SDR leaders in conversation: Ben Smith, BDR Manager at Reachdesk
"Prospecting today, you have to create a good experience, you have to be personalized, you have to know your audience, and most importantly, you have to be human"
On the back our recent blog post "14 SDR leaders you should be following on LinkedIn" we set out to talk to some of those on the list and understand what we might learn from them as successful Sales Development leaders, and to hear what advice they may have for current SDRs to make the most out of their roles.
First up, we spoke to Ben Smith, a rep who has seen explosive growth alongside his company Reachdesk, a direct mail and e-gifting platform, in only a few short years going from entry-level BDR to managing a team of 14.
Learn what Ben is passionate about in the interview transcript below or watch the full video, and stay tuned over the coming weeks as we expand our talks to other SDR Leaders.
Hi Ben, really appreciate you coming on, please introduce yourself and Reachdesk.
Absolutely, thanks for having me. So I’m the BDR manager for Reachedesk and as one the first hires back in July 2019 and we’ve been going commercially for just over two years now.
It’s been a really exciting two years, I joined as a BDR and now head up a team of 14 business development reps and one market development rep.
Traditionally we were just an outbound focused team but now we’re working with our marketing team on lead generation and account based marketing strategy, which is really helping us as we evolve and grow.
We’ve just raised our Series B, $43 million in funding, which is going to help us through the next part of our growth period which is really excited and will hopefully be doubling our headcount with ambitious plans moving into 2022
Nice! Exciting times. So you started out as BDR and then you enter the team lead / BDR manager role heading up a team of 14 - talk us through that journey, how did that work, how did the hiring go, and what's it like?
So I was really lucky and fortunate to find Alex Olley and Meelan Radia (the Reachdesk co-founders), as my previous experience was as a professional ice skater touring with Disney on Ice for five years, with no sales experience whatsoever.
When I moved to London, I started work in public relations and putting together direct mail campaigns. This led me to Reachdesk, which is a B2B SaaS platform where we help marketing, sales and customer success to leverage physical direct mail and e-gifting as a channel to generate, nurture, retain and engage business opportunities. Reachdesk ties all that together in a single platform.
In terms of my journey from BDR, to team lead, to manager, I had no expectations coming into this role, I didn't understand sales, didn't understand the industry, but Alex and Meelan were great leaders and great champions to help me ramp successfully and quickly into this industry.
I actually found myself just falling in love with it and I think that passion for an industry, seeing how much you can change over a small amount of time and how quickly it moves really hooked me and led me to be really passionate and accelerate my career to BDR manager.
Yeah Reachdesk has gone through such explosive growth with direct gifting, how does that connect with the topic that is big in outreach today: personalization? And particularly, as gifting is such a huge part of personalization, where does it fit in across the multi channel prospecting world that we live in today?
Prospecting today, you have to create a really good experience, you have to be personalized, you have to know your audience and, most importantly, you have to be human.
The way that direct mail and gifting works in that context is it takes a really human approach to B2B sales and marketing. We are inundated with mass emails coming from marketing teams, which makes it really, really hard to cut through the noise. Plus, we have a lot of great sales professionals out there which are doing 1-to-1 and 1-to-few prospecting campaigns and really creating those moments that matter, but unfortunately there is still a lot of clutter out there that we have to find our way through.
So direct mail and gifting as a channel comes into its own because you can be personalized, you can be relevant and you can create that human moment in your sales and marketing cycles, or your customer life cycles, which, ultimately surprises, delights and engages a prospect or customer in a completely unique and different way to any other channel out there at the moment.
Yeah there's so many sales people out there today and everyone's fighting for attention and suggesting their product - once you find the right target account what’s your process from start to finish to get that meeting, say, if you wanted to execute perfectly and put all the effort in?
First of all, I think you need to understand what a good fitting account is.
We use a tiered system, where Tier 1 is our ideal customer profile who are the customers which are going to make a huge difference to the business and we're going to be able to benefit them in the best way possible as well.
Have a good balance of your “Tier 1s”, which are probably going to move a bit slower because of the size and complexity of the deals, and then move into a Tier 2 and Tier 3 customer.
But also it's important to not be stagnant in your approach and to always be testing new markets and expanding that ICP as well. That's where marketing can really help with sales teams to understand new markets that you might be prospecting into.
Then when you’ve found your accounts and you understand what a good fit looks like, next you need to be really mapping out those accounts. I would always say for a Tier 2/3 company to start with about four people in the business that you're gonna be outreaching to.
Again, it's important to be reaching out to multiple personas within that business because everyone's going to have different challenges and you want to be covering all bases making sure that there's a really good fit, not just for one team in the business, but multiple teams as well.
And with the Tier 1 companies, you're probably gonna be looking to prospect around ten people to start with, just because of the size of those businesses.
I'd also say from those Tier 2s and Tier 1s, there's gonna be a slight focus or change in job titles which comes into those personas. So myself, for example, I will be prospecting marketing and we know that marketing in a Tier 2 company probably we want to be talking to the CMOs, however, in a Tier 1 company we're probably gonna be looking to go more after the directors and heads of departments (field marketing and demand gen for example) over the chief marketing officer because they’re going to be more focused on reporting to the board.
"be relevant in the message that you're putting across because you can't just go by job titles anymore."
So you really have to be walking a mile in your prospects’ shoes to understand where the fit is and then how you can be relevant in the message that you're putting across, because you can't just go by job titles anymore. You have to really understand what their role is going to be focused on, depending on what company they are at.
Right so with that Tier system, first you focus on the right account, who's most likely to benefit, perhaps you’ve probably got multiple customers in that industry already. And then with Tier 1 you're targeting it sounds like 10 people across different personas and with Tier 2 taround four or five people?
Once you've identified that this is the right person, what type of tools are you using? Are you using any for sequencing and how are you able to gather information to personalize them from start to finish?
Yeah, we all love sequences, they help keep us focused, help us stay organized, since as BDRs we’ve probably got 250 accounts which you're managing at any given time.
A sequence really helps you to navigate the steps in your process that are going to keep you on track.
My biggest advice would be that as much as a sequence is great, we can't be automating absolutely everything and we have to be delivering those moments that matter at the right time.
Being able to identify within your sequences when there is opportunity is to go outside of them, that's quite often where the meetings come from. If I look back at the meetings that have been booked in the past year, it's very rarely from that first email you send or from the 4th email in your sequence; it's more likely going to be from a call that you made after somebody's engaged with a piece of content which has been in that sequence. Or it might be a sequence that has ended and you realize that somebody’s clicked back on the video that you sent them maybe three months ago, because 88% of our buyers now buy when they're ready to purchase.
However, if you make that memorable moment from that video touch, then they're going to be more likely to come back to you when the time is right for them. That's then the opportunity that you would then send a follow up because you notice some sort of engagement at that point.
So a sequence is great to keep us focussed and on track and we have to be living by our sequences because it's the only way that we can really scale that personalization. But again, it's really important that the best BDRs are the ones which notice those trends, when an account is engaged, and to then follow up in a timely manner to be able to book in those next steps. To interact with the channel that the prospect is most likely to be engaging with.
I think that's really great advice, sequences are great, they add that structure, you need to be able to scale with sequences, but it's looking for the kind of micro activity in between the steps when people are actively engaging.
You kind of touched on it there, the things that top performing SDRs are doing, so now that you've been in this space a while now and have quite a large team, what do you see that the top SDR are doing these days compared to the “not-so-good” SDRs?
I think it's all about building that repeatable process. Knowing day by day, week by week, month by month: where you’re at, what you need to do, and what's going to happen next.
That's quite often at the start of your quarter, looking at the quarter as a whole, understanding which accounts you are going to be prioritizing and the reasons exactly why you are going to be prioritizing them. Coming back to the training around ICP, looking at trends, looking at what happened in the last quarter, what you think is going to be happening in the next quarter… really understanding your accounts and where your focus is going to be.
"Yes, it's important to be hitting your activity numbers each day... but it's also important to be challenging yourself with the quality within those activities as well."
Also, it's the reps which are really metric and data driven. So yes, it's important to be hitting your activity numbers each day and knowing how many activities you need to do to get to your target and your goals, but challenging yourself with the quality within those activities as well.
E.g. if you are currently booking 1 out of every 10 connected calls, what can you do to increase that to 5 out of every 10 connected calls / meetings booked.
So yes, a lot of BDRs will put a lot of work in and they'll be hammering the phones, they’ll be slamming out emails but that's only contributing to that mass of communication we see out there, which makes it even more challenging for BDRs to cut through.
Taking that really targeted approach, increasing the quality of everything you're doing and balancing that with your quantity metrics, really brings the best BDRs to the front because they're not just working hard they are working smart on everything they're doing...delivering those moments that matter, really going that extra mile to find that piece of personalization which isn't going to just resonate on a rational level but also on a really emotive level.
The best BDRs are able to think about what's going to be happening in someone's personal life and then relate that back to a business challenge so that you really hook somebody in on that emotive reason but you give them enough rationality behind their decision making to take that next step as well.
Love it, a couple of great points there looking at the emotion of the prospect and the repeatable steps of process.
One thing you mentioned as well that was really interesting was being conscious of every activity you're doing, because it's easy enough for people to smash the phones, make 50 dials, send out 50 emails etc. but are you consciously sending those thinking about the prospect when you’re doing those types of activities...
What are some of the key metrics you look at on a weekly/monthly basis? Is it number of dials, activities, or anything else specific that you guys are looking at?
I think we've all heard those stories of having managers which are constantly like “you need to hit 1,000 activities this week” or “you need to do 50 cold calls this week”, and that is really important, but for me, if I'm having a conversation about activity volume then something's really gone wrong here.
Everyone should know what their own individual activity numbers are to see success and as I mentioned with the quality, the more you improve the quality of those activities, the less activities you’re actually gonna need to do.
A lot of BDRs will spend their time talking to the wrong people to have a conversation with the right person… so understand who the wrong people are in the buying process but how you can leverage them to get to the right people is so important.
The metrics that I'm really focused on at the minute are: email reply rate, how well are you handling your objections, and putting a percentage on your objection handling, if you are able to overcome rejection a quarter of the time, then you're probably onto a win.
We're looking at the 25% from connect-call to meeting booked. That's going to really help deliver the results that we need.
From every event that we attend we put metrics on how many meetings booked from the amount of people are there - not just signing up to an event and saying, okay, well we need to get 10 meetings booked from this event but really thinking about the opportunity that is there and then focussing on how we're going to optimize our processes and our time to get the most out of being at that event.
So for me it's mainly the quality that I'm focussed on.
Yeah, I agree, I think that's really important, these old school number of dials, number of activities, number of emails versus more focus on the specifics around where we can overturn objections and how we are overturning them.
I guess it doesn't create that kind of mundane “hey we're just doing the same thing every single day” because you've got different metrics for different parts of the business as well.
..and data is so important to help you with that.
You need to set up your data in a way that it's going to easily communicate to you what the truth is and where the gaps are and then pick that on a monthly/quarterly basis to make those improvements.
You can't fix everything all at once. So start with the things which are most obvious and fix them first, then keep working your way through.
If you can increase your quality by 10% each month then it's going to help you over the course of the year to go above and beyond those targets which you set.
Brilliant, Ben, thank you so much, there was some absolute gold there for SDRs/BDRs listening, we appreciate it and we'll hopefully speak to you soon!
Thanks for having me!