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How to Become a Great Business Development Representative

About a week ago I started a fantastic new role as Director of Sales Prospecting & Business Development at the Boston-based Cloud Security company Threat Stack, working with a team that’s developing game-changing solutions in the cloud security space. I’m thrilled with my new role — building and leading a brand new team of BDRs to help sell this amazing technology. And I thought this would be a good time to reflect on how I arrived at this point in my career and see what lessons I can pass on to my new team.

When I started my career in software sales, I had no real expectations about where the journey might take me. Four years, three companies, two brand new teams, and one acquisition later, I find myself building my own team of hungry, motivated Business Development Reps, and I couldn’t be more excited about helping to grow their careers and make them a key part of our company’s success.

A lot has changed since I last reflected on my career and a lot has stayed the same. Looking back, I’m happy to say I have every ounce of passion and energy that I had at the beginning, and I’m even more excited to learn, grow, and make an impact. If I had to distill what I’ve learned into a few pieces of advice to aspiring BDRs and sales reps out there, I’d single out the following:

1. Set goals and commit to achieving them

Whether you’re just starting your career as a BDR or you’re further down the funnel and closing business, one of the most important parts of your day is setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals and then working hard to achieve them. I’m a huge fan of seeing progress visually, so I write my goals down and watch the accomplishments grow before my eyes.

Goals aren’t meant to be easy — they have to be challenging if you’re going to grow — but no matter how tough they are, it’s on you to commit to hitting your targets. If you have metrics you need to meet to get that big commision check or move into your next role, you need to be mentally prepared to do whatever it takes. So make sure you set goals that will give you focus and force you to stretch. It’s a guaranteed of way of putting yourself on the path to meeting business targets as well as ongoing professional development goals.

2. Be accountable to yourself and others

As sales people, it’s part of our job to make sure prospects show up to demos and introduce us to procurement to get the deal done. It’s our job to make asks and to keep people accountable once they’ve given answers. It’s also important to keep yourself accountable for your own goals. If the metrics tell you it takes 120 calls to set a single demo, you’d better make sure you make each one of those calls counts. As a manager, I have a team that I have to be accountable to. It’s my job to make sure they are successful and growing their careers. I hold myself to the same level of accountability that I require from them when they join my team.

A big part in my career growth has come from understanding where I made an impact, and where I could have done more. You learn the most when you’re not perfect and own up to your mistakes. Being accountable to yourself and others is one of the surest keys to keeping honest and growing.

3. Find a mentor (or two)

I’ve met and worked with a lot of great talent, and one of my favorite things is learning from the people I surround myself with. You will always find someone in a sales organization who has something specific to teach you. I was fortunate to start my sales career with someone who was not only a strong leader, but also a mentor who was motivated to furthering my career.

And by the way, mentors don’t just fall into your lap: you have to go and find them. Ask them for feedback, go to them with problems, and ask them to help you solve them. Say thank you and constantly keep that communication flowing. As a BDR, I would always be tuned into two specific people who, I knew, were there to help me, and my openness to their feedback made them more willing to work with me and mold me into the sales leader I am today.

Today, I take time out of each day to make sure I’m mentoring people in my network. I look at it as passing the torch down, and nothing makes me happier than seeing BDRs grow into sales leaders.

4. Make your clients successful

Sales is all about making people successful. Whether you are managing a team, or making 150 calls a day, it’s important to understand who your client is. I’ve always made it a priority to understand who my client is and what their pain is. What makes their job difficult? What do they care about? How can I help them? I’ve always approached clients with a “we” selling mentality. We are working on this project together, and we cross the finish line together. At Threat Stack, our clients “get it.” They’re leaders in their fields, and they’ve chosen us because we’re a leader in ours and we can help them be even more successful.

So that’s it in a nutshell: Set challenging goals to move yourself ahead, be accountable to yourself so you can learn from your mistakes, be accountable to others so they know they can depend on you, and learn from mentors who’ve already been there. Finally, make sure that both you and the client are successful. If you do all this, you’ll make an outstanding addition to any BDR team, and you’ll set yourself up for a great career.