July 12, 2022
SDRs Are People Too with Sebastien van Heyningen

On this installment of RRH, we’ve got the fabulous Sebastien van Heyningen. Sebastien is the President of Central Metric and rev ops consultant. Considering Sebastien is an SDR turned business owner, today we dig into all tha...


On this installment of RRH, we’ve got the fabulous Sebastien van Heyningen. Sebastien is the President of Central Metric and rev ops consultant. Considering Sebastien is an SDR turned business owner, today we dig into all that is great and ridiculous about the SDR culture. And what to do about it. 

Topics Discussed

  • Has tech leadership really turned the corner on the treatment of SDRs? (2:57)
  • What does a great AE/SDR relationship look like? (9:01)
  • Why are we still missing the mark on diversity and exclusion at the AE/AE manager level? (11:21)
  • What are symptoms of a poor SDR/AE culture? (18:07)
  • When is the SDR business model a good fit? (21:02) 

 

 

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Transcript

Amy:

What's up human. Welcome to the revenue real hotline. I'm Amy UFF check 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. 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 UFF check. This is the revenue real hotline. Enjoy Sebastien van Heyningen welcome. You. Welcome to the revenue real hot. Did I do that was that I feel like I, did I get it right or close to it. That was

Sebastian:

perfect. There's a Dutch person mad at you, but you know, that's fine. I don't know how to say it in Dutch either.

Amy:

I joke, like I had to make my piece with my name being butchered in the second grade or else I would just, I would never get anything done in life or I would never move past it. All right. So why don't Sebastian? Why don't we start introduce yourself to everybody and right. You know, a little bit about what you do on a daily basis, and then we'll, we'll dive into the conversation.

Sebastian:

All right. Uh, yeah. My name is Sebastian van Henigan, um, president of central metric rev ops consultant, uh, SDR turn business owner. Future super bowl champion. And what do I do every day? Uh, you could probably pick up on it, but I talk shit that's I, I talk shit all day. Uh, whether that is on LinkedIn, whether that is in the rev ops co-op or. Whether it's on a sales call with a leader of rev op that, you know, need some help with their CRM set up. So, uh, no matter where I'm going, there's some version of talking shit happening. Oh my gosh.

Amy:

Okay. So, well, like I'm gonna push back on that a little bit, but just because I also know that listeners, I just spent some time with Sebastian's content and it's it's highly actionable. And so there was some. Utility and, um, information derived from that too. So we can marry that into the shit talking, but I can, yeah,

Sebastian:

shit is a wide definition, you know,

Amy:

I can, I can relate to all that. All right so Sebastian, you did a post, um, the other day that like really jumped out at me and I just, I wanna read it to our listeners. One thing that LinkedIn taught me. Everyone loves SDRs publicly. So many post talk about SDRs matter. Or SDRs do more than just set meetings. Or don't throw all your admin work at SDRs. They're more important than that. And yet, in my experience as an SDR, we didn't get much love. We were asked to do the admin work. We were treated by the AEs as younger siblings and not coworkers. We had our goals and processes change under our feet without our input. Is this a new trend or has the market finally realized how difficult and valuable this position is? Okay. Wow. I like, it's just, it's so powerful Sebastian, because people that grew up in this space and in this model are learning how to use their voice in touch and talk shit on LinkedIn. And now they indeed now they get microphone to like, aside from the joy I feel in that context, what made you write this post?

Sebastian:

Um, that's a great place to start. And a good question. I was just scrolling, you know, up and down linkedIn, looking at all these posts. And, uh, maybe it's just me and the people I'm connected to, but I saw 10 to 20 instances of, oh, and SDR emailed me and I decided to give them some help. Or I love my SDRs. Or we took all of our SDRs to Prague for a weekend. And I just kept thinking about how, when people come to me and they asked me about the position. I never say everybody loves us and posts about how important we are all the time. I say, like it's a grind. It is an entry level position. It's considered a junior position more often than not. And my go to saying lately is the admin work flows downhill. And the SDRs, nine times outta 10 in my experience are at the very bottom of that hill. I've seen SDRs essentially be note takers for AEs. I've seen SDRs where 80% of their job was putting data into a spreadsheet. So it was just surprising to me to see all of this public love. When if you really zoom in on these organizations and you. To, you know, some SDRs on those teams. I bet you it's a little bit different than, uh, these leaders are making it look like when they post so glowingly on LinkedIn.

Amy:

You know, all right. So point of reference, point of information, I was full cycle, right? My entire career and the, my first sales position was on my dad's team. And so the way that I was taught how to sell. At a very high level, but also with a great deal of love. And it wasn't very long into that where I was like, well, I don't wanna work with dad anymore, and like pivoted into tech sales and finished at Thomson Reuters. But, but I guess what I'm trying to say is it's. It was interesting when I stopped carrying a bag and pivoted to sales enablement, just to see the SDR model play out. Yeah. And then I think about, okay, like, so I love digging into points of origination, right? I'm like, how did things come to be this way? And I just found this whole model, like very fascinating. But like, what do you know about the origins of the SDR model that,

Sebastian:

I wanna do some more digging into that because pretty much all I see is that Salesforce and then the SDR model. Okay. That's

Amy:

what I see. That's interesting. Yeah. I love asking these questions. Yeah. I think a predictable revenue. It was a book. Um, yep. That also had a, a big part in it. Either way. We're talking about go to market decisions that were initially created 20 plus years ago. So think about how new, yep. Emailing was even just like, as a, like getting an email, there was a novelty to. Then I'm like, I marry that against Mark Kosoglow, who is a VP over at outreach. I think he was like employee number seven there which is we could talk about the sales engagements role in all this, but that's, we may or may not go there, but Mark's his tagline on LinkedIn was, sales is always changing. Are you? And I spend a lot of time being irritated at the model or like looking at the harm that it did. And being mad about it, as opposed to just like, like, okay, this is the current state of where it is, but can we at least talk about why we're doing it this way now? Or who says that it can't be better? What, what do you think about that? I see this post and you were referencing like a sentiment analysis on what you saw in conversations, but like, have you noticed a shift, a true shift mm-hmm in executing differently, during your day to day as a, a rev op consultant.

Sebastian:

I feel like SaaS and just software in general, ironically, we innovate really slowly. So I think there hasn't been enough changes. And that's kind of what I was pointing out on the post is like, you know, everybody is talking about how amazing their SDRs are. It's still the same process. Leaders come up to me and they're like, oh, I'm I'm ready to hire an SDR. And then I ask them how much demand they have and they say none. And so I'm like, okay, what do you want your SDR to? Do you know, who are they gonna reach out to? Who's your addressable market? Who's your ICP? Like there are all these steps that need to be figured out what your

Amy:

messaging like, have you tested it? Where are you at? In the product market fit? Yeah. Like how many customers do you have? Exactly what your retention like, oh, not division. What's their career track gonna look like after they wanna set the wrist in six months?

Sebastian:

You can't just a kid out college and say, we don't know what we're doing. Can you figure it out for us? And also everything is your fault. If it doesn't work,

Amy:

Ah, okay. I wanna pivot us here to the AE SDR relationship.

Sebastian:

Hmm.

Amy:

I could talk shit with the best of them. But I'd almost rather Sebastian talk about what great looks like.

Sebastian:

Yeah.

Amy:

So that we can set the bar as an example, because the reality is that a lot of people are operating in this type of culture right now. And no one's asking their permission on continuing to do it that way. Let's talk about what great looks like. In your experience working with AEs.

Sebastian:

Mm.

Amy:

One thing that you, you said in that post hit me personally, cuz I caught myself doing it. Right. I would just assume that older sibling yeah. Vibe. It was like, I would just make these terrible assumptions about people's age or a level of experience. But that said, what was it like for you when you were working with your AEs as an SDR?

Sebastian:

I'm lucky enough to have been an SDR for quite a few AE teams. So I've, I've seen it really good and I've, I've seen it really bad and yeah. You know, at its best you're co-conspirators right. You're you're on the same team, but you play different positions. You are multi-threading an approach to the same account at different levels, with different value propositions for those different personas. You are literally rowing in the same direction at all times. And there is an element of mentorship, right. You know, most AEs have more sales experience than most SDRs. So like granted, I totally get that. There's a reason that the classic promotion from SDR is to AE. There's a lot that an SDR can learn from an AE, but without patronizing them or making them feel small or, you know, treating them as an order taker. And, you know, the same thing happens with in the rev op side of things with admins. You know, you just throw all the work at them. You tell 'em good luck. You take liberties when expressing your frustrations when, uh, things don't work out the way that you want it to. But the best relationships I've ever had with my AEs are when we're meeting frequently to first take apart an account and decide, I'm gonna reach these three people. You're gonna reach these three people. Here's our account strategy together. And then there are gonna be those times where, you know, I'm confused as an SDR and Y and a is doing something the way that they're doing it. Or maybe I want to sit on the demo that I set up because that's the next step for me. And the last little addition from me and I, I. We're doing a good job at diversifying the SDR position right now. A lot of companies are focusing on it. People are focusing on it. The sentiment has become, you know, we can hire people without college degrees, uh, from diverse backgrounds that have no strict software sales experience and we can train them up and get them there. And I'm not sure that's happening with the AE floor. My first ever S SCR position when I was up for a promotion, they said, Hey, you're ready. You know, we're gonna make you into an AE. And I was 23, 24 at the time I looked into the AE room and I said, there is nobody in here that. Anything in common with me. Uh, the number of bubble vests in this room makes me out actually nauseous. Uh, and then I just

Amy:

wait,

Sebastian:

but you won't relate to don't do any, no one will do any drowning. Yeah. Well you go well, yeah, but that's the thing. Like I even, I didn't even see myself as an AE because the AEs were put on that pedestal pedestal that's so of like, yeah. We're ex finance bros. We vacation at Hamptons and in Uck it. And I was like, well, I don't, I don't know. Y'all like, this is in my world. Like I didn't see myself succeeding in that world because on the typecast that was put on top of it.

Amy:

Hmm.

Sebastian:

And, you know, I wish I did, but you know, my

Amy:

first, uh, tech sales, it actually ADP and it was obviously time or payroll, but I was major account. I had no business supplying for major accounts position, but I knew I didn't want small business services where they're knocking doors. So I like stocked out major accounts and national national lap at me, but major gave me a shot, uh, time entry systems. Right. So like, mm-hmm, a placing punch cards with like, whatever. Yep. And then the software before the cloud. Because I believe Salesforce, uh, was the first to do software as a service. Interestingly enough, mm-hmm little tech trivia. Anyway, I was the only. Woman anywhere in sight in, and the youngest person I think ever hired by that department in the location. And so, but that was also 15, 17 years ago. And it's interesting. We'll even take this a step step further. Like one of the things that I've started to hear is that you're, you're seeing a delineation on the manager and the gender front, right. We're kind of pushing women to the. SDR manager role, but kind of wording, even that AE manager mm-hmm positions as well. And I thought that was interesting. But you wanna know the craziest parts Sebastian, like, but when you think about how one develops mastery. Hmm right by doing right. Or if I'm not even sure if that 10,000 hour rule is still valid, scientifically valid, but there's not many people that ha that I'm trying to think how to say this nicely. Like sometimes I see the advice or the coaching that's given to AEs from their managers. And it's like cringeworthy to the point where that's literally the opposite thing that you should do if you wanna get the outcome. That you want, that you just, you know, told him or heard that from him that you wanted. And it's, it's, it's hard to watch. It's hard to watch.

Sebastian:

Yeah. There's a, there's a lot that we need to figure out. And I'm biased because this is how it worked for me. But I think the answer is just getting more people with different ideas into these seats and to stop doubling down on the same methodologies. The same small group of hires, you know, and my, my first SDR role, I was at namely, so competing with ADP and something that really irritated me about the way that we grew was that, you know, every week we were bringing in a new director or manager from a company whose ass we were kicking. And so I'm like, well, this person's gonna come in and bring in all the old school. Before, you know, it we're the company that's getting our ass is kicked. And I think that's what ended up being the case eventually.

Amy:

You know, it's like, it's, I think that's a different conversation. It's that lookalike model, right?

Sebastian:

Yeah.

Amy:

And I think you nailed it brilliantly when you said, you know, calling attention to what's working on the diversifying. Um, on the SDR front, but not so much on the AE front. But what's crazy to me is that, to bring it back to like sales is always changing. Are you? Right. At this point? I like, I am kind of thinking and feeling and experiencing 2022 is the year of execution. So maybe not everybody is starting to execute differently, but like we, I, I went to the sales. Did we talk about this? The sales enablement summit and the CRO summit in New York city a couple weeks ago? I think so. There was the, one of the sessions at the sales enablement summit was like the introducing of new stages in the actual sales process. Oh. Across the organization. after a deep design thinking. And later that day, the CRO was speaking at the CRO summit, same organization and his talk was on collaboration. Again, across that organization. And so I'm getting, I am getting the vibe that people are starting to execute differently, but. In order to do that. We just have to do a better job of taking a pause on the assumption that we've made about what the actual problem. Yeah. Like when I look at the downstream effects of the, all the friction with the AE or the SDR handoff, or especially even on the buyers, right. I used to see red Sebastian when we would make the buyer have identical discovery conversations, because the AE wouldn't read the notes that the SDR created on the first call or didn't think they were valuable. Maybe we haven't like, it's just, that would drive me up a wall. But anyway, I look at the downstream effects that we could very easily, um, avoid again, if we, as a team, do a better job honing in on what that actual problem is that we're solving for. What do you think.

Sebastian:

Yeah. Yeah. That problem is it manifests itself in so many different ways. Like, like you were talking about, you know, it it's, the, the process breaks down. The employees are unhappy. The outcomes that we wanna get to are not met. Uh, when it's really like this cultural issue that needs to be solved. And until it is like, we're gonna keep getting these problems in.

Amy:

As somebody that sat in that seat and now has worked from a, a couple of different angles of this particular problem? Yeah. Like what are some of the symptoms that a leader could look at or spot to maybe investigate deeper on a way to make the let's call it process better?

Sebastian:

The, like the SDR to a.

Amy:

Yeah, right at that point of handoff and like, I even, I loved what you were saying about the validation rules. Um, so understanding like you have to define the handoff better.

Sebastian:

Yeah. Yeah.

Amy:

It's not to lead the witness there, but you do whatever you want on the symptoms thing.

Sebastian:

cause the symptoms there're too many to count, but you'll notice that the teams get cliquey. The SDRs are on in one group, you know, this is when everyone was in an office. Uh, maybe it's a slack group in instead nowadays. You'll notice that the teams aren't meeting, unless there's a problem. I was on one team where the only time I talked to my AE was when. He didn't push something through that I asked for. Or I sat on a call and I heard him say, ask a question that I'd already asked or some combination of those things. Uh, if you wanna look quantitatively, uh, you can look at your conversion rate from SDR to AE. That acceptance rate. If it's really low for one rep, if it's really low for one combination and then the ways to fix it again also numerous. I've seen putting together an SLA work and also not work. I've seen, uh, come to Jesus meeting where we just put everyone in the room. Everyone just complain and complain at each other. And then the manager director will help steer us in the right direction. I think it varies by team. And as always, the way to solve it is just talk to the team, ask them. Yeah, like, Hey, SDR two. Why do you not send AE for enough deals? And then they'll say, well, every time I send AE for a deal, uh, they repeat the questions that I asked and they tell me that it's not qualified even though it is. And you can, you'll see On a bigger team, there's a lot of these little toxic behaviors that are happening. You know, an SDR and AE might pair up and say, I'm only gonna feed you leads from now on. Or there might be an AE that's left out of the process entirely. There might be an SDR who nobody respects that the opportunities that they put up. You just have to talk to these people, figure out what's going on. And find a, you know, something that works like be an RA. Uh, like be the, the mediator.

Amy:

Yeah. Yeah. I, I mean, figure out what the buyer journey is and like, just go back to the drawing board with it and design from there.

Sebastian:

I wanna add one thing because this is something I've seen a few times, but the S SCR function is not mandatory. There are successful software companies that have full cycle sellers on the team. Thank, and that is that's totally okay. I think depending on deal size, industry, uh, deal velocity, make the decision if you think you sDRs are not. Usually an SDR is, is best off when there's a ton of inbound, a huge addressable market, uh, and a relatively large deal size. Otherwise you're selling like Yelp advertising. You probably don't need an SDR. You could take that deal from open to close yourself. For me, we sell services. We're content and community based. If I took every single possible call, I would have no time. We actually did an experiment a few weeks ago where, uh, all I did that week was LinkedIn and calls. And I had an, a bunch of amazing calls. All of them can help my business, but not all of them were qualified. Not all of them were sales conversations. And if I'm gonna put my head of revenue hat 70 to 80% of those calls could have been handled by an SDR and then escalated if needed.

Amy:

I love speaking with smart people. It's like my favorite thing. okay. So what are you working on right now? You have anything big coming up?

Sebastian:

We're working on some behind the scenes stuff I cannot talk about. Okay. Uh, but in terms of. Things that I want people to engage with. Yeah. I would love for everyone that's involved in rev op that's listening to join the rev op co-op, uh, as soon as possible. We're super involved with that group. Uh, I think it is. Been refreshing to have a group completely dedicated to revenue operations. Mm-hmm uh, and like literally when I have an issue with a client that I don't know how to figure out, I go straight to the co-op and I say, has anyone done this before? And by the end of the day, I have several answers. So, I would say, please join that. You know, we're working on some really exciting stuff there. Uh, if you are a CRM consultant, we're looking to add to our team. Please reach out to me. We have too many projects to deal with. And if you hate your CRM, also talk to me. Uh, we don't have enough clients I wanna talk to you immediately.

Amy:

Sebastian, thank you for making time for us and for sharing your insights with everyone. Uh, I, I appreciate you. Thank you.

Sebastian:

Yeah. Thanks for having me

Amy:

that wraps in other installment of the revenue real hotline. I'd like to thank my guest 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, listen. 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, rail.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 session. That's where we kick things. Please do follow the show wherever you listen to your podcast. So you'll always have the latest episode downloaded. If you want to contact me. I'm at Amy at 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 re hub check. This is the revenue real hotline, happy selling.

Sebastien van Heyningen Profile Photo

Sebastien van Heyningen

President & Revenue Operations Consultant @ Central Metric