The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

72. How To Break Down Sales Stereotypes and Hire Better SDRs w/ Rahim Fazal

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Rahim Fazal, Co-Founder and CEO of the SV Academy

The SV Academy is training up an army of non-traditional SDRs who are finding more success than the stereotypical lacrosse players of the 90’s. We hear how the SV Academy finds, trains, and releases SDR’s into the wild and the crazy, unconventional success they are finding on the way.

One, two, one, three, three. Hey everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the salesacker podcast. Today we've got the last of three interviews that we conducted while we were on a lovely yacht, the affinity yacht, in the Hudson River for the revenue collective executive off site. Today we've got the cofounder and CEO of a venture back talent company called SFE Academy. His name's Raheim Fazal. I really liked this interview with Raheem. He walks us through what they're doing at s the academy, which is really deconstructing some of the stereotypes around the types of people that are relevant and a good fit for for a career in sales. And I think if you've listened to this podcast, you know that most of the people that I interview did not intend to have a career in sales. Most of them have wildly different background. Some from communications background, some of them were political science majors, some of them were going to go to law school and so many people ended up in this world of sales now within the sort of the the str hiring universe, that the universe of sort of like the conventional wisdom about who you should hire into early and entry level sales rolls. There's a lot of almost like old pre moneyball style wisdom about what made a great baseball player. There's there's this whole conventional wisdom around the fact that you should hire somebody that played, you know, athletics, maybe Lacrosse or football or basketball at a like tier two, kind of like junior ivy school. Maybe get like the captain of the football team from Holy Cross or the La Crosse player from Bucknell or something like that. And you know, Gandily, I admit I've been I've been guilty of some of those stereotypes. So it's really interesting how Raheem systematically breaks down those stereotypes through process, through discover better systems to discover who's going to be great at sales and who's going to be great at a career in sales. And that's the nature of our conversation today. So I hope you enjoy it. Before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors, our first sponsors lucid chart. Lucid Chart Sales Solution is the leading account planning platform for...

...modern sales organizations. With lucid chart you can visually map out key contexts and crucial account data to uncover critical insights that will allow you to close bigger deals faster. Go to lucid chartcom forward, slash sales for more information. Our second sponsor is outreach. That's outreached, out I owe the leading sales engagement platform. The team at outreach wrote the sales engagement book. Literally, we gave that away at the revenue collective off site. So please do pick up that book on Amazon if you haven't had a chance. Outreach support sales reps by enabling them to humanize their communications at scale, from automating the soul sucking manual work that eats up selling time to providing action Oriento tips on what communications are working best. Outreach has you are back. Now, without further ado, let's listen to the interview with Raheem Fazale. I want to introduce Raheem Fazal, so let me just pull up his bio. Raheem started a company called SF Academy, which we're going to talk about because a lot of people in this room are looking to hire u s drs and Rahem can help you. Now. He's the founder of several sess software companies, including most recently involver, an enterprise social media platform which was acquired by Oracle Mozzle and is now part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud. Post Sale, he spent three years in various executive roles with the global field in side sales and product development organizations. He is a first room generation immigrant. He grew up in government housing until the age of twelve. He was not cut out for McDonald's. They fired him and he dropped out of college. A few years ago he received an impact one hundred award at the White House from start up America on the Kaufman Foundation. He's top thirty UNDER THIRTY IN AMERICA BY INK magazine, Forty Under Forty by the SF business times and one of the top twenty five digital thought leaders by I media. Welcome Rahim. All right, thank you. We're excited to have you. So, first of all, awesome that you started involver. But tell us about US academy. WHAT IS S F Academy? And you know you've got some news, so share with it with the audience as well. Yeah, so, essentially we help fast growing companies accelerate...

SDR hiring. What kind of bringing the intersection of training and recruiting into into an education model. We started with sort of three seats every month in San Francisco a couple of years ago. We then went to fifteen and now we've got about a hundred starting every month, so he says when you say starting every months. So tell us what is the framework? What is the business model? You're taking raw, unformed clay and turning it intesty. Ours is that is at the context. Yeah, that's the idea that you know, if we all in this room think about the way that we got into sales ourselves, most of us have a pretty unconventional path, you know. We didn't necessarily take a major at at college. That sort of brought us into this world like that. There are millions of job seekers out there who are not even applying for the SDR position because I've never heard of it, or if they have heard about it, there's a level of imposter syndrome. They've had a bad experience trying to send a resume. Might send a hundred or two hundred resumes out. We get this all the time, and the eliteis m in the recruiting systems will often overlook people who don't have backgrounds like, for example, like I used to have conversations with employers where they would say, Oh, you can help me with SDR hiring. Great, I'm looking for someone who's graduated from a top twenty school with a four pod GPA, who's also like a white male Lacrosse player. Basically, it's the only people that make goulds to ours. What are you talking Abe exactly? And and so we essentially are a place for a lot of the non traditional talent folks who are have some education, may have Su state school education. Most likely it's in social sciences or business. We've had people who are who have kind of done premed and and law, folks who are looking to career shift. They made a decision, didn't really like where it's taken them and they just need a place to start and we will give them all the training and all the support that they need over a three month period before hire. So it's...

...sort of a threemonth interview, which includes an internship, at the end of which the ones who make it all the way through their rigorously vetted. At this point will then match them with employers where hiring. At that point we also do evaluation of employers as well, because we want to make sure that the employers who are hiring will also be a good fit. And then we continue to support the hire us for the first twelve months on the job. So we have some customers who are in in the room, like CEB insights and six sense and Susie, and we're working with those hiring managers to support the SDRs not just through an onboarding process but all the way up to the first year. And the goal is and so far seventy percent of folks who have graduated from our program and gone into the St our position are being promoted in that first twelve months. Wow. So where do you find these folks? How do they become more of SV Academy? Yeah, so word of mouth has become big. Once someone successful, they'll put their I mean to get a job offer from a an employer you know in the room here. It's such a life changing event for them. So they will tell everyone they know and it just so happens that, you know, they often know people who are looking to maybe pursue the same path. So a lot of it is word of mouth. We also have partnerships with universities and then and then we get a lot of referrals from from from actually industry people who will say, you know, I mentor this person, or I came across in cross this person or sometimes like I want to hire this person, but they just don't have, you know, any experience, and do you mind if they you know, Marn they applied to your program and if they get all, if they get through, then I'd love to hire them. We have admissions rate of about one and a half percent, so we'll get somewhere around a thousand applications every week and we're choosing, you know, the best sort of fifteen. I'm sure you're putting them through through a three month program. Yeah, there, you've decided that White Mail across player is not the only, not the only, not the only. Yeah, maybe, yeah, maybe they those people can be good, but other people can be good too. Yeah. So what is it that makes somebody good? You know, what...

...are the things? You said that there's a certain great's like the Navy Seals. You know, a bunch of people start the beginning of the three month program. There's a group of people that make it to the end. Yeah, you know, put it. What are the common themes? What are the behavioral qualities and yeah, and maybe give us some some data or some insights, yeah, that you've assessed or observed. Yeah, I mean the sort of the metal learning that we've had. We've evaluated maybe twenty fivezero applicants. We've got about three hundred folks who have graduated from the program sixty percent women, forty percent African American Latin x from all around the country. The biggest thing we've learned is that someone's ability to manage the cognitive dissonance between how difficult these jobs can be, particularly in your first year, and the potential outcome of where it can take you in your career. If you're able, if you're like bought into that, if you can can manage those two things like in parallel, you will lose two things, meaning the job may suck, but yes, but putting it in context and saying this is part of a journey, that's right, not about instant gratification. That's it. And so evaluating for that is very difficult if you haven't done the job before, which is why, which is the value that we provide to the employers that work with us, we will test for this in a in a very structured way over a period of twelve weeks and it's a combination of very sort of intentionally designed curricula and then project based learning, which includes actually picking up the phone and dialing and getting rejected and doing it over and over again. There's also a whole layer of coaching that happens, both in terms of communication coaches. So we've got a whole stable of communication coaches and a stable of mindset coaches. And so we will support if you get into the program, if you're good enough to get in, we will surround you with all of the support necessary for you to get all the way through. But even after doing all of that and investing, because we will forward invest about tenzero in in...

...each of the people who get into the program, even after that investment that we're making, without any guarantee that we're ever going to get paid for that, still not everybody makes it through, and it's most often because they give up. They ring the bell. Yeah, just they hit a wall. Some make it through, some hit a wall, and that actually happens not just during the pre higher part of the program but also afterwards. So is it possible to predict who will give up? We're getting better at this. The more people who go through the program you know, the the larger data set that we're sitting on and we can we can start to see some patterns. So you it is a volume game. We need to have pretty significant volume. We're getting there now, which is that big announcement was that we closed a ten million dollar series a relations just a couple weeks ago. Yeah, thank you, you know, for for for a model that not every investor understands. One of the reasons why we did receive this this investment from phenomenal investors, including our our big seed investor, Bloomberg Beta, is that we are beginning to solve for this now and how we're able to, like the way we're able to sort of demonstrate that, is more and more people are making it through the program then they ever were before. And it's still, you know, a couple percent every every cohort. We've run twenty five cohorts, and when you say more and more people are making through, that means you're doing a better job of selecting them at the outset or the program itself is better selection, for sure. I mean the more of the SEC academy word gets out, the higher, you know, higher volume, our quality candidates. We get. But a really big part, a disproportionate part, and this was a big learning for me, is that it's not just selection. It is a lot about training and assessment and it's not just about weeding people out. So I was at Oracle for three years spent a bunch of time with the Oracle digital which is their big inside team. The model there was very churn and burn and if someone sort of can't make it,...

...they try to figure that out as early as possible and kick them out. What we've learned is that if you can assess correctly and match the right intervention at the right time, then we can support people in ways or at times in that life cycle where they otherwise would have given up. And what I find is that those folks who do end up pushing through, the ones who do have challenges and they end up being the best SDRs there, are the ones who end up getting promoted faster into ae and customer success positions. So it's not just about selection. Is is is important and it's really important for us. But, like the magic of Se Academy, is in the training, in the education and getting smarter and more intelligent about how we do that. Sitting on all of the data points that we do, like tens of thousands of data points we have of people who have gone through this program over twenty five cohorts, and we have seen not just how they do through the pre higher part, but also how do they do in the field. So we have feedback loop with them, with the managers who hire from us in this room. We talked them at least once a month about how their hires are performing, and sometimes they're performing so well that they actually need support to get them prepared for their next position. Sometimes it's because they're struggling and we've understood a lot of the problems keep coming up over and over and we see them and and know what works and then we're able to sort of fine tune how we solve for that even post higher, which is, like, I think, really special. That is really special and it's very humanistic, aspirational, optimistic, because there is a mantra fire fast and sort of this idea that like essentially implicit in the whole in the idea is that people are not changeable and that investing in development is not a worthwhile investment because people basically are who they are. I think we could all like you know, in this...

...room listening to the podcast, can all think about a person in our lives at some point in time who believed in US right. That helped. That we credit to helping us, you know, get through the unthinkable unimaginable. We want to be that for for millions of job seekers. We want to play that role for folks and we know that it works. Diversity is really important and I think it's an important focus of yours. We did a was like a Webinar, I guess, earlier this week and the emphasis of the Webinar was that in diversity without inclusion can actually be negative both to the person and to the organization. How do you screen these organizations? They may say that they're looking to hire candidates representing diversity, but they don't have a culture or a program to make those people feel welcome when they join. Are you screening that or is or is that just, you know, a pitfall or an outcome that that you sort of have to tolerate? Well, we recognize that a big part of inclusion is where someone coming from an underrepresented background goes to a company where they see someone like themselves, and that could mean a lot of different things. It's not just gender and sort of color of your skin, for example, but it's also socioeconomics. Right, some of the best salespeople have come from government housing like me. Right. But, as I've said before, a lot of the chatter we used to have it at Oracle, for example, was Oh, yeah, like, well, you know, what's your what's your handicap? Like, you know, what courses do you like to play at? I'm like, I've never played golf in my life. Golfs not something that I ever grew up with. I don't know anybody that knows how to golf. Really when I was I don't know how to golf either. You too? All right, well, the two of us can go to the arcade or so. We can not play golf together. Yeah, so, so I think it's multidimensional, you know. So what do we do? I think our vision is we understand a lot of companies are interested in this. They they know that they have to start somewhere. So start somewhere. We will help you do it. It's always...

...helpful and it's good for our business model if you hire two or three people at a time, because then you get a pod, right, and they can support each other. Right and what will naturally emerge from there is a culture of more inclusivity. When someone comes in for an interview, hopefully they'll be interviewed by somebody who has a similar background as them, and that makes a huge difference. Often we'll get we have had feedback from from our graduates who said, yeah, I'm not sure I really want to go work at that company, even after, let's say, receiving an offer because of something related to the culture. They had a bad experience during the interview process. And in my mind I'm thinking your entry level, you've got to get started, like you got a hustle like but I'm appreciating more and more the importance of inclusivity and you have to do it intentionally, and I think it starts by just starts with diversity, like it starts with the diversity and then, and then you'll have the privilege of an inclusivity problem. Well put, the str world is changing. I'm interested how few, how in touch do you feel like you have to be with the role, because the role in the organization is evolving constantly all the time, as certain outreach channels wither, as marketing takes over. Some people and call them mdrs. Sometimes there's not, and as other people feel like you know what I mean. I've even heard people that's saying we're moving to full stack, back to full stack Reps. we don't want SDRs because our reps no longer not a prospect. How are you going to be positioned to take advantage or sort of, you know, work on or or up to those evolutions? So so, if you zoom out for a bit, the reason why we have such a institutional problem in higher education is because, you know, the schools haven't done a great job of keeping up with the needs of employers. So we're talking about a very specific career path and roll today, in an industry that's evolving very quickly, it is very, very, very difficult for a traditional education model to keep up with it. So, for example, a lot of the colleges that...

...we work with WHO do not have sales programs. Most of colleges do not have a sales program their academic review cycle is twenty four months right, so there's so much the changes in twenty four months there is no way they could possibly keep up with the demand. Our review cycle is every thirty days, and so what's happening is we have this now large community of managers and graduates who are out in the field as we continue to support them. As I said, we're collecting a lot of data around what's working. One thing that we ask a lot about our you know what text act you use. How is that changed? What a workflows look like, how workflows change, and we're constantly staying on top of this and and then reviewing it, synthesizing, implementing, figuring out how to test for it properly in the program and just repeating it over and over and over again. We've done it twenty five times now. Anything particularly interesting to you in terms of how things are changing that you know sort of emerges in terms of how people are reaching out, what technology they're using that you just sort of found found exciting or interesting, always talked. We talked about it a little bit today. I think would send Oso, for example. I mean we've had a bunch of our customers use send Oso for direct marketing and and they've just become really intelligent about where in the life cycle, right prospecting life cycle, they use it. And the interesting thing is that the strs and bdrs are sort of the closest to often they have the sort of their finger on the pulse around what it is like, what is the right, you know, gift or or, you know, what's the right surprise to really delight somebody with. And it's actually neat because at a broader level, the folks who are at the very top of the funnel, who are interacting with the most folks, they may be entry level people, most people in their lives have probably not given them a lot of attention. All of a sudden now they can play a more strategic role in decisionmaking with their hiring manager or skip boss, and that's we know they...

...absolutely love it, the fact that they can sit down with the CEO or the head of sales and they have something valuable to offer because if the thousands of conversations they're having with folks every day is not just incredibly gratifying, but it also keeps the very motivated and is often like a source of a lot of like ingenuity and creative ideas that otherwise wouldn't have come up, just like a lot of the direct marketing. Yeah, so it's exciting. The Your Business Model. Last question for me is Your Business Model. Is it is a contingency. Exact you know search. Is that how you charge? I mean to the point, I would imagine that that's not typically a business that is capable of raising venture capital. Walk US through. What was the what is the I the big idea that you know, owl ventures or Bloomberg Betas saw and just confirmed to us. How you charge in case we want to become customers? Yeah, so we don't charge anything to the students, which allows us to open access to these career pathways and this training to folks who otherwise you'd never see and they would likely not even work in the industry. So we've never charge a student. There's no cost students. Okay, employers pay on a recruiting model and it's sort of traditional recruiting, but you're getting so much more along with with it, not just the guarantee but also the continued support, all of the vetting, the pre training, etc. Etc. So we look at it as a ten x solution over what traditional recruiting is like, particularly for early stage roles where there's not a lot of data that as you, as a hiring manager, have because often they've not done the job before. Right. So that's that's how the model works. Terms of the big feel pressure to turn that into recurring revenue somehow. Ha Ha. Call you, mess ass through this, through this fundraising fiel a website. Tell you, yeah, exactly, Sass, if you are well, my God. Yeah, well, especially just coming from assass background like I have, there are there are some potentially exciting ways that we can and create go from a transactional model to a more relationship and ongoing model, which is...

...in part why we raise this money, because we we we feel confident that we can, with this money, take a few bets and create a, you know, cred a lot of damage with them. What we're noticing is that, in terms of the big idea is that there are entry level positions available across many different industries, across the entire country, in across the entire world, where there's a tremendous amount of sort of supplied demand mismatch, and there's been a lot of focus on venture investing in technical skills, specifically coding software development. Terms of human skills, human centered skill development, massive under indexing. Right. So our vision of the world is with increased automation, and I think we are all great representations of this. Right. We have lucrative careers here in this room and listening to the podcast, because we have figured out a way of augmenting or extending our capabilities with technology, not replacing them, and that's a really fucking big idea. It's a huge idea. It's far more interesting to me than software development because there there are small percentage of folks who are who have sort of the right interest and foundational skill set and so on to become great software developers. Far, far, far more people who could become great sales leaders. They just need a chance. I love it. Questions from the audience. Kevin. Kevin from Zoom and phone. We hire and source most of our strs just internally with our own groups, and one of the things that we really like to do is just get them on the phone as quickly as possible. So after two weeks of training and watching recordings and so on, they're on the phone the third week. So when they're going through a three month on boarding program like, how quickly are they having but real conversations where they're kind of battle tested before they work...

...with one of your customers? Around week four, week five? We've tested it at we've tested it right at the beginning and we've tested it right at the end. We found week four week five is the right place to do it for us because it's not just about knowledge transfer, it's also about confidence building and if someone has a bad experience on the phone the first time, it could turn them away forever and that's a false negative. Right. We found week four, week five, that's the right time frame for us, and so they spend a lot of time then, therefore, all the way through the end of the the program on the phones, and some of them keep on the phones even after while they're interviewing, just for extra practice. And they're doing it, you know, for different employer partners. So also interested if they are, you know, employers in the room, not just hiring but also becoming part of the curriculum. Those there are some partnerships that will announce now that we've announced the the fundraising where we started to do this, and we work, for example, with Paul Alto networks and talent, who are internship partners of Fars, and we're always looking for for additional partners as well, because there's a lot of value there, a lot of value for for for people who've never had that experience before. You said you accept fifteen of a thousand applicants. What is that earlier stage screening process look like? What are you screening out? What are you kind of allowing in when you don't have a fully built out resume or that experience and you're in? You're trying to source from underrepresented backgrounds. So there are a number of sort of fundamental things that probably we would all do here right or if we had the time in the space we would. So, for example, we are looking sort of a base, sort of a baseline sort of level of cognition, baseline communication skills right, both verbal and written. I would say the big thing that we do is testing for people's commitment, and this goes back...

...to the man you know, sort of understanding if they can manage the cognitive dissonance between how hard the job is and what the payoff is. So folks will go through, typically at twenty five to thirty hour admissions process to get into s the academy. Because it's free. We're able to run them through the hoops and they and their many of them, are very excited to do that and it's the first time that they're having an opportunity to not just learn about the position and the industry which is something often there that they didn't know before, but also to demonstrate their candidacy in a way that's beyond a resume. Most of our folks do not, most of our applicants do not have linkedin profiles because we're going to put on it they don't feel like employers will value. For example, my McDonald's story. I never talked about getting fired from McDonald's until I sold a company. Right, couple companies. Then it was cool. Yeah, but it's like, yeah, now I can talk about this stuff that I grew up in government housing and because it's it's I can do that. It's easier and I don't think people will judge or evaluate me in the same way they might have otherwise. It still happens, right, but but that's how how we ultimately do it. Twenty five to thirty hours testing for a number of baseline competencies, and then the real big one is commitment to the outcome. Do they do? Will they turn an assignment in when they say they're going to, or on the deadline, like are there a minute late, two minutes late, a minute early for an interview? There's a lot of different we have a lot of time in space. So we're able to do a lot of evaluation both online and in life. Raheem, if you want to get in touch with you, what's the best way? How do we become customers of s Fe Academy? All right, so, first of all, follow me on twitter at Rahim the dream. It's a great way to keep intil are you kind of saying? What are you doinate about? I taught all about all of said. I mean no, I hate politics. I'm I can't even vote in this country, but I talk a lot about the future of work, the intersection of future of...

...work and future of education. I care about it deeply. So I talked a lot about that. We have a couple of people from the team, Jean A and John, who actually went through our program and our graduates a far program. So who better to talk to? They're also some employers here like like you know, evanet at Susie and six sense and CB insights, and they're happy customers and they'll share, you know, what their stories are. It's there's no there's no risk to get signed up with SV Academy. So where do we go to sign up? If we're listening on the PODCAST and want to apply to become great a student. Yeah, so s be dot academy slash employers. We have a landing page there. You can also email me directly, which is rheim are hi am at SV as in Silicon Valley, SV Dot Academy. Awesome, Rheam, thanks so much for being here. Thanks for being on the show. Hey, folks, Sam's Corner, Sam Jacobs, hope you like that interview. That was perhaps my favorite reneview interview from that day. On the vote, I think we're him brings, first of all again first generation immigrant in to the United States. What a great country we've got still, despite everything that's going on, that people can come to this country and within one or two generations they are CEOS of companies, they are building venture back businesses. That's simply incredible and and I'm so excited for what Ra him is building. Now. If you listened again, one of the things that we talked about, which I mentioned at the Intro, is breaking down the stereotypes around what types of people are going to be good at sales. It's not just liberal arts college athletes. It's not just people that play Lacrosse or squash or basketball or baseball or swam although those people do have the discipline, I think many times. But it's not just those people. There are so many people, so many underrepresented groups, people of colored, people from different economic backgrounds that aren't going to get to go to Bucknell and play Lacrosse, and so we need systems to identify what are...

...the character qualities, what are the character attributes that are going to help people become great sales leaders and become great sales professionals, and I think what they're doing at as the academy, through the program that they've got is really, really interesting. There's so much innovation happening on the talent side, not just us, for a cad Bey, but so many different companies that are focused on let me try and identify different types of people that are going to be great in the sales function, not just the common people that already have an easy entrance way into the world of kind of white collar sales. But how do we, how do I identify different types of people with different backgrounds, people that may have worked in a variety of kind of like service jobs or low wage jobs, or don't have the same educational background, but we can identify certain character attributes that show us that those people are going to be hungry, that they're coachable, that they want to learn, that they want to succeed, and I think that that's so important as we seek to give the same kinds of opportunities that Raheim had, and even better opportunities, to all of the people out there that are potentially jewels and diamonds in the rough, people that are going to be great contributors. We just need a process stripped of unconscious by US and stripped of stereotype, that helps identify the great qualities within people, wherever they're from, whatever their backgrounds. So I really like the mission that Britt that S F academy is on and I'm a supporter of them and and from and I've recommended them to people and they've done great work and people have ended up hiring really fantastic SDR and bed are candidates through SP academy. So I'm a big supporter. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks to a heam for being in the show. Before we go, we want to thank our sponsors. That's lucid chart sales solution, the leading account planning platform for modern sales organizations, and outreach, the leading sales engagement platform if you want to reach out to me. Hopefully at this point you know where to go, but it's linkedincom forward. Slash the word in forward them F Jacobs, and I'm trying to think of there's anything else I should say. Yes, please rate the show. Please give us five stars on itunes. Other than that, I'm done. I'll talk to you next time.

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