Landing a Job During a Downturn with Brendan Alan Barrett

In episode 21 of The Sales Topics Podcast, Ryan talks to Brendan Alan Barrett, SDR Manager at Virtuous, to discuss what it takes to land a job during a downturn.

Discover more episodes from The Sales Topics Podcast here.

Key networking organizations you can search for in your area:

Salesforce User Groups

Hubspot User Groups

Sales Enablement Groups 

AA-ISP Groups

Key links Brendan mentions: 


GET Phoenix


Ryan:  Hello. This is Ryan Reisert, your host. This is going to be a very different podcast series than anything you’ve experienced on the market. What I’m trying to do is change things up a little bit. Rather than having a special guest and one topic with great conversation that goes away we’re going to host a series of experts and others who have perspective on different topics over a period of time, gather that in a series of episodes and roll that out until we’ve really exhausted a topic. So hopefully you enjoyed this podcast. And thanks again for listening.

All right, our next guest on this topic, we’ve got Brendan Alan Barrett. Do you want to introduce yourself?

Brendan:  Yeah, I’m Brendan Alan Barrett. I am located in Phoenix metro area. I am sales development leader for Virtuous CRM, so I’m leading a team of SDRs, building pipeline every day. And I also produce a blog full of all kinds of content on best practices in sales, sales development, sales leadership and you can find that at start in Phoenix or

Ryan:  Yeah, and I highly recommend even if you’re not in Phoenix to check out the content that Brendan puts out. This guy’s a guru when it comes to understanding especially the fundamentals. But we’re going to talk about a really important topic here, right? Selling yourself and landing a job in a downturn. You’re a sales development leader, so what better person to give some perspective on this? For those who are out there looking for new work or for those potentially kind of figuring out their next move, if they’re not actively looking, getting some tips and tricks for what to look out for.

So the first thing we always talk about is like what does it mean to sell yourself? When you’re in the job search, what does that mean to you?

Brendan:  Well, like a mistake I’ve made myself and I’ve seen people make over and over, Ryan, like is especially if you’ve been selling for a little while like you get used to pitching other people’s stuff. The hardest thing to do is sell yourself, right? Because some of the best sales people are … they’re not blowing smoke, they’re very meticulous about how they do it and they’re very reflective people and humble people, like that’s just who they are. It makes them really good listeners and really good at finding the win-win scenario. But like realizing that you are the product, and this is the time to bang your drum and puff your chest, like that’s a switch that absolutely has to get flipped, right? Like, yes, you want to sit back and ask the right questions and make sure you’re finding the right gig for you, right? Because, I mean, it takes you three, six months to get ramped and then if you don’t like the gig then you got to start over somewhere else, so you do want to be cautious of that.

But like, yes, you absolutely have to flip that switch and know like why you, why now, why for this organization. And I mean, for every interview, for every phone interview, like plan that call like you would a discovery call or a demo.

Ryan:  Well, you bring a good point, because like some of the best, especially sales development reps, they don’t have a background yet and so they may not even know what it means to sell themselves because they haven’t been in a sales role. But they’ve got to kind of bring it, right? And for those making a transition, if they’ve had some success I think another thing that comes up quite often when we think about selling themselves, and I get a lot of these questions, it’s like I really want to break into SaaS, and you’ve got this background, right? You come from a door-to-door gig. And I want to sell SaaS but I don’t have the SaaS experience. And so you start to get them to tell their story a little bit and you start to help, like help tease out the fact that they may have been in sales their whole life because we’re all in sales and getting them to tell that story. And so do you have any … what are your thoughts on the idea of like having specific types of experience versus being able to kind of sell your story around that experience?

Brendan:  Well, so like my view on it is sales and sales and sales. Like, if you’re good at winning somebody’s attention or interrupting their day and getting them to thank you for it you’d probably be pretty good at an inside sales SaaS gig, right? But not everybody sees it that way, they want to have seen you check that box before. And what I’ve seen work is dive into the literature, right? Dive into books like Corey Bray’s, like Sales Development and Outbound Sales, No Fluff, and Fanatical Prospecting and Predictable Revenue, right? It’ll give you a common language from which to have conversations with these sales leaders and also open your eyes to how you can link your experience to the demands of this role.

Ryan:  Yeah, well said. And so now we’re going to get into the idea of how do you find jobs right now, right? Everyone is in this position where we’re getting laid off, we’re getting furloughed. I mean, some companies are going bankrupt that have been around forever. It’s kind of a scary time. But how do you actually figure out who is hiring? Do you have any tactics you’ve used in the past or you’d recommend at this stage for someone who’s actively in the job hunt?

Brendan:  So it’s one of those things that is like when’s the best time to plant a tree – 20 years ago; when’s the second best time to plant a tree is today, right? My dad back in 2007/2008 was laid off for the first time like since I’ve been around, I’m in senior in high school, and the thing that he had going for him is 25/30 years of fantastic work. And so when he found himself out of a job there’s people who’d call him up, who called him three, four, five times before to try to offer him a job but he was set, right? And so you kind of want to find yourself in that scenario.

So how do you find yourself in that scenario? Man, you network, right? Like, we spend so much time, especially if you’re already in a sales or sales development role, prospecting, right? But I mean, it’s worth the time to play the long game, take a networking call every couple of days or once a week. Right now we can’t really go out, not too many of us can go out to have like the coffee date networking session, but you can have a virtual coffee date. Heck, you could even order somebody their lunch via Postmates and like have lunch from your respective locations, right? Because that’s the groundwork, that’s the foundation, that’s when you find the opportunities, that’s when you can have those closed-door conversations where like, “Yeah, I’m crushing it at this job, but there’s some obvious limitations and so I’m open to offers.” You can say the kinds of things that you can’t say on LinkedIn and keep your job and you’ll also be … you’ll have the ear of people who have some of the best jobs in your location to have or in your industry.

Because the reality is the best jobs don’t get advertised, they get filled too fast. People are banging down that door every day hoping that organization is hiring. And if you’re constantly in conversations with people … so if you look for a sales gig, just about every city has a Salesforce user group, a Hubspot user group, an AEISP chapter, a sales enablement society chapter, right? If those organizations aren’t meeting right now, and even if they are, like find out who organizes those meetings, hit them up on LinkedIn. Pitch the no pitch virtual coffee date. “Hey, I’m new to the industry or I’m trying to crack into SaaS or, hey, I noticed this organization, you’re involved in this organization, I’d love to learn more, can we jump on the phone for 15 minutes so I can learn more about it and see if it’s something I want to jump into?” People love taking that call especially if you’re a younger talent, right?  They want to give back to the next generation.

And like make it all about them, man. Flatter them just like you’re on a date, right? Have three, four, five questions ready to go about what they’re working on, how interesting it is, keep diving down that rabbit hole. The more you are interested in them the more interesting you’ll be, and then they’ll have a bunch of questions for and want to know how they can help you.

Ryan:  There you have it. I think we can wrap it up here. I mean, that was like an MBA in what to do regardless of a pandemic, because always be networking and I say that all the time.

One thing you didn’t note, which I think is pretty exciting that’s popping up, are these like virtual event networking solutions, there’s one called lunch club. So in addition to all the stuff that you just recommended there’s ones that will like be virtual matchmakers, they’re free to sign up. And it basically just forces you to go meet strangers. And one of the things I think sales people get trapped in is they always say, “Oh, this person’s wasting my time.” And if you have that mindset you’ve got to switch that off right away because your network is your net worth as they say. And I think a lot of people who have had success in sales thinks that’s BS because they see a lot of people that maybe aren’t as successful right now doing those things and not making the same commission check because they do cut off a lot of conversations, but if you’re disqualifying out people who, if you’re trying to sell to them too early that want to take meetings with you, that have come to you, or if you’re not taking that proactive approach you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

Brendan:  Indeed.

Ryan:  So that’s … I mean, it was like an MBA, man. That was fantastic. So let’s say I want to go and reach out to some of these people, what are some of the things that they can do to break through to get that conversation? Not even just an interview but just like a conversation. That’s different than, “Hey, we’re connected and I’m new to sales. Do you want to take a meeting?” Like, yes, that works probably, but any other like ways to stand out if people are getting plugged in with those types of things right now? I love the idea of lunch by the way, let me buy you a virtual lunch. That’s great.

Brendan:  Yeah. “Hey, man. I love your podcast. Hey, man. I love that article. Hey, I love that thing you shared,” like you actually read the stuff that they’re sharing on LinkedIn. With the social distancing it’s kind of tough, like one play that I love for networking is, “Hey, you’re going to this event?” One sentence email. It gets like a 30% reply rate from a single email. And then you’re into a conversation, right? And if they’re not going to that event. “Oh, man. That’s too bad.” Like if it’s somebody you have talked to before, right? Like, “Hey, it’s been forever since we chatted, like let’s catch up again and put a time on the calendar.” Like, I do that call to people I’ve never met, right? And like, “Hey, man. You’re going to this thing?” And they’re like, “No, I haven’t been to that organization’s event in forever long,” right? But you’re in a conversation. So many people will reply to that if you’re not trying to pitch anything, right?

Ryan:  Yep. So that one sentence is literally find something.

Brendan:  Find an event.

Ryan:  Yeah, you say, “Hey, Brendan. Are you going to the AEISP virtual thing next week?” That’s it? That’s the sentence.

Brendan:  That’s the sentence, man. Send it to 20 people and you’ll probably get five replies and you’ll probably book three meetings.

Ryan:  Interesting.

Brendan:  Like the expert level hack, like when we were out … when we could go see people in the flesh, I tried to do an event a week and then I would piggyback them, I’d put them in a Hubspot sequence and it would be an email every week as a reply to the previous email. “Hey, you’re going to this event? How about this next one over here? Or any chance I’m going to see you at this one?” So three emails. If they don’t reply to the first, they’re definitely going to reply to two or three, email two or three. And so now if your reply rate is over 50% you’re in way more conversations, but you’ll also find events. And then if you go to these events people find it … like so I’m on the board of a young professionals organization here in Phoenix, I got invited to be on that board before I was a member because I was inviting all the new people to that organization’s event.

Ryan:  How did you hear this event?

Brendan:  Oh, Brendan.

Ryan:  Oh, Brendan.

Brendan:  And they look over, “Who the heck is Brendan?” And I was getting people to pay full price even though their first time there; they could get a discount kind of thing. And like not only will you … when you can be in a room like you’ll be the most popular person there, there’ll be a bunch of people who don’t know anybody who just know you and now you can kind of play matchmaker and they’re going to be super thankful about that.

But, I mean, you can do the same thing in these virtual things, right? If it’s a Zoom networking thing, happy hour, right? Like, you invite five people, say hello to all of them in the chat if you’re not actually vocal on the screen. “Hey, John. You need to meet Stephanie.” “Hey, John. Do you know Michelle? If you don’t know Michelle, you guys should link up after this call,” kind of thing. And people are super thankful for that because they don’t go to networking events because they’re uncomfortable and you just made it tolerable and they benefited from it. So I mean, those are some of my fun hacks for networking.

Ryan:  And the mindset going into that is literally just being open to conversation, right? You’ve got to be able to start to be human and just talk with people and stop having an agenda and just be human.

Brendan:  Yeah.

Ryan:  I think that’s where a lot of people get caught up in this, because it’s more about me, me, me versus like, “Hey, just get out there and meet people. Have conversations.” Try to figure out what their problems are and you’ll figure out that stuff comes back to you.

Brendan:  Oh, absolutely. And I’ve got stuff like this on, but Get, I’m also managing their blog now, and so get so On their blog there’s a bunch of stuff on like best practices for networking. And a lot of the stuff applies to the virtual world as well. If you’ve got questions on how to tweak it, hit me up on LinkedIn, I’m happy to help. But I mean, it’s still some of the same fundamentals, just like before sales moved indoors and everybody was a field rep, like it’s the same things it’s just applied a little bit differently through a different tool, right? And be there to serve. Pick people that you’d be interested in talking to because they’ve done a thing you want to do or they work in an organization you’d like to work with or for, right?

And just start conversations and be there to serve, find ways to help them. If they’re interested in doing this thing and you know somebody who knows something about that, introduce them, send the intro email, it’s two sentences. “Hey, John. Meet Alyssa. You guys should connect on this thing. Happy connecting. I’ll see my way out,” right? And people are super thankful for it.

Ryan:  Yeah, this is incredible. So there’s all sorts of value in networking, and if I’m in a position where I kind of need a job, what is your take on this idea of cultural fit or things that are really, really important to me? So it’s one thing to just meet a bunch of random people, but I want to get specific to a certain type. I’m prospecting for my swim lane, my dream job, what’s your take on sacrificing culture pay, whatever it might be, versus just taking a job right now?

Brendan:  I mean, like don’t go into debt looking for the dream job. The search for the dream job is that’s an extracurricular, right? We work to pay our bills, right? But finding a true location, finding the perfect fit – that’s going to take a little bit work beyond your nine to five. So I mean, that should be the expectation.

But another thing is like just because the grass seems greener somewhere else like don’t leave your current gig if you don’t have something else lined up if you can avoid it, right? Unemployment is high, like that’s a reality. And so you have to be cognizant of that. But like speaking of Get Phoenix, we just published a blog from a gal who like was dissatisfied with her gig and she found a way to achieve the kind of fulfillment she was looking for. She hit this self-described boredom plateau and wasn’t in a sales role, right? Basically she just grabbed the bull by the horn and started taking responsibility for things nobody asked her to take responsibility for. And not only did it make her stand out, but she enjoyed her job more. She didn’t feel the urge to leave or change careers. In fact, that’s the title of the post. If you’re considering a career change, don’t. Pivot might be more appropriate.

Now for sales people like pet projects can definitely kill your pipeline, so you got to be super careful. But like if you want to be a manager someday and you want to get the reputation for somebody who has the skills to become a manager, start coaching people. But that doesn’t have to happen between 7:00 and 4:30 when people are supposed to be on the phones, that can happen at 5:00 during your virtual happy hour.

Ryan:  Yeah, man. This is just chocked full of great advice. I think we could talk forever and we’d probably come back with some different topics in the future, we’d bring you back into here. But I want to make sure we’re cruising along here and making things move along. I have a question, so I mean, you’ve already thrown out a few different like resources, actually a ton of resources in terms of communities, things like that, but say I get into a job and you’re already talking about making sure you’re always networking, but do you have any tips, tricks, I mean, I think you’re going through this brand period yourself like coming into the new role recently, but how do I get up to speed and start producing quickly? How do I … I don’t know, the first 90 is kind of a cliché these days, but the first 30 or 60. But what are some of the things that I could do to set myself up for success and really stand out early on?

Brendan:  Like, even the best sales person won’t hit their number if they only pick up the phone once a day, right? Like, it is a numbers game. And if you’re bad at the game you need higher output numbers, you need more activity. Those repetitions will give you the type of feedback that helps you learn. And if you’re lucky enough to be in an organization that has a training program, drink the kool-aid, man. Don’t reinvent the wheel, right? Drink the kool-aid, run their playbook, once you’ve mastered it then you can think about deviating from it and innovating on it.

But like, I mean, the thing that we do is a numbers game but we do things to influence those numbers, right? But again, it’s a learned skill, every gig is a learned skill, like just you can’t walk off the street and be good at selling a new product because you sold the last one well – you have to humble yourself, you have to learn it, you have to ask the questions, constantly be asking questions and find a way. Like, if you’re excited about the new job – lean into that energy, work a little extra, right? Because eventually that energy and your willpower will wear, but hopefully if you’ve leaned into that energy and made the best use of it you’ll be pretty well ramped by the time you want to keep your hours exactly eight or exactly seven and a half, right?

Ryan:  Yep. So this is incredible. I don’t know, so much to unpack here, a lot of value in just a short period of time here. We’ll make sure that when I publish this episode I’ll try to throw in some of those links that you mentioned here because I think there’s a lot to go into, but if folks want to get a hold of you and talk about this more or learn some of your ninja networking tricks is LinkedIn the best place or … I know you mentioned that already, but how can folks reach out to you?

Brendan:  Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m Brendan Alan Barrett.

Ryan:  But not the MMA fighter.

Brendan:  Yeah.

Ryan:  He’s not on LinkedIn.

Brendan:  Yeah, no. He’s just Brendan Barrett, that’s why I’m Brendan Alan Barrett. Even after I bought that guy still ranks better than me. He’s just got way more news coverage, that’s the reality. But, yeah, Brendan Alan Barrett on LinkedIn or you can find me at Start in Phoenix, Subscribe to my email list, learn some stuff. You can also, if you dig around, you can find my calendar link and book in some time for one of those virtual coffee dates.

Ryan:  And you might be hiring folks, right? You’re growing a team.

Brendan:  Indeed, yeah.

Ryan:  And so if you’re interested in working for somebody who gets it, might be a great opportunity to test out some of this tactics.

Brendan:  We’re entertaining conversations both … for me SDRs, but our team at large, I mean, whether you’re looking for an SDR gig or an AE gig, if it’s not me that you need to talk to I can get you linked up with the right person.

Ryan:  There you have it. Well, thank you so much for bringing your knowledge. I mean, I feel like I just got an MBA in how to go and get a job. And I definitely love to have you back at a future topic because you’re packed full of knowledge. So thanks again for contributing, man. I appreciate it.

Brendan:  Thanks, Ryan. I appreciate you having me.

Ryan:  All the best, cheers.

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