A Sales Ops Playground: Dreamforce 2017

Dreamforce is the conference equivalent of becoming a sales ops professional and learning to use Salesforce for the first time. There’s more available than you’ll ever feasibly be able to get to, but you’re excited to dig in and learn as much as you can.

Last week, tens of thousands of kindred spirits descended upon San Francisco to absorb the energy exuded from our favorite CRM’s annual conference extravaganza. Dreamforce ties together some of the most important things in my career — community, technology, and professional development. Attending this year also came with the added bonus of going with a large group of coworkers from InsightSquared, since we were also a sponsor.

Before the conference started, I tried to use the agenda builder paired with advice from past attendees to set expectations with myself. I prioritized a few key sessions I thought would be most beneficial to my role, and then planned to walk around the Customer Success Expo to connect with vendors we were customers of, or might be a customer of one day.

I had a chance to learn about topics that were as varied as our role (sales operations) – from the tactical sessions about project management and Salesforce automation, to the strategic sessions that covered revenue operations and go-to-market strategies for a scaling business. I was reminded of how the sales ops role is connected to every part of the GTM org and the potential that opportunity holds for the future of sales operations.

Wandering through the Customer Success Expo I met with our vendors and asked some of the burning questions, and left with some action items. I also perused vendors I thought might be useful with our 2018 initiatives. I learned early on in this position to stay on top of the tech ecosystem because it moves so quickly and you do yourself a disservice to underutilize your current tools, or be under informed of the landscape, so this was a glorious opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

On the pure tech side of Dreamforce, there were two sprawling rooms – one filled with a Trailhead epicentre — multiple practitioner run theatres, cloud and module specific booths, and just general splendor and the other buzzing with the energy of sponsors peddling their wares. Walking around the Trailhead room, passing through the waterfall, I sat in on sessions around new and enhanced features, and accidently caught an enlightening talk on mentorship, and talked the ear off of the Salesforce Experts at the “Admin Tips and Tricks” and “Process Automation” kiosks.

Naturally, collecting thousands of ops people in the same town gathered some old friends I had the pleasure of meeting up with to discuss our latest challenges and projects in our roles. There’s definitely a certain type of person that’s drawn to the sales operations role  — they’re intellectually curious and natural problem solvers and helpful while also possessing a vulnerability that comes with the insatiable drive to improve. The ops people I’ve met are always willing to admit their mistakes, or knowledge gaps or open questions in a hope that the community (check out our Slack group) can help. The connections I’ve made at home in Boston, or at Dreamforce all kick-off with a quick and easy bond and are sustained by a strong common understanding of our profession.

I also had an interesting, and probably somewhat unique experience since I traveled with 39 (yes, 39), coworkers. InsightSquared had a massive showing at Dreamforce and, experiencing it from the sidelines, was a fascinating exercise of watching them sell to sales ops people. There’s a natural symbiosis that exists between salespeople and sales operations — right alongside our natural friction. Sales ops people live in systems and process – we represent the rules that get in their way, process that slows them down, and the technology that’s not always easy to pick up or use. Sales teams are fascinating creatures and to be in a role, like sales operations, that supports them you need to have empathy and respect for them. Sales is an (obviously) crucial role to the business and to do what they do requires a certain persona and skill set that’s different than ours. There’s also no fun in homogeneity — our sales team makes the office a fun place and I learn from them every day. Their showing at Dreamforce, live and in action with customers and prospects, was impressive, and I was proud to be a part of their team.

As Dreamforce came to a close, I left Moscone with a re-ignited enthusiasm for my chosen profession – its present and future. Settling back into reality back in Boston, I recognize that Dreamforce left an indelible mark on my fledgling career. I feel grateful I was able to have that experience, that I found a career path early on that’s such a good fit and surrounds me with people of this caliber, and recommend Dreamforce to all who love this ecosystem like I do.

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