Behind the Scenes with Brahim Zebbar, EMEA Sales Manager

Interview with Brahim Zebbar, EMEA Sales ManagerAs we all know, running an effective sales team is no easy task. Swapping notes with fellow managers is a good way to stay up to date, get new ideas, confirm hypotheses, etc.

With this in mind, we sat down to pick the brain of Brahim Zebbar, EMEA Sales Development Manager for a leading global marketing software, for insight into running and producing results with a 7-person SDR team.


Read on for tips and insights on how to choose, train, manage and produce results with a lead-generation team.

About hiring, training and coaching SDRs

Robin: Thanks for taking the time for this quick chat! My first question is: how do you choose your new SDR team members? What do you look for?

Brahim: Well first let’s understand how important these roles are – 100% of the 200 fastest growing SaaS companies have SDR teams. They’re a key part of the sales process, since they make sure the account exec is talking to the right person. But it’s not enough to just know who the buyers are. You have to understand how to engage with people. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but customers don’t buy from companies. They buy from people.


“100% of the 200 fastest growing SaaS companies have SDR teams.”


I always like to see candidates who are curious and motivated to do the job. I’ll look at their background – their education, past professional experiences, general interest – and of course how well their personality fits with the job. For an inbound SDR, giving recent grads their first job out of university is an option, but you need to make sure there’s a structured onboarding program in place or you’ll only lose the monetary investment in their training. For outbound SDRs, I’d like them to have about 1 year’s experience on the phone dealing with prospects or existing customers.

Some of the essentials attributes of any effective SDR candidate:

– Listening Skills
– Hunger to succeed
– Competitiveness
– Coachability
– Planning and follow up ability
– Optimism
Sales team motivationR: And as their team leader, how do you motivate them?

B: Well, the natural motivator is of course their commission. But what it really boils down to – in terms of the team being able to actually hit their targets – is planning. I’m always very clear and direct with the team in terms of what I expect, what their objectives are, and the process of how we get there… They also know that they can move on after 1 year within their role , either to an Account Exec position or a client-based (farmer), upsell/cross-sell position, depending on their personality, their objectives…


“I’m always very clear and direct with the team in terms of what I expect, what the objectives are, and the process of how we get there .”


About the outbound and inbound process for SDRs


R: Could you go over what a good outbound process should look like?

B: More likely than not, you will have a good sense of what an “ideal” target looks like. Map out things like revenue size, employee size, industry, close dates, and titles, closed/won deals and commonalities between the accounts and personas of who is buying and why.

Any company should build out an established Ideal Customer Profile that your reps can benchmark themselves against as they tap into new accounts that are most likely to generate revenue or hold other strategic significance.

Outbound SDRs need a means to engage decision makers from target accounts across channels such as email, web, mobile and ads.

Of course, Sales and Marketing collaboration is key to any outbound process.

A good outbound SDR process

R: And for inbound?

B: Map out your customers’ buying process. Understanding how your buyers make decisions to purchase the products/services you sell should serve as the backbone of the entire inbound sales funnel. Your prospects are looking for ROI, success stories, and customization for their organization. Taking the time to consider the sale from your buyer’s perspective will pay itself forward time and time again.

Use marketing automation to track interest from incoming leads that have the right demographic and behavioral scores – reach out to these guys in the moment. Putting SLA (service level agreement) in place will help to prioritize leads.

Remember, you lose 10% of interest every day, so after a lead submits an inquiry on your website, the faster you respond, the better.


“You lose 10% of interest every day, so after a lead submits an inquiry on your website, the faster you respond, the better.”


I prefer SDRs to go straight for the telephone – it’s more efficient, you can gauge where you are with a prospect without beating around the bush. Then they can follow up with an email, do another call the next day, leave a message, for a minimum of 4 touches.


About the SDR metrics you track


R: So with your team, it sounds like there’s a prioritization issue, with all these real-time notifications?

B: Yes, absolutely. When sales reps can focus on closing business with qualified decision makers, the economic gains are astounding. According to some industry best practices: A 5% increase in selling time can yield a 20% increase in revenue; a 1% increase in pipeline value can yield a 25% increase in revenue; and a 15% decrease in the length of the sales cycle can yield a 30% increase in revenue.


R: What metrics do you use to measure SDR performance, whether inbound or outbound?

B: I like the gamification approach, where we share key SDR metrics with the entire team to drive competition and encourage the right behaviors. We have a few different metrics we use. I monitor time on the phone, and like to see my reps spend either 600 minutes per week on the phone each, or have 5 conversations of at least 5 minutes per day.

Multi-touch sales approachWe also like our inbound SDRs to do 50 calls a day, and of these, the first 10 before 10am. (This way you have 20% of your quota done). Since they’re working with hot leads -many of them ‘act now leads’- I expect that 30% percent of those dials turn into conversations, and that from those, we get 2 SQLs per day.

Sales reps of course have objectives in terms of ‘SQLs’ to pass to Account Executives, who themselves are objectified in terms of revenue. That allows us to work backwards and say, ok, so if our Account Execs need to generate X amount of revenue this quarter, that means the sales reps need to pass them X number of SQLs, so they need to have X conversations, contact X number of leads from marketing…


“I like to see my reps spend either 600 minutes per week on the phone each, or have 5 conversations of at least 5 minutes per day.”


About email, phone or social reach


R: To finish up then, how would you describe your sales approach? More phone-centric, email-centric, multi-touch?

If Sales Development were an engine, lead scoring would be the oil. It probably doesn’t make sense to call all your prospects, so I recommend that you use lead scoring to identify the best possible leads for your team.

“Work harder” and “make more calls” doesn’t scale. Don’t blindly do more of what’s not working.

Use Multi-touch as part of your call strategy as well as different channel of communication – reach out using social networks.

Though I don’t believe cold-calling gives good results, I do believe the telephone is the best tool in a sales rep’s tool kit to get things done. It accelerates the sales cycle, it’s more direct. So I like my sales reps to use a mixture of these to reach prospects – email, telephone, leveraging social media.

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