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Insights From SAASTR 2018

Over 10,000 executives attended SAASTR 2018 held in San Francisco. It was my first time attending the event and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. In each break out section, there was a bit of advice that could have the potential to change your entire strategy.

I was most interested in learning how to hire the right sales people and how to handle growth from $1MM to $50MM, but it was one comment that influenced me to scrap my entire marketing strategy and replace it with a new one.

"Don't be afraid to try non-traditional mediums to give your customers a holistic customer experience," Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer, Adobe.

Belsky then demonstrated a few slides about the U99 conference and how it grew over the last decade almost having a life of its own and serving creative types internationally. As I thought back about those first days when I became attached to Microsoft, I too remember attending conferences filled with the latest technology.

"Microsoft puts bread on the table," Joe A. circa 1999

In the industry we commonly refer to companies that are "Microsoft Shops" and those that are not. For us, it wasn't just a product, it was a lifestyle. I remember telling people 15 years ago that I was committed to Microsoft for as long as they were the number one software company. Of course, during the Ballmer years we all questioned if we should start to begin looking, but most of us never did and well we are certainly glad that we didn't abandon ship. Belsky inspired me to design our own conference which you will hear about soon.

As I listened to Stephanie Schatz, GM of Application Development at Microsoft, she explained what she looked for in sales people:

- People who are Authentic

- People who are Curious

- People who are Helpful

The most impressive stat was that during Stephanie's tenure at Xamarin, no one quit. I too share in that statistic, having never had an employee leave my company to work for a competitor. In my case, I attribute my success to challenging all of our people and giving them an opportunity to speak while I listen. I don't always agree with everything they tell me, but I deeply value all of their input and I explain why I disagree.

Applying Stephanie's criteria to my past sales hires, I can clearly associate those characteristics with the ones that succeeded and those who did not succeed. Technology is field that requires curiosity.

The next interesting tidbit was the idea of "ego analytics" which stems from people wanting to get daily affirmation from the amount of views and likes they received from some posted content. It made me think twice about our solutions and how to incorporate such factors that serve as a motivator for customers to use the product.

Many of the speakers emphasized growth over profit with one speaker discussing how to handle new product features.

"Prioritize problems for new users over problems for power users"

And then there was this piece of advice regarding the sales process...

"Remove the barriers for your customer so that they can buy"

When I first starting selling computers in 1987, we were taught the standard "overcome prospective customers' objections", but this idea of removing barriers seems to have a more customer-centric spin.

I look forward to next year's conference.

Jenna Bourgeois is CEO of Dynamics Intelligence which specializes in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and has offices across the US and Canada.


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