Funnelocity Podcast

Building a Successful BDR Team with Tom Stearns (S1, Ep2)

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Enrico Brosio:
Hello and welcome to another episode of Funnelocity, the B2B podcast that takes a close look at the different stages of the sales and marketing funnel and addresses the challenges and opportunities faced by the people tasked with delivering results. I’m Enrico, Brosio, president of MarketOne, and your host. Today, we’re focusing on the top of funnel, specifically on the BDR role and the challenges around building and running a successful BDR function within an organization. To help drill into the detail, I’m lucky enough to have my special guest today, Tom Stearns. Tom is an Inside Sales Consultant, Trainer and Coach. He helps B2B sales leaders and their teams get to the next level. He’s typically brought in when sales teams are struggling and it’s unclear to leadership. Why after working with Tom sales teams deliver, and the organization has the recipe and all of the ingredients to keep growing. Tom, welcome to Funnelocity.

 

Tom Stearns:

Thank you, Enrico. Great to be here.

 

Enrico:

Well, Tom, I must start by saying that this is a fantastic topic. It really brings me back to why MarketOne was founded. As an agency we provide BDRs on an outsource basis to our clients. We do that globally. And everything we’ve done over the past 20 years has really been to drive better conversions from marketing into sales. And so I really look forward to talking a bit more about this topic with you today, but before we go into it, tell us a bit more about yourself. What drew you to the world of sales, consulting and training? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Tom:

Thanks for asking Enrico. Yeah, so I love working with organizations and helping them fix what’s not working. Sounds really broad, very general. It’s obviously focused on sales, a heavy focus on BDRs and their function, but the way I approach it, maybe that is I don’t know, different than any other consultant. But the way I approach it is looking at the organization and trying to create the right BDR function for them. Now that could be, Hey, you need to outsource it, or it needs to remain inside, but you need to do all of these different things. So I try to look at it holistically, which may include demand gen or all the closers involved in that. But to make that function succeed, it’s surrounded by a whole lot of other functions. So that , I’m passionate about that.

And then the flip side of that is, maybe not the flip side, but the additional side to that is that the individuals, those BDRs are great people to work with. And I get a real, like, I get a lot of excitement, I guess when I see a good sales rep, a good BDR a good person just get better improve and the sort of satisfaction in coaching them to the next level. So I’m trying to look at what’s the ecosystem they need to work in to really succeed. And then what are the individual skills that that person needs, whether it’s the manager or the BDR. Those two things really just keep me passionate about the job that I have right now. That was probably a long answer.

Enrico:

Interesting. No, thanks for that. And as we, I guess, before we go drilling into specifics of, what are the different things impacting different teams impacting BDR, I guess we should probably define the role a bit more. So could you share with us, how would you describe the BDR role within the organization?

Tom:

Yeah, great question. So within an organization, a BDR, and by the way, a lot of companies sort of mix up their acronyms. You may hear an SDR, you may hear an LDR and ADR, there’s lots of terms for this. BDR traditionally stands for business development rep. They’re basically somebody that is either working inbound leads and qualifying those leads to be handed off to an inside sales rep, an account executive, a field rep. It depends on the organization, but it’s basically being handed off to the closer. BDRs also are working completely on an outbound basis where they are calling out on leads or they’re calling out on accounts, again, to get some interest out of the prospect, qualify to the definition the organization has determined, but usually, you would probably define this better than me Enrico, but the top of the funnel. That it’s reaching the opportunity stage where now an experienced salesperson can take that customer through the rest of the buyer’s journey to sale and future advocacy.

Enrico:

It’s interesting. You, well, you use the term outbound, right? They’re calling on leads or they’re calling on accounts. And I certainly think of them as calling leads, these are typically hand raisers or perhaps marketing generated responses in the same age, maybe a scored lead coming through out of a marketing automation. So an AQL. We at MarketOne would refer to that as inbound follow up or response management. And that’s very much a high volume based activity. And then absolutely there are BDRs or SDRs, as you say, that are outbound focused more, that are more account centric, working an account, mapping it out, profiling it and trying to uncover what are those business pains and business challenges that are going to drive that account to perhaps purchase a solution from said company and then it gets handed off to the sales team.

And I almost think, and we’ve had this conversation before as to the shape of the funnel. And in some ways, I feel like BDRs operate at that top of funnel, which is not funnel shaped at all often, right? It’s probably this always on more circular and their job is to get a prospect, a customer that’s actively engaging in a buying process into the sales funnel for their organization. So that’s how I think about it.

Tom:

Yeah. I think that’s a good definition. Absolutely.

Enrico:

And now, so having defined the BDR role where do we think it should sit? Where does it sit in the organization? So who do you see owning the BDR role? And this is a leading question. So what are the pros and cons do you feel depending on who owns this function?

Tom:

Yeah, that’s a great question. And by the way, I don’t know that there’s a right answer to this. I think fundamentally it’s the mindset of the organization, how they work together and, meaning they, demand gen marketing and sales. I tend to think that this is a role that sits in the sales organization when it’s inside the building and insourced, if you will. And the reason I think that that has worked well in the organizations that I’ve worked with is that it is a, a sort of a progression into a sales role. So a lot of companies, when they’re building out this function internally are hiring younger people that are entering the salesforce. They want to become salespeople. It’s a part of the, sort of an entry into an organization to ultimately have a career in sales, not always that way, but the role itself is, you know often calling on leads, having conversations, a lot of very specific one-to-one email social engagement, all of these ways that we have to get into an account is very like becoming a salesperson.

It’s learning how to have those conversations and qualify is definitely be where you develop the foundation to then become a closer a seller. So the skillset feels more sales. Now that doesn’t mean it can’t be run by marketing, but a lot of not – run by – owned by marketing. Like I don’t fundamentally think it can’t be and by the way, the less amount of silos involved the better, right? So I’m also a bit of an advocate of sales and the demand gen function of marketing being as tightly integrated as possible. So there’s like one cohesive unit working, and the more cohesive that is, is that it’s a big blurry line between the team generating leads and the team qualifying leads, and then handing off the sales, that’s like, hopefully one mush of you know sales and marketing, if you will, but what do you think Enrico?

Enrico:

Okay. This is an interesting issue and it’s hard not to think about this and also consider sales and marketing alignment because ultimately it’s, in some ways it’s really this role that aligns the two organizations. I one hundred percent agree with what you said earlier, which is, it doesn’t really matter. I think as long as the organization has clear, has defined, has very clear definition of lead management rules, SLAs and they adhere to those. Now the reality is most organizations don’t. And so I would say like you, the majority of our clients, this role does roll under sales. Less than 30% of the time I’d say it’s under marketing. And that poses some challenges for the organization, you’ve mentioned some of them, the fact that, initially the BDR is probably joining that organization with the hope of quickly transitioning to an inside sales rep or a field sales rep.

And so in some ways when, when sales owns it, there’s a lot of turnover in this role. That’s challenge number one. Challenge number two is they also become glorified sales, admin for their favorite inside sales rep or AE where they’re working with the BDR in setting up appointments, maybe changing appointments or just tasking them with updating entries in CRM. And when it’s not owned by sales, when it’s owned by marketing there’s a stronger SLA with the marketers who are looking for things like, okay, when I generate a response, however they might define that response, I want to ensure that my BDR team actually processes that in a timely fashion and doesn’t cherry pick and it gets through all of that inventory, so to speak and leaves no stone unturned.

And as I spoke about before, where the BDR role is really top of funnel, it’s more of a circle, these prospects aren’t in the sales funnel just yet. To me it’s really about helping the demand gen activities, the marketing activities identify and convert those top of funnel contacts, if you will, into the sales funnel. So, I guess I’m throwing a lot of things out there. Like I said, to me, there’s no better or worse as long as there’s a well-defined SLA for this team. And I just find that when sales owns the team, that they can quickly, turnover goes up and as they get sucked into the inside sales position or a position and they become those sales admins, CRM admins, or appointment setting admins and what not.

Tom:

It’s worth maybe taking this apart a little bit too, because there is the, maybe it’s called the SDR function, right? The sales development role, which is the outbound prospect or the one that doesn’t have a lead. A large amount of the work I do, and maybe where some of my bias comes from Enrico, when I think about this, depending on the organization, many times the organization is perhaps struggling to get qualified inbound leads or they’re account-based. So they’re focusing an individual in SDR, BDR or a team of those at a specific account they want to penetrate and marketing is hopefully marketing, generating some inbound or some interest there, but then you have the individual that needs to get a meeting at one of these top 200 accounts in their territory.

And that role, calling out on it trying to get in there without necessarily a true hand raiser or enough data, I work a lot with those individuals. So I feel the challenges they have and they have to be, very close, they’re often teamed up with an account executive, an inside sales rep, a field rep, but it depends how your pod structure is, or your territory structure is, but it’s often when there’s not enough inbound. Also, how do we augment that?

Enrico:

Absolutely. Yeah. Call them almost account based SDRs. That’s a really interesting role in particular in this day and age where ABM has become such a focus for B2B organizations in both sales and marketing teams. It’s through their ABM programs and ABM strategies that I think are finally driving true alignment in all their activities. And the SDR role is critical in that in, and I feel like in ABM, it’s the tactic, certainly when it’s a one to one or one to few it’s from an ABM campaign perspective and program perspective that account based SDR becomes critical to the success of that ABM program. So it’s an interesting, I think, evolution of the role and it’s certainly something that we see and we also see clients outsourcing. It’s a lot easier to outsource that type of activity because you can ring fence a certain set of accounts that are perhaps white space accounts and give those to an outsourced partner like a MarketOne, and say, okay, MarketOne, you own the segment or these 200 accounts go develop some account profiles and opportunities and engage with these accounts and drive next steps for our for our sales teams.

So I guess when we talk about these different roles that SDRs play, what’s the skillset that you’re looking for in recruitment? And I guess it probably depends if it’s more of the inbound or outbound that we’ve been discussing. But how do you think about recruitment, training, skills, et cetera, et cetera.

Tom:

Yeah. Great question. Absolutely. So, yeah, there’s some key, attributes that I think are pretty consistent in the industry that you’re looking for, for this role. One is a competitiveness, if you will, like when we screen for this role, we’re looking for someone that is definitely competitive, right? They want to be at the top of the leaderboard, they’re willing to put the, reps and the effort in, cause it is a lot of reps, right? It’s a high discipline, high activity role and there are skills involved in there. So competitive, not to the point of cutthroat, right? So you’re looking for, Hey, we want someone that’s competitive, but is also a team player, right? We want the team to rise first and then your individual performance is absolutely a part of that. So it’s a bit of a blend.

Curiosity is one of my favorite attributes, and it’s industry-wide. Everyone is screening for curiosity. Curiosity is so useful because if you are getting dozens of leads, dozens of companies, or your task is to call on companies and individuals. If you’re genuinely curious about what someone has to say on the other end of the phone, or genuinely curious about how their business works, it serves you very well. It helps you do better research, come more prepared, but then really just wanting the answers. You listen better, you ask more questions, like what does that mean? And that creates great conversations. And a lot of qualification is really the art of the conversation. So curiosity is, is definitely another one, which is my favorite.

Enrico:

I couldn’t agree with you more. Couldn’t agree with you more. And it’s absolutely the ability to ask questions, ask good questions, mix of open-ended and, closed ended questions, but that curiosity and listening skills. Of course, building rapport and having empathy, these are all important in order to establish that initial 30 seconds, some level of rapport with the person you’re speaking with. But then it’s quickly about listening and asking the right questions. It’s not pitching. And this is interesting because often clients, when they’re outsourcing this type of role to us, they think that we should be perfect sales prep people, and be able to pitch at a technical level all their wares. And it’s really not about that. If anything, we’re like a mix of researchers and customer service reps as the way to bring those two skillsets together.

Tom:

I almost never coach or train on pitching. Like it is, Oh, there’s a value proposition you need to present, but it’s like, there’s none of that. That rarely matters, frankly. And even in great salesmanship, I mean, you win deals, asking great questions and, yes, you have to present the product. Then there’s a pitch involved. I get that. But it’s about listening and caring and wanting to know what’s going on in the buyer’s world. How can we solve their problem? And all of that is about curiosity and empathy and listening. It really is not about like, Hey, pitch me this product. It’s like, no, ask me questions about it. Ask me questions about me or my challenges, but obviously they have to be calibrated to what you’re selling.

Enrico:

Indeed, indeed. And you, so you said the word qualification, and so I think any good BDR/SDR will have to know how to qualify an opportunity before he, or she hands it off to sales or sets up a call for a sales rep. So let’s talk about that. How do you think about qualification and relevant qualification criteria? I know it’s changed over the years. And it probably depends, but what’s your take on qualification?

Tom:

Boy, that’s a great question. So qualification is different for, each company. So like anything we’re talking about, right? This is I don’t believe, one, every business is the same, but there’s a lot of similarities. So qualification is, who are we, who is our buyer, right? I mean, this should be defined by the company, the marketing team, the sales team, like one, you can, you should be able to qualify a little bit before you even call somebody, right? So are they in the role that needs our service or our product, and, that’s the easy one, but then the qualification say to book a meeting to create an opportunity, the level of that, depending on the rep’s tenure, by the way, I think there’s a scale here, right? And this is a part of the nuance of training people in this role is that as they get more experienced, you will expect their qualification skills to go up. So, but that said, if you’re outsourcing, right, this is a definition. So the definition is generally around, are we talking to someone that has expressed a need to use our product? Can’t be, we forced them to show up for a meeting. We did enough to get some interest. We determined that they had a need that they vocalized or identified, and that they’re in the function that can have influence for the purchase. So again, this is like, I think for an outsource organization like MarketOne, you’ve probably got like pinpoint accuracy on every lead that needs to be passed. But there is nuance in there and I’ve experienced this with some of clients we share that how much is enough and sort of, sorry, I’m dancing around a little bit, but typically it’s, it doesn’t always have to be the decision maker, right? Like we need someone in the buying committee. And as we’ve seen in the days of COVID that indecision has gone up. So the committee, the decision by committee has broadened. So there’s lots of people. So, Hey, is this a qualified individual to hand off to sales now, the conversation, well, did they articulate a challenge that we solve for, did they express enough interest to want to really show up for that meeting or did they just ‘Yes” you and say, I’ll take that. And then some of it is just firmographic stuff, right? Hey, it’s a company we can sell to, we look that up where we’ve got a title that makes sense. You can look that up, but the skill is the nuance on the phone to draw out that ‘Yeah, we do have that challenge’, and ‘Boy, that’s interesting, we struggle with that all the time. I’d be interested in taking a meeting’, right. If I heard that recording, I’d be like, alright, that’s qualified and he’s got the right, or she’s got the right title. And it’s a company that we could do business with. That’s a qualified, might be a meeting, might be an opportunity again, it’s typically like the meeting that I think is the handoff in in the industry. Mostly not always, of course, you know that.

Enrico:

Okay. What you didn’t mention, you didn’t mention BANT.

Tom:

Oh, good Lord. No, you’ll never hear me mentioned BANT, especially in the handoff meeting. Right. By the way, I’ll give you like one rant on that is that BANT, I, I don’t hate BANT, but I want to get rid of that ‘B’. One of my mentors, Peter Weyman, he got me into the advocacy of FANT, right? Financial authority. So, our job as marketers, as sellers, as BDRs, like all the people that are trying to sell something basically is that, we’re not typically selling something that they got a little budget over here, like, Oh yeah, we got a budget for your software that we didn’t know exists for a challenge we weren’t even sure we had, but yeah, I guess we could. So financial authority getting to someone that has influence over that, that could create the budget. That’s what matters. So it does drive me crazy. It’s like, well, they, I asked them if they have budget for this, it’s like, they’ve never heard of the technology we’re selling. How could they have a budget waiting for us? Our job is to influence it. Wow. We should invest in this new technology because it’s going to help us really get to the next level. So we’ll create a budget. And then authority. Yeah. We’re talking, we already would mentioned that needs and timing. I didn’t mention timing because I think on a, on a typical, initial interaction. Yeah. You know if they, if they haven’t got a budget set aside, say they’re selling a knickknack then yeah. They have budgets for, we need to move them from the competitor to us then, yeah. Maybe you might be looking for a budget and then timing, like, when is your financial calendar up? When do you spend your money? Maybe that stuff makes sense, but for a lot of solutions and I’m coming from a lot of SAS solutions, I work with a lot of customers that have very complicated solutions that often buyers don’t even know they need. So the actual timing of when they’re going to roll out something like this, that’s not going to exist either.

Enrico:

It’s refreshing to hear a colleague of ours say that BANT, it’s a four letter word and in so many ways I couldn’t agree with you more. I think there’s a time and place for strict criteria on qualification criteria. And typically, it’s when you’ve got a high volume of inbound for a relatively straightforward product, that’s well defined and there’s budgets for that product. And maybe there is probably less than $25,000 is the average order size. So, as you get into that, if you play in that realm, then I think, a good qualification is important to handing it off to sales. But often like yourself, a lot of our clients are dealing either in perhaps even net new technologies where, to your point, their clients don’t know that there’s a solution out there for the challenge or problem they have, or they’re dealing with deal sizes that are in the well into the six, if not seven figures. And I think as you go up that the size of the deal size, you’ve absolutely got to reduce the qualification criteria and to make it more around what you’ve said. And so it’s not all about a BANT, but it’s more about making sure you call into the buying unit, authority, you can define authority, keep it relatively flexible, the case, make sure you get that right with sales, not marketing and then need, right. What’s the need and what’s the compelling event, right? So is there an urgency, is there urgency behind that need or not? And you kind of want to get a gauge as to how painful right, how much pain is the client in. And so, authority and need are really important. But I go back to the marketing and sales discussion we had earlier, marketing will always say, regardless of what campaign we’re running, even if we’re calling into large complex accounts where the deal sizes are, to the six or seven figures, they’ll most likely always ask for BANT.

And then when we have our kickoff and we bring in sales, sales is like, well, no, it’s not about BANT. It’s really, here’s what I’m looking for. Help me map out the buying unit. Help me understand what are the key, where’s this account? Like, what are they dealing with, are they going through big M & A transaction? Are they just trying to ingest a massive acquisition they’ve made? What are their priorities? And are there solution areas that we can support them on in the future. And ideally, if they want to help eventually write an RFP, if there’s going to be one. The problem with BANT is if you get to the point where it’s actually been BANT qualified, it’s too late, and the sales rep knows it. And so they’d much rather be into that opportunity earlier. And so it’s a tough one because, marketing wants us to do it one way and sales wants us to do another.

Tom:

No, that’s it. Thanks for adding all that detail. Because yeah, so much complexity to it, but you hit on a point there that I think is really important is that that’s where the relationship between sales and marketing really matters. And the individuals that are qualifying leads, because if it’s a silo and there isn’t a discussion about the handoff point, what really matters, what we’re trying to accomplish, and we’re not cohesive and aligned, then, one team is making an assumption. Marketing might be like, Hey, we’re paying for this outsource agency. We expect BANT because we need to get what we’re paying for. And the sales organization might be like, Hey, I just need someone to open the door. I need someone to like, get me in there and I want to do the rest.

But then you have some sales organizations that are highly transactional. Like you said, where it’s like, Hey, we we’ve got too much to deal with, so we need more qualifications. So it’s such a moving scale. And the only way I think really to get it right, is to have those conversations with the right people. And both organizations inside out, outside really need to come together. Because I see it all the time. Right? The, the leads got passed in and the sales team said these were garbage. And then the, and then the opposite is marketing’s like, Hey, we keep giving them our leads. They don’t do anything with them. It’s like, well, you actually, haven’t been to the sales building. You haven’t been to your sales organization in over six months. Well, they say ‘we have a weekly conference call’. I’m like, yeah, but do you really listen to the reps? Do you really get to know what the managers are looking for? That relationship matters because there’s so much nuance in that handoff, and the bigger the organization, obviously the more complex it gets and the more SLAs and details, you know all those things better than I, because you deal with all of these global organizations, I’m usually on the floor with the sales team or the marketing team, trying to make these nuggets work.

Enrico:

Tom, I feel like we could go on and on about this, the sales and marketing relationship, the alignment, the handoff, the hand back, maybe that’s a podcast in and of itself because there is so much there to unpack. I do want to turn though to the topic of the tools of the trade. So in your experience, is there some technology that every BDR needs? How do you think of tech for the BDR?

Tom:

So I want to start that by saying that I like the model of mindset, skillset, toolset, that that order matters, that ultimately the tool set, the tech stack, all the tools that we give BDRs, that we give our teams, if they don’t have the right skill set, and before that, the right mindset, you’re going to waste a lot of money, right? It’s an oversimplification. So I do want to start there because I do believe that for most of the BDR teams that I work with, BDR/SDR teams, and I do want to add that back into the, this definition Enrico because again, many of the teams that are outbounding, inbounding, it still matters. I think that some of these, these tools are necessary and that’s obviously you need to CRM, right? Most, every company has a CRM, you need some CRM. So you have a single source of truth for, the data around your accounts and your contacts. You definitely need that. And then beyond that, in today’s day and age, where we need to reach people and whether it’s an inbound or an outbound, having a phone number, an email that you can reach someone at is important. So third party data is useful. And that is anywhere of a combination from, tools like LeadIQ, Zoominfo, Seamless, like sometimes those extra databases that are going to give you additional contact information, I think are very, very useful, especially if you’re in the role where you have to go find people and outbound or find your way in. You talked about that related to COVID a little bit.

And obviously LinkedIn, I don’t know that navigator’s always necessary. Like I don’t have Navigator, I have it through clients, but I use the free version of LinkedIn and do a pretty decent job. So I think those are good. There’s two other pieces of technology that I’m a huge fan of. One of these sales engagement platforms as CPs. These are things like SalesLoft, Outreach, Groove. So in that function, if you, again, depending on how much work you need to do to reach that person, they help the efficiency of that. But the last one is you know a category that was created for this, but conversation intelligence software. This is the ability to analyze, listen to an analyzed, recorded conversation, Gong, ExecVision, Chorus or internal systems, where you just record it, because…

Enrico:

Is that for training purposes?

Tom:

Training, coaching, overall performance improvement and also sharing of information. So these tools have come so far. I got into them for coaching purposes. So 10 years ago, when I had my own sales team, I would spend the weekends and my daughter’s swim meets listening to wave files and typing up coaching notes for my reps in a word document because that is the game film. The conversation lives in the call, which is, the only efficient way to really study that is through a call recording. You can always deal with school way, remember a plugin to a headset next to a rep and listen to them. Yeah, you can do that, but it’s massively inefficient. So these technologies have enabled you to coach, to play the call faster, but they’ve gone the next level where there’s all sorts of data in these calls – trackers, you can add trackers. It’s like, Hey, I want to see filler words that my team uses. And you can program the keywords right into the technology. You can say, okay, Bill used 85 trash filler words in 20 minutes where Steve used 4. So how do we clean that up? So I’m really like into the weeds of that, I think is a, this is the next level. And that’s where mostly I get reps to improve. We listen to game tape together, which is their call recording. And we coach, and then we study patience scores, which means, how often do you interrupt your buyer? How much dead air happens between the buyer finishing what they say and then you saying something? So there’s a patience score. There’s talk/listen time. All that stuff is really geeky, but those are the little knobs you can tweak. And I imagine, your teams around the world are, listening and being like, okay, we need to help this person get better. How do we do that? We’ve listened to some of their calls. We read their email, things like that. So, sorry, I’ve spent a lot of time on it.

Enrico:

That’s super interesting. And you’ve covered a lot of ground there. And I guess there’s two areas that, that just spring to mind that we’ve seen companies maybe not necessarily work well, not do a great deal with. One is third party data, specifically intent. And I’m just curious if you’ve seen your clients use intent data in a clever way this role?

Tom:

It’s getting better. I can’t say that I’ve seen any client crushing it with intent data, but it’s getting better and easier. A lot of these third-party technologies like ZoomInfo, are serving it up within their platform. There’s 6Sense and Bombora. I think there’s all these other tools that are starting to really make it easy for organizations and reps to learn what that means. So a lot of this information that would tell an individual maybe who they should call when they should call, has been around for a while, but the adoption of it and the use of it. And I think, your organization is better at it. It’s where the outsource really can come in and really and work effectively for a client.

Enrico:

It’s interesting you say that. I mean, where we see it as much further top of funnel, maybe on, on digital programs and using it perhaps to, to trigger some, for example email campaign, or target account through LinkedIn ad campaigns. Or an ABM program, programmatic media campaign. So we would potentially use it differently. And that’s why I was very specific. I was curious if within the role of the BDR/SDR whether you’ve seen it used successfully? I know we’re not, we’re not there yet.

Tom:

I haven’t seen it. I’ve spoken to some sales leaders that seem like they’re getting a grasp on it down to the rep level. I’ve personally not worked with a team that has made full efficient use of intent data, but I certainly see the value and I’m trying to work it into workflow. A lot of what I do is I don’t understand the workflow. Like how do you get everything they have to do? How do we efficiently get these things happening? And it takes a while to work them into the day in and day out.

Enrico:

From a perspective of building out BDR teams that operate on a global basis, have you worked with clients that have done that? Have you seen some of the challenges that have come up around that specific topic?

Tom:

Yeah. I mean, there are definite obvious challenges when you attempt to go global, which is the language barrier. If you want to penetrate countries where, say you have an organization that you’re largely internal, you’re based in the U S and now you need to, or would like to work in countries where you don’t speak the language, there are immense challenges and around the language barriers. Often some organizations will look at an acquisition in another country where maybe have that skill set, or they will, set up in another country. But it really shows that there’s can be a great benefit to, an outsource organization that has the language capabilities already. And often that’s what I see is that, Hey, we want to tap into this, this market. We need to do it quickly. Well to stand up anything internal in another country, it takes a long time when there are a lot of organizations that already have native speakers and individuals that frankly, like I think when you get outside of the U S depending on where you are in the world, there’s a lot of sort of career based individuals that just do the function, the BDR function, and he can tap into those a lot easier than trying to stand up something yourself. And they’re quite good in my experience, but I think you have a lot of experience there too.

Enrico:

Well, we we’ve certainly seen clients, enter new markets. So that the example you said US based, fast growing tech startup, looking to break into Europe often they land in the UK first, where the language is not an issue. But quickly, they’d like to cross the Channel, so to speak and, and go into France and Germany and other countries. And I think the language becomes, my view on that, I’d say it depends. I think if it’s an inbound, if you’re inbound response handling, then it’s okay to continue in English, as long as your website is an English from a customer experience perspective, someone visiting your website, it’s in English. They expect perhaps to have a call with you in English, but those are hand raisers.

However, if you start thinking about how outbound then that absolutely has to be in the local language of the market, you’re going into, and, and it’s important that you have, again, back to what we’ve talked about before building rapport. Often you’re calling people that are not necessarily expecting your call. So imagine doing that in a foreign language or in English, it’s not going to work. And so what we do to help clients on the language front in order to make those outbound campaigns also more effective from a costing perspective, is that we’ll put together teams that are, fractional, BDRs that are one FTE, if you will, but that speaks, four or five different languages. And we have a team we draw on, .2 of a resource for French, for German, et cetera, et cetera. So you get this concept of fractional BDRs or SDRs. And that’s obviously something that you can do if you outsource because then we can redeploy those individuals on other campaigns, other client engagements, but it’s not something you can do. It’s not easy to insource a fraction of fractional resource. Obviously you need to make sure that you keep the person busy. So if you’re going to add a language, whether it’s German, French, Italian, Portuguese, you’re going to have to make sure that that person is fully utilized. If they’re insource and of course on an outsource basis, you can absolutely engage fractional head count, which is an interesting concept.

 

Let’s talk a bit about reporting and what KPIs to track and what are some of your favorite ones when you think about this role, whether it’s inbound or outbound.

 

Tom:

Let me start with outbound because I think it’s a little bit easier for me to begin from there. And then a lot of that carries into the inbound. So the one metric that I probably focus the most on is the conversation to meeting conversion rate. So if you think about whether you’re an inbound or an outbound rep, that if I have a conversation with a prospect, how do I turn that into a meeting? And some of the industry on the outbound side, the industry number there is around 23 to 25% is really the gold standard. So one in four conversations, I’m having, I book a meeting and that criteria, again, going back to the beginning of the meeting criteria is dependent on the company, but that’s a good sort of industry number to look at. Why that matters on so many different levels is that it tells you so much about the reps, both their skills on the phone, but also on who they’re calling. Right? So if their conversion rate is low, then you can try to identify like, Oh are we even talking to the right person? Are they targeting the right person? Are they talking to the wrong person in the organization? They’re just trying to get meetings, so they’re not looking at the leads they have and say, okay, this person is actually looking for a job here. Why are you calling that lead? That should have been disqualified in the first place. But mostly it’s around the art of the conversation. If you’re not able to get to that meeting, this is where going back to the call recording is key. I’ve worked with some reps on average, first month to three months is anywhere between like 6% and 11% converting. And then coaching and skills developing, training, all that stuff, creeps them up to 18, 20, 23% so forth. So a lot of that development is right there, and that conversation is, and why it’s great to, if you’re a person in that role that may eventually become in sales is that if you learn to have those kinds of conversations and generate, listen and qualify, it serves you through the rest of your sales career. So that’s a big number.

Then the meeting hold right rate is another big one, right? So like, Hey, you’re booking these meetings, but only 50% are showing up. That’s another sign that maybe it wasn’t qualified. Maybe you actually didn’t generate interest. So, and if you look at that as a funnel, sort of a rep funnel, you can go one up and say, this is more of a cold call or outbound function, is that, Hey, if we’re making 60 dials a day and the industry average connect rate, let’s say 6%. That’s people that answer the phone 6% that will lead to like 0.7 meetings a day booked if you’re booking at like 23%. So there’s a whole little funnel there and you can go back and you can go to the top. And then if you’re not connecting at 6%, this might be the question you ask is like, okay what number do we have, whether inbound or outbound? We’re getting inbound leads, And all the inbound leads have a receptionist number, and we can’t get to the buyer, right? So now we’re going to email and they’re not replying to their email or anything. So that connect rate is an easy one to look at data source and time of day, you might call. There’s lots of data around what time of day to call. So those little weedy numbers come back to ultimately how many meetings we’re going to book, which is often how reps are paid or passed opportunities or meetings, and then opportunities.

So breaking down those individual numbers, then support the effort around a level of quantity is important, right? We all know quality is better than quantity, but frankly, if there’s not enough, quantity, quality can be meaningless. I’ll often talk to leaders and like, Hey, what’s the activity type? They’re like, well, we don’t care about activities. Like I don’t really either. I care about the result. But if Jennifer is making 60 calls a day or has a certain amount of leads to call on and is getting through those, you know and Bill is making 20 calls a day. Bill’s conversion rate is better, but if you look and you model that out, statistically, he’s never going to make any money. You’re never going to get your number. So sort of taking those individual numbers and setting a target as an activity target, but it’s really around self-discipline. It’s like, how do we get more efficient? How do we time block? How do we organize your team? All that little weedy stuff really, really matters.

I worked with a team once and within like 30 days, I’m like, okay, these reps are not incentivized. They’re getting paid on a percentage of the deal closing at the end of the year. And these are folks that you want calling on inbound leads, and you also want to prospect. So I said, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to change the commission plan to make it based on meetings. Oh, wow. Look, activity went up and all the numbers went up, right. It went from like, really, it was like the first six weeks to the second six weeks was staggering. And all that it was, was around one little tweak to the knob. So, reps, you can’t make reps do activity, but if you show them the results of those activities and that like, Hey, you’re getting better having the conversations. And now you’ve gone from 15% conversation to meeting rate to 20%. That means you’re going to make another thousand dollars this month, you know? Oh, okay. I’m going to keep trying to learn. So those, those, those, weedy numbers are what I really care about. Sorry, Enrico. That was a long answer.

Enrico:

I mean, I didn’t know. That’s fantastic. And I can see the value that you inherently add to your clients. No, brilliant, awesome. And what was actually going to be, my next question is around how do you ensure you can drive those through incentives and that you’ve got the cause of the effect. And no, that was, that was a great time. So thank you for that. So my last question is, we’re recording this podcast during a global pandemic, that’s really turned upside down how businesses operate. And in some ways, the BDR role has always been tough, right? Getting people live on the phone, it’s not an easy feat. And now it’s just become even harder, right. With people working from home and, and perhaps not having mobile numbers, et cetera, et cetera. So how do you, what’s been your experience with working with BDR teams in a pandemic? How are you supporting them? What tips and tricks are you giving them to make those connections and help them achieve the KPIs that you just shared with us?

Tom:

Such a great question. So I’ve had the benefit of retaining clients and staying in close contact with a couple of former clients throughout this. And it has really been like an adventure, a rewarding one, because teams are succeeding in this environment. Some of the early things that I saw needed to happen were around industry targeting, right. So smart companies, and this is beyond the BDR function, but, within it too, is that like, who can we help right now? Obviously, if you’re selling to restaurants back in May you probably weren’t doing so well. So if you had tons of people pointed at restaurants, but you also sell to healthcare, then if you weren’t making some pivots to different industries, then you probably were suffering mor. Within the industries that you’re selling to, companies that made swift moves on identifying their buyer’s challenges right now, as opposed to like, Hey, we’ve got 10 years of research on what we do, and this is what we sell. It’s like, no, those organizations, again, supporting the BDR that said, okay, what really matters to who we’re selling to right now, and can we help them? And then yes, we can in a different way than we used to, or with a different focus on a particular message, a different aspect of what we do. So a messaging tweak worked. And then real stuff that has helped BDRs, so to answer your question specifically, those other two things are necessary, but we’re about getting very creative. I’ve seen a couple of teams go from very heavy phone and semi templated, email, to heavy amounts of personalization, personalized video, intense research. I’ve seen some of the greatest sales emails ever written by BDRs working inbound and SDRs working outbound that they were forced into because at first they couldn’t talk to anybody. They only had maybe had receptionist numbers. So that creativity and embracing research, getting very personalized to break through, has helped teams succeed. And that said, some of these data sources released mobile phone numbers very quickly. And, teams that had more direct lines and some of their buyers were forwarding to their cell phones, working from home rebounded pretty quickly. So maybe like a month to six weeks with connect rates dropping down to 2%. And then by July back up to 5, 6, 7%. But often, tougher buyers that are like, we have to delay, we don’t have the budget. Right. We don’t, we can’t do that. So, work in different objections within that. Like, Oh, we’re not trying to sell today. We’re trying to help you plan for the future.

Trying to make a lot of different pivots rapidly between data, creativity. That’s, what’s working and it’s a moving target. So the managers that studied this stuff day in and day out and said, ok. Marketing rolls out a bunch of webinars. We’ve got something new to maybe help our clients with. And then people got burned out on virtual webinars because all the video they’re in. So, okay. We’ve got to make another pivot. So, so yeah, I’ve seen some reps do very well. I’ve seen everybody at least hit a speed bump. But there is still a tremendous amount of success going on out there in the BDR/SDR function.

 

Enrico:

From our perspective, I think I can echo a lot of those similar tactics. There’s certainly no silver bullet it’s been, but it’s a mix of, getting getting access to the right data, using different channels, right? Not just the phone, but mail, you mentioned mail InMail, show me you know me emails as we call them, make them relevant. And even switchboards remain open so we can still sometimes get transferred out to someone’s cell phone. And so sometimes the switchboard operator is working as well. So it’s just a question of, trying them all, doing all those sequences and hopefully getting through. And if you leave the right message whether it’s a voice message or email or InMail, it typically gets the right response. Either it’s, Oh, I’m not the right person to speak to. My colleague so-and-so is researching that topic right now. And so we get the referral and that’s, as in our business, referrals worth their weight in gold.

Tom:

Yeah. It’s never been an easy job. Like you started this question off with, it’s a grind, right? You’ve got to stay at it.

 

Enrico:

It certainly is, but Tom, I must admit today was not a grind.  I love this chat. This has been awesome. Really enjoyed speaking with you today about the BDR role. So thanks for joining Funnelocity.

 

Tom:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me Enrico. I really enjoyed it too. And maybe we can keep this conversation going soon.

 

Enrico:

Yeah, we can dive into some other topics. Keep that for future podcasts. So, well, let me say to my listeners, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, you can find more episodes and learn how to subscribe for future updates at MarketOne.com/Funnelocity. Thank you very much.