This time in our Leaders in Sales Development series, we talk to Nhungly Dang,
Sr Director, SDR & Sales Ops at Lattice Engines.
Tell us about your role at Lattice Engines?
I currently wear a few different hats but in regard to the SDR team, I’m responsible for all aspects of the team: hiring, on-boarding, training, messaging, outreach strategies, workflow processes, tools evaluation and selection.
I work closely with Marketing, so I also get involved with campaign strategy and execution. I love that Lattice doesn’t expect me to “stay in my lane” and I’m able to learn and do things that do not fall under my responsibilities.
They strongly promote an “I can do” attitude which keeps things exciting for me, as I’m always learning.
How did your prior jobs prepare you for your current role?
I’ve been a quota-carrying rep for about 15 years, mostly in a hunter type of role. I started my sales career in the security space and stayed there for a few years, knowing that this was not an area of long-term interest for me.
I was calculated in selecting the types of high-tech companies I’d like to work for, and I was never scared to make a change. At the time, SaaS was getting to be a hot technology that had a completely different approach to selling around business transformation.
This is where I learned and created a very systematic way for developing top-of-funnel activities and pipeline. I used and refined this system as a rep and was able to adjust it into an SDR-like function. It’s about having a consistent process that can be measured, tweaked for better performance and repeatable.
I’ve always been fascinated with online advertising and welcomed the opportunity to learn more and be in this space. Wow! It is a completely different world. It was SO interesting to see how brands market to consumers, the type of data they are collecting, and how a variety of different tactics are used for targeting.
This led me to a company that developed an AI platform focused on delivering personalization to consumers. It was a great introduction and I built a solid foundation on machine learning, algorithms and the importance of Big Data.
I knew the AI space was where I wanted to stay, which led me to Lattice Engines.
Did your college experience play a role in where you are professionally?
Having managed entire sales cycles, the most interesting to me is top-of-funnel. It can be frustrating when prospects are non-responsive, but I look at it as a challenge and an opportunity to refine my messaging.
One of my majors in college was Rhetoric & Communications. Not many people know what that is. I describe it as the psychology of speaking. Sales Development is part science and part art. You’re dealing with people and their psyche. It takes creativity in messaging or tactics to get them to engage and respond to you. Test to see what works, then tweak it to see if you can get better performance.
Workflow processes are also an important component of how well an SDR team will function. Minimizing manual tasks or data entry will give SDRs more time to spend on prospecting and outbounding.
It’s in my nature to be process-oriented. I have always been able to quickly pick up on different types of technologies and evaluate how they would fit into our process. Introducing too many sales tools can actually hurt the team’s productivity. They will have a hard time figuring out the workflow of each tool, when to use it, how should they use it, etc.
What do you look for when hiring new SDR’s?
When I joined Lattice three years ago, the SDR profile was very different from what it is now. I find that hiring the right SDR really comes down to what type of products your company offers (e.g., technical, complex sales, transactional, etc.) and if they will be a cultural fit.
The top three attributes I look for are work ethic, if they are tech savvy and problem-solving skills. I believe that having a strong work ethic is something you learn at an early age and is ingrained in who you are. It drives your success and determination to succeed. You’ll put in extra time to get yourself quickly ramped up and always striving to exceed expectations.
In our environment, an SDR needs to not only be proficient at understanding our AI product offering, but also our prospects’ tech stack and how it can work with our solution. On top of that, we use a number of sales tools to help the SDR team be productive. I always tell my team, you are as effective as how well you leverage your tools.
If you think about a Sales Development role, it requires a lot of problem solving. An SDR doesn’t have to know all the answers, but to be effective at problem solving, you need to be proactive and resourceful. Know your resources to get your questions answered.
There are a lot of different data points about a target account or your prospects that if you start to piece the information together, it will help guide your strategy for penetration into an account, more targeted or personalized messaging, who else to target within an account, etc.
Tell us about your biggest Sales Development challenge and how you addressed it?
I think getting and keeping a team motivated is a challenge for anyone in leadership. Members of a team need to understand the team’s mission, believe in the mission and be vested in the mission.
I highly recommend reading the book CEO Flow: Turn Your Employees into Mini-CEOs, by Aaron Ross (co-author of Predictable Revenue and person that developed the SDR role at Salesforce).
Aaron’s book has given me many different perspectives of what a leader should be, how to think creatively in running and managing a team, and how to better interact with my team. Managing a team should not be a dictatorship or “because I told you so” attitude. It’s about giving your team a voice and inspiring them to care as much about the team and business as you do.
The SDR team is not my team but our team; each SDR plays an important part in keeping the engine running. I get the team involved whenever there is an opportunity to share responsibilities.
Here a few examples I’d like to share.
- Interviewing: The team is always part of the interview process for SDR candidates. These are people they will have to work with, so I want them to have a say in who comes on board. They are actually quite tough on SDR candidates when it comes to understanding prospecting processes, how efficient are candidates at using tools like Sales Nav, Outreach.io, Seamless.ai, Discoverorg, etc. They can ask very specific questions to assess abilities as they live and breathe SDR responsibilities daily.
- Training: I involve the entire team in training each other on products through customer use cases. We each select a customer and each SDR needs to train the team on challenges the customer was facing, what are the consequence for not doing something different, why they selected to partner with our company, what use cases did we solve for the customer, and what is the impact/results the customer saw from deploying our solution. I also participate in these exercises. As a leader, your team needs to feel that you’re in the trenches with them.
- Sharing Best Practices: When training and sharing with other teams on SDR best practices, I include my team in delivering and presenting the information. Instead of me presenting to the Sales team, I include examples of an outreach from each SDR and had them talk through their strategy, tactic and outcome.
How will Artificial Intelligence (AI) impact Sales Development?
Working for an AI company that offers solutions for Sales and SDR teams, I have a unique perspective. AI-type of martech has been widely adopted by marketing teams in order to better support pipeline development for Sales and SDRs. These technologies have a positive impact on Sales and SDRs if leveraged appropriately with proper processes in place.
I feel that AI is still a fairly new concept and technology for Sales and SDR organizations. Many companies are still learning about it and trying to understand how best to integrate it into their environment, systems and processes. AI improves prospecting effectiveness and keeps SDR teams productive and focused on the right accounts — accounts that would benefit from your company’s product offering and that would drive revenue for your company.
I recently wrote a blog post about how we implemented AI for our own SDR team. Regardless of our SDRs’ training, sales enablement, or skill set, they are less effective than they can be if they’re spending time focused on prospects who are either non-responsive or unready.
This is exactly why we deployed a solution driven by artificial intelligence (AI). This helps improve the SDRs’ sales prospecting effectiveness and keeps them laser-focused on the right targets.
How will Sales Development be different in 2020?
I may be biased, but I truly believe that AI will continue to evolve the Sales Development role. Sales Engagement platforms like Outreach.io and SalesLoft are being widely adopted by SDR teams. These systems and workflows are integrated with Salesforce. There will be more connectors built to automate manual tasks to free up time for SDRs to become more strategic with their outreach and messaging.
My company works with a lot of Marketing and Sales teams and many are asking how AI can be integrated with these sales engagement solutions to make SDR teams more effective. We are also an Outreach.io customer and see a huge benefit to using AI to automate our own list building process for sequencing.
Our product team has built an Outreach.io connector that integrates with our AI platform. Sales (and marketing) teams can create real-time target lists of prospects with specific attributes. For instance, high-tech companies in North American using certain technologies that are showing buying signals, who are actively engaged on your website within the last two weeks. Through the Outreach.io connector, this target list will automatically sequence prospects so SDRs are focusing their efforts on “silent hand-raisers” for quicker engagement to meetings.
As more Sales Development organizations adopt AI, I can see this driving other types of technology integrations and innovations. I’m excited to see how the next couple of years will change the Sales Development landscape.
How do you stay current?
It’s hard not to be current and stay current in the Bay Area. We’re surrounded by start-ups, new innovative technologies and progressive companies and teams. There is a wealth of information and SDR-related groups online or in the area.
Honestly, I do pay attention to prospecting emails I receive to see if there are any interesting technologies I should be aware of for the SDR team. My SDRs are very collaborative and will share things with me that may help improve our processes. I try to attend at least one or two SDR and/or leadership conferences a year. Networking is also a great way to see what others are doing.
What’s your biggest passion outside of work?
I’ve always lived by “work hard so you can play harder,” reaping the fruits of your labor so you can truly enjoy life.
As I’ve gotten older, I make it a point to spend time with family and friends, travel any chance I get and try not to procrastinate on what I’d like to do. I briefly played the drums in middle school; and in the last couple of years I’ve wanted to pick up on it.
A few months ago, I committed myself and bought a drum set. There was no backing out. I now have weekly drum lessons and am loving it. My goal is to get good enough to participate in a jam session sometime next year.
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