I had the opportunity to attend Salesloft’s Rainmaker conference in Atlanta, Ga. last week, where leading sales experts took the stage to discuss changing buyer behaviors and how modern reps can adapt to these new expectations. A key theme of the event was the “sales revolution,” which focuses on how sales teams must cater to digital transformation and practice new ways of servicing customers.
During the event, I sat down with the company’s SMO Sydney Sloan to discuss a variety of themes from Rainmaker, including the sales revolution, alignment across the organization, women in the workforce and much more.
Klaudia Tirico: Let’s talk about the “Sales Revolution” — what does this mean to you and the SalesLoft team? Why should sales reps adapt to this new era?
Sydney Sloan: When we were thinking about the theme for [the Rainmaker event] this year, we knew that digital transformation is real, and organizations are going through that. I mean, that’s a proven concept already. When you think about the areas that businesses have focused on, it’s involved setting up their digital properties and orchestrating their website, maybe updating their infrastructure, but the conversations that I’ve participated in the most is really around the cultural shift that also needs to occur in a way that companies have to adapt to new ways of working and new ways of servicing customers.
We took that as the inspiration and really looked at it as this transformation has happened. Customers’ and buyers’ needs have changed, including their desires and the way that they want to be served. Therefore, sales teams have to go through this revolution in order to be able to serve their customers. It’s a sales transformation, a sales revolution, you know, it’s all of that together.
Tirico: A common discussion throughout the event has been around sales and marketing alignment — or better yet, alignment across the organization. As a CMO, how do you maintain this alignment at your organization? What advice would you give other B2B marketing and sales teams looking to achieve it?
Sloan: I’ve been a fan of account-based [strategy] for many years, at many companies that I’ve been through. So, it was a relief for me that SalesLoft had already adopted an account-based strategy from the get-go. I think, too, if sales and marketing aren’t aligned, the business isn’t aligned. I ask, “Is it better to be right or to be aligned?” I would argue that it’s better to be aligned. If two people fight to be right and you’re not aligned, you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s better to get that sales and marketing alignment around the strategy of go-to market, and our choice to do account-based was because, if you think about it, you want to put your effort towards your most highly valued customers and your most highly valued prospects. If you can align all your resources on a smaller amount of companies you’re going after, then your chance of converting those is higher.
Tirico: What do you expect your sales counterparts to discuss with you in terms of ensuring that sales messaging and strategy aligns with your team's go-to-market strategy?
Sloan: When we are building our go-to-market strategy and our messaging to go after our customers, we very much do it together — everything from our account selection, planning, the frameworks that we use in order to identify our accounts, then, the way that we’re going to go after those accounts. Sales enablement is actually the glue in that equation. We’re working with the sales enablement team on identifying what the messages are going to be and how we’re going to prospect into those accounts. Marketing warms up but we’re technically going at the same time, after the same customer set and so, our messages absolutely have to be aligned because it’s one customer. They get one message and so, what they’re receiving from our sales teams and their outbound efforts and what they’re seeing in the marketplace from marketing have to align.
Tirico: Why do you believe companies should scale back on the product talk and develop messaging focused around the buyer?
Sloan: I think Danny Meyer reflected on this when he talked about the “Cheese Key” — which I loved. Anything that talks about cheese, I’m in. They trained their teams to understand their product offerings and the problem was that when they went up and it took them 20 minutes to describe every single type of cheese without even knowing if their customer wanted cheese. Today’s successful seller has to be a problem solver and you do that by asking great questions and collectively solving the problem with and for your customer. It doesn’t matter if the product goes 10 miles an hour or 50 miles an hour. It’s the people I want to work with in partnership and at the end of the day, it’s the people I want to work with. I’ll pick a company because of the relationship. The product still has to solve my problems but if two things are equal, I’ll go with the partnership.
Tirico: Diversity and women in the workforce was a common discussion at Rainmaker this year. Why do you believe it is so important to embrace diversity within B2B organizations?
Sloan: Yes. We set a goal for ourselves to have 51% diversity in our speakers and we hit 54 — 46% were females, which was great. I think in the sales profession, you have to reflect your customers. They come from diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures and so, our sales teams and our customer-facing teams need to be a reflection of our customers because at the end of the day, it’s the partnership that you build. So, you want to bring that collective experience together in order to be able to build and foster those relationships. The buying cycle is getting more and more complex. There are more buyers and stakeholders. So, you have to be able to match that on the sales side in order to be able to align those different mindsets, skills and personalities and bring the best thought to the table.
Tirico: What advice would you give other women looking to grow into C-level positions? What do you wish you would have learned from others when you first started out in the industry?
Sloan: What I’ve learned is it’s the relationships and the bridges you build along the way that actually make the most difference. I think fostering strong relationships, asking for help, identifying leaders and investing the time to understand what makes them tick and then not being afraid to go for it. There were a couple of times, too, where I got offered great jobs, absolutely fantastic jobs in great companies, and I stayed clear to my goal. It was hard to turn down those jobs, but I knew what I was going for and so, I stayed patient and continued to go for what ultimately was that I wanted. I think that’s true in life, as well. As people talk about work/life integration, sometimes it’s right to go that next stage but sometimes it’s okay if you need to get your life in order, if you have things that you need to deal with and the job you’re in allows you to do that, that’s okay, too. I think you do really need to be realistic about what’s needed in your life at that time and then when you solve that problem, you’re ready to take on that new challenge, it’s all the more rewarding.
Tirico: You were CMO of Alfresco prior to your role at SalesLoft. What have you carried over from your time at Alfresco to your new role?
Sloan: Before I got to Alfresco, I didn’t have a deep understanding of digital marketing and so, I really thank my time there of being able to build out a digital infrastructure, learn a lot about technology and build a great team. I’m very thankful for that experience. When I came here, I had that extra piece of the equation that I felt comfortable with.
I think what I’ll always take with me, too, is the desire to give the team and the employees the opportunity to say, “This is the best team I’ve ever worked on.” That was my goal there. That’s my goal now. It’s what I strive for. I want people to feel supported. That they can develop their career and they can develop themselves. That really means a lot to me to make sure that fostering an environment where people can be their best selves and they know they’ve got the support of their work family and team.
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