While the business development role, sometimes called sales development, is an undeniably important one, it still seems to be a function that many execs are simply not sure what to do with.
In exploring that question, I recently contributed the following three posts to The Sales Insider blog:
- Should Business Development Report to Marketing?
- Should Business Development Report to Sales?
- Should Your Business Development Team Stand Alone?
It’s been a lot of fun to see the conversations that emerged from those discussions, and I’ve received several messages calling me out on my general pros-and-cons approach to the three possible business development reporting structures — should business development roll up to sales, marketing or stand on its own?
Interest was so great, it warranted this bonus post, one dedicated solely to answering this crucial question:
“Where does the business development function belong in MY organization?”
“I have a majority of inbound leads, perhaps as much as 80%.”
This is definitely a scenario where I would most likely recommend the business development team be housed within the marketing department.
If you have enough inbound demand to feed your business development team almost completely, it makes the most sense to have that team roll up to marketing.
The really cool thing about this is that there are some amazing solutions that can strengthen your inbound response. We know that leads responded to within 5 minutes are 100 times more likely to be contacted and 21 times more likely to be qualified.
Can you imagine what your results would be if you contacted more of your inbound leads more quickly?
Dialer technology, like XANT’s PowerDialer with patented immediate response capabilities, can help turn your business development team into a powerhouse by automatically placing new, incoming leads at the top of your reps’ lists.
“We don’t have an inside sales team. Our business development team partners with our field team to work on big deals.”
This business development team should be housed under the sales function.
When BDRs partner with a field team, you typically are having multiple conversations a week between the two groups as they strategize how best to penetrate different accounts.
This type of interaction screams “sales,” and not marketing, based on its heavy focus on relationship-based selling.
“We do outbound cold calling and have a transactional sale that lasts only a few days.”
This is not a good fit for marketing. I’d put this business development team in either its own function of business development or in sales.
You can wring even more value out of your team in this structure by providing predictive, prioritized lists that tell your reps who to call and when to reach out to them.
“We’re basically an equal blend of inbound leads and outbound cold calling. We also have SMB and ENT leads.”
If you truly have an “equal blend” of inbound and outbound leads and have both small business and enterprise deals, sometimes the best place for the BDR team is under the leader who has the right DNA and wants it the most.
You might be laughing, but listen, the business development function needs a leader who is data driven and has the desire to lead this unique function.
If your VP of sales is a typical enterprise sales leader who only cares about touchdowns (sales) and not first downs (meetings, contacts, etc.), then he or she is not the right person.
On the other hand, if your marketing leader only cares about branding and messaging, then he or she may not be the right person.
You need that person who can really focus the business development function and manage based on numbers.
“We’re experiencing a lot of turnover in our business development function that rolls up to marketing.”
That’s probably the problem. When the business development function is nestled in marketing, it often has more turnover because there is no clear career path for those reps.
No BDR expects to be a brand or web page person.
They expect to be salespeople.
Turnover is costly, and you might want to consider creating a better career path for your BDR function by putting it under business development or sales.
“We get a lot of small fish from marketing so our guys spend a lot of time going outbound to get the whales.”
Sometimes the decision of how to structure your business development function comes down to how much of your pipeline comes from inbound vs. outbound, but I’d say be open to being creative.
If you’re only getting a small number of inbound leads, I’d specialize and have a handful of reps who roll up to marketing and play the role of the inbound response team.
As to the remainder of your reps, I’d try putting them under sales so they can be dedicated to your outbound initiatives.
The only way to know sometimes is to test it out.
“Too much of our business is slipping through the cracks when leads are handed off from marketing to sales. The two departments point fingers at each other and we all lose out.”
This is one of the strongest cases for establishing your business development department as its own function that ultimately rolls up to your CRO or CEO.
Establishing the business development team as a separate function can bring laserlike focus by creating an objective third party that only cares about results and does not care about the politics that often comes with the sales and marketing relationship.
“Should complexity of deals impact our organizational decisions?”
The type of deals your organization generally handles will certainly impact the role that business development plays in your organization.
Smaller, more transactional deals usually do not require extensive and eloquent sales skills. If your organization thrives in this selling space, your business development team might be most comfortable reporting up through marketing.
On the other hand, larger deals that necessitate detailed relationship building before closing are better served by a business development team that reports up to sales. A sales-focused structure lends itself to developing and curating sophisticated, specialized sales skills that are needed for more demanding deals.
The final word
There is no one-size-fits-all model for building a high-velocity business development team. You must take into account all the variables at play in your organization.
At its heart, a sales organization is focused on people — or at least it should be. If you want to create a company that systematically delivers real, quality, people-relevant outcomes — and not just sales outputs — you need to structure your business in a way that lends itself to systems that will regularly delight your customers, or signal when that is not happening.
Be creative and strategic in structuring your teams. When you adopt systems that reinforce creativity, strategy and structure at an accelerated pace, you will inspire fierce passion and innovation from every employee in every department.