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Article 11 min read

What does a business development representative (BDR) do?

Follow this guide to learn more about what a BDR is, what business development representatives do, and why they’re important for sales teams.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Last updated March 22, 2024

If you’ve ever been to a sophisticated social event, you’ve likely encountered that strange interaction where one party attendee asks about another party attendee’s job. “Oh,” they say, “I’m in flügelhorn maintenance generation,” and smile. Everyone nods politely. And you walk away wondering what that meant.

Business development is often one of those careers. The term feels vague enough that people smile and nod—and promptly change the subject. It’s no wonder. Business development (BD) didn’t really become mainstream in the sales industry until the 2000s, and even now, unless you work in BD, most people don’t know what it is.

But business development representatives (BDR) are some of the most influential employees when it comes to the future of your company—and it’s time to familiarize yourself with their tasks, benefits, and value.

What is a business development representative (BDR)?

What is a business development representative (BDR)?, person at computer

Business development representatives work to generate new opportunities for your business. According to Forbes, BDRs create “long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.” These opportunities and values cover the full spectrum of your company. BDRs can assist sales by finding and qualifying leads, but they can also improve inventory by sourcing new vendors. Essentially, if it’s a way your business can expand, it’s on your BDRs’ radar.

Business development teams and reps aren’t as understood as other sales industry teams, largely because not every company has or needs one. Companies with BD teams usually form them after scaling up and expanding. Even then, many companies won’t hire BDRs until it’s absolutely necessary. That makes fiscal sense, but it also means that most companies are ill-equipped to create a BD team when the time comes.

BDR vs SDR: What’s the difference?

Depending on the company, there are different answers to this question. Businesses will sometimes use BDRs and sales development representatives (SDRs) on the same activities, so it’s hard to always keep their differences distinct. Ideally, however, SDRs keep their focus on inbound leads while BDRs focus on the outbound opportunities.

When dealing directly with the sales team, BDRs usually work to create opportunities through outbound channels like cold calling and email prospecting. When working with non-sales departments, those channels could include sourcing, marketing campaigns, and brand analysis.

When it comes to sales, BDRs help by cultivating new strategies for creating sales prospecting tools and inbound leads, but they rarely deal with those leads one-on-one. Additionally, BDRs don’t normally close deals for individual sales. There might be exceptions, but on the whole, most sales that BDRs start (even outbound) are passed to the sales team for the final steps of the sales funnel.

It’s worth noting that the most important relationship between SDRs and BDRs isn’t necessarily in how they work together day to day, but about how SDRs are your best resource for cultivating a strong BDR team. Sales teams are excellent business development training grounds as reps gain experience in sales prospecting techniques and learn all the ins and outs of the sales process.

What does a business development representative do?

What does a business development representative do?, writing in notepad

In our hypothetical party scenario, if any brave souls asked what that person in business development actually did on a day-to-day basis, they’d likely say, “Oh, a little bit of everything,” or “I help develop the business,” followed by a small prayer that no one pressed the issue. And it’s true, BD is complex and multifaceted.

But business development doesn’t have to be such a huge mystery. Let’s take a look at the specific tasks of a business development representative.

  • Conducting research

Everything a business development rep does starts with research. In order to create successful strategies for the company’s future, a BDR needs to do thorough research into:

  • Competitors

  • Leads

  • Prospects

  • Customer base

  • Company history

  • Market and industry trends

  • Product development

An up-to-date knowledge base is essential for the success of any BDR. If your company doesn’t already have one, you can easily start one with your CRM through a CRM database.

  • Developing growth opportunities

Your business development team is responsible for finding ways to improve every aspect of your company. That growth isn’t just related to sales and increasing revenue—it encompasses all aspects of sales growth, company expansion, innovative offerings, stakeholder relationships, and market management. Sales prospecting is a great start, but you’re holding your BDRs back if that’s their only job.

Instead, enable your BDRs to work with representatives from all departments to develop opportunities to expand company reach, offerings, marketing, and financial power.

  • Experimenting with strategies

Some ideas just aren’t meant to work, but testing them in real time costs resources and potential sales. BDRs assess new strategies by establishing small-scale tests that can be tried with promising leads before being adapted by the entire company. These experiments range from small A/B tests with the marketing department to mini product launches that evaluate popularity and inventory speed.

  • Cross-departmental management

If you have projects on your to-do list that require input from multiple departments, it can be a coordination nightmare. BDRs, as representatives of every department and the company as a whole, are able to manage cross-departmental projects without egos getting in the way. A great BDR brings precise communication, documentation, and de-escalation skills to massive company endeavors.

  • Partnership management and relationship development

Not all partners with your business are customers. Someone needs to be able to build and manage relationships with investors, distributors, vendors, and any other company not looking for a purchase. These relationships are handled by your business development team. BDRs work hard to create strategic partnerships while building trust and negotiating to achieve win-win scenarios.

  • Data analysis

BDRs rely on data analysis as much as they rely on research. The more quantitative information you have about your company’s sales performance, the better your BDRs will be able to take that data and improve it. Improvements based on strong company data can include everything from better sales calls to increased quotas by the end of the year.

BDRs analyze data to improve internal practices and recommend trainings to address any weak spots.

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How do business development representatives provide value to the business?

How do business development representatives provide value to the business, rainbow

BDRs have the potential to bring incredible value to all companies, no matter their size. The impact is easiest to see in larger, more established companies, but the influence of business development is evident everywhere.

In the United States alone, the consumer market includes over 300 million people spending approximately $20 trillion every year. When you take into account that most companies now sell on a global scale due to digital transactions, that number grows exponentially.

The traditional sales industry is all about building a relationship with a prospect and carrying them through the sales pipeline to the final transaction. That kind of small-scale expertise is extremely useful, but not when it comes to business expansion in today’s market.

Your sales and marketing teams don’t have the time to dedicate solely to opportunity expansion. They’re busy doing what they need to do—managing individual sales and creating successful content for various company channels.

Your BDRs’ primary job is to further the reach of your business by understanding the modern market. BDRs don’t have to worry about individual conversions, so they have the privilege of being able to look at the big picture and plan ten steps ahead.

Measuring the success of your BDR team

The good news and bad news about measuring BDR success is that business development can be measured by essentially every metric applicable to your company. The best way to effectively measure BD success is to pick specific aspects of your company to track over a period of time based on the projects your BDRs are working on during that time.

For example, let’s say your company is trying out social selling—essentially mixing up their sales mix. Your BDR team is in charge of choosing social media channels, investing in any necessary software (for example, a chatbot), and working with marketing to create the right tone. Specific metrics you could track throughout this process include:

  • Number of interactions with each channel

  • Percentage of conversions through each channel

  • Number of interactions through additional software vs. the core social media platform

  • Amount of revenue generated through social media conversions vs. traditional conversions

  • Number of qualified leads per social media channel

  • Number of trial or demo requests per social media channel

  • Frequency of SDR interactions with social media channel leads vs. traditional leads

These metrics are all geared toward one BDR project and let you compare the success of that project to your pre-project analytics.

Over time, you could look at the overall BDR impact on your company in terms of increases in interactions and conversions over several years. But it can be hard to examine that data objectively if those conversions are also influenced by other projects such as new products, rebranding, or geographical expansion.

Key BDR skills and qualifications

Key BDR skills and qualifications, playing pool

Expert BD reps aren’t always easy to come by. Because BDR requires skills from so many different aspects of the sales industry, most BDR reps will come to the table with a lot of experience in certain departments and little experience in others. That’s okay. BDR hires do need to bring certain skills to the table, but a lot of the necessary qualifications are soft skills, not hard ones. Let’s take a look at both.

BDR hard skills include:

  • Knowledge of basic sales and marketing software

  • Bachelor’s degree in business, communications, or a related industry

  • 1-3 years experience in any sales industry department

BDR soft skills include:

  • Strong verbal and written communication

  • Excellent time management and organization

  • Creativity

  • Adaptability and ability to work well under pressure

  • Active listening skills

  • Self-motivation

Ideally, a great BDR candidate will also have a strong understanding of the sales industry, including:

  • Current industry growth predictions

  • Competitor growth and development plans

  • Customer profiles and buyer personas

  • New market opportunities

  • How to qualify leads

  • Lead management and tracking
  • Cost sink areas and opportunities for cost savings

  • Sales and marketing software, including sales dashboards and contact management platforms
  • New product and expansion opportunities relevant to the business

  • The long-term goals for the company

  • Basic sales knowledge

  • Basic marketing knowledge

  • Basic production and inventory knowledge

The most important takeaway from these lists is that a great BDR hire doesn’t need to have BDR-specific experience. They need to be intelligent, curious, and motivated to learn.

Business development representative job description

Now, let’s take those skills and look at translating them into a BDR job description. Below is a sample business development rep job description from Zendesk’s recent search for new BDRs.

Job description:

Zendesk is the world’s leading customer experience and support platform and we are growing quickly with a suite of products our customers love! Zendesk makes customer service better. We build software to meet customer needs, set teams up for success, and keep businesses in sync.

In this pure “hunting” sales role, you will engage with prospect organizations of all sizes, complexities, and needs. Through collaborating with key internal team members and groups—including sales and product managers, industry sales directors, and marketing—you will identify, uncover, and qualify opportunities that directly affect top- and bottom-line sales in Australia.

Key responsibilities:

  • Engage with prospects and clients to understand business and organization challenges and struggles

  • Generate high-value sales pipeline through both strategic and targeted prospecting into commercial or enterprise accounts

  • Collaborate with the sales team to develop a list of target prospects

  • Develop and run a pipeline of prospects and provide top class customer experience

What we are looking for:

  • Business development experience within the enterprise and commercial segment, particularly handling prospects from Australia

  • A minimum of two years of experience in a sales-related environment

  • A driven demeanor, with a hunger and self-starter dedication to overachieve and succeed

  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills; you should be a phenomenal writer, speaker, and listener


We are building a high-performance culture and want teammates who can join our organization and not just fit in, but add to us. We’re open, supportive, and think a diverse team (across all spectrums) makes us stronger collectively. While this is an individual role, we want people who enjoy contributing to the success of the team and Zendesk as a business.

As you can see from the above description, experience is valued, but soft skills and personality are what really separate a quality business development rep.

Help your BDRs by investing in a high-powered CRM

A BDR’s hardest job is aligning all of your departments into one, cohesive mission. They already have a ton of personalities to deal with—don’t make them work twice as hard on administrative activities.

With a CRM like Zendesk Sell, your business development reps gain open, seamless communication with every department in your company. Real-time reports and automation make it easy to track sales data, monitor sales performance, and gain a big-picture perspective on B2C and B2B sales.

Request a demo of Zendesk today and give your business development reps the gift of unlimited insight.

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