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How Operations can Change the Game for SDRs

Starting as an SDR is Good Training for Revenue Operations

Remington Rawlings is the SDR Operations Manager at Snowflake. He started in sales at, where he got a fire hose treatment of what good a sales organization looks like and then took that into progressing in his career in sales operations.

When Remington was at Lucidchart, he wanted to get into operations. He had a mentor that told him if he ever wanted to be an entrepreneur, he needed to understand business. And one of the best ways to do that would be to get into operations.

Remington went to Workfront as an SDR. He was a top performer, earned the MVP award there, and set a lot of appointments. He made a lot of progress in building pipeline with big companies and decided it would be a good opportunity to scale that across the rest of the sales organization. He was promoted to DSR Operations Manager because DSR was their Digital Sales Rep (their version of SDR).

Remington started running all the tech for the SDR team, and then those responsibilities snowballed into greater responsibility. Getting started as an SDR helped him understand exactly what they were selling and why they were selling it, and all those different pieces that sometimes are hard to learn as a RevOps person.

Challenges of Developing a High-Performance Culture

Any time you’re building a company with a previous culture from a different leadership team, there are challenges. Remington stepped into the operations role at Workfront about a year into Justin Hiatt’s time, right as he was getting the personnel in place from a leadership perspective. Justin was trying to clean up the sales org from the rep perspective and then institute processes while developing his relationships with other stakeholders in the org. Change management was happening every day, trying to figure out how to optimize the lead routing process and how to make it easier for the sales engagement platform to work right.

They also analyzed other issues such as:

Remington shared two pivotal decisions along his journey:

The Entrepreneur Mindset in Affecting Change

At first, Remington made suggestions for change based on his experience because he didn’t have any other experience. But then, when rolling out uses for Outreach and Salesforce, he was training with the managers, and one suggested, “Just ask the SDRs, just go and talk with them.” And that was a significant turning point in Remington’s career because he took an entrepreneur mindset of asking the SDRs everything, doing user interviews, trying to figure out the SDRs’ problems. He uncovered a lot of issues people were facing that the leadership team didn’t realize. That knowledge made it easier to implement solutions because they knew exactly what the users wanted.

He learned very quickly from that phrase Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” He was successful because he assumed he didn’t know until he heard from somebody (a) what the problem was, and then (b) when they confirmed, “Yes. That is the solution that I want.”

RevOps people make a mistake thinking they know better, and they really could just ask their users.

Communicating with SDRs When Rolling Out Changes

When rolling out new systems, things don’t take off if the communication isn’t solid. Remington shared that he had a lot of different methods for communicating. One was a Slack channel where they gave little updates. There was also enablement training. But, the biggest impact was as part of the management team, “I had a dotted line reporting to the VP of Account Development, which is Justin Hiatt. He’s still there right now. And before they got acquired by Adobe, there was basically six managers and me all reporting to two directors and Justin, and that process of working together made it easier for all the different findings that I came up with and the solutions that I tried to enact with our sales ops team, we just went to the managers and said, you need to go to your team meetings and focus on this.”

Remington joined team meetings in an intimate setting with just five to six reps which enabled him to share the complex findings, the process they have to follow, and then ask them questions and see if they comprehend it. You can’t do that in a big room. The big changes, especially software rollouts, new reporting methods, or more complex data processes, take extra effort to communicate well with the SDRs.

When Workfront was going through the evolution of how they qualified people, what type of discovery process they used, how they transitioned the handoff from the BDR to the AE, and implemented new ways of doing discovery calls, they worked with a consultant to analyze internal processes and best practices. As a result, Remington was called to the forefront to be the resource representing SDR operations. That lead to his being in a meeting with the CEO Alex Shootman and the VP of Sales Carl Cross. He got to share his opinions and had a seat at the table as SDR operations manager.

Remington knew a lot about how Workfront had been prospecting and how it needed to be adjusted. So, he provided context to their decisions which led to him being part of the project plans. That’s how he ended up getting it to the top. And, that visibility sparked a lot of other conversations about other projects that he got to be a part of while he was there.

Humility is Key to Getting Buy-In in Revenue Operations

It was essential to have humility in going back to the SDRs earlier in the process, and the humility to sit at the table and give people the context rather than the solutions of this is what you need to do. Remington came into it with the humility to ask questions the right way. And, he learned more humility by working with those leaders who helped him understand executive presence better. He shared that humility is the pinnacle attribute of any good RevOps person because you may know the answer, but it doesn’t matter if everybody else doesn’t agree with you, then you’re just the ops person. He says, “people buy into that which they create.” And the easiest way to do that is to be humble and act like you really need their opinion, which you do. Then, answers start to flow, and people want you as part of their projects because they like to work with you.

RevOps is an Industrial Complex

Remington shares that he thinks RevOps, especially the sales development team, is an industrial complex. There are many moving parts that all touch one another. And if you pull the strings in one, you are affecting another, and you have to realize that.

When you change something with how the technology works, that’s automatically an enablement piece where you have to train people to do things. Or if you adjust and add a new buying center, that’s a whole new set of technology changes that have to happen to support a new discovery process and a new way of thinking for the BDRs that aren’t used to doing it that way.

It helps to think bigger when you’re thinking about making changes because SDRs are young, potentially inexperienced sales professionals who are very eager and hungry. They are hungry to succeed in their role. They’re the bridge between the marketing spend and the organization that closes the deals so that revenue can come to the company.

SDRs are very young people that we’re trusting with the first conversation. And if you don’t have an operations presence that’s thinking, “how can we optimize this group and make it so that can be the best possible bridge through our thought leadership and branding and into our revenue generation cycle,” you’ve already missed one of the biggest ways that you can try to engage your customer.

Resources for RevOps to Learn About SDRs’ Role

There are many thought leaders that Remington has learned from, including talking with Aaron Ross and hearing about his experiences, or Justin Michael who’s now really trying to take the space to a new place with technology, and JBarrows trainings, Morgan Ingram, there is no shortage of resources for people who have done this and done it well.

It’s just a matter of investing the time to learn and realize that maybe you don’t know everything, maybe I don’t know exactly how SDRs fit in. Think, “Maybe I should re-examine and make it a bigger deal, because if I’m investing all these dollars on a person’s salary, all the tech, all the data, maybe I should get a better ROI on it.”

If you do this right, you have to think of revenue operations in terms of an industrial complex, a lot of things all touching each other, all part of the bigger picture of your company’s success strategy. And if you do that, you will ask the right questions because they will be the hard questions, and you’ll get the right leaders in the room because they will be the higher level leadership type questions.

Follow Remington on LinkedIn