Hiring, Training, and Managing a Top Performing BDM
For our clients, hiring a Business Development Manager is the beginning of a journey. Lucky for our clients, we walk them down the path, map in hand, to their destination: Employing a BDM that brings on 15 to 30+ units each month.
For those who we haven’t had the pleasure of working with yet, we want to provide you with a framework to understand how the best BDM’s in the business are identified, trained, and managed.
As when hiring for any role, it is important to have the right person, in the right seat. For our clients, we work diligently to ensure we have found the right person, but for those doing it on their own, let’s discuss some hallmarks of top performers for this role and some common misconceptions.
First and foremost, this is a sales role. So, the right candidate will have a sales background, personality type, and aptitude. But how do we determine if they have these qualities?
Sales background - Most top candidates we’ve hired for clients have some previous sales experience. Whether it be selling knives through Cutco, insurance to car dealerships, pest control services door to door, high end furniture, home remodel projects, rental cars, dental procedures, or any other service/product (We’ve hired ALL STARS from each of the mentioned industries) - having relevant sales experience is crucial.
What type of sales experience should I look for? Not all sales roles are created equal - some experience lends itself to this role more than others. Some things to look for are: Being comfortable following a sales process, undergoing ongoing training, understanding the importance of using a CRM, comfortable with in person sales presentations, and a demonstrated history of achieving or exceeding goals.
To better highlight this, let’s examine the opposite. We want someone who can follow and is used to following a sales process. Some salespeople will tell you - every call is different and they just figure things out on the fly - RED FLAG. We don’t want someone who is going to “figure it out” - we want people who follow a process. One more example; we want someone who understands why using a CRM is important - NOT someone who uses “their own system”. Heard that one before!
Now you might be asking - What about Realtors or Property Managers? They are in the industry, they understand the business, could be a great fit, right? Well…. Let’s examine that.
Realtors seeking this role often say they are seeking something more stable, but when you dig into that, typically what that means is they want something that they perceive as less work and with a guaranteed salary. Or they are unable to generate leads, close business, or get clients as a Realtor, which is leading them to look for something else in real estate. The only exception to that would be a hungry, newly licensed realtor who sees this role as a good way to get into the industry. As far as hiring a previous Property Manager, it comes down to personality type. The personality type who is proficient at day-to-day PM is generally not the same as those who enjoy the day to day of a BDM.
Personality Type - Most of us have a general understanding of what a “Sales Personality” is: Energetic, Outgoing, Competitive, Great Communicator, and Empathetic. These qualities can often be seen in the interview process, but there are tools out there to help make this easier.
Culture Index is a great tool for any business to understand how an employee would fit into their role and offers a ton of support on understanding the results of their testing. There are also dozens of online personality testing that will help you understand if a potential BDM has the right qualities. However, these results are not infallible. They are just one piece of the puzzle and are not the end, all, be all. Keep that in mind.
Sales Aptitude - When it comes to hiring a top performer, you want to examine past performance. Being able to demonstrate a history of meeting or exceeding goals is a great green flag, if you will. This seems obvious but be weary of any salesperson who cannot easily explain their past performance in other roles.
These are just some of the things to consider when determining if a potential hire or current BDM is in the “right seat” - we could give a week’s long presentation on this topic. But for now, let’s move onto what happens AFTER you have the right person on board.
Onboarding: Make a Plan
When hiring any employee, it’s important to have a plan: What are they going to do day 1, day 2, first week, and beyond. Knowing for yourself, and for the new hire will help things go smoothly and demonstrate that your company is one your BDM can be proud of. Not taking the onboarding process seriously can set a bad precedent and leave your BDM feeling like flying by the seat of your pants is the norm. On the flip side, having them walk in and you knowing exactly how they are going to spend their first week will set the stage for what is to come. Just like with a new client - the first 100 days are EXTREMELY important and will set the tone for what is to come.
Start with the basics - Access to all IT, Software, Social Media, Etc.
When getting a newly hired BDM onboarded, you want to start with the basics: Email, Phone, logins for CRM, social media pages, etc. This is a great first day activity and something you want to get out of the way immediately. There is nothing worse than starting a new job, raring to go, and waiting for your email to be set up. Or your account in the CRM to be created. Start here and don’t put any of this off.
Meet the Team and Learn The Business
The next step is to help your BDM understand the business of Property Management. What does a PM company do and who at our company actually delivers that service? A great way to accomplish this goal is to have a new hire meet with and interview your team. Let them meet with your Leasing Coordinator, Maintenance Coordinator, Property Manager, Accountant, and any other department heads. (If you are all of these positions as a Solo-Prenuer or small business, just have multiple conversations focused on each of these aspects.) Have your new BDM ask each department what they do, how they do it, why they do it, and even the crazy things that have happened to them on the job. Those types of stories are great to drive the point of why what you do is so important.
Create a list of questions the BDM should ask each department, making sure they cover all their bases and learn what is needed.
By the end of this, they know who does what, why it is important to an owner, and some stories of what’s happened in the past - all great ammunition for a good salesperson.
Understand the WHY
Beyond just knowing what you do and how it’s done - you also want your BDM to understand the WHY. Why did you start the business, why do you do vacant home showings (or only in person), why is your pricing a flat fee, why do you have the “Additionally Insured” clause in your Property Management Agreement, why do you charge pet fees, why do you charge a renewal fee, why do you inspect a property, and on and on. A great way to accomplish this is using your PMA as a guide - going through each paragraph and explaining what it is and why it’s done.
When I was a newly hired BDM at RentWerx (Larsen Properties at that time), Brad went through this drill with me. Just about every paragraph in the PMA had a story, a reason behind it, and an explanation of how others might do it. Reading the PMA is great (and required) but understanding it is the ultimate goal. So, the more you can help to that end, the better.
Let them Be your Shadow
Now that we’ve explained what we do, how we do it, and why we do it, it’s time to get into the specifics of the job. One of the best ways to get started is by having your new hire “Shadow” any sales calls or activities. They can listen in on another line, be in the room while on speaker, on a Zoom call, attend a meeting in person, be CCed on any sales emails, help put together meeting materials, or any other way for them to see how you (as the boss/broker/owner) are closing new business today. You may think “well I don’t do it very well, that’s why I’m hiring them” but you’re wrong! You know your business better than anyone at this point and even though sales may not be your strong suite, you have a ton of valuable knowledge to share. Don’t skip this step!
Come on in, the water’s fine.
Now that your BDM has seen how it’s done, it’s time to let them jump in with both feet! Usually within 2 to 3 weeks, a newly hired BDM is having conversations with owners, managing the CRM, and following up with leads. Sometimes, as business owners, we want to make sure the BDM knows everything or can close just as good (or better) than us - but waiting too long can be doing you both a disservice. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and should be expected. Get them on the phones ASAP, listen in on calls, let them know it’s ok if they blow it, and let them learn to swim. Keep a close eye during this time, you don’t want bad habits to be created and be available to answer ANY questions.
Build on the Basics
At this point, your BDM is becoming more proficient at taking incoming calls, making follow up calls, meeting with owners, managing the CRM, and closing business. It’s time to build on these skills. Some common areas BDM’s need additional help with are: Closing, how to manage an in-home or Zoom appointment, follow up, common objections, client avatars, or using the CRM efficiently. If you are not the right person to give more detail or training on these topics - seek out an expert (Like BizDev Mastermind 😉) or maybe someone else on the team. You’ve invested too much in your BDM to leave them unprepared.
You’ve hired a Business Development Manager, NOT a “Salesperson” and as such - there is more to this role than just closing incoming leads! A portion of this role (depending on how many leads are currently being generated by the company) is dedicated to lead generation and this is something that should be discussed in the hiring process.
Once your BDM is proficient at taking incoming leads and closing them, it’s time to start focusing on generating more leads! There are a few tried and true lead generation avenues that every BDM in the U.S. should spend some amount of time on, and those are what I will discuss next.
- Agent Referrals - Explain to your BDM how, why, and when Realtors (or other referral sources) will send your company new business. Work together to create a Referral program and Strategy.
- Social Media - Using Social Media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Bigger Pockets should be part of your BDM’s weekly tasks. Some common tasks are being active in Facebook Groups, reaching out to referral sources/investors through LinkedIn, and staying active in Bigger Pockets forums (by commenting and making posts).
- Content Creation - Consistently creating and sharing relevant video content is one of the best ways to generate inbound leads. Explain this process and give the necessary resources / training to help them become expert inbound marketers.
- Events / Presentations - Attending and presenting at local Real Estate Meetups or Events can be a great way to develop strategic partnerships or new clients. Help your new BDM understand what events are best to attend and where they might find opportunities to present to groups of realtors or investors.
- Lead generation is a topic that could be discussed and expounded upon endlessly, but if you can become capable in the four areas above - you are ahead of the pack.
I am going to let you in on a little secret - sales is a number game. You’ve probably heard that before, but what does it mean?
Let’s talk some averages:
- If you make 100 calls to referral sources, 25 or 30 will answer, and 2 to 5 will likely become great referral sources.
- If you can create and share one to two relevant pieces of content each week, for a year or more, you will see a 30% to 100% increase in leads.
- If you can give one presentation to a large group of realtors or investors per month - you will get 1 to 10 new units from each
- If you can post five times per week on each social media platform for a year or more, you will have grown your reach by 100% to 500%
*These estimations are based on what we’ve seen working with 150+ BDM’s and companies over the last 4 years.
So, we know that doing these activities will deliver a specific result. The next step is to do them!
As the Godfather of Management, Peter Drucker, said, “What gets measured gets managed”. So, if you want to demystify and start managing your lead generation, start measuring activity: How many calls were made, how many videos produced, how many posts did I made/shared, how many events did I attend, etc.
Don’t JUST measure results - measure ACTIVITY. What is your BDM actually doing? Measuring this is the biggest determinant of future success - pay attention to activity.
Now that your BDM is handling all incoming leads and developing their own leads, it’s time to settle into a long-term schedule. Part of this is Weekly Meetings. As a business owner or manager, weekly departmental meetings are a necessity - this role is no different. But, what do we talk about in these weekly meetings?
- First and foremost, you want to review Activity. How many calls did you have with owners, how many in person meetings, zoom meetings, text messages sent, etc. Those are sales related activities but you also want to track lead generation activities like: calls to referral sources, brokerage presentations, events attended, videos posted, social media connections, etc.
- Review these numbers, and ONLY these numbers to start the meeting. It is human nature to try to minimize or gloss over our shortcomings, but numbers don’t lie. When reviewing the numbers, do not allow and disregard any explanation of why goals are not met. There is always something that happened, but for now, we just want the black and white numbers.
- The numbers will tell a story, it is up to you to ask the right questions. “Why did we not create any videos in the past 3 weeks?” “Why have we not reached out to any referral sources this week?” There may be a reasonable explanation, but it is up to you as a manager to ask these questions and determine if the answers are satisfactory.
Tracking KPI’s is half the story, but if you are not holding your BDM accountable to these numbers, the tracking is useless. Salespeople almost always have a reason why they haven’t hit their numbers, but when you get down to it, 9 times out of 10, the numbers show a different story. Some typical reasons goals aren’t met are: Not being diligent on follow up, getting lax on lead generation, or being happy with the numbers they already have. It is up to you as a manager to understand what these KPI’s mean, why they are or are not being met, and how to deal with a BDM who is not (or is) reaching these goals.
Quarterly and Annual Planning
If all has gone well to this point, after 3 to 6 months on the job, most BDM’s are performing all aspects of the role: They are closing incoming leads, generating new leads, and helping plan for future growth. From here, it is your job to facilitate their progress, continually track all KPI’s, provide ongoing support/training, and be the company visionary - leading them into the future!
Is it worth it?
If this seems like a lot to handle, it is. But let me give you the silver lining. If you can follow these steps (or work with a company like BizDev Mastermind to facilitate all of this for you) you will have hired and trained a BDM who can bring on 15 to 30+ units each month. Imagine where you would be as a company if you could add 180 to 360+ units each year? Is the juice worth the squeeze? You tell me.