Episode 214: Maria Willait on Creating Sales and Marketing Alignment

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today I am excited to have Maria Willait from Salesforce join us. Maria, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Maria Willait: Thank you very much, Shawnna. Hello everyone, my name is Maria Willait. I am the director of sales enablement for Salesforce in France. I am based and located in France. I’ve been in tech for 25 years now, 18 years in sales, and seven years in enablement, so getting used to all the sales, marketing, and enablement practices.

SS: Well, we are very excited to have you join us today. Now, you actually recently spoke at our Sales Enablement Soirée we hosted in Paris, France on sales and marketing alignment. In a rapidly growing business environment, it can be really easy for departments to drift apart and start to create silos. I would love to better understand from you, what do you do to really keep communication flowing between sales and marketing, and what are some best practices that you might have for aligning sales and marketing around organizational goals?

MW: Yes, and thank you very much for the question. I think it is important to understand that when we work in an organization like Salesforce or any other organization, we need to keep communicating all the time. The first thing that we do is weekly meetings, not only with marketing but with sales management because the sales objectives are the same for us, enablement, and the same for marketing. We need to be aligned. We are part of the same management meeting and we are clear on the objectives that we want to achieve each month, quarter, or each year. When we create a plan, we create a business plan together with the same objective which is the success of the salespeople, we are very, very careful with that, and again, it’s about meeting regularly, not only with marketing but with the sales team and making sure that we keep on track and achieve the same objectives.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Now, what are some of the key points of intersection though, maybe even within Salesforce between sales and marketing?

MW: Yes. For us at Salesforce, we have decided to ask salespeople to be champions. So some salespeople are champions. What does it mean to be a champion? It’s very important because when we are working with marketing to create a webinar, for example, we are always looking for speakers internally, as well as customers. We ask our salespeople to be champions, and then marketing brings all the content, all the exchanges, all the customer content, webinars events, etc. It’s very important to align both and to work in and coordinate both roles. Again, salespeople are champions for our marketing team and for the enablement team, as well. I can use them to do my training but we can use them for speaking in front of a customer or doing some interviews or doing some customer stories, for example, on videos or on a podcast like this one.

SS: Fantastic. Beyond marketing, what are some of the other departments that sales enablement needs to be in close collaboration and alignment with and how have you gone about building some of those relationships?

MW: First of all, sales and development at Salesforce is part of the COO office, so business operations. Business operations include sales strategy, sales program, and sales and development. What does it mean? It means that sales enablements are aligned to the business objectives. We don’t only do marketing, we are aligned to the business objectives. It means that sales strategy works with the sales leaders to set up the goals for each sale, for each manager, and then the sales program, it’s all the programs that we are going to deliver to generate pipeline and enablement is all the training around these programs.

What kind of training do we give to salespeople in order to reach the target of the sales strategy team with the programs that the sales program team is putting in place for them? It’s not only salespeople, it’s not only sales enablement or sales program, it’s as well, of course, marketing. Marketing creates a lot of events to generate a pipeline, and again, it’s always on the objective and the success of our salespeople because we know that the success of our salespeople, it’s creating pipeline and closing the pipeline they’re creating. I think all these people together work really well as long as they are in the same team and they work toward the same objective, which is the success of our salespeople. I hope it’s not a generic answer to say we are working together and we are really making an impact and success in the field.

SS: I love that. In terms of thinking about the buyer, what are some best practices for enablement to bridge the gap between sales and marketing so that they help curate a better buyer experience?

MW: Rather than trying to just speak critically about it, I’m going to speak and tell you a story and the project I’m working on with marketing. We are working on a customer story competition at Salesforce at the moment what it is? It’s very simple marketing are always looking for customer stories, you know that and who are the best people to speak about customer stories, there are the salespeople. Rather than just asking them to tell about the story, we are making competition around it. We are asking the team. They do some meetings there. They have judges that are in the room. Each salesperson is going to tell a story and at the end, the jury is going to choose the best customer story from this best customer story we are going to do a video podcast that we are going to share with the rest of the salespeople.

As you can see, in terms of thinking about our buyers it’s our salespeople and how do we work with marketing? This is the best way that we found to work in marketing because it’s in the own interest of salespeople that joined Salesforce. They want to know what we do at sales at the customer site, but as well, it’s very interesting for marketing because then they can find some customers to speak about our biggest events. As you can see, we can really find some great projects to work together with and, most importantly, to achieve the same objective which is the success of salespeople. You might think I’m repeating myself, but really, I think my job is to support and make sure that each salesperson is successful.

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more now to tie everything together. How can sales enablement practitioners ensure that maybe sales and marketing stay aligned from the onset and then remain aligned long term?

MW: Again, it’s about the business plan. You remember at the beginning I told you in order to work well together and to continue to work well together first we need to have the same objective. Second, we need to work on the same business plan. When we are presenting our business plan to the sales leaders in France, we are telling them this is what enablement is doing, this is what programs are doing and this is what marketing is doing and everything is linked to the success of the business, to the success of the objective that the strategy has asked us to reach.

You can see that it’s not only a one-shot, and I spoke about one project which is the customer story competition, but we have multiple projects that we work on in common, so I can tell you about what we are working on the events as well. We are supporting marketing when they are doing some events like the Salesforce World Tour or Dreamforce, we have all these sales and marketing people working together for success, and of course, sales enablement is always here to train and to make sure that sales know what’s going to happen during these big events. It’s not just the one shot, it’s continuous learning. Marketing supports sales and salespeople support marketing by being very close to each other and by counting on each other. That’s very, very important. Sales enablement is the glue between all these teams. I hope I was able to share with you some of my ideas and that you will be able to use them in your own company as well.

SS: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to walk us through that.

MW: No problem. It was a pleasure for me.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know we’d love to hear from you.

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