Kevin Micalizzi: Thank you for joining the Quotable podcast. Today we’ll be discussing inside sales and sales development with Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist at the Bridge Group, and author of The Sales Development Playbook. Welcome back, Trish.
Trish Bertuzzi: Happy to be back, Kevin.
Micalizzi: And before we get started, remember, the best way to keep up with all things Quotable is by subscribing at quotable.com/subscribe. So, Trish, I’m very familiar, and Alexa, our co-host, is very familiar with your work.
But for those joining us who aren’t familiar with you or The Bridge Group, would you share a little bit about yourself?
Bertuzzi: Oh, my favorite topic, myself. Sure, I’d be happy to. I founded The Bridge Group in 1998. And we are an inside-sales consulting and implementation firm, that is focused primarily, though not exclusively, on the B2B tech space.
And the core of what we do is to help companies truly unleash the power of inside sales, whether it’s for pipeline generation or revenue generation. Most recently we’ve added a service that I’m super excited about called the account-ased momentum program, where we help people stand up on both the sales and marketing side of the house their account-based revenue strategies.
Micalizzi: I love it. I’m Kevin Micalizzi, Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Salesforce. I’m also the Executive Producer of the Quotable podcast. And I’m joined today by my co-host, Alexa Nayman, Director of Sales Development at Salesforce. Welcome, Alexa.
Alexa Nayman: Thanks for having me. Very happy to be here today.
Micalizzi: So, Trish, I want to dive right in. I’m excited to have you back on the show. Quite a ways back we talked about how sales development was the hottest job in sales. And I know separately we’ve actually chatted in the studio about how it’s also the most difficult job in sales.
And I’m guessing things haven’t changed too much since we spoke.
Bertuzzi: They have not changed. And as Alexa can attest, I’m sure, what has happened over the past, I would say, 12 to 18 months is that our buyers have become bored with us. And justifiably so, because we’re boring the crap out of them with the banal, irrelevant messages — emails that asked why you didn’t respond to my last email.
And putting in front of these very sophisticated buyers the least skilled among us trying to set meetings or have conversations and we’re not setting them up for success. So it’s become even harder to succeed at the sales development role than ever before.
Micalizzi: I’m going to put Alexa on the spot for a second. I know you are a co-host, but I’m going to pose the question to you. Are you seeing the same thing?
Nayman: Absolutely. We’ve definitely seen a change recently, where the sales development representatives that work here at Salesforce are coming to my desk more often and saying, “I’m so frustrated. I’m not getting any responses from these buyers. I’m not getting responses from my prospects.” And we’re sort of scrambling to find ways to make ourselves more effective, especially with young people that are just entering the workforce that don’t have a lot of experience yet connecting with leaders of companies. So, yes, we’re definitely seeing that.
Micalizzi: I would love to dive in a little bit and talk about all the challenges facing sales development right now. Because I think it’s not only the buyer is getting bored, but you have technology challenges, you have so many competing activities, time away from actually working on selling. What are you both seeing?
Nayman: Trish, you want to take a stab, and then I’ll jump in?
Bertuzzi: Sure. Alexa just said something super interesting to me. She said her team is coming to her and saying people aren’t responding.
And I think that they’re not responding because they are not ready, which, obviously, makes sense. But here’s something that I try to tell every sales development rep that I work with. When you’re doing outreach, first of all, you have to do enough outreach to get their attention. And that number has escalated. That number probably now sits around nine to 12 touches, using a variety of medium: phone, email, social, you name it — as creative as you can get, because people respond to different types of medium.
But the way to think about it is like you’re telling them a story. And I think this makes it more interesting for the sales development reps, as well. So you look at those 12 touches and you say, “I’m telling you a story, Mr. Buyer, and each touch I leave for you is a different chapter of that story,” and they are super short chapters and have to be super short and crisp. I think if we train our sales development reps to think of it that way, they don’t look at it in quite the same fashion.
And they start to build — and we should help them build — this really interesting and relevant story that they can tell the buyer. So it’s not just pounding the phones. It’s not just batching emails. It’s like, “Look. I need you to engage with me, so let me tell you this story.” Because who doesn’t love a story? We’ve loved stories since we were old enough to listen.
Nayman: Yeah. I completely understand that and can feel that very much so in my role.
I think the biggest challenge that we’re facing specifically at Salesforce is that our sales development representatives are required to work through many different channels now when they’re handling all the different prospects that we’re working with. So they’re using chat. They’re using our 800 line. They’re using leads that are coming in from the website. And it’s a time-management thing, which is very interesting. So how do they know where to focus their time, based off of all the different prospects that are working with Salesforce?
And so I find that I spend a lot of my time, not necessarily focusing right now on how can you have an effective conversation, but I’m teaching people a lot about how to manage your day according to your calendar versus all of the different competing things that come at them, which I find interesting. I thought I was going to be doing a lot of coaching here, like, “OK. This is how you talk to a customer effectively. This is how you get to the pain that they’re focused on as an organization.” But I find that the biggest thing that’s rolling up right now is, “Oh, my gosh. I’m kind of overwhelmed as a young, new professional at Salesforce. And I don’t know how to use my time effectively.”
The other thing that’s interesting is that we are now having our sales development team much more focused on how much business is actually closing. So we’re not really focused as much on how many calls they’re necessarily making, or how many emails they’re sending, but how much of the business that they source is actually coming to fruition. And so that’s a very distinctive change for our young, new professionals. Because they are thinking, “Oh, it’s not just how many calls I make; it’s how effective are my conversations while I’m trying to manage my day-to-day effectively.”
So it’s a lot on their plates. It’s interesting to be running a team where I’m trying to sort of manage all the competing priorities.
Bertuzzi: Yeah. So that’s interesting. I want to go into consulting mode. How bad is that? If you were my client, here’s what I would say to you. You need to think about role specialization. Having people switch from task to task to task is counterintuitive and counterproductive.
So I just finished Jill Konrath’s latest book, More Sales, Less Time. It is fascinating. It is filled with research about how our brain works and how in this multitask world, that we’re actually being not only less productive, but we have less clarity of thinking around problem solving because of the way our brains work on dopamine.
Let me give an example. If someone responds to an email immediately, they get a dopamine rush. Like that’s a good thing, right? But if you’re going from calls to email to chat to this and that, what’s happening is your brain is getting the wrong chemicals and it doesn’t feel good, and you’re not doing as good work. So I highly recommend Jill Konrath’s book. I found it so interesting. I’ve actually changed how I structure my day now.
I shut off email. It’s just like closed down until I need to send an email or do something else. So then I batch all those like activities together and it’s made me so much more productive. I’m going to claim that it’s given me back easily 40 minutes a day, and that’s a lot of time.
Micalizzi: It’s a fantastic book. And we did have Jill on the podcast, as well. I’ll include a link to that episode in the show notes.
Bertuzzi: Oh, it was fascinating. I loved it.
Micalizzi: It’s such a great book. I’m curious, have the challenges changed in the past year or year or two? Or are they the same and just getting that much more difficult?
Bertuzzi: I’m not sure the challenges have changed. I think the people that are now addressing those challenges have changed. So sales development, hottest job in sales today, right? Which means demand far outstrips supply.
Which means — and our reports show this — our 2016 SDR report says the average tenure or experience for SDRs has dropped dramatically. So now we’re putting people with the least amount of experience in front of a challenge that is escalating. And I think that’s where people are struggling, is how do I get these people up to speed?
Like Alexa, she’s teaching people time management. Well, if those people were two or three years in the industry, she would be doing the coaching she thought she had to do. So I think therein lies the difference. It’s the challenge is escalating, the skillset of the people we’re putting up against that challenge is dropping based on market realities, and that’s where we are.
Nayman: Yeah. I would absolutely agree with that.
I think with what’s happening with the internet and making information much more available to prospects, before it was a lot of information was only available to salespeople. And now it’s really accessible to everybody who has an internet connection or a phone. Right? So the salespeople or the sales development representatives, they’re actually coming into the buying process later, and they’re expected to have so much more information ready to talk with the prospect about. So you’re exactly right.
We have these newer professionals that don’t have a lot of experience in the workforce, and then they’re expected to be able to have these strategic conversations about the vision of a business. And they are so new and fresh that they’re sort of saying, “Oh, my gosh.” A woman that works for me, her name is Madeline Dibble, she recently created these flashcards. And they’re literally physical flashcards that the sales development team has at their desk, of all the different products that Salesforce provides. And they are quick, little snapshots.
And I watch the SDRs all day long and they are using these flashcards all day, every day. Because there is so much information, even as a Salesforce employee, that’s available to us, that it almost is too much for these sales development teams. So we’ve actually gone back to some of the basics, which is actual, physical flashcards, which have been extremely effective. It’s very interesting.
Bertuzzi: That is such a great idea. I love that. I’m going to liberate that from you and use it with my clients. Thank you.
Nayman: Again, the credit goes to the woman that works for me, Madeline Dibble. Have you seen recently just with some of the customers that you’ve been working with the same sort of trend of the prospect has way more information, and the sales development teams are supposed to know way more?
Bertuzzi: I think it really depends on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. I do think that that particular statistic is overinflated dramatically. First it was 50% of the way through, then 60, then 70, then 80, and it’s increasing. It’s crazy.
And I also think maybe it’s a little bit different for Salesforce because you’re such a well-known brand. But I think if companies aren’t as well-known, or they are selling to innovators and early adopters, people aren’t on that quest to collect that information because they don’t even know they have the problem. So I think there are different situations, depending on what your solution is and where you’re selling in that technology-adoption lifecycle.
Nayman: That makes a lot of sense.
Micalizzi: So, Trish, I’m curious. When we had chatted in the studio a while back with John Barrows, he had said he’s starting to see more folks further on in their sales career actually going back to inside sales because they would prefer to get off the road, so to say. Are you seeing that happening, as well?
Bertuzzi: To some extent. I also think it’s not only being exhausted from being a road warrior, which is exhausting, but inside sales level of income has increased dramatically.
So it’s almost — and in some instances is — on par with what field sales executives are used to. So the more field sales reps I talk to, they look at their inside sales brother and they’re like, “Wait. You make $180,000 — I make $210,000 — but you never travel and you get to be with your family every night. Huh. Let me think about that.” So I think there is some of that going on, as well.
Additionally, let’s be realistic. Field sales reps now spend 80% of their time doing the same job as inside sales people do. They’re still using phone, email and social 80% of the time, and maybe 20% of the time they’re actually on the road. What I have seen is the emergence of what we now call a hybrid role, which is 80% inside, 20% you get to travel out into your territory. And I think that’s where we’re going to land eventually.
There won’t be inside sales and outside sales anymore, there will just be hybrids. And someone will think of a better name than that, but it won’t be me.
Micalizzi: Understood. We’ve talked about Jill Konrath’s book in terms of the time management. We’ve also talked about kind of managing the information and making sure that your sales development reps have enough. What else are organizations doing to try and solve some of these challenges?
Bertuzzi: I’m a huge fan of technology that benefits the reps, not the managers.
There are technologies out there now that are super sophisticated call-recording technologies, where AI is in play, where they can tag automatically different parts of a conversation so reps can self-educate themselves on how to get better. And they can listen to just parts of their own calls or send parts of their own calls to their manager or product marketing or whatever the case may be.
So, Alexa, think of it this way. Your team is using this type of technology and one of your reps is stuck on this particular objection. It’s a 40-minute call. They can send you that six minutes and you can coach them just on that six minutes right inside the technology. That stuff I love, because I record all of my own calls, so I use it internally to educate myself and my team, as well.
Nayman: Yeah, that would be amazing. We do a lot of call monitoring here. I’m always coaching my managers to listen in to their sales development teams’ calls. So, to be able to have a specific piece of the puzzle — because they are noticing that a lot of the conversations are taking longer. So even the chats that come in, for example, if somebody is coming in through the chat to talk with us about Salesforce, they can take up to 40 minutes. You’re absolutely correct. So that would be amazing. Let me talk to Marc Benioff and see what he says.
Bertuzzi: There you go. I’m sure he’ll make an acquisition.
Micalizzi: So let me ask, Alexa, I know you brought up that your folks are not just measured on the pipe that they’re bringing in, but there is also a certain amount of how many of those deals close. So my question is for both of you. What are you seeing in terms of how we’re measuring success? And are folks doing it effectively, or should we be reevaluating how we measure the success of our sales development teams?
Bertuzzi: I’ll be honest with you. I am not a huge fan of measuring sales development on revenue, unless it’s a very small portion of their incentive.
I get when people do it, because they think it’s going to force the sales development rep to have better conversations. And maybe it does, and maybe it doesn’t. The reason I’m not a huge fan of that particular metric is because it’s out of the control of the sales development rep. Once they pass the lead to an AE, it’s 100% in the control of an AE. So if they pass the lead to a crappy AE — and, yes, there are crappy account executives out there — and they guy can’t close his way out of a paper bag, who gets penalized?
The SDR. Or they pass it to the AE and that deal is lost to the competition. Well, the SDR still did their job. They got the right company with the right guy. And if you look at what really closes, if you look at a pipeline, 25% of the time you win, 25% of the time you lose to competition, and 50% of the time you lose to no decision. And those are metrics I’ve been tracking for 25 years, so I know they’re right.
So, essentially, what you are saying is, “Hey, SDR, 25% of the time you’re going to win.” And to me it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. So I’m not a fan of that.
Nayman: You’re totally on the right page. We hear you loud and clear. And the new comp plan that we’ve created, it’s about a 10% —
Nayman: Of their income that’s related to — OK. Good. I was hoping that would pass the test with you. It’s about 10% because we totally understand that trend. What we’ve recently designed is to have a big portion of their income is based off of the team number across the entire sales development org, which is interesting.
So 10% is based off of their own individual attainment, and then another piece is the team attainment. So we’re trying to drive a culture. The culture is a big piece of sales development. I’ve been at Salesforce for seven years, and now I work on a floor full of sales development representatives. And the floor energy is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen. They’re literally playing songs and dancing and waving their hands, and there are things hanging from the ceiling. And so the team aspect around culture is something that is extraordinary that I’m so grateful to be a part of.
But I think, to answer your question, Kevin, the thing that’s interesting about this role specifically is it’s constantly changing. So I’ll come into a meeting one day, where we’re thinking we might change things to go one direction, and then the next day we’re going a totally different direction. The pace at which we’re sort of trying to shift and adjust to motivate these people to be extraordinary is really an incredible pace.
So, Trish, maybe you can speak to that — about how do you, as a leader in this pace, make a decision that you can stick with for an extended period of time versus making daily decisions based off the competing priorities that are coming across from the business. It’s quite a challenge.
Bertuzzi: Oh, Alexa, if I could answer that question I would be retired and rich. That’s just like the hardest problem there is, I don’t care what business you’re in.
You just have to make informed decisions, stick with it long enough so you can actually measure results, and don’t be a knee-jerk organization. But, yeah, I don’t have a great answer for that question at all.
Nayman: Then maybe we’ll find a way to get rich and figure it out. Yeah, it’s absolutely, I think, one of the biggest challenges. It’s good to hear, actually, that I’m not alone in that challenge.
Nayman: It’s good to know. The pace is extraordinary, so it’s good to hear that I’m not alone in that.
Micalizzi: Let’s take a minute and talk about what sales development reps can be doing better or differently. I’d love to give them some practical takeaways from the conversation. I know we’ve talked a lot about trends. We’ve also talked about some advice, more for leadership. What do you both recommend for the sales development reps out there, either starting their career or a little ways in?
Bertuzzi: Alexa, you go first this time.
Nayman: Okay. I think that it’s important that we enable sales development teams to feel that they are contributing to the business significantly. I think it’s important to focus their energy on the bigger picture because it inspires them to understand that what they’re doing is contributing so significantly to the business. So instead of just focusing on, “Hey, guys. Get in there and make these calls today,” it’s more like, “Think about the impact that you’re making to this company.”
When we report back to our shareholders about what we’re doing as an organization, take pride in knowing that you were the beginning of that process. You guys helped to shift the direction of a prospect’s vision, of a prospect’s company.” And I find that the more that SDRs can understand the “why” behind the behaviors that we’re asking them to do, the why behind why we have set up comp plans the way they are and all those things, the more that they sort of get into the meat of the why, and the more energy they have because they are inspired by what we’re doing as an organization.
And so I think from a perspective of what advice would I give, I’d say ask your managers. Ask your managers why and just say, “Hey, why are we doing it this way? What has been the thought process behind this? Where did it come from?” And, hopefully, your managers are cool enough to kind of share with you why. And then, hopefully, that will inspire you to see the impact that you’re making on a greater scale.
Bertuzzi: Phenomenal advice, Alexa.
Nayman: Thank you.
Bertuzzi: You’re welcome. So I am going to give sales development reps two tips.
One is super tactical and one is coaching. My tactical tip is — now that I’m so fluent in brain science after reading Jill’s book — that one thing that I’ve seen make people super productive is to combine like activities. So if you’re making first calls to brand new prospects, do all your precall planning at one point in time. Make all of your first calls in one point in time or block of time.
Make all of your second calls in one block of time. Or, if you are selling into different verticals, combine those verticals together so you’re making calls. The more you can group like activities together, the more your brain is going to function incredibly more efficiently, and you’ll have much more clearer thinking, and your messaging will be much more on point. I can’t emphasize time blocking enough. I think it’s a critical success factor for SDRs.
My other piece of advice for SDRs is: You own your own success. Not your company, not anyone else, you. Self-development is the most critical success factor in any industry today, but especially in sales development and sales. Don’t go to your manager and say, “I need to learn more.” Learn more on your own. Read books. Go to meet-ups. Ask to go to events.
Ask if you can watch webinars. There is so much information available out there about the amazing world of sales. Immerse yourself, because nobody owns your success but you. And that’s a point that I try to make with every sales rep that I speak with.
Micalizzi: That’s fantastic advice, and we hear it from so many of the people we speak with. And, unfortunately, sales training is not as strong across the industries.
And nobody is going to make sure that you are developing yourself and your career, so it is really up to you.
Bertuzzi: It is.
Micalizzi: Definitely. So, Trish, before we wrap up I know Matt from The Bridge Group has a new book out. I just wanted to talk a little bit about that.
Bertuzzi: Yes. Matt is a five-time Salesforce MVP, which I think makes him a lifetime MVP. And he is passionate about sales development and he’s passionate about Salesforce.
He recently wrote a book called Lightning Sales Ops: Building Salesforce for Sales Development Teams. If you are a Salesforce admin, it is a must read. If you are a sales development manager, it is a must read, but you can skip the geek parts. It’s a great book. It really talks about how the Lightning Experience is really the way to go to support sales development efforts.
And props to you guys for supplying the technology, and props to Matt for building the roadmap for people to build it out.
Micalizzi: Fantastic. Trish, thank you so much for taking the time to join us again today.
Bertuzzi: Anytime, Kevin. You know I’m a big fan of Quotable and what you’re doing for your community.
Micalizzi: Appreciate it. And, Alexa, thank you for joining me to co-host today.
Nayman: Absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity.
Micalizzi: And, remember, the best way to keep up with all of the great sales experts at Quotable is by subscribing at quotable.com/subscribe.
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