Cadences are at the core of what makes Salesloft such a fantastic tool. It is a workflow that groups like tasks together to reduce context switching. Because of this reps can spend more time qualifying leads and booking meetings and less time doing admin work.

It’s an incredibly effective process. However, it’s not without flaws.

Sales reps don’t take many vacations. However, when they would take time off—particularly around the holidays—cadence tasks piled up. They would come back and have hundreds of overdue steps. Sometimes it would take several days for reps to get back to their normal workload.

Additionally, this also put a burden SDR managers. They would have to decipher steps that were actually overdue vs the ones that were overdue from a rep being on vacation.

The Problem

In short, being unable to pause cadence while on vacation was a recurring problem for our customers. We’d hear it in customer interviews, NPS responses and from customer success managers around the holidays every year.

Another pressing problem by the inability to pause were automated emails sent out on holidays. If a rep was using an automated email step in a cadence, they could potentially be sending a prospect an email on Thanksgiving. It would embarrass the rep and annoy their prospect.

For a product the scale of Salesloft—there are no easy features. Adding a pause state to cadences seems like something that is fairly straightforward. But there is hidden complexity. Because of that it was frequently deprioritized in favor of other features.

This year, we finally got the go ahead though.

Team

Who all was involved? Jenn Lucas was initially the PM before transferring to our mobile team.

Christian Olsen took over about a quarter of the way through. We consulted with our Engineers: Kris Goss, Josh Kushner and Hannah Rackley a ton to make sure we had a practical solution.

Previous concepts

One cool thing about this features was that there were years of explorations to revisit. Here are some that I dug up before starting.

Explorations a fellow designer, Dylan Whalstrom, did in 2017. This was about 5 years ago—around the time I joined Salesloft.

Some pause cadence concepts I did in November 2019.

You’ll see in the explorations above the pause is added to individual cadences. One big hurdle this feature ran into was the complexity of pausing team cadences.

Unlike personal cadences, which are created by the user team cadences are generally created by SDR managers or sales ops for a group of SDRs. Pausing team cadences would result in several users having cadences paused. While that would serve a purpose, that never solved our main problem of pausing cadences only for an individual rep.

What is a pause?

From the outset we had the assumption that there was going to be a key added to a user’s cadences steps called state. And that the state would either be active or paused. However, with millions of cadence tasks in flight this seemed like a difficult and potentially risky approach to take.

Kris and Josh came back with a clever idea—what if the pause wasn’t really a pause?

They suggested that instead of building this new concept for pausing, that we leverage something we already do—changing due dates. This would cut down on time and make the feature significantly less risky.

However there were some drawbacks to this approach. Most prominently that there would not be an option to pause indefinitely. A user would need to have a resume date.

In customer interviews we tried to determine whether that would be important or not. In several cases people did want to pause a cadence indefinitely. However, the use case was only for marketing and event cadences. It would have been more like pausing a campaign. They are entirely different than the outbound sales cadences.

That begs the question—is this really a pause if we’re just bulk changing due dates? What do we call this thing?

Words are hard

While the main concept didn’t change we went through several names for it. Personally, I had some initial hesitation calling this thing Pause Cadences when we were actually bulk rescheduling steps.

A couple pages from two unsuccessful concepts I showed customers. The one to the left was called vacation mode. We got several pieces of feedback that the name could be in poor taste if they were out sick or at a funeral. To the right was Out of Office mode, which our users associated with their prospects being out of office.

Both concepts put the controls in Settings. One in the main user settings and another in calendar settings. Neither were a place they expected to be.

Overall people seemed to prefer the term Pause Cadences—that’s how they referred to it. And when asked where they’d go to pause cadences, they all took us to the cadence list view.

After all of that we ended up not far from where we started. Calling the feature pause cadences and having the controls for it on the cadence list view.

Revisiting the pause window

Shortly after development work started Josh, one of the main engineers, came to me asking about the requirement to push all steps. He wanted to know why the requirement was reschedule every cadence task a user has when only the ones during the pause window needed to be rescheduled.

I didn’t have much luck convincing him on Slack. So we hopped on Zoom and invited Christian and Kris to help discuss.

We didn’t get very far just talking about it. I opened a FigJam file and wrote the all the days out for 3 weeks. I put 100 under each day to represent the number of actions a user had due. I asked Josh to modify the drawing to show where the tasks would go given the user was going to miss the middle week. He drew a couple of arrows to the following week, which you can see below.

A FigJam session of me trying to explain to my product manager and engineers why it was important that we push all cadence tasks and not just the ones in the pause window.

I pointed out that now instead of having 100 tasks due upon return, the user actually has 200 tasks due. I copied the days of the week below and attempted to show what happened when all cadences steps were pushed—no bottlenecks. When the user returned, they would have their normal workload.

After our FigJam session, it was clear why all tasks needed to be rescheduled and not just the ones inside the pause window.

Results

The final flow for pause cadences. The release was close to our new brand launch so I included both the old and new UI in my final comps.

Pause cadences was extremely well received among our customers for the Thanksgiving launch. We received significantly less support tickets about managing cadences. All-in-all it was a big success.

Post-launch we talked with some internal users about their impressions—most used it for Thanksgiving break. We did get some small feedback that the labels weren’t entirely clear. Mostly that Users didn’t know if the resume date would be their last day on vacation or their first day back running cadences.

Text we updated post-launch.

We changed the resume date label to return date and added help text to clarify what dates should be set in the inputs.

Final Thoughts

It always feels great to ship a top customer request, but pause cadences was especially important because of how long it had been a top request.

The feature was well received and is flexible enough where we have the opportunity to expand on the pause window functionality in the future.

I am very appreciative of all the customers who agreed to talk and help us get this feature right.

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