Coach The Sale EP17 - The Path to SDR Success

EP17 - The Path to SDR Success with Morgan J Ingram

In today's episode, we're talking all things SDR with the one and only Morgan J. Ingram, host of The SDR Chronicles, a popular YouTube channel where Morgan documents his SDR sales journey.

Whether you're currently an SDR, you coach SDRs, or you manage a team of SDRs, this episode is going to be of value.

I sat down with Morgan at the SaaS Growth 2019 event organised by Sales Confidence in London earlier this month, and we cover a range of topics including his story to date, going from a new SDR, to two years later, growing a really popular YouTube channel.

In this episode, we also cover:

  • The common mistakes and pitfalls an SDR can fall into
  • The case for split testing your messaging as an SDR
  • How to start to structure and implement multi-touch cadences with your prospects
  • The continued relevance of cold calling
  • Building up resilience
  • Holding onto a successful mindset in sales
  • Best practices for making an impact on your audience

And much more besides, enjoy!


The SDR Chronicles on YouTube

Morgan J. Ingram on LinkedIn and Twitter

Subscribe To The Podcast On:  iTunes | Pocket Casts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Overcast

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Matt: Morgan, welcome to the podcast.

Morgan: Yeah, thank you.

Matt: How are you doing?

Morgan: Happy to be here. I'm doing good.

Matt: We're at this sales confidence event. What brings you to the event?

Morgan: Just over here checking out the sales whole entire unit over here, when it comes to Europe. I think that's pretty cool. Then I was over here for a public workshop, so just here for a week and enjoying it.

Matt: Some people listening may not be aware of you, they may not be aware of the SDR Chronicles, that I think a lot of people are aware of when it comes to you. Give us a little bit of background, who you are, how have you come to be where you are today, and a little bit of background on the SDR Chronicles as well.

Morgan: Loaded question there, right?

Matt: Very loaded.

Morgan: I would say, not to bring in to too far back, the background for me is I started off as an SDR. For those of you who don't know what an SDR is, sales development rep, and so in that prospecting net new accounts, and making cold calls, emails, everything across the board. Now, to make sure that I was doing that job right, there's obviously a lot of best practices that are learned along the way, which we'll touch on here in this podcast. But, essentially I started off, cold called, got the job, and in the first three months I really did struggle. I tell people this all the time, like I almost wanted to quit. I did not want to do what I was doing, and I actually talked to my director of sales at the time.

Morgan: She was like, "Hey, are you really feeling up to this? You want to do this?" I was like, "I don't know. I feel like this isn't the job for me." Then she asked me a question that was super important, which was, "Hey, do you, 100%, are you 100% committed to what you're doing right now?" I was like, "Not really," right? I was like 75. From there what I did is I organized my schedule. I got more proficient in my process. I understood how do I make those cold calls, how do I do those emails, and that led to the success, so far.

Matt: What I hear you say there is, one of the reasons why it was 75% was a lack of structure, process [crosstalk 00:01:57].

Morgan: Lack of structure, complaining about things that like that were not essentially in my control that I shouldn't be complaining about. I think three, my focus was 100% focused on actually doing well in that. I think it was just I treated it as like, oh this is a job, whatever. But I didn't treat it as, I can learn a lot from it and see what I can do in the future.

Matt: That led you to set up the SDR Chronicles?

Morgan: Yep, it was from that, had a couple people advice. One person said, "Hey, look an SDR has not created a SDR specific channel. Then that's when I, that day, went to go create the SDR Chronicles. Then from creating SDR Chronicles, posted every single day for like five to six months. That led into the evolution of me getting promoted to SDR manager with 13 reps, which moved me into the role I am today, which is training sales development, prospecting to other reps.

Matt: If you cast your mind back, what for you, what were the main reasons for setting up that channel? Because, there's a lot of work involved, prep work, recording, editing, all the things that go into a podcast like this. What were you looking to achieve?

Morgan: Oh my gosh.

Matt: What was the main purpose of that?

Morgan: Right, well, so just from an outside perspective, what do you feel like I was looking to achieve?

Matt: Well, I think what I've certainly learned during the podcast is, just having conversations with people like you is a great way for me to learn. It was a great way through Osmosis to listen to what's working for people. Although I don't have a sales role or refract, it helps me hugely, because we sell to salespeople. To get into the mindset of modern day salespeople, I learned a lot through just talking with experts. It was a great way for me to learn.

Morgan: That was part of it. One was I wanted to share my learnings, and share obstacles, and I felt like there wasn't any content on that when I first started. Before I even started SDR role, I was looking up sales and all the content. But, I realized that all the content that was being developed, nobody was actually in that role. It was very, here's my theory, here's my hypothesis, and I wanted something that was very tactical. I just, instead of waiting for it, I just went out and created myself. There's no barrier to entry to do it, so I'm going to do it myself.

Matt: There is no ... One of the things that was a motivator for me with the podcast is also about leveling up the professionalism of the sales industry, of sales professionals. Treating it as a profession. Was that ever part of your thinking, in terms of there is a perception of sales, I would like to do a little bit to try and enhance that?

Morgan: Funny enough, I actually wanted to go to marketing, right? I didn't ever want to be in sales, and then that didn't work out, so I went to be an SDR. When I was doing the role I was like, "Well we have a terrible connotation." I would always tell people, "Hey, I'm in sales," and the people would like treat me differently, like what the heck is going on. I was like, I want to create these videos to show that you don't have to be in a-hole to be in sales. There's a certain process you can take and still see success.

Matt: One of the things that stands out for me, that was a trigger point for me actually doing the podcast, who's being at a wedding and speaking to a couple of people, guests at the wedding who were all in sales, two or three. You'd ask them, as you do at these events, you say, "What do you do," and they'd say, "Oh, sales." You could hear in their voice a lack of pride, as sense that if I tell you I work in sales, you're going to make lots of assumptions about me, and who I am, and what I do, and the I'm going to manipulate the conversation. You could hear it. I was thinking, what can we do to try and change that, so that people can be proud of what they do?

Morgan: Absolutely.

Matt: Similar for you?

Morgan: I would, I think it's tough, because there's always going to be people who are louder and cause that mayhem, right? The people who are the loudest end up being the people who are those salespeople, and they in return, are going to be able to actually receive that message. I think the one thing that a lot of people should be focused on is, what is the best way you can guide in that sales process? That's one of the questions you should be asking. What is the right entry you should be having? How do you make sure that you're professional followup? I think it comes down to the way to get it better is to treat it as a process, and you're guiding someone. Instead of like, "Hey, we're in a sales cycle. I'm just gonna Hammer home on you." Right?

Matt: That's a great way to move into some of the learnings that you got out. Those initial interviews, and continued to last since then. Give me a sense of some of the common mistakes that you often see SDRs follow. You've alluded to one or two, maybe not having a structure. But, what are some of the pitfalls that an SDR will typically fall into?

Morgan: Not AB testing, so not testing out new stuff and staying with the status quo.

Matt: Explain that for people. For a marketer like me, AB testing is my life. Explain what that means for somebody who may not be familiar with the term.

Morgan: What that means is trying out different approaches. You try one way on a phone call, you try another way how to do it on a phone call. You try another way how to do it on a phone call. There's just different aspects and there's different lens that you can do if you're making that phone call. I think that's what a lot of reps, and that's a mistake they make is they only focus on this one thing they want to do, and they'll hammer that home, hammer that home, instead of trying out multiple stuff.

Morgan: I think also at the same time too is being creative. I don't think SDRs are creative enough in their process. I think they just stick to the status quo, the motions that they normally are used to. It goes back again to the AB testing piece. I think three is not doing a multi-touch campaign. I think people are like, "Well, I'm really good at the phone, so I'm only gonna use the phone." Right, or I'm really good at emailing, so I'm only going to email.

Matt: Maybe, I'm not very good on the phone, so I'll rely on email as a crutch.

Morgan: Right, which you need to stay, all those, you got to stay away from.

Matt: Out of those initial interviews, are there any that standout in particular as ones that are particularly poignant, or lessons that helped you very early on in the process?

Morgan: Interviews that I've done myself, or interviews with other people, or I've watched as content?

Matt: I would say ones that you've done yourself, ones that standout to you as content of those interviews in particular helped you speed up your journey to where you are today?

Morgan: That's a good question. I'd say Phil Keen was one of the very, actually very first ones. We're actually still good friends to this day. The reason that one was very impactful is, because he went from being an SDR, then he was an SDR leader, then he was an AE, right? He was guiding multiple steps, so that was inspiring to me to see like what are the actual steps that need to be taken. I think another one that was really great was, Dan Cook from Lucid started off as an SDR and now he's an SVP of sales. It's cool. It was just cool to hear that progression.

Matt: Other people like you who've gone through a journey.

Morgan: Yeah, and then just see where he went. I think those were awesome.

Matt: Excellent. I want to return back to some tips. You deliver training, right, at the moment?

Morgan: Yeah.

Matt: You carry a sales quota.

Morgan: Yeah.

Matt: And, you also are delivering the training.

Morgan: Yeah. There's a lot going on.

Matt: How do you juggle that?

Morgan: How do I juggle it? It's chaos. It's mayhem. Some days I have no idea how I do it, but it comes down to just managing time and leveraging the right resources. Right? Everyone has a team to some extent, so there's just certain people on my team that do certain things, or there's certain people in our company that they do certain things that help make it easier. Right, we have someone who handles the contracts, we have someone who handles the content, right? We have someone who handles certain research, and at the same time, I know where my lane is to be proficient, and then also know when I can sell more or I need to take off on calls, or today's not the day I need to make an adjustment somewhere. But, I know I know how to make those adjustments.

Matt: How important is coaching in the work that you do, both in terms of managing your own quota, but also in the training that you deliver? Talk to me, this is coach to the sale. This is about coaching. What is coaching feature for you? How important is it, and how important maybe, how's it been?

Morgan: There's two things that go with that. One is, there's a difference between training and coaching, right? I go train someone, I'm there for a day, maybe it's two, right, and then I'm gone. I can't actively coach that. Coaching is imperative, because you have to make sure that whatever's trained on or the techniques that were implemented, is repeatable. If it's not, as part of their appeal process, no one's going to get any success. Right, so that's important. I think number two is, John coaches me on calls, and that's been helpful for me to understand what I'm doing wrong, and how I can get better. Coaching is a continuous loop that always has to happen no matter if you're the best of the worst.

Matt: How long have you been delivering training?

Morgan: It's been a year.

Matt: In that time, you must've seen, well how many, what would you estimate the number of people you've trained in a period, just ballpark?

Morgan: Easily over a thousand at this point.

Matt: Are there any people or experiences that you've had along the way that you found particularly inspiring in the training that you've delivered in particular? Any stories that you want to share of people who've had breakthroughs?

Morgan: Breakthroughs like from the training, breakthroughs just from the content?

Matt: Yeah. In their sales. Your goal as a trainer is to help people improve. Have you noticed, have you had any people come through where they've really stood out to you as taking onboard what you've said, and it making a big difference?

Morgan: Yeah, there was one rep, he took the cold calling super seriously, and he went, and then he just started scheduling like 10 opportunities a week. I was like, that's nuts. But, he was just like, he was getting people on the phone, which so many people are like, "How in the world do you get people on the phone?" He just did, I don't know. He was good at it. Then, it's just the way that he got confident, handle objections. You could see that he was doing really well. There's also another person that took the training, and they just implemented the structure I have, which is called, we call their attention grabbers, and he used that formula and it helped him get promoted to AE. It's just little stuff like that. There's a lot of, there's a lot of different other stories, but those two like really stood out to me.

Matt: That's a nice pivot. That's a nice segue into the attention grabbers process. We'll take a little bit at a time if it's okay with you. Can you talk me through that process? Some of the principles, the guiding principles of that process that people listening to this could start to use quite quickly if they're a SDR or managing SDRs?

Morgan: Yeah. Some of that process, the big thing that you want to focus on is, what result are you giving to that person? Right? That's the attention grabber piece, and you got to map that out to, maybe it's an industry, maybe it's a certain persona, it doesn't really matter. In that, once you've identified what the industry or persona is, then you want to be able to figure out what results can I bring them. In that, the attention grabber piece is, what I created, a scalable model that's all based on a spreadsheet that I plug and play into a email or a phone call. If I call x persona and I know I give them this result, then that's my phone call. Same thing for email. Same thing for maybe a video or a voice message.

Matt: Just in that, let me jump in. Are you calling back to how you have helped other people in that situation, as opposed to a promise? You actually, in that you're calling back to, I have helped people like you in that situation?

Morgan: The latter.

Matt: Right?

Morgan: If I've helped them, right? I'm not going to like, "Hey, I've help people in that situation," and I didn't. Don't do that. But, I do live where it's like, yeah, I actually did help someone in that situation. Same title as you, similar industry. Let's do it.

Matt: That's the first stage. Talk me through the rest.

Morgan: Once you have that, then you create the attention grabber. The next stage is creating that laboratory of attention grabbers. Then, that next step after that is, "Hey, let's put these into phone calls. Let's put these into emails." Then from there, the earlier we talked about, which was AB testing.

Matt: Are you encouraging SDRs to track the number of times they've sent a particular email? How granular are you in that tracking?

Morgan: What is my suggestion, or me?

Matt: What would you ... Both, I guess.

Morgan: The suggestion, it's hard for me to say, because people are targeting enterprise, mid market, SMB accounts. Their volume level is going to be different, right? If someone's going SMB, they're doing the extremely high call volume. If they're doing enterprise, their call volume is going to be lower. Whatever I tell you, the AB tests are going to be different based on those numbers.

Matt: But, ultimately whatever the person's situation, they're looking for a level of significance. They are looking for something that suggests this version A is moving away from version B quite quickly.

Morgan: That's the framework regardless. But for me, I do 50 to 100, so that means 50 tests. If I got to get a response rate on 50 emails, then I'll move it to, I'll set up 50 more, so 100. If those work, then I'm moving into like a pool of, this is what I now use.

Matt: Any tips you want to share on particular attention grabbers that worked for you? Maybe in an email. I know it's going to vary from industry to industry, but have you got anything that stands out as working very well.

Morgan: Yeah, I have one that works very well, but what I'm about to say is not going to be applicable to a lot of people. They're going to be like, "What?" But yeah-

Matt: Food for thought, though.

Morgan: Yeah, so essentially how I would stage it is, "Hey, we work with VP of sales, enabling yourself, whose main priority is onboarding, and those enablement leaders use our online platform to make sure they can onboard those results effectively and producers results immediately out of bootcamp." That would be an attention grabber that I would use on the phone or through email.

Matt: Where do we go from there then, after the attention grabber?

Morgan: Well, after that then you ask a question, right? Whatever thoughtful question that leads into a conversation. You got to figure out what that is, and essentially what that would be as an open ended question. Right? The question on top of that, once I send that attention grabber would be, how are you currently making sure your reps are being onboarded effectively? Right, or how are you currently making sure that your reps are getting modern sales best practices to streamline a process for success? Those are things you'd be looking at.

Matt: Where do we go from there? Once you started to collect that? You go the data, things are starting to work. Where else would we go in terms of the process that you outlined?

Morgan: You're getting results. I don't know where else you could go from there, right?

Matt: Keep dong more of it.

Morgan: You've got an attention grabber, you got the questions. Yeah, you just continuously create repeatable processes for your industries and your personas. You get super deep, go add testimonials to those attention grabbers. But, once you establish those two, it pretty much just goes into putting them in emails and calls, and then actually doing it. That's the next step is executing on it.

Matt: In terms of the multi-touch approach, you advocate people going on phone, email, it being a mixture?

Morgan: Yeah.

Matt: One of the things that is sometimes talked about, we talked about it on the podcast, is the use of pattern interrupt. Something that stands out, it grabs attention. That's what you're alluding to here, is using something that breaks a pattern that people are used to?

Morgan: Yes, exactly.

Matt: Any particular tips on how to start to formulate one of those?

Morgan: The pattern interrupts?

Matt: Yeah.

Morgan: Depends on the situation. I guess, in what way are you, would you be thinking about that?

Matt: If there are, is there a universal way of setting up pattern interrupt? Ultimately it's definition is, it's taking somebody from what they are expecting and presenting them with something that is counter to that, which forces them to reevaluate what they're thinking. Are there steps that people can take when they're trying to think about how they could do that?

Morgan: I think it ultimately comes down to, in your process, this is more so cold calls. Pattern interrupts happen through emails, but you can't see them as visibly. You have to figure out when do people say yes or no to you, or when do people not perceive the value you're saying, right? A pattern interrupt essentially will be a question or something you say, again, that trows someone off. If you guys don't know what a pattern interrupt is. A pattern interrupt that I use is an intro for my cold calls.

Morgan: Let's say that I'm calling Bob, right? So I'm like, "Hi Bob, thanks for taking my call. Do you have a few moments?" In me saying that, I didn't introduce my name. That's a pattern interrupt, because people are used to hearing people's name when they hear the sales call. Now, I've introduced myself without a name. Now you're like, "Wait, who are you," right? Now I can be like, "Hey, my name is Morgan. I'm from JBL sales training. The reason for my call is." I've interrupted the pattern. You want to figure out who I am, now I'm going straight into it, and now you've, you give me the right to do that.

Morgan: That would be an example of a pattern interrupt, and you can do the same thing with objections, same thing of questions. But, where you want to start is, where are you faltering? If you're faulting the intro, find out a pattern interruption chart, right? If you're faltering on this objection, what's the pattern interrupt, answer, or question you can ask to get yourself in that direction?

Matt: Fantastic. I love that. That's really good. That works well for you?

Morgan: Yeah, absolutely.

Matt: That's consistent?

Morgan: Yeah.

Matt: Brilliant. You mentioned cold calls there. A lot of talk about cold calling no longer being relevant in sales. It's not, especially as a marketer, I think there's historically been a real over emphasis on the power of marketing automation, correcting, or making it easy. [crosstalk 00:18:40] It's going to take all of that away. We're going to, and I certainly, personally, don't believe that at all. How valuable do you think the the cold call is? Does it still have a place in modern sales?

Morgan: Yes, absolutely. The cold call still has a place in modern sales. The cold call is still applicable and still powerful. The thing is, you're just not going to call two people and get an answer. This is not going to happen. You're going to call 30 to 50 people, those 30 to 50 people probably one or two of them are going to answer, and then you got to figure out how do you navigate a conversation with one of those two people. You're not going to get, make 30 calls and get 20 answers, but you will get an answer. It's just being very strategic in the way that you do it. Just be like, hey, for an hour I'm going to make calls to this person, this persona, right?

Matt: Yeah.

Morgan: For 30 minutes I'm going to do this calling, so that makes it more effective as a whole.

Matt: How would you, or what advice would you give to people who that fear of being rejected or the fear of interrupting? How would you start to work with somebody who is reluctant to do it, because A, maybe they don't want to interrupt, or B, they're very fearful of having somebody tell them to disappear.

Morgan: Number one, you shouldn't be worried about that, because the person's going to forget you after five seconds. It's really not that deep when you really think about it. If I call someone, I get rejected, worst case scenario is that they reject me. Literally the worst case scenario. Now, it'd be different if you made a cold call and every time you got rejected you got pinched or something. But, that doesn't happen. You just get rejected, the person hangs up, they forget you after five seconds, they move on. If you have that mindset, it's a lot easier to make cold calls.

Matt: My guess would be that, that is a, that's a resilience that you build up over time.

Morgan: Yeah, you do.

Matt: You can't just flick a switch. But, the more [crosstalk 00:20:19] you're exposed to it, the more you become accustomed to it.

Morgan: Right, and then if you keep that mindset that I just told you in mind, that wholeness of caring about that goes down dramatically. Then that next piece that you mentioned, which was diving into the different components of fear of rejection.

Matt: Next question from me then. In terms of your learning, can you think of a time recently when you have learned something that has had a particular impact on you? I'd be very keen fee to share that with our audience.

Morgan: I've been practicing public speaking for five to six years. If I do the podcast interview, if I go present to somebody, I can do it pretty well without a lot of angst on me. It's just a natural thing that I can do now. Now, but the thing is, is I sometimes don't dive as much into the research of actually understanding the audience. Right, so I can give you best practices and good advice, and you can use it yourself. But, I don't conceptualize what's actually happened with the audience. Especially something like in Europe, so this is a great example. When I come train in Europe, that training, it's completely different than what it is in the United States. I have to stage it differently, otherwise it won't be received as well.

Morgan: One thing that I've been learning as of late is, before I go do something where maybe I don't have as good enough context, or maybe I need to go figure out what I need to learn, I'll actually just go reach out to someone in that company, in that country, or whatever, and get quick feedback. What I've learned from an insight that I actually learned from my mentor is, he calls it think, feel, do. Think, you're like, what do I need to think about before I go into this presentation? Feel, how does the audience feel, and how do I make them feel comfortable? Then do, how do I execute off of what I'm feeling off of them? That's one thing I've been learning lately, and that's made my workshops, conversations way more impactful.

Matt: Is part of that as well, thinking how you want the audience to feel at the end of the material as well, and connecting with what you want them to feel at the end?

Morgan: Exactly. Then, it's all tied into that, makes it more powerful, all that stuff.

Matt: You get stronger sense of whether or not you've made the impact.

Morgan: The actual impact.

Matt: You've got some degree of a way of calibrating the audience.

Morgan: Exactly.

Matt: The progression that they may have made.

Morgan: Absolutely.

Matt: Awesome. Last question then, books. Now, we're at the sales confidence event, SaaS Growth 2019. We've a whole table of books there that we've been giving out today. Some people very eager to get their free copies, which is great. Any books that have made a difference to you, or ones that you've read recently that you've enjoyed? Ones that you would share with the audience?

Morgan: This book called Captivate. It's by Vanessa Van Edwards. It's really good, and it's focused on human psychology and how do you actually relate to humans well. When you really think about it, sales is all about psychology. Once you, the more you understand about psychology, the better you will be at sales. That book fundamentally has helped me with human behavior and psychology, which in return has led to more and better conversations.

Matt: I'm a subscriber to one of these services that will summarize the book in 15 minutes. You often miss a lot of the detail in there. I want you to go one back, could you summarize it in 10 seconds, or at least one of the takeaways from that book that's made a definite impact on you?

Morgan: In relation in the highest level, it's understanding human psychology and understanding human interaction, and how to effectively navigate that to get the end result that you're looking for.

Matt: Brilliant. Love it. We got a new product on tour hands. It's the five second reduction of a 13 hour audio book into five seconds.

Morgan: There you go.

Matt: Morgan, really appreciate coming on the podcast. Thank you so much. How can people find out more about you and the work that you do?

Morgan: Super simple, go to Morgan J. Ingram, that's me on Linkedin, so we can connect there. Then J[inaudible 00:24:05].com that's where we're at.

Matt: Awesome, and we'll also link to the SDR Chronicles videos, which still on YouTube?

Morgan: Still on YouTube.

Matt: Fantastic. Great Resource. We'll share those with the audience. Thanks for your time.

Morgan: Absolutely.

Matt: Cheers, man.

Morgan: Yeah.

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