I remember my first day as a sales manager at AWS in 2010. Our sales team was pretty small compared to AWS today, but it was the most diverse ecosystem of client and partner profiles that I worked with in my career to date and it had little organizational structure. Holding some of my first sales team reviews, we would spend 5-10 minutes getting up-to-speed on the history and workload profile on a per client basis. The problem that we had with this custom approach, was that the scale of clients per sales rep at the time was measured in the thousands. I needed a new common cloud sales language to communicate commonalities and patterns among our client base. This common language should should aid clients, and AWS teams, reach the outcomes that they were aiming for.
AWS clients developing software at high-velocity were supported by the same sales person helping an enterprise move 3rd party software applications out of the data center and into AWS. We called these “developer” and “enterprise” workloads. It gave us a way to quickly define different types of clients as we communicated internally. How could we make it easier for our “developer” and “enterprise” clients to reach successful outcomes and what were the range of outcomes that were possible for these clients depending on their own capabilities?
Some “developer” clients needed help with how the underlying AWS infrastructure worked or to pass along feature requests to AWS product teams to make their experience better. Other “developer” clients needed help with their software development process in addition to needing AWS expertise. The types of internal AWS assistance, as well as external partner expertise, I needed to help “developer” clients would be different based on the outcome that they were trying to achieve. By identifying a specific outcome based on a client workload profile and using common language across the sales team, it let us identify and build a partner ecosystem focused on these same outcomes while using a shared language across our team.
Developing A Common Language
In 2010, there wasn’t a lot of mainstream writing on public cloud and in particular for the developer use case of public cloud. Even today, the majority of the public cloud sales ecosystem is immature relative to other areas of technology. It’s rare for me to come across a sales organization in the public cloud space that uses a shared sales or client-outcome language.
The majority of the sales teams in the public cloud space have less than two years experience in this industry. If you are a sales leader and you see the value in developing a common language across your team based on client outcomes, I would highly recommend reading The Phoenix Project and asking your sales team (and entire company) to read it also. Host a company-wide book club and ask your teams for similar client examples that they see in their interactions based on the story in the book.
The reason that this book makes such a great tool in framing a language is that most of your sales team will never go through the same client sales cycles together. Each sales cycle and client is different. By using the journey that the fictional client goes through in the book, you will have a platform to develop a language defining the outcomes that you can help your different client types achieve. You may also learn that there are outcomes that your sales team is working to achieve for clients that your company isn’t best positioned to provide.
How Does A Language Help My Ecosystem Efforts?
Once you have developed a language for describing the outcomes, as well as the different client types, you can work through your sales motions to discover elements where you need partnerships to successfully scale. This scaling function should not only be focused on your existing sales efforts but it should identify how to help clients achieve additional outcomes to expand your addressable market.
By approaching new and existing partners with an explicit notion of how they fit into achieving specific client outcomes, you can harness your entire sales force interacting consistently across their day-to-day discussions in all of their markets. This should drive metrics associated with existing alliances partners to invest in as well areas to target new partners.