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From an SDR to Director: Tyler Gruca shares what it takes

December 15, 2023

Arjun Krisna

In this edition, we had the privilege of sitting down with Tyler, a seasoned expert in the field, who shared his journey and wisdom gained from years of experience.

From his beginnings at SalesLoft to his current role at Maxio, Tyler's path is a testament to the importance of growth, adaptability, and strategic thinking in today's dynamic business environment.

Join us as we explore his valuable insights and advice for professionals at all stages of their career in sales and business development.

Also, don't forget to check out our previous blog, where we put together a list of 7 must-follow B2B sales leaders to nail your cold outreach.

Can you share a bit about yourself and your career journey so far?

I started my career as an SDR at SalesLoft, fortunate to be there early, and they ended up doing really well. The things I was trained on, best practices and industry standards, are still in place today. After that, I joined SaaSOptics, which later rebranded to Maxio, as an account executive.

I did that for about a year and a half and then moved into SDR leadership. For the last four or five years, I've been responsible for building out our BDR org at Maxio

What are some key lessons you've learned from your experience, from starting out as an SDR to becoming a director?

One thing I've learned is that it's hard to grow your career if the company you're part of isn't growing. I've been fortunate to work for two companies that were high growth. Joining the workforce at a time when tech companies were growing a lot has helped progress my career.

I empathize with people entering the workforce now, where growth is stagnant. You will be rewarded for loyalty. It's important to be in the right place, feel you're growing professionally, paid fairly, and learning. It's not always easy, but if you can ride through tough times, you'll be in a favorable position when things turn around, with your product knowledge, relationships built, experience, and credibility.

Finding the right company and staying with them is important if all the other aspects are good. More recently, learning from others, not just relying on your own experiences, is crucial. One of my first CEOs emphasized this. Especially with social media, building a personal brand for yourself is valuable.

Can you provide practical steps for BDRs to start building their personal brand?

One thing I wish I had understood earlier is the importance of not avoiding internal networking and building relationships with leadership. It's essential to connect across departments, like sales with customer success, especially in a remote environment.

This is more natural in startups where you're exposed to different roles and leadership due to the smaller company size. You need to be resourceful and involved. Using a startup mentality in any company size is beneficial. Another aspect is putting yourself out there online.

Many SDRs feel they have nothing to share on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. However, it's about talking to your 'shadows,' such as someone a year or two into their SDR job considering entering the tech world. Sharing your experience is valuable to others, regardless of your career stage

As someone who has led and scaled BDR teams, what's your approach to nurturing and retaining top talent?

We try to find the right people at the beginning and be open and honest with them. The interview is a two-way street; I have questions for the candidate, and they should have questions for me. It's crucial to be genuine to avoid issues in the long run.

The focus is on progressing people, focusing on their development, and being intentional about coaching. Even if someone is struggling, if they feel like they're improving or learning something new, that's valuable. Being transparent about the path is important. S

ome of our reps have been in their role for two years, which is long, but it's about being candid upfront with expectations and providing development along the way. These are our primary focuses.

How did you prepare for your transition up the career ladder, and how did your daily activities change?

I've heard an adage that no one gets promoted for a job they're not already doing, and there's a lot of truth to it. I moved from an SDR job to an AE, thanks to a relationship with a previous manager.

As an AE, I wasn't the best, but I used skills from my SDR role in outbound prospecting and pipeline generation, doing a lot of self-sourcing. When looking for another SDR manager, the skills I exhibited as an AE made me a top candidate. It's about taking on responsibilities of the role you want.

For example, if you're an SDR wanting to become an AE, start doing more discovery on your calls beyond what is asked. If you want to get into management, take new hires under your wing, develop and onboard them.

This reflects positively back on you. It involves taking parts of the role you desire and incorporating them into your current role, finding overlap between the two.

What are the top three skills you believe BDRs should focus on developing right now?

Top three skills BDRs should focus on:

Firstly, verbal communication. With so much noise in people's inboxes, cold calling is where our reps are finding success, so being able to communicate verbally is crucial.

Secondly, understanding your prospect and their decision-making process. STRs often seek more product knowledge, but a better approach might be understanding how parts of the product relate to the prospect's challenges.

Lastly, prospecting skills. This is a major differentiator. Understanding what a good account looks like, how to find and target it consistently, separates successful reps from those just starting out.

What are your top strategies for BDRs to identify and engage prospects showing intent?

One strategy we focus on is identifying signals, which I use synonymously with intent. Your next customers are likely already showing some sort of intent or engagement with your product, possibly indirectly through third-party data providers, competitive analysis, or industry trends. Understanding trigger events that lead to purchasing decisions around your product is key.

Prospect intentionally into these situations. Examples include funding events, though there's less funding now than a few years ago, and recent hires in finance or leadership at companies. These can indicate that someone is brought in to make changes or reevaluate current operations. These are examples of compelling events or buying signals we use to put someone on our radar.

What traits are you currently looking for in new hires?

Unfortunately, due to many layoffs, there are many good people looking for jobs, changing the hiring criteria from a few years ago. Previously, there was a rush to hire good candidates as soon as they became available, but now fewer companies are hiring.

Currently, I place higher importance on experience, such as previous sales or tech experience, over intangibles like resilience or communication skills. We're not against hiring someone without experience, but the crucial factor in a sales interview is the candidate's ability to sell themselves. If a candidate can convincingly explain why it's worth taking a chance on them, I'll consider them.

Many people we're looking at now have either done the role before or can articulate how their transferable skills can help drive more pipeline.

What resources do you recommend for BDRs and SDRs?

The Internet offers a wealth of resources. I appreciate books for distilling principles. 'Fanatical Prospecting' and 'The Jolt Effect' are good reads. 'Atomic Habits' is another favourite, focusing on consistent effort and the compounding of returns over time.

However, I often turn to LinkedIn for learning. Kevin Dorsey and Josh Braun offer great content. I've been spending more time on LinkedIn in the past year and a half, consuming and gradually creating more content myself. LinkedIn is an excellent place for learning and growth.

In conclusion, Tyler's journey and insights offer a wealth of knowledge for anyone in the field of business development and sales.

His experience underscores the importance of continuous learning, strategic relationship building, and personal branding in a competitive landscape.

Whether you are just starting your career or looking to climb higher on the corporate ladder, Tyler's advice and recommendations are invaluable resources for your professional toolkit.

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories and expert advice in our upcoming posts!

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