Interview: Brett Hovanec at demandDrive

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 BrettHovanec 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 foryou?

BH: There are eight Directors of Client Engagement here andessentially, they manage between seven and eight projects. Over time, we startedto see that we all had very similar challenges and similar objections that wewere facing. And as I began to take an interest in and undertake a lot of the Salesforcedashboarding and reporting, it made sense for me to move into a full time salesoperations role to really address all the issues that we were all facing.

RB: Great. Let’s start by looking at the process offiltering leads from marketing to sales. How do you approach that process?

BH: In terms of sales process, typically what we see is leadsto contacts to accounts and opportunities. It really comes down to a conversionprocess – what does it look like, how are you tracking it and at what time doesthat 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. Ifyou have a lot of sales reps, then you are probably going to have a big roundrobin automated cycle that is going to assign things based on territories. Ifit is a smaller sales team, it is probably going to be more manual.

But I think really figuring that out before you get into theweeds is very important because you end up getting some leads pushed over tothe wrong reps, and then your commission reports are going to be off. It can justbecome a nightmare if everything isn’t squared away from the beginning.

RB: What are some of the things that you can do to makesure that both the passer and the receiver are playing by the same rules andare expecting the right things?

BH: That’s a great question. Setting expectations rightthere. When is the appropriate time? What are the qualification criteria for anSDR or BDR to pass over a lead to an AE or the sales rep?

The criteria can vary between each AE, as they all havedifferent preferences. So that process is very customisable. And that is reallygoing to make it a whole lot more enjoyable for all members because the SDRs willknow that they are providing quality leads to their reps and the sales reps aregoing to be really happy that their SDRs are giving them these quality leads.

RB: On the subject of each AE having differentpreferences, do you see a lot of individual agreements like this rather thancompany-wide or sales team-wide agreements and processes?

BH: Yes, absolutely. We have seen AEs that want a leadpretty much handed over on a silver plate to them. You have others who areinterested 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 myinterviews before, so I’m glad you’re mentioning it because we should considerthe AEs and how they work – what sort of leads they want presented, rather thanhaving one golden rule across the whole team.

BH: Yes. It is certainly good to have a high expectation ofyour sales team, and at what point they should be taking leads. It might meanthat they are not a great fit for the organization if they are not willing toaccept 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 gettingmarketing and sales on the same page with process and definitions. So gettingthat symbiosis going is a great start.

Then your first steps are to make sure that both sides arealigned in their definition of a marketing qualified lead versus a salesqualified lead, and inbound versus outbound as they may have differentqualification criteria for each aspect. We have seen clients get that initialalignment consistently wrong.

RB: Do you often see SDRs fitting under the sales team orunder the marketing team?

BH: That is a great question. When it comes to appeasing whoyou are reporting to, I would say having that symbiosis with the sales rep isvery important, but having different kinds of feedback for the marketingchannel side is very important too. Being able to qualify and bring thesequalified leads to the sales team is going to be great, but on the marketingside it’s extremely useful knowing that a lead mentioned a specific piece ofcontent or asked a lot of questions about a specific functionality.

RB: You have obviously got quite a few SDRs doingcampaigns for clients. What is the perfect toolkit for a really highfunctioning SDR team?

BH: The perfect toolkit certainly consists of salesenablement tools for emails, creating full-on cadences. We typically go by the12 to 15-step cadence process and we really try to stick to that as much aspossible. We realise historically anything after about the eighth or ninthtouch is really where you start to get quality conversations and responses, sothat is typically what we are going to be doing.

We still go the old-fashioned way with calls and emails. Ifyou put in the work and are consistent, people associate a voice to emails, orvice versa, and that is really where the rapport is – hearing that voice repeatedly!

RB: Awesome. That is interesting. I suppose if your outreachis phone based and email based, it is slightly different where people are justrelying on email or just relying on social, where people tend to respond quicklyor they don’t respond at all.

BH: Yes, exactly. That is why you have to do the two-prongedapproach with emails and calls and a LinkedIn here and there if you needto. 

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 overtime that using tools like that isn’t necessarily always the best way to go. Ifyou have a finite universe, it is a lot better to use something smaller, suchas email tracking.

RB: One of the things that sales ops are getting reallyheavily involved in now is Go to Market - and learning how to ensure that weare constantly chipping away at prospects.

You mentioned earlier that 35% of an SDR’s time ispotentially trying to sell people who will never be a customer. 

What have you seen that minimizes that risk, or ensuresthat we are definitely only targeting people who are going to end up being ourclients?

BH: It really comes down to knowing who your ICP is. Writedown on paper who you specifically want to target and build a list of whatthose customers would look like. Continue to fine-tune it, especially for ifyou’re in an organisation that is just starting up and still trying to figureout who their target market is.

RB: I imagine when you’re working with clients you askthem 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 youcan get into the nitty gritty of managerial level and decide whether you aregoing to have better conversations with directors or VPs. It really comes down towhether it is going to go up the chain or down the chain, and who is going tobe 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 analysisfor clients versus analysing your own sales efforts?

BH: Currently, a lot of it is analysing for clients. I lookat historical data for new clients and make sure we are getting off to theright start, setting specific milestones and putting together a timeline thatmakes sense for objectives and goals to be met.

Sales playbooks are another big focus of mine – building themfor clients and with clients.

This is something we are seeing a lot more interest in fromclients who want to bring together all their separate processes into somethingthat 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. Itis a way to keep track of expectations and goals and just continue to set thosehigh standards and make sure that information is always accurate.

RB: Fundamentally what makes a good sales playbook interms of the information that is in there and the order that it comes in? 

BH: The main things I have consistently seen in everysingle 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 thosesub-categories of cadences, campaign, email templates, scripts, and so on. Wealso have messaging matrixes.

RB: I like that a lot. I think that template is veryvaluable.  

BH: Another factor we include is tips on how to usethe sales enablement tools with key FAQs. It should be a source of truth forthe SDR and for the client. If we need to onboard another SDR, say we are expandingthe programme, it should be something that they can easily access and will beable 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 itis going to be up to date at all times.

RB: Thank you very much Brett.

Want to get more insights from sales ops leaders? Check out our other posts in the sales ops interview series.

At Kluster, we're big fans of sales operations...

We recognise the growing importance of sales operations. No longer seen as the function that provides spreadsheets, sales operations is integral to building a repeatable, scalable sales machine.

That's why we built Kluster. We make analytics and forecasting systems for you so you can spend time doing what you do best: uncovering trends and delivering growth defining insights.  

Kluster gives you total visibility into the effectiveness of your sales machine and helps you generate credible forecasts to revenue leaders and the board.

Stay in the know