This time in our Leaders in Sales Development series, we interview Nick Liemandt, Sales Development Manager at Instapage.
Tell us about your role at Instapage?
I manage the Sales Development team here at Instapage.
We’ve got a terrific group of SDRs who love to learn, hustle and genuinely want to help each other succeed. We were lucky to have a large flow of inbound demo requests and free trials when I started, so building out an outbound engine is my primary focus as we move up-market.
At Instapage, you were promoted from Team Lead to Manager of the team. Tell us about that?
My role as Team Lead started as a player-coach role, but quickly evolved into a focus on the leading. As we continued to grow the team from three to seven people, I was asked to focus all of my time on coaching, processes, and strategy as the manager.
You won first place in a case study competition at St. John’s University. Tell us more?
Our school participates in the Society for the Advancement of Management (S.A.M.), where schools send a case study team to an international competition in Washington D.C. We were provided with a company, Target, then presented our research and recommendations to improve. We were able to win for our third year in a row. A three-peat!
What’s been similar and different regarding Sales Development across the positions you’ve held at different companies?
The biggest similarities have been the culture of testing new ideas, making sure you have processes and systems in place that scale and a place for leadership who motivates.
I joke with my team: if I tell them a way to do something, they will find an article or thought-leader telling them the opposite. Each rep and company is going to be different, so you have to test new things to find out what works for you. It’s important to let that happen in sales dev.
Being an SDR is one of the toughest jobs in the company and some days it outright sucks.
So for any high-performing sales dev team, you need to a culture of motivation and leadership. As for differences, we’ve been at different stages in company and team development. That dictates how you approach the outcomes from the meetings set up by SDRs and career development.
For outcomes, are we trying to figure out what works and get at-bats? Or do they need to be fully-vetted qualified opportunities? And for career development, no one wants to be an SDR forever, so do we have set development plans for the next role and can we dedicate a lot of time towards training?
Or is that something we have to build up with a primary focus on building pipeline?
Tell us about your biggest Sales Development challenge and how you addressed it?
Finding the right balance between quality and quantity in our outreach.
As a rep, I hated the idea that sales dev was a volume game, but that’s what I heard a lot. I was definitely guilty of calling numbers I already knew didn’t work just to hit the dials metric. Spray and pray just didn’t sit well with me.
On the other side, I would perfect emails and send them off where they would be unopened, read once or replied to with “great email, but not interested.”
You get meetings with the hyper-personalized approach, but not at the scale needed to hit quota. I needed the middle ground that allowed me to deliver the right value at the right time, which meant doing enough activity to hopefully get the timing right, but still being thoughtful with outreach.
A few things that worked for me was to start sending more good emails (5 minutes) vs. the perfect email (20 minutes), time-blocking my day (close Slack, Linkedin, etc.) and researching a prospect once, then keeping good bullet points in SFDC or Outreach.
What’s the top thing Sales Development leaders should be thinking about in 2020?
How to make sure we are still one human selling to another human.
With the power of software, automation and AI, we need to go to extra lengths to make sure we are building relationships with someone on the other side of the screen.
There’s a big debate whether AI will replace the SDR in years to come and that’s not something I believe will happen. It might replace the SDR who just sends templates or triggers for a sequence, but I don’t know how it will replace the trust we build when developing a relationship with a prospect.
The tech should help make us more efficient in our prospecting efforts, but those emails, LinkedIn interactions, videos, etc. still need to start conversations with a human on the other side.
On a more personal note, what’s your favorite basketball team and player?
Minnesota Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett. We finally went to the playoffs for the first time (since fourth grade for me) in the past couple years and KG brings back memories of those winning seasons.