EPISODE 21: TIME MANAGEMENT FOR SDRs < > MANAGERS
Episode 21 Transcript
Alex: Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of the SDRealness podcast, brought you by Sales Development Revolution, where we are talking with practitioners about their take on important topics in the space. I’m Alex Ellison, as always, joined by my co-host, Greyson Fullbright.
Greyson: Hello, everybody.
Alex: So, this season’s theme is “See action and take action”, where our goal is to dive into a specific topic of sales development, and learn specific tactics and strategies from experts who use them every day. Today’s topic, we’re gonna focus on time management as a sales development team, both for SDR’s and managers. Joining us to discuss this is Karlie Morien, the senior director of sales at Directive Consulting. Karlie, thanks so much for hopping on with us.
Karlie: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you guys for having me. My name is Karlie, I work at a search marketing agency called Directive. I live outside of Philadelphia, on the East Coast, and my foundational background is in sales development. It’s where I started my career as an SDR over two years ago. About six years ago, I started building SDR teams. So, expertise really around what the role looks like from a management perspective, just things I’ve learned throughout my career, to be aware of and focused on, and I’m super excited to chat a bit about time management. I think that’s crucial from and SDR and SDR management standpoint.
Greyson: I agree. I that you have a really unique perspective, being someone that was in the boiler rooms doing the calls, actively being an SDR, and then transitioning from management all the way to leadership. You’ve seen both sides of the coin. How do manage your time and the time of your team? So, to kick things off and frame the conversation, I wanted to get your insight – what are managers and reps doing right, and what are some best practices you’re seeing when it comes to time management? And, what are some of the mistakes, or areas where teams are falling flat, either in terms of communication, or just their ability to execute on time management?
Karlie: I think that’s a great question. When I was really thinking about and doing this podcast with you guys, and talking about this topic, time management is something that we’re not necessarily taught in school. There’s no class on how to successfully schedule your day, how to fit in all the pieces of life that we all have to do outside of work, and on top of it, to do your job. Sales development is really demanding. There are so many things you can do at any given time.
You can be researching, cold-calling, sending emails, writing messages, chatting with sales – there are so many different directions that you can go, and I don’t see a ton out there in terms of helping SDR’s to figure this out. So, when I’m building teams, working with teams, I really make sure to focus on the key time management practices or strategies, to help turn the madness into an actual schedule that can be repeated, where you feel like you’re getting what to need to get doe, but at the same time not running around every single day with no focus or no direction.
So, first and foremost, it may seem simple, but blocking out time on your calendar, and even getting to the point of actually having a timer to identify how long a task is taking you to complete is a great first step, and something that an SDR and a manager can easily do and implement. I’ve had reps where we block out times every day for specific activities. Once that time is up, once the timer is up, once the next time block pops up as a reminder on your calendar, you gotta pivot to the next thing, and giving yourself five minutes to make a to-do list if you haven’t finished that task within that timeframe, so you can come back to it later, but to actually have a time block somewhere else on your calendar to wrap up anything that’s on your to-do list, I think is a great way that SDR’s can help put a structure to the madness.
Alex: I think that’s a really important thing that I just learned now. I’ve tried time blocking my calendar, and what happens is, I’ll get to the end of the hour, and I’m like “I’m not done”, and I have to keep going. And all of a sudden, the next time block is pushed. The whole thing’s off, and then I have no time blocks left. So, that’s a great strategy, to really sit down and say “Okay, I didn’t finish this, that’s fine.” The goal is not to finish it, the goal is to do as much as you can in this time block, and then keeping track of that is super important, so that the next time you have that time block, you’ll get into it. So, that’s something that I’d love to learn a little bit more about, how you go about making sure the reps are doing it, making sure they’re sticking to these time blocks, beyond just them writing their to-do list. I’m sure that are more steps to it than that.
Karlie: That’s a really great point, because in management, you can talk about all your great ideas, but if they’re not adopted, and if folks aren’t actually utilizing these strategies, you have to look into that as a manager and figure out why. I always start with a simple and basic format for the week. What are the five most important things that you’re prioritizing as an SDR on a day-to-day basis? And, how long are those tasks taking you? Because it’s not just about the time blocks, it’s also about being as efficient as possible with your time.
So, if you’re noticing that you have an hour to do let’s say, 50 phone calls, but if every single time you have that block you’re only getting through 20 or 25, that a different conversation. Is that not enough time? Is there a better way that you can be making those calls? As a manager, I have to identify the roadblocks and do my best to remove them so that my SDR’s can do as much as they can in terms of building pipeline within the time that we have. So, I may be a situation where we have to rethink that time block. Does it need to be two hours?
So, there’s also that piece as well, not just sticking to the time block, which I think is step one, getting a regular schedule, forcing yourself to move on to the next task even if you’re not quite done, but then evaluating how much time you need to do these things on a regular basis, and then what management can do to make that shorter for you. Is it a different technology? Do we need you create a repost? Whatever it is, those simple tweaks can make a big difference for an SDR.
One thing that I do, when I started doing this in “remote world”, that we’re all in now- Now, I’ve been leading remote teams since the summer of 2019, so luckily for me, I was used more to leading teams remotely prior to 2020. What I started implementing is remote side-by-sides. Side-by-sides are kind of an old-school tactic. You’re all in the office, I roll up my seat, watch what my SDR’s are doing, and literally within 10-20 minutes, you can identify exactly where folks are getting stuck, and try to remove some of those roadblocks. I started doing it remotely.
So, essentially I have my rep open a Zoom and share their screen, and I just watch them work. Again, not trying to micromanage or be super involved, but just observing and seeing where they’re getting stuck, and how I can potentially help from a leadership standpoint. Again, slacking, calling, Zooming, sometimes you don’t get the full story. So, watching and really being able to identify- Sometimes SDR’s can’t even really communicate why they may be struggling on a certain thing, so I’ve found that to be a great way to just dive in a little bit deeper and really see what they’re working on, and how I can help them to be more efficient.
Greyson: I think it kind of goes to the heart of transparency. SDR’s are dealing with a million things at once, talking to hundreds of people, and the reality is that there is a lot of ambiguity around the sales development process. Every conversation, every activity, every account is different and unique, and I ran into this issue myself when I got started in sales, having this “black box” where it’s like, SDR’s really wanna hit quota, and if they are, they’re as transparent as possible, and when they’re struggling, it’s a black box.
No one know how they get the opportunities, no one knows how they’re getting the outcomes, they’re just getting the outcomes they’re getting, and they’re very closed off to the problems they might be facing. And I feel like time management is often one of those big issues. Because, it’s one thing to say “Hey Karlie, how are you doing? What are you thinking about [inaudible]?”
But, it’s a different thing entirely for a leader or manager to actually have transparency and visibility into what’s going on in those activities, what’s the intent behind those activities, and maybe what is the ordering of those activities? Are you doing it in bulk, or are you running around like a crazy person, trying to ad-hoc it? So, I think that’s a really good call-out, in terms of the need for leaders to seek as much transparency as possible in what their SDR’s are doing on a day-to-day basis.
Karlie: Yes. 100% right. This is going into a different direction, but it popped in my head. There are fantastic companies out there that have fantastic onboarding and enablement programs. Sometimes, if you’re in startup world, or maybe at a smaller organization, that’s not as built out from the start. So, hiring sales folks, hiring SDR’s, but then essentially, “Here, go do that”, can also invite some of those issues as well. So, I make that time management a part of my onboarding, even if it’s just showing examples of the way that I’ve seen other SDRs block out their days.
Giving them different types of options, talking about how long it should take to do certain things, and if it’s taking longer, we need to have a conversation, just bringing it to mind as something we’re talking about and thinking about, to help drive that foundational sense of keeping yourself on task.
Alex: I wanna dive a little bit more into this transparency. You wanna know everything your reps are doing, but you also don’t want them to feel like they’re micromanaged, or that you have eyes on them at all times. So, I’d love to learn a little bit about your process, maybe with these side-by-sides. What are you doing to make sure that they’re feeling supported by it, and not watched by you?
Karlie: Absolutely. Micromanaging is a term typically used to describe how someone likes or doesn’t like to be managed. In the interview process, when you’re bringing on new folks, that’s a word that gets thrown out there quite a bit, and I totally understand it. It’s my job as a manager to know what is going on with you, but I also need to give you the space to do it on your own, and I hired you to do a job with the expectation that you would take on the ownership of completing that, while I’m here to help and support.
I always preface introducing this remote side-by-side by letting them know that I’m really not here to micromanage. At the end of the day, we have KPI’s that we’re hitting. If you’re getting to those KPI’s in your own way, great. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re driving towards. In SDR world, there’s never a clear process on how you get to those KPI’s day-to-day. Of course, it’s our job as SDR leaders to figure that out and back that in, but if you’re starting a brand new SDR org, which I’ve done a couple of times now, there isn’t necessarily a playbook of how man calls you should make a day, how many emails, how many sequences, all of those pieces. So, building a process is really a trial and error.
So, I’m letting my reps know that that’s part of my process to understand what they’re doing, so that I can help figure out how to enable them to do that better. Again, removing the roadblocks. I don’t wanna be in your business all day, I just want you to be able to do your job the best way possible, and the quickest way possible for us to achieve those KPI’s. I don’t do these side-by-sides weekly. I don them bi-weekly or monthly. I don’t feel that I need to be tuned it, but I think that’s up to the manager, how frequently they execute on it.
I think it’s pretty clear, when watching an SDR work, what are some quick wins and things that we can help make better, whether it be a sales force report, a dashboard, even running a report for the leads in their name instead of working off of a list [inaudible] everyone’s name on there, or building [inaudible] sales score so they can upload straight into SalesLoft or Outreach right from there, instead of going one by one. Little things like that can make a big difference, and my goal is really just to understand how I can make it better. I’m not there to judge, I’m simply there to help, and building that trust and understanding with my reps definitely opens the door to a little bit of a different perception for the point and reason for that virtual side-by-side.
Alex: I love the examples you used, because they are things that you can do to help them reach their goals. You don’t want your manager going in for a side-by-side and then going “You probably could have made a few more dials in there.” That’s not really helpful. They probably already know that if they didn’t make that many. But if you’re in there, and you go “Okay, I’m gonna build this report for you. If you use this as your list, I think you’ll get a better connect rate”, or whatever the result is, but it’s basically ‘help me to help you’. The micromanagement is “You need to do this. You need to fix this or figure that out. I’m here to tell you that you need to do it.” But that’s not what you’re doing, because that doesn’t work.
Karlie: No. and also, that doesn’t build trust in a manager-SDR relationship in my opinion. It’s important to have trust and buy-in with your SDR’s, and at the core of it, my job as a leader is to serve. So, I’m here to help my team. We’re all trying to hit a number of course, if there is a situation where there needs to be a discussion around expectations, of course we can have that, but in that moment of a side-by-side, it’s meant for me as a manager to identify where I can help them to be better.
Maybe they’re making calls while we’re doing this virtual side-by-side. I’m not gonna jump in right there and give feedback. Maybe there are some points that I can help with in terms of communication or whatever. Maybe I understand in that moment that we need to do a little bit more training on the budget part of qualification. It just helps me eliminate the areas that I need to do better at training and helping my reps, not to criticize, judge, or have that focus. It’s more about helping.
And I have found that that’s the best way to get folks to the potential and the performance that they can really get to, and- We put a lot on the plates of these SDR’s, and then expect them to do great things right off the bat. A lot of times there are many factors that affect their ability to be great that are not put in place, that nobody else is thinking about.
I think sometimes, especially younger companies or startups, say “We’ll hire an SDR, and then he’ll get a bunch of meetings for us, and that’s how we’re gonna break in here.” Well, if you don’t have marketing, if you don’t understand your personas and how they like to be communicated, or where they are, LinkedIn or in email- So many crucial factors. What does the sales process look like? What’s that hand-off? They go into the SDR world, but may not be an area of focus when coming in or trying to build, but as you learn more and more, you realize that you need these other areas of support, but sometimes an SDR does not have the ability to say that and ask for that help.
So, as a manager, that’s the other piece, figuring out how I communicate and bring in other departments to help support us too, because the SDR is not going to be that shining [inaudible], there’s also support that needs to happen, and doing these types of side-by-sides has also been a way to really identify other areas of support that I need for my SDR team.
Greyson: I think you make a really good point, because a lot of times, unless you’re in a startup situation, SDR’s don’ really have a lot of control over what their schedule looks like. And not even directly from their manager. SDR’s follow the situations where it like… They need to go to marketing, or if they need something done with a prospecting or engagement tool – that’s sales.
There’s so much push and pull when it comes to an SDR team, that I feel like it could be really difficult to try to communicate those things to management, and then try to actually get those resolved. Because, like we talked about before, the daily activities can be planned, but the actual execution and out comes can be very ambiguous, and very unique based on the situation.
So, do you have any tips for what a rep can do if they’re in a situation where they’re struggling to manage their time? Maybe they have too much on their plate, or maybe there’s blockers that are preventing them from doing their jobs effectively. How would you recommend that the rep communicate that to their manager, as well as try to get the buy-in from their organization to change?
Karlie: You’re right, that is definitely a reality of sales development. I would say, for an SDR that feels as though they’re struggling with time management – if you think you are, you definitely are. That’s number one. Number two, it is not uncommon, and most SDR’s are in the same boat as you, so you’re not alone.
I would suggest, first and foremost, literally keeping a piece of paper next to your computer, your desk or wherever you’re working, and write out a list every day of the top 5 things that you spend the majority of your time that day. That will illuminate whether you’re spending time on the right things. even though to “Well, today I spent three hours trying to build out a buying center for a target account.” Whatever it may be, good or bad, it’s only for you, but really start to become aware of how you’re spending your time.
Also, think about distractions that can throw you off. Now we’re all sitting at home. While I love working from home, there are distractions that come into play with that. Besides all the work distractions, slack, email, as much as I hate it, I do think it’s extremely valuable to turn those off and shut it down while you’re doing really specific prospecting work, whether it’s calling, writing emails, removing distractions will help you go quicker. Or, are you finding that you’re distracted by other things going on, and is there a way to potentially solve that? Or, to work around it, work through it, really just being aware and trying to identify.
From there, looking at the list of what you’re spending the majority of time on, are there things that you’re not able to get to? That, I believe, is something to be communicated with the manager in a one-on-one setting. So, first saying “I took an inventory of this week. These are the things I’m really spending my time on. But, we talked in the team meeting this week, and you were mentioning working on this particular target account list, and I feel like I’m not able to get to that because of these things.” If you have a suggestion or a solution, I always try to come from the side of- If there is something I’ve identified as not working, having some suggestion of a solution as well. And you may not have it, and that’s okay, but if you do, communicate that and offer that. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong or if you can do it or not, it’s the thought and switching your thinking to it, to do something to potentially change it, even if it’s “Can we look at a new tool? Can you help me with these key areas in terms of reporting?” Whatever it looks like.
But, coming into that one-on-one to communicate to your manager, not just with a list of complaints or things that are going wrong, but also something that you were thinking about. I think that’s a great place to start to lay a foundation, and also writing it and identifying it, and having it be clear and in written form, and then being able to share that with your manager- There’s so many intangibles.
Having a tangible, especially in a one-on-one relationship, I think is extremely important, because you have a written record of what you’re discussing, and helps make it more real, and something that needs to be solved. So, that’s how I would suggest starting to identify if time management is a struggle for you.
Alex: I really like that, the way you framed it. At the end of the day, the managers are there to help with the SDR problems. If they come to you with a problem and it’s intangible, “Try this, or maybe this”, give it a shot… You can’t be so certain about things. Whereas, if they come to you with “I spent a lot more time on LinkedIn and emailing than on phone calls”, and you can go “Maybe we can change that order, maybe not reach our on LinkedIn as much” or whatever. It’s basically a tiny piece of anecdotal data that you can then use and build off of to make something work for them.
Karlie: Absolutely. I think that’s such an interesting and important thing about SD, the intangibles. There are so many of them. And as leaders, I think- This has been me at times in my career – you’re held to the KPI’s and the performance, so you’re focused on that. How do I get more? Why aren’t we getting more?
But, backing into the why of that, and what’s behind it can be a much larger activity, and sometimes on that is much bigger thing to tackle, rather than just “We haven’t booked any meetings this week, what’s going on?” So, really identifying those intangibles an making them tangible can help drive focus to other areas that maybe need a second look, maybe need more focus, instead of these KPI’s that are on a dashboard, that your boss is asking you about in your forecast call or whatever. So, that intangible to tangible is crucial in driving focus.
Alex: That’s awesome. Greyson, do you have anything else you want to say?
Greyson: I was just gonna highlight that I think you make a great point that being proactive as an SDR is really one of the best ways that you can help manage your time better, because being proactive implies that you are prepared, and that you are trying to plan the best that you can for the future. So, if you just take that step, and whether that’s like Karlie said, just taking some notes on what priorities you have, or if it’s maybe going a step further and saying “This one task is bothering me, I’m gonna deep-dive and detail and flesh it out.”
Well, whatever you need to do, actually being proactive and taking the first step in being prepares ins gonna help tremendously, because even when there’s a lot of activity, if you know at the outset what you’re doing and how you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna feel much more confident, even if there is an overwhelming number of activities going on.
Karlie: 100%. And also, first of all, everybody struggles with something. Everybody should feel like they can take what they’re struggling with to their boss, and have that person help them with it. That proactiveness[sic], I think is a real trait that can really help an SDR employer growth as well. If you’re looking to become a manger or AE, typically, in SDR world, this is a stepping stone into sales or management.
That’s exactly what this is, but that proactive piece to it could very well set you apart from other SDR’s on your team, in your organization, and really show a level of maturity in trying to solve that particular problem, which can highlight, real career growth and potential in you as an SDR. As an SDR leader, I’m also pulled in so many different directions every single day.
So, I also can’t keep an eye on every little thing that’s going on all the time, so I really appreciate when the SDR’s on my team are proactively bringing things to me, because that really shows the level of care in what they’re doing, the level of pride, and really trying to solve an issue that, probably, your other team members are struggling with as well. So, I think that’s a really important thing to know. Be proactive. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer, but just thinking about it and wanting to solve it is really the most important part of it.
Alex: You brought us right back to transparency there. So, we came full circle. You’re talking about a form of internal networking, where if your manager or higher-ups can see you struggle and overcome it, that’s gonna do more for you than if you just happen to hit all your goals. Because they don’t know how you did. It’s like showing your work in math class, growing up.
Karlie: Exactly. 100%. Being proactive is important.
Alex: Karlie, thank you so much for hopping on with us today. I learned a lot about managing my own time now that I’ll probably pull away, but if people wanna learn more about you or Directive, where can they find you?
Karlie: Directive Consulting, check us out. We’re a search agency, we specialize in [inaudible]. We would love to chat with anyone who’s interested in learning more. You can also find me on LinkedIn as well. I’m excited to grow my network, and chat with anybody that’s interested in learning more.
Alex: Awesome. Thanks so much for hopping on with us. This has been Alex and Greyson with the SD Realness podcast. Until next time, SDR’s, keep it real.