I’m officially declaring 2017 The Year of the SDR Manager.
Ah, the SDR Manager, that beleaguered soul who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the contribution they make the health of your business. Beat down from so many angles; Sales VPs, their own SDRs, Senior Execs, Marketers, HR, Vendors… the list goes on and on.
In some companies, scant respect and little recognition, unless of course things start going wrong. No clear career path. Not making as much money or getting as much stock as other managers...
It’s a tough, and at times, thankless job.
And yet, their function is vital to connecting marketing spend to real sales results. To creating predictable revenue. To preparing your next generation of Sales leaders. So, what’s going on?
Let’s look at the day in life of the SDR Manager. On any given day they are a career counselor, psychiatrist, sales trainer, analytics guru, firefighter, and interdepartmental translator.
They have to become an expert on managing Millennials. They’re scouting out top talent in a war against all the other companies and competitors. They’re organizing the training and preparation of your next generation of Sales reps.
They’re helping you find high quality meetings, pipeline and revenue for your Sales team. They coaching, hiring and firing. They’re keeping you out of trouble with HR.
They do a lot. And most of them are damn good at it. So where’s the love? Assuming they’re doing a good job, you want them to stick around, right?
OK then, here are a few ways you can take care of them:
Ask how you can help – SDR Managers are constantly being beat up for reports, justification, reasoning. At most companies they have about 5 different bosses; Sales VPs, Marketing Directors, C-Execs, Product, HR...
It would be refreshing if somebody asked them if they needed help occasionally, and followed up. As simple as, “what can I do to help?” works wonders. They need help and are probably too busy to ask. Simple questions; do you need more resources, team training, analytics, coordination? Or more generally; how are you doing?
Recognize their contribution – Nothing beats a good pat on the back. Look at some metrics beyond pipeline and closed/won. How many people have they hired, how are those people doing? What new logos has their team brought in, and how does that benefit your brand? How’s the attrition rate on their team; do people want to work for them?
This stuff is important too, beyond the usual numbers. Give them a platform to show off at Town Hall or the weekly staff meeting. It’s doesn’t always have to be a weekly beat down. They must be doing something right or they wouldn't be around, right?
Offer them management training and mentorship. – Many SDR Managers receive no management training at all, and yet are expected to be Bill Walsh or Bill Belichick right out of the gate. They may have just clawed up from SDR and now have no clue about what management is all about.
This is why a lot of SDR Managers drop-out of management after a few years and return to individual contributor. Teach them how to coach, how to mentor, how to delegate, how to give performance reviews. It builds loyalty and you’ll get better performance from them and their team.
Send them to a conference – Some great ones coming up this year that would very valuable; Revenue Summit, Topo Sales Summit, Rainmakers 2017. Send them to a Topo Sales Development Roundtable. Give them a few days to connect with peers, talk shop and come back with some fresh strategies to help your company.
Be proactive, ask them which conferences they want to go to, and then send ‘em. Ask for a presentation on what they learned.
So there are some ideas, and hopefully this will give you a little push to think about the SDR Manager and what contributions they’re making.
Let’s make 2017 the Year of the SDR Manager!
What are your thoughts?
How does your company take care of SDR Managers? SDR Managers; what does your company do to support you? Would love to hear about it.
David Dulany has built high-performance Sales Development programs for Glassdoor, OpenDNS, Infer and Act-On Software. At Tenbound, he helps companies start, optimize and turnaround Sales Development programs. More info at tenbound.com
Connect with Sean Sheppard: Linkedin Twitter
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams
I can't think of a more appropriate quote for this week's guest. As you can tell from the intro, I'm a huge fan of Ralph Barsi. Below, Ralph compiled the notes, links, books and takeaways from our conversation so you can put the ideas into action today! As you can see, he went way above and beyond to make this useful. The sign of a true professional.
Connect with Ralph Barsi: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Website | Email
ServiceNow: Provides service management for every business unit in the enterprise.
Glassdoor: Search millions of jobs and get the inside scoop on companies with employee reviews, personalized salary tools, and more.
AA-ISP: The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals.
InsideSales.com published research in 2013 that showed inside sales growing 300% faster than traditional field sales.
Slide 5 of this presentation shows the inverted org chart / pyramid and illustrates servant leadership.
Adopting a “beginner’s mind” comes from philosophies in the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.
“The more value you add to the marketplace, the more valuable you become” is a quote influenced by Jim Rohn. He talks about it in this seminar (at the 13:44 mark).
Ask open-ended questions and watch how much you’ll learn. Slide 15 of this deck has great examples.
Learn about establishing a performance plan here.
Sales Hacker is focused on building and shaping the future of sales through educational, actionable, and unbiased content and events.
ExecVision provides visibility into conversations happening every day throughout organizations, giving way to a new set of analytics - Conversation Insights.
ExecVision’s Call Camp is a monthly session dedicated to deconstructing real calls to discover what works, what doesn’t, and how you can improve performance.
Learn about LinkedIn Groups here.
Google search “inside sales podcast” or “sales development podcast.”
Take a look at the titles of The Sales Development Podcast episodes in iTunes.
This is one way Ralph Barsi organizes notes.
In January 2015 Ralph created a webinar called Best Sales Development Tools to Use in 2015. David Dulany was a panelist on that webinar.
There are four cornerstones most sales development leaders work from:
Build an ideal LinkedIn profile with help from this article by Koka Sexton.
Use tips from this article to run a Quarterly Business Review as a Sales Development Rep, or “a QBR as an SDR.”
Learn more about GrowthX Academy here. David and Ralph both mentor for the Academy.
Read Ralph’s article titled “The Secret to Becoming an A-Player” to learn how A-Players create systems for winning. He talks about Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors prepares for games.
There is no finish line was a popular ad campaign for Nike in the early 1990’s.
Begin with the end in mind is explained in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Learn as if the next day you’ll need to teach someone what you’ve learned. Document your notes in Evernote or Google Docs.
Ralph Barsi’s Five Philosophies:
Vist ralphbarsi.com and subscribe. Ralph will email you a boat load of valuable content for free.
Learn about the Gable Heart Beats Foundation and consider supporting our cause. We raise awareness and work to prevent sudden cardiac arrest. Donations go toward placing AEDs in school gymnasiums and on sports fields, as well as funding heart screenings.
US Navy SEALs
Tuesday night, we hosted our first ever Sales Hacker Sales Development Executive Dinner at Sens in San Francisco. It was attended by some of the top Sales Development Executives in technology today, representing companies such as Google, Oracle, Square, Blackberry, New Relic, Nitro, Mulesoft, Brightfunnel, Box and others.
The conversation theme of the night was Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) and the intersection of Sales, Sales Development and Marketing to build new business pipeline.
As the wise man Jon Miller points out, “accidents happen at intersections”, so you could guess the conversations were lively and some great relationships were formed between these high-powered Execs. Circling the room, I picked up on some of the major themes being discussed…
The dearth of creativity in ABSD tactics... the most valuable commodity for these Execs behind SDR execution seemed to be creativity with regards to ABSD tactics. As everyone becomes more and more data-driven and process-oriented, creativity is becoming more scarce, and coming up with fresh ideas is a main challenge these leaders are facing. How do you stay ahead of noise when all your competitors are reading the same blogs, watching the same webinars, and are armed with the same tools, same SDR profiles, same cadences, same data, same same same? Once a new idea is proliferated online, it gets picked up and used by multiple companies. Prospects become immune, and you become more noise. How do you stay ahead of noise, and crack in to accounts if everyone is sending Fedex envelopes, Remy Martin bottles and Nike shoes?
Marketing and Sales are merging, however... this fact is only being realized by a select number of high-performing ABSD practitioners, many of whom were in the room at the dinner. There are still a TON of old-school leaders on both sides in senior leadership positions out there who are not clued in to this and still treat the two departments as silos. In the next few years, those old-school leaders will most likely go the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex; however, in the near term, they create roadblocks to implementing ABSD. Thought leaders in ABSD will have to spend a lot of time educating people about what ABSD is, how it works and how it will benefit the bottom line. Marketing and sales must be aligned in order for ABSD to succeed, and that means a synergistic relationship between Senior Execs in Sales and Marketing. This will take a lot patience, trust and repetition.
A ton of vendors are serving the space... but without enough solid coordination, operationalization, and SDR training. In the last few years, the response to stay ahead of the competition from many ABSD leaders has been to plug in the latest new tool. But after firing off too many silver bullets, many of the leaders I talked to are now gun shy and becoming more selective before adding anything else. They are tracking attribution with an eagle eye, and being ruthless in ripping out things that aren’t working. Big takeaway for vendor SDRs or CSM’s reading this… SDRs, you better know the business issues and challenges for your ICPs and Personas inside out, and how your product helps solve those pain points, or you will be shunned. And CSMs, you better be all over your accounts, consistently proving out the value of the subscription and ready to dive deep if they aren’t happy. If not, there will be hell to pay.
SDR sophistication will have to go way up to support ABSD… another theme that I heard was that, as the spray and pray method is replaced by a more coordinated ABSD approach, SDRs need to change. The hiring profile, skill level, pay grade, and reputation of the SDR all need to be upgraded. SDRs are not a coin-operated churn and burn operation (as if they ever were), but they are a strategic imperative for a business. And they need to be treated as such. In my view, for companies that are doing ABSD for large accounts, you’ll see the SDR elevated in all ways in the coming years: better management, better training, higher grade hiring profile, higher OTE, and better reputation within organizations. In exchange, SDRs will need to know their stuff: industries, verticals, ICPs, personas, sales skills, phone skills and higher activity levels.
All in all, it was great group having lots of interesting conversations. We’re planning to host these invite-only events for Sales Development Leaders again in San Francisco, and in other markets, so if you’d like to attend please shoot a note over to email@example.com to get on the list.
Recently, I was having coffee in San Francisco with my good friend Chris Ortolano of DiscoverOrg, and he mentioned he was heading over to do a talk at GrowthX Academy. Chris and I are both passionate about training and development, and I thought the Academy sounded interesting, so Chris suggested a meeting with the Sean Sheppard and Will Bunker. I was immediately fascinated by what they are doing. After a few more meetings, we decided I’d become a GrowthX Academy mentor, and it’s been a great experience so far.
I think the GrowthX Academy is filling a huge need in the marketplace.
As a local Sales Development leader, it’s been frustrating for me to see how unprepared people are when entering the workforce for their first or second job, especially when trying to break into Tech Sales.
As I wrote about a while ago on my blog, very few Universities teach Sales as a major, despite the fact that Sales careers are widely available at many companies and are a great first step into the business world. How are people supposed to get prepared or understand how to be successful without a guide?
While there is an active Sales Education Foundation, which verifies Sales programs at Universities, the closest SEF certified programs we have in the tech-heavy Bay Area are up at Chico State and at Cal State Fullerton in Southern California. And their graduates are usually snapped up by Fortune 50 companies before they even hit the Bay Area job market.
So you have a need for skilled Salespeople at tech companies throughout the world, and very few people to fill them, along with massive turnover in the Sales Development world due to misaligned expectations between candidates and hiring managers.
A lot of people decide to become SDR’s in order to “give sales a try,” causing themselves a great deal of frustration and costing the companies that hire them a lot of money. And once newbies enter the SDR role, there is often very little training provided to help them succeed.
People entering the field need to come in with their eyes wide open about what it means to be in Sales for tech company, and if it’s the right choice for them.
GrowthX Academy offers it’s a students a great way to understand the technology industry by immersing students in the start-up world and in turn helping real starts-ups solve solve real-world problems.
Students can get a firm understanding of the Sales side of the business, and understand first hand if it’s a good route for their careers. If they find a great match, it can be the start of something awesome. If they find they are more interested in other parts of the business, that’s great too. The program gives them a chance to explore this in real time, and being a Mentor helps me connect with upcoming professionals and offer my hard-won advice on directions they could take their career. It’s also been a lot of fun.
I look forward to helping the Academy and the students grow in the future!
A key piece of intel that should be on the shelf of all Sales Development leaders is "The Sales Development Playbook" by Trish Bertuzzi.
If you’re a Sales Development professional, or have a Sales Development function at your company you’re seeking to better understand, "The Sales Development Playbook" is a must read.
The book lays out the foundation for the most important aspects of creating a high-performing Sales Development function, including Strategy, Specialization, Recruiting, Retention and Execution, in a logical and easy to follow format.
After being involved in Sales Development function for several years, I was very impressed with the way the book is laid out, and I see it as an excellent overall framework you can use to implement a winning program, all the while putting your own signature on it.
Every company and market is different, but Trish does a great job in laying out the framework to follow.
Breaking out the SDR research function
One of the sections that really stood out for me was the chapter on breaking out your SDR research function. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and something that bemoans most Sales leaders I talk to about SDR’s.
The consensus: SDR’s are generally spending way too much time researching and not enough time interacting with prospects.
It’s about what has been called the “Silent Sales Floor” phenomenon; or the fact that a large percentage of the SDR’s day is now spent doing silent online research on their targets, instead of actually talking with them.
And even if there is a tremendous amount of activity on the sales floor, is it pointed in the right direction? If if they are making a ton of phone calls, are they calling the right people? Are the people they are connecting with able to buy your product?
While specialization of labor has proven to increase business efficiency for years, that fact is being ignored right now by most SDR organizations.
Thought leaders in the Sales Development space have been working on this problem for a while, and I believe it’s an issue that should be on the radar screen of all Sales Development leaders. By being laser focused on the research function, tremendous efficiencies can be unleashed.
A few years ago, Russ Hearl introduced me to the book “The Goal” by Eli Goldratt, which dives into the Theory of Constraints. I would recommend this book, at least in cliff notes.
The basic idea of the book is to focus your attention on your business process, and its inefficiencies, and do everything you can to remove complexity, wasted time and lack of focus on the end goal
It forces you to look at the SDR workflow system with an eye toward ruthless efficiency and ask the question, does having SDRs skipping around to different tabs throughout the day, taking their eye off the ball of calling people, create a lot of wasted time?
Coming back to the Sales Development Playbook: Trish brings up a great point in the Research chapter; by raising the question: why are SDRs spending so much time silently researching and not talking to prospects? Answer: because they can.
With the proliferation of tools available for them to find emails, find direct phone numbers, find facts they can use in their initial outreach, they can get caught up in it all. All the sudden most of the day has passed looking up the right information to enter into Salesforce, or to craft the perfect email and the SDR hasn’t spoken with anyone.
Something else Trish mentions in this section is that the Outsourced providers of appointment setting services figured this out a long time ago because they run everything by the numbers. If they can squeeze more phone calls and conversations into the day of one of their callers, they know they can set up more meetings.
Meetings equal pipeline, pipeline equals closed business.
When Aaron Ross first brought up the Sales Development process in Predictable Revenue it was interesting how he broke out inbound, outbound, closing and customer success. I would say the next big step in structuring SDR programs will be to break out another facet: Research. A team of people whose job is to enable SDRs with the data they need to fill in their sequences with the latest and freshest data.
Have you gotten a good beat-down recently?
Over the past few years, I’ve interacted with a lot of salespeople in my role as a Sales Development leader.
Being immersed in the red-hot space of Sales Development, I get pitched on an avalanche of awesome tools, which seem to solve every problem imaginable.
There are so many tools available now it’s mind boggling; I recently heard there are over 2000 applications for the Salesforce platform alone, and don’t even get me started on the “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic”. Yikes!
As a group I like and respect salespeople. After all, I started my career in sales, and I know full well how hard the job is. We’re all in sales, even if we don’t realize it; selling ideas, gaining support, pitching proposals, trying to get your kids to listen to you, etc.
So, when a salesperson comes to me with a demo for a product I think might help solve a business problem, I generally make the time to check it out. I’m well aware of my pain points, and am actively seeking solutions out there to solve them.
As you could imagine, many times during these demos, I realize I’m not the only decision maker on implementing a new tool; I’m one of many decision makers, or sometimes, perhaps only an evaluator. Occassionaly, I’m a straight up “No-Po”, as any student of the fabulous Josiane Feigon will immediately recognize, as in No-Power, No-Potential, No-Purchase Order.
Sometimes, but not always, the salespeople pitching me would try to find out who I was in the deal and where I fit in.
That’s a great sales skill, and mapping out the power structure is the beginning of the sales process.
Also, many times after digging more into the product with the salesperson, I would realize that while it’s beneficial to my department, other people in the organization would have to be sold on the value of it before moving forward.
If I came to that conclusion, I would try to be helpful in mapping out the organization for the salesperson, giving them invaluable insights into how to navigate the org chart.
I knew that this knowledge is key to getting things done within organizations, and the best salespeople will leverage this knowledge to make connections with other key people.
More often than not, I would tell the salesperson who the decision maker is, where they are and even their contact info. Again, trying to be helpful.
But then something really weird would happen. Exactly nothing!
That’s right. Most of the salespeople I gave this information to did absolutely nothing with it. I would map out the org chart, letting them know who to call, what they were working on, how they like to work, how this product would benefit them and other factoids.
And then the salesperson would never make the call.
More often than not, they would just keep calling and emailing me, wanting to “touch bases” or “check in” or perhaps grab coffee since they were going to be “in town anyways”. My only reaction is, dude, WTF? You’re wasting your time and mine.
In my humble opinion, there are two things most salespeople need to work on:
1. Don’t “demo” your products on the first call. Instead, have just a high level business conversation on the first call to establish who the person is you’re talking to, what their pain points are, and if you might be able to help them. If you can help them, point out specific pieces of your product that would do so. As you progress in the relationship, try to map out the org chart with them, and try to understand who all is involved in a deal like this. If they insist on seeing a demo in the first few minutes of the call, you might be talking to the wrong person.
2. If the person you talk to tells you they aren’t the right person and gives you a road map to the org, us the map!
This information is more valuable than 1000 cold leads in your database. Thank them for helping you and go sell the value of your solution to right person. This information is gold.
In his bestselling book, Drive, Daniel Pink outlines three concepts that lead to success and fulfillment in one’s career. He boils it down to these big three: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
In usual Pink style, the book is an easy read, full of data and packed with relevant anecdotes to keep the pages turning.
Building off his research, Pink argues that, while money is obviously a critical factor in career satisfaction and required to support your lifestyle, it is just one part of the overall hierarchy of what contributes to overall happiness in one’s career. It takes more than just a fat paycheck to achieve career satisfaction.
While reading Drive, I kept thinking about how integrating this advice could create a more positive approach to building an effective and motivated SDR team.
By encouraging these concepts into your SDR team’s workflow, could you drive more success, longevity and career satisfaction among the team?
In the hyper-competitive market for talent among SDR candidates, we know it’s going to take more than good salaries, benefits and fussball tables to keep top-performers around.
Remember, recruiters are hitting up your team all day with bigger better offers. Drive gives us a clue on how to stay ahead of that competition.
So how can SDR managers bring the three factors of autonomy, mastery and purpose into the daily life of SDRs?
A few ideas:
Remember, SDR is the first job for most people, so to think they have all this figured out is not realistic. However, if, after a while of you trying to bring it out they aren’t coming up with anything, or don’t really care, you may have a larger problem on your hands.
As mentioned, motivation has to come from within. But as a manager you can help SDRs discover that, and work with more purpose each day.
Have you tried any of those ideas or found ways to encourage the aspects that Daniel Pink advocates in Drive?
Please leave a comment below.