SDRealness Podcast Episode 8 Graphic Horizontal - Enabling Your SDRs & Giving Them a Voice with Ash Cochran

Episode 8 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 cohost, Greyson Fullbright.

Greyson: Hello, hello!

Alex: In this series, we’re focused on becoming a leader in the SDR world, and today’s topic is about enabling your SDRs. Joining us today is Ash Cochran, the Director of Sales at LevelJump. Ash, thank you so much for hopping on with us today.

Ash: Absolutely. My pleasure.

Greyson: Cool. So, to kind of get us started and frame the conversation a bit, I’m really intrigued by you adding the words, not only, you know, enabling SDRs, but also giving them a voice. I think that’s an important addition that not enough people talk about. So, to start off, I wanted to get your take on what it really means to either enable an SDR or help empower them to give them a voice. You know, why is it important? How does it work? And what opportunities exists for managers or leaders when they’re thinking about trying to enable that SDR team?

Ash: Yeah, absolutely. And I think SDRs are kind of the… the underrated, sales arm, right? And when I was at Compass, I onboarded over 30 SDRs. And going through that process, I realized that some of the SDRs were like rock stars, like they were so good at connecting with prospects, they were so good on the phone, they were doing a lot of really cool things.

And they don’t always get the recognition they deserve because they’re not AEs. And I find that in a lot of companies that the SDRs are more treated as kind of entry-level people that are going to grow into these positions, but not people that AEs and leadership are going to respect and kind of look to for certain things.

So, I made a point when I was at Compass and at previous companies to really try to empower the SDRs to do what they do really well, and to train everyone else around it. So, an example of that, we had a rock star SDR who was crushing it. I mean, she was there for maybe 6 months before she got promoted because every month, she was just absolutely blowing everyone out of the water.

So, I sat down with her, I was like, “Hey, like, what’s going on? What is your process?” And she walked me through step-by-step her whole process. And I had her create documents, create videos, create content, so that whenever her team was struggling, she could just send them the link to her personal library that she created to help everyone else. And eventually, that got up to the CRO, who asked her to speak at the national sales meeting on Mondays, and she spoke a couple times.

So, not only did she train the SDR team, but she also got to train the AEs. So, it’s just a really cool thing when you can give power to people who are doing the job every day and don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

Greyson: Yeah, I love that and I really like this idea that you kind of put forth there of almost like putting them in a position where they can start influencing team members. I think you made a great point that, you know, they’re individual contributors and they’re doing one of the hardest jobs out there, but a lot of times, they don’t get the respect. I mean, whether they’re entry level or they’re… they’ve come in with experience and they have 2 to 3 years under their belt, a lot of times they don’t get that clout.

And I love that idea of kind of like putting SDRs and the things that they learn and their experiences into a lens that kind of frames them as something that brings immense value, not only to the team members on the SDR team, but everyone else that’s kind of involved in the customer lifecycle.

Ash: Exactly.

Alex: Yeah and that strategy that you used is super simple and so easy to pick up. You just recognize that there was a top-performer and you said, “Hey, what are you doing that’s so successful? I’d love to replicate this with the rest of the team.” And I think that’s one of the things that can often get lost if you’re, you know, managing or in charge of SDRs, in one way or another, is you end up really trying to focus on doing it your way a lot of times. And when people do that, it can become a detriment to allowing those SDRs to really carve their own path and figure out a way that makes the role work best for them.

So, to sort of pull us in that direction, obviously every SDR manager and everyone in charge of them should be enabling SDRs, giving them opportunities, and giving them voice. But are there any challenges when it comes to that, as far as maybe a misguided manager or somebody who thinks they’re giving that SDR the platform and a voice but is actually, you know, proving to be detrimental to their growth or development?

Ash: Yeah. I think it’s really hard being a BDR manager and being someone who enables BDRs or SDRs. Because on one hand, you are given a team that are entry level or newer to sales. And basically, your job is to get appointments for a different team. So, everything you do, every appointment you set, every meeting you book, eventually it’s going to go to someone else and you don’t have that control and what happens when it goes.

So, I think a lot of managers that I speak to and I have worked with, they kind of get stuck in trying to lay out a formula for everyone to follow that’s like, “You do these activities, you’re going to get this result. It’s going to make this many meetings booked, this many appointments.” That doesn’t work for everyone, right? Like, just calling 100 people, emailing 500 people, it doesn’t turn out the same number for every person on the team.

So, I think that that’s a common thing that I see that is a mistake in my opinion is that you’re giving the exact same enablement plan to every single rep on your team. I think a better way to do it is to really hone in on the strengths of each individual team member. And, you know, if that’s video, if that’s LinkedIn messaging, if that’s on the phone, making sure that you give them the space to let them flourish and let them build their own trajectory. Whatever way they need to get to their number, let them do it and then help them get better at whatever they’re doing.

So, if they’re crushing it on the phone? Great. Record your calls in Gong or Chorus and listen to them, so they can get even better on the phone. If their skill set is LinkedIn messaging? Great. Have them work with someone from your marketing team on copywriting so that their messages are killer even more than already. I think that’s something that we can all do better on is not having a one-size-fit-all approach. It’s really customizing your approach for each of your team members.

Alex: Yeah, I love that and then really playing it to their strengths, which is… you know, it’s funny because when you think of just a traditional team, whether it be a sport or a business or what have you, it’s all… you get the most out of your team members by playing to their strengths.

But you’re right, a lot of times with SDR teams, it’s like, “Okay, well we have this formula, this many calls equals this many connects equals this many leads etc., etc,” when that… you’re right, that’s just not true. And as the process becomes increasingly more, A, automated, and, B, on the flip side, personalized, there are so many more variant ways to hit those goals that you really do need to give those SDRs a voice.

On the flip side of that, do you see maybe when there’s an SDR manager trying to enable their sales development reps, do you see any mistakes that these fresh or young SDRs are making that they could maybe try to avoid as they try to move up within an organization?

Ash: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is getting super discouraged if they aren’t getting their number right away or they’re not the top of the leaderboard right away. I think, you know, as a millennial myself, and I have cousins and brothers that are younger than me and Gen Z, it’s very common that I see people who have, you know, been taught all their life that they’re good at everything and that they’re on every team, they got a participation trophy, and that they think when they’re in the working world, that that’s going to happen again, like they’re going to be rock stars. And they get super discouraged when they don’t come out of the gate super strong.

And so, one thing I think is really important to think about when you’re starting your career and when you’re a manager or an enablement person trying to enable these people is that we all have to start somewhere and we all have to understand that there’s no finish line. You’re going to have to improve every day.

And, for me, when I was an SDR couple years ago, it was really hard for me to not just be the number 1 rep. And so what I had to do was, I sat with AEs, I sat with our top SDRs, and I just studied them. I studied what was working for them, for each person, and then I took little pieces from other people and I kind of made my own style, which was a mix of other people’s styles. And that’s what I just had to keep working on to improve and get better.

So, I think, coming back to your question, you know, “What are some challenges and some pitfalls?” It’s trying to be perfect. Because perfection is death. You’re never going to make it. And you can get really discouraged, especially in a role that’s such a grind and it’s kind of every day the same thing, you call, you email, message people. So that’s what I would say, it’s just try to keep getting better every day and keep learning. Like, find people on LinkedIn who are really good. Sarah Brazier from Gong, Morgan Ingram, like find those people, just study what they do, and then put it into practice.

Greyson: Yeah, yeah. I love what you said about the fact that, you know, everyone does start somewhere. I kind of see it almost like college where, you know, people are teaching the same subjects, the same classes, with the same degrees. But there’s a reason why not everyone gets admitted into college and why everyone doesn’t receive their degree. It’s because everyone learns and kind of interacts with information at different rates.

And I think that that’s a big gap between SDRs and management, whether that be enablement or like another hot topic right now is coaching. Like, you know, a lot of managers don’t personalize how they coach reps. They have a framework, they have a template, they have the same goals for everyone and the same expectations for everyone, and they just apply, apply, apply.

And I really love your idea here of like it should all be tailored to the individual people on your team. Like yes, the function should be repeatable. As an SDR team, you should, on average, be able to like produce some forecastable, repeatable numbers, but that’s on the macro. We’re talking about management here where you’re dealing with all these different individuals with all these different personalities and motivations.

And I think that’s a really good call out, Ash, that whether it be coaching, whether it be training and onboarding, and especially when you’re trying to enable reps in an ongoing way, it needs to be really personalized to each person and not just kind of generic and blanketed and say, “Oh, this looks good. Let’s move on.”

Ash: Absolutely. And I think it’s hard, because if you look at organizations today, many of them only have maybe 1 or 2 enablers per 100 reps. And when I was an enabler, it was really difficult because you’re 1 person, maybe 2, and you have tons of AEs and you have SDRs. Most of the time, in my experience, and what I’ve learned from other enablers is that coming from the top down, they tell you to work with the AEs, they don’t really have that much time for the SDR, the BDR. And so, a lot of times BDR managers who possibly were on that team as an individual and got promoted, are then the ones training.

So, a big portion of that is trying to figure out, as an enabler, how you can train the manager. You know, train the trainer, right? You want to train them on how they can coach their team. And then if you’re a manager and you don’t have an enabler that can help you, go find someone who manages reps and ask them what their process is. Like, ask for tips. Because I think what happens a lot of times is that, as a manager, you have a lot of reps and you don’t really know what to do, so you just do what you know. You try to coach people on how you did it, and that might not always work.

So, I think it’s the bigger theme here is get educated, follow people who are thought leaders who have done that job, ask them how they did it. I’ve noticed that, on LinkedIn, people are so friendly and they want to help. So, I would just say take that resource and use it as much as you can. I mean, I met both of you through LinkedIn. So, it’s definitely a powerful tool and it’s all about knowledge.

Greyson: Yeah, I think what you said there also speaks to kind of a structural problem with most SDR programs. Because I feel like a lot of that kind of underhandedness or kind of like neglect of SDR teams is because of how they’re perceived. You know, they’re perceived as entry-level. They’re perceived as somebody who’s going to move on to a new role. And so the department itself really isn’t a focus.

Like, you know, I’m sure that a lot of people, like if we’re not talking about it exactly like this, most people would take like tips on enabling for SDRs and be like, “Oh, why? You know, their job’s easy. They just do calls. It’s entry-level,” when in fact, like that’s where the battlegrounds are happening right now, I think, in B2B sales. Especially amidst everything going on in our world, that is the front lines of, I think, where companies are competing and kind of differentiating their brand. So, I really… I really love that point, Ash.

To close this out, I wanted to kind of get your final tips. When you think about enablement for both the manager, the SDR manager and kind of individual SDRs, what are some tips or some advice you could leave to help them as individuals and them as a team enable each other and really empower each other?

Ash: Absolutely. So, I think, for the individual contributor, SDR, BDR, I would say, make sure you know your numbers, you record everything, right? Like, if you make 100 calls, make sure you know how many of those are connects, what you talked about, if those got meetings. And then did those go to opportunities? So that you can really have data to go on when you’re trying to understand what’s working for you and what’s not.

Because a lot of times, I hear people say, “Oh, well, I’m really good at the phones,” and then you’re like, “Oh, how many meetings have you booked?” And they don’t know, because they haven’t tracked it. So, just get really good at thinking about this from a data analysis point-of-view. Like, you want to know what you’re good at with data. And that’s something I think is going to carry an IC through wherever they go, whether it’s the AE route, whether it’s account management, marketing, customer success, whatever.

And then I think for the managers, it’s take a breath. You’re doing a great job. Think about how you can contribute to each member of your team. And don’t forget that you have to keep learning from people that have done the job before you.

Alex: Love it, yeah. Keep learning, and it seems like, you know, knowledge is power, right? Like the, more you know, the more you’re able to do with it.

Ash: Absolutely.

Alex: Ash. Thank you so much for hopping on with us today to talk about SDR enablement and empowerment. If people want to find you or find out more about LevelJump, where can they go?

Ash: Yeah. So, I’m on LinkedIn, Ash V Cochran. I think I’m the only one. And then leveljump.io.

Alex: Awesome. Well, this has been Alex and Greyson for The SDRealness podcast. Until next time, SDRs, keep it real!

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