The not-too-distant future…
A notification pops up on your screen, accompanied by a familiar “Blip!”.
Someone meeting the target criteria has just landed on your company’s pricing page.
The menu on the right side of your dashboard begins auto-populating with data: Name, role, location, company size, conversation history.
“LeadBot,” you say aloud, “What’s the percentage?”
A monotone voice provides you with the answer: “This lead has an 82% chance of becoming a customer.”
You smile. “Then I guess we better say hello.”
You click the Send Message button next to the person’s profile and start typing. A second later, that future customer is reading your message.
And two seconds after that, you get a response.
For years now, business development reps (BDRs) have relied on two primary channels of communication:
Phone and email.
In some industries, BDRs are expected to make as many as 65 phone calls and 65 emails per day, if not more.
Now, think about how that lines up with the way you like to buy today.
When you’re interested in a product, do you instinctively search for a lead capture form to fill out?
Do you enjoy getting bombarded with follow-up phone calls and “nurturing” emails after you’ve filled out one of those forms?
As consumers, we’ve grown to hate that type of experience. But as marketers and salespeople, many of us still cling to it.
Instead of potential customers being able to start conversations when it’s convenient for them (e.g. while they’re on your website), companies use forms to control when those conversations get to happen.
It’s an extremely company-driven approach, which results in a less-than-stellar buying experience.
But just so we’re clear, BDRs aren’t at fault here in any way.
BDRs are doing exactly what they need to be doing. They just don’t have the right tools anymore.
Don’t Blame the BDRs, Blame the Tech
BDRs are the unsung heroes of the sales and marketing funnel.
They’re the ones reaching out to all of those leads that marketing folks (like me) are always so busy generating.
They’re the ones who separate out the people who aren’t a good fit for the product, while helping those who are a good fit overcome objections.
And finally, BDRs are the ones who pass qualified leads onto the sales team.
Looking back, it’s clear why the BDR role was needed: As companies found more and more success driving traffic to their sites using inbound marketing and content marketing, they were becoming overwhelmed with leads. And a lot of those leads were low-quality.
Companies needed a way to filter through them all so they weren’t handing their quota-carrying sales reps a bunch of low-quality leads.
The digital marketing agency Tippit once compared conversion rates (lead-to-opportunity %) for two of its clients: one that had a BDR team, and one that passed leads directly from marketing to sales.
Both clients were tech companies, and they sold competing products to the same type of buyer.
Tippit found that the company with a BDR team converted 40% of their leads. The company without a BDR team, meanwhile, converted less than 5% of their leads.
Thanks to BDRs, sales reps are able to focus their time on actually selling vs. qualifying. And that’s a big deal.
There’s a rule of thumb in sales that says a 5% increase in selling time can amount to a 20% increase in revenue.
While it’s clear that the role BDRs play will always be crucial, recent changes in technology are forcing us to rewrite the BDR playbook we’ve all grown accustomed to.
Let’s face it: Phone and email are no longer the dominant communication channels they used to be.
Billions of people around the world are now turning to messaging apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) as their go-to channels for chatting with friends.
Meanwhile, at the office, messaging-based work spaces like Slack, HipChat, and Microsoft Teams are making coworker-to-coworker emails obsolete.
And according to a recent study from Twilio, 9 out of 10 consumers want to be able to use messaging to talk businesses.
Now, I don’t claim to be able to see the future, but I have a very strong hunch that communicating via 1:1 messaging is going to become increasingly important for BDRs.
However, in order to have those 1:1 conversations at scale, BDRs are going to need some help.
Why Bots Are Here to Help BDRs, Not Replace Them
After someone fills out a lead capture form on a website, the response time can range anywhere from a few minutes, to a few days, to a few weeks.
In some cases, there’s no response.
That’s not good.
As the Lead Response Management Study revealed, the faster BDRs can respond to leads, the more likely it is that they’ll end up qualifying those leads.
Now, imagine if BDRs could respond to leads within seconds of them reaching out.
And — thinking back to my futuristic introduction — imagine if BDRs could proactively send messages to site visitors who met certain targeting conditions.
Imagine if a BDR team could still collect information from leads and answer basic product questions in the middle of the night when all the actual BDRs were sleeping soundly in their beds.
Another example: For BDRs who were suddenly flooded with a bunch of incoming chats, imagine if they could alert people automatically that response times might be a little longer than usual.
(pictured above: our bot, Driftbot, in action)
Those are the types of tasks that intelligent chatbots can help with.
They’re not replacing BDRs. Instead, by automating the tedious tasks, bots are helping BDRs increase their connect/conversion rates and decrease their response times.
In other words, bots are making BDRs more efficient.
Unfortunately, instead of embracing the future and adapting to the new technologies emerging around us, many sales and marketing teams have doubled-down on what they know.
In an effort to make up for their slipping conversion rates, they’ve simply hired more BDRs to make more phone calls and send more emails, as opposed to figuring out how to make their existing BDRs more efficient.
But as the sales and marketing landscape shifts beneath their feet, those companies that fail to adapt will eventually suffer the consequences.
It’s time for everyone to face the facts: the days of lead gen forms and endless follow-up emails/phone calls are fading.
As the sales and marketing agency EBQ wrote in a recent blog post:
…the very nature of the means of communication they [BDRs] use is changing … networks such as Slack and Snapchat, with their off-the-cuff, naturalistic approach to communication, have begun to take hold, and research suggests they make users happier and thus more engaged [compared to traditional social networks]. Combined with the rise of the chatbot, one thing is for sure: In today’s sales climate, you can’t rely solely on content as we know it to generate leads.