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Is 2016 The Year Of The Sales Development Rep? with Bridget Gleason [Episode 85]

My regular guest on Front Line Friday is Bridget Gleason, VP of Corporate Sales for SumoLogic. In this episode, Bridget discusses how she, as a sales leader at a high growth tech company, views the importance of the SDR role and how it will continue to evolve over the coming year. Included among the topics we discuss in this conversation are:

  • How SDR roles will change over the next year.
  • The situations where further specialization of SDRs responsibilities makes sense
  • What you need to do if your AEs are doing too much prospecting
  • How to fill the gap between the leads marketing provides and what sales needs.
  • Why the data in your dashboard is probably inaccurate. And how to fix it, now.

If you’re a sales leader or sales manager, then be sure to join us for this episode!

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Bridget Gleason. Good morning, Bridget.

Bridget Gleason: Good morning, Andy.

Andy Paul: So how are you doing today?

Bridget Gleason: I’m doing great.

Andy Paul: We always have to ask how’s the weather? How’s the weather?

Bridget Gleason: So for me it remains pretty, pretty stable here in California, so beautiful, crisp fall day. And Andy, where are you today?

Andy Paul: I’m in my San Diego studio.

Bridget Gleason: Okay. So you probably are, have some-

Andy Paul: Clear, crisp beautiful day outside. Local for San Diego, but, yeah, no, one’s going to be complaining.

Bridget Gleason: No, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

Andy Paul: We’re recording this right before the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. It’s a good time to reflect and fortunate to be able to be here. Topic I wanted to get into today and really looking forward to 2016, there’s been a, somebody I read recently had dubbed 2016 the year of the SDR. Or it’s going to be the year of the SDR, the sales development rep. And I want to talk about that a bit because that role really is evolving pretty much in real-time when you look at how companies are implementing that role and using people in that role, and that seems perhaps now what we’re seeing is a trend toward, evolving towards, maybe more responsibilities being embodied in the sales development rep role. So I want to talk about that. So what are you seeing because you manage a large team of sales development reps. What do you see in the way that you’re utilizing that resource within your company? How’s that evolving?

Bridget Gleason: Yeah, it’s it, as you were talking, Andy, I’m just listening to that and thinking about my own situation, both here at SumoLogic and then previous companies, and it is evolving in real time.

In fact, just before we started, I had put on my to do li st, we’re hiring three new SDRs that are a little bit different than the other team that we have. So it’s an experiment and I want to identify really clearly what they’re going to be doing as different from the other roles. So this is actually also very timely for me as I’m trying to figure it out in real time.

And I guess what, like you said is, I think Andy is, it gets harder and harder to make that first initial contact and to cut through the noise. It’s almost as if you have to even break apart. First, it was just the introduction of the sales development rep or the business development rep. And now it seems that we almost need to even break that apart and I think that’s what’s interesting is further specialization within the SDR role is what I’m starting to see more of.

Andy Paul: Okay. you had talked about three people you are going to experiment with how are the roles can be different?

Bridget Gleason: So right now, the SDR team that we have supports our field sales team. So getting into some of these bigger accounts and they are tasked like a traditional what I consider a traditional SDR role, which is, it just getting the setting appointments. At some of these bigger companies. So that’s, we’ve got th that’s what’s going on and working quite well here.

The new three that I’m experimenting with is we’re bringing them in and we’re going to have one SDR per sort of a larger team of account executives that are handling more transactional deals. And so my challenge is if I were just to have them do, let’s say the normal ratio of appointment setting, it would maybe be at one new meeting per account executive, given the large number that they support, which is not necessarily going to move the needle. You figure if they can do appointments that if one SDR can, let’s say, do 15 appointments in a month. Okay. So at 15 appointments that’s going to be around and they’re supporting a team of almost 15. So one to two appointments that they would be able to set per account executive per month, which isn’t as helpful.

But I don’t know if that’s the place where I’m gonna get most bang for my buck. So the other thing that we’re doing, and this is all in support of an outbound effort. So right now I’m talking purely outbound is, given what we sell it’s you can’t download or you can’t create a list and say, okay, we go after the e-commerce vertical or the gaming vertical. It’s way too broad. And to do the research. So we’ll download these large lists and we’ll find contacts with a couple of contacts in these lists. And for this Andy talking about specialization, we’ve got. Essentially a BDR team in the Philippines that all they do is research account enrichment and cleaning because contacts, they go stale very quickly.

What were experimented with the three BDRs is to take that level of research one step further and go through, and this really requires somebody who knows a bit more about the business and our sale. That they’re going to go through these lists and then identify the best contacts to go after, within that list. So they’re going to do another level of scrubbing that’s more difficult to outsource. And I apologize if I’m getting into too much detail, but-

Andy Paul: They’re going to do that. You’re gonna have these BDRs that you’re hiring, or at least one of them do this final scrub. If you will.

Bridget Gleason: Do the final scrub, then the account executives will let’s say, pull out the lowest hanging fruit. That they may choose to go after and say, you know what, I’m going to go because there are tools that we can use. Outreach is a great example. YesWare is another one that makes some of this, the cadences easier and the account executives will go after them. And then these, the SDRs that we’re experimenting with they’ll scrub the list and then they’ll go after let’s call them the tier two accounts. And they’ll see what traction can we get with ones that we don’t consider the highest value, but maybe one level down.

Andy Paul: Got it. So if, and I was just trying to do the math, you have, as you said that if you can’t really move the needle, if the SDR was only setting two meetings, Per month per account exec. So how’s the account exec, are they themselves doing their own prospecting at that point to fill the rest of their time?

Bridget Gleason: Yeah, so right now we have one of the, one of the problems that I’m trying to solve is that our account executives spend and they have to, they spend too much of their time prospecting. Which is very inefficient. It’s not what we want them to do. And there’s going to be a gap. We’ve got a marketing engine that for whatever confluence of reasons had a slow start, wasn’t paid attention to, but we’re really behind in terms of what the marketing contribution is and what it should be. And so I’m having to find these different strategies to help the sales team, be more efficient at prospecting while the marketing team ramps up their efforts. And it was interesting last week, Andy, I was at a, at an event and I talked to someone who I’d worked with, Previously, he had started a group up in San Francisco called SalesFightClub, and it was a really fun sort of invitation only event for sales leaders. And anyway, he was telling me that he’s gone on to another company. He went up to bend Oregon and his title now is pipeline strategist. And his role, he reports to the VP of Sales. He, his role is to fill the gap between that marketing contribution and in a SaaS company. rule of thumb is it’s about 44%.

Andy Paul: 44% of your leads come from marketing?

Bridget Gleason: Correct. And so his goal and what he’s measured on, what he’s comped on is to identify the gap and then try to identify different strategies to fill the gap between what marketing brings in and what sales needs to go after and what sales needs to generate. And I think the issue that sales leaders are trying to solve is we know there’s going to be some gap in most SaaS companies. What’s the most efficient way to close that gap? Recognizing that the more time you have your closing reps spending on it, actually the less yield you’re going to get from those reps. It’s not the most efficient. So strategies this ties into, our topic, which is utilization of how do SDRs play into this? And I would argue that they’re very important part of that strategy.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And it’s interesting. You talk about pipeline strategist because. I am. I wrote about this first a year ago, and it’s been a popular topic that people follow and I continue to write about us, what I call the Lead Deficit. Basically that pipeline strategist is confronted with what I call a lead deficit. You’re going to get a certain amount of your leads coming from inbound and maybe some other activities that you can identify, but you can calculate that and get to a point where you understand based on your goals exactly the number of leads that you need to proactively develop in order to meet your plan. And you really can’t assume you’re going to hit your plan unless you know what that number is.

Bridget Gleason: It’s a data game. Sales is a data game and you’ve got to get ahead of it. It’s you know, when I look at Salesforce, the dashboards are important to me to look behind what happened, but primarily so that I can look ahead. And I’ve got to get ahead of it. I think every sales leader needs a pipeline strategist, even if they are the pipeline strategist. To think about and to use data, to help determine, all right. here’s my, here are my revenue goals. Here’s what I can expect for marketing the yield and the conversion rates and how that’s going to play out. What is that deficit? And then what are the things that I’m doing very specifically and granularly to fill that deficit? And if you can’t, if you can’t identify that, it’s the hail Mary, and it’s not predictable and it’s not going to make a president or board member satisfied if you can’t, if you can’t really speak to that and be able to create, an engine that is, leaning towards predictability.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s, those are very uncomfortable meetings, standing up in front of the board and the CEO. If you don’t have that visibility

Bridget Gleason: And they’re uncomfortable, Andy, and they’re common. And what I’ve heard from, I’ve got some consultants here that work with me at Sumo Logic. Claris Designs, and what they were telling me is that they are, they’ve spent their consulting career helping companies or helping sales leaders and CEOs gain insights from the data and from Salesforce, they said, but the biggest problem is it in getting those insights is most people’s data is inaccurate. It’s incomplete. It’s not clean. And if you have to start at the root. Okay. Looking at the data and then be able to take that data to create insights, and then, and you can go and fill those strategies and have a decent conversation with a board or a CEO, but most companies don’t even have the data that they can then go do and begin that analysis.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And have you used a tool like insight squared?

Bridget Gleason: Insight squared also depends on clean dat  but it’s a fantastic tool. It’s a fantastic tool. And again, it, it depends on clean and accurate and complete.

Andy Paul: Yeah, no. I have a client I’m working with now that’s just starting using it, but it is for if the data is clean, as you said, and they’re pretty good, but they’re not quite there yet, but they’re getting better. Yeah. Some, you start being able to use the data to spot trends that are pretty profound actually that you would never really have- you might be able to guess that before, after with some experience, intuitively might think, okay, this is what’s happening, but you can really point to something and say, okay, yeah, the data is telling us, this is what’s happening. And there’s, and you could debate whether this is the cause, A as the cause or B as the cause, but you narrow down pretty quickly.

Bridget Gleason: Yeah. And I think that’s imperative today to be, to run as say, a data driven sales organization. I think it’s imperative there’s and there’s really no excuse. There’s no excuse for us not to when the tools are out there for us to collect this Jayda. it, again, it’s not easy, but I think we’ll the companies that don’t and the sale departments and sales works that don’t do it are going to find themselves losing to their competitors who start to run their organizations in that way.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And I really think it’s a lesson for people who are listening. And this is not an issue just for tech companies, like the one Bridget works for, but for any sales organization, especially if you’re a small, mid sized business and you’re competing against larger companies.

You know, you need to use these tools. You need to start embracing the technologies, not yeah. Go out whole hog and invest in everything upfront, but yeah, you need a plan to say, how are we gonna start using technology and data in our business to enable us to become more efficient and more effective in not only identifying prospects and closing the deals, but also supporting our customers,

Bridget Gleason: Andy, what I’m seeing and hearing and when I connect with my counterparts, the companies that get it are the younger or the startup companies, they’ve grown up with it. They are adept. You see it on both coasts I’m in Silicon Valley. So it’s pretty common here. I think the East Coast also.

The stragglers and the ones that have not embraced it are the more established companies. And I think it’s going to be a slow erosion of their, or their awareness, of their productivity and effectiveness and these startups are going to start more and more nipping at their heels. As they are already. And I think it’s going to be interesting and we’re already seeing it where these larger companies are trying to adopt some of these tools and put them to use, and it’s similar logic is not that large, but even you go into an organization that has, let’s say an entrenched culture way of doing things. And it is harder to move to a new technology than if you’ve just grown up that way.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And some of the complications are, and I saw this client last year that I about, I don’t know, about 80 people in their Salesforce and they had hired me to do a workshop and as part of my workshop, I always talk about sales technologies and it’s simple things, in a company that’s yeah, they’re really doing a pretty bang up job. And they’re pretty sophisticated sales organization in some respects, but email tracking never heard of it. And it’s like guys-

Bridget Gleason: And Andy today. That’s yeah. That’s table stakes.

Andy Paul: But I think you need to understand them- We need to understand that people don’t understand that the penetration of these technologies is just a very thin strata of companies that really embraced them. And they’re there for everybody. And part of the problem, like with this company, this client that was dealing with there, they really thought that was a province of IT. So it was all tied up in it about getting you email tracking. I said, no, this is really a sales issue. Yeah. I understand. Let’s work how it works with, see how it works with your mail client, which was Gmail. But it’s , people really haven’t heard.

And so I think we’re really just the beginning, the tip of this revolution. And that’s why I’m sending the message out to people listening. Is that make it part of your plan for 2016 to say, okay, what- even if you hire a consultant to help you to understand what the technologies and tools are out there and then prioritize, which are the ones that could make the biggest difference for you. Let’s start with one, right? Just choose one. And email tracking is a great place to start because it’s an easy form of sales intelligence for your sales reps. They’ll say I sent an email. Did somebody open it? Did they open the attachment? Did they click on the link in the email? They come back and do it again? It just gives you that, just that knowledge alone. If you’re not having anything else to the sales rep, that’s priceless.

Bridget Gleason: Yeah. It’s God, it’s so important. It’s so important. I heard once it was, maybe it was more than a year ago, the founder of ClearSlide talking about, before that technology was available, they would send a FedEx package to a customer. And when they would get the notification that the package had been received, they thought, okay, good. And they would note a call that afternoon. Yeah. That was their early notification system. And we’ve just gotten so much more sophisticated.

Andy Paul: And the tools though, aren’t difficult to use and again, if just start at the beginning, start with something simple that you can see such immediate payback from and then move from there. So we’re gonna take a short break and we’ll be right back to finish up with my guest today on front, on Friday, Bridget Gleason.

Okay, welcome back. We are frontline Friday with Bridget Gleason. We were talking about the year of the SDR in 2016. So one of the questions that I wanted to ask and we talked about increased specialization, but one of the things that I had seen recently was that, start companies now are saying they’re using the special sales specialization model, this sales development and reps and account exeutive, and so on, that they’re asking their SDRs to become more knowledgeable. To become more involved in actually qualifying the prospect. And not just qualifying is there at the triage level for, they’re qualified enough to, for a meeting, but are they really qualified prospects? So what are you seeing in regard to that? Because the more you get the SDRs doing that, I think which is you can see where that’s great on one hand, because then you’re getting a, more sales ready leads being generated to your account execs. But then in some degree you start blurring that line between SDR and account execs when you do that.

Bridget Gleason: I think that line is getting blurred and in some ways I think it’s okay. I there’s, there has been discussion here and I will admit that I’m one of the ones leading the discussion about only hiring SDRs as the entry point to be an account executive.

Because that training that they get and the increased responsibility that they have is so they’re productive as they’re learning. And then I’ve got a much more readily productive and knowledgeable account executive as opposed to hiring someone as opposed to hiring someone in just off the street that doesn’t have the familiarity.

And just, if you think about I’ll call it a traditional BDR role, where the responsibilities are more narrow around, I just want to get in that appointment that doesn’t make them ready or qualified to go take an account executive role. So actually the more that I can open up their responsibility from a sort of, Farm school type of, or farm team type of, organization and structure. It actually helps me in terms of filling the account executive roles that I need to fill. So I like that they are, I like that they’re having, increased responsibility and I guess the other thing I’ve seen Andy is I, I guess I see a higher caliber of individual that is applying for this entry level job, because it’s more interesting.

Andy Paul: Does it really, is that really, I don’t know, it’s entry level at your company, but so I guess what I’ve seen some companies is that they have their inbound SDRs, they handle follow up with Leads the coming in inbound leads. And then you have your outbound SDRs are doing the proactive prospecting. And that there’s like different career paths. And you know I was talking to one CEO of a SaasS company saying, Oh wow. Or inbound SDRs is their career path as they oftentimes go to customer success. Maybe as account managers, because they’re not the classic hunter types.. They’re more of cultivaters, the farmers and then you’ve got, your SDRs who you said go to the AE side.

Bridget Gleason: I think that really depends. I think that really depends on the company and the type of. The type of sales that they have and the type of inbound leads that they’re getting. I think in some situations, yeah, they’re inbound and they’re really suited for a customer success role. I think I’ve seen in other organizations where you’re, you are getting inbound leads, but the threshold may be a bit lower in terms of what is considered an inbound because companies have control over that and there is more selling required in the inbound role.

And in some ways that makes, depending on the amount of selling that’s required in the inbound role, that can actually make that path more, lean more towards an account executive role, because they actually are having to sell quite a bit to close them and the BDR role, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that would be a natural for a customer success or account manager rather. Yeah. but I’ve also seen, had the experience of BDRs that have done the job and have decided, I learned enough here that I’m not even sure. I want to go into sales. So some yes, it makes them more interesting. They’re outbound. They’re having to prospect. That’s always going to be part of the sales job, I think.

Andy Paul: Okay. So here’s last question for you. Tough question. What are your sales resolutions for 2016? You personally.

Bridget Gleason: Okay. I went through this exercise with an executive coach yesterday about prioritization. And there’s so many things that I do, Andy, throughout the day, and I made a list of all of them and identified my top three, the things that are gonna move the needle the most, and then identified things I’m going to do less of and things I’m not going to do anymore. So I would say I’m going, my number one sales resolution, I’m going to pick one is focus. And it’s focus on the three priorities that were identified.

Andy Paul: Okay.

Bridget Gleason: Perfect. And what about you?

Andy Paul: Try to stay upright on my bicycle, I think would be my number one purpose.

Bridget Gleason: Please do that for those that, nobody knows. Except the people who know you about your, your tumble on your bike.

Andy Paul: Yes. That’s left me, elbow to elbow, to hand cast with a broken wrist. Yeah. as I say, when you’re ride bikes, it’s not a matter of. If you’re going to false, just win when.

Bridget Gleason: Right.

Andy Paul: Checked that off my list on the last bad crash I had was 30 years ago. So I’m okay. I think at this point, I think I’m pretty

Bridget Gleason: good. I think you should consider yourself very fortunate.

Andy Paul: I’m immunized now.

Bridget Gleason: That’s right. That’s right.

Andy Paul: Bridget, thanks for being here as usual. again, this has been frontline Friday with my guest Bridget Gleason, and, have a happy new year. We’re recording this right before the new year’s have a happy new year and we’ll talk to you again in the new year.