301: Life as an SDR, with Glen Bowie & Michael Patola | Inside Sales

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Winners do things losers don’t want to do, the life as a Sales Development Representative.

We have a new segment starting on the Conquer Local Podcast—Inside Sales. Glen Bowie, Manager of Agency Growth, and Michael Patola, Agency Growth Specialist at Vendasta, join us to divulge what it’s like to work in today’s sales landscape. We often discuss sales strategies from an executive level and we sometimes miss out on the nitty-gritty details from the people who are on the floor crushing it day in and day out. We discuss the importance of culture, motivating your team within, organizing your thoughts, and why strategically planning your day will set-up you up for success.

Glen Bowie leads an insightful sales team with an emphasis on identifying problems and providing solutions to prospects.  He develops sales strategies to expand Vendasta’s customer base and trains and motivates his team to achieve sales targets and revenue goals.

Michael Patola is an accomplished sales and marketing consultant who has helped build and refine sales development techniques. He works with organizations to understand their goals, and help them retain and grow digital revenue.



George: Special editions of the Conquer Local podcast coming your way and we’re talking all about inside sales. And years ago, about four years ago or five years ago, I didn’t even know what the heck that was all about and the iteration that we’re talking about is not even telephone sales because telephone sales, you’re thinking about telemarketers and you’re thinking about maybe in the newspaper business a classified salesroom or something like that. Inside sales is what SaaS software companies are using and the reason why it’s so powerful is the amount of data that they’re able to gather and then using those data points to refine the process. And we are on the verge of bringing in in season three are some amazing experts to speak to it.

George: But today we’re going to speak to a gentleman that I work with on a regular basis, Mr. Glen Bowie, who is our manager of what we call the sales development group and the sales development team, I nicknamed it a number of years ago the tip of the spear because marketing starts to talk to a group of potential prospects and then the sales development group does everything in their power to speak to those people and to qualify them and to do some appointment bookings. So Glen, welcome to the Conquer Local podcast all about inside sales.

Glen: Hey, good afternoon. Welcome, George.

George: So I want to ask some questions. First off, I think it’s important to know where’d you come from, Glen? What’s your sales background over your career?

Glen: My sales background is actually in finance and in mortgages is where I came from. I had my own mortgage brokerage before joining Vendasta.

George: Well, it’s interesting, what I’ve found inside that team whose job is to book appointments and to qualify prospects, you have a very wide-ranging spectrum when it comes to backgrounds inside that group. Is there any particular skill set that you look for in hiring what we call an SDR or a sales development rep or an appointment setter?

Glen: Definitely. Yeah, we’ve found that actually salespeople that come from the auto industry, salespeople that come from other sales industries where they deal directly with small and medium-sized businesses seem to be the best. Their training when they come to us, it seems like they get a really great training skillset in the auto industry and it really helps drive that sales ability when they come to Vendasta.

George: I would agree with that. Over my career in the media business, the best reps were always reps that had an auto background because of the level of training that they had. Let’s talk about this whole world of SDR. So if you look at SaaS software companies and it’s said that there’ll be a couple of million independent software vendors around the planet in the next year. So that’s people writing code, building some sort of piece of software, and then a sales team is deployed against it to get the sales and to sell it. And it’s happening everywhere where you find these rooms full of salespeople and Monster energy drinks and maybe some music playing in the background and gongs on the wall or big bells on the wall and banners. It’s unbelievable. If you ever watched the movie Boiler Room, it’s kind of like that. It’s kind of Wolf of Wall Street-ish. You’re running a team like that on a daily basis. Is it fun, Glen? Is it something that you enjoy doing?

Glen: Yeah, it’s an amazing experience. And you’re absolutely right. High energy, the music playing, the open atmosphere, and everyone collaborating in a large area is amazing. It’s probably been the best experience I’ve had within a sales company is coming to an organization where it is so upbeat and the culture around is amazing. I was actually on holidays and I was totally looking forward to coming back when I stepped off that elevator. It’s like, yeah, game on. It’s an amazing place to be.


Foster a Culture Built Around Winning

George: I believe one of the reasons why you enjoy it so much is the culture that’s being created. Can we talk about some of the things that you’ve done to foster this culture that’s exciting and it’s focused around winning and those types of things?

Glen: I have a philosophy I have up on a board above my desk is, “Show up and try stuff, be yourself, have fun, and don’t be scared to make a mistake.” And that’s really what I live by is just everyone collaborating, having a great time and working together to achieve the goal that’s set out for us.

George: So we’ve got that culture that’s built around winning and you’ve got the bell on the wall. But I want to tell people when we talk about this inside sales thing, you guys are actually quite superstitious because you’re not allowed to ring the bell if you don’t actually have a win because it’s like bad news if you do that. Is that a true thing? I heard that the other day.

Glen: For sure. Bad juju we say. We have a lot of people from outside the organization visit us at headquarters and that’s what we always say. You jinx yourself if you ring the bell when it isn’t a true win.

George: So I just want to break this down again. Glen’s got a team of 12 people and you’ve got team leads that work with you to manage those people, coach and motivate them. And all day long they get on the phone and they call prospects that have raised their hand. So you do some cold outreach, but this is actually we have inbound leads that are coming in. What I mean by raise the hand is they downloaded a white paper, they filled out a form fill, they asked for an instant demo with the amazing Crankwheel software that’s on the website, and those leads are who you’re contacting. And how many calls do you expect from your SDRs every day? So each rep every day, how many calls do they need to make?

Glen: I expect them to make 75 calls a day and have 50 actions within the platform. So emails, texts, and connects and so forth.

George: Yeah. I don’t care what platform it is that you’re using in an inside sales motion, but you do need to have some sort of platform to record so that you can track who’s making the calls and who’s not making the calls. Now, the actions that you’re talking about, is there a quota on the number of emails that you want sent? Is there a quota on the number of LinkedIn reach-outs that you want? Is it just phones or are there other things happening there?

Glen: Definitely, we have to be more strategic than just picking up the phone. Strategy wise, using that LinkedIn connect, which is very valuable. Other methods, texting is a method that we use as well. So really being completely strategic and following. I have my team working on a 21-day 12-touch point cadence that we follow, which integrates all of those different tactics into the cadence and into their day.

George: Break that down for me then. I love what you’re saying there. You got the 21-day 12-touch cadence. What are you saying there? That we have to at least touch a prospect 12 times in a 21 day period? Am I reading that right?

Glen: Yeah, definitely, correct. So it starts out on day one where they’re reaching out with a phone call and a LinkedIn connect and an email, and then it follows the cadence going into day three, which is a call, day five, which is a call and an email. So it’s following this strategic cadence that is put in place and helps to get that final connect with the prospect.

George: Any of our largest partners that I’ve been working with over the years will know, and I beat on them on an ongoing basis, you need to have an inside sales motion if you’re going to be selling in 2019. There are a whole bunch of customers out there that just aren’t fundable to put somebody in a car and drive across town and go see them. There’s also nothing more demotivating for a street-level salesperson to show up and have the client not there. You’ve got way more efficiencies if you’re using some sort of an inside sales motion. So it is something that we are spending quite a bit of time on in season three is coming up with ways that we can make the sales process more efficient.


Strategies and Tips for Sales Success

George: So any tips that you would have, Glen, over your tenure? You started in our organization as an SDR and then grew to become the manager of the group. Are there any touchpoints when you bring on a new rep where you’re going to give them some advice? The old you get a little gray in your hair and you say, “Don’t make the mistakes that I did, learn from my mistakes.” What are those things that you say when you bring in a new rep?

Glen: Yeah, definitely. My big thing for my team is have a plan each day, be strategic, have a plan for the day, and have a purpose for what you’re doing and the call you’re making and the cadence that you’re following. Organization is key to the sales process and agencies and media companies and the like that we reach out to are receiving calls each day, so we really need to hone in and be strategic on how we’re reaching out, what we’re using for things like content and how we’re driving that connect. So when new people come into the organization, it really is making sure that they’re organized and given those pointers.

George: What’s a common mistake that you see that impedes a rep from hitting that quota that you’ve set every day? What are the things that you just shake your head and go, “Oh, here we go. I can just see this coming a mile away?”

Glen: What I shake my head on is when we’re making calls, we’re turning it into – we’re not, but what I don’t want to see is turning it into an interrogation. You have your scripted list of questions and you’re not genuine. What we need to be doing is getting on the phones, building rapport when we connect, building that trust. Really actively listening and being curious and genuine, digging in a little bit more to uncover their pain points and create that vision for what we can achieve with the prospect and how we can help resonate within their business. And that’s what I shake my head at when it’s just that straight interrogation and not strategic in building trust and rapport.

George: How do you handle the inevitable? And the inevitable in inside sales is you’re going to get somebody who’s having a bad day and they’re going to say a bad word that I’ve never personally ever said, at least not on the Conquer Local podcast, but I’m talking about the F word. Your reps get told where to go on an ongoing basis. How do you deal with that? Because listen, that’s demotivating. I don’t like when people tell me that. So what’s the tactic?

Glen: The tactic is we’re salespeople, so it is going to happen and just move ahead, move on to the next call and get ready for the next call. If it means taking a bit of a walk or going for a drink of water and just clearing your head, I think that’s the best thing. But it’s just personality-wise having the ability to overcome that and push it aside and just keep grinding I think is key.

George: Is it just one personality that you look for… If you looked across your team, would you be like, “Oh, it’s just cookie cutter. This is the type of person that’s really good at this job?”

Glen: Yeah, no, definitely not. I have a vast array. That’s what I love about my job is everyone has a different personality. Everyone is different. No two people are alike and that’s the neat thing is understanding what makes them tick and turning those levers on each of them to help them hone their own personal skill. Everyone has kind of their own sales tactics, but in the end, we follow the cadence and process. But it is really neat to work with such a vast array of professional salespeople that, as we mentioned, come from the auto industry and from radio and so forth.

George: So I don’t want you to name names because we’re not here to call anybody out, but you just recently inside your organization, I think it was last month, had a gentleman that joined the company and within a period of 45 days broke every record that had ever been set in the last five years of us doing this. What was the key to finding that person and then having them perform at that level that you’ve never seen before? I’d really like to dig into that a little bit. Is it the onboarding process that you have is way better? Is it the skillset of the individual? What was it? What made that happen?

Glen: Yeah. What is so neat about it is he came from the radio space and working with the SMBs all day in his career really gave him the upper advantage when he’s talking to our prospects. It gives him that advantage of being able to empathize with what they deal with on a day-to-day basis because he’s been on the street going door to door talking to those small and medium-sized businesses. So he really understands it and I think that gives him the upper hand on it. And he’s a grinder, he was here just as early as I am every morning at just after six o’clock preparing his day and watching videos, getting his pipeline ready for the day. Hard work really paid off for him. He already crushed out a few records in his first 30 days.

George: So the interesting thing, and I know this from doing a little bit of due diligence on this, there is a period of time in the morning before this individual starts the game, before they tie the skates up and they get on the ice, there is a warm-up period and there’s a psychological moment there where they get their head in the game before they go out and they start shooting the puck. And I think that that is a piece that gets lost because we get busy and we get caught in the whirlwind of our day-to-day and we forget that this really is so much a mental game. Isn’t it, Glen?

Glen: Definitely. It’s a grind, as you mentioned. People telling us they get lost. Yeah, being prepared. And with this individual as well, one thing as you mentioned, that warm-up period, definitely he’s a young fellow that hits the gym every morning as well. So I’m sure that plays a role in clearing his mind and getting him ready for the day.

George: How important is it to gamify SDR?

Glen: Truly, yeah. I think if we’re not having fun with it, it becomes that grind that no one wants. Yeah, I want my team, just like myself, to get off that elevator in the morning and be excited to move the company ahead and their own career ahead.

George: Thanks, Glen. Really appreciate your time today. Thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Glen: All right. Thank you, George.

George: We’ve been talking to Glen Bowie who leads the organization that we call the tip of the spear, and now I want to go to a young gentleman that is one of the team leads and one of our top performers, Mr. Michael Patola joining us today. Hello.

Michael: Hello. Thanks for having me.

George: Michael, I remember when you walked into our building in that first interview, and you told me that you’re working at Nissan selling cars. You said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve heard about this place and tell me about what the role is.” And what did I do? I think I passed you a binder and said, “Read the script and let’s see what you got.” Do you remember that day?

Michael: Yeah, I do. Yeah. It was 2014, May 15th, and it was trial by fire. But I did have all the resources beside me with other colleagues that were starting, and it was time for change. This opportunity came up. The car business was great. It was my opportunity to make some money and go from an amateur salesperson, which is where I was at, to hone in and learn how to build some rapport and sell some cars.


Making a Connection Overrides Quota

George: So you ended up in the software business and doing inside sales. This is more about the art of inside sales than it is anything specific that you do on a daily basis, so I want to dig into some of the tactics and strategies and learnings and failures and wins that you’ve experienced in your career. You talk to lots of people on a day-to-day basis. You’re making how many phone calls?

Michael: I would be striving to make 75, but when you’re connecting with people and you are driving inbound leads, it’s nice because you have people raising their hands. So when you connect and you’re having long conversations, you aren’t making that many calls. You’re able to make 30 calls and you’re booking a lot of meetings.

George: It’s interesting, I’m glad you brought that up because it didn’t come up during Glen’s portion of the interview. The quota is 75. So you walk in, you’re making 75 calls, but connects actually override the quota. So there is a connect quota though as well on a day to day basis, isn’t there?

Michael: Correct. And some days you have to make more calls in order to get people on the phone. That’s obvious. It’s all sorts of conversations that you have. I was able to take a lot of experience from dealing with people within the dealership to now dealing with individuals that were looking to resell products and services.

George: Well, I have a lot of friends in the automotive industry and the one piece is you really get to understand rejection and you get to understand when people are ghosting you, and I’m going to use that as a very polite way of saying lying to you. Did that help you when you moved into the sales development role where you’re making lots of calls and trying to book appointments?

Michael: For sure. And I just don’t really care, right? If I get rejected, it doesn’t matter. I’m fine with it. I don’t take it personal. And you have to have thick skin, right? So sales development folks here, agency growth specialists, people that are talking to agencies, you’ll learn rather quickly to not take anything personal from the get-go, able to handle rejection quite easily.

George: So when it comes to the day-to-day activities, what’s the thing that you like the least, Michael, that you’re asked to do as part of this sales motion?

Michael: I’m not a numbers guy, right? And so I’ve been fortunate to have great managers around me that they live in the numbers. But when I’ve been tasked with, “Okay, go look and find how many calls were made by that rep in the month of May,” that’s something I don’t enjoy doing and it takes me off the phone. Which has been a difficult part for an organization to figure out when you’re a team lead where you carry a quota, you need to be talking to people, but you also have some of those tasks. So yeah, some of the mid-level tasks. My forte is being a mentor and having conversations with prospects.

George: It’s interesting that you brought that up because I believe … And I want you to challenge me if you don’t agree with me. I believe that to be a very effective SDR, you have to be very disciplined and focused on that single goal of getting the connection and you can’t let anything else get in the way, and the distractions are the pieces that keep you from meeting that target. Do you agree?

Michael: Absolutely. And you’ll go through phases where you will lose concentration and if you have Facebook and Instagram opened up, you’re in trouble. And it is a battle of attrition to stay focused and continually stare at your screen and make a high volume of emails, send out messages, and make calls. The beauty of it is the people that can do it and stay focused, the opportunity is there to hit your goals, hit your targets, and get yourself a nice paycheck. So it’s a great reward system. But yes, there is that difficulty each day where your mind may wander in the course of eight hours strapped into a headset that you can go awry.

George: Let’s go back in time six years ago. You and I are sitting, our younger selves, and we’re looking across the table and I say to you, “Hey, Michael, five, six years from now you’ll be working eight to ten hours a day with a headset on talking to people and making the money that you’re making today.” Would you have believed it?

Michael: Yes, I would have. The opportunity is pretty awesome with an emerging tech company. And if you’d asked me, “Michael, you’re going to be attached to a headset and you’re going to make calls for eight hours a day for four and a half to seven years. Are you going to be happy?” The answer is yes. The burnout you have to deal with, but you can combat that with getting some rest and having some healthy habits outside of work. It actually is quite nice to be able to talk to prospects and partners full time for four and a half consecutive years.

George: Well, I applaud you on that and you and I have had this conversation a number of times, sometimes over bourbon. I’ve tried to convince you a number of times to move into another role. You are actually bucking the trend because when I talk to my other friends that are CROs of tech companies, they’ll tell me there’s about a 16 to 18 month window on burnout when it comes to SDRs because of the volume of calls, because of that single track that they’re on, and because of the rejection that happens on a day-to-day basis. So thank you for exposing that you enjoy it. You enjoy also being a mentor. So the fact is you’re not doing the same thing that you’ve done for the full four years, you are working with new reps and you’re helping them to become successful. You’ve moved into more of that coaching role, but you are a playing coach as well because you’re still cranking out the numbers. You’re still one of the top performers.

Michael: Yeah. And that’s the way I want it to be. I still want to get on the phone and talk to potential partners. And it is tough to strike that balance to where inevitably you’re going to have to … You’ve got to get away from being able to hit your targets and you have to step away and go work with some of the new hires. And it’s hard, and quite frankly, I haven’t done it effectively in the past. I didn’t do it. We’re still working it out. And you know what, it kind of helps that when you hire the right people, they don’t need constant handholding. But having said that, we still need to get better at wearing both hats to where you can share four and a half years of sales development knowledge with some of the new hires.

George: Michael working in the role of sales development representative, he’s doing that, he’s hitting the targets, but he also is acting as a team lead and mentor for a number of the young reps. In our organization as in a lot of organizations, SDR is entry-level. That’s where people come in and they start to learn the product and they start to learn talking to customers and inevitably those people move into other roles. They might become a business development rep, they might move to customer success, they might move into an enterprise type role. So Michael, I really appreciate you giving us those learnings from being on the front lines for those years and then also moving into that mentor team lead role. We really appreciate having you on the podcast and learning from you.

Michael: Thank you. No, it’s been a pleasure.



George: Well, when producer Colleen and myself are thinking big picture, when we’re looking for our guests, we sat down during one of our planning sessions rather and we said, “We should really get the people in our building that are doing sales on a day-to-day basis and get them in a room and just ask them a ton of questions.” We had no idea how it was going to turn out. In fact, there was a point where I was like, “Wow, this could be a big waste of time.” But that was before we turned the microphone on, and I’ve always been inspired by the passionate people that we were able to hire and bring into our organization. It never ceases to amaze me.

George: And these gentlemen, Glen Bowie and Mr. Michael Patola, live this thing every day. And some of the key takeaways from Glen, I love his comments that he’s got that board. He talked about it. I’ve seen it. Show up and try stuff. Be yourself, have fun, don’t be scared to make a mistake. And winners do things that losers don’t want to do. And little things like that are part of how you build a winning culture. It’s part of how you build an organization where people feel safe and they feel like they’re contributing. And Mike Patola talked about how you come out of that grind because sometimes it is a grind. You’ve got to hit your numbers. That’s part of sales. You’ve got a quota. You have to deliver on that.

George: I’ve mentioned over the last few episodes that I just got back from a vacation, a vacation that my fabulous wife booked, and that’s never happened in the five years we’ve been together. She’s never come to me and said, “I’ve booked plane tickets, we’re getting out of Dodge.” And I was like, “Whoa, what the hell have I done? Have some of my sins come back to haunt me?” But it was because she recognized that I was burnt out, and I had been warned a number of times by people close to me that you can’t keep running at that pace. Sales is a mental game and sometimes you have to take a step back, have some gratitude, have some self-assessment, and figure out ways to improve your game or to really take a hard look at where you are.

George: And I’m coming back off that couple of weeks vacation, I’m feeling fantastic and I’m taking from all of these comments, things like what Glen and Michael were talking about when it comes to salesperson burnout. And some of the things that they’re doing inside their teams to help those people stay motivated, help them feel like they’re contributing and all of that is part of what we’re trying to do in season three is to get some real-world insights to help us all be better at conquering local and being a part of sales organizations that we’re truly proud of.

George: We are just kicking off the weeks that are season three and we think you’re going to love some of the guests that we have on the horizon in coming weeks. But it wouldn’t be a podcast without me begging you to join us in the Conquer Local community because we’d love to hear from you on a day-to-day basis. You can click the link inside the podcast to subscribe today to our community on Slack and we listen and read and respond to every message that we get on LinkedIn. Find us on linkedin.com/GeorgeLeith. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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