How Jake Bernstein of SPINS navigated a major acquisition and got a new team on the same page. Plus, how you can apply those lessons in your day-to-day.
Name: Jake Bernstein
What He Does: Jake is the Director of Business Development at SPINS, a featured thought leader in the Sales Assembly, and a Tampa sports fan living in Chicago.
How to Connect: Jake’s LinkedIn
If you’ve ever been part of a merger or acquisition, you know the feeling.
❓ Questions about job security.
❓ Questions about new responsibilities.
❓ Questions about tech, processes, and strategies.
In short, it’s a lot of uncertainty. And that can be really disconcerting for your business development team.
It’s important to be transparent, communicative, and empathetic in these situations. And that’s something Jake Bernstein knows firsthand.
He stopped by the show to talk about the acquisition he managed between his old company, ClearCut Analytics, and his new company, SPINS.
From demystifying the gray areas to highlighting the exciting parts (and everything in between), Jake made sure to keep his reps as involved and up-to-date as possible during the process. And because of that, they were able to seamlessly integrate systems, tools, processes, and teams without losing momentum.
The best part? Jake’s examples and lessons are applicable all of the time – acquisition or not. As long as you put the well-being of your reps first, you can use his advice to make a positive impact on your own organization.
You recently went through an acquisition. As someone who leads a team of BDRs, what was that like? How did you communicate the news and help them prepare for inevitable changes?
Let’s look at this from the lens of the big 3 – people, process, and technology. Starting with tech, how do you decide what to keep and what to fade out?
Looking at people now, how does your management style shift to accommodate and integrate new team members?
And what can reps do to meet managers halfway?
Reps can feel like a cog in the machine – how do you enable them to feel like they’re making an impact?
There’s typically a huge cultural shift amongst the employees of merged companies – especially if one team operates from an enterprise perspective and one has a start-up personality. How do you manage those two clashing personalities?
Process-wise, a lot can shift when two companies merge. Campaign creation, persona development, lead routing systems…they could all be at odds with one another. How do you decide what to “default” to? How do you get people on board with making that shift?
Is this a good time to evaluate all new systems & processes?
How do you combat the “this is how we’ve always done things” objection you’ll get from team members?
Top 3 Takeaways
🛡️ “I didn’t even know how [the CRM] was going to map to SPINS world…so I kind of shielded my team from that.”
This is a great example of how Jake was able to keep the momentum of his team high while tons of micro-decisions were being made in the background.
Migrating from one CRM to another during the acquisition was no easy feat – especially during Q3 and Q4, crucial sales times for his BDRs. Having them all shift their processes to match a new CRM would pose a huge challenge, and would likely stall any momentum. So Jake decided to keep his reps in their original system until he finalized all of the mapping challenges…which meant he also needed to generate regular reports to keep activity visibility high.
Taking on the brunt of that work made sure that his reps stayed the course while chaos was happening in the background. He also sold the CRM shift as a positive – their marketability as a rep goes way up if they’re well-versed in 2 of the top CRMs on the market. Selling the change to his team as a positive made them appreciate that sacrifice even more.
Owning that responsibility and putting a positive spin (pun intended) on the change is a lesson any leader can leverage at any time. Whether it’s managing changes associated with an acquisition or helping a rep through a slump, Jake’s approach is universally empathetic.
✅ “Make it easy on your manager to interpret, review, and act upon with you…”
The SDR <> Manager relationship is decidedly a two-way street. As the reps put in more effort, managers should continue to up their game and support to match. And the same can be said for the other direction – as managers make sacrifices for their reps’ well-being, they should repay the favor in kind.
For Jake, this meant allowing some of his senior reps to own basic reporting and message creation responsibilities during the acquisition. Giving them a longer leash not only helped them develop and refine new skills, but it took some work off his plate so he could focus on larger-scale integrations. Win-Win!
Plus, it helped solve another challenge that reps often face – being a cog in the machine. It’s very easy for an SDR to simply “go through the motions” every day. That breeds apathy, and once you slip into that rut you can kiss your goals goodbye. Make sure that every day presents a new challenge and that reps don’t feel like they’re just spinning their wheels.
🤷 “if you’re a BDR that’s a prospecting whiz…and all of a sudden you’re teaching and enabling others…it makes you a little bit more marketable.”
Jake moved from a 40-50 person company to a 400-500 person company. That shift comes with challenges, but it also comes with a lot of opportunities. For his reps, that meant the ability to work with a larger team, an increase in leadership opportunities, and exposure to different business units.
Selling those positives against the challenges is where Jake focused a lot of his time.
Managing an acquisition is tough – you need buy-in and patience from your reps. If you can communicate the positives (more marketability, responsibility increases, chances to make more money, etc.) and meet them halfway, you’re more likely to earn that buy-in.
And again – this should happen all the time, not just during a situation like Jake’s.
🤩 “What gets me excited every day is helping BDRs put plays into action that lead to good outcomes, and helping them do that replicably and at scale.”
At the end of the day, this 👆 is what matters. Having that be your driving force is the key to good leadership. Whether or not it helps make an acquisition process more seamless is beside the point, it’s the right mentality to have 100% of the time.
✨ “There are ways that you are typically used to operating or leading or managing or executing. Be mindful that there’s also another way. Finding ways to fuse those things together as best you can will keep you sane, but also help you get a leg up on the next step.”
Jake might have realized this during the acquisition, but this is another piece of advice that’s always valuable.
Being adaptable and open-minded are incredibly important traits for any sales leader. One of the worst mentalities to have is “this is how we’ve always done things.” If Jake had thought that during the acquisition, none of his reps would have stayed. Instead, they’re all happily working in different roles within SPINS today.
Hey listener, AJ here 👋
Managing an acquisition is a daunting task. Figuring out which systems to keep, processes to adopt, and cultures to maintain is a job in and of itself. And on top of that, sales leaders still need their teams to produce. A bit of a production dip is understandable, but a good manager knows how to keep their team motivated and moving in the same direction.
On a personal note: I loved this episode (yes, I love all of our episodes, but this one stood out).
Listening back to the recording really highlighted the applicability of Jake’s advice and mentality.
Good leaders are fixers, cheerleaders, and advocates. But more than anything, they’re coxswain.
Getting everyone to buy in, give it their all, and move forward in the same direction is a vital skill – not just during an acquisition or integration period.
Jake’s experience really highlights that and serves as something for all BDR/SDR managers to emulate.