In our inaugral episode of The Allbound Podcast, Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, joined me to talk about empowering sales teams in the SaaS industry.
Tell us what you do as a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist.
My number one focus every day is around customer success and evangelizing ways in which companies can leverage technology in new ways and reimagine the organization that is responsible for selling and bringing products to market. And more importantly, the entire experience that’s created by brands. Growth and innovation are the two things that many companies are focused on today, whether it’s a small business, medium or enterprise. So this was a great way for me to align to the broader remit that people were looking to accomplish this year.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in sales over the years?
For anyone who knows me, knows I love to call myself a recovering seller. What has really changed for me – and this may be cliche today – is that the customer really is different than they ever were even 10 years ago. When I was selling, people only had a PC on their desk, they didn’t have them at home. Not everyone had a cell phone and they would turn off that connection when they went home. But now there’s more power in the hand of the consumer than there was on their desk 10 years ago.
So much is being generated by this connection between social, mobile, cloud and information. And the speed at which that technology is changing has reshaped the way consumers interact with technology and the way in which they conduct commerce between themselves and a brand. And that was the catalyst for people to then change the way they wanted to consume and sell in their business lives. I think the learnings from B2C are what is really accelerating and challenging sales from a process perspective.
What do you think will continue to shape the way in which sales organizations function and succeed in this modern environment?
We get caught up in ‘technology is going to solve all the problems we’ve been facing.’ Technology to me is the enabling tool to help facilitate changes in people and process. If you just deploy technology, and you don’t rethink the metrics you’re tracking, the information you are able to gather, the kinds of behaviors that change because of the information gathered, how you should be allocating resources, etc. –– all of that has implications. If you just deploy technology to manage the team better and have more metrics, the relationship between the sales rep and that technology is not one of love. It’s more viewed as big brother, and that’s a people/process shift that should happen in tandem with any kind of deployment of technology.
We’ve seen how effective a customer-led sales organization can function, are more organizations starting to embrace this? How do you see them implementing it?
This is a big challenge. When you make a decision to put the customer at the true north of the decisions you make as an organization, you have to understand the gap between an executive making that decision and a person in the line of fire such as a customer service representative or a sales rep. They need to understand what it means to them.
If we’re going to become more customer centric, what does it change in my daily life? Do we do things differently, or are we just saying it and I’m behaving the same way. If you don’t have that connection point between strategically at the executive level and the entire company doesn’t understand what does that mean to their job, then you’ve really set yourself up for disappointment. You’ve got to get everyone rallied behind it. And it has to become a drumbeat of communication and engagement with all employees, because it really is about changing a mindset. And that is far more difficult than deploying new technology.
It will take mindset, executive sponsorship, and inspiring the entire organization to understand what it means to be a customer-centric company.
A couple of years ago you wrote a piece about how technology sales reps have “lost their mojo.” Since then have you noticed sales leaders getting better about empowering their sellers? Have the tech sales reps gotten their mojo back?
A lot of that had to do with finding a new way while still maintaining the things that made them (sales people) successful in the past. You can’t just forget everything, but you have to be willing to unlearn things we’ve done and relearn by using some of the new capabilities. While we’ve spent a lot of time helping the sales rep be a better seller, I think where we’ve got a blind spot is with the sales managers and they’re the ones that are working every day to teach and coach.
What’s the one thing an executive can do today to empower their sales managers?
Unfortunately, we live and die by metrics, and until leadership starts to say, “Hold on. If we’re really going to become a customer-driven organization, that can’t be the only thing we track.” Sales leaders have to start to think about the long-term game ––instead of going from lead to cash, you have to go from lead to advocacy.
If you want a customer to not only buy from you, and also become a raving fan and advocate on your behalf...it’s going to take more time. And if you’re held to the same metrics, it’s going to be really difficult. Sales managers have to work with their managers to advocate for more coaching and mentoring. Mindset is a huge component here and sales managers and leaders have to lead that charge by working with their team downstream different.
Have you noticed a shift in tech companies building their own reseller channels as opposed to going through large distributors?
You have to be able to solve against, who is the target customer at the end user level, and how does that end user actually like to buy the technology you sell? You can’t solve to everything, especially if you’re a small company, but you have to look for those hot spots. What are those two to three channels that satisfy the highest percentage of demand from your target end user? That’s how you develop your indirect or your go-to market strategy. It’s the “Bermuda Triangle of Segmentation.”
Want to hear more from Tiffani? This is only a taste of the wisdom she bestowed upon us in Episode 1 of The Allbound Podcast.