Managing a successful, high-performing outbound sales team is no easy feat. Depending on your company, the size of your team, the organizational culture etc., there are different ways you can go about managing your team. There are also some rules that apply in every situation, too.
Aaron Ross engages in an insightful conversation with Ralph Barsi, Senior Director of Global Demand Center at ServiceNow, Lauren McGuire, Director of Lead Generation at Box, and Mark Roberge, CRO of Hubspot, about what they learned managing sales teams and the mistakes they made along the way so you can avoid them.
A few things they encourage is getting your BDRs to develop their personal branding online, comping on revenue for short sales cycles, and helping your employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.
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Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome author of best seller must-read, Predictable Revenue, and co-author of From Impossible to Inevitable, Aaron Ross.
Aaron Ross: I’m excited for the panel today. There we go. I’m going to take this spot. Do I introduce them or does God introduce them?
Aaron: We’ve got Ralph Barsi from ServiceNow.
Aaron: Super Bowl entrance. We need paper here you can break through.
Ralph Barsi: Hey.
Aaron: Hey. Thanks for joining us.
Ralph: How are you? Is this thing on?
Aaron: Yep. Mark Roberge, former CRO of HubSpot, now lounging at Harvard as a professor, man of leisure.
Mark Roberge: Good to see you, buddy.
Aaron: Glad to have you. Lauren, here, McGuire from Box.
Aaron: 34 weeks?
Lauren McGuire: Yeah.
Aaron: Glad to have you.
Aaron: All right guys, you could take a seat.
Ralph: Thank you.
Aaron: Quickly, Lauren’s managing the SDR team at Box. Prior, you also worked at Salesforce. Mark Roberge, I don’t think we need much more introduction for you. Sorry.
Aaron: Ralph here, managing the SDR team at…
Aaron: ServiceNow. Before that, you’ve done…
Ralph: Prior I was at InsideView and Achievers in San Francisco.
Aaron: One more thing before we start the actual panel. I’d like you to share just a bit of a fun or weird or a random fact about yourself. Obviously, mine, I’ve got 11 kids. But besides that, I like tattoos, so does my wife.
Lauren: Nice. I have a degree in pre veterinary medicine and was supposed to be a veterinarian. Oops.
Aaron: Never too late…
Aaron: …to follow your dreams.
Mark: I have a slew of celebrity stories from my 20s in New York. I had a fun time. One of the good ones was I fell asleep on Diana Ross’s shoulder in a club, which was cool. What was really cool about it…
Mark: Yeah, kind of. I was tired. What was really cool about it, I tell this story when we do our Millennial BDR group meetings. I was dating myself because two of them…
Aaron: “Who’s Diana Ross?”
Mark: …said, “Who’s Diana Ross?” The other one said, “I think she knitted the American flag.”
Aaron: Oh, my God.
Mark: What am I, 300 years old?
Ralph: I’ve been a drummer for 42 years. If I had not gone the sales and sales leadership path, I would have been a drummer in a band. My band is called Segue, S E G U E, not to be mistaken for what you ride around San Francisco. We have three albums, all on Spotify and iTunes. How about that?
Aaron: That’s cool.
Aaron: Look them up.
Ralph: Cool stuff.
Aaron: Let’s start off with a conversation starter here. In terms of we talk about managing teams, reflect back on mistakes that you have made or may be making that you still see everybody making time and again. Lauren, you want to start here?
Lauren: Sure. I think the biggest mistake I made early on was not getting loud when my ratios got too high. I let myself get up to 20 to 1 reps.
Aaron: Is that like one prospector, SDR to 20 closers?
Lauren: Actually, how many direct reps I was managing.
Aaron: Oh, that you were managing, I got you.
Aaron: You had 20?
Lauren: Yes, not accomplishing a lot.
Aaron: What do you think is a fairer number?
Lauren: I would say closer to 10.
Aaron: Good, good answer. You passed. Yeah.
Mark: I’ll throw two out there to start. When we started our BDR program, first off, I think we had like five or 10 of them throwing appointments over to a couple of reps. We were comping them on the meetings set.
Basically, what happened was, the reps were lying for the number of meetings that were set if they crushed their number to hook up their BDR and they were complaining that they shouldn’t get credit for meetings when they missed their number.
Also, what was happening was, all the reps had slightly different preferences on how far along they wanted the appointment and what they wanted the BDR to accomplish, etc. We had a lot of success in having just a tighter alignment. We went to a three to two ratio of BDRs to AEs. You saw the AEs….
Aaron: Three BDRs to two AEs.
Mark: Three BDRs to two AEs. They just had a really great relationship that we didn’t have to just get in and define all the rules. They all had regular preferences. The AEs tended to mentor the BDRs a lot more because it would come back to them.
The other big thing is, we had a shorter sales cycle so we comped the BDRs on the revenue success of those AEs. We didn’t comp on meetings at all. Not everyone can do that. You guys have longer sales cycles.
The point there is, I’m not a huge fan of comping on meetings, something that short. Comp on revenue if you have a short sales cycle or if you have a longer one, comp on something like pipeline generation or something like that.
Aaron: Some sort of qualified step after meeting beyond that. Just a quick question, what do you think is the most…? In terms of ratio of one BDR can support up to how many salespeople effectively?
Mark: I think it’s so, so contextual. Like, on your deal size, and that kind of stuff. I think it’s something that needs to be experimented with. Obviously, the trade off there is…
Aaron: More is not better.
Mark: What’s that?
Aaron: More is not…
Mark: It’s not necessarily. Your unit economics are going to blow up, your CAC is going to blow up. You’ve got to maximize that 40 or 50 hour work week for the rep as efficiently as possible. You’ve got to just find that right ratio for your team.
Ralph: I guess a mistake or challenge or something I would do differently is get the BDRs to focus more on how they’re branding themselves in the marketplace. I used to not make a big deal out of what their LinkedIn profile looked like and what it said and how they appeared and how they represented themselves and the company.
My mindset has really changed over the years because that’s a critical piece. BDRs in their unique role, they’re obscure to the marketplace for the most part. A lot of companies get emails from a BDR, they have no clue who they are and they’re immediately pitching.
If they send a halfway compelling email and it’s enticing enough for the recipient to want to look them up and learn about them, you’ve got to give that recipient a location to go learn from and let them do their own studying and research before they decide to engage. I’ve really doubled down on the social selling aspect and really making sure that the BDRs are branding themselves better.
Aaron: Do a lot of the younger BDRs have LinkedIn profiles usually or not?
Ralph: They all do.
Aaron: They all do.
Ralph: In my organization. There’s a lot of younger BDRs in the industry that while they have a LinkedIn profile, they’re certainly not optimizing it. There are still a lot of cases where you see a silhouette as the profile pic.
Aaron: Or there’s a party picture.
Ralph: Yeah, exactly. That just doesn’t help.
Aaron: Actually, speaking about young BDRs, one of the questions people constantly ask and they’re struggling with are expectations and motivations/promotions. Actually, Mark, I think you wanted to…This is one of your main points you wanted to make, right?
Mark: Yeah. We had a lot of success with this. We were banging our heads. Like, I would interview these 22, 23 year old BDRs and I said, “What do you want to be doing in a year?” They’re like, “A year? A year?”
Mark: “I don’t even know if I’m going to be living here.” There’s this totally different perception on time. That got a light bulb going. One of our great sales directors put…What we did was, we created a six tier promotion path. They went through six levels. To get through each level, one of the requirements was not tenure, was not three month. It was…
Aaron: It was not on a time basis.
Mark: Level one was like, “Pass this test, set five appointments, and get one customer.” Then you go to level two. Level two was, “Have an install base of like 30,000 MRR and a churn rate less than two percent.” Level 3…You can keep going on these things.
You could not get through in a week. They weren’t set up so that…It was going to take somewhere between two and four months. But it was really up to them on how fast. There was always that carrot that was like, once they got to level two, there was that thing that was out there.
The rewards were meaningful, options, a $5,000 bump in your base, you can work at home one day a week. At level four, you are now qualified to go into account executive training.
That worked so well to turn this really hard job to be like cold calling all day for 9 to 18 months into something that felt like you were continually making progress. That was a homerun for us and I think worked very well for this type of…
Aaron: There were like six little tiers in the first four to six months, to get them rolling.
Aaron: Then after that was there anything else or was it more…?
Mark: … because the fastest ones got through in seven or eight months. Some of them took two years. It was really cool to have the person that got through seven months be there on the first day of BDR training and say, “Hey, listen. This is what I did. I got through.” They were like that rock star that everyone wanted to be. You controlled your destiny. It worked really well.
Aaron: Lauren and Ralph, anything else about motivation?
Lauren: It’s hard because you have to walk the fine balance between what you’ve committed pipeline wise to the business and if you move someone too close, at the sixth month mark, you might not get in. That’s not sexy for them. Your reps don’t care about that.
You’re trying to walk that balance and still move them in that reasonable time frame. I really like what Mark was saying and setting these goals that you can maybe achieve in 12 months, in six months, or whatever it may be.
Ralph: I’m sorry. I was going to say, “I definitely start with a macro perspective and I show them a statistic that if you make $40,000 today in the United States, you’re among the 3.5 percent wealthiest people in the world and you’re 52 times wealthier than a billion people.”
That gets the BDR to start developing an attitude of gratitude that you’ve got it made already. Also, find a personal trigger, whether that’s people or places that you want to aspire to achieve in your career. That alone will pull you through that day to day grind.
Aaron: Actually, quick question on day to day motivation, because it can be not only…Whether you call it a hard job, it can also be a rote, routine job ,once you’ve got your system down. You’re at it for three months or four months, “All right, I’m doing this.”
At Salesforce, we probably kept them about eight months before we had to promote them. But sometimes, you’d have them in the job for two years.
Aaron: Do you see things that they have done, you have done, to help them enjoy the day to day job more, or at least bring more learning or creativity to it to help shake it up, to help balance out the goal setting?
Lauren: For us, we have to position our roles as building the foundation to be an amazing account executive. When you do have this elevation or promotion path that you tell them, “Look at that person, they’re an enterprise account representative. It’s because they learned A, B, C in this role.”
It’s super important to paint the vision as far as your skill set, “You’re building this foundation and that’s why this, making 40 calls or whatever amount, is super important.”
Aaron: Value of the skills.
Lauren: Yeah, you have to tie it back.
Aaron: It’s a life skill to learn how to do this.
Mark: I’ve seen some amazing cultures. The best one I’ve seen is probably Yelp. I went to their New York office. Jed, their CRO, we’ve had a dialogue for a number of years. We’re just hanging out, having some coffee downstairs. He’s like, “Let’s go up, check out the office.” It’s a freaking dance club.
Mark: You walk in, the music’s blaring. There’s tables of 20 BDRs. Each table is a start class. That’s the September class, that’s the October class, that’s the November class.
On the pillars, there’s huge life size paintings of the BDR of the month on the wall. Then the bell rings and someone stands on the stage and someone goes up to the second floor and there’s dollar bills floating down.
Aaron: Where was this?
Mark: It was Yelp in New York. If you have a chance to…I’ve seen ones like this. You can picture this. You can get very creative in a culture. It’s super fun for them to show up to work. They feel like…
Aaron: Although, after six months of that…
Aaron: Everyone gets tired of…You can live at the…
Mark: Maybe. I think it worked pretty well for them. But maybe they do get burnt out. You see these environments are just a lot of fun. You can get creative with that.
Ralph: While most of the BDRs end up pursuing a sales a career, there’s a lot that don’t. We want to make it very clear that there’s a multitude of paths that they can take. The ones who are doing the best work ultimately become indispensable to the organization.
We will move obstacles out of the way to get them in a place where they’re truly going to shine. That could be as a customer success manager. It could be in the finance team. It doesn’t have to be in sales.
We do follow a long, kind of a two year tenure. At that one year mark, we actually have a come to Jesus meeting and we talk about the first year. We reflect on where their successes have been and then they decide whether or not they want to throw their hat in the ring and really pursue sales and then it will be a two way street and we’ll help get them there.
Or we have a deeper discussion about the other options that are in the organization. This, again, assumes that they’re an A player and they’re adding value.
Aaron: Switching topics here. For part one question, “How big is your team? But how then do you juggle life and work yourself?”
Aaron: Obviously, it’s a perfect question here. The second part is going to be, “What do you expect or tell your team to do on their own?” Do people work a lot? Do you tell them to take time off? Do you tell them not to? There’s no right answer. I’m just curious, because everyone’s a bit different here.
Ralph: For me personally, my organization is 130 people around the world.
Aaron: Around the world, right?
Ralph: Around the world. A hundred of them are BDRs. The other 30 are directors and managers. For me, personally, this, I see as more of a vocation versus a career. It’s the life work balance. It’s all one to me.
I have a wife of 20 years and we have three boys. You have to straddle between the two roles on a 24/7 basis. But when you live by the philosophy, “One team, one mission,” and at work, they know what you’re getting after and at home, they know what you’re getting after, the synergy is there. It’s pretty easy to do.
Mark: I have a lot of time these days. [laughs] It’s kind of busy during the semester but not very busy, so a lot of time to be a good dad and a good husband and a good church member and a good community member, which has been a blast.
I’ll speak to more from the HubSpot days. I put a lot of effort into time management. I would, every month, have this list of three critical things that I need to make happen. I’d check in that list after every week to see if I’m aligned with it.
Then I would, probably every Sunday night, just lay out the entire week schedule, make sure everything’s aligned. I usually left the office at four on Wednesdays and Fridays to just…The other days, I usually didn’t get home before the kids were in bed. But Wednesdays and Fridays were my days to get home, chill, do the baths and do dinner and that kind of stuff.
I never worked on the weekend except after they went to bed. They’d all crash at 9:00, and then I’d do another three hours there. It’s rigorous. You got folks going through this stuff; it’s rigorous. But you’ve got to find that balance for the long term view. I put a lot of time in that time management.
Lauren: I’ll echo a lot of what they’re saying. I put a stop at the end of the day. I take the train so I have to work around…
Aaron: Oh, how old is…this is your second. How old is your first?
Lauren: Yes, she’s two.
Lauren: I have a husband that travels 300 days of the year.
Lauren: Yes. We manage…Google Calendar is our best friend for managing that. We make it work. You go home and you’re home. You’re present. You’re a family member. When they go to bed, you get back online and fix up whatever you need to.
Even if you’re talking about the reps, and I don’t know how your orgs are structured but ours are hourly, and you have to remind them, “Go home.” Because they’re quota based, they want to keep working. I definitely encourage my reps to go take vacations and sometimes just a day off. Just go take a mental break. Everyone needs it, not just us.
Aaron: We have a little bit of time left. I want to point out, Ralph shared a couple of tools. Maybe in the back, you can put up the screen.
Aaron: One’s your reading list of favorite books. I noticed there’s a key one missing. Another one…
Ralph: One’s on there.
Aaron: The other book.
Ralph: The other one, yeah. It’s not there yet.
Aaron: The other one…
Ralph: I haven’t read it yet, sorry.
Aaron: …is an SDR bookends. I don’t know if you can scroll down a little bit to see the picture. You can grab this. This is my Twitter. It’s motoceo on Twitter. What is this?
Ralph: It’s a time management tool that I call the bookends approach. A lot of BDRs in my organizations have used this where they use Monday and Friday as the bookends or the caps of the week where they do a lot of admin work, internal meetings, one on ones. But then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is solely dedicated to in bound lead follow up or outbound prospecting.
The entire organization knows that and will not book meetings with the BDRs because they have blinders on and they’re getting after it on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
Aaron: You can download that from…Also, I posted, Mark has a bottoms up sales and marketing template. It’s below or above this. It’s OK. You can download the Excel. Sorry, stop, sorry. You can download the Excel sheet. This is…
Mark: I wrote a pretty lengthy article on Medium, if you Google my name, Mark Roberge Medium, this summer. One of the things was, so many numbers are missed because of bad planning.
This Excel allows you to input how many reps you’re going to hire a month, what the ramp is, what the attrition is going to be, your manager to rep ratio, the demand of either appointments from BDRs or meetings or leads from in bound is matching up to hit the numbers. It’s a really nice checking point for you.
You can play with that just to make sure as you’re planning for the year, the quarter, all that stuff’s aligned.
Aaron: So you can find him online. Also, there’s a link to it here. Last thing, as we wrap up, I will share that there’s now finally, after a year, the audiobook of From Impossible to Inevitable came out. Thank God.
If you didn’t know that Jason Lemkin and I wrote a book, it’s out there and finally in audio. It took forever. I want to thank you all, Ralph, Mark, and Lauren, great panel. Then we’ll be back here in a few minutes with the next panel which is on building your first outbound team.
Ralph: Thanks, Aaron. Thanks, everybody.
Mark: Thank you, take care.