Tech Stack Foundations: Building Bridges between Admins and SDRs
It’s been told many times and many ways what types of technologies are needed for a good tech stack for your SDR team. Avid “beliebers” will swear up and down that you have to use a specific technology, with loyalty that feels like it’s life or death. There’s rivalries between vendors, and there are competitive feature comparisons, and there’s also exciting conferences where the GTM tech community comes together to raise the industry higher. The pst and coming weeks in September for SaaStr, Dreamforce, OpsStars, and more, will be one of those times in San Francisco!
If you’re not brand new to this SDR game, you don't need to attend a conference to know the whole shtick of why sales engagement platforms help. You know you can’t do the right type of prospecting without data sources that work. You have to partner tightly with Marketing Ops to ensure lead routing is clean. You also need data analytics reporting. You gotta get intent data to know your buyer focus before they have made a decision without you. You run a sales process with training and enablement. Conversation intelligence (or revenue intelligence depending on whose marketing material you're reading) fuels the art of your science. We love to be saturated up to our ears in tools and data in the GTM world. Optimizing calendar scheduling from website visits, LinkedIn Sales Navigator for social, and other research and enablement tools to make high value tasks easier--all of this comes together in the place to store, integrate, track, and manage stuff—the CRM.
A lesser known thing from all that I have seen published on these topics is how to help admins/Ops people on the one hand, and the AEs, AE Managers, SDRs, SDR Managers and 2nd level Sales and SDR leaders on the other hand communicate their use cases and get what they need from their operations admins, and vice versa: admins need certain things from the end users and their managers.
Here's a new idea:
Inasmuch as there is a sales and marketing disconnect, there is a sales and operations disconnect that blocks the building of bridges across functions.
So here's my thoughts on some practical tips, small things, that might make a difference and move things in the right direction.
I’ve helped well over 2,500+ reps directly to maximize their efforts to use the tech stack better at some point or another. Here are a few learnings.
Hidden cost of Inefficiency
Opportunity cost. It's not new. But it’s no small thing to have a few wasted minutes here and there in things that are controllable/fixable. There are benefits to small and big orgs. But.... Bigger orgs beware: you ever wanted to give 10% more throughput of higher quantities of high quality pipeline and felt like the org is too big to shift to a higher gear quickly? This could help.
Let’s talk through a scenario. For this example, let's just focus on SDRs. Let’s say there’s 9 hours a week an SDR didn’t need to spend on things that are low value activities that detract from quota attainment:
Sequencing people too manually: 12 min per day (1 hr per week) - each prospect took 1-2 min longer than needed.
Bad CRM Process: 20 min per day (1.6 hrs per week) clicking on 80 records, it takes 15 seconds longer than needed to find the right fields and automations that could be there aren't set up.
Creating sequences or finding content in the disorganized mess of your sales engagement tool: 20 min per day (1.6 hrs per week)
Activities/prospecting to unqualified or non-ICP or non-buyer personas: 60 min per day (5 hours per week)
9 hours a week?! Are you serious! No way - we’ll be conservative and say, yea. It's probably more than that. I've analyzed this for a lot of organizations in consulting and
In our org at Snowflake, we found that just fixing a few things with inbound MQLs would make SDRs $15 more per day in commissions (and save loads of time that was being wasted).
Also, 9 hrs a week while wasted while actively working is not unrealistic considering most knowledge workers are only productive for around 2.6 hours per day according to a recent study by Flow Research.
Add to this the fact that recent studies from both Truly and Modigie should show you something. Depending on who you ask, only around 70%-80% of records coming out of your favorite data source are for people that still work at the company you sourced them from.
If you are an SDR prospecting for 6 hours a day, and 20-30% of your time is wasted on people that could literally never respond or be a decision maker (because they don't work there) that would mean you’re wasting 20-30% of your prospecting hours in every week as an SDR without streamlined process for the right prospects and data. (Practical tip here: hire people to scrub your data. The ROI is freaking huge. I know a guy, let me know if you want this).
The point is: SDRs - what would you do if you could make processes better that decrease your ability to sell? What would you do if you could make your job of contacting top personas 20-30% easier, or increase your commissions by $15 a day by your Ops team improving the workflow of inbound?
Play out the math from above with me.
9 hours per week - let’s do this for only 46 working weeks out of the year - considering 6 weeks off total.
That’s 414 hours of wasted time annually (9 hrs x 46 weeks).
That’s nearly 52 days you wasted doing stuff that didn’t make you money (414 / 24 hrs).
It gets worse when you think about what this means for a whole team. 52 working days of wasted work x 25 SDRs = 1,293 working days lost across a team of 25 SDRs — that’s saying inefficient process just lost you around 5-6 fully ramped SDRs working 230 working days a year.
Let me emphasize - this is saying that inefficiencies being fixed is like hiring 5-6 more SDRs if all factors remain the same, without hiring anyone.
414 hours per SDR x 25 SDRs = 10,350 hours wasted over a year.
10,350 hours wasted if you have 9 hours of wasted time per SDR per week.
At 20 activities per hour, that’s 207,000 calls or emails that never got made, and never got converted to meetings. At a conservative 3% conversion on activities to conversations, and a 10% conversion on conversations to meetings booked with AEs, a team of 25 SDRs lost roughly 621 meetings in those activities across those hours.
That is staggering. 5 or 6 SDRs, at a quota of 8 meetings a month you lost in a team of 25.
More SDRs means more impact from inefficiencies fixed.
Reverse engineer my math and prove me wrong.
This is called opportunity cost — and if this is a new concept to you, it’s okay, but it might mean you’re in the eye of a silent storm you didn’t see happening and there’s things to look at more closely.
How to Bridge the Gap
I was in line at the airport baggage drop off in San Francisco last Thursday on my way to Greece with my wife - I was in the process of dropping off my bags when a person came to me and said, “Do you know how to set up air tags?” They we're trying to track their luggage with the Apple air tag they had. Personally, I have not yet bought air tags, but I volunteered to help since I live my life with a phone that sends blue texts and do have a number of other Apple products. So I figured I could take a stab at it.
It was astonishing how similar this experience was to experiences I have had supporting SDRs and AEs.
When I began helping the individual, they said, “It’s broken, I can’t get it to work. The instructions say activate the air tag by holding it next to my phone. I keep doing it and it just won’t recognize it.” They showed me. Their phone was showing a demonstration asking for the air tag to get connected. This person said they had called other relatives and their children but no one could help.
So I said to give me a second and I looked at an article about setting air tags up for the first time and what it entails. I also considered if the air tag might be faulty. I then had the thought that it’s possible this was already a connected air tag.
Regardless of the issue, they were right, the setup process wasn’t working.
So I asked a few questions: “Where did you buy the air tag?”
Answer: In the Apple store in San Francisco.
“How long have you had it?”
Answer: I have always used this one for my keys. For like 6 months.
“Did it ever show up before when you have tried to sync it with your iPhone?”
Answer: yes, it’s synced right now.
And the answers illuminated key details:
It wasn’t new
It was currently linked already
The person was trying to re-link it as a different purpose than that of their previous use case as being part of their keys.
Turned out, because it was already connected, we just renamed it to Luggage instead of Keys, and it was resolved.
Nothing was broken. Nothing needed to be fixed, just a slight change and user education.
The person was kind, open to being taught, and had a legitimate need, but there wasn’t a broken technology — it was simply user error and a slight misunderstanding/settings issue.
Contrast this with another story I observed the week before that. There was a person at a fast food restaurant the other day who came in and tried to use a digital ordering kiosk that wasn’t working, then came to the counter. They waited 30 seconds and began berating a worker as the worker was finalizing a few other orders. Yelling at them and being extremely rude. The customer said, “Is anyone even working here? This is a joke, you people need to get this right.” The worker then helped the customer order a single soft drink—a Powerade. All that fuss for a soft drink. That's all they ordered.
The worker jumped at helping the person that raised their hand loudly, for fear of others seeing the disgruntled customer and it getting worse. The person clearly made a huge deal out of a small thing.
There are interesting principles that these stories teach both SDRs and SDR leaders, and maybe AEs and AE leaders too, about how to work with admins responsible for system configurations.
I also think they teach admins about how to work with SDRs and SDR leaders.
Learnings for SDRs
Sometimes nothing is broken. Consider this example of the Apple air tag. There was misunderstanding about how something had been set up and the clarification solved it. When we as admins get messages in channels with large groups and an SDR or leader says, “This isn’t working right, it’s broken.” It puts admins in a no win situation - we have to show you it’s not broken, and then to restore credibility for the process, we have to show why the error was on your side, without being "too much" or making you feel bad. Just stop and ask yourself if you're phrasing things in a constructive way. Maybe a configuration change is needed, and you are probably more aware of this than your admin, but because of how you start the conversation, you might get a different reaction. Instead try starting with a question: “I noticed I might not be aware of how this works, XYZ field is doing ABC, and I need to do DEF. Can you help me understand how this was set up and if I might just be missing something?” This is way different than, “The way you set up XYZ field makes no sense and I need it to do ABC. Can you fix it and let me know when it’s done?” Be the collaborator and dawn a mindset of growth and team-centered thinking, and even if something actually is broken, build bridges, not fences.
Share screenshots, links, and details - EVERY time. For real, I have gotten a "Hey Remington, I think there's a contact assigned to the wrong person in the database. Can you help?" Or "Hey I am getting an error when I try to sequence." Or "Hey this report won't work." And people don't include the screenshot or link, so I have to ask, "What is the link to the record, and can you share a screenshot?" Just do this, in your first message.
Be teachable. The person at the airport wanted to solve a problem and they didn’t take their problem out on an admin. This person with the air tags was clearly stressed, trying to drop the baggage off, trying to talk with strangers to solve this problem, but kindness and sensitivity was the priority they had. You may find yourself in a constant tug of war of stress of getting to quota, the stress of talking with a frustrated AE, realizing you have past due tasks, having a busy personal life, work drama, etc etc etc, and you wish you didn’t have to deal with any of those things, but none of that is your admin’s fault. So stop, think, and try to de-couple anything that might not be related to the problem so you can communicate professionally and constructively.
Be patient. Realize when something matters urgently and when it doesn’t. So if you are trying to “order a Powerade,” realize that your field update is not going to make the company more money than the strategic projects your admin has to finish by the end of the week. Yea the logic is: "this only takes 3 min just do it now??" But there's often 5-6 other requests that are like that, amidst the strategic projects. The admins I know typically have a to-do list given to them by initiatives of C-Suite / VP level executives that is longer than your average dials you make per day as an SDR. Recognize this and empathize with it if you haven’t been.
Learn to be self-sufficient. You are usually not the first person who has asked a question about something in the history of a technology, and most technology companies have a "Knowledge base" or certifications that allow you to search for issues or learn deeper about features you don't understand. Google stuff. Read the documentation your admins make. If you didn't do the work to know something that someone tried to help you know, what justification do you have to demand help on something that could already have an answer somewhere?
Learnings for Admins
Admins, your turn—and recognize that I’m keenly aware of problems you might face based on what I just shared with our SDR friends above. I was a top SDR for three major companies, and saw in working with admins how hard the job is, long before I became an admin. Now, since I have been an admin, I get it even more.
It’s hard sometimes, but realize you bear a lot of responsibility in this communication process, so here’s a few learnings:
As an admin: ask questions and do your homework. I didn’t assume I knew the person was wrong - I assumed maybe it was broken and I needed to check, but my instinct was to get more info. You will save yourself hours if your instinct is to get info, do discovery, check again, and not make assumptions. Sounds like more work, but it’s really not. That extra info saved us valuable time in diagnosing the real issue, and also helping me explain how the air tags could be used in the future vs. just fixing their problem and moving on. Build bridges not fences.
Manage Up. Go to your leaders and cite the patterns of communication that might be frustrating and offer a new solution: either introduce a weekly office hours where people can raise technical issues, create an Ops channel where people specifically post things there, suggest a training in a team where there seems to be isolated issues, or use a centralized queue for requests that you track and manage as a team. Have a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with managers, and manage change through managers where possible. Send out a newsletter with changes you've made or concepts that need to be emphasized. A lot of end user issues are a result of poor tech rollouts which stem from a lack of partnership between Ops teams and leadership. Work with your leaders and show them you want to help but you need them to help you help them.
Lean on other supporting functions to help. Partnering with Enablement is the biggest thing I've ever done as an admin. Find ways to get time at the start of their meetings. Include a snippet in their emails. Attend their meetings and add value and try to help them enact change. This pays huge dividends. Enablement is ROI to the hidden cost of inefficiency.
Realize your SDRs have a very stressful job. They are often not equipped with one or more full-time, dedicated SDR Ops resources they would probably need and deserve to help make sure they are not underserved, and if they ask for things, they need to be taken seriously where possible.
Realize your SDRs have a very important job. They are not just "entry level no body’s" that should get treated like interns. These are stars! Also, they have value as humans. I have heard many people put SDRs down. They are working hard, and yes, there's some special personalities you don't love to navigate. But they are literally the tip of the spear, the voice of the company to the customer, and in reality their conversion rates are legitimately the bridge between alll of [a] your marketing efforts, [b] your tech stack investments,, [c] your database hygiene efforts and your [d] sales pipeline and revenue. Train them like they matter. See them as humans. Never miss an opportunity to congratulate their success and try to take on projects to help them win if they are failing. Learn their job. You can’t know how to help them if you don’t know how their job works.
So put simply, what is one of the major solutions to the hidden cost of inefficiency?
SDRs and leaders, you need to find ways to illustrate what you need and where you are struggling or wasting time. Admins you need to understand the precise process they follow as end users so you can ask questions, propose changes and create lasting impact.
An overall inability to communicate the gaps on either side tends to be the major blocker for most orgs that have considerable operational misalignment.
As an example, Eric Welsh at Demostack recently did extra work to understand his team's workflow. He told me he has been prospecting, selling, and doing things in the systems they have to experience what his reps experience and reproduce issues that could be problematic for their process. He has found errors or time wasters. He is communicating with users, and fixing them live.
The attitude of both sides needs to be building bridges and not fences. It's easy to feel like needing a Powerade is more important than communicating with constructive professionalism (examples - end users: urgently trying to get the answer to a simple question, admins: trying to force urgent adoption of something that is really unimportant). Be patient. Change takes time.
Your Powerade can't be more important than the other important things already being worked on sometimes.
And when you decide to make a mountain out of a mole hill (especially on a public channel others can see that is not meant for this type of feedback) this doesn't often do good things for your brand. It can cause your name to get brought up in other departments, and not in a good way sometimes. This applies to admins too, and when it comes to change management - your reputation as an admin matters a great deal to if people take you seriously when it comes to partnering.
Not everything you wish could happen impacts the bottom line. Not everything that affects the bottom line can happen.
Communication and building bridges causes people’s lives easier and they will be more likely to follow direction. And together you can figure out what to do.
It can not be over stated that use case discovery is the path to successful adoption. Use case discovery allows for a minimal amount of friction during implementation of any solution because you can be decisive in following the discovery process of what is actually needed. It saves an admin time, it connects users to real solutions and helps them feel validated and understood, and it liberates the communication that happens across teams from the smog of contention that sometimes makes it hard to breathe during change.
Admins: Think of it as if you are trying to build a product as an entrepreneur - customizing features, laying out training and implementation plans, running data to prove why things matter—and don’t scale a process that could create an extra 5 minutes a day of wasted time for the whole team without testing it with a few users—you don’t want to be the source for missed opportunities and producing more hidden cost of inefficiency because you helped a lot without considering all the angles. Nail it before you scale it. There could be many things to fix, what matters most now? Start there.
SDRs, AEs and Leaders: think of it as you are communicating about complex things that are part of a system of connected designs, and you need to better understand what is going on before you can know what changes are possible. Use the proper channels admins try to create or help them come up with a better one you will adhere to.
My hope is that this article can help admins and end users get on the same wavelength to make world class tech stack configurations to match the workflows teams need to succeed. And maybe help you capitalize on the 600+ meetings you might be missing out on annually.
And if you ever need help, head over to Extrovert’s community here: Slack or drop me a line in LinkedIn/email me: firstname.lastname@example.org