SDR vs BDR Sales: What’s the Difference?

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    The roles within sales and marketing departments can often overlap and be confusing. Across industries, but particularly in SaaS, tech and B2B if roles are not clearly defined and all cogs in your sales and marketing machine aren’t well oiled, your lead generation might stutter. A Business Development Representative, or BDR, is a classic example of a role that’s definition is often hard to grab hold of.

    So, what is a BDR? Do you need one? And how is it from an SDR — if at all? Here, we’ll explain what a BDR does, why it does it and how it compares to an SDR, to help you get your marketing and sales teams working together like well-oiled machines.

    What is a BDR?

    The role of a Business Development Rep is to generate new sales leads from partners. BDRs find these potential customers using a wide variety of tactics, from cold emails to social selling. These leads are then developed by cultivating a relationship with that partner, through events, support, and any other appropriate channels.

    They then move leads through the pipeline up to Account Executives and others within the sales team (more on this later).

    Exactly how the BDR will drive sales depends on what business niche they work in. For example, in some industries they might be expected to attend and network at industry events. Within more modern markets, however, they are expected to generate leads by digging through data, and contacting leads online. As a result, the definition isn’t completely nailed down, sometimes resulting in overlap with other sales and marketing roles.

    Normally, the BDR role sits within sales. Once the BDR has generated a lead, they will generally pass them on to another role to convert the lead — often an Account Executive (but more on this later). Within SaaS companies, BDR is often an entry-level role.

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    SDR vs BDR Sales

    BDRs can sometimes be conflated with BDRs due to the loose definitions. Like a BDR, a Sales Development Representative (SDR) focuses on prospecting and qualifying new leads. Once interest has been established, SDRs follow up with inbound leads, provoking them to take action on a CTA. If a lead is deemed a good fit, they move the lead through the sales pipeline.

    Most commonly, and within B2B, SaaS and tech businesses, BDRs focus on outbound leads, while SDRs focus on inbound. This might change depending on the business, however, as some businesses will only have a BDR or an SDR — meaning a BDR might focus on both inbound and outbound leads.

    Reports toInbound vs outbound leads (generally)Location in the sales pipeline
    BDRSalesOutboundLead generation / qualification
    SDRMarketingInboundLead generation / qualification

    Both SDRs and BDRs aim, however, to move qualified leads through the sales pipeline so that other roles within the sales team can close. In some industries, the BDR role might be seen as an archaic version of SDR, as many businesses (including SaaS) increasingly focus on inbound marketing and lead generation. However, the definitions are quite fluid, and both can work together in a modern business.

    Who else do BDRs work with?

    BDRs need to work closely with colleagues their colleagues to make sure leads are passed on, have the right information and are qualified correctly. These roles include:

    • Market Development Representative: An MDR generates sales qualified leads by chasing up on inbound qualified prospects. MDRs can pick up on leads that BDRs have qualified, moving them through the pipeline.
    • Inside Sales Rep: An ISR can take on some of the MDR’s responsibilities and commonly follows up on leads’ conversion actions. Unlike BDRs, they field inbound calls and obtain commitment. BDRs and SDRs pass leads on to ISRs.
    • Account Executive: AE’s manage relationships with existing clients and close sales. BDRs and SDRs often work alongside AEs, passing leads directly onto AEs to develop deeper understanding of the lead’s needs — and ultimately close deals.
    • Account Manager: AMs carry out a broad role, focused on ensuring that the needs of clients are met on an ongoing basis. BDRs interact with AMs to get relevant sales collateral or make sure the information they are giving to leads is up to date.

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    What challenges do BDRs face — and how are they solved?

    The role of the BDR is essential for the success of the organisation they operate within, and they face a number of complex challenges.

    Generating and qualifying leads

    Generating leads is hard enough, but qualifying them can be a bigger challenge still. Both are crucial to their business — without them, AEs, ISRs and AMs won’t have leads to convert or accounts to manage. This could be especially challenging for new businesses who are just beginning to compile their data sets, like SaaS and tech startups.


    • Research: BDRs need to make use of modern prospecting tools, drawing on detailed and varied data to locate and assess leads. They can draw on persona information, behavioural data and demographic attributes to understand their target audience. By identifying persona pain points, BDRs can gain a better insight into what specific features of the product/service they might need.
    • Using modern tools: BDRs should make the most out of CRMs, creating a process for lead ranking. This will save time and help generate better quality leads.

    Reaching out to customers

    Once leads have been generated and qualified, BDRs need to reach out. Rather than closing business, BDRs educate leads about how their service or product can help them. It’s often difficult to know when to reach out, and difficult to respond effectively to tricky questions.


    • Adaptability: Linked with research skills, BDRs need to know their products and services inside out. BDRs need to adaptably communicate use cases and value propositions to various types of leads, while being able to creatively and persuasively respond to objections and critical questions.
    • Organisation: BDRs should adopt the use of automated emails, and ensure that they follow up with queries promptly. They should also regularly review sales collateral and have it to hand when communicating with leads.
    • Cold contact: Cold calling and emailing still has its place in modern business. It’s used by BDRs to make contact with potential leads, further helping them to qualify them and begin to understand more about them. This includes understanding pain and interest points.

    Pro tip: Adding a warm and personal touch to your cold emails and calls can help you generate more B2B leads.

    Dealing with rejection

    A significant part of the process of reaching out to customers is rejection. BDRs will spend a lot of time cold calling, creating targeted email campaigns, and sending out personalised requests on social media, often receiving nothing but silence. Remaining motiviat in the face of these perceived failures is of significant importance.


    • Motivation: BDRs have generated a long list of prospects, so they need to be able to move on to the next one with enthusiasm if they haven’t heard anything back from the last 5, 10 — or 100 — leads. They need to remain on-task, and to keep in mind that other roles can’t close without their essential work.
    • Resilience: BDRs need to learn to recognise that their success will not always be visible — To be successful in their role in the long run, they’ll need to build resilience and thick skin. As BDRs don’t close sales, they don’t get the rush associated with that stage of the sales funnel.
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    BDRs don’t need to do their work alone

    BDRs are important to business. In a modern setting, particularly in Tech, SaaS and B2B companies, BDRs frequently support digital marketing efforts with generating inbound leads, in addition to prospecting outbound leads.

    BDRs don’t need to do their work alone — there are an increasing number of solutions available that can help them in their daily operations. Digital marketing companies, like Gripped, can help BDRs with both lead and demand generation. 

    The future success of BDRs will depend to a certain degree on their ability to develop partnerships and leverage services to their benefit, rather than taking on all responsibilities as theirs alone.

    What is a BDR?

    A BDR is a Business Development Representative. BDRs generate new business prospects — typically through outbound sales and marketing strategies.

    What does a BDR do?

    A BDR generates and qualifies primarily outbound leads, through strategies including cold emails, networking, and cold calls. They then move these leads through to pipeline to other roles, such as Account Executives and Inside Sales Representatives, so that they can close on the leads.

    What is an SDR?

    An SDR is a Sales Development Representative. SDRs generate new business prospects — typically through inbound sales and marketing strategies.

    What does an SDR do?

    SDRs focus on prospecting and qualifying new inbound leads. They try to connect with as many leads as possible, and qualify them to see if they are a good fit. SDRs then move the leads through the sales pipeline.

    What’s the difference between a BDR and SDR?

    There is often overlap between SDRs and BDRs. In general, SDRs generate and qualify inbound leads, whereas BDRs generate and qualify outbound leads. As a result, each role has distinct responsibilities. SDRs work more closely with marketing departments and often sit within them. BDRs are more sales-focused.