Brett Hovanec has seen multiple roles during his 4½ years at demandDrive where he is now the Director of Sales Operations. Having started out as an SDR, he became increasingly involved in Salesforce through his managerial roles in recruitment and client engagement. I was eager to understand what he had picked up along the way. We touched upon how to align your sales and marketing functions, how to design the perfect toolkit for a high functioning SDR team, and what makes a good sales playbook. After hearing about his journey into sales operations, the interview began…
Rory Brown (RB): Can you tell me more about Brett Hovanec and your career to date?
Brett Hovanec (BH): I’m the Director of Sales Operations at demandDrive, an outsource lead generation and business development firm. I joined demandDrive 4 ½ years ago as an SDR and worked my way up by gaining experience in several different areas. I’ve worked here as a recruiting manager, project manager, Director of Client Engagement and over the last six months I’ve moved into my current sales operations role.
RB: What led the transition into sales operations for you?
BH: There are eight Directors of Client Engagement here and essentially, they manage between seven and eight projects. Over time, we started to see that we all had very similar challenges and similar objections that we were facing. And as I began to take an interest in and undertake a lot of the Salesforce dashboarding and reporting, it made sense for me to move into a full time sales operations role to really address all the issues that we were all facing.
RB: Great. Let’s start by looking at the process of filtering leads from marketing to sales. How do you approach that process?
BH: In terms of sales process, typically what we see is leads to contacts to accounts and opportunities. It really comes down to a conversion process – what does it look like, how are you tracking it and at what time does that lead or that contact get sent over to your AE or the sales rep.
A lot also depends on how extravagant the sales team is. If you have a lot of sales reps, then you are probably going to have a big round robin automated cycle that is going to assign things based on territories. If it is a smaller sales team, it is probably going to be more manual.
But I think really figuring that out before you get into the weeds is very important because you end up getting some leads pushed over to the wrong reps, and then your commission reports are going to be off. It can just become a nightmare if everything isn’t squared away from the beginning.
RB: What are some of the things that you can do to make sure that both the passer and the receiver are playing by the same rules and are expecting the right things?
BH: That’s a great question. Setting expectations right there. When is the appropriate time? What are the qualification criteria for an SDR or BDR to pass over a lead to an AE or the sales rep?
The criteria can vary between each AE, as they all have different preferences. So that process is very customisable. And that is really going to make it a whole lot more enjoyable for all members because the SDRs will know that they are providing quality leads to their reps and the sales reps are going to be really happy that their SDRs are giving them these quality leads.
RB: On the subject of each AE having different preferences, do you see a lot of individual agreements like this rather than company-wide or sales team-wide agreements and processes?
BH: Yes, absolutely. We have seen AEs that want a lead pretty much handed over on a silver plate to them. You have others who are interested in taking any calls and getting pipeline and nurturing them, regardless of where they might be in the sales process.
RB: This is something that hasn’t come up in any of my interviews before, so I’m glad you’re mentioning it because we should consider the AEs and how they work – what sort of leads they want presented, rather than having one golden rule across the whole team.
BH: Yes. It is certainly good to have a high expectation of your sales team, and at what point they should be taking leads. It might mean that they are not a great fit for the organization if they are not willing to accept leads at a certain qualification point.
RB: How do you approach aligning your sales and marketing functions?
BH: One of the main issues we consistently see is getting marketing and sales on the same page with process and definitions. So getting that symbiosis going is a great start.
Then your first steps are to make sure that both sides are aligned in their definition of a marketing qualified lead versus a sales qualified lead, and inbound versus outbound as they may have different qualification criteria for each aspect. We have seen clients get that initial alignment consistently wrong.
RB: Do you often see SDRs fitting under the sales team or under the marketing team?
BH: That is a great question. When it comes to appeasing who you are reporting to, I would say having that symbiosis with the sales rep is very important, but having different kinds of feedback for the marketing channel side is very important too. Being able to qualify and bring these qualified leads to the sales team is going to be great, but on the marketing side it’s extremely useful knowing that a lead mentioned a specific piece of content or asked a lot of questions about a specific functionality.
RB: You have obviously got quite a few SDRs doing campaigns for clients. What is the perfect toolkit for a really high functioning SDR team?
BH: The perfect toolkit certainly consists of sales enablement tools for emails, creating full-on cadences. We typically go by the 12 to 15-step cadence process and we really try to stick to that as much as possible. We realise historically anything after about the eighth or ninth touch is really where you start to get quality conversations and responses, so that is typically what we are going to be doing.
We still go the old-fashioned way with calls and emails. If you put in the work and are consistent, people associate a voice to emails, or vice versa, and that is really where the rapport is – hearing that voice repeatedly!
RB: Awesome. That is interesting. I suppose if your outreach is phone based and email based, it is slightly different where people are just relying on email or just relying on social, where people tend to respond quickly or they don’t respond at all.
BH: Yes, exactly. That is why you have to do the two-pronged approach with emails and calls and a LinkedIn here and there if you need to.
RB: What tech are your team using?
BH: We use a combination of things. We use Zoom Info for our data and we find a lot of good information there. They have really upped their data over the last couple of years where you can really dive into the different tech stacks and things like that.
We also use SalesLoft for cadences. It’s great for fine-tuning, seeing how emails are performing, viewing how many calls are being made etc. However, it almost makes the cadence too automated. I see this when SDRs just go for the volume plays and we start to see stats like 35% of SDRs spending time on accounts or activities that are going nowhere.
There is certainly that trade-off and we have found over time that using tools like that isn’t necessarily always the best way to go. If you have a finite universe, it is a lot better to use something smaller, such as email tracking.
RB: One of the things that sales ops are getting really heavily involved in now is Go to Market – and learning how to ensure that we are constantly chipping away at prospects.
You mentioned earlier that 35% of an SDR’s time is potentially trying to sell people who will never be a customer.
What have you seen that minimizes that risk, or ensures that we are definitely only targeting people who are going to end up being our clients?
BH: It really comes down to knowing who your ICP is. Write down on paper who you specifically want to target and build a list of what those customers would look like. Continue to fine-tune it, especially for if you’re in an organisation that is just starting up and still trying to figure out who their target market is.
RB: I imagine when you’re working with clients you ask them for their ICP before you go out there? What sort of information are you typically looking for?
BH: I think the main factors are territory, region, etc. Then you have revenue, employee size, business function, and so on. From there you can get into the nitty gritty of managerial level and decide whether you are going to have better conversations with directors or VPs. It really comes down to whether it is going to go up the chain or down the chain, and who is going to be that potential customer that is going to be fighting for you on that side.
RB: Nice. In your role, how much of your time is analysis for clients versus analysing your own sales efforts?
BH: Currently, a lot of it is analysing for clients. I look at historical data for new clients and make sure we are getting off to the right start, setting specific milestones and putting together a timeline that makes sense for objectives and goals to be met.
Sales playbooks are another big focus of mine – building them for clients and with clients.
This is something we are seeing a lot more interest in from clients who want to bring together all their separate processes into something that can always be referenced and makes sense logistically. It’s also fully customisable. It is a collaborative slide deck and the client can always update information. It is a way to keep track of expectations and goals and just continue to set those high standards and make sure that information is always accurate.
RB: Fundamentally what makes a good sales playbook in terms of the information that is in there and the order that it comes in?
BH: The main things I have consistently seen in every single one are: KPIs, main objective of the program, and the lead process. Typically, it will involve different diagrams showing what the process looks like, messaging, the call cadence etc.
Those sections are then broken down into those sub-categories of cadences, campaign, email templates, scripts, and so on. We also have messaging matrixes.
RB: I like that a lot. I think that template is very valuable.
BH: Another factor we include is tips on how to use the sales enablement tools with key FAQs. It should be a source of truth for the SDR and for the client. If we need to onboard another SDR, say we are expanding the programme, it should be something that they can easily access and will be able to help them onboard a lot quicker because all the information is there. It is ordered in a way that makes sense and is easy to use.
It is really a good resource to consistently use because it is going to be up to date at all times.
RB: Thank you very much Brett.