How to Lead a BDR Team

Overview: Learn how to hire motivate and lead a BDR team with Anil Somaney global head of pipeline at CloudFlare.

About the speaker: As CMO of 6sense, Latané is passionate about empowering marketing leaders with effective technology, predictive insights, and thought leadership so they can confidently lead their teams, company, and industry into the future. As a “recovering software sales woman” she is keenly focused on leveraging data to ensure marketing programs result in deals, not just leads.


Dave: So welcome, everybody. My name is Dave Elkington. I’m the founder and chairman of a company called It’s now renamed to XANT. I’m also the chairman of ChatFunnels. And, Billy Bateman, the co founder ChatFunnels asked if I will host this.

And more importantly, I have a chance to to host and an interview, Anil Somaney, who’s a longtime friend, we’ve worked together, but really Anil has done has been able to build and run crazy high throughput, high performance BDR teams, when the rest of the market is lost on what to do with who sort of work for or doesn’t know how to handle specific, you know, crisis in the economy. I will put a name to it. As we’re thinking about different people to come speak. I thought, I don’t know anybody who has had the degree of success that Anil has.  

So I’m not going to do you justice. I think it’s important for everybody to hear like, you’ve done this in different industries, you’ve done it at different company sizes, you’ve done it throughout the country, throughout the world. So give a little bit of your background before we actually get into the meat of it. Because I don’t think people I think it adds some credibility, frankly, to what you’re gonna share. That’s great, thank you.  

Anil: Yeah, we have been friends for a while and really enjoyed my time working with you as well. So I have led different teams across different industries, different companies. started my career Early on at at&t in a hardcore FPA role, and then migrated across into sales ops, and then eventually sales. I really learned the value of being on either side of the fence right being on the sales side of the sales ops side of the fence, and the BDR function in the middle. From there went to, now Xant that was amped and spent time with I actually hired in into sales ops and then migrated pretty quickly over into BDR.  

And we had a, we had a lot of fun. But we grew that team extremely quickly drew some really strong pipeline and was able to was able to deliver some strong results over there from there went to Splunk. Almost very similar trajectory. And then I was hired in for sales ops, and then moved over into inside sales, business development, and I slowly started finding my niche at inside sales and Splunk where that BDR inside sales face was a really good mixture.  

For me, I felt like it really honed a couple of skill sets that I really enjoyed. Like I was decent at. From there went to a company called lifesize and let our global BDR team. And then we slowly started developing into a renewals and a little bit of an inside sales team. And then now I’m at CloudFlare, we moved to Austin and CloudFlare is the head of global pipeline.   

Dave: So what I love about your background, and it actually is kind of the key question I want to start off with, is I don’t think sales leaders and in particular, biz dev leaders, BDR leaders, look the way most people think they look. Most people think I’m going to go take a great sales rep, or sales leader, and I’m going to have them be a BDR leader. And as you described the beginning of your career, your FP&A and then your Ops, and then your sales leader, actually, in my opinion, I think that’s a that’s a unique recipe that most people miss.  

So give me your sense of like, there’s a lot of different makeup in terms of what what’s the right type of demographic to hire a BDR rep or a BDR leader, just for everybody just a definitional term. BDR we’re referencing business development some people call it ADM, account development, but we all we mean the same thing. So like what is a great leader look like? You were a little bit unusual again, I think that’s what appealed to me. Like when you started? I loved that you’re a numbers guy. Like you’re not necessarily the typical get on the golf course. Go meet him at the bar like that’s not your stuff. You are a numbers crunching process oriented guy. What‘s the right demographic? What’s the right characteristics? Like what does a BDR rep and what does it BDR leader look like?   

Anil: Yeah. I’ll preface all this by saying you know, this is this is based upon, you know, my 20 years of BDR experience and some of the things I’ve seen and heard, not necessarily CloudFlare but you know, I will tell you the I still remember the conversation Dave, you and I had out outside of the restaurant before parking lot when you gave me the BDR team. And one things I really started thinking about is I do think the modern day BDR leader, the persona is shifted. five years ago, I think it really was people thought that it was that high performing sales leader, and you could very easily move them down up or move them up the funnel and have them be a BDR leader.  

And I think that persona has shifted pretty significantly now to where the strongest skill set that I see in high performing BDR’s or BDR leaders, is this operational skill set. He started tapping on it, process, analytics, really thinking about things. The best personas to capture the cadence and all that kind of stuff. Rather than, hey, I was a good seller, and I can just migrate do that. 

Dave: And let me pause it because like, I’ve done that so many times where I’ve taken that top rep, and I turn them into a leader, and I’m just going to be honest with you, they suck like they are, they’re never good. And so it took me enough misses to realize like I’m looking at people the wrong way. I’m assuming success in one environment equals success in another environment. So it actually brings an interesting topic, we get very stuck in our stereotypes, right? Like, we kind of think a sales rep is, you know, 42, long, in right out of IBM chiseled healthy, and that’s not it, right, we need to start thinking differently. Like, what what do you think? 

Anil: Yeah, I absolutely. I mean, there’s a couple of things. You just tapped on something around diversity of thought. Diversity of experiences, and we can come back to that. But I don’t think you’re the only one. I think a lot of folks have looked at that and just said. That’s the perfect persona moving forward. Now, I do actually think having a sales background and carried a bag. Or run a region, whatever it is, is extremely important, right? Because the BDR leaders need to get me to be able to periscope up and down. Be able to objection handles set appointments with their team. I have sold before and understand the product. 

 So I do think it’s important, I just think it’s less important than it was in the past. And then that last skill set that’s starting to that’s been there and I think is solidifying is the people side of this, it is so important.  

I still remember the days with our, with our VP of Demand Gen Mike Plant. Mike and I had a phenomenal relationship. We’d closed the door, and we fight about why my folks weren’t following up on leads. I tell him, his leads are no good, the classic battle, but outside, it was a really strong relationship. It’s so important in a BDR capacity to be able to push and pull on those and then internally with the team, winning the hearts and minds of the team inspiring the team getting to be getting them to be able to do things like this don’t think is what’s achievable. 

Dave: It brings up an interesting point, like, once you guys got your groove, and I’ve seen you not do that just inside sales, like this has been your pattern as you kind of embrace different different thinkers, different approaches, different styles, and what you’ve done with that as you really been a master at like creating and motivating people in ways like and do things. I don’t even think they thought they could do. So again, before I again, I have so much I want to get out of you in this in this 20 minutes. But um, how what? How do you motivate that person that BD because look, BD is a hard job like that job.  

I’m gonna be the first to say that job is tough in Can you can people do that for more than a year or two? It takes a special kind, right? So that’s one question like, how do you motivate people and keep the energy? Because otherwise you’re on the phone, or you’re sending emails, and that energy level goes down. You’re terrible. So that’s one How do you motivate people? And number two, what do leaders need to look like to be able to create that motivation? So first hit, hit that motivation thing.    

Anil: Yeah, I think that motivation piece is so important. And we just even some of the things that I’ve done in my career, a lot of them over it inside sales. I mean, you probably remember the days of where we had Jim, right, Jim Steel. Yeah. He, you know, we hit a quarter we had a really, really strong quarter as a company. And I, Jim Can you pop into a dunking booth for me? Without hesitation, he said, Yeah, I’m in. And the funniest part about this right. Jim comes out.  

And Jim is in you know, in a suit and he comes out I asked him, I said, Hey, Jim, all of us have changed into our shorts and T shirt prepared. To get done, Jim comes out in the suit. And Rebecca ever said, Hey, you want to change? And he says, No, you know, I do things at a top level all the time. If I’m going I’m going big and this is not like,   

Dave: this isn’t a CMI or you know a Walgreens should even know what they make. I don’t know. I don’t think they make this is like this got to be a $2,000 suit with thousand dollar you know, loafers up, he looks money, and he climbs up into that booth without a flinch. At that point. I have a newfound respect for Jim Steel was amazing.   

Anil: I think Rebecca and I got his watch off and the shoes off that he was in and say, okay, it is stuff like that, the team had a blast, and you know, doing the dunking booth if you remember water balloons, right, we got to throw water balloons at us. And it was so simple with you know, we had hotdogs and cokes and I think we had a snow cone machine. And we, Mike and I actually, and so it doesn’t have to be expensive. I think there’s this misperception that oh, you know, we have to spend a ton of money, we have to spiff the BDs. 

Dave: I love that. I’ve got to interrupt you because you’ve hit like a key point. Um, most people assume it is about money. And it’s not it’s about achievement. Right. And it’s about showing it week one incentive we did, it might have been even before you were there, we had, it was like Star Wars figurines that I think we paid, I could have been more than 10 bucks each. And they they represented a trophy for like the top, you know, the top BDR for the day or the week. Like it’s about recognition. It’s about having fun, it’s about mixing it up. Right? Like, what are some of the incentives you use that that were effective? 

Anil: Yeah, I mean, all of those, right, all of the above, I do think it’s a mix of, you know, gift cards, the water balloons, I had a couple days off, had me call and work through people’s queues. That’s another one, right? But you know, saying, hey, look like you’re gonna, you’re going to get your boss on the phone, and I’m going to go set appointments for you. Just things like that, having a little bit of fun with it, it doesn’t have to be expensive. And I just, I think there’s that big misperception out there.  

The other part is encouraging executives across the company. As we sat our executive meetings, our entire staff was extremely willing. And every place I’ve been extremely willing to chip in. And say, Hey, tell me what you need. You need me to come talk to the team, you want to put me at a dunking booth. You want me to go get water, everybody’s willing. And as a BDR leader, I think it’s your job to come out to the to those meetings. And grab everyone else to come I need your help here. I need you to go out motivate this team. Don’t go at it alone.  

Dave: So you talk about that, you know, as a BDR leader, what are the other characteristics? Like what what does it look like?  

Anil: Yeah I think it’s back to that. It’s that mix, right of highly analytical, highly processed oriented, understand sales, appreciate sales understands the challenges they go through. And then you know, lead with empathy, right, as someone that can really motivate inspire the team, right? Because you’ve got to your point earlier, it is a hard job. And I would argue it’s one of the toughest jobs. And you know, it’s a transient, where many people come into the role and they’re looking like, hey, I’ve got to do it, I want to check this box. Again. You’ve got to win the hearts and minds of those folks, while they’re in that seat. 

Dave: Well, and I’m going to actually give a little bit of personal background. My first, it was one of my first jobs. It was during my internship at school, so I had an internship with Merrill Lynch, and my job, one of my jobs besides like shredding paper, and like it was a it was like, do whatever we say internship, I had to fill a seminar, basically, an investment seminar at Inn. In about every month.  

And what they gave me a phone on my desk, and they gave me the phone book, like that was it and I was just dialing. Look I and I’m not I could get somewhere between 30 and 50 people in a dinner at the end every month. It’s like a rite of passage. If you can do that. You’re likely to be successful, not just in sales. And my opinion, I think in your career, you can do that  for a year. Now, that was an internship. So that was like three months, but so if you can do that for a year, I think you can do anything. 

Anil: Yeah, it’s a it’s definitely a tough role and resiliency and adaptability and they’re extremely important traits for the BDS and even the BD leadership that comes in.  

Dave: Yeah, no, I love it. What Okay, so you’re talking about motivating and leadership. The whole thing got thrown on it’s ear about Six to eight years ago, and it’s a big deal today 60% of the workforce are millennials and I would, I would argue that in the BDR space, it’s probably much, much higher than that. So how would it? I would argue, you’re if not the one of the top BDR leaders I’ve ever known. Which means you have to have solved this unique challenge. How do you motivate? And how do you incentivize? How do you drive and fulfill a millennial, BDR, work employee, someone who’s who’s on the phone, six hours plus a day, it’s so for anybody, but especially for this generation? Like, what? What do you do? 

Anil: Yeah, I appreciate the comments. It is. The millennial workforce is actually interestingly enough, what draws me to this job working with the millennials, and the really bright minds and, kind of upswing careers that you’re working with, and molding is what draws me to this job. So they’re, they’re probably six or seven things I would say, are really important to understand about millennials, I also think millennials have gotten a bad rap, right? There’s a lot of, lazy, they only set hours they separate work. It’s about understanding that workforce, and then figuring out how to motivate them, not, you know, genericized them based upon what you’re hearing, right. And so there are a couple things.   

I mean, one is work life balance is important to this workforce, more than any other workforce, that’s that’s come through. And a lot of people mistake it for not working hard. That’s not true millennial workforce works extremely hard. It’s about flexibility in where they work, especially now, where they work and how they work. And, you know, if a fridge has been delivered to their house, they want to be able to cut out at three o’clock, and then put in the hours on the back end or the next day without having to write in left right, or document where they’ve been flexibility.  

The other thing is, if you understand where these folks come from. Where the millennials come from, in terms of their traditional working environment. They’ve gone to school, and they work in big projects. They’ve many times they have multiple siblings, working in teams or with others is extremely natural for them. Into the workforce is just this continuation. So as you work with the millennial team. I would encourage highly encourage cross functional, multi generational diverse workforce engagement with them. I think you’ll see that millennial group grow extremely quickly, they will come back, they’re very open and eager to learn. As they get into those diverse workforces, I think they just take off. 

Dave: So I want to pull on that thread just a little bit. Because I really agree, I think they there’s a bit of a bad rap where they’re like, oh, they’re lazy. they work to live, they don’t love their work. And there’s a lot of bad stereotypes about millennials. And I think like any generation, there are people who represent the bad stereotype of every, every generation, I’m a Gen X or like, we’re workaholics, like there’s and there’s, there’s some truth to some of that. But I have found like Millennials are every bit as driven and focused on being successful.  

But just like you said, they, they need to understand why, like you, if they understand why, and then they and you provide that flexibility for them, like you just described, like, they may have a brother or a nephew or somebody without a baseball game or a dance recital. once they understand the why their own, I found like, like really all in so you, they’re just as motivated as anybody else. And it’s not about getting more hours, but it’s about being effective at what we do. So I love what you said, when they understand the why purpose, and they believe it and they’re excited about the vision. Man, I would say there is motivated if not more than any other generation. 

Anil: That’s a great point. I mean, and then being able to tie a company vision, to you know, an individual business development rep, being able to explain it, answer questions about it, having them believe and buy into it, and they will challenge it, right. Like the millennial workforce is notorious for not following chain of command to challenge it. That’s healthy, you encourage that. And then you have to be prepared to answer questions about hey, why is this happening? Why is that happening? Doesn’t that go against what we just wrote up on the board? They will challenge you, but once they’re bought in, they’re a force multiplier. Big time.  

Dave: Yeah, I agree. Hey, so we’re about out of time. Give me one last piece of advice. So someone who is a BDR Rep. Who wants to be a BDR leader, who’s like how do I go to the next level, or I’m a in sales and I say look I think I can be a great BDR leader. Give me one last like, hey, by the way, here’s, here’s one of my life hacks, one of my job hacks. And I know we haven’t prepped for this one. So this one’s a bit of a curveball. But like, What? What’s that little hack that you, you always keep in your back pocket that someone could learn from or grow from? 

Anil: Yeah, I would just say, you know, it may be just a couple of words there. But you know, resiliency and adaptability. In today’s environment, no matter what industry you’re in, the world changes really fast, right? Six months ago, we were all in the office today, we’re not the world changes fast. And those whether it’s BDR a, doesn’t matter, the ones that can adapt, and are really resilient and adaptable to really quickly changing environment. And I think constantly will win.  

I think the other part is, you know, this, this concept of appreciating and understanding diversity, diversity of thought and experience and being able to embrace that and you and I, they may not see eye to eye on every topic, but to be able to be open and understand each other and work with each other, appreciate each other’s point of view, sharpen the idea, and then put it out, I think is just a missed skill set today. And one that I think if people embrace will accelerate thier career. 

Dave: I’m going to just amplify what you said. And we’ll wrap up. I love that. I think there’s so much dialogue about diversity, and it’s important, but in the workforce, diversity of thought and diversity of experience, I don’t think you can beat that. And as long as you like you said, you’re open and adaptive to like, what that means. someone has a challenging idea versus instead of, you know, the, the old school No, I’m right. You know, I paid my dues. I don’t care what you say, if everybody has at least equal value in their their opinion.

Man, can you imagine what our economy could be companies could be our careers could be so I think you’re gonna love it. diversity of thought, diversity of experience. amazing piece of advice. Anil, one of the rock stars of the industry. Thank you for taking a couple of minutes with with us. For those who want you know, little more information. on the page here, you’ll see an Anils information, contact him what LinkedIn, what’s the best way to reach out?  

Anil: Yeah, LinkedIn is great.    

Dave: So reach out. He is like I say master of his craft, and a leader in the industry. So thank you again, and I genuinely can’t thank you enough.  

Anil: Thanks, Dave. It’s so great seeing you again.