July 21, 2022
Align the SDR Function with Modern Buyers with AJ Alonzo

On this installment of the RRH, we’ve got AJ Alonzo. AJ is a principle at Demand Drive and an absolute master on all things SDRs. And together we get into some serious myth busting on all that is and can be a high performance...


On this installment of the RRH, we’ve got AJ Alonzo. AJ is a principle at Demand Drive and an absolute master on all things SDRs. And together we get into some serious myth busting on all that is and can be a high performance SDR function.  

Topics Discussed

  • What’s the difference between the old SDR model v. new model? (3:30)
  • When is the SDR model a good fit? (6:48)
  • Why do many sales bosses settle for so little? (10:10)
  • What is special about this moment in time? (15:21)

 

Resources Mentioned: 

 

 

For more Guest:

 

 

For more Amy

 

Transcript

Amy:

What's up human. Welcome to the revenue real hotline. I'm Amy Hrehovcik. More importantly. I'm excited. You decided to join us today. I know you've got a ton of options and I appreciate you. This is a show about all the hard and uncomfortable conversations that arise while generating revenue and how to think or rethink what you're doing, why you're doing it. And then of course, How to execute differently. And like I said, I'm happy you decided to come along for the ride. Don't forget to follow the show wherever you listen. So you can be notified each time a new episode drops. And do me a favor friend. Don't tell anybody about the show. Let's keep it our little secret. I'm Amy Hrehovcik. This is the revenue real hotline. Enjoy AJ Alonzo. Welcome to the Revenue Real Hotline friend. I appreciate you making time today.

AJ:

Yeah, I'm excited to be here. Thanks so much for, for having me. Woo. I'm excited to dig into a conversation.

Amy:

So AJ to get started. Why don't you share with our listeners a little bit about who you are and, and what you do every day.

AJ:

Yeah, so I, I currently head up marketing for demand drive. I guess in my day to day, what we do is we build SDR teams for our clients. So typically tech companies, they don't have a team they're struggling to get one built out. They don't have the sort of foundational understanding of, of what goes into building a team. So we swoop in. Help with the recruiting and retaining of their reps and trading them up. So my job every day is promoting that. And, and getting companies on board with our sales development methodology and allowing them to, to modernize that function in a way. Makes that sustainable and not just the classic cold calling factory that you see from boiler room or Wolf of wall street, tile style stuff. Mm. So that's, that's my that's my day to day is really helping modernize the, the SDR function. Doing it for our clients. And then preaching about it really on LinkedIn every second that I can and trying to get more people on board.

Amy:

Well, I think the question that everyone is wondering right now is do you give coffee to people that have not closed?

AJ:

We, you know, it's funny. That's huge. We, we give out a lot of coffee. We're actually under construction right now. Okay. So our cold brew machine is not working, but we used to give out cold brew like it was nothing.

Amy:

Oh my gosh. Pretty embarrassing. What? I wouldn't have done to get some cold brew. Right, right. Three o'clock. Um, okay. So AJ you recently wrote a book I believe.

AJ:

Yeah. So the book is titled Aligning SDR Hiring Expectations with Modern Buyers. Um, so for the past couple of years, I've been, I've been digging into some data and stories around what teams really look for traits and skill-wise in hiring and SDR. And that shift that we've had over the past, like five-ish years from the, you know, gritty, tenacious, persistent rep to the more thoughtful, consultative rep. And the skills associated with the reps that we have today that are seen success. So it's a culmination of a lot of surveys and dozens of like interviews with some different sales leaders. All wrapped up into an neat little package about what teams that are succeeding are doing and what they're looking for today. And how you, as an SDR manager, hiring manager can, can shift up some of your own practices. And if you're an SDR out there and you're reading it, like what you should be working on to make sure that you are a viable candidate for any company. So, yeah. Thanks. Thanks for letting me plug that. But I'm really excited to finally lift that weight off my shoulders of basically two years of working on it.

Amy:

Yeah. Go ahead and check that one right off the list. That must be amazing. aligning SDR hiring practices with modern buyers. What, what struck me about the title AJ, about the book? And what I know about you is that the sentiment buyer sentiment has, has shifted drastically mm-hmm um, in the past 12 months. But I don't see a lot of people talking about this particular thing. And so I'm, I'm excited about that, but I guess before we get too deep into it, I I've found. When venturing into topics that people come in with a bunch of opinions, experiences, mm-hmm, you know, beliefs and all that jazz. And so it helps to define some terms and give the other person a little bit of context so that we can make sure we're, we're operating off of the same page. You with me?

AJ:

Of course. Makes sense. I'm on the same

Amy:

page. So. I personally am a little bit biased against the SDR model as someone that was full cycle, right. From the very beginning mm-hmm from a sales enablement perspective. I think there's like when you're splitting apart, the role right between prospecting and, and you know, the rest of selling, like. If I'm just working with an AE that maybe was not responsible for opening up their own leads, then have I really taught them how to sell? Right. At an enterprise level. And so there's that right? Um, I'm also, I see how, like the abuses that the SDR model has dished out by way of dead bodies, right. That we burn through top performers and underperformers alike. Um, in, in many instances it creates like a bunch, a lot of dependency. However, I'm willing to concede that this is the way that it is now and that there are instances where the model makes a great deal of sense. Mm-hmm

AJ:

and somewhere it doesn't, I'll concede that as well.

Amy:

So where are you coming from? What are you, what have your experiences been with, you know, this particular topic and, and then we'll go from there.

AJ:

Yeah. Um, I mean, I've seen it work in cases. It should, I've seen it not work in cases where it shouldn't. The idea that like there are companies built product wise to have an SDR team. And there are companies that have a product where you don't need an SDR and it's very transactional. You can rock the full cycle, AE role. So, I mean, we've dealt with clients that have done both. I've dealt with companies that have done both. And I think it's the method, the ideology shift from monkey to thoughtful salesperson that is changing the tune of not every company needs an SDR to every company could use an SDR regardless of where you are. Okay.

Amy:

So one thing I wanna push back on, I'm like, I'm not a big believer in the fact that like, this is this modern way of selling is brand new. Right? In fact, it's, there's no, there's nothing new under the sun. And in many ways I think that tech has done us great to service, right? Because we've got this obscene filter bubble.

AJ:

That's a good way to put it.

Amy:

And like tech has a bad habit of trying to like rebrand something and put our name on it and call it like innovation, sales, enablement, customer success. They had the account management model figured out on a pretty exquisite scale everywhere else. But anyway, right. I'm curious about something that you said about when is the SD a good fit it's and you use the transactional sale versus a deeper enterprise sale. And when the enterprise sale I missed. Assuming that what you were implying is that the AEs are too busy to open up their own opportunities. And to explain when you believe that the SDR model makes a good fit. Yeah.

AJ:

I think it's, it's a combination of like too busy and, and realistically, some companies have not properly trained AEs to actually do the right work associated with penetrating accounts at that level.

Amy:

Mm.

AJ:

The amount of stakeholders that are needed to, to make a deal happen is higher now than it ever has been.

Amy:

Agreed.

AJ:

And a lot of AEs don't have in, in some cases the prospecting chops. So to say, to like, be able to, to navigate that in a way that, that I think SDRs are built to do. Like the SDR model is built to be. Multi threaded multi-channel in a way that I have not seen at least traditional account management style, like AE roles at these. Maybe not like full enterprise companies, but like SMB and above too. It's just something I don't, I don't see that often. There's almost a reliance on SDRs to do that dirty work. And then for the AEs to take the glory.

Amy:

Hmm. Again, very tech thing to do. So interesting. Interesting. All right, so let's talk, problem statements. Now talk in one sentence or less, what is wrong with the way that SDR programs operate today?

AJ:

I think the, the biggest Cardinal sin you would call it is that there's a myth that more activity equals more revenue and that you can scale. The number of dials or emails sent infinitely based on like the conversion math that you have. Um, whereas that. I, I just don't think that's the case. Like if you, if you do the math and you do like your backwards waterfall and you can forecast that every 2,500 activities that a rep puts in equals like 10 closed one opportunities. It's not a guarantee that 5,000 activities equals 20 closed one opportunities. It just doesn't scale like that. Due to the fact that like universes aren't. You know, the, the number of people who are in market for your product, isn't high enough for that to be possible. And the total universe of people you can sell to isn't high enough for that to be possible. But a lot of teams operate on that belief. And they pump bodies into seats that technically don't need to be filled. And then they burn 'em out. And those people think, well, maybe sales isn't for me. And they, and they look at other career opportunities. I, I think that's like the biggest issue that, that companies have with building teams is that they'll put people in seats that don't need to be filled. They'll burn out. The reps will think this isn't for me. And the companies will think, well, the SDR function isn't working. And so they look at alternatives. When in reality, you can shrink your team down to a more manageable size. Give them a little bit more autonomy or, or give them a, a little bit more. Wiggle room when it comes to crafting their own campaigns or like building outreach strategies and learning from the conversations that they're having. And get a lot more out of that smaller team than just try to stuff an extra amount of extra large amount of reps into a, a hole that it doesn't fit into. Hmm. I

Amy:

think another way to say at least the beginning part of that. Is that we there's an overreliance on activity.

AJ:

A hundred percent.

Amy:

And zero connection between like the activity that's put into the results or the effectiveness or the energy that's required to make those results happen. Yes, we we're allowing our legacy beliefs to impede our ability to move into the future.

AJ:

Yeah.

Amy:

Gosh, there's so many different, fun ways to take this. All right. So why do you think that most sales bosses, right? Recall, I differentiate between sales later and sales boss. Why do you think most sales bosses have settled for so little?

AJ:

It's I think it's a combination of, if you look at SDR bosses, which I think is a great term for it, not, not leaders, but the bosses, the people who are actually like sitting there managing the teams. It's, it's what they grew up with. Like they were brought up in a system where they. A hundred percent tied to activity metrics as sort of like that main driver of success. Because to them, the more activities they put in, the more lease they were able to pass. It was a different time, more than likely when they were doing that job. So for them, it's a holdover from what they thought was successful. And they're trying to fit it into the current environment where it, it isn't as successful. And momentum is, is really difficult to stop. If you think this is working because it has worked in the past, it's a lot harder to change that person's mind versus somebody who comes in new, who has not had that experience, who hasn't grown up in that world to look at the situation and go like, oh, we're actually doing this wrong. We have too many people here. We're not focusing enough on the right things. This is a binary outcome when in reality it should have a bunch of different options. I think that's like the number one a if you would call it of like why this is the case. Uh, and then one B, and this is a bit more of a new thing, but managers don't stay around that. If you look at the tenure of someone who's managing an SDR team in a company they're in there for like 13 months, 14 months.

Amy:

Yeah.

AJ:

They build the function and then they get out and they do it again somewhere else. And so they're not starting with a strong foundation in a lot of cases. So it's up to them to build the function. So they, again, lean on what they know to start everything. They build it up to a point where it's been successful. But if you want to keep pushing, you have to start thinking about something other than the traditional model that we know. At that point, their foots halfway already out the door, looking at a different opportunity at maybe a bigger company with a higher pay. So they kind of just ditch this, this half built thing and move on to something else. And then it becomes somebody else's problem.

Amy:

Mm. Yeah. I believe tenure is 18 months and. I'm smiling though. Cuz you gave them credit for a successful build out where I would say that they, if it was successful and it was working, they would still be there and they wouldn't leave.

AJ:

Right. I guess a non-sustainable build out.

Amy:

Yeah.

AJ:

But definitely like some, some like early indicators of success to the point where they can take it and then try to, to leverage that into a new position. Right. If it was a total failure, they wouldn't be able to do that. It would be a situation where it's like, oh, I tried to build this SDR function. It didn't. Now I have to go find a new job and hope that this track record doesn't follow me versus oh, look at the, these early success results that I got in the first nine months of building this program. Let me use that. Try to get a new job. I'm not saying everyone does it. I'm just saying it's it does exist.

Amy:

Yeah. Well, that's the system we, we want lookalikes. And so the system. Around hiring, as I'm sure you can also speak to is built this way. And so, you know, I don't begrudge anyone that. And also I've got a lot of newfound empathy for the plight of the sales boss, but I do believe that just because you were molested as a child does not mean that you should grow up in and molest children. Um, and I'm also reminded though about our experience. We have to be careful about our experience. Especially the experience that brought us results. Even if that results are, you know, Abysmal win rate comparatively. Anything lower than 50% is just, there's a lot of room for improvement there, friends. And anybody that's saying or sharing differently is, is, is misinformed. But anyway, AJ, so experience. I'm reminded that sometimes our experience is the very thing that keeps us from being able to think outside the box.

AJ:

Mm-hmm

Amy:

and it's, it's extra hard to walk away from something that we know works. Even if what works air quotes is a very, very low conversion rate almost at every point on the map, then trying something new. But at the same time, like I'm thinking back to this problem statement here on the sales boss side. And one of the things that was the hardest for me when I transitioned to sales enablement after carrying a bag for 10 years, was realizing how pervasive the thinking was about sellers. We are not problem solvers. We are selfish, right? Sales don't make good managers. We, um, our cogs, or we need somebody needs to fix us. Like, well, all that. I did not realize how pervasive that thinking was from behind the scenes on our own team. Right. I knew that we're the second least trusted profession out there. Yeah. I totally get that. I would expect it everywhere else, but I would've thought that we would've been safe with our own

AJ:

yeah. People who know what it's like, they, they have that peak behind the curtain

Amy:

and I was very wrong. Yes. Okay. And so when I think about the root cause problem with the current way that we treat our SDRs is the way that we think about our SDRs and believing what is possible. And then I would even add to that, right? A person has to be trying very hard, not to look at where the root cause of like productivity and performance actually live today. For example, happiness and autonomy are two massive parts of that. And when you're aspiring to build out a team where you're gonna tell everyone what to do down to the day in task, it's not sustainable. What I will say about right now, AJ, about this moment in time is that people are calling bullshit and they're comparing notes.

AJ:

It's great. It's it's, it's not like about time. Because I think it has been happening over the past few years where maybe it's not that full I'm call. Yeah. Bullshit publicly. But you, I mean, small circles of people within different industries have been realizing like this isn't the way it should be. Like to your point, we look at the SDR role as like a stepping stone into the AE position. And if that's all you think they are, that's all they're ever gonna be. But if you can imagine that they are something else and that they can lend their talents elsewhere. Uh, I was an SDR at one point in my career and I moved into marketing and I credit that because of a lot of the skills that I built as an SDR. And because the company that I worked for believed that I can make that. I could make that jump. A lot of companies don't. They, they look at the SDR role and they're like, listen, either you're gonna be an AE here, or you're gonna find a different job somewhere else. And that, that little box that we create for those reps, it isn't sustainable. But like people aren't calling it out now and they're like, that's not. The way it should be. There are so many other avenues that this world can go and we need to start thinking about that. That call out for bullshit. I think now is yeah. Louder than it ever has been, which is, I love it. Sales communities online have been fostering this discussion for like the past year. And I feel like it's hitting that boiling point and now it's just out.

Amy:

Oh yeah. It's about to go big time. Um, Well said, well said, all right, AJ, how can people find you and where, where can people check out this new book?

AJ:

Um, yeah, so I I'm on LinkedIn a lot. Uh, you can find me on LinkedIn, AJ Alonzo. I think I'm probably the only AJ Lonzo on there. Uh, and then also demand drive.com. I've got a bunch of stuff there and that, that is where the book is under our resources section. Aligning SDR Hiring Practices with Modern Buyers. That, and any other content that I've probably ever produced in my professional career is on there somewhere.

Amy:

Amazing, amazing. And people and your podcast.

AJ:

Yes. Oh yes. So our, um, Host a podcast it's called unsubscribe. It's, uh, it's to help you get less unsubscribe emails in your inbox, it's a salesperson. So we, um, it's also, it's on demand. drive.com/podcast episodes. I didn't wanna make it slash unsubscribe cause that has a whole host of issues with our email servers. Um, but unsubscribes, the name of the podcast we bring on sales experts to talk about things they're passionate. Things that they know have helped them get less unsubscribed emails on their inbox. And level up the profession. So learn from a bunch of different people who have been on the show. Um, you can find that on the website as well.

Amy:

AJ, you rock. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for making time for us today, friend.

AJ:

Yeah, thanks for having me. Had a blast

Amy:

that wraps another installment of the revenue real hotline I'd like to thank my. For being so damn real and for sharing their insights and for, of course being so much fun. And I'd like to thank you two listeners, it means the world. And I appreciate you. If you have any thoughts or comments or experiences, you feel inclined to share head straight over to revenue, real.com. There's a new join. The conversation feature on the right side of the page. I am all damn ears. Final thought. We are introducing a coaching aspect to the show. So anyone who's brave enough to dig into an account strategy or outbound strategy sesh. That's where we kick things off. Please do follow the show wherever you listen to your podcasts. So you'll always have the latest episode downloaded. If you want to contact me, I'm at Amy revenue, rail.com. If you wanna follow me on social. Twitter is Amy underscore UFF check, and LinkedIn is linkedin.com/amy UFF check. This episode was produced by the fabulous Neen Feedler rock man. And I appreciate you too friend. And of course, whatever you do. Don't tell anybody about the show. Let's keep it our little secret until next time. All I'm Amy Hrehovcik. This is the revenue real hotline, happy selling.

AJ Alonzo Profile Photo

AJ Alonzo

Director of Marketing @ demandDrive | Co Host of The UNSUBSCRIBE Podcast