How to Build a Successful BDR/SDR Team: SquareFoot

SquareFoot’s business development manager, Ryan Malone, is charged with building, coaching and managing a team of business development representatives (BDRs).

Leading the first line of communication with potential customers, Malone must prioritize hiring and properly training BDRs in order for SquareFoot to succeed. We connected with him to learn more about what makes a standout BDR, how he structures his sales team, and asked him to share some practical advice for professionals seeking SDR positions amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19.


Q: What does your role at SquareFoot entail?

A: I manage SquareFoot’s business development team, both inbound and outbound. Our inbound team handles the thousands of office space inquiries we receive. We must qualify who from among that pool is a viable prospective client to connect with one of our brokers right away, and who is seeking other industry-specific information.

Our outbound team has similar conversations with prospective clients. The key difference is that we reach out to them to assess whether they’d be a good fit at the current moment to initiate these types of conversations. 

If we’re doing our job well, we can spark their interest to work with us–even if they’re early-stage in their thinking about their next office space. Both teams rely heavily on phone calls and emails for correspondence, and look to LinkedIn to learn more about companies they’re speaking with.


Q: What are the most important elements of a successful sales team?

A: A successful sales team has individuals with various roles and responsibilities, yet work closely enough that it all sounds cohesive in their messaging, and function in harmony with one another. 

To succeed in any sales role, you must be hungry to learn and be constantly engaged with driving conversations forward to spark new business opportunities for the organization. The best sales people, in my experience, get energy from a successful call or productive meeting. It pushes them forward.

At digital-first companies like SquareFoot, we also must also acknowledge the people we work side-by-side with who enable our team to succeed. For example, sales engineers play a crucial part by first developing and then iterating on a top-of-the-line product that our team can represent with pride. A sales team can operate independently, but the greatest chance for them to thrive stems directly back to having a product that others will want.

In addition to a viable external-facing product, sales teams expect to have the right tools and resources in place to allow them to move efficiently and stay focused on the task at hand. I’m a big believer in having an easy-to-use customer relationship management (CRM) plan to maintain organization within the team.

At SquareFoot, for example, we can contact more than 300 people in one workday, and that all needs to be recorded and organized on the backend. Before we put anyone on the phone, we require our team to get comfortable with our CRM and to understand and appreciate how it plays to their benefit. Highly motivated sales people can succeed in the field, but caring deeply about behind-the-scenes data is what separates the good ones from the great ones.


Q: How do you structure your sales teams?

A: Whether someone is speaking first to a member of our outbound team or inbound team, both of them are vetting and recognizing qualified leads that go to our brokerage team. From there, the brokers can arrange a time to show clients some office spaces. Typically, these representatives are either fresh out of college or early on in their careers. We assess which team would better suit them with their skills and strengths at play. We make it clear to all of them that there’s a career path forward, if they perform well over a period of time. 

What’s most exciting for these staff members is that they can, from very early on in their time at SquareFoot, see how their initial conversation leads directly to business down the line. I know from speaking with them how much genuine joy that brings them, and we make sure to highlight them for a job well done when those deals close. It’s a core piece of the operation, and when they do get promoted to the brokerage team they are arguably better brokers as a result of knowing the entire sales process well, start to finish.


Q: What makes a BDR/SDR successful?

A: The most successful BDRs/SDRs are immensely coachable. They take initiative and ask how they can improve. They adapt their approach to the teachings they receive in training and along the way. We give our team a script to follow, especially at first, but also encourage them to find their own unique voices on the phones. We want the other parties to feel comfortable and confident, and that they’re not hearing a rehearsed and stilted version of our pitch for business. SDRs tend to be outgoing and engaging and are looking for ways to apply their natural talents to carve out a meaningful and lasting career.


Q: As the first point of contact with potential clients, what are the most important qualities an SDR candidate can possess?

A: I remind my team as much as possible that they are the first person who someone will speak with at SquareFoot. That comes with some responsibility. Their interactions with potential clients will often prove to be the deciding factor as to whether someone chooses us for their commercial real estate needs. So I encourage them to be great listeners. 

It might sound strange to take people who are reputed to be good talkers and to tell them to sit back and take it all in. But I recommend that approach for those calls because there will be plenty of time later on in the process for this team–and others at the company–to engage and share their perspective. Through active listening early on, we can better identify potential pain points that need to be solved immediately or down the line. They’re setting the stage for our brokers to establish rapport and relationships with clients.


Q: How have you adjusted your sales strategy and supported your sales team in light of COVID-19?

A: Ahead of this national pandemic impacting big U.S. markets, I had to first adjust our sales targets in preparation for what I knew would be a tough time for all. Within weeks, we found that we needed to continually adjust our message for what we were offering. Far fewer companies than before have new office spaces as a primary concern; they have their current space to worry and wonder about. So we recognized we had to shift how we did things.

We moved to more of a consultative approach. Our messaging became an empathetic “We’re here to help guide you through this.” So far, we have offered more than 60 complimentary consultations to companies looking for clarity and comprehension about their office leases. Whether any of those people turn into SquareFoot clients down the line is yet to be known, but we wanted to do our part to help alleviate anxiety during a turbulent time for everyone.

We have a daily team meeting where we share ideas and insights on how we can support one another and our clients better. Sometimes, world news factors into a necessary pivot to our messaging and management. While we still have a lot of lingering, unanswered questions, I’ve been impressed by our team’s ability to collaborate with one another and suggest alternative strategies to help others get through the realities of the moment.


Q: What advice do you have for BDRs/SDRs currently searching for a job?

A: Right now, both employers and job seekers are struggling. Some companies are still hiring despite the pandemic, but for the most part it’s going to be a challenge to find something for the time being. I’d encourage those looking to start building a career in sales to reach out to sales directors. Even though they might not be actively recruiting and hiring, connect with them anyway. If you can make a good impression on someone, they’ll remember you. They also might be able to introduce you to someone else who might be hiring.

Invest more of yourself into the companies you specifically seek, those you think would be a good fit for you. Write an outstanding cover letter or other piece of correspondence and make the case for why you’re someone they shouldn’t turn down meeting. It’s the candidates who are the go-getters that stand out in my mind. That’s how I can tell you’d be good as an SDR: If you can impress me, I know you’ll do right by the company you work on behalf of.


About SquareFoot

Founded in 2011, SquareFoot is a new kind of commercial real estate company that helps companies win at finding their next (and next) office, providing transparent access to inventory, brokerage services, and a flexible space offering. SquareFoot brings together technological innovation and human expertise to solve clients’ needs.

SquareFoot’s platform features over 300,000 office listings, with 5,000 new listings posted monthly. The company has executed over 1,300 leases to date. SquareFoot is headquartered in New York City, where it does a majority of its business, and also serves 30 other national big-city markets.

  • Originally published May 6, 2020, updated June 15, 2022