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Relationships, technology, and data ruled Dreamforce 2016

Relationships, technology, and data ruled Dreamforce 2016

When nearly 200,000 people invade a crowded city like San Francisco, that might seem crazy any other week of the […]


Relationships, technology, and data ruled Dreamforce 2016

Relationships, technology, and data ruled Dreamforce 2016

When nearly 200,000 people invade a crowded city like San Francisco, that might seem crazy any other week of the year. When it’s Dreamforce, all bets are off as salespeople, marketers, CEOs, and every techie imaginable come together to learn and connect…and celebrate all things Salesforce, naturally.

As the new startup kid on the block, the RFPIO team was excited to attend—and ready for almost anything.

salesforce dreamforce

Ganesh and Britt were having their first Dreamforce adventure, while Angela was on her fifth. Even with their different levels of conference “black belts,” the team spent the week soaking in unbeatable inspiration from one of the biggest sales conferences of the year.

Now that the team is back in the swing of things, we thought we would share a few takeaways for those who didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s conference—or those of you who went and had an entirely different experience.

So, what do we think ruled Dreamforce 2016? Relationships, technology, and data.


expo at dreamforce

Ganesh

What was your first impression of Dreamforce? Will you be back in 2017?

My first Dreamforce certainly isn’t going to be my last—it was quite a party from the daytime sessions to the nighttime events. Now that we are Salesforce partners, I am convinced that RFPIO should have a dedicated booth next year.

So, yes…I will definitely be back to explore more great sessions and the latest technology Salesforce has to offer.

You had several meetings with prospects. Can you share the importance of personal connections at Dreamforce?

As most sales occur virtually, Dreamforce is the perfect opportunity to meet prospects face-to-face and get to know them on a more personal level. It also gives the prospect an opportunity to know more about you and your company, which opens up conversations about how our tool integrates with Salesforce. The wonderful thing about Dreamforce is that everyone is connected to Salesforce in some way.

Making time at the conference for meetings is key to future opportunities. If every conversation happens remotely, you risk lacking a real connection with your prospects that has the power to deepen the relationship.

dreamforce conference

Britt

Session: #MarTech Demystified: Build Your Small Business Marketing Stack
By: Scott Brinker of Ion Interactive and Chiefmartec.com and Travis Wright of CCP Digital

Why did this session stand out to you?

This session was actually a last-minute addition for me and I was stunned by how jam-packed it was with solid insight. The Q&A led by Capterra’s Director of Marketing, Katie Hollar, was seamless, and both Scott Brinker and Travis Wright peppered plenty of humor throughout to top off a memorable discussion.

Frankly, it was the one session I went to where everyone was truly engaged—which is no easy feat with an audience of easily distracted marketers. It’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one in the room who didn’t want this session to end.

What were the key takeaways?

Beyond marketing technology, Scott and Travis provided learnings that can be applied to any solution purchase. They really stressed the importance of what technology means for individual companies—and how to get the right team and stack in place.

  1. Technology Investment: Use the 90/10 rule. 90% should be spent on teaching your team to understand and maximize the tool. The money invested in the software should be the smallest part of the ratio.
  2. People Investment: Wright warned there can be a deficit in your organization if someone is holding the keys to your castle. Employees will not stay at your company forever, so it’s smart to train multiple people on the tool.
  3. Future-Proof Technologies: As Brinker wisely said about the vendor selection process: “Vet vendors through a lens of optionality. Anticipate transitions. Say: I love you, I hope this lasts forever…but what is the prenuptial here?”

radius dreamforce

Angela

Session: The Network Effect on B2B Data
By: Darian Shirazi of Radius

Why did this session stand out to you?

What really stood out about the Radius session was how direct and valuable it was. Most of the sessions at Dreamforce take an aspirational theme—like exploring predictive analytics to get more accurate or quality leads, or 10 segmentation ideas you haven’t thought of before.

Darian’s discussion was refreshing, because it wasn’t about the shiny objects and tools. It was about the foundation of good data.

What were the key takeaways?

All of the campaigns and tactics are only as good as your data. If the data is bad, nothing will work—and unfortunately, the time and resources your company spent will be a waste of energy.

When you buy a tool, it can take months before you see revenue generation. If your data is in bad shape, it can take even longer. The house has to be in order.

Everybody tries to scale through automation. Think of the efficiencies that could be gained by sales teams if they had a good data set to work with.


dreamforce expo

Thanks for joining us on our Dreamforce journey! Here are some videos if you missed it.

Did you have any conference favorites? We’d love to hear about your experience!

6 must-see sessions at Dreamforce 2016

6 must-see sessions at Dreamforce 2016

Dreamforce 2016 is coming up next week and a few members from the RFPIO team are heading out to San Francisco to soak in some knowledge and connect with the sales community.

In case you’re still planning your Dreamforce attack—or curious about what you’ll be missing—here are six sessions we are looking forward to at this year’s conference to inspire you!


ganesh
Ganesh Shankar, CEO and Co-Founder
Dreamforce Focus: Sales Enablement and Technology

Is this your first time going to Dreamforce?

Yes. We are now a registered Salesforce partner, and we want to strengthen that relationship by showing our support and connecting with the greater sales community at Dreamforce.

What are you most excited about?

I’m a big advocate for improvements in sales operations, so I am most excited to learn about the latest technologies that will help teams become more efficient. The conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet with sales teams in the field dealing with the same inefficiencies as our clients, and explain how RFPIO fits into that ecosystem to support them.

One session I’m looking forward to is:

Quote-to-Cash Kickoff: Introducing CPQ, Contracts, and Orders

I’m looking forward to this session because:

Since this is the next step for companies after they submit RFPs, this is an intriguing session for me to hear how Salesforce is enabling sales teams to work out a truly tough process. We can relate to the pain and headaches that salespeople know every day, and we hope to see some valuable tools release that will improve the overall approach and win rate.

Another session I’m looking forward to is:

Administer and Build Proposals with Lightning and Salesforce CPQ

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I am curious to see how RFPIO can complement these technologies from Salesforce. Presumably they are building the proposal from content they are already using in their RFPs. So this session will shed some light on how they are doing this manually, giving us an opportunity to see how our tool might be able to help through automation.

What do you think the big theme is this year?

Sales enablement continues to be important year after year, with teams from companies of all sizes still battling inefficiencies. Sales needs more tools to help them focus on customer relationships and revenue generation, so they can spend less time worrying about documentation and manual processes—and focus on their primary job responsibility.


britt-skrabanek-rfpio

Britt Skrabanek, Communications Manager
Dreamforce Focus: B2B Content Marketing and SEO

Is this your first time going to Dreamforce?

Yes! I’ve been a consistent player in the B2B content marketing game for going on three years now. I have written post-conference blogs previously for others who have attended, but I’ve never actually been. I’m pretty pumped!

What are you most excited about?

Learning! Yes, I am that nerdy. I’m a champion for sales and marketing alignment, and Dreamforce truly embodies that concept by bringing the business community together to learn from each other in the great city of San Francisco.

One session I’m looking forward to is:

3 Effective Ways to Supercharge Your B2B Social Marketing

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I am not shy to say this…B2B social marketing ain’t easy. There are days when I miss the young me that ran content for a lovable non-profit, because engagement just happened. The business audience can be a tough crowd, and this session promises “not so typical” social media use cases which I’m eager to explore.

Another session I’m looking forward to is:

SEO Wins & Content Marketing Tactics: Turn Your Search Visitors into Customers

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I love how upfront the description for this session is…everybody is creating content nowadays. It’s true, and while I think it’s wonderful to see businesses getting in touch with their creative side, the noise is unmistakable. We spend a lot of time and resources on content, and this session offers actionable SEO tips and accessible conversion tactics to help make an impact—and show it with metrics to back up this monstrosity of an effort.

What do you think the big theme is this year?

Not everyone loves this word as much as I do, but “reinvention” certainly comes to mind. I think it’s crucial for those of us who have been doing content marketing for a while to embrace new ideas and channels to stand out from the crowd.


angela-earl-rfpio
Angela Earl, Senior Director of Marketing
Dreamforce Focus: ABM and Sales and Marketing Alignment

Is this your first time going to Dreamforce?

No, this will be my fourth year at the conference and each year it seems I learn another trick about navigating Dreamforce. I remember my first year—and honestly, even the second—as very overwhelming. One tip to anyone going for the first (or second) time: Look for sessions near each other in 2-hour blocks to keep from wasting time walking the place to place.

What are you most excited about?

All of my previous times at Dreamforce were solo ventures, so I’m excited to be going with a great team this year. Sharing the experience in real-time will be more enjoyable and rewarding for me. Oh, and the U2 concert, of course!

One session I’m looking forward to is:

Debunking the Myths of Account-Based Marketing

I’m looking forward to this session because:

Though it isn’t a new concept, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) can be a very effective strategy for tech companies I work with, but many marketers and sales folks I meet are struggling with getting their technologies to align with this way of thinking. It will be interesting to hear Salesforce’s ABM recommendations.

Another session I’m looking forward to is:

The Power of Data in Sales and Marketing Alignment

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I’m really looking forward to hearing what Akamai Technologies has to say about the power of data. Why? Because data is sexy and I never tire of hearing stories of what others have done. And as a marketing operations nerd at heart, I’m hoping for new ideas or insights to share with sales and marketing teams who continue to struggle with coming together for the greater good of the company.

What do you think the big theme is this year?

Predictive tools are continuing to be a big conversation. But, they require a solid foundation (clean data and well-defined processes) to be effective. This year I’m hoping to see less product pitching, and more shared experiences beyond implementation from those who have been on the journey, to get useful and actionable insights.

 

Are you going to Dreamforce?
We’d love to hear what sessions you are most excited about!

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

If you take a good look at your SaaS vendor selection process today, is cloud security on your checklist? Or, does your checklist consist of all the shiny features you’d like to have?

The SaaS model makes it easy to sign up and get going—with free trials and integrations with your favorite applications. While it is important to evaluate if the solution solves your business problem, it is just as important to look beyond the core features.

cloud usage

Source: RightScale

SaaS vendors range from a couple of guys operating out of a garage to full blown enterprises. During the startup phase, the focus is on getting a workable product out to the market with the intent to “shore up” the product when they have a few customers that have kicked the tires.

Unfortunately security ends up taking a backseat. Failure to evaluate security features with these vendors can mean major trouble for businesses, both short term and long term.

As just one example, we’ll use cloud-based RFP software solutions.

Say your SaaS provider has an outage when you have a request for proposal deadline looming. You have no way of retrieving that data, and you don’t have it backed up, because you entrusted your SaaS vendor with everything.

By the time your vendor is up and running again, it’s too late. You missed out on submitting your RFP responses and lost millions of dollars in potential revenue.

cloud adoptionSource: RightScale

Focusing on a tool’s exciting features during SaaS vendor selection is alarmingly common. Enterprise companies will typically bring in their IT department when choosing a SaaS solution, but frequently companies operating with smaller teams miss this important step.

It’s never too late to optimize your vendor selection approach, whether you’re just establishing security measures, or strengthening existing processes.

Here are a few cloud security questions worth asking when you’re evaluating SaaS vendors.

saas challenges

Source: RightScale

#1  What is your disaster recovery plan?

Most SaaS vendors have a disaster recovery plan, but not all plans are created equal. Some mistakenly believe taking regular backups constitutes disaster recovery.

Make sure your SaaS vendor has a solid plan that covers a recovery timeline, routine testing, and geographic isolation. In other words, if there is a tsunami, is that going to wipe out all of your centers?

#2  What if you go out of business?

Often we think of catastrophic events in the form of natural disasters, but a vendor going out of business can do just as much damage. When comparison shopping, look into business viability and don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions.

If I invest all of my work, data, history into your solution, is that safe? What is your fallback plan? Having access to that data is non-negotiable no matter what happens outside your control.

it cloud softwareSource: RightScale

#3  Do you take my security seriously?

Okay, you don’t have to frame the question that way—instead you can ask if they have a proper security plan. Be careful when a vendor sidesteps security to focus on the shiny features. You don’t ever want security to be an afterthought.

If you find it difficult to know which security features are most important, bring in your IT department for guidance.

The security rundown might include:

  • Encrypting data
  • Secure data transmission and storage
  • Access restrictions
  • Secure practices
  • Staff training
  • Regular monitoring and scanning

enterprise cloud
Source: RightScale

#4  Who is responsible?

Accountability is a big one, because you want to know who you are dealing with when a support request spirals into a data mess. Many vendors depend on others, and the finger-pointing can escalate quickly. This is the last thing any business wants to experience when there’s a problem, so be upfront to avoid a surprise down the road.

A storage solution managed entirely by the SaaS vendor is preferable, as mom and pop cloud storage companies can be unreliable. The accountability factor can speed up your selection process in a jiffy if a vendor fumbles over roles and responsibilities.

#5  How scalable is your product?

It is one thing to watch a flawless demo, or run through a proof of concept without a glitch. But can the application withstand what the real world throws at it? Unfortunately, it is tough to know the answer to this until the real world happens.

For example, if one of the other clients of the service provider executes a huge project, is that going to negatively impact security? It is smart—and absolutely appropriate—to inquire about how well the vendor can scale their product to meet demands, and how quickly those demand will be met.

saas securitySource: RightScale

Finding the right SaaS vendor should never be taken lightly, so always think of it as a collaborative decision.

While these questions will cover your cloud security bases, if you can, get your IT person involved in the process too. If you are unable to engage your IT department in vendor selection, you can still take these steps to ensure the vendor has a solid security footing.

What cloud security questions do you ask when you’re selecting a SaaS vendor?

3 ways to de-stress your RFP process right now

3 ways to de-stress your RFP process right now

RFPs are a team effort, requiring hours and resources companies often feel they don’t have to spare. But to source new business and win clients, responding to RFPs is crucial to an organization’s success.

The manual approach to RFP response is a common one among businesses—even today, with the wealth of technology at our fingertips. But someone has to do the job of responding to RFPs, so we might as well make it as stress-free as possible. With a few important tweaks, your sales team can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time generating revenue.

Here are 3 ways to de-stress your RFP process, so you can focus on growing your business.

1. Centralize RFP answers

A known pitfall with RFPs is the low win rate chances, and inconsistent responses are often the culprit. It’s no wonder when teams across departments are using spreadsheets and emails to store their answers—hunting down responses in a hurry when the deadline is looming, and rushing to get the RFP out the door in time for submission.

Fortunately, RFP management solutions minimize that risk by automatically storing responses as the RFP is completed. An answer library has the power to become your organization’s knowledge base, not only for RFPs but also as a repository your sales team can always refer back to for intelligence.

2. Optimize your SMEs

Your subject matter experts are valuable for your business—and so is their time. Let them do what they do best…help your business grow and thrive. Answering the same questions over and over again is not the best use of their time, and most high performers avoid these tasks in favor of other priorities.

Why send a person to do a machine’s job? Instead, use technology to automate the response process. These tools apply adaptive learning to understand the questions, and automatically recommend the most accurate answers based on your past responses. The time-savings alone will benefit your business, which on average is 40% with a robust RFP management tool.

3. Automate RFP assembly

Typically the most time-consuming part of responding to an RFP is assembling the answers in a cohesive format. The importance of a quality delivery can’t be overlooked, because sloppy responses can reflect poorly on your brand and harm a potential deal.

With several different authors providing input, it can be challenging for the proposal manager to gather, organize, compile, and construct the response package so it’s client-ready. RFP management software can automate the whole assembly process to help you deliver the highest quality product that will impress your client and potentially win business for you.

RFP management technologies have come a long way. It’s time for us to leave behind the old-fashioned approach of spreadsheets and docs, and enter a more efficient era through automated solutions.

How are you making your RFP process as stress-free as possible? We’d love to hear your tricks and tips!

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