Aug 8, 2023

Coaching BDRs in Social Selling and Diversifying Your Team - Creating a Successful Business Development Strategy with Cynthia Handal

Cynthia Handal's guide to training BDRs in social selling and diversifying your sales team.

What do social selling, sellers in LATAM, and being a woman in revenue all have to do with each other? 

According to Cynthia Handal, they’re all aspects of her sales career as well as key components to developing a successful, well-rounded business development strategy. 

Business development is often looked at as simply the first building block in the sales process. Business Development Representatives (BDRs) hit the phones and their emails to pester prospects and (hopefully) book meetings for account executives. 

But according to Cynthia, a good business development strategy is more than just an army of BDRs cold calling. It should be a multi-channel approach with the main goals of 1) building familiarity 🤝 with prospects and 2) driving revenue 💰.

It all starts with coaching BDRs to sell in creative and authentic ways.

Cynthia’s background uniquely qualifies her to talk about these two topics in tandem. She is currently the Head of Global Sales (and founding team member) at Simera, a skill development and career platform whose mission is to become the bridge between top LATAM talent and US-based companies through remote work. Cynthia has worked in sales for over 17 years, has experience in multiple industries, most recently in tech, has grown her Simera BDR team from 3 to 32 sales reps, brought in over $5MM in pipeline, and booked 1000 demos over just 6 months.

So how do you ensure your Business Development org is as successful as Cynthia’s has been in building brand awareness and ultimately driving revenue? 

In an appearance on Ashley & Katrine's Infinite Revenue Playlist, she shares her secret: training BDRs to incorporate social selling into their strategy and diversifying your sales team. 

Teaching BDRs About Social Selling

At Simera, social selling is a “company requirement” for BDRs.

It’s a longer term approach and teams shouldn’t expect to see results overnight, but the outcome is worth it.

Many of Cynthia’s BDRs started out with as little as seven followers on LinkedIn. However, after putting the time into building their social brand and engaging with prospects, one of her BDRs is at 7000+ followers in just 6 months and averaging 15 meetings per month. 

So what is social selling and why do we need to do it? Well, let’s first start with what it’s not. 

The first thing non-sales people typically think of when they think of a salesperson is an aggressive rep hammering them with unwanted emails and cold calls, begging for a meeting and saying things like this:

☝️ this is an unfortunate real life example (we’ve since amended our ways)

The result of doing sales the old way? Responses like this 👇👇👇

The old ways of doing sales are officially out. Cynthia says “I get more than 50 cold InMails a day, and I don't respond to them because they're all purely pitch slaps…That's the old approach on LinkedIn.”

Enter social selling. 

Social selling is a modern sales strategy that allows reps, and therefore businesses, to build relationships and rapport with prospects and customers via social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, or online communities. It’s all about building an authentic connection with your buyers long before you actually ask them to buy anything.

Cynthia says “I think social selling is the future…the whole purpose of social selling is to build familiarity.”

This is done by:

  • posting content on social channels that’s relevant to your buyers
  • commenting on and engaging with buyers content 
  • showcasing that you are an expert in your buyers field
  • inviting prospects to events, webinars, newsletter, or other helpful content 
  • setting up a virtual coffee chat simply to get to know a prospect

The point of all these actions is to build brand awareness and affinity, without pushing your products aggressively. 

When social selling is done correctly, according to Ashley & Katrine’s Infinite Revenue Playlist cohost Katrine Reddin, it should improve BDR's email and call response rates.

 “The cool thing about social selling is that it makes all of your other channels warmer. If someone's familiar with you from LinkedIn, from your posts or how you commented meaningfully and thoughtfully in response to whatever they said, when you pick up the phone and call them or when you send an email they’ll think ‘oh I know such and such', of course they're going to hear you out’,” says Katrine. “You’ve already bridged that gap so it’s become a little bit of a warmer lead.” 

If you haven’t already begun, start incorporating social selling as a metric in your business development strategy and watch your pipeline increase month over month. 

Diversify Your Sales Team 

Along with social selling tactics, ensuring you have a diverse team is the second aspect needed to build a successful business development team.

Cynthia is no stranger to advocating for minority groups and encouraging the sales industry to be more diverse.

“Diversity is actually one of the best ways to scale your company because having people with diverse backgrounds adds culture and it adds that extra spice that your company doesn't normally have” she says. 

Unfortunately, bias is alive and well, especially in the sales space when it comes to sellers who are Latin American (LATAM) or women. 

“I do believe in empowering women and I do believe in empowering Latin American talent as well. We’ve a very overlooked community… the world is very biased when it thinks about staffing talent from Latin America,” Cynthia shares. 

She’s experienced companies not wanting to work with LATAM sellers ranging from reasons like the “accents are hard to understand” to “they’re in a weird time zone” (a hilarious objection given they’re essentially in the same time zone 🤔). 

Yet, her entire team is based out of Latin America sitting in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica. It's hard to understand the bias against her sellers considering she has reps booking 22 deals a month and bringing in over $5MM in revenue in just six months. 

Cynthia is also a big believer that sales talent can come from anywhere, whether it be graphic design or the marines.

“That's why I love diversity so much. I tend to hire BDRs more on potential, and I love hiring people that have non-traditional sales backgrounds because I actually think they make the best salespeople,” she says. 

In fact, she believes that diversity is necessary to have a winning sales org, “it's funny because all of my BDRs never had previous sales experience. I have a mixed team, 50% women and 50% men. I have a mix of everything because I think it's good to have diversity, and a lot of companies actually love to have women on their teams because they're so creative.”

Unfortunately, Cynthia’s diverse team is an anomaly. According to Harvard Business Review, female representation in tech sales is higher than ever and yet only 30% of tech salespeople are women and women only make up 5% of sales leadership.

At Simera, the best performing BDR is both a woman and someone who has no previous sales experience, but rather a background in graphic design.

Cynthia argues that coming from a non-sales background is a huge asset. She attributes the top performing BDRs success to having a different background. She recalls her conversation with the former graphic designer, telling her, “Use your graphic design skills to sell. That’s actually an amazing skill that you have versus other BDR candidates that don't have that. That means that you're gonna be good at personalized emails, you're gonna be good at creating and crafting your own LinkedIn posts”. 

Her advice to all sales leaders: encourage your BDRs and AEs to tap into their different backgrounds and get creative when selling.

At Commsor, we’ve had a very similar experience.

“One of our best-performing reps currently was a Marine, and then a Starbucks store manager. Now he's a BDR and he's absolutely crushing it because he came in with no biases from former tech sales companies,” says Katrine. “He'll have all these creative ideas that come out of left field that you're like, ‘Where did that come from? How did you think of that?’ I truly think it's a diverse background that allows people to become better salespeople and outperform others by bringing that creativity to the table.”

When you start to diversify the people you have on your team you can expect:

  • A broader perspective
  • Better understanding of your customer 
  • Cultural competence 
  • Increased creativity 
  • Larger network
  • Better problem solving 
  • Higher performance 

A diverse team means more unique minds working together which leads to higher chances for success and quota attainment. So take a look and make note of what groups you see on your team. 

Representation matters and it’s directly tied to your revenue goals. 

Listen to the latest episode of Ashley & Katrine’s Infinite Revenue Playlist titled "Coaching BDRs in Social Selling with Cynthia Handal" to learn more about Cynthia's perspective on building a successful business development org. 


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