On Using Slack for Sales with Scott Beeler


Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Scott Beeler, Lead Solution Engineer at Salesforce.

Join us as we talk about using Slack for sales and how Scott uses it on a day-to-day basis to process his job function.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Scott Beeler.

Why Slack and sales go hand-in-hand

“My job as a Lead Solution Engineer is to be the conduit between our customers and Salesforce to ensure that whenever we enter into a new sales motion we have the appropriate specs for the customer and align the Salesforce specs accordingly,” Scott says. He comes from a Sales background, starting out as an Account Executive calling leads, but he heard about the work that the Solution Engineers several floors above him were doing and the role sounded perfect for him. When he had an opportunity to interview for it, he did a lot of hard work and got a lot of help from his network to ace it.

Doing the job involves coordinating between a number of folks spread out across different areas and levels of the Sales organization. Scott’s talking to the Account Executive, technical folks from Enterprise Architecture, Sales support, folks who manage post-sale, contracting, procurement, security, and more. He used to rely on Chatter so the transition to Slack was tough, “but the more that we as an organization forced ourselves to use Slack the better it became to collaborate with my colleagues to stay organized and get everyone together on the same page to progress the deal effectively,” he says.

Slack best practices to keep everyone in the loop

One of the best practices Scott and his team learned from Slack is to make account-specific channels to maintain organization. It gives you one place to go to get all of the information you need to begin working on an opportunity. Scott also recommends checking on bookmarks, where team members can pin key resources at the top of every Slack channel. You can also take advantage of threading to have, for example, a thread for a specific meeting that hosts all of the deal prep, dry runs, and even conversations during the presentation.

The result is kind of like a radio station you can tune into about the account that can dramatically speed up the ramp time to get a member of your sales team involved in the conversation. And tools like threading cut down on the notifications unless you need to be involved in specific conversations, with mentions allowing you to assign work and questions appropriately.

Better transparency through Slack

The real question, Scott says, is “how can Slack empower sales organizations to be more effective in their role?” At the end of Salesforce’s fiscal year, Scott’s manager created Slack channel dedicated to the deals currently set to close. At the end of each day, their sales reps had to input the status of the deal and any resources they may need to move it along and close it. There was more transparency but, more importantly, it empowered folks like Scott’s area Vice President to bring in the resources needed to close those deals.

When Scott had a demo instance break minutes before a big presentation, he was able to jump into Slack and use global search to look through keywords in specific channels for that demo org. He was able to find someone who had his exact issue and learn how they resolved it.

There’s so much in this episode, to be sure to listen to the whole thing for Scott’s tips on rolling out Slack and why it’s important to let people make mistakes so they can learn how to make it work for them.

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Full show transcript

J.: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week we’re talking with Scott Beeler, lead solution engineer here at Salesforce about using Slack for sales. That’s right. It’s a Salesforce on Salesforce story. But before we jump into that, I have some exciting news. Available now on Trailhead is a new module for the essential habits for admin success. That’s right. The webinar/Trailhead Live/presentation, you have all loved and listened to is now a learning module on Trailhead. The link is in the show notes. So after this episode, head on over to Trailhead and be one of the first admins to get the new essential habits Trailhead badge. Now let’s chat with Scott.

Hello you wonderful admin. Thank you so much for joining us here at the Salesforce Admins Podcast. I’m J., and I’ll be hosting you today and I’m very excited, because I’ve got a great friend of mine who works here at Salesforce, Scott Beeler, lead solution engineer. We’re going to talk with you a little bit about how Scott uses Slack on a day-to-day basis to process his job function, which is helping folks sell some stuff. Let’s have Scott introduce himself, though. I’m very excited to get him on the podcast. He’s going to tell you a little bit about who he is and what that role of solution engineer does here at Salesforce. Scott, take it away.

Scott Beeler: Hey J., thanks for having me. I appreciate being on this podcast. Yeah. As J. mentioned, I’m a lead solution engineer here at Salesforce, specifically covering the retail consumer goods operating unit. So my job as a lead solution engineer is to be the conduits between our customers and Salesforce to ensure that whenever we enter into a new sales motion, we ensure that we have the appropriate specs from a customer and we align the Salesforce technology appropriately, not only to what they’re trying to accomplish, but to also what they’re trying to implement. So I’ve been here for about five years and it’s been a fantastic ride.

J.: And if I remember correctly, Scott, you come from an AE background, or a sales background before transitioning into this slightly more technical solution engineering role.

Scott Beeler: I do. I view it as coming over from the dark side, but ever since 2011, I was a lowly SDR calling leads and a couple floors above me there were some solution engineers who were working on selling the marketing cloud, which was formally ExactTarget. And it just seemed like this amazing role where you got to be in front of the customer and do some really revolutionary work. And I had the opportunity to interview it. I interviewed for this role as an AE, moving into the SE world. And fortunately, I got it, thanks to a lot of coaching from my network and been an SE ever since, loving every minute.

J.: And you are a fantastic SE. And the reason I bring up you working in sales roles is I think that, that really informs what it is that you do as a solution engineer, but also your awareness of how people work. So when we think about the admin community, a lot of the work that we do as Salesforce administrators is we really need to understand our users. And for many folks, that’s sales users as an example. And normally we talk about spending time with those users by a process that we refer to lovingly as SABWA, which stands for Salesforce administration by walking around. Go out into your workspace, see the people that are out there working on the floor, talk with them about how they’re interacting with the systems that you have to maintain, administer, but that’s not always possible. And especially now in 2022, we are looking at how can we be effective with our teams when we’re working remotely.

And the Admin Relations Team right now is trying to really focus the conversation around Slack, just to show how it can be used in the real world. So this conversation is exciting because for those Salesforce Admins out there who can’t do Salesforce Administration by walking around you are their surrogate. You are the one who’s going to tell us a little bit about what life is like for you, and this is going to be fun. So I’ve got a few questions for you, is that right with you?

Scott Beeler: Absolutely.

J.: Cool. So you’ve explained a little bit about your role, and if I were to distill it into just like a phrase, it sounds to me like a solution engineer is responsible for collecting requirements, building out a proof of concept, or a demo, and presenting that to the customer to ensure that it meets their requirements. Does that sound generally accurate?

Scott Beeler: Yeah, generally accurate.

J.: And there are a lot of people that you’ve got to interact with in a process like this, especially at a company the size of Salesforce, working with customers that are the size of the customers that you work with. Not only do you have an account executive and a solution engineer, but you might also have some other folks in different departments that you have to collaborate with. So I was wondering if you could, before we even get into Slack as a technology, how many different groups, functional groups do you work with on a regular basis, say at least once a week, you have to touch base with them?

Scott Beeler: That’s too tough to answer, because like you said, I’m covering some of our more strategic accounts in the retail segment. So in any given week I could be talking to the account executive, his or her boss, that person’s boss. I could be talking to individuals on the business side, for instance, our business consultants, or our business value services consultants, those individuals who are responsible for aligning the use cases towards our technology. And it could be anywhere from people in our technical side, like our enterprise architects, or our technical architects, or even post-sales, so for instance, if our customers have questions or they’ve logged a case, I could be working with our support teams to try to facilitate that case. So, my network has grown significantly.

J.: And in addition to that, you didn’t call out your own manager there, or the peers on your team, or sales management. And I happen to know a little bit about how the sausage is made. I’ve seen how our sales organization is structured. And so what I’m hearing in terms of the stakeholders that you have to interact with on a regular basis, we’re talking about technical folks from enterprise architecture, technical architects, we’ve got sales support. We might have SDRs like you yourself once were, we might have to go post-sale. So I’m quickly coming up to half a dozen or more functional groups you got to work with. And then, let’s also loop in contracting and procurement and security, and there are so many folks to talk. So considering the size and the scope of the deals that you work, how do you use Slack? And obviously recognizing that it’s a spectrum for everyone. So talk to me about some of the good experiences you’ve got on Slack and what are those good experiences?

Scott Beeler: Yeah, it was challenging because before the acquisition, I was a very big Chatter guy. I got all of my daily emails from Chatter into a specific Gmail folder and read them every day and we made the move over to Slack. And it was tough for me to understand, or at least embrace this new technology. But the more that we, as an organization force ourselves to use Slack, the better it became to collaborate with my colleagues to stay organized, but from a sales perspective, get everyone together on the same page to progress the deal effectively. And I actually just looked at a Chatter thread from 2019. And I was confused with trying to find information in that specific Chatter thread or recent posts along the same timeframe. So Slack has been incredibly effective for me to get up to speed on accounts, maintain organization with the opportunity teams and more importantly, get answers to questions in a really rapid time compared to previous landscapes.

J.: So, it’s good to know that you, A, you started with a challenge. Our community really thrives on this idea of good stuff, no fluff content. And I love the fact that you started us off with things that were challenging, that you knew that you needed to overcome with using a new technology. And we all understand the pain of a new rollout of technology. It doesn’t matter what organization you are and what size you are, it can be change management of people using stuff is just, it’s extraordinarily difficult. And it has an impact. The hope is, of course, after you adopt whatever the new thing is that it worked better than the old thing.

And I’m happy to hear that you’re starting to see the productivity gains in using the tool. But I guess my question for you is, great, so let’s say that you’ve got, what we can talk about as an example is, at Salesforce we talk a lot about Northern Trail Outfitters is this fictitious retail company that sells outdoor goods. So if you’re the solution engineer on Northern Trail Outfitters, and you’ve got your account executives and some other folks that really care about this account and are trying to support it, how do you organize information in Slack? Let’s say that you’ve just started off the process and you’ve got a meeting coming up in a week.

Scott Beeler: Yeah.

J.: What’s happening in your channel?

Scott Beeler: So, that’s actually a really good point, J.. When we made the acquisition of Slack, we actually learned best practices from our Slack counterparts and appropriately so. And the first thing that they told us to do was to make account specific channels within Slack, to maintain organization. So immediately what went from Google chat emails, Chatter posts essentially got consolidated into one specific channel. So to your point, I now have a single place to go to find everything that I need to begin working on an account and specifically an opportunity. But within Slack, there are a couple of features that I find incredibly helpful to onboard new representatives like myself or people who may join the account or opportunity in the future. So in this fictitious example of Northern Trail Outfitters, if I were brought in as a solution engineer to try to tackle an opportunity, there are a couple that I would tackle this

First I would take a look at bookmarks. So essentially at the top of every single Slack channel are ways for various team members to pin key resources. So, that could be the current opportunity that we’re working on, a link to our internal Salesforce instance. It could be a link to Quip, which would house our account plan or key important conversations that we’ve had with individuals. Some members of one of my account teams actually use this feature within a Slack engagement called threading. So for instance, if we have a big meeting coming up for a specific opportunity, so say for instance, we have a demo coming up with Northern Trail Outfitters. What we’ll do is we’ll create a thread tied specifically to that meeting and we’ll host various conversations.

So leading up to it, it could be deal prep. It could be dry runs. During the deal itself or during the demo itself. It could be us collaborating together to ensure that we’re answering questions, delegating specific talking points of different representatives based on the flow of the conversation. And then potentially after the demonstration, assigning follow-up actions to specific users by mentioning that user to that specific action. So for instance, I can say at J. Steadman, follow-up on the specific action item as it relates to follow-up, or at J. Steadman, how do we create a flow around X, Y, Z use case, which I know you can do in your sleep.

J.: Well, this is awesome. I’m hearing a few different features that you’re calling out. And I love the way that you’re talking about them, because you’re marrying the value of the feature to the feature itself. So you’re explaining what the thing is you’re using and why that matters to you, and value and purpose has been something that I’ve been really obsessed with over the past year, year and a half. And I think probably for the next ever, or so, it’s a beautiful light. We want to do stuff that provides us value. And so I want to take a few of these things and highlight them to the admin that’s listening in right now. First, this idea, I’m going to synthesize what we’ve heard for two reasons. One, I want to make sure that I’m hearing you the right way and give you the opportunity to tell me I’m getting it wrong. But two, there’s so much good stuff in there. I want to put it into what I think is a really nice light.

Scott Beeler: Yep.

J.: I’m hearing that y’all have gone from what sounded like a fragmented approach, where you’ve got some information contained in an email, you’ve got some information that was maybe in Google chat or in the comments that were in a hangout, or whatever, but now you’ve got one single place for you to communicate about a thing. So it’s a single line of communication or a single channel, which is different than a single source of truth or a record. But now you’ve got this dedicated space. It’s your band on the radio, 98.9 Northern Trail Outfitters. And it’s just for y’all, which is fantastic. Now that you’ve got everything funneled into that space, you mentioned that you can quickly get people up to speed because you can prep each channel to essentially have an onboarding experience, right when you do join. Here is your description. Here are the bookmarks that you need to know about. And if you want to get fancy, you didn’t mention this, but it’s true. You can also throw in an onboarding workflow, you could create a workflow that sends folks a message, if they have steps to complete, they can complete those steps.

But what that does is it speeds that ramp time to get a member of your sales team involved in the conversation. And then you’re talking about threading and threading around a variety of different topics. So one of the experiences that I think all of us are familiar with when we’re using feed-based technologies is how quickly that feed or that timeline, whatever you’re going to call it across the product, it can get cluttered, especially if you’ve got an ongoing conversation going on. So this threading feature that you’re talking about, which is almost exclusively how I live my life in a bunch of threads, it’s great because you can have your deal prep conversation going in real time, but an account director can hop into the channel. And unless they’re looking at the thread that you’re in, there’s not a million different notifications or tons of noise coming through.

Scott Beeler: Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. And I feel like I’m being a prima donna around this, because I was part of a Slack channel that didn’t do threading. So I was receiving a ton of notifications, which you, of course, can mute, but-.

J.: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And then you talked as well about having action items and stuff, and this idea, especially as we’re working remotely and you might have one person that’s presenting, if you’ve got somebody else on a team calling out a technical issue, telling somebody if they’re muted, or providing some information to make sure that your stakeholders get the right answer to a question, all of those things become really, really valuable in spaces that are becoming, and probably will stay for quite some time, increasingly remote, or hybrid.

Scott Beeler: Yeah. In that specific use case, I was delivering a demonstration and we had someone on the other side trying to derail the meeting. As it happens, and that’s absolutely fair, we were limited with time and we had a significant number of people on the line, on the other end, on the customer side. So I use Slack to ping the account director to talk to his associates on the customer side, the champions. And they were essentially able to coach those follow-up questions that were a bit unnecessary. And that enabled us to have a more productive meeting. You really can’t do that in a live environment. And with our old legacy tag, it would be a bit more difficult, but this gave us the opportunity to be a bit more agile as it relates to running an effective meeting.

J.: Yeah. Now I think some of this has already been answered, but this next question I think is important to ask because at the end of the day, we’ve talked about value. And your role, you are to assist in sales, and anyone out there who’s ever worked in a sales role knows that, that’s a big objective directive and responsibility to be in charge of selling anything, or to have any degree of responsibility for selling something. Whether you are providing the technical expertise in the experience, or if you’re the person that ultimately has to manage the relationship and the contract and the signing, selling is always a high priority for organizations. And as a consequence, your goal is to always be selling. So Slack is just some tool, just like email is some tool and a phone is a tool. My question is, since your goal is selling and you wouldn’t use something that’s not actually helping you do that because it’s a very important thing. How does Slack help you become a more effective solution engineer in the selling process?

Scott Beeler: Well, I’ll take a step back. How can Slack empower sales organizations to be effective in their role? To give a prime example of this, at the end of Salesforce’s fiscal year, my manager created a Slack channel dedicated specifically to the deals that were currently in flight that were still set to close. And every year our sales rep, or at the end of every day, our sales reps had to input the status of that deal if it’s good, if it’s at risk, and any sort of resources that he or she may need in order to move the deal along in efforts to close. So not only did this shine real-time visibility into what’s going on at this opportunity, but this empowered my area, vice president, anyone in the business to bring in the associate resources onto this deal to progress the deal along, which I think is incredibly effective. And being able to streamline how we would collaborate on a specific deal, had a tremendous impact for my specific segment, as it relates to closing business.

J.: What I love about this idea. There’s something really elegant about giving a user, there is a Slack administrator who makes decisions for the workspace, obviously based on business requirements, but the user is so empowered in the Slack interface that the user has seen something that they need to do in a less formal or a less structured way than we might need to in other pieces of software. They need to spin up something right now to swarm an issue. And in this case, we’re talking about selling at the end of a quarter.
And in this experience that is true to your life, a user was able to spin up a channel, bring all of the right people in, get updates in a regular basis. And I think the part that is, to me, if I had to guess what one thing brought more value than anything else in that one experience, it’s that all stakeholders in the channel had access to all of the information in the channel and they never had to go to someone else. If it was in the channel, everyone could see it, which is much different than trying to manage deals at the end of quarter in text messages, or in email chains, which can quickly get really, really cluttered and really, really noisy.

Scott Beeler: Yeah. And you’d asked about my role specifically. So when I was prepping for a demonstration, typically I do about 40 because I want to make sure everything goes well, but the day of I was meeting with one of our large customers and the demo instance that I was using to show off its piece of technology broke, and I had no idea why it broke, and it impacted every pixel of my demonstration. So I had about 20 minutes to figure out why this was the case, or else we would have to push the demonstration, which obviously we don’t want to do. So what I ultimately did was I looked in Slack, took some of the keywords from the error messages, went to the appropriate Slack channel for that specific product and specifically that demo org. And in a matter of seconds, I was actually able to find an old post from a couple days earlier where someone was experiencing the exact same issue, but worked with our product management team and our demo engineering team to solve that issue.

So typically in the past, I would probably have to punt that demonstration, but thanks to Slack and it’s global search capabilities, I was able to come up with a resolution in a manner of minutes and essentially alleviate the issues that are occurring in my demo org very, very quickly. And we were able to have a productive meeting because of that.

J.: Yeah. So did you know that when Slack started, the name Slack actually stands, it’s an acronym, it stands for searchable log of all communication and knowledge. That’s what Slack means. And I love that you brought that up organically before I could bring up this backstory of how Slack was created, but based on the way that the product was initially structured, the folks that were using Slack, that created it as internal communication and knowledge base. That’s what they found the true power to be. And I get really, really embarrassed and nervous sharing things in front of groups, like as small group as possible is my preference, I’ll have 20 meetings with one person as opposed to one meeting with 20 people. But my comfort aside, the big challenge with that is that it requires me to go to meetings for people to get the information they need.

But what you’re talking about here is this experience where the entire body of knowledge that exists in an organization in Slack is at your fingertips. And I’ve definitely been in ways relevant to my job that are a little different than sales. All I got to do is type in some keywords and all of a sudden I’m given information that I never would’ve found in a million years before. So that’s a great testament to the power of switching to a transparency first approach to communication specifically around things like projects. Obviously trust is top of mind and we want to protect sensitive information at all costs. Well, trust is number one. We care most about trust and making sure that things are safe and protected, but within that scope, you want people to have as much access to information as they need to do their jobs.

Scott Beeler: Absolutely.

J.: Cool. Well, okay. So, you’ve brought up some features that you think are handy. You talked about a challenge that you had, you’ve talked about a real benefit that came along with using the technology. This is a wild card question. Is there anything that you think is a got you that people need to watch out for if they were trying to either implement Slack for their users or use it themself, or do you have any recommendations for folks beyond those few features that you tossed down? The floor is yours.

Scott Beeler: Yeah. And before we go on, I feel like you were just describing my role as a solution engineer, just aligning what the opportunity is, talking about the feature and then align it to the value. So sorry for those admins who are listening, that’s just my DNA, but to be transparent, I’m happy to talk about what my team saw as challenges or any got yous as it relates to potential Slack rollout. The first is going to be around adoption. Like any other technology, there are going to be individuals who embrace it. There will also be individuals who don’t embrace it naturally. And some of the teams that I’ve seen at Salesforce adopt Slack really well have made it mandatory. So they moved all processes of the sales cycle from deal execution, from company news, literally anything you can think of all exists on Slack. And because of that adoption, we’ve seen these teams work more effectively together compared to other regions that potentially have not made this mandatory.

So in terms of, got you, just make sure that your teams are using it effectively and encourage mistakes, encourage learning. And when you do start introducing Slack, there’s going to be a lot of noise. J., I think you can attest to this as well, but I am very excited to follow a lot of Slack channels. There are a lot of account groups, companies groups, J., you and I are admins for our personal group called Social Music Recs. I want to consume it all, but at the scale of Salesforce that became just too much noise, too many notifications, too many popups. So, once I learned that you can mute channels, that you can mute when people notify you. Once you can understand that you can organize channels by specific sections, by specific themes. It just becomes easier to use Slack. And this aligns with the adoption part. It just becomes easier for you to find what you need and disconnect the things that you don’t need.

J.: These are wise words, heed them, heed them admin. These are wise words. These are good words. These are, I think worth nailing that point home, more than some other pieces of technology since Slack is essentially a messaging and knowledge base at your fingertips, adoption becomes really important, because if some people aren’t using it, the value for everyone is really greatly diminished. The more people that use it, it’s orders of magnitude’s more valuable, the information and communication that is available to you. But I love that you brought up this notification thing. I am finding in life in general right now between full disclosure. Something happened to me in 2019, where email just stopped working for me as a person. And I’ve been using email my whole life and then suddenly it became unmanageable. And so now I’m in this mode of, where can you carve out notifications away from your life? By default, tons of applications across all of our experiences at work and at home. It’s like default notifications on.

And it requires a little bit of extra work to really sit down and do this. But I strongly encourage anyone just like Scott here, sit down and thoughtfully say to yourself, what do I want to interrupt my focus? And just make sure that, that thing is something you love, or at the very least it’s something that’s important to your work. And spend time on fun things as well, but when it comes to notifications that are going to ping you I’m really, really locked down on the notifications that Slack gives me. I have project channels that I work from. And then I have a whitelisted, like this is a group of channels that I’ll touch. But outside of that, I mute by default.

Scott Beeler: No, I totally agree with you, J.. I feel like I have more muted channels than I actually have channels that are unmuted, because I want to say a part of it, I want to make sure that I know that these channels exist, but if you’re sending me over a good album recommendation, or if we get a new feature for service cloud, I want to make sure that those hit my inbox first or those notify me first before any other noise.

J.: Yeah, absolutely. Well, this has been great. I really want to thank you Scott, for stepping in here and bringing the perspective of someone who’s a Salesforce technologist, but also is a user of this technology. Again, sometimes when we’re sitting in the admin role, we can get into an experience where we’re just talking to other admins. And whenever we have the opportunity to talk to the users of the technology is an opportunity we have to configure better solutions and make a better org. So thanks very much for your time.

Scott Beeler: Yeah. Thank you for having me, J..

J.: If you want to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, go to admin.salesforce.com. You can find more resources, including any links that we have may have mentioned during this episode, as well as a full transcript. You can stay up-to-date with us on social. We are @SalesforceAdmns, no I on Twitter. Gillian is on Twitter @GillianKBruce. Mike is @MikeGerholdt. I, J., am @J__MDT. Stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you in the cloud.

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