EPISODE 10: MASTERING THE ART & SCIENCE
OF SALES DEVELOPMENT
Episode 10 Transcript
Alex: Hello and welcome to The SDRealness Podcast brought to you by Sales Development Revolution, where we talk with practitioners about their take on important topics in the space.
I’m Alex Ellison and here with me is my co-host, Greyson Fullbright.
Greyson: Hello, everyone.
Alex: In this series, we’re focusing on becoming a leader in the SDR role and today’s topic is about becoming a master SDR by using both the art and science of sales development to achieve those sales development goals. Joining us for this conversation is David Dulany, the founder and CEO of TenBound, a research and advisory firm focused and dedicated 100% on sales development.
David, I’m so excited to have you with us here today.
David: Hey, thanks for the opportunity, really excited to dive into the topic.
Greyson: Awesome! Cool, so to kind of kick things off, I do want to dive into this definition between art and science. You know, I feel like that gets used as an analogy a lot in various fields because there’s always some data-driven pieces and there’s some more nuanced pieces that I think take time and experience.
And so, you know, I have my own definition. I’m sure there’s a lot of SDRs and managers out there that have their own definition. But, when you think about the art and the science of sales development, what does that mean to you David?
David: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s something to really consider as you’re, you know, diving into your career as a sales development rep, or thinking about going up into sales development management, because when you think about the art and science, the art of sales has always been those soft skills, you know, being able to talk to people, being able to persuade, understanding the pain points that the customers might be going through or the prospects might be going through, and all those sort of squishy, non-measurable things that are just sort of innate as a human being.
So, mastering that part. And then also now, you know, with the advent of all the technological advancements that have happened in the last, you know, 10 or 20 years in this space, being able to understand the science as well and understanding how things, you know, can be tested and improved based on the data that you’re getting. So we’re, you know, put into a position where we you might have a strength in one side or the other, but really to be able to operate effectively in this environment, you’ve got to think about how do I look at the art and the science and become strong on both sides of that equation?
Alex: For sure, I think it’s a super interesting way to frame the the skillsets or skillset, skills that you have as an SDR really to look at, you know, maybe you’re really good at A/B testing and analyzing the reports that come out of that or maybe you’re, you know, better at writing a creative email. But when it comes to actually testing it, you have trouble sort of struggling to see, you know, if it was actually effective, how effective different strategies were, things like that.
But, you are saying, “Oh look, I’m getting leads like something’s working here, but I just can’t nail it down.” As an SDR sort of starts to understand their their strengths and weaknesses with this sort of thing, what are some common mistakes or challenges you’ve seen that as they try and develop, not only their strengths, which is a little easier to do, but developing those weaknesses as well?
David: Yeah I think, you know, just self awareness is the first step. It’s like what do you feel like you’re strongest in? What aspect of that? Are you really, you know, strong in the art of it? Are you great at talking to people? Are you great at opening conversations? Are you great at really empathizing with the struggles that people are having? But, you’re not so great at like analyzing data. If you think about it, that’s a completely different mindset, analyzing data, setting up reports, looking for trends, and things like that. You know, the first thing is kind of what am I really strong at? And what am I great at?
So try to get, you know, to that point first where you can understand where your strengths are. And then from the weakness perspective, it’s like, are there people on the team or are there people in your mentorship community? Are there potentially people in the SDRevolution Slack group that can potentially help you to update those skills and become stronger in that area? So the first thing is just realizing like, “Hey, you can’t be great at everything. But, somebody out there is great at that. And you definitely want to build up your network to be able to tap them on the shoulder and have them help you out.”
And, you know, the other thing is your employer probably wants you to have a breadth of understanding, so to be good at the art and the science. And so you’re going to have to build up at least a basic level, you know, in that example, on the science side, at least a basic level to be able to make reports and analyze basic information, but then, you know, maybe tap somebody on the shoulder to be able to help you with the stuff that you’re not that great at.
Greyson: Yeah. I love that. I really, I’m really glad that you brought up the the concept of self awareness because I feel like that’s a big step just in general kind of entering the professional sphere is being able not only to kind of have that snapshot, right? Because that’s one skill is being self aware in a moment, what are my strengths and weaknesses? But, then kind of having more dynamic awareness to where you can apply that and say, “Okay, here are my strengths and weaknesses, where do I need to be if I’m reaching into this market or if I’m trying to do this part of the job?”
And I think that’s a really good tool belt to have for an SDR because you might not be the best at something, or you might be really great at something, you know, it might… it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. But, I think if you have the awareness to be able to clearly communicate that with people who you might be able to help, or managers or leaders that might be able to help you with something you’re struggling with, I think that’s the first big step. Because you can’t get there, you can’t get over that bridge until someone knows about it, and especially until you know about it. So, I really love that point about self awareness.
David: Yeah. I mean one of my mentors, there’s a guy named Dan Sullivan, and he runs a company called Strategic Coach. And, you know, he’s got a concept of unique ability. And it’s basically everybody’s got a unique ability, everyone out there has something that they’re really good at. And, you know, we spend a lot of time as you come up through school and just in our like environment that we’re in of trying to put everybody into like a box of what they’re supposed to be, and you’re kind of supposed to be good at everything, you’re supposed to get all A’s, right in all these different topics.
But, then you get out of school and it’s like, you know, there’s certain things that you’re really good at and a lot of things that you really suck at. And, you know, you gotta just, you only have a certain amount of time to like develop your career. And so, you know, when you look at that concept of unique ability, it’s like the thing number one is find your unique ability, like, find something that you’re really, really good at, and then just double down, triple down on that.
And then find the people you know in your network, inside and outside your company to help you kind of buttress up the weaknesses. And, you know, we’re talking like the art and science of sales development. So, you know, if you just realize like, “I suck at the art part,” like, “I can’t talk to people,” like, “I just become too impatient,” like, “I really don’t give a crap about my customers. I just like to geek out on the data,” then hey, that’s telling you something.
I mean, you maybe like sales operations or marketing operations or some other part of the process is better. And you should really double down on that and then try to partner up with people who are more into the art side. So, just something to think about.
Alex: Yeah and I really like that. I think, you know, it becomes more and more obvious that you really need other people around you to help you support you in the SDR role. I know, you know, as a personal example, I’ve always been pretty good at writing emails when I was an SDR, but not as good on the phone. And I think the one of the most successful periods I had was when I was working alongside an SDR who was great on the phone, but not quite as good at email.
So, we were able to even though it’s art and art, there’s still that strengths and weaknesses you have to deal with. And we were able to sort of recognize that and he would help with, you know, call scripts, roleplay sort of things, and I would help with the email templates. And between the two of us we were able to get infinitely more dime in, we’re way more successful because of that.
So, I think it really yeah, the arts versus the sciences is the topic here. But, I think you really touched on an important thing, at least to me, of being able to look at not only your mentors, but even just your peers, and seeing where they can help you out and where you can help them out and making it a good relationship in that sense.
David: 100%. I mean and you look at like, again, going through school, it’s, “Hey I’ve got a big exam. I’ve got the SATs. Can I work with a group of people to do this because I’m really good at English but I suck at math?” No, dude, you’re cheating. That’s considered cheating, right? So, we come out, we come through with this mentality that, “Hey I have to be a master of the art and science of sales development and if I suck in one area, I suck,” you know? And it kind of hurts your ego a little bit.
And just, you know, hopefully if you know there’s one thing from this it’s like, whether you’re an SDR or SDR manager or you know, an executive, just realizing like, “Hey there’s stuff that you’re really good at and there’s stuff that you really suck at.” So, your example’s perfect. Now because of this crisis like we’re all remote, so we got to figure out how can we leverage online resources like the community that you guys are starting. How do we leverage internal, you know, dialogues within the company to like build up a little team and make yourself more successful?
Greyson: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. And I think, you know, we spoke about this I think on a different podcast episode about this concept that, you know, everything is done for the company that you work for. And you know, it shouldn’t be for any other reasons. Both for the management side, like, you should be investing in your reps, you should be open-minded to potential improvements for the program. And for the reps, you know, you need to be coachable. You need to be attentive, you need to do the work, and get it done.
And I think that’s an important thing to think about when you’re thinking about trying to master something that’s a weakness or improve something that’s a strength is that you know, Alex is right. But, even if you don’t feel like you do need it, why not take it? That would accelerate your career, it would help that person and give them experience. And to package it all up, hopefully you actually bring some outcomes that are positive for your organization, which I think just everyone involved kind of has a heightened future vision of that career path, right? So, I really love that idea.
Before we wrap up, David, I did want to get some final advice for any SDRs who might be really good at the art side and have the soft skills, they might be really good on the phone with conversations, and then for the SDRs that might be data-driven and really all about optimization, testing, numbers, process. If you’re thinking about those two types of personalities, what advice would you give to them? If, you know, going back to your other statement of doubling down on that big strength, what advice would you give to them to help them do that?
David: Yeah. I mean, well first things first, the employer, you know, hired you to perform a duty, right? And get a result. So, you got to figure out what is that and so if you’re in a situation where the reason that they hired you and what the boss wants is you to make 500 cold calls a day and to set up, you know, 10 appointments every day, then that’s what they’re expecting of you. And people have come a long way. But, they’re not necessarily trying to figure out what’s your, you know, unique ability and what are you good at.
The way that they’re looking at it is, “I just want you to like produce a result.” So, you got to figure out what is that result and what are those activities that the employer is looking at. And, you know, if you want to work there, and I think we all need a job right now, so if you want to work there, you got to kind of play that game. And you got to use some of these things that we’ve been talking about to buttress those weaknesses, if it’s just not like a good fit right now, but you need the job.
So, you got to reach out to people, reach out to your team, reach out to the community. Figure out how you can get good enough at those things that you’re not that great at in order to keep your job and, at the same time, figure out what your unique ability is and start to really develop that. So that either at your own company right now, there might be an opportunity at some point, or you know, at some other company, like there might be a better fit for you where you can be happier. So yeah, right now, I would say you kind of got to spend some time in things that are your weakness because of just the way that things are right now. And, you know, just at the same time, it’s like what am I actually good at? What what do I naturally excel at? And how do I position myself to get better at that for the future?
Alex: Yeah, I really like that. And that’s, you know, even though you might feel like you’re forced into developing a weakness, which you know, is never comfortable for anyone, in the end you do end up becoming a much more well-rounded rep and it’s much easier to succeed from there. So, I think that’s great advice. And I think whenever somebody can recognize, you know, a gap in their knowledge or their skillset like that and really address it, those are really the A+ players. Those are the guys that are gonna really make it in the SDR role and beyond.
David: Yeah 100% and I’ll give you just a quick example. You know, I’m very much like more of the art side of things. And probably, if I was left to my own devices, I would be the most disorganized person on Earth. Like I would just have piles everywhere. I got it from my dad, I blame him. And so over the years, I know that that organization is a weakness, but I’ve kind of conquered it to the point where I can run a company and be successful. I’m never going to be good at organization, I realize that, but I’ve got it to the point where it’s passable and you know I can run things and my life is not a complete disaster. So, that’s kind of how you want to think about it at the same time what am I actually good at? Where can I press the gas and and really develop that and that’s more of on the art side. So, yeah.
Alex: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that. David, unfortunately we’re running out of time. I’d love to keep talking but thank you so much for for hopping on today, really shed some light on on the art and science of sales development, really dealing with those strengths and weaknesses and how to take advantage of them. It’s something that I personally don’t think is brought up enough when we talk about sales stuff. So, I really appreciate you coming on here. For people listening, where can they go to find out more about you, more about Tenbound or get in touch?
David: Yeah, absolutely. Tenbound is probably the best. It’s just T-E-N B-O-U-N-D.com, tenbound.com and tons of free resources and and hit the contact. If you’d like to talk more about this, happy to jump on.
Alex: Awesome. Thanks for joining us, David. This has been Alex and Greyson for The SDRealness Podcast. Until next time, SDRs, keep it real.