Transcript below. Lightly edited for clarity.
Tom: Thanks for being here today. For anybody who’s watching and doesn’t know me, I’ll take just a quick minute to introduce myself. I’m Tom Melbourne, founder of open market and we’re running a series called the SDR leader spotlight where we chat with SDR leaders and get to know a bit about them. Today we’ve got Michael Elliott with me from UpKeep. Michael thanks so much for being here. Take a minute and introduce yourself.
Michael: Thank you for having me, a quick introduction. Michael Elliott, I’m the SDR manager over at UpKeep. We just finished a series B funding back in May of 2020.
We’re an asset operations management system in the SAS industry. What we do is provide the maintenance and reliability, like tools for those teams to be able to work their operations efficiently. Right now, we’re working with about 3,000 different companies around the globe. And we have a company size of about 200 employees.
Tom: Awesome. So that’s a fun company to be at, not too small where you don’t have any resources and that’s too big with too much process yet. All right. Awesome. Well, perfect. Listen, I love learn a bit about you right out of the gate.
Specifically how did you get into sales? I think, not everybody picks it. Sometimes people fall into it. What’s your background before sales and how did you find it?
Michael: Yeah, actually my background starts back right out of high school, actually in the Midwest. I’m originally from Wisconsin wanting to get out of a small town.
So I joined the military. I spent four years in the Navy. Got out, went back to school and got a degree in marketing and working a couple different jobs in the hometown, got an internship with a local company that actually hires a lot of people to work on defense vehicles. So I was working for a company called Oshkosh corporation.
They offered me an internship after I finished. I was going to school and I finished my degree in marketing and I was able to work in their international sales department. I learned a lot about what they did and trying to sell vehicles overseas. And shortly after that, they offered me a position to move overseas and work as a sales manager at one of their new offices based in Singapore.
I was working out there for about four years under contract. After that they extended me to come back to the US to work at one of another plants in Minnesota. At that point, I really wanted to pursue my master’s degree, so I applied for USC, got accepted there, went to school and decided that I didn’t wanted to leave Southern California.
I stayed out here in Southern California, found a job, working at a startup here locally as an SDR. I really enjoyed what I was doing over there got into really helping out other employees kind of taking on like more of a mentorship role, and wanting to continue that journey. After that, I was referred by some other colleagues who went over to UpKeep and they told me how great the company was, I interviewed and then started as one of their first BDRs.
And, that put me on this journey to where I’m at.
Tom: you started out as a BDR with upkeep. And then, um, how long were you BDR? What, what was your transition to leadership? Why did you want to move from an individual contributor to a leader?
Michael: As I mentioned before, I really did enjoy working and training other colleagues.
When I was at the first startup I was at, but then when I came over to upkeep, I was in a position as a BDR for about a year and a half. And I constantly expressed interest in wanting to be in a management position. Cause I really did enjoy that. I got a lot of fulfillments out of seeing people’s sales professionals, like their, their career.
Career growth and their path to move it up the ladder. That’s something I wanted to be a part of and share my experiences. I kept expressing that interest. And after about a year and a half, they found a need for a team lead as an SDR team lead. I quickly raised my hand.
They gave me the opportunity, which I’m very thankful for. And after proving myself after a couple of months, they decided to move me into a management position. So I’ve been in a management position for about almost a year.
Tom: All right. Perfect. The one question I think that always comes up is going from individual contributor over to manager, leading the team.
Now you’re no longer responsible for just yourself, but you’ve got, you know, a whole bunch of people that are responsible for now as well. What was the biggest difference or challenge or, thing that you see between being an individual contributor to now leading the team?
Michael: Yeah, now everybody’s kind of looking at you for the answers for everything, but I think it really started with collaborating with other departments. I really had to learn to do that well, like working with marketing, working with our rev ops team, our demand gen team as well. Also diving in deeper into, I really had to learn a lot about Salesforce, like diving into the analytics, behind things, building reports, building these dashboards, and then being able to share with the team.
And then also just learning about how everybody’s a little different. You have to learn how to manage individuals, each person. They have different personalities, they have different motivations. Right. So learning how to communicate with each person was something that I really had to learn compared to being an individual contributor.
Tom: That makes a lot of sense. How about just the team itself? How big is your team? Are you doing an inbound, outbound? What’s the ICP and buyer persona that you guys are targeting?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Great question. We’re actually a team right now of seven SDRs and 10 BDRs. So total of 17, mainly working with the SDRs.
I also step in and I do work with some of the BDRs seeing how I was in that role at one point. So a lot of them still reached out to me. Our SDR team is mainly dealing with strictly inbound from the emerging segments. We’re looking at 250 employees, business segment size and under, and those are all inbounds.
And we’re working with personas like maintenance managers and different other maintenance leaders, as well as VP of operations. Our BDR team is more outbound and they’re working with the mid-market enterprise business segments. So you’re looking at 251 employees up to about 3000 employees and they’re dealing with that.
And you know, some of the same ICP as the SDRs, but then also getting into like the directors of facilities and operations heads of reliability as well.
Tom: Interesting. The next question I was thinking about, I just love asking right now in these days is just working remotely and being a manager.
I think it’s a whole new world. You might’ve been remote this whole time though. Is that true?
Michael: No, actually I was in the office for a little bit before we went remote.
Tom: Okay. All right. So then how has that been going remote, like from being in the office to being remote, what’s been some of the biggest challenges you face there.
Michael: I think one of the biggest challenges. Well, at least I thought it was going to be a huge challenge was I was working in the office. Right. And like, the team is so engaged and so motivated. Right. When you’re in the office, it’s like, it’s very infectious atmosphere. Everybody can turn to you and ask for feedback, ask for advice.
Turn to a colleague or turn to a manager and, you know, you can celebrate wins together. You can go out there and hit that gong and everybody sees it. So that’s something I really thought we were going to lose a lot of is that motivation and keeping people engaged. But I feel like our team’s done a really good job.
That’s one thing I hear a lot from people at the company is that they really like the culture that we have here at UpKeep. So utilizing things like zoom and slack and assembly to really celebrate wins with each other. And our operations team is just fantastic. There’ something every day, there’s a new competition, a way to keep people involved and not to mention our CEO.
If you ever listened to him, speak, watching these videos, he is so into maintenance management and so transparent as well. It just gets you psyched up as well. So that transition of being in the office to now remote, I was a little worried about that motivation and engagement factor, but it actually hasn’t been affecting us too much at all with the way they have everything in place and the operations team, how they work. It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve been able to keep that engagement up.
Tom: It sounds like you’re pretty involved, I guess, any initiatives that you’ve been helping implement?
Michael: Yea, one initiative that I’ve been really proud of here and something that one of my bosses, when he came on board as well, we wanted to really break down prioritizing leads and the quality that we’re sending across to our team. So one thing we introduced was more like a tier process. So, you know, we’re going to have high priority leads. You know, label as tier, A, tier B and tier C. And we created lead grades for them as well so that the team can focus a little bit more of their time on the high quality stuff, the stuff that’s going to convert, compared to actually spending time on leads that might not be as engaged.
They’re not clicking on the website or any of our content. They’re not asking for demos. They’re not asking for free trials. Those are the ones that are low converting. So let’s take those off their plates, get them into an automated cadence. If they reply great an SDR can go ahead and reach out to them and book it.
But with the conversion rates so low, we really wanted to take it off their plate and be like, hey, here are the high priority ones, the A’s and B’s where to go ahead and spend the majority of your time. It allows you then to focus more on them and personalize some of that outreach that we’re trying to do as well.
So it’s been very, very fruitful. We’ve been seeing great conversion rates coming through, SDRs have been happy because they’ve been able to manage their days a little bit better and really know where to concentrate their time.
Tom: I imagine the AE’s are pretty happy?
Michael: Oh, yes, they are better quality demos coming across the board for sure. Yeah. Yeah.
Tom: Well, good. I think that definitely is one way to keep your team motivated as far as just taking some of that, you know, monotonous work or, or maybe lower quality leads off their plate, how else are you keeping your team motivated these days?
Michael: Other things we do as well. One thing that I’ve noticed as well with the company is just how transparent everybody is. So giving them the transparency to know what’s happening in each department and within the organization as a whole. They seem to really appreciate that along with just actually just listening to them.
Taking the opportunity to sit down and listen to them, ask for their feedback, ask for their insights, just allowing them and giving them a voice seems to be something that really motivates them individually. Not to mention, like we bring in leaders from other departments to discuss our new initiatives and campaigns that are being run.
This really gives the SDR team the reasons why behind things, right. If they know why we’re doing things, it allows them to provide their feedback, ask questions, and they ended up having a better conversations with the prospects.
We share analytics and reports with them constantly. They know where they are as far as KPI’s go, where they stand on team. They know how the team is continuing to grow and move in the right direction, as well as their direct impact on the company. And then a couple other things is, we provide resources to keep them healthy, like mental health.
We find it’s very important. So we want to make sure that they have a good bill of mental health. The company provides resources for that. And of course, money, right. We run spiffs, we run daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly spiffs to keep it fun.
Tom: I love the mental health component of it.
I think it’s like really under looked these days. And I think, listen, everybody’s going through some stuff just trying to navigate through, you know, uncharted territories with the pandemic and all of that stuff. And working from home, there’s a lot going on. So I really liked that part of it.
What are some ways that you’re recognizing members of your team today for their performance?
I always love to hear about any fun awards or maybe rituals that you guys have as a team. I’d love to hear that.
Michael: Yeah, well in the office, right? I told you, we used to do like a gong that used to be like a big thing. We can’t do that anymore. Cause we’re not in person, but things we have done is we actually came up with our own currency.
We have UpKeep bucks. So people get rewarded every month or like when they do something you can celebrate them and you reward them with UpKeep bucks and then the employee can go in and they can go ahead and redeem this for different swag or gift cards. We also recognize. We have bi-weekly meetings.
We do between me and my manager as well. We’ll sit down with both the SDR and BDR team and we’ll highlight the high performers on each team. We’ll say a little something as why they’re a top performer and kind of celebrate those wins with the whole team. We do that every two weeks.
We also recognize employees during our all hands meetings. We do this once a month. We choose a few different employees based on our three different core values. So we have who exemplifies progress over perfection, customers over revenue or grit over prestige. And then this employee gets a nice shout out in front of the whole company.
The manager talks about why they were nominated and then they also get like a cool little trophy with their names, send to them in the mail, that kind of stuff. You know, the core value that they were nominated for and the month and the year that they were awarded that. So we try to keep it fun and let’s have some different ways we get to recognize our different team members.
Tom: That sounds awesome. And because I know your manager personally, I have to imagine you guys are running some fun contests. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, anything coming to mind?
Michael: Uh, actually, yeah, there’s a couple, when he came on board yet quite a few different ideas and we actually just finished up doing a March madness bracket, which was a lot of fun.
During the super bowl we did super bowl squares, We made that a fun little contest, and then we did one that the team really seemed to enjoy. Like competitive about it. It’s like almost like a similar to like a white elephant kind of contest where reps, as soon as they would book a deal, they would choose a number between one and 15 and they’d be able to steal each other’s numbers every time they got a booking.
And then randomly throughout the day, like a number would be drawn. My manager would choose it and then whatever, whoever had that number at that time would end up winning the prize, the prize being, I spoke about some different swag and lunches with like, you can sit down and you could win a lunch with the CMO or the CRO or the CEO.
You could sit down and have lunch with them. So that was a lot of fun. They kept it very competitive and it was a lot of back and forth in our slack channel.
Tom: That’s awesome. I remember some of those, anything else you guys are doing to keep things fun?
Michael: We do a fun Fridays with the teams.
So just to try to keep them going to the mental health thing and just trying to have fun with them as well. Like theres so much stress on work. Like, what we’ll do is we’ll have lunch together. We’ll send up some grub hub gift cards and we’ll just sit down and play some fun games. 30 minutes to an hour and just kind of take our minds off of work.
We do icebreakers as well, and a lot of our meetings, those biweekly meetings I talked about, we actually we’ll start with an icebreaker. Just kinda like get people conversing a little bit, learn something a little bit more about one another on the team. Every demo we get we post in our slack channels, everybody’s like giving them like different emojis and showing a little bit of love on like every deal that’s booked, which is really cool to see.
So that comes from managers that comes from, you know, topics that it comes from, you know, your, just your fellow, your fellow colleagues, other SDRs and BDRs. And then recently we started a book club. So. Taking the book clubs sitting down for about 45 minutes discussing the chapters and you know how some of the learnings can be applied to not only professional life, but your personal life.
Tom: Is it a, is it a business book or is it like kind of more of a personal read?e
Michael: We got the seven habits of highly trained people.
Tom: That’s a good one. It’s a staple. So good. All right. Cool. Um, how about tech tools? What’s something that you guys are using and love?
Michael: Great question. I’d love to hear what’s out there actually. When I think of a tech tool that we’d love to use, it’s, I’m going to, I guess, go back to slack. I mean, that’s something just everybody loves using it. We use it for everything. So internal communication, right. But like anytime a new lead comes in and we get notifications through that.
Every time anybody books, a demo, anytime a demos accepted or not accepted, unfortunately that does happen. It just seems to integrate with everything. We use a lattice, um, we use assembly, we use zoom Giphy, like, so that has gotta be the tech tool that I think everybody loves to use on the team.
And I have it on my phone. I have it on my watch. Like I can’t, I can’t get off of it, so, yeah.
Tom: Yeah. That’s awesome. So what are your career goals, you know, from here, what’s in store for you?
Michael: Yeah. I’m still pretty young in the management position. Like I said, I’ve been here about a year now.
It’s still a lot to learn, but one thing I would love to do is eventually get into managing not only the SDR team, but the BDR team. So a whole inbound and outbound team as a whole would be ideal. And then eventually getting into a director or VP role one of these days. That’s the ultimate goal.
Tom: As we wrap this up, if somebody is watching this and wants to get in touch with you, what channels are you on or what’s the best way to connect?
Michael: I say the best way to connect is either through LinkedIn or through email. Um, you can look up my name, Michael Elliott on LinkedIn. If you’d like to add me there, otherwise email, you can email me directly at Michael dot Elliot’s at on upkeep.com.
Tom: Michael has been so great to chat with you today. Thanks so much for the conversation. I really appreciate it.
Michael: Yeah. Thank you for your time. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
Be sure to check out other episodes of The SDR Leader Spotlight Series