Welcome to the third installment in our Sales Coach series. This month we're featuring sales leader and banjo aficionado Alex Boyd. Alex successfully built and scaled sales teams as the Director of Sales at inDinero and founded RevenueZen, a growth acceleration agency pioneering complete outbound and inbound services.
Click the video below to hear a bit about what Alex is going to share in today's interview.
Let’s start from the beginning, Alex. How did you get into sales and ultimately, sales coaching?
I never wanted to get into sales. Initially, I wanted to work in proprietary trading or at a hedge fund building models and algorithms. When I realized hedge funds were only hiring PhDs in physics, I applied to a brokerage firm for research or client services, two non-sales roles.
The sales manager happened to grab my resume, and if he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here – I’d be in a very different career. As scared I was to get into sales, I quickly realized I could apply the same quantitative methods of the scientific process to the sales process as well.
What are some of the major challenges of scaling a sales team, and what are the most important things to consider when scaling a sales team?
Aligning the closing and the demand-generation pieces of the equation is the most important thing you can do when scaling a sales team. Far too many companies hire closers, and just keep hiring closers, but they have only one or two SDRs serving a much larger team of AEs. Suddenly, they’re faced with the challenge of having AEs with empty calendars. In response, companies force their AEs to prospect, which is like pulling teeth for them, and there you are with a team of AEs who aren’t making quota, are under performing, and have open calendars.
Until every AE has a full calendar and can’t handle more discoveries, as a company, you should focus on demand generation. Once those calendars are full, you have to bump up both sides of the equation. A culture of low performance can kill a team, so prevent that by focusing on balance.
What was the biggest difference that you see between being an AE, focused solely on your book of business, and being a sales manager, when you had to think about the broader team?
The best closer is not always the best manager. I was usually near the top on quota, but I wasn’t always on top. But I was the best leader. Leaders are inclined to think of what is best for the team or the company as a whole. The best closers are singularly focused on what they can do to help their pipeline and quota, and that’s why we hire them to be closers.
You need to consciously invest in people and not make them do two jobs at once. When choosing a sales leader, pick the person to lead a team that’s not necessarily at the top, but near the top. Definitely the top four. Make sure they are very interested in developing leadership skills and transition them as soon as you can. Work with them to help them understand what leadership is and isn’t. Management is very different from sales.
You mentioned earlier an obsession with metrics and numbers. Focusing on the SDR role, what are some of the metrics in those functions that you’re particularly obsessed with.
The main metric I focus on is the contact-to-meeting rate, which is the percentage of people that are entered into a sequence of contacts in a month that ultimately result in an appointment. This is the king of all metrics. This is also the piece within an SDR’s control. SDRs should not be held to closed revenue goals, since that falls on the AEs’ plate.
The top-level goal for any SDR should be discoveries or meetings set. If an SDR is meeting their goals here, then there’s not much to worry about below that. If, however, an SDR is not meeting their appointment goals, then you can start digging into activity metrics to see where the problem might be.
If their open rate is low compared to the rest of their team, look at their subject lines. If their reply rate is low but their open rate is the same, look at the copy they’re writing or standardize the copy and scripts from the manager level. If their reply rate is good, but their meeting rate is low, practice workshopping their replies or integrate a phone call into their replies, whatever it takes to optimize each piece of the puzzle.
Thanks so much for your time, Alex, and for all the great insight! That's it for this time, folks. Check back next month when we interview yet another sales leader.
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