Jan: [00:00] I’m super happy you could make time not only because we exchanging ourselves weekly. We speak to each other a lot but because you have an incredible, cool story to tell on joining a company that is now Unicorn and also your professional career when you started as an individual contributor and now leading business development, so super curious, super happy to have you on the show.

Dario: [00:27] Thank you, likewise pleasure. I mean, I’m in line with the David Beckham of first development so I’m very happy to be here. Thanks for the opportunity. It’s actually the first one for me in that sense to share the story, so yeah, I’m looking forward.

Jan: [00:43] Yeah, Dario, that’s great. We speak a lot. I speak on a biweekly basis, and I think I know somewhat what you are passionate about because we speak a lot, but what are you actually passionate about, Dario?

Dario: [01:00] Sales development, obviously, huh? I mean, jokes aside, I think it’s such a – it’s always a bit of a generic answer, I think, but I really do love people, I think people in general. I’m not just going out with people and having fun in the free time but also working with people, seeing people grow, seeing people develop into better selves, having regular exchanges with like-minded people like you but also with peers but also with people on the team that like to be better is what I’m passionate about. I think I’m in a good place.

Jan: [01:38] Cool, so yeah, when did it start for you that you realized okay, I like to develop people; I like to make them better, and I feel satisfied by that? A lot of people say I don’t really care about other people, but you are so passionate about that, and that’s a pattern of great sales development leaders. When did that start?

Dario: [01:58] I think I’ve seen that throughout my life, in a way, in my relationships, both on the friendship side but also on the romantic side in a way. I think I’ve always been the one with the helping hand, in a way. Then it really started to resonate even more when I grew into the sales development world and when I went from IC just being an SDR to the senior SDR where then I had to take care of the interns, for example, and I really felt it’s a higher purpose in there to just scheduling next appointment. I think that is something I really enjoy as well. I’m ringing the bell, getting appointments in. I’m having success in that sense, but I think I’m on the unsustainable effect. It’s definitely the witnessing of growing people throughout the life and then in the job, basically, it really hits some ground, I think.

Jan: [03:06] Yeah, I just – sometimes I have those moments when I see a recording of a qualification call or something and they are nailing down the script or something. You think oh, my God, I wrote that. I helped them do this.

Dario: [03:25] Exactly, like when you give a tip and you see it live in action and it works, that’s priceless.

Jan: [03:22] Cool. Now we have another MasterCard or Visa. I don’t know, priceless moment when a rep is nailing down qualification scripts and cold call scripts. Cool. It’s fantastic. You already pointed out of course, you started as an SDR by yourself, together with Frank back in the day with a really high-performing – lot of cold calls, cool sales culture. You nail down caller. You were over-achieving. You are over-achieving now in your contributor role. A lot of people that are passionate and will listen to this episode are interesting in nailing it down, finding successes in SDR. How did you find success in being an SDR?

Dario: [04:11] Yeah, for that one, I have to circle back a little bit. During my studies, I worked in pretty numbers-heavy, direct sales jobs. For example, I think everyone knows HelloFresh by now, what they are. They IPO’d and I think it’s a success story altogether. I was lucky enough to join a little agency which was focused on sales and the financier was someone from the insurance sales industry, so very – B2C, high numbers sales and we sold basically the start-up kit for HelloFresh first three boxes at a bit of a discount and then you are in the membership already.

That one and the other product was credit cards on the AirPod. Everyone who’s traveling a little bit, I think most the people with the red tie and a suit giving you presents, those credit cards set up for free, so these were likely the gigs I had during my studies and where I could really dive into sales, dive into the whole commission game, in a way, and it really was a high numbers game. The guy back then, the CEO, he always said numbers, numbers, numbers. The more you put in on top of the funnel, the more you will get out. I think that’s how I grew into that whole thing, and that’s one of the biggest traits I moved into the SDR role as well.

I started off – really for me, it was a numbers game. I knew the more I put in, the more I would get out. Having this as a persistent technique, I just want to say, really helped me along the way. Then I’m not the typical sales guy. I think I’m quite introverted. I like to listen. I’m empathetic, and I think by now we all know these traits really help in sales as well. Back in the day, a few years back, I didn’t even know. I never even knew I was going to be a salesperson, so another very typical pattern in career sales. I was – so following this numbers game, mixing it up with empathy and persistency, asking the right questions, listening throughout the call, and then basically I’m giving the right answers, I think. That’s what helped me a lot.

Then I dived into that as well a little bit later, the concept of ownership. I think it’s really something that I started off at Forto in a very drastic way to own anything you do. I think not looking at others, look at your own performance, look at your own funnel, look at your own activities. Then break through walls.

Jan: [07:06] Oh, man, yeah. I think we are definitely going to get a new nickname for you in this show because that’s so true. I think ownership is very overlooked. We try to call it being an entrepreneur in your own market. You have to be an entrepreneur in your own market. You have to own whatever region you are working on or whatever segment you’re working on; it’s yours. If you’re not owning Scandinavia, if you’re not owning the Dutch region, for example, then you are failing or then you’re not fulfilling on that. I love that you point this out. I think ownership’s so important.

Dario: [07:44] I think it’s also applicable in the day-to-day life of an SCR. Just look at the process. In an elite account you’re working on, you should own that as long as it’s not accepted to an SAL, it’s not accepted to a booking or whatever you’re counting. I think carrying those until a salesperson really takes it on is critical.

Jan: [08:10] Cool. What other skills – I mean, you are still – you’re very fresh. We’re both at the beginning of our careers, but what are the skill sets you’ve learned in your role as an SDR, as your sales days that help you now in your role?

Dario: [08:32] Probably three things. One, asking the right questions; really think through what you want to ask because I think every question that you ask is basically directing the conversation the way you want it to be directed. Then to not to talk all the time. I think that’s a very common one at the beginning. Even for me who did a lot of sales activities before, I was used to talk, talk, talk. You want to have a free credit card here. Are you going to vacation? You’re talking until the person signed off the contract. Learning to stop talking, to have this talk ratio completely flipped to the other side where you have to hear the prospect talking 70% of the time and you only 30%. I think that’s the second one.

Then the third one and sorry to doubling my words here, ownership, taking ownership all the way. It really resonated with me from a former boss. He would hate me if I call him boss. He would say I was a servant in a way, but this guy was telling everyone this anecdote from a poem, basically, Invictus, it’s called that ends with “I am the master of your fate. I am the master of my soul.” Think this: “I am the master of my fate. I am the master of my soul,” says it all. I think that’s how ownership should be like.

Jan: [10:09] Yeah, you are definitely going to get a new nickname after that. It’s all true. You shared this Invictus poem with me before. It’s quite hard because we are in a very competitive field. People tend to compare each other and they tend to also get super motivated by that. How did you find the power to focus on yourself then? A lot of people would say but somebody else did it like that. How did you find the strength in listen, I focus on myself?

Dario: [10:00] That’s a good question. I think I just want to answer [12:50]. I think the [12:52] is one of the ways to do that [12:56] in the cabin on your own, by your own. Nobody’s around you. You can’t help but only focus on yourself. I think that’s how it works in sales development, really diving into the call blockers that you have, having non-excuse methodology around those kind of things. You set your goal; you set your daily goal in terms of activities, in terms of output, input and output. Then you just follow through and really whenever you feel like you’re trying to find an excuse, which lies on the outside, basically give yourself a little mental punch, like that’s not how it should work. It’s you. You have it in your hands. You are the master of your fate. You are the master and captain of your soul. I think it always circles around this saying. I think it’s quite interesting that this kind of – yeah, the poem have that sense a lot.

Jan: [11:15] Cool, yeah, thanks for sharing that. I think that’s super impressive. Probably my assumption is that you look for this when you hire new reps, and you’ve done this a lot. Are these included in your must-ask traits or must-ask questions that you want to see when you look out for new reps?

Dario: [12:39] Yes, partly. We do it value-based. We defined values on second day that we think are key for success in the department: passion, curiosity, thrive for excellence, and these kind of things. Then we build questions around those. Can be very easy. Basically what are you passionate about? Then I want to hear something with your eyes basically glowing and your passion coming out of you. It can be a hidden one. I think curiosity is something we test in almost an unfair way, the experts call the second stage of the hiring, which was my part for a long time. I asked everyone to introduce myself and that’s something where when people failed, it wasn’t a deal-breaker but you really see that the people that have this curiosity in them that do this extra prospecting while hiring have it in them for successful SDR career.

Jan: [13:51] Cool, you just said oh, you – who am I? How did you do that?

Dario: [13:55] Yeah, basically imagine being in a bar and there’s a third person and the person doesn’t know me. Please introduce myself to the person.

Jan: [14:07] Nice. That’s cool. That’s a really good question. The thing I’ve been doing, and I got it from another interview, Florin, I’m – maybe I can’t say that now with people looking at that, but I give them a cold call they have to do. I’m not saying that they have to cold call but for us, the phone is super important I just said listen, cold call me. You have to try to book me. I give you five minutes and they have to call me. That’s in the moment.

Dario: [14:38] That’s a good one, yeah. We have a scenario, and we also do test a cold call at the very end of the call, but with a given scenario which is basically aimed at the calls that we do day by day. This one’s nice because –

Jan: [14:55] It’s not mine.

Dario: [14:57] Yeah, but it includes basically the prospecting of yourself and end-selling, so I like it.

Jan: [15:06] Shamelessly taken from Florin, so Florin, if you see that –

Dario: [15:09] Thanks, Florin.

Jan: [15:11] Great guy. Cool, so it’s a bit cheesy question but first day in the office back at Freight Up, you walked up the stairs, pre-COVID. You could say hello to everyone. You could shake hands. You could hug, whatever you wanted to do. What is the piece of advice you would give other – would have given your younger self?

Dario: [15:32] Luckily, I can say don’t do too much different to what you would do. I think that’s something that’s a tone that followed me anyways in many steps throughout my not only professional life. Go with the flow. Talk to the right people. Connect yourself to the right people and by right people, I mean people with a mutual mindset, with a mutual energy and then go with the flow. At some point – that was the point where I was at, let’s say, one year back. Set yourself clear goals, but I think going with the flow always and forever is not the right way. I can happily say up until now, it went perfect for me, more or less. I think perfect is a big word, but very well.

Jan: [16:32] You worked hard, man. You deserve this.

Dario: [16:36] Thank you. Thanks for the flowers, as we say in German. At some point, set yourself goals. If you’re settled in a certain role and certain function, you should have some kind of mid-term career goal. Maybe that’s something I would advise my younger self three years ago. Again, I think everything went quite well.

Jan: [16:59] Cool. Actually it’s pretty – now that you told me that, we can summarize. It’s like no regrets. Don’t regret anything that you do. It’s surrounding yourself with people that are maybe a bit better than yourself and then at some point, don’t rush it but also have a goal that you work towards.

Dario: [17:26] Yeah.

Jan: [17:27] That’s my analysis.

Dario: [17:28] Yeah, I think spot on and really double down on your curiosity I think that is probably an advice that I would give everyone if they ask me for some advice. Double down on your curiosity. Ask as many questions as possible. The best people I’ve seen in this company are the ones that don’t shy away from any question. They ask even the most stupid question where most in the room start chuckling. In the end, it pays off in the long run.

Jan: [17:59] Yeah, if you’re not curious, then you’re not in the right place to be. Cool, so a year ago, you became SDR leader or you move from an individual contributor role to a team contributor role. How did that happen? How was that transition? I’m in the same role. We are not mirrors; you are way higher. You have way more experience than I have, but how did that happen, moving from SDR to team lead?

Dario: [18:31] Yep, I think for me, it was a subsequent step, in a way. I mean, I went from BDE, which is our equivalent for SDR business executive, little hint in the side, works well in hiring, from BDE to senior BDE to quite quickly. As I already mentioned, always focused on myself first and really put my head down. I worked hard, got in my quota, got my bonus. Then quite quickly, I went up the ladder, if you want to call it like that, to senior BDE and then all of a sudden, I was the one, basically, with the most experience. As you know in start-ups, you do have some fluctuation. People move to sales; people move to other departments; people move out to different companies starting to get jobs. My back in the day, a buddy from on boarding, for example, made a big leap to head of growth at some point. All of a sudden, I was the most experienced one and had a leader myself. I was with Frank at Bonsior, who you know. I believe he mentored you at some point as well, who always counted on me as his – I don’t know if you want to call it right hand but as someone who he could build on, I think.

Then it was a very subsequent step and move. I think some patience is needed. I think something we all crave, a little bit more patience would help a lot of people. Luckily I was patient enough. By now, I’m happily leading the whole SDR function in the company. It’s super fun. As mentioned in the beginning of this call, I think I’m helping people grow is way more sustainable success than just getting the next appointment for the company.

Jan: [20:31] Cool. Now that you built this function that’s going very well, you’re able to repetitively hit quota. What are key pillars or the key success that you have seen? You are where everyone wants to be right now, from start-up, to scale-up, to Unicorn. You did it all. What development pieces did you see with this SDR function and how were you able to build this transition?

Dario: [21:01] That’s, I think, very closely tied to the whole scaling SDR function on top, I think. We started off as a big box and now I have to phrase my now boss, who was VP Growth I met know. He basically put it that way with the same metaphor I will use now. We have this big box of sales – we used to have this big box of sales development. Every SDR was in there, and we all did the same thing. We had lists; we went up those lists. In the past, we went off leads. Then we moved to ABSD, went after accounts, but it was always this holistic thing that everyone did.

What we see now is if you break down this box into little boxes, into different specializations – for example, moving away from generalization to a specialization, basically, having a key account sales development sub-crew, having an international SDR sub-crew who’s helping with expansion markets, in our logistics world, having an export crew who’s focusing on newer products for the company like export. I think that’s how we really – how I really felt the scaling and the next situation of sales development at Forto. Back in the day when I went into the room, we had I think five SDRs back then, more or less, and it was about who’s the loudest, who was the first on the phone, and who was the first to ring the bell with the first appointment. Now it’s way more specialized approach where people don’t have the highest numbers and activities but really go into it on a sniper approach and having specialized knowledge about certain kind of fields.

Jan: [23:02] Yeah, that’s very nice.

Dario: [23:05] Interesting. It’s super interesting.

Jan: [23:08] It’s so true. If you are a specialist in a specific market, you have to own that. It’s going back to ownership. You can’t own everything. It’s just impossible. We are not the Christiano Reynoldos.

Dario: [23:22] Still humans.

Jan: [23:28] At least sometimes. So what are your tips for scaling an SDR team then?

Dario: [23:35] Breaking down the box, having not everyone doing the same thing but creating different paths helps on the one hand in the operation business because obviously you can pay into all the different strategy refinements that your company may kick off but also builds up career paths for the SDRs that are obviously hungry for more. I think we all know that being an SDR is not a role for the next five years, for most. I mean, I would love to see SDRs doing it in the long run because I do think if it fits your personality, it can be a very –

Jan: [24:17] Very attractive job.

Dario: [24:19] Very attractive, very giving job, as well, not only on the monetary side. Yeah, building up paths to grow into and being a product expert in a way and then moving to sales, to marketing, to product. I think there are heaps of different ways. Breaking down the box, not letting everyone do the same thing but really get more granular and build up more approaches for different kind of particulars.

Jan: [24:50] Cool. This is something that personally interests me. When you do your [26:41], how do you structure them? What are you doing? There’s always so much happening all the time, so how do you structure up your – how do you keep grip, and how do you keep grip in those morning huddles, or whatever you do?

Dario: [25:12] Yep. Well, you sent me the questions before, and I had to smirk a little bit on that one because I don’t think we are the best example of huddles but I give you our two cents, and they’ve been working for the past years and so they shouldn’t be too bad. I’m happy to hear your answer actually on that one. How do we do it? How do I do it? I was basically inheriting this from Bonsoir back in the day who inherited it from Mathias, our head of growth back in the day. Let others do the talking.

We get together every morning, 8:30. First meeting – actually we are the only department that starts the day off at 8:30 altogether. I think the rest of the company starting at 9-ish. We are the first in the office, which is a sign as well. We are the first to talk to the customer, and we are the first forefront of the company. That also shows in the work ethic and in the start of the day. Then let others do the talking.

We go in order of who joined last. We start the morning. In that case. Tobias is our last joiner. Tobias will now kick it off, and then two things. Everyone has – not has to but should name two agenda points, number one, what is your daily mission, the one thing you want to achieve today? We like to use another metaphor. What happens if the house burns down? What is the one thing that has to be done today? That is very important. I like my daily missions smartly set. I think the mission has to be smart, and you have to do it measurable in way because otherwise – we’re still in the sales. We’re still in the KPI best job and there has to be some kind of smart frame around that.

Second point is a daily tip. If you read something, if you witnessed something, if you wanted a show, watched a documentary, read a magazine and you think you’ve got something to share with the rest of the team, share it so everyone can start with the same learning. Everyone can start with a structured goal for the day and with something new for the brain to get smart in a way. I think those are the two things. Then on the last – lastly, I’m there because I’m the one that joined the earliest, first joiner in that sense. Then obviously I can direct one or two sentences to the overall daily challenges to the team. I really like to keep it short, as well. I think the essence of this check-in is let others do the talking; let them set their goals. Let them share their learnings and let’s start the day with a role-play, and that’s it.

Jan: [27:15] Cool. After that, you actually do role-play.

Dario: [28:16] Yeah, called daily combats in our house, so afterwards everyone goes off and starts a daily combat with a colleague.

Jan: [28:27] Cool, no, that’s great. Great tips. Do you do this daily, every day?

Dario: [28:36] Non-negotiable every day.

Jan: [28:41] Yeah, good stuff.

Dario: [28:42] From a timing perspective, 8:30 check-in and to rip the day off, we have a 5 p.m. check-out, which is by now optional. We use this one as a non-negotiable mandatory meeting with a growing team, and that’s obviously another point for the scaling and SDR team topic. We made this optional because by now, we have people with kids on the team. We have people that have to commute a certain way and would be – yeah, I don’t know, not fair to keep fathers or mothers from their kids just for a check-out. We get together in the check-out, and back in the day we really used it as the round-up of the check-in. What was [31:10] and what was the daily mission? Was it achieved; was it not achieved? For me, check-in, if they have achieved it but really to dive into the learnings. What can we learn from not reaching this mission? What can we do better the next day. If it worked out and if it was achieved, what can we celebrate? What was in there that is something worth celebrating?

Jan: [29:48] How many are you in your team right now? How big are this group? How many missions are you counting every day?

Dario: [29:56] Fifteen; by now it’s fifteen and it’s not this is the ideal ratio. I’m sure many of the listeners right now think what the hell? This cannot work. Yes, it works, but it’s not ideal. I think 15:1 ratio in rep to leader is not ideal, so I sometimes do forget the daily mission of one or two on the team.

Jan: [30:24] How do you make sure it’s not repetitive? How do you make sure they are not like okay, it’s the same thing every day?

Dario: [30:32] First, I don’t think repetition is a bad thing, going back to Christiano Reynaldo. He wouldn’t be or he would be Christiano Reynaldo, but he would be THE Christiano Reynaldo and where he’s at if he wouldn’t have done the same thing every day, day by day, probably. I mean, yeah, putting that aside, I think starting off with a smile, to be honest. If you have those meetings in a good mood, not only yourself but others in the team as well, feel that good mood and spread the joy to up front before the meeting starts; it’s all good.

Jan: [31:13] Perfect, yeah, no, great. We have been just moving from every day to three times a week, but they are fractured, so we start with news and updates. Then we go into educational piece, so we share a cold call, we share a cold email, we share the focus point of the month. We have every month a focus point. Right now it’s increasing personalization. We are always thinking about personalization. Then we go through KPIs, how the KPIs look, and after that, one of the team and us share some motivational quote this is interesting. Then we just go onto the day, but they became quite long and repetitive. We did that every day for a month now and then it’s always very repetitive. We do them three days a week now. In between, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, what you have been saying would be perfect, so we’ll see.

Dario: [32:25] Feel free to recycle.

Jan: [32:27] Control-C, Control-V.

Dario: [32:29] Yeah, just don’t do it for commercial purposes but for your own self. Feel free to use it with the team. It sounds goods. It’s something that is missing a little bit in our crew, this numbers focus. I mean, individually yes, but there are not a lot of checkpoints where I do dive into that with the team. When I started, check-out was the format where we all – every day, we checked the numbers with everyone in there, high transparency, and we run rates, activities, etc. Then with the respective questions, what do you think you will do tomorrow to get out of this mess, for example, and be somehow let loose a little bit. It still works, but I think having a format every now and then, maybe once or twice a week where you dive into those numbers, not only at the very end of the week where we do it in the wrap-up. We do check it there. Altogether is I think something definitely on the improvement side, yeah.

Jan: [33:38] Great. Dario, we have to be aware of time here, so let’s wrap it up. What are you excited about in the revenue space right now? What are you looking – what keeps you up in the morning? What are you excited about?

Dario: [33:52] I think so much changed and so much innovation as well. I know we are late in that, but implementing tools like Gong, this kind of stuff, implementing new ways of approaching customers by sending out videos and going to trade fairs again. I think that’s something that we weren’t able to do for a long time. That’s the stuff I’m still excited about. Then in the sense of this company, I think the journey has just begun. The rocket is lifting off slowly but steadily, and I’m very excited to see what the future brings in terms of expansion, transition, getting new markets and getting truly global in awesome sales development is I think something where it doesn’t keep me awake at night but it gets me smiling in the morning. Yeah, I think that’s about it.

Jan: [34:53] Cool, yeah, thank you so much, Dario. Is there anything you’d like to add

Dario: [35:59] Thanks for having me. Thanks for inviting me to this one. I think it’s good fun. As you said, we talk a lot anyways, but having this somehow recorded and share with others, hopefully it helps someone. Even if it’s just one person, I think it was worth the time, so thanks a lot and keep in touch.

Jan: [35:22] Cool. Dario, danke.