TOPO Council Recap: 3 Key Strategies for Running the Ultimate Sales Development Team

By November 3, 2015
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SDR bench

For about a year, Scott Alboro and Craig Rosenberg from TOPO have been conducting a series of councils covering a range of topics related to sales, demand generation, and sales development.

These councils quickly rose in popularity, and it wasn’t long before it seemed like every conversation I was having with my colleagues somehow revolved around if I was attending the next council. Unfortunately for me, I was working in Silicon Valley but residing in Irvine, California. This meant early flights into SFO on Monday mornings punctuated by Thursday evening flights back down to Orange County. With the Topo councils taking place on Friday, I was in a continuous state of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But recently, my wife found a job in the East Bay and before I knew it we were back looking at ridiculously high priced apartments in San Mateo. It was right around this time I met Craig for the first time at this year’s Dreamforce. Sharing a common academic background as UCLA alumni, we hit it off. I’d been following his work on the TOPO blog and, of course Twitter, for awhile so it was a treat to meet the man in person. We chatted for a while about UCLA football, account-based marketing, and all things funnel-related–you know, the typical stuff. And I told him I was looking forward to attending the October council. We went our separate ways, and I thought that was the end of that.

A few weeks passed and I was rifling through my typical morning spam when I discovered a note from an associate of Craig’s who asked if I was interested in presenting at the next council. Of course, I said yes!

I presented on how I run a Sales Development Team at EverString. For a quick recap, here are the three key strategies I use to run my team that I highlighted in my TOPO presentation.

1. Be an Inspiration!

This is so critical. As a manager, I’ve always felt that it’s my job to extract the most value from each and every one of my employees.  This encompasses training, monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs), and daily coaching. But, this also means creating an environment where success is celebrated. The job of an SDR is hard, it’s not brain surgery or rocket science hard, but it’s hard nonetheless.  It’s repetitive, at times it can be thankless, and you do get told to go jump in the lake more than a few times.  For a young person (especially today’s young professionals) this can be very taxing. I combat this by creating an environment that celebrates my team’s successes using a methodology that I believe makes success viral.

I play music (they choose the tunes) all day long, this means there is never any silence in our area. I believe silence is the killer of productivity amongst SDRs, and by playing music I am assured there will be no silence.  I create rituals to celebrate success—we have a logo board where my SDRs write the name of the accounts they schedule for the AEs. It’s right in the middle of our area so everyone can see the board. We also have a “that was easy button” (yes, the one from Office Depot) that they press when they set a meeting. This signals to the entire group that a meeting has been set. When the “that was easy button” is pressed, all the SDRs give a round of applause to the team member who pressed the button, giving that team member instant gratification and recognition. All SDRs seek recognition, and trust me a $2 button is the cheapest way to provide it for them.

2. I Spend 60% of My Time as a Recruiter

I recruit. I recruit my ass off. At the end of the week I am exhausted from recruiting. And let me tell you something, that’s just the way I like it. If I’m recruiting, it means my company is growing. If I’m recruiting, it means my SDRs are getting promoted. Recruiting means great things are happening in my professional life.

Now when I say I recruit, I mean that I recruit. I try to make it a great experience for all parties involved. That means I run quick cycles, with the least amount of hoops for them to jump through as possible, and with absolutely no awkward or uncomfortable situations. That means I do not do a role play, a panel interview, or make candidates present our product. We all have to remember that regardless of how amazing we think our companies are, we are currently operating in one of the most difficult job markets Silicon Valley has ever seen. Candidates have so many options to choose from, you better make sure they like you for more than just the salary you offer because, let’s get real, anyone can offer more money. So make it a great experience for them!

I have a very simple and straight forward process I use to hire SDRs. I source the bulk of my candidates from Betts Recruiting. I screen their resumes looking for whether they played sports, were in Greek life, or worked their way through school. Those that stand out to me are scheduled for a 30-minute introductory call. This call is actually the most important part of the interview. Since SDRs provide most of their value over the phone, you have to figure out in this initial call if they have a personality that’s strong enough to grab a prospect’s attention quickly and that they are engaging enough to keep them interested through a sales pitch.

If a candidate makes it through the phone screen, I bring them onsite for an interview where I meet with them again. Additionally, I always have one other SDR, one of our sales leaders, and our Director of People and Culture meet with each candidate.

What I look for during the in-person interview is whether or not they’ve researched our company, if they can handle objections, and their overall personal presentation. In order for someone to be hired they must have 100% consensus across the entire hiring group. And that’s it! Two and a half hours and you’re in or your out, kid. Use the time wisely.

3. Account-Based Sales Development is the Future

OK, this is my passion, this is what I get excited about, and this is what I spent the bulk of my presentation discussing. Account-Based Sales Development is a major departure from my typical playbook. I grew up as an SDR Manager at Marketo–the company that literally wrote the book on lead-based scoring, nurturing, and sales development. While there, I worked directly under Jon Miller–the man who wrote that book. It’s been a big part of who I am as a leader for…well… forever. But during my time at Tibco (a company focused on selling to the world’s largest companies), my lead-based armor began to crack, and once I landed at EverString earlier this year, I took it out of my playbook forever.

Why have I moved away from lead-based sales development? Because it’s flawed. While I was at Marketo, the SDR team was fed by Maria Pergolino (THE INBOUND MARKETER!) and Heidi Bullock, but not every company is fortunate enough to have world-class marketers creating thousands of inbound leads for their SDR teams to follow up on. In fact, most SDR teams are outbound.  Lead-based scoring for outbound prospecting is actually more detrimental to the process then it is positive. It looks at a very narrow set of demographic data points and the scoring is all rules-based. That means someone like me sits in an ivory tower and says this title is more valuable than that title, this activity is more valuable than that activity, etc. By contrast, account-based models look at companies your marketing, SDR, and sales teams view as good, diagnose them for 20,000+ variables, and look for other organizations that look just like your best customers.

True value, and therefore real scoring, should occur at the account level. Why? Because it is the company that has all the value, not the lead. Raise your hand if you’ve run a cycle where the person you were selling to left the company? Raise your hand if you’ve ever followed up with a prospect with a perfect title that downloaded that perfect piece of content only to discover they work at a company that could never buy your product? Sound familiar? Of course it does! It happens every single day! But, if you were scoring accounts and not leads, you’d know that even though that prospect went and got another job, the company they just left is still a great fit for your product and therefore you should begin prospecting to someone else in the organization. If you were scoring accounts, you would have known not to waste your time following up with a prospect that worked for a company that is not a fit for your product at all.  Account-Based Sales Development applies value where it belongs, on the account.  Is it the right size, in the right industry? Does it have the right technology and are they hiring? Who do they sell to? And so on. This makes a whole lot more sense than focusing on one person.

You can download my deck from Topo here.

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