Carissa Brones |

Sales Development Manager, Promenade Group

Transcript below. Lightly edited for clarity.

Tom: Thanks for being here today. For anyone who is watching and doesn’t know me, I’ll take just a quick minute. My name is Tom Melbourne, founder of open market, (OpnMkt) and we’re running a series called a SDR leader spotlight, which is where we chat with frontline sales leaders and get to know them a little bit. And today we have Carissa Brones with me, Carissa, thanks so much for being here. Take a minute. Introduce.

Carissa: Thanks so much for having me. My name is Carissa, I am a SDR manager at Promenade. We are a startup in Santa Monica, California area, and I’ve been here for about two and a half years, but it’s coming up to exactly my one-year mark as a manager.

It’s been a great, extremely fun experience and happy to dive into the details.

Tom: Awesome. Well, yeah, let’s start with Promenade. Tell us a bit about your company, what you guys do, why you were founded? That kind of thing.

Carissa: Yeah. So what we do is we provide solutions to small business owners.

So you can imagine if you have a small business, we’re probably going to do a website help with your social media, help with your marketing. Basically anything that we can do to help grow your online revenue. I’d say the coolest thing probably is that we’re very mission driven. We were founded about 10 years ago because one of our founders, his aunt was a local florist and had a floral shop. And she was using these third parties to bring in an order and they would take a percent. And, you know, upon looking at her business, she was doing very well. But when one of our founders, he had a finance background, took a look at her statements. He said, oh wait, you’re getting orders, but you’re not keeping any of the profit.

Let’s get you these orders direct. How can we help you as the business owner be successful versus relying on these third parties? So that’s actually how we were founded. He helped her grow her business. And since then we expanded to other floral shops. Our track record is that we’re able to grow their online revenue by about 30 to 40% the first year.

And it did so well, obviously, you know, helping a lot of florists around the country that we said, wow, this is something that we can apply to other business owners as well. So since then, we’ve rebranded from Bloom Nation to Promenade, which is what we go by right now, so that we’re not just in the floral niche, but now we can help any sort of small business.

Right now, there are a couple of verticals that we specialize in. For example, we have Bloom Nation for florists. We have Dig-in for restaurants and we have Swigg for liquor stores. And I think the long-term goal is to expand and become industry agnostic so we can help any small business owner be successful online.

Tom: What a great story. I mean, I love that. he found a problem with his aunt’s business and helped her be more profitable. I mean, that’s a great place to be. I’m sure she is thankful to have the product.

Carissa: I mean, it’s a great success story. And I think also it, you know, business owners like to hear that they’re actually our priority.

They’re the ones that we care about. You know, our business is really to help them. It’s not for us to make money, although, you know, obviously we’re doing great and we’re expanding, but it’s really to help them be successful.

Tom: That’s huge. Tell us some more about your team, you’re talking to local businesses.

What are you guys doing inbound? Outbound? How big is your team? Where’s your focus.

Carissa: Definitely. So I am one of two SDR managers. We each have a portion of the team that we manage. I’d say at a given time, my personal team is anywhere from about 7 to 14 reps, I would say. And most of our efforts are outbound.

I would say 80% is outbound cold calling 20% emails. Marketing is something that we are working on right now. So I’m very excited to be getting some more inbounds, hopefully fingers crossed. But yeah, I’d say outbound reaching out to these business owners. Some can be micro SMBs, but outbound cold calling heavy is definitely where our bread and butter is right now.

Tom: Awesome. Okay. Perfect. And, so from your perspective, I always love to just kick off and understand everybody’s journey into sales. How did you find sales? How did you first get into sales?

Carissa: Kind of a funny story. I never ever thought I would be in sales in my life. I’m an introvert by nature extrovert from learning, not very aggressive or confrontational.

And in my mind, that was what I thought a sales person was. So I never really thought I would go into sales, but I I’ve always been very interested in startups. I actually got my master’s in entrepreneurship at USC. In that program realized I want to venture into startups, see what it looks like to grow a business.

Can I get my hands dirty before maybe I start my own one day in the future. So at the time I actually knew somebody who worked at Promenade. He had an awesome career path, similar to mine in which he started off as an SDR, got promoted to a AE and was actually involved in founding some of our new verticals.

And he said, you should come. You know, we are really involved with the founders, lots of growth opportunities here. I think you’ll really like it. And that’s how I started at Promenade. I’d never really thought I would be in sales, but knowing I wanted to grow really fast and learn and, you know, start my career.

Tom: Oh, that’s really awesome. I think one of the nice things about sales is the career path that you can trailblaze for yourself. The entrepreneurship piece is one thing I also really enjoy about sales, because I feel like it’s a place where if you can’t be running your own business, if you’re in sales, you kind of are like a business within the business. So I think it fits pretty well there.

What was your path from being an individual contributor to leading a sales team?

Carissa: Yes, this is one that I’m very proud of and I always like to share. So I started off as an SDR when I joined Promenade. Again, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do other than I wanted to grow and learn fast and do as much as I could.

So I looked up to my friend who had this awesome career progression. And I said, I’m going to do that, but I’m going to do it better and faster if I can. And that’s honestly kind of what happened. So I went from SDR and I went to junior account executive then to account executive. And then now obviously SDR manager.

I did that promotion and about a year and a half time span, which is pretty crazy, honestly. The one thing about Promenade is that we do really make an effort to promote from within. So you will see a lot of SDRs moving on to AEs. My promotion path is very fast and it was a great learning experience.

For me, I always wanted to push myself, push my limits, see what I could do. So I have been able to progress throughout the different roles, which has been awesome.

Tom: Yeah, that’s huge. And I think it’s great that you have an opportunity to do that at an organization that obviously when you guys have grown quickly, it leaves a lot of room for opportunities able to be filled.

So you’ve been in a leadership role now for about a year. A question I always hear a lot of people trying to understand is the difference between being an individual contributor to now managing people. And so what were, what are some of the things that you see as like the biggest differences between the two.

Carissa: I mean the biggest obvious difference is that as an individual contributor, it’s just you, right? You’re responsible for your own quota. If you’re hitting your goals, that’s amazing. You’re getting paid off of that. If you need go on vacation, that’s fine. You do it. And you just make up for it. And as a manager, it’s not you that you’re responsible for.

It’s all these reps. Basically your team quota is your new quota. So that’s the hardest thing to get used to, especially somebody like myself, who’s used to being a top performer. If somebody is struggling, I think the natural thing to do is kind of get in there book demos with them, make calls with them, which is great in terms of coaching, but it’s not really sustainable.

Like you, you can’t do the work. I think the biggest thing that you have to learn is how can you empower your reps for them to get there for them to get you to their team quota versus. Going in there and doing it yourself because that’s what you previously relied on.

Tom: Yeah. I can completely relate to what you’re saying. I think I had the same similar experience.

As you’re looking for reps, then what are maybe are some of the key traits that you feel would make them successful as a SDR that you look for when you’re hiring?

Carissa: That’s a great question.

Learn through experience. I’ve interviewed a lot of people. See a lot of people come and go. Personally, I really value these two qualities as telltale signs. If somebody is going to do well or not. Somebody with these two traits can go from good to great, in my opinion.

The first thing is having that inward sense of drive, having that inward motivation because like I said, I can’t do it all for them. Right. They have to be somewhat motivated, somewhat driven to a goal they’re working towards, especially when times are tough. Right? It’s a grind. The SDR role can be not glamorous at times. So they have to have that thing that they’re working towards that will motivate them to push.

So that’s the number one thing. Then the second in order to make it happen, they have that grit and that hustle and that work ethic, right. You have to have the, the motivation, the goal, and then you have to have the hard work that will get you there. Um, so those are really the two things that I value.

In looking at what have made my reps successful, I would say there’s one rep, especially who stands out to me. He actually is the first rep I was able to promote from SDR to a AE about a week ago, and he is a great. His display of these two quality is getting him to the next level.

Tom: That’s awesome. Congrats on the promotion.

Carissa: Yeah. And so excited for him. Thank you.

Tom: That’s a big deal.

You talked about it being a grind, and I think, listen, the last two years it’s been, it’s been a challenge, and just different, a lot of things that we’re learning, I think in adapting to, but what are some of the biggest things, you know, changes or shifts that you’re seeing in the market? Mostly in terms of connecting with prospects?

Carissa: I would say it’s more of a media or the ways in which we reach out to them. So we’re using a lot of social media, a lot of text messaging, a lot of video, like video art over email, I’d say it’s for two purposes. Mostly I’d say one is to stand out against everyone else who’s reaching out to them. Right. They’re getting a bunch of emails in a day. How are they going to click on ours? And then I’d say second is having a direct line of communication. So if we’re able to get the number of their cell phone, of course not randomly texting them. If we’re able to message them directly on social media.

The business owner is probably the one who has it on their phone. It allows us to not bother the people in their shop as much and just directly communicate with them. So I’d say different ways that make us stand out as having a quicker reach to the decision maker is what we’re trying.

Tom: That makes a ton of sense. And as far as going back to the piece of the grind that you talked about, what are some ways that you’re finding are working well to motivate your team, especially in this new remote world?

Carissa: Um, yeah, remote. A blessing and a curse. I I’d say in terms of motivation. One thing that I do is I have really personal relationships with my reps. We really get to know each other because you know, we work with each other so much. What I try to do is I try to figure out what are they personally motivated by? For example, the rep that just got promoted to an AE position, that’s what we were working towards.

I have somebody else who’s saving up to buy a house. I have somebody else who loves spiffs and competitions and winning things and, you know, kind of like going against other people to be motivated. So I’d say figuring out what motivates each person, as a rep this also was important to me, for example, if someone bet me a free lunch, I was probably going to work really hard, but if somebody wanted to take me to Disneyland, I don’t love the amusement parks. I probably wasn’t going to try. So figuring out what do they actually care about? What’s going to motivate them to succeed both in short-term and long-term goals.

Tom: I always laugh at the small bets and how motivating they can be.

Carissa: I’m currently doing a bet with a rep today that I’m giving him a free workout class, if he’s, if he’s getting to his daily goal today.

Tom: That’s awesome.

In terms of things that you’re working on or passionate about what are the initiatives that you’re working, projects, things like that.

Carissa: A passion project, in my other life, I’m very interested in health and wellness. I’m a personal trainer on the side and I do all sorts of things relating to that. One thing is I actually created an initiative during COVID where we would do wellness Wednesdays events at our company.

I would organize a virtual meditation or stretch session or something that was stress relieving, but also bonding. And we would do that almost every Wednesday as a company, since then it’s evolved. We now call it Zen day. And it’s not just the sales team. It’s now the whole company where we’ll do a wellness event altogether, either virtual or in person.

Then the rest of the day, we give employees off to dedicate to self care. This has been awesome. It’s become a tradition that we’ve done every month since. I think it’s really great to show that we really are investing in our employees. We appreciate their hard work and for giving them time for them to recuperate so that they can come back and really give their full effort the next week or the next week.

Tom: That’s great. I’ve tried a bunch of things along the way too. And I think everybody sort of zoomed out of happy hours. That’s what I always say. And yeah, I mean, listen, incorporating some health and wellness into the team meeting, I think is just such a great thing. Getting people moving. That’s awesome. I’m glad, glad to hear that you’re doing that.

What about if you’ve got an SDR or AE who wants to get promoted, maybe even go into the management, what advice do you give them?

Carissa: Great question. What I personally say is to always bring it up in your one-on-ones with your managers.

I think something that we can often forget is just pacing to quota, pacing, to goal, but it’s really important to bring it up to reps, to make sure that we’re collaborating in terms of their promotion that they’re working towards. So that on like a manager side note, but in terms of what I would recommend to reps is I recommend taking initiative and doing something that’s beyond your current job description.

That perhaps falls under the responsibility of the next role that you want. So for example, as an AE, when I was looking into management, I started mentoring other reps. I would listen to their calls. I would send them examples of my demos, which was great because I genuinely did enjoy helping them, but also it showed that I wanted to do more.

And then it also showed to management I’m already doing something that was kind of in the manager realm of responsibilities. So I would say, always try to do something more beyond your current job description that might be in the next role that you want. First of all, just to show that you’re working hard and you want to do something more, but second of all, it’s a track record.

Secondly, I would keep tabs of all of these things that you’re doing. Make a list like extra initiatives, and then make it known to your manager as. And the decision-maker when you meet with them, tell them what promotion that you want. Tell them, I’ve done this, this, and this and this, as well as your sales or quota metrics, because then it gives you some sort of leverage and negotiation power, and also makes it known to them, which I think is really important as well.

Tom: Yeah. I can’t agree more with it. I think you’re giving just spot on really good advice. You know, the funny thing, I don’t think a lot of people realize this. You know, when you’re doing your job everyday, you just think people notice and like you see the leaderboards and things like that and of course, leadership does notice. They know who the top performing reps are, but I think the thing a lot of reps expect is someone’s going to come and kind of tap them on the shoulder and say, we’re ready for you to be promoted. Um, and honestly, if you’re not telling us that, that’s what you want to do, why would, you know, maybe we won’t right. And so I think just being, making it known, I love the list that you’re putting together and, and having people sort of bring that in because, you know, it’s outside of the dashboards and things we may not know what you are doing that we’re missing.

Bringing all that up and what not, I think is la really valuable thing to do. I love the list on the side and I love just sort of them self-advocating for themselves and making it known. I always say, when somebody gets promoted, it should just be like, of course they did that makes total sense. And unless that’s happening, I think it’s not always going to happen. So, that’s really great advice.

How about you? What about, or like some lessons, um, that, you know, for other SDR managers or people that are about to get into it? What’s an SDR manager and SDR leader, what’s a lesson that you’ve learned along the way?

Carissa: I’d say the top ones that come to mind that are easy to explain, I’d say set clear expectations from the beginning is a really big one. I’d say trust, but verify, and set smart goals.

When you’re talking to a rep, instead of saying, you need to do this, this and this and this. Although they might need to do all of those things, give them one main thing they need to focus on and then follow up on that before you give them something else to work on. I’d say lastly, definitely develop relationships with your reps.

I’m very close to all of my reps. However, still very important to hold them accountable. And that will make your manager rep relationship even stronger. If you do call them out and you still hold them accountable and you still have their best interest in mind. And at the end of the day, I think I treat my role as my responsibility at the end of the day is to make them successful and begin an advocate so that they can achieve similar success that I have and move up to AE or whatever they want to do.

But endless lessons. Those are just a couple that come, come to my mind currently.

Tom: I think you’re picking up on the right stuff. Sounds really good. As far as your growth goals from here, what’s next for you and your career? Where are you aspiring to go?

Carissa: Yes. Um, in terms of exact position, I don’t know yet.

I think I’m figuring out how to best manage. One thing I’m currently focusing on a lot is how can I pivot from just being a manager to being a leader. So instead of me getting in there and getting my hands dirty, although I do, how can I empower my reps to motivate themselves and drive themselves?

And if I’m on vacation or not here, how do I know that they’re going to be the ones pushing themselves to their goals? So being a leader is one thing that I’m really trying to work with. Secondly, work-life balance is a focus of mine as well. I have hustled a lot in my life. I still do hustle, but I think having some sort of separation is something I’m trying to work on now that we’ve come out of COVID.

But I’d say those are the two general themes that I’m working on in terms of actual positions, unclear. We’ll see what happens.

Tom: That’s awesome. A lot of the stuff you’re learning now, it goes in so many different directions and I think it’s really great.

If anybody wants to get in touch with you, what channels you’re on, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Carissa: I would say LinkedIn is probably the best, Carissa Brones on LinkedIn messaged me, connect with me. I would love to chat with anyone. I have definitely reached out to a lot of random people in my lifetime.

So I am more than willing to give back the favor. And I would just love to connect with people and expand my network.

Tom: Awesome. Well, Carissa, it’s been great chatting with you. Thanks so much for doing this. Wish you the best of luck in your career from here.

Be sure to check out other episodes of The SDR Leader Spotlight Series