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Alex & Aj: One Shot in the Dark Away from SDRevolution

Takeaways:

  1. If you can find enjoyment in things that aren’t necessarily enjoyable, that’s a win. Impress a positive attitude and optimism on other people, then you are overall doing a good thing for mankind.
  2. Learn the divisions of your team to understand where each person is strongest. This will evolve to a point where you can create more structured roles moving forward.
  3. You are who you think others think you are. Don’t let “legacy” be ruled by other’s perspectives, guesses, opinions, or assumptions of you.

Transcript:

BRYAN WISH: What’s your One Away moment?

AJ: I would say the One Away moment for me is knowing that you are always one email or one phone call away from making this insane, meaningful connection that you might have not expected. The backstory to that is over here at demandDrive, I’d been getting prospecting emails from this company, Wide Leads. Wide Leads was where the other partner of SDRevolution, the big project we’re working on, where Greyson works, and he had been sending over some emails about checking out their database and looking at leads.

A couple of times I had pushed him off and said, “Hey, listen. Not looking for a database at this point. It’s not a great fit.” To his credit, a very good SDR move decided to add a secondary call to action and proposed this idea of a video series of like, “Hey, we’re producing this. Maybe it’s something you want to watch.” I took that as an opportunity to send one more email to him and say, “Hey, listen, Greyson. Shot in the dark. Maybe we could help you create this video series.” Honestly, at that point, as they say, the rest is history.

It was just that one kind of shot in the dark email that I sent off. Now Alex and I are sort of knee-deep in this SDRevolution project. We’ve been working for the better part of a year now producing it and putting it together. It all comes from that one individual moment that we shared, which I think is bonkers to look back at and think about, at this point, in terms of how far we are in the project.

BRYAN WISH: That’s great that you dared to send that email. I think a lot of people are scared to fire off an email and take an opportunity for themselves to get rejected. Alex, why don’t you share your story?

The Best Learning Comes From Listening

ALEX: It’s a little more convoluted for my involvement to get into SDRevolution because AJ is also my manager. He was more just, “Hey, do you want to join this video series we’re doing?” “What? What’s going on? What are you talking about?” Managed to hop on the call with him and Greyson. Having three people to do that was a blessing in disguise because originally we just sort of planned on creating this one-off video series of experts talking about sales development, but then we realized we had a little more bandwidth and could expand it into something bigger and what it’s sort of becoming now.

BRYAN WISH: You’re like the little sister who kind of got suckered into something because the big brother was doing it, right?

ALEX: Yeah, when we were recording the interviews, I was always muted. I was on there. You could see my face on the video call but I didn’t say anything. Sometimes I didn’t even jump in and introduce myself because there wasn’t quite time. There were a few times throughout the process when I was thinking, “I wonder if they know who I am. Can I even send them a connection request on LinkedIn? Would they even make that connection between this video series and who I am?”

BRYAN WISH: Sometimes the best learning comes from listening. Sounds like you got to absorb instead of talk. They say two ears, one mouth. I’m glad you were able to have that experience. AJ, you email Greyson and you wedged your way in the door. There’s a lot that can be learned from doing that in the sense of pathfinding. How do you create an opportunity for yourself? Can you walk us through the process? How did you identify that opportunity? How did you know what to say and how to say it to get Greyson interested? Once you were able to convince him it was something worth doing, then what happened?

AJ: The crazy thing about it is that I kind of didn’t know all of that going into it. It’s something that I’ve learned through not only my work, as an SDR, but since moving into a marketing role, is that you can’t always have this idea before jumping into a conversation or connecting with someone. It’s almost best to sort of leave it to form organically as you go along. Most of the connections I’ve made on LinkedIn, most of the opportunities I found, as an SDR, a lot of that happened naturally; as sort of the course of the conversation would start. You introduce yourself to somebody maybe through a mutual interest and it evolves into something that you didn’t expect.

With Greyson, it was both timely in the sense that we internally at demandDrive had been talking about producing more video content. We’re like, “Hey, we’ve got to get on this video train. We want to start to do courses. We want to start doing interviews.” He reaches out almost serendipitously at that moment being like, “Hey, we have this video series coming out.” Me, not knowing that it would be a good fit for us or knowing that it would be something we could even help out with, I figured let it develop organically. Shoot out a message to him and just be like, “Hey, listen, man. This is something we’re kind of interested in doing. We’ve talked about it internally. I’d love to learn more about your process; learn more about the series itself, and see if we can play a part.”

I think the concept of just putting yourself out there and being a bit vulnerable and not know what the outcome is going to look like is enticing to someone. They want to talk to you and they want to learn more. They want to help you out in some way. I can’s say for sure that I knew what the outcome would look like going into it.

Play Long-term Games With Long-erm People

BRYAN WISH: With Greyson, what was it about him that you liked that you wanted to be involved with what he’s doing?

AJ: Primarily, it’s the idea that he took the extra step and did the right work on his end, as sort of that sales development role, to engage with me. I was in SDR for a long time; three, almost four years. While you’re in the role and while you’re doing the work, it becomes easier to sort of determine what is good work and what is lazy work. Through that, moving into the marketing side of things, I’ve started to realize that there’s a lot more lazy work than good work. I wanted to make it, not like a mission for myself but something that I wanted to focus on was building up the people who did the good work and the right work.

Greyson was someone who was doing the right work. He was persistent. and he engaged with me at the right level. Also, he added the secondary call to action. He did everything that I would want to see an SDR do when prospecting somebody. To me, that tells me a lot about him as a person. It’s someone tenacious; someone, who doesn’t give up; someone who knows why they’re reaching out to someone and has an idea in the back of their mind as to what they can do for me and what I can do for them. I value that a lot when I’m dealing with somebody. I don’t want to talk to someone who doesn’t see a future; someone who doesn’t know why they’re reaching out to me; they’re just doing it because they were told.

At first, it was more of, “Oh, he did the right work. I’m going to engage with him because that’s what I want to do.” That’s what I’m sort of building myself to be is that guy who helps the right SDRs. Then it just ended up blossoming into what it is now. It has taken up most of my life as you said. It’s a pretty core function of what I do professionally now and that’s crazy to think about.

BRYAN WISH: My friend, DJ, who produces this show, has a quote, “Play long-term games with long-term people.” I like that because you’re not going to not go after and pursue the relationship if you don’t see the potential. Greyson saw mutual value in you as a partner and this ultimate vision for having demandDrive. You were able to be a value to that and he approached it uniquely. I think that’s smart.

AJ, you were hired, and then what happened? Because of Greyson, what happened? Fill in the blank for us.

AJ: It wasn’t my mission to sort of prop up the right SDRs but I think going through this experience and building SDRevolution with Greyson, I am starting to realize that I do have a little bit of a why in me in that I believe that what we’re doing at SDRevolution and what we’re doing, in turn, at demandDrive is of value to the sales development community as a whole. Enough people have overlooked the role of the SDR or haven’t featured the role of an SDR enough to where I see it.

I’m trying to match what I see the vision of sales development looking like in the future and what the rest of the industry sees the vision of sales development looking like in the future. It’s almost created this goal inside me to not just make money for demandDrive or build SDRevolution to be a great community but to prop up the industry as a whole and bring sales development to almost its rightful place within how I see a company functioning.

That’s not something I had before. It’s not something I was mission-driven to do. The more and more that I work with Greyson and the more that I’ve been exposed to the community as a whole, the more I think it’s possible and the more I think I can impact it, which is awesome to see that I’ve been given sort of this platform to be able to do something versus just sit back and hope that someone else does it and jump on board.

The SDRevolution

BRYAN WISH: Alex, can you describe what demandDrive does and is and what the show of SDRevolution is and does? Then I want you to talk about how you got brought on for this project.

ALEX: demandDrive provides solutions and services for sales development teams that either can’t afford a full function on their own or are struggling to build out the program. We help them build programs. We can provide full-time equivalent reps. SDRevolution, we’re trying to build up as a community for sales development professionals to share resources, collaborate, learn, educate; a lot of education, sharing, and comradery within the community that we want to build.

As far as me getting pulled into it, demandDrive has two people on the marketing team. You’re speaking with both of them. Thankfully, for me, AJ didn’t have to pick and choose someone to join him on this journey. He picked me. The roles for myself, AJ, and Greyson are getting more defined as we go along. The opportunity I saw in SDRevolution is the community and database of content from contributors all over the world that we could potentially bring in and house in one place that’s easy to access for anyone that has a connection to the internet.

As someone at demandDrive, one of my primary roles is in content creation. It was nice to see that this would be an unbiased place where you can just dive into the tips and tricks of being an SDR without the bottom of it saying, “And to get an even better connect rate, check out our company over here,” or something like that. That’s the exciting opportunity I saw out of it.

BRYAN WISH: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself as you worked to get this project off the ground? What’s been the most challenging aspect? How has it grown your relationship with AJ, who you work under, and made the company better as a whole?

ALEX: The connection between myself and AJ was already strong. It’s taken on a different dynamic through SDRevolution where I think it’s more of an even level partnership than it is in the roles at work. Even though at demandDrive, AJ is a great manager. He does a good job of communicating but it’s a little more clear that he manages me with the demandDrive side of a thing; whereas with SDRevolution, I have the ability if I want to create my piece of content, I don’t have to run the outline, the idea, the thesis by him.

As far as AJ creating my One Away moment, it’s an interesting question because I feel like it was more like a lot of small moments just because we work together so often. Just like AJ said, I started as an SDR at demandDrive. We took similar career paths. I’m just a year or two younger and a year or two behind AJ on that. It was more like pushing overtime saying, the company is growing. Do you need help with marketing? First, maybe a blog here, a blog there while I’m still doing full-time SDR work. Then it slowly grows into a full-time role over 1 ½ or 2 years. That was sort of marketing.

AJ: I’d say that’s pretty close. In terms of the dynamic between myself and Alex, I’d almost 100% agree with what I did. We try to structure demandDrive as not sort of a traditional hierarchical company. It’s very even once you get to the level that we are in terms of managers and shaping the direction of the company. There is some kind of director to manager level that we have, but as Alex said, everything that we do with SDRevolution, him, myself, and Greyson are all one-to-one-to-one partners which I think is awesome.

It’s helped me understand where I’m strongest, where Alex is strongest, and even at this point, where Greyson is strongest in terms of contributing to the community as a whole. Before Alex sort of joining the marketing team at demandDrive and rising through that SDR to part-time marketing to a full-time role, it was all on me.

There were a lot of things I had to do, on the marketing side, that maybe I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. I started to realize that maybe things that I didn’t enjoy doing or things that I wasn’t great at, it just so happened that Alex was fantastic at doing that. For example, the podcast that we had at demandDrive, Alex is going to be taking the reins on that and sort of moving it over to SDRevolution because that’s something he’s way more passionate about than I am and has more of a grasp on.

Whereas it’s something I did because I thought it would be fun but it’s not for me. Learning these divisions and understanding where each one of us is strongest has evolved to the point where we are creating more structured roles for us moving forward. That’s awesome and something that I’ve seen Alex grow into which is amazing as a manager to employee level but also just as a friend-to-friend level.

The Lasting Impact of a one Last-Minute Ask

BRYAN WISH: What’s happened as a result of you guys coming in and starting this show? What has this show allowed you to do?

AJ: I would say that one of the things that I’ve realized throughout this entire process is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask somebody for something. I always felt where I was company wise or position-wise, that I didn’t have enough clout or authority to ask someone well-established in their field for help in a project or to collaborate with them in some capacity. Throughout the process of sort of building out SDRevolution, something I’ve realized is that people are just willing to work with you if you put yourself out there and you’re more open to the idea of collaborating.

You’re going to get a lot more “yes’s” than you expect and that’s something I’m seeing. It’s something I’ve realized we’ve experienced through building this process. We’re getting way more people to agree to work with us and to collaborate with us than we would have ever expected. It’s sort of brightened my outlook on society as a whole but also just on working with other people and thinking that you’re not “worthy” of working with someone. That idea, you should just lose it because the more you put yourself out there and the more you talk to someone or a group of people, I think the more positive feedback you’re going to get than you expect.

ALEX: I had a somewhat similar answer. It’s interesting to look at from our perspective specifically because we were SDRs for a few years and as an SDR, your job is getting rejected 80, 90, 95% of the time. Then when you take us out of that setting and all of a sudden we’re on the marketing team, I felt similar to AJ where it was like I’m just some no-name marketer. I look at all these famous people on LinkedIn or thought leaders.

What’s going to happen if I reach out to them? They’re probably not even going to respond. What’s the point in even asking? When in reality, you should ask. I can tell you for a fact, they’ll respond because they did for us. There’s no reason to not reach out. If they don’t respond, that’s fine, and if they say no, that’s fine too. If they say yes, then you’re able to move forward with whatever the goal was you’re trying to accomplish.

It was interesting, as an SDR, “Yeah, I’m going to reach out to someone who won’t respond or say no 95% of the time. No problem with it.” But then to flip into a marketing role, I had to re-adjust my mindset.

BRYAN WISH: What’s a question you have for me, as it pertains to this narrative, of what we’re talking about?

ALEX: How did you get into improv? Why was that the extracurricular you decided to jump into?

BRYAN WISH: When you want to do something in life or take an interest in something, for me, and maybe even for college kids, it’s so easy to be so tunnel vision and so focused on a specific thing you’re supposed to be doing or what the structure or system says. You might have peripheral interests that you’ve always enjoyed. Like for as serious as I am and as driven as I am, I love screwing around with people. I love making people laugh and doing silly things. I love Impractical Jokers. I’m just really weird and I think I’ve accepted it.

I always wanted to improve and figure out how to do it better, so I just signed up and I’ve noticed that it’s just made me a little quicker. I can navigate conversations more easily and I think the lesson in all of it is even though the people who are so tunnel vision and so structured and trying to figure it out so much, don’t do it because you think it’s going to take you further away. What I’ve learned is I can do something outside of my work, I can bring them back into the conversation.

For me, it’s been a big personal development to my own life that I completely separate from work. When I want to bring the skills back in, it’s a really useful quality. Being able to improvise, I’m sure will help me create a lot more One Away moments down the road in ways I have no idea how.

AJ: I 100% agree with you. I think a lot of people look at something like an improv class and they’re like, “Well, how is that going to help me further my career or help me better understand how I can serve myself right now?” I also think that a lot of people who do what you’ve done and take that improv class or sign up for dance or playwright or whatever, they find that there are so many different aspects of other activities that you can work into the everyday life that you didn’t expect; like you, with improv.

There’s also the opportunity for you to learn about something that you just never would have experienced before. Not enough people do that. For you, you have this idea that you wanted to do improv, but if it wasn’t improv, my question is, is there something else that you’ve always wanted to enjoy but maybe don’t think you’d ever be able to relate it to your job or your everyday professional life?

So, You’re a Hufflepuff?

BRYAN WISH: When you go down an alleyway that maybe you weren’t expecting, you’re going to meet people along that journey that maybe you weren’t expecting to meet. Those people might bring you new experiences and might introduce you to people who can help you personally or professionally. Something that I’ve always loved is Latin culture. I’d love to become super good at Salsa dancing. I took a few classes at the beginning of the year.

How do you bring these interests into everyday conversations and because of those conversations, as a result of different people and create more spontaneous moments that change your life for the better? I think there are this underlying message and concept of One Away. It’s a bunch of small things you do overtime. If you’re at the right place, at the right time, all of these added up experiences can result in something big but it’s just not that moment itself, which I think is what you guys have said throughout this entire episode.

If you pass away tomorrow, what are people going to say about you?

AJ: This is something I’ve kind of leaned into a lot as I’ve heard it more. A lot of people, when they talk about me, they describe me as someone who’s fiercely loyal. It’s not something that I ever really saw in myself growing up because I don’t understand the concept of loyalty as a kid. The older I got and the more I started to dig into that a little bit myself, I’d say that’s probably pretty true about me. When it comes to the friends that I make, the relationships that I have, the people that I meet, I remain loyal to them if we’re on good terms.

I see myself as that kind of person. I only see myself as that kind of person because that’s what other people have told me. As I leaned into it more or understood that more, I would agree. I don’t know if that’s something you’d leave behind – loyalty – but the idea of building strong relationships, keeping them, and trying to stay connected with as many people as you can almost to my detriment at certain points. I’d say that’s something that almost wholly defines me as a person outside of work and professional settings.

ALEX: So, you’re a Hufflepuff.

AJ: 100%. In my office right now, my wife got me this light-up Hufflepuff. I don’t even know what you’d call it. It’s like a dartboard almost. It’s got this big badger icon on it and if you tap it on the top twice, it lights up. I’m a Hufflepuff through and through; big Harry Potter fan. Separate topic. I’d fully describe myself as a Hufflepuff.

ALEX: I don’t know who to credit this quote to but “You are who you think others think you are” is how I’ve looked at it. That’s why it’s interesting, AJ, because you said, “This is what people have told me I am.” You’re assuming everyone thinks that you are. For me, the legacy at this point, I’d like to leave, isn’t what I’d want it to be down the road. There are goals I’d like to accomplish, steps I’d like to take in my career, and in my personal life.

If I were to pass away at the ripe young age of 26, I’d hope that I left people thinking that I enjoyed my time here. I’d like to find joy in everything I do. It’s not always possible. If you can find enjoyment in things that aren’t necessarily enjoyable, for most people, then I think that’s a win. I think if you can then take that and impress that positive attitude and optimism on other people, then you’re overall doing a good thing for the universe.

BRYAN WISH: I appreciate your candid answers. As we’re navigating, as we’re creating these opportunities, finding these One Away experiences for ourselves, the core piece of who we are is always going to stay with us. AJ, for you, that’s loyalty. You look like a loyal guy. Alex, that’s finding joy, and you have this illuminating light across your face. I can see you being happy with certain things and finding joy in those things. Understanding that about ourselves and realizing that’s going to shine through in whatever we do and the ways we find our opportunities is important. What’s the rating on the episode?

ALEX: I had a great time. I found the joy in the episode. That was super easy to do. If that’s a goal, I give it an 11.

AJ: There’s your unbridled optimism. I strive for perfection in everything I do but I also know that perfection is impossible. I’d have to give it a 9.

BRYAN WISH: Sounds like a 10 if we balance them out. Thanks again for coming on.

One Away Podcast
Leah Walsh

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