786: Key Tactics for Building Your SDR Team w/ Dan Sterling


In this episode we talk to Dan Sterling, Director of Sales at ListenFirst Media.

Dan shares practical tactic for building your sales team, starting with the SDR roles. His suggestions include:

  • Redefining the SDR role: a blend of outreach + support/strategy
  • Looking for curiosity & analytical skills when hiring for the role
  • Creating a tag-team approach throughout the sales cycle between the SDR and Account Executive
  • Setting up SDR's for a positive career trajectory & advancement opportunities

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Click here to connect with this guest on LinkedIn.

Looking for a guaranteed way to create content that resonates with your audience? Start a podcast, interview your ideal clients and let them choose the topic of the interview, because if your ideal clients care about the topic, there's a good chance the rest of your audience will care about it too. Learn more at sweetfish MEDIACOM. You're listening to be tob growth, a daily podcast for B TOB leaders. We've interviewed names you've probably heard before, like Gary Vander truck and Simon Senek, but you've probably never heard from the majority of our guests. That's because the bulk of our interviews aren't with professional speakers and authors. Most of our guests are in the trenches leading sales and marketing teams. They're implementing strategy, they're experimenting with tactics, they're building the fastest growing betb companies in the world. My name is James Carberry. I'm the founder of sweetish media, a podcast agency for BB brands, and I'm also one of the CO hosts of this show. When we're not interviewing sales and marketing leaders, you'll hear stories from behind the scenes of our own business. Will share the ups and downs of our journey as we attempt to take over the world. Just getting well, maybe let's get into the show. Welcome back to the B tob growth show. I'm your host for today's episode, Logan Lyles. I am joined today by Dan Sterling. He is the director of sales at listen first media D and How's it going today? Great, Logan, happy Friday. Happy Friday to you, sir. We're recording this on a short week, so thank you for making a little bit of time out of your short week to record this interview with us. Really excited to have you on the show. Yeah, you got it awesome. Well, Dan, we are going to be talking about something that's very top of mine for you, effective strategies for building an SDR team based on the point of trajectory that you guys are at at listen first media. I know this is something that's very top of mine for you, so excited to hear your feedback and some tactics and strategies you can share with our audience. Before we do that, I would love for you to give a little bit of background on yourself and the team at listen first media. Absolutely so. I've been in marketing and sales for about fifteen years now, the past ten mostly with software as a service companies that are media related and join listen first about a year ago to help with their growth. Were relatively lean and mean team for now, but rapidly growing it out. So really exciting time here and that's really you know, in thinking about how you build a really effective and and really different sales development team. I've experienced some of our tactics that we put in place here that I think have been really good, as well as what I've seen other companies different models for how to effectively do that sales development role. So excited to share a little bit about that today with you. Yeah, I'm very excited to hear your perspective. I saw a thread on Linkedin the other day just...

...kind of debating back and forth the SDR roll. Actually, maybe it was on twitter. In any event, it was. I think there are some great conversations going on about, you know, the evolution of the SDR and the AE rolls and how you find people to fit in those roles and what makes sense for your organization. So let's jump right in. The first thing I know you mentioned was redefining the Sdr Roll, tell us a little bit about your thoughts. They're Dan. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think you know some people, obviously those who have done the role or maybe been a companies and experience the model where, you know, folks are in this sort of crush the phones. Extremely high volume of outbound not only phone but but email, of course, is as phone becomes less of an effective method. But nonetheless, I think that's it. You know, it's a position that tends to have pretty high turnover and sort of burnout rate. So I think a lot of companies are starting to rethink that and what it comes down to for me is, you know, it's empowering these people. I mean generally, you know it is a more junior role, it's people earlier in their careers, but absolutely everybody joining a company wants to feel empowered in the role that they're in and to me it's about making it feel even if it is for some going to be a stepping stone roll, have it feel like it's not and really that they're making a big contribution because at the end of the day, I think anybody who's involved in new sales you know, like I, have been realized as what a big contribution they can make in helping the team scale and helping build that pipeline. So that, to me, is really what it's about, is to make it a role is more quality and people don't look at as just like a grind that they're trying to get through in order to get that next promotion up into a sales role. Right, I think definitely. You know that SDR Bedr role can definitely feel like a grind. If you have an environment that makes it feel even more like a grind and you treat it that way, then it's kind of doubling down on the negative parts of that right, exactly. So one of the things you mentioned as we were prevent for this interview, Dan was, you know, making it a blend of outreach and support and strategy. Tell us a little bit about, you know, how you foresee maybe your team, or you've done it in the past, to kind of blend this role beyond just an outreach roll that that kind of takes away from that just grind mentality of what you typically see in in an SDR position. Yeah, sure, I think you know. I'll talk a little bit about how we've implemented it here, and it's really related a lot to what kind of a product we essentially sell and what we offer. So folks listening can think about how that might apply to their own business, depending on the solution they're providing. But in any case, you know, we're in social media analytics and insight firm, so we deal a lot with big data, but we also have a whole team of strategists that helps top brands essentially understand what's working for them as far as their social strategy by looking at the data, and so having that whole...

...strategy group in house is great and it's a big part of what our total solution involves. So what we've done with the business development roll, the SDR roll if you will, is to not only have them doing the outreach but again creating that blend where part of what they're doing is learning how to do the insights with our data and being able to offer that up when we reach out to prospects. So it creates a much better sort of first impression touch. When we go out to prospects, obviously always want to send something relevant to the individual prospect. It can be difficult to do that at scale, but I think taking the time to one train these individuals to understand what are offering is really all about. And then, ultimately, when they do go outbound to prospects, they're offering up something that's a value and they're they're getting people thinking, essentially, and so it accomplishes a couple things in certainly creating a better first impression with the prospects, but also, you know, for again, the individual in the role, it's a little more interesting. They're not just doing outbound a hundred percent of their time. They're spending some time for us doing that, you know, different research and insights, putting the other reports and things like that that we can use not just at the beginning of a funnel but actually throughout the cycle with a prospect. So that's what, to me, makes it more of an interesting role. I think there's a lot of things there, Dan. I mean it prepares them for moving maybe into another role, like an account executive role on the sales team, but, like you said, it also makes a better first impression. I've received sales calls or been in conversations with someone in an str roll and to me it was very obvious that they really didn't understand, you know, the fit or the potential fit even between their value prop and and my potential pain. And it didn't give me a great impression of, you know, the company in general, because they are the first impression, even though you know, like like we said, and I think this was the debate that I was kind of tuning into on twitter as well, you know your SDRs are the first touch point, but it's typically a junior role because it is kind of a grind. So how do you how do you balance those two things? So I think that can definitely come into play there. So I think that segues nicely into the next point I knew you had to talk about. Is is hiring for this role. It thinking about it in kind of this blended way. What are some of the things that you have your eyes out for and you think other sales leaders should be thinking about? As you know, they build an initial or they scale their existing as Dr Team. Yeah, great question. I think you know, obviously the interest in sales is important, but I think here to sort of flip the script a little bit. You know, that's sort of the obvious is like, okay, find people who are really motivated and want to get into sales, and that's where I think looking beyond that is important and we found a lot of success with...

...sort of out of the box candidates, if you will, and really what we're looking for. You know, again because of what I described in are doing insights and that which I think really any company can do, even though we're a data and insight company. If that's not the product that you know that you offer as a company, I think that's okay. Every company can come up with certain interesting content around their industry. So at the end of the day, you want to find people that are analytical and curious, so they may not have to lead all this research themselves, but again with a little support, whether it's from the Marketing Department or, in our case, I mentioned, the strata of the client strategy group, that they have some support and the natural inclination to dive in and be curious about the content. I think that's what's really going to help them succeed in the role, so that you don't have to hold their hands through all of it. They can actually be self sufficient in coming up with some of the insights and IDA is and and that can translate into campaigns that they then go out to to certain industries with. So I think that that analytical background and then, of course you definitely want to touch, you know, on their interest in sales and just obviously their ability to be client facing as well. If you can find the right mix between those communication skills, the curiosity and analytical parts, I think it makes for a good candidate. Are there's some specific things you guys have done, Dan to kind of I don't want to say tests, but you know, look for those indicators of, you know, curiosity and analytical skills in your process as you put out feelers or within the hiring process itself. Yeah, you know, for me I like to describe the role. I mean you always want to get candidate's excited about a role, obviously, and I think for them, you know, who knows what other interviews they've had and what other things they've heard and experience with other companies, but you know, when they interview with me, I want them to be excited about it and I want to describe it so that they realize it's the type of role I've just described right, that it's not just hey, come in and crush the phones, because you know how many people are really going to want that where you're like, you know, come in and do a hundred dials a day and you're going to burn out in three months. You know and that that's never going to work. So to really dive into some of these different things. So then, what I'm testing for to your question, is to see what their thoughts are on that, how they feel about a role like this, and also how they would approach certain situations. And because we hire people that typically have at least a little bit of experience, I'm always looking to see what projects they might have worked on where they were putting together reports or using their companies content or things like that. You know, again, beyond just the functionality of what typical outbound is like, beyond that, have they, you know, put together any research before? Things like that? You know they're writing skills. Those are all going to be good indicators to me. I think that's a great example of kind of, you know, probing for some of those real world examples of where they've applied those skills and shown the curiosity to dig a little bit deeper in past projects or past...

...roles. I think that's fantastic advice. They're damn the next thing I know you wanted to touch on was this idea of creating the ultimate tag team between the SDR and the Sales Reute. Tell us a little bit about, you know, what you think the shining example of what that, you know, could be, of what that tag team should look like and what you can do to kind of get there? Sure? Well, certainly, you know, most of what they're going to do is obviously beginning of the funnel. You know, in terms of the outbound they're obviously trying to, you know, fill up the calendar for all the folks who are doing the business development at the AE level. So that's that's going to be a big part of their time, certainly, and again it's finding that balance of how much of their time is spent actually executing on the campaign's making calls, doing follow ups, etc. To get those meetings booked and then carving out some time to do those other projects, again, reports or working with content that can help with the the you know, at the beginning of the funnel, but throughout. So to me one thing that I've seen really work here was using them at the beginning, certainly a lot, but then even once a call was booked, that's where taking sort of the tag team approach. Let's say I'm then taking over the opportunity, you know, my SDRs book to call for me. I have that first call and then I'm sort of running with it from there. Is Pretty typical. Instead, what we do is to actually re engage the str at certain points as needed. So, for instance, I might have a call and then a demo with a client, but I know that the next thing to do a few days later would be to send them some great content. Sometimes it's nice to switch up the voices there. So that would be a chance to maybe have the FDR do the third touch right and then I jump back in for the fourth touch, so that we're sort of taming up to move the clients through the funnel. And I'm coming at it as the AE, let's say. I'm coming at it more from the sales cycle perspective. The STR re engages from more of the inside like Hey, we just publish this great content we thought would be helpful to you. So obviously either person can do parts of that, but it's nice to have that sort of tag team approach. Yeah, I love that. The little bit of a wrinkle there. I think that it, you know, depends on it depends obviously on your product. It depends on, you know, your deal size and volume, but any recommendations for other sales laters on what you've seen successful as far as ratio of SDRs to a ease, at least in your experience? Damp sure, I mean the you know in this may not apply to everybody in the model where we're a pretty enterprise level sale and so we certainly don't do the large volume where it's going to demand a much higher level of automation, lower level of personalization all that. So for our particular sale we've actually found that a one to one ratio can be really helpful because that relationship can be developed. We're doing targeting into certain verticals etc.

So that to me is great because you can really create that relationship, get into the groove with each other and and really form that sort of team. But recognizing that that's not necessarily going to be the model for everybody, I think it really it really just depends on what the objectives are. But again, my main thing always is going to be automation is great, but ultimately real personalization with the content and with anything that's going out to the prospect is what, to me, is going to put you ahead, and so whatever the ratio it takes to achieve that. Obviously everybody's going to have automation in place. You need to, but you have to find a way to also create something constant for everybody you're going out to. Yeah, and it sounds like for for your case at least, and you know that personalization by bringing the SDR in for those, you know, third five maybe every other touch as you're working through a longer sales cycle, tag teaming it with the sales rep that's where you know that that actual customization, that that personalization from another person really can can come into play. So I think that's that's great advice. They're obviously depending on, like we said, your volume and your deal size. Can determine if that's the right strategy for you, but I think that's great advice for folks that are kind of in a similar road map. As far as you know, they're their sales methodology. The last thing I know you want to touch on as well, Dan, was thinking about the career trajectory in the advancement opportunities for the str and those individuals that you're bringing onto this team. So you touched on in a little bit. I love what you said about, you know, peeling back the curtain and giving them a sense of what the roles going to be, because I think that, you know, especially in sales hiring, you know, we can get this idea of okay, well, prove yourself to me and not making sure that it's a good fit both ways. So kind of beyond that, tell us a little bit about what you think you can do to to set your SDRs up for advancement opportunities, you know, both for the benefit of the individual and for your sales team as a whole. Yeah, solutely. It's a it's a great point to bring up. And the you know, I actually just read an article this week and there was a top workforce strategists who's a professor at Myu, and she talked about, and this was really geared towards the candidates, that the critical question to be asking of the hiring managers is about professional development and a lot of times it's something that candidates don't really ask and likewise, in thinking from the perspective of a hiring manager, you know, the hiring managers need to think about that as well and be ready for Candidas to ask that question. So I think it is really important and and this is a role, certainly especially for sales teams that are scaling rapidly, where they can be like well, let's just hire a ton of people and see what works out, you know, and that approach to it's not always going to be the best, obviously, and you do want to consider...

...to your point, you know that it's a good fit both ways. That's ultimately going to lead to, you know, very high employee retention and our company has traditionally had that. So it certainly something we're looking to build upon as we continue to grow. So I think to the question as far as the trajectory, I think it's good to ID some pathways that both go into sales. Obviously, so this person could you know, if they're great in that particular role and they really have the sales acumen and they've shown that through executing on this type of str role that we've described, then great. You know, we need to identify a couple levels of promotion. In our case because we're a little more enterprise, like higher dollar value sale. It's tough to have them jump right up to, say, like a senior AE level, obviously, so identifying those those middle promotion opportunities is important, but then I think equally as important is thinking about where that person might be able to go after this role if it isn't sales, right, and so for us that could be joining the client strategy team. It could be like a customer success manager, right. A lot of companies have that sort of CSM model or maybe roles that really aren't even client facing. But I think taking some time to figure that out as helpful because I think from what I've described, while some companies might have SDRs in seat for as little as six months and that I think this is a role that, if you create it with a level of quality, you know people could be in the role happily for a year or two and then obviously you then groomed them to be very successful in the company, hopefully in another role. Yeah, I think all of that is definitely going to, you know, overall help the company growth because you know that people are going to turn out of that str role eventually, hopefully it's not as quick as you know in some cases where it can be very, very quickly, but looking at multiple ways out because if you find someone that you know really does lean more heavily on that analytical side and you have another spot for them other than just only being able to move into that ae roll, and something that's going to help the company grow and be the right advancement for them. I think all of that is definitely worth considering as you think about, you know, your hiring process and thinking about the ways that you can provide advancement for the sales team members that you bring on. Well, Dan, this has been a phenomenal conversation. I think a lot of sales leaders are going to get some some value out of this and folks just building a team in general. I think you've touched on some great things. If anybody listening to this would like to follow up with you or ask any follow up questions or just stay connected with you, and what's the best way for them to go about doing that? Sure well, they can find me, certainly, on Linkedin, Dan Sterling, and I'm listened first and also, you know, we are, as I mentioned, currently hiring for this role. So if anybody out there listening know somebody in their network who'd be...

...interested, where in New York City you can go to listen? First Mediacom, and there's a business development coordinator role on there. So certain a candidate referrals are welcome. So awesome. Well, best a lot continuing to grow the team, Dan, and thanks so much for coming on the show today. Yeah, appreciate a looking thank you. Becoming a thought leader doesn't just happen. If you want to build a strong personal brand and extend your reach online and offline, you need a plan. Want help developing yours, check out impact summit. This one day event is bringing together best selling authors, professional athletes, influential CEOS and emerging entrepreneurs, all for one purpose, to equip you to lead, influence and inspire. Whether you're looking to build a lasting legacy with your business or extend the reach of your brand. Impact Summit speakers will share inspiring stories and practical lessons to help you on your way. Did we mention a session on launching and growing a podcast? You guessed it. You'll hear from sweet fish media's own James carberry during that session. You won't want to miss all of these influencers and leaders coming together in Salt Lake City on October thirteen. Ready to learn more? Check out influencer ink dot CEO. IMPACT SUMMIT BE TOB growth listeners can get fifteen percent off the price of their tickets for this event by using the Promo Code Sweet Fish. Sweet Fish, so use that code, get your tickets today and get ready to grow your brand and your influence at Impact Summit two thousand and Eighteen.

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