Brandon Roberts jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
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Interviewer: Hello and welcome to another very special episode of the Sales Ops Demystified. We are joined by Brandon Roberts who’s very into about two very interesting things. First a professional baseball player in his 20s, but perhaps more interesting even than that to his audience is the fact that Brandon has come all the way from being an FDR, up through management and now shifting into operations, for Mindbody over the past eight years. We’re going to have someone who has that experience coming right the way through the sale system. Brandon, welcome to the show.
Brandon Roberts: Yes, thanks for having me on. I’m excited.
Interviewer: Can we kick off about understanding how you managed to get into sales operations from the SDR and then the management flow?
Brandon: Yes, absolutely. As you mentioned I actually started as a part time SDR back in the day, just cold calling, making thousands of calls, worked my up through sales being an individual contributor, account executive, sales rep, then got into management. Then I spent a couple of different stints managing an SDR team, then managing an account executive team, and that’s really where I started realizing that my analytical strengths were what were setting me apart and making me successful as a sales manager.
I started really getting a reputation for that at that time. Then I got the opportunity to run the SDR organization, director of SDR there.
In my opinion naturally some very operational minded people need to be in that role, because you’re looking at the pipeline from the top of the pipeline down, and processing systems are big. That naturally led me to a little bit of a slow role into running operations of doing both little bit at a period of time, then ultimately exclusively sales operations. That’s how it happened for me.
Interviewer: Got it. As you were in that director manager role, you saw that your strength were more analytical, and therefore this role could potentially be better suited to those strengths?
Brandon: Exactly. I found myself thinking how do we hit our revenue targets sustainably? How do we put in processes and systems, and just repeatable scalable methods to where we can hit the network, month over month, quarter over quarter, year over year, and that’s really where the SVP at the time wanted to put me over sales operations, because of those strengths.
Interviewer: What was that department prior to moving over, or were you the first person?
Brandon: Yes, but it definitely evolved I think back to when I started and it was basically a Salesforce Admin, right? Back in 2011 or whatever year that was. It grew and it was very light, but at the time, we did have a VP of sales ops. I was reporting to him when I was the director of SDRs at the time and then it was just a natural transition.
Interviewer: Got it. Right now, approximately, how many reps do we have versus people in the operations team?
Brandon: Are you talking sales ops or enablement or anything like that?
Interviewer: Ops and enablement?
Brandon: I’ll probably say it’s a plus or minus 50 to a couple hundred.
Interviewer: In ops and enablement?
Interviewer: Then approximately how many reps are you guys supporting?
Brandon: A couple hundred.
Interviewer: Got it. Okay, cool. Then now, moving on to the current tech stack for you guys using.
Brandon: Yes, so we have Salesforce in house, we’ve had that in house for quite a long time, obviously. That’s our powerhouse CRM. We use Outreach. We use NC Squared for distribution. Eloqua for top of the pipeline. We’ve used a couple different tools for data augmentation. We’ve tested quite a few of those from Radius to ZoomInfo. Those are definitely important.
Interviewer: Cool. Then is your team, the sales ops team responsible for ensuring data quality inside Salesforce?
Brandon: Yes, we do that quite often. We do one-off merges. We have duplicates in our system because of the nature of our prospects are pretty small businesses. We’ve got a team that does that. We’ve got a team that does mass merges and data quality. Really the most important thing, in my opinion, is putting the ownership on the sales reps themselves because they have their territories, they have their funnels and really the more we can put ownership on them to empower them to own their data, own their funnel and keep things clean for themselves, the better off we’re going to be. That’s sometimes more effective than running mass data enhancements.
Interviewer: I totally agree. How do you actually get reps to own the data quality?
Brandon: Yes, part by helping them understand how it benefits them. Really, the longer they have their territory or their funnel, where they understand that that’s their source of income and they take pride in that, that’s one way and then the other way is simply to require certain fields at certain stages of lead statuses and opportunity stages, and get a little bit more rigorous on what we’re putting in the system. If they want to move something down the pipeline, or to a different lead stage, we require just different pieces of information along the way.
Interviewer: [unintelligible 00:06:14] that data input, so they have to comply by their rules, if they’re going to push someone through the process?
Brandon: Yes. You run the risk of somebody putting in fake data at that point, but realistically, we just have to– That’s accountability and culture of the sales team, of making sure that they’re doing what’s right for the business, and putting in the information at certain times. Then we partner with them to make sure that we’re acquiring the right things at the right time.
At this point, in elite status, on a sales stage, you should have this information, if you’re following our sales process. “Yes. Okay, great.” You have that partnership, and then you have that buy-in, so it makes sense. If we were requiring something completely ridiculous at the top of the pipeline, then we would probably be more inclined to have some more fake data. It’s really a partnership and everything we do in Salesforce is partnership with sales leadership.
Interviewer: I see. Is there anything else you guys are doing to get salespeople more bought into the stuff that you want them to do? You mentioned here, make them understand how it’s– How they win by doing this. How they make more commissions. Is there anything else that you do, like any gamification or any other strategies to form that partnership, and to get them to do the things they need to do?
Brandon: Yes, I think it’s really mainly just the two big things, so the “why” for the company, first and foremost. Really, if we have a great culture, and we’ve got great people in the seats, they understand that their job is to support the business, and make the businesses as successful as possible. First and foremost, understanding why the business needs it, and then number two is why they need it.
Why it actually helps them, their pocket book and help them manage their pipeline or generate more income, so I would say it’s twofold for those, and it’s why and why. Why is it helping the business and why is it helping ourselves?
Interviewer: Got it, moving back to, well, probably now and when you were running the whole SDR function. Do you have any tips for onboarding SDRs? I assume you went through a pretty high volume of SDRs there. What changes did you make to onboarding process that had a big impact?
Brandon: Yes, you definitely need to make sure you have product in there. I think a lot of organizations think that they want to avoid products, so that they’re not over-qualifying, but product sales acumen, and then systems is typically underrepresented in onboarding programs. There’s probably minimal systems update, and then they basically get the rest of the training from tribal knowledge with the rest of the group.
Having a real focused effort on how to use Salesforce, how to use other tools, how to follow the process? What to do when, where to get data? Those types of things are such a massive part of their role now. Especially, this day and age, that needs to be a significant portion of onboarding them, so that they can be successful.
Interviewer: What did you expect for the runtime on a new SDR?
Brandon: For SDRs, we expect it to be pretty quick. It’s just a couple of months. We have a transactional situation. A majority, a small majority of our businesses is enterprise, so a lot of it is transactional, so they can get up to speed pretty quickly. Just a couple of months and they can be getting some demos in front of the account executives there. Majority of their bonus and commission is on demos, booked and assigned. Really we’re not waiting for that full sales cycle for those SDR. We want to get them ramped pretty quickly.
Interviewer: [unintelligible 00:10:11] ACV, just a range. Just so we know what kind of we’re dealing with?
Brandon: Well, again, it ranges so drastically between SMB, mid-market and enterprise. The SMB side is mainly what I’m kind of speaking of right now and that’s around the 5,000.
Interviewer: Got it. Cool. If anything that you guys do right now to make SEL and AEs more productive?
Brandon: Yes. What we like to focus on is, enhancing their selling activities. We look at non-core activities and selling activities. We really want to optimize the amount of time they can spend on selling activities which are calls, demos, following up with prospects, emails, et cetera. The way we do that is, is to try to minimize the amount of time that they have to spend on those internal non-core selling activities by automating systems, by putting some streamline processes in place. By augmenting data as much as possible.
We analyze our department ever so often where we say, how much time are they spending on these tasks that are bogging them down? Then how much time are they spending on the phone, calling, emailing? We measure that every once in a while and then we basically put our initiatives together and say, “Okay, how can we reduce these internal non-core selling activities as much as we possibly can?”
By reducing those as much as we possibly can, we’re essentially freeing up our sales reps to do not only what’s more valuable for the company, but what they like to do as well. What’s going to make their job satisfaction go up because they get to do things that they love doing. That’s one of the main things that we do. In sales operations, we’re focused on the efficiency side of the equation, efficiency and effectiveness really drives sales productivity. Any way we can drive efficiencies in the motion and make it faster for them to move is going to drive productivity for us.
Interviewer: [inaudible 00:12:28] that has been boosted in all things setting activity?
Brandon: Yes. Data augmentation is definitely one example of that. Couple of years ago, we ran the analysis and we found that was one of our bigger opportunities is we’re spending a lot of time finding more information off the websites. Trying to gather qualifying information on the prospects. That was one area where we were able to plug in certain tools and get that data ahead of time. That reduced the amount of time that they had to spend, sourcing and researching and finding that information and free them up to make more calls.
Interviewer: Got it. Can we quickly talk about the forecasting process? Does that fit within– are you responsible for producing the forecast?
Brandon: Yes, it’s a partnership because sales leadership is ultimately accountable for that. We create the process for it and we create the structure. Then the sales leadership on a weekly basis just needs to update their forecast and make sure that they’re within a decent variance every single month. They’re understanding what the pipeline looks like, et cetera.
I would call that, I wouldn’t say, we own forecasting, but we definitely enable it and we set the structure up for it. We make sure the system can accommodate that and we manage it. Then the sales leadership is ultimately accountable for that and telling us what they’re going to do and what their sellers are going to do? Then obviously ultimately hitting that.
Interviewer: Do you have like a weekly meeting where you would bring the numbers and then the sales managers and leaders would come in and be like, “Actually no, I think that’s a bit high. We’re probably not going to close that one.” Is that the process?
Brandon: Yes, that’s absolutely right. There’s a couple different methods for it. We pull the actuals to say, “Okay, here’s where we’re at and this is where we would be trending, but what are you seeing on the floor? What are you seeing from talking to your sellers from your sellers’ forecast meetings rolled up to you. What fluctuations and seasonality are we not seeing or whatever the case may be with that deals are coming through, you name it.”
A little bit of science on our side to see, what actuals have come in already and what we see. Then a little bit of heart on their side, based on what they know of over the last couple of years. What they’ve experienced and the conversations they’re having with account executives, managers and their prospects.
Interviewer: Got it. This is out of my interest. Let’s say, a sales manager who has five AEs and 20 SDRs, how many ops is he’s going to have to try and review in the week to say, yes that’s accurate or not approximately. Because to me, that could be like 100 opportunities at this price point. Then how does– If I’ve never been a sales manager, would I then go and sit with every one of my reps to understand every opportunity or do you know how they do that?
Brandon: Yes. No, you’re spot on there in more transactional, it’s not going to be a review of every single one of those. It’s a mix of reviewing those top ones that we think are going to close that are getting closer in the pipeline. Then a mix of historical trends and what we’re expecting to come in through the marketing funnel in our SDR etcetera. It’s really a balance of both, and it’s a balancing act forecasting especially when it gets a little bit more transactional.
Interviewer: Got it. Then you mentioned, [unintelligible 00:16:13] you talked just a little bit on that. Do you have separate SDR teams that take just inbound stuff and [unintelligible 00:16:21]
Brandon: Yes, we’ve gone back and forth on that over the last couple of years. We’ve gone full outbound, we’ve gone full inbound, we’ve gone mix, we’ve gone different types of leads and stuff like that. We do have a focused inbound unit that focuses on conversion rates of those, and then an outbound team that’s supporting the account executive in the field in their territories and their funnels.
Interviewer: Got it. Is the commission structure the same for the inbound versus outbound?
Brandon: Yes, it’s approximately the same, but obviously the targets are much different.
Interviewer: Got it, awesome. Then final set of question is KPIs that we’re tracking or actually I’ll reverse this. Through your eight years at Mindbody, which has been the most insightful sales related KPI that you’ve used?
Brandon: Yes, I would say my favorite KPI is really a lagging KPI. It’s the number of– It’s the percentage of reps that are hitting quota. The reason I like that one is because I like to– We like to keep a pulse on the culture of the sales department. Whether or not it’s healthy or not healthy, depending on how many people are hitting their quota, and how many people are not hitting their quota. Whether or not they’re feeling successful and they’re celebrating and hitting the gong all day long, or if the targets are too high.
That’s one that really gives me a measurement of not only how effective our sellers are, but how effective they are. Because you really want a culture that can win and wins often. It is really happy and high-fives each other all day long. That’s my favorite just to keep a pulse on that. I want to make sure everybody’s successful, everybody’s winning, and everybody’s doing a good job.
Interviewer: We’ve never had anybody come in and say, “I like this metric because it ensures that I know that the culture. That people are having fun and enjoying their jobs.” If not many people are asking and just saying I like this metric that tells me if they’re performing or not, right? That’s a really interesting angle. Final question, who has given you the most knowledge throughout your eight-year career at Mindbody?
Brandon: I would say coming from individual contributor sales to sales management and transitioning over to ops was a big competency jump for me to learn everything ops as much as I possibly could. Obviously, I had a lot of it from sales management. There are really two that stick out. My current boss right now Jeff Wadholm. He’s an ops master. He’s got tons of years of experience in sales ops and revenue ops. He’s a great mentor for me and I’m lucky to be able to learn from him.
Prior to him Hillary Hedley. She’s moved on. She’s the head of ops at Zoom. She helped increase my competencies and motivate me. Helped to teach me everything that she possibly could about sales ops and helped me get where I am. I would say those two. I’m super lucky to have worked for both of them. It’s been exciting. It’s been fun. I’ve just learned a ton.
Interviewer: Fantastic. Now let me tell you what I’ve learned from this interview. The thing that I picked out. You said this right at the start and it’s quite interesting, in that revenue targets, you don’t necessarily need to hit them, but they need to be sustainable. I thought that was quite interesting. Getting reps to own their own data quality and you do that by explaining that passion you have is good for the company as well as yourself.
Enhancing selling activity is pretty obvious, but not everyone comes up with that. The final point about trying to understand not just whether reps are performing, but also the culture and whether people are happy in the team by measuring the percentage of them hitting quota. Brandon, thank you so much for your time. That was super insightful. Thank you so much for coming on.
Brandon: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
[00:20:47] [END OF AUDIO]