Accidentally Crossing the Divide: Dan Prokop

A lot of time is spent trying to figure out the way to solve the sales versus marketing divide – it’s a big ol’ problem in many organizations (here’s one of the best infographics on it, GOT-style).  Salesforce, though, is a place where the two can come together, learn a lot from each other’s data, and everyone wins.

I’m really used to seeing Dan Prokop, Marketing Manager for Mecco, at the local Pittsburgh Trailblazer gatherings.  In fact, at one of our meetings, Tom gave Dan a killer gift: a free certification certificate (cert-cert? nah? okay).  So when I saw Dan at an American Marketing Association meeting, I realized we had a good chance to figure out what someone thinks about Salesforce when they come into it, accidentally, from the marketing side.  We got to talking!

Shannon:  Dan, I love the way that you came into Salesforce – you are a marketer, and found that your organization would really benefit from using SFDC.  Tell us a little more about that journey.

Dan:  When I was hired as the first marketer for this company, there were a couple of critical communications projects for a new website and collateral that they had prioritized.  But once those were done and I started looking at what I could do to help this company grow, I was having a hard time finding data on our customers.  They had an old customer database which was barely used, and it was only accessible through a desktop client.  I struggled with being able to quickly see who our customers were, what products they used, when we last interacted with them, and the nature of those interactions.  Most employees were having their customer interactions in a vacuum, while the primary source of new data had been uploading leads from trade shows.

I started researching CRMs and got approval from our president to lead the selection process.  When it came down to the final two vendors, we were much more confident in Salesforce’s ability to help us work through business processes and grow with us.  Having a mobile app for our field sales/service was also really appealing.  So we kicked off an implementation with Salesforce in late 2013.  We hired an implementation partner to get us up and running, and I worked with them to help gather the necessary information from various departments and make sure that everyone got what they needed out of the system.  Once we launched in January 2014, I was the de facto Admin since I had spent the most time learning the capabilities.

While there was a ton we didn’t know, we were small enough to make changes fast and iterate as we learned.  We started tracking not just lead sources, but campaigns.  We added visibility into service issues.  We implemented Web-to-Lead and Web-to-Case forms.  We created custom fields to start tracking and reporting on various aspects of our customers.  Had it not been for the Salesforce platform and being able to make changes in-house with an easy interface, I don’t see how we could have moved so quickly on the various process improvements.

S:  That’s great!  Salesforce is amazing at visibility, and I love that you saw – and capitalized on – that so quickly.  One of the things I personally love best about Salesforce is its ability to provide a single source of truth, and be a place we all can go for customer insights.  Do you have a tip on how sales and marketing departments can break down “silos” to use the platform together?

D:  I think it’s one where integrating the departments as much as possible is necessary.   Obviously, communication is critical.  It’s really helped our sales and marketing alignment to have marketing own the administration of a tool that sales relies on.  It means the sales and marketing leaders have to sit down to talk about these processes because neither department can just continue on their own while ignoring the other.  If sales wants something to change, they have to engage with marketing, which gives marketing the opportunity to pose any questions or concerns.  And if marketing wants to make changes, we have to engage with the sales department if we expect the new feature to ever be used and provide the data we were hoping to see.

We’ve gone through some “sales process engineering,” and collaborating during that time made me very aware of what their team needed.  From a marketer’s perspective, it might be easy to get frustrated if the sales team doesn’t want to log tasks or update certain fields.  But being in tune with their processes helps me look at it from their point of view.  They’re busy trying to hit their numbers, and they’re on a different cadence than marketing.  If there’s resistance, I try to understand why, so that I can see if it’s a training issue or a setup issue.  What I try to do is make sure that they know what’s possible on the platform….it’s all about the value that they recognize they can get out of it.  A recent example would be logging emails.  It would help all departments if we could see whether there’s been any recent activity with an account, but to salespeople who have a lot of those interactions, logging emails was an annoying extra step.  So I did some research to better understand and then implement Einstein Activity Capture, and the result was a win/win.

A key part of this new process to point out is that we positioned someone on the marketing team to coordinate heavily with sales.  This role is now the creator of every sales opportunity, monitoring a sales queue for each member of the sales team to prevent people from going over capacity.  It’s a quality control process of sorts, in order to make sure we get the campaign-related data we want, but it also allows marketing to create outbound campaigns to fill their queues when capacity allows.  Having marketing create the opportunities also simplifies record ownership in a way that works well for our size of a company:  marketing owns leads, sales owns opportunities.  Before, sales didn’t have a good track record with the leads that marketing handed over.  We don’t have a big enough sales team yet to segment the roles, so people would have to jump between objects, and obviously they preferred to focus on the late stage opportunities to close.  It was harder for us to manage, especially before adoption of Tasks began to improve, because there were multiple places to check for what you were going to do that day.  Now everything is a bit more streamlined with opportunities as their work unit.

A final critical piece for us was to put together a dashboard for daily accountability.  Doing so gave us visibility into open and overdue tasks, opportunities without future tasks, current pipeline, and the sales leaderboard.  This tool is used for the sales team’s daily standup meetings and is broadcast on a TV in the sales and marketing area.

When you add up all of these things, our two teams are in a better position to trust the data in Salesforce, making it that go-to place for insights like you said.

S:  I can’t say enough about how fab the Salesforce dashboards are; every user at every company should be using these daily for accountability and prioritization.  You’ve used other sales and marketing technologies – what’s something cool or special that only Salesforce does or can provide, beyond dashboards?

D:  The biggest thing for me is how they support their customers.  Salesforce delivers the best customer experience out of any vendor I’ve worked with, offering assistance in countless ways to make sure you get the most out of their product.  Sure, there are a lot of technical things about their product that I could talk about, but when you’re learning how to be an Admin while also trying to execute on your marketing plans, it’s hard to take advantage of any of those features if the vendor isn’t making it as easy as possible.  So the thing that makes Salesforce special for me is the combination of Trailhead, Circles of Success, Dreamforce, Success Cloud Accelerators, and even the support that the account executives provide.

S:  Congratulations on recently passing your Admin certification!  What an achievement.  Do you have any tips for those who are preparing for their exam?

D:  Thank you!  Tip #1 is don’t put it off.  I worked on the platform for several years, but I guess my mentality was that Salesforce was only a part-time responsibility, so either I won’t know enough to pass, or I won’t get enough benefit from passing the exam.  There’s a great community to support you, and the process of studying and taking the exam helps to ground you in the areas that are most important…which would’ve helped me earlier on, even as a part-time admin.

To prepare, paying to take the practice exam was key for me.  It helped to eliminate anxiety since I could experience the exam without the pressure.  Take it early enough so that you still have time to study up on the areas where you score the lowest.  I’m a big fan of Trailhead, so I used the Admin certification Trailmix to strengthen my weaker areas, along with a website that had flash cards for studying.

S:  Thanks so much for sharing your story, Dan – it’s fun to hear how the love story develops for all accidental admins!


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