Transcript below. Lightly edited for clarity.
Tom: For anybody who doesn’t know me, I’ll just take a minute and introduce myself. My name is Tom Melbourne. I’m the founder of OpnMkt (open market) and we are running a series called SDR Leader Spotlight Series and today we have Ross Van Wyk with us today. Ross, thanks so much for joining us. Take a quick minute and introduce yourself.
Ross: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. My name is Ross Van Wyk. I am fairly new in my role here at Congruent 360. We are a startup of about 75 people and we are in the data classification, industry. And so we help companies by delivering data security compliance and information governance.
Happy to be here and thanks again for having me.
Tom: Well, congrats on the new role three months in is…
Ross: Yeah. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s it feels maybe like three months, but it’s actually been about six or seven months, but yeah, we are moving fast.
Tom: Perfect. Tell me a little bit about your team.
How many people are on your team and what’s your ICP and the structure of it. Are you guys inbound, outbound that sort of stuff.
Ross: My role is kind of interesting. I sit at this intersection between sales and marketing and leading a team of, we call them BDSRS, business development, sales representatives, but for all intents and purposes, SDRs.
And on that team I have about 10 people. We’re looking to add one more to have a full roster, but, yeah, there’s 10 SDRs on the team. And then the other side of my responsibilities aligned with sales enablement. And so that team is enabling the individual contributors of which there is five as well as the sales engineers.
So there’s three of them on that team. It’s quite a full responsibility as far as the role goes. For targeting purposes, the SDRs that I’m coaching and working with, we target an ideal customer that is a business that sits in a highly regulated industry. And right now we’re focusing on enterprise size of companies. And then as far as buyer personas go, we look for anybody who is in the security or risk space, privacy and compliance data governance, and cloud infrastructure. So there’s a whole bunch of titles that roll up into each of those personas. It’s definitely challenging as far as writing the right message to have the greatest impact to whoever we’re sending it to.
Tom: We’ll jump back into that in a minute. Before we get too far ahead, I want to learn a bit about your background. I always love hearing the journey into sales. I think myself included people sometimes just sort of fall into it.
I think the backgrounds are always really super interesting. How did you find sales?
Ross: Yeah, I just like you, I fell into it accidentally. I actually went to and graduated from the University of Iowa with the health and human physiology degree. And my intention was to go into more school and I really wanted to do physical therapy.
I took a little bit of time off after my bachelor’s degree. Can I figure out and hit reset before I went on to take more debt and more time in school. And in that time I leaned on some of the coursework I had done in my undergraduate, which was related to fitness. And so I went to this gym and I was like, okay, I’m going to take this role as a fitness director, which I thought was growing a team of personal trainers and then doing some personal training myself. And it actually ended up being a sales role. So I was selling memberships to the gym and personal training memberships and packages and things like that. And so that’s how I found sales.
An amazing group of people who gave me a chance as one of their first SDRs at a small startup called all bound. I was the 14th hire there. And really, I mean, that’s where I found my love for this industry.
Tom: I can relate to the gym, the gym sales experience.
I will tell you on the other side of that, go into some of those free sessions and then realizing that I was being sold. I think we both had similar experiences there at different sides of the table, but that’s a great, that’s a great spot to learn sales. You’re helping people out and it’s face to face, which is always a great thing to start out in.
How did you end up getting into and wanting to be a leader?
Ross: After I was an SDR and I learned how much of an impact you can have on that stage in your career, you’re new, you’re learning a lot of new things and honestly, that changed the trajectory of my career, having that opportunity and having a few people invest in me.
Then going into a couple of different account executive roles, and then finally deciding that, hey, you know, I want to stay in B2B sales, but I want to help and coach others to reach their full potential and realize what they’re capable of. And so I think the best sales managers are coaches.
And when I think about where you can have the greatest impact, it’s on those people who are just getting started and have a lot to learn. And, so that’s really what led me to, I guess, to that SDR specific role. And then the role I’m in though, like I said, sits kind of between sales, marketing product, which creates a really unique, intrapreneur aspect to my role where I get to create a lot and work with a lot of different teams and then ultimately help others early in their career, help them realize their success.
Tom: I can hear some of this already in your answer, where are you seeing the biggest difference from being an individual contributor owning your own destiny to now, being responsible for not even just one team, I mean, you’re almost have your own little mini org that you’re overseeing there. Where do you find the biggest differences between the two.
Ross: When I was an account executive or an individual contributor, I feel like I was decent at collaborating with others. But I was more so I wouldn’t say all the extreme of a lone Wolf, but I was definitely out to hit my number and that was about it.
And so in this role, it’s definitely I’m a coach first. I mean, that’s how I look at my role. I mean, I spend more time coaching others and helping them problem solve things which gives me a lot of fulfillment personally and something I really enjoy doing. I think that’s probably the biggest difference.
Also as an account executive, I would constantly tune into different things like this, or reading different content or blogs to then take those things and apply them. Now I find myself doing that research to take those things and then how can I coach those to this team?
Right? How can we implement those new ideas and new tactics across the whole team? So I look at things differently. It’s more of how can I learn these things to scale them across the team versus how can I learn these things and implement them in my day to day.
Tom: I think, listen, in the role that you’re in tune, the ICP that you talked about, I think that’s a hard one to tap into a lot of times.
So with that being said, what’s some of the biggest challenges. That you’re seeing in terms of how to connect with prospects. I think in the last year or two, so much has changed, but also I think the way that buyers are listening, the way that buyers are engaging and all those things have also changed a bunch too.
You’ve done a lot of it before as an individual contributor and now you’re sort of coaching the team, any major differences over the last year or so, or just things that you guys are seeing on a regular basis.
Ross: I think the, the main difference, I don’t know if it’s a difference, but the one thing I’m seeing is that people are exhausted on digital channels, which it’s unfortunate because that’s all we really have to work with and so I think the same channels work, you know, email, phone, social, a multichannel approach still works, but I think it’s definitely about what you say and when you say it. We spend a lot of time using intent data to refine our target account lists to figure out where are our in market accounts.
A lot of companies use intent data, but then we also align that with here’s buyer persona specific messaging. And then how can we take the intent data keywords that put those accounts on our radar and incorporate that into the messaging. So we’re using the right words in that first sentence that they presumably were searching for that put that account in our radar.
So we’re going into depth like that to try and be really, really strategic with who we’re reaching out to. And then just a couple of other things, I would say, tactical type of things. Our email format, we spend a lot of time making more white space than text and focusing on keeping it very short and concise and directly to the point.
And then our call to actions of course are always more interest based versus asking for a meeting right away. So, you know, we’re doing a lot of things like that. Different tactics, but I think the same channels still work. It’s just about getting in front of the right people at the right time with the right message.
Tom: I think what was really cool in there is that you’re using the keywords that people are searching for. Well, that’s cool because I’ve tried to put that stuff together before in the past year. And I mean, you guys being at 75 people is not a huge company, so you don’t have a ton of resources.
Being able to build and stack that I think is great. Do you find that you get a better response in those types of emails? Or have you seen anything shake out? Is it worth doing?
Ross: Yeah, I think it’s definitely worth doing too soon to tell on results. We just recently implemented salesloft.
And so now I’m able to get some data related to our responses and stuff and our engagement, but I would say it’s also just helped us do things. And I’ll say personalization at scale without hopefully sounding too buzzy, but it hit us and allowed us to do that because if you think about the world I’ve taken a lot of the research component out of it, of the day-to-day to where now a rep can go out and say, all right, I’m targeting this company because they’re in market. And these are the keywords that would have been searched. So now I’m going to look for the buyer personas that would specifically be looking for those things.
I’m going to generate a list of 40 new leads that match that buyer persona in his enterprise account. And I’m just going to drop them straight away into this persona specific case. And somebody has already made this cadence for them, me, this cadence that’s very relevant to the persona. So it talks about the problem first, not the product and it’s the problems that persona experiences.
And then of course we introduce in just one sentence, maybe a better way that they could do it. And that would be our product value prop in one sentence. Right. And so, you know, I think that if that doesn’t work, then, you know, we’ll continue to iterate. Like I said, we just started getting some data related to this stuff, but, so far I would say it’s working well.
Tom: That’s awesome. I think the thing that’s super helpful too, is it sounds like you’re putting together a lot of really good stuff for your team so that they don’t necessarily have to be doing and all that busy work. And I think if you can tee them up with that and keep them busy and keep them in front of sending people emails and responding and replying and doing that job, it makes sense.
I think a lot of that data work that you’re doing and setting them up is what I think really drains reps a lot. So, you know, if they can have the playbook in front of them and know how to run it, I mean, that’s just like, that sounds like a really, really great thing.
That makes me think about motivation, right? Because I think not having to do all that stuff is one form of motivation for sure. Right. Because you’re giving them work to do that’s not just busy work. How else do you keep your team motivated?
Ross: I think the first part of it is eliminating that busy work and helping them focus on the activities that are going to drive towards a quality engagement with a project.
That’s how they book a meeting and how they make their money. I think if you take out the busy work and the manual data entry, they hold themselves in a higher regard because they feel better about the work they’re doing. So that’s one thing. The other thing would be just to understand their goals personally, professionally, and then align quota achievement to helping them get there.
For example, if it’s promotion, here’s how achieving quota can help you get to that promotion. If it’s something more personal, like a member on my team bought a new truck recently, and that was like more of a personal financial goal for him. And so I thought that was a really a unique way to align some motivation on, you know, here’s what hitting your quota and your accelerators means for being able to get that truck.
And it was the truck he wanted to add some custom tires and stuff too. So of course there was some additional expense there, but, you know, aligning personal and professional goals to quota achievement is a great way to keep people moving.
Tom: I agree with that a hundred percent. I love hearing that answer.
As you start to get some of this going, and I know you’re still a little bit early days, but going through a few quarters and a few months and some repetition, I’m curious if you’ve come up with ways that you like to recognize the team members, if you’ve come up with any fun awards or rituals that you guys started to do around that?
Ross: Like you said, I’m still new and I’m rounding out my first full quarter in this role. So I am of course, open to any great ideas. You have far more experience than I do on this, but, right now it’s pretty much full transparency on how people are tracking for the month and for the quarter.
I like to send out updates at the end of each week. Here’s the activity we did. Here’s what the results were. We do things like that at this point, but also they are given Salesforce dashboards, so that out in the open, metrics and just really celebrating the wins. Right. So I’m trying to figure out things of how can I get, for example, a very tactical thing.
How can I get SalesLoft to notify our win channel in slack. I just went and learned about their automation rules to help us kind of get those wins in real time. So I think just things like that is the extent of that I’ve gotten to, like I said, always open to ideas for that one.
Tom: The slack channel piece, I used to love that. In Salesloft you can record calls ,most of these tools you can now anyway.
I think we call the SDR wins, but we’d had a channel where we would take the call recording, especially if you booked a demo on a call. I mean, that’s what it was about. Sometimes we’ve put ones in that were just absolutely horrible. Somebody got hung up on because those are fun too. But what you do is you just, you put it in there and then everybody gets to listen to that minute long call and then just start throwing the emojis on it, or typing up some comments.
The ones that you won were always great. And then, like I said, sometimes we’d have total bombs because we’ve all been there with those too, you hang up the phone and you’re like, what even was I thinking, what did I say? How did that happen? So sometimes people that we’re open to putting those in, but the slack channel piece, especially with everybody being remote is a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to keep that going. And it also kind of helps with the cross-collaboration of learning and people can hear what everybody else is saying. I think getting the call recordings, isn’t the hard part now it’s finding the good ones.
I know you mentioned Salesloft, is that the tool that you guys love or, or do you have any other tools that you like?
Ross: Before I started here, six or so months ago, there was really no sales enablement type tooling. Everything was being done manually with spreadsheets and email and Salesforce basically.
I would have to say that team’s favorite tool is probably Salesloft just because it’s made their lives so much easier and it’s also just made us way more effective, right. So yeah, I would say most likely Salesloft, but we’d also, don’t use a lot of tools at this point.
Tom: Aside from the tool is all the work you’re doing.
Sounds like a, that’s probably their also their favorite
Ross is great. You’re winning them over if nothing else. Where do you go from here? What are your career goals and paths? The things that you’re thinking about next for you.
Ross: Yeah, honestly, that’s, that’s really starting to come into focus for me and it’s really because of this unique opportunity that I was given in this role and having the split focus, I’ll say with leading the SDR team and then leading sales enablement.
Honestly, I think it’s such a powerful role because like, I get to see all, I get to fill the funnel with all these qualified opportunities. And then I get to go enable all the sellers on how to help them sell and help them close these deals alongside our VP of sales and some of the account executives.
I get to partner with marketing, which I’ve always kind of liked. I feel like in a second life, I would have been a marketer I’m kind of creative in that way, but. As I also get to partner with these various teams it’s very, it’s unique. And I’ve honestly, since starting this role have seen a couple of these other people popping up in this similar role.
I think for me, it’s just growing this function and maybe hopefully adding some, hopefully we grow as an organization and we need to add some more support to this role eventually. But yeah, I think I would stay where I’m at for as long as I could say so.
Tom: Yeah, I think it’s a good spot to be.
I used to love the cross collaboration between groups and being able to build the machine and making it all come together and turn it up and making it happen. So I think it’s a fun spot. If it’s something that you thrive in.
Hey, as we wrap up, if people want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to get in touch.
Ross: Yeah, please do. LinkedIn is going to be the best way for me, and I’m always open to connect there and if there’s anything or anybody in my network, anybody thinks I can help on, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Tom: Awesome. Perfect. Thanks so much, Ross. We’ll talk soon
Ross: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you
Be sure to check out other episodes of The SDR Leader Spotlight Series