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Kyle Porter’s Q&A with Sales Development Directors: Chris Pham of Birst

4 min read
January 21, 2016

Last week, Salesloft CEO Kyle Porter sat down with two Sales Development Directors, Birst’s Chris Pham and Zenefits’ Robby Allen. They each provided us with some real-life insights on some of the most overarching themes of the booming sales development movement.

Take a look at what Chris had to say to Kyle’s questions about the handoff between the SDR and the AE, the philosophy behind an SDR’s career trajectory, and what sales development really means to him.

What does sales development mean to you?

I think more than anything, sales development has proven to be the engine for growth for companies to be able to predictably scale revenue. Working in my previous role, sales development was the only revenue engine that could consistently, linearly scale. That’s huge for a company, because it allows them to grow, and to grow predictably.

If you’re not driven by developing people, then you’re in the wrong profession.

Sales development is all about developing people, developing the next generation of sales leaders — and technology leaders in general. I promote SDRs into operations roles, marketing roles, customer success roles — it really doesn’t matter. The foundation for sales development is so strong that you can really go anywhere from there. It’s not just about running out to the field, but being able to stock the bench with talent for companies for years to come.

How does the hand off between Sales Development Reps and Account Executives work on your teams?

In our process, we take the qualification call, first. And then, it really comes down to a conversation between the AE and the SDR to make sure that they’re on the same page — along with Marketing, to make sure that we’re in the right ideal customer profile. The important part is to have something set — to have a neutral contract of what that ideal customer profile is, and to be revisiting that on a consistent basis.

Some call it an SLA. We call it Qualification Criteria.

Here at Birst, we do bimodal qualification. There are things coming in that are qualified, that are project-based, and then there’s other things that we’re trying to push, challenge, or sell, as well. With a provocative point of view, we’re trying to get influencers, and we’re trying to get a champion within the account (what we call a mobilizer) and that’s a whole different set of qualifications.

What’s your philosophy on the trajectory of an SDR’s career?

I like to set the expectation that, as an SDR, you’re going to be here 2-3 years.

But with high performers and all-stars, what ended up happening was that we had such a great training program, such a great certification program, and such great performance, we ended up having the hiring managers come to us from other departments. That’s great, though, because if they can add value in other ways quicker elsewhere in the business, I’m all for that.

But, that has to be tempered with an ability to understand your business, understand that you can still hit your numbers, and therefore help the company hit their numbers down the line by having a team that’s sustainable. What I do is account for around 15-20% of what I call a “talent tax” to the rest of the organization. On top of our goals, just knowing that, hey, there’s going to be some attrition from a positive perspective that I’m going to account for while I’m doing my planning.

Have people been promoted within a year? Yeah. Within nine months? Yeah, that’s definitely happened, too. But if you come in and you’re an all-star performer — more power to you. But setting that initial expectation for SDRs to be in the role for 2-3 years is the way to go from the outset.

For a more comprehensive look at how to be a killer SDR, download our Top Secret Sales Development Playbook and start crushing your sales development goals today.