show them every step you take to begin attacking it.

    • How do you do pre-outreach research?


    • What relevant points of contact will you reach out to and how?


    • What will be your messaging?


  • What is your follow up process?

After you’ve shown them your process from soup to nuts, give them homework for the remaining 9 accounts. Have them prepare the sourced accounts for your next 1:1 when you will review, give them feedback, and send them off to start reaching out. Help them start developing their sourcing skills for promo and empower them to feel excited about being more than just a meeting booker.


5. Coach your BDR


Your BDR may be looking for coaching, but doesn’t know where to go. There may be a BDR manager, but he or she may be managing dozens of BDRs. Alternatively, your sales manager may have your BDR as part of his or her team but is more focused on helping the quota-carrying AEs.

Be the leader that your BDR is looking for. As I mentioned before, schedule weekly or bimonthly 1:1s with your BDR. Have an Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc with:

    • Your 1:1 dates outlined


    • A column for what you think should be discussed


  • A column for what your BDR thinks should be discussed

Your time is valuable, so make it clear that if they don’t have their column filled in the day of your 1:1, then it probably doesn’t make sense to meet. Hold them accountable. In return, you should be accountable to prepare for the meeting if they have filled in their column. Make the best use of the time, and be sure to have actionable next steps following the meeting.

For example, if your BDR wants to talk about objection handling, prepare some exercises to do during your 1:1. Following the 1:1, have them practice their objection handling in a mirror at home and also think about 5 other possible objections they may hear prior to your next 1:1. If you can be the coach that helps them grow and develop, you will develop better leadership skills and build more trust.


6. Stay organized and collaborate


Last, but certainly not least, an effective BDR <> AE relationship is centered around organization and collaboration. Without a well-organized process, you may be butting heads, lacking communication, and weakening your relationship.

If you’re both prospecting into the same target account, who is reaching out to who? How can notes be shared to save time and avoid duplicating efforts? What is the best followup cadence? Processes and technology should be put in place to be sure everything runs smoothly.

This isn’t always easy, though. The modern AE is often juggling a CRM, a prospecting a tool, emails, a note-taking tool, a contract tool, Linkedin, etc simply to manage one account or deal. When it comes to collaborating with their BDR, communication is segmented in email, Slack, Google Drive, CRM, etc. You as the AE need to figure out how to organize all of this important information, know what’s working and what isn’t, and be sure to not duplicate efforts with your BDR. If this isn’t addressed, your relationship with your BDR and other stakeholders in the deal may suffer. Even worse, you may lose deals. Be sure to build out a process. 

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