4 Proven Ways BDRs and AEs Can Work Together Effectively

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Nick van der Kolk
Nick van der Kolk


A strong relationship between a salesperson or account executive (AE) and their business development rep (BDR) is crucial for success. Not only will the team be more efficient, motivated, and productive, they’ll also get plenty of learning opportunities.

I’ve performed both roles in the past. Here are the best practices I’ve used over the last 10 years to maximize my success.

1) Understand each other’s goals

Sales professionals who have a target or quota are naturally focused on hitting those metrics. The key is to understand and align both the BDR and AE’s metrics with the factors that make a successful sales process.

If you’re not aligned, you might end up with a BDR who’s trying to pass as many leads as possible to sales reps because their compensation plan hinges on meeting an opportunity creation quota. Of course, then the reps are trying to sell to unqualified leads.

As an individual contributor, you might be unable to really influence the metrics you’re measured on. But you can identify prospect fit, authority, urgency, budget, and timeline -- and become more effective as a team.

With this in mind, we adopted a target account approach. The sales representative defines a list of companies that are an ideal fit, making it easier for the BDR to have good fit leads to call and decreasing the pre-qualification criteria required by the rep. When a meeting is booked, it will have a better chance of closing because it is a good fit.

When each person involved in the sales process understands what drives success, it will stimulate positive team-focused behavior. Setting regular one-on-ones to discuss and analyze the previous period -- what went well and what can be improved -- will set you up for success.

2) Keep each other up-to-date and provide feedback

Using a helpful, educational selling style usually means that the buyer has control. However, this has nothing to do with being clear where you are in a sales process, setting next steps for accountability, and hand-holding the prospect on their buyer’s journey.

Knowing where you are in the sales process and making sure this is shared within the company will not only improve your forecast abilities, it will let your team members see how the opportunity is progressing. Transparency leads to better communication and buy-in from the team, as everyone knows who is doing what and when. If the deal falls through, the AE can provide feedback and clearly define what the BDR can do differently in the future (or vice versa).

There will always be deviations and problems. As a leader, approach those matters as opportunities for learning. Always try to give the critique in a thoughtful and empathetic way. Behave kindly and appropriately even in the tough matters.

3) Explain why something is important

Poor leaders tell others what to do. Better leaders show them how to do. The best leaders explain why to do it. The same principle applies to relationship management. If the other person doesn’t understand the business environment and context you’re working in, explain it to them. The team will work harder if they know why it’s important to your own operations. Without an explanation, it’s hard to get anyone motivated.

For instance, I explained to my team which factors make an opportunity progress from an assessment to a demo. Having this context increased our initial meeting to demo ratio, meaning overall team performance increases.

4) Do things outside of work

Just because you work at the same company and in the same department doesn’t make you a team. In my experience, the most successful teams interact with each other outside of work. That can be a casual activity like going to the gym; for example, at HubSpot we regularly go to the gym and play team sports together.

But it can also be more professional. I’ve started a sales training website with my team member where we provide helpful content and resources for salespeople in the Netherlands.

This enables us to share insights and best practices and generate potential sales opportunities in the future. People really become a team when they love working with each other. The enjoyment and respect you build up for each other is key to success.

Good cooperation begins with aligning and understanding each other. Build on this foundation with transparency and effective communication. Finally, strengthen your relationships by finding opportunities to do things outside of the office. 

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