Jill Dignan’s advice to thrive on the Salesforce Ecosystem

Jill Dignan’s advice to thrive on the Salesforce Ecosystem

Sam Yarborough talks to Jill Dignan about her experience in the Salesforce ecosystem and her role as Chief Growth Officer at V2. They also talk about the growth of the Salesforce ecosystem, how V2 fits into the ecosystem, work/life balance, her advice to women in Partnerships, and more.

Sam Yarborough talks to Jill Dignan about her experience in the Salesforce ecosystem and her role as Chief Growth Officer at V2. They also talk about the growth of the Salesforce ecosystem, how V2 fits into the ecosystem, work/life balance, her advice to women in Partnerships, and more.

Sam Yarborough: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Jill Dignan: Sure, I’m Jill Dignan, I have been working in the Salesforce ecosystem for over 13 years now. I stumbled into the Salesforce space, as many people do. I had some exposure to CRM and sales tech stack in some of my earlier jobs, and even though it wasn’t necessarily part of my role, I became the go-to person to help with technology questions.

I was self-taught on the CRM front and had the opportunity to work for a small Salesforce consultancy in 2010. I started as a consultant and then worked my way up from there, spending a lot of time in project management, as well as on the design and configuration front. I worked with major companies like Hearst Magazines and AOL at the time, so I did quite a bit of work with some of Salesforce’s larger media customers. After that, I moved into management and led delivery, and then took a step out of delivery into more of an operationally focused role, working as the COO for a couple of years.

At the end of 2020, I was asked to take on the role of Chief Growth Officer to help us transition from a founder-led sales model to a more scalable model to meet the growth demands ahead. I’ve been doing that since, and I think I’ve really found my footing and what I want to continue to do in the space. It’s been an amazing journey going from being part of a really small partner organization with around 20 people to now around 100 and growing.

 

salesforce ecosystem
Jill Dignan, Chief Growth Officer at V2

Sam Yarborough: What does your company do? What’s V2’s focus?

Jill Dignan: We are a Salesforce consulting partner. Our job is to help customers love Salesforce and make it work better for them and their industry, by aligning processes and people with Salesforce’s technology. We work predominantly with high growth, enterprise, and global companies. As a Salesforce partner, we work with some of the biggest brands out there to provide advisory services or full-blown transformation consulting centered around the Salesforce platform.

Sam Yarborough: You were talking about people and companies aligning up to the Salesforce ecosystem. For someone new to that space, what advice would you give them to be most effective?

Jill Dignan: For people who are new, it’s really just about maximizing your resources. There are so many resources available, and it’s exponentially increasing every year. Learning about the technology, learning about the ecosystem through self-led journeys, and all of the Trailblazer materials that Salesforce provides are really good. You can teach yourself, get certifications on your own, and it’s always helpful when you work for a company, since they can sponsor those activities.

Sam Yarborough: Currently as Chief Growth Officer, you oversee Sales and Channel. So how do Channel and Partnerships fit into your overall strategy? And furthermore, is it ‌a nice to have, or is it a fundamental function for V2?

Jill Dignan: That’s a great question. As I mentioned earlier, I took on the Chief Growth Officer role as a tour of duty to help transition us from a founder-led model into a sales model that would scale, and the focus on the channel was a big part of my strategy. At the time, we were participating in channel lead cycles and joint pursuits, but it was more sporadic and reactive. 

However, from being in the ecosystem for a long time and working with other people in my network, I knew the importance of having a really well-defined channel strategy. I think going back to your question on whether it’s a nice-to-have or fundamental, I believe it’s incredibly fundamental, especially when you’re a small and growing Salesforce partner. While there are well-known consulting partners out there like Deloitte and Accenture, smaller or lesser-known companies, or even larger companies looking to accelerate growth within specific markets, really benefit from channel partnerships.

Channel partnerships play a critical role in scaling and creating shortcuts for organizations to enter new markets and open up new revenue streams. They are fundamental to growth, and that was a big part of my focus in 2021. I analyzed what our partnership looked like at the time, what it could look like, and where other partners were seeing the benefits of playing the game differently. I also focused on how we could lean into more opportunities with Salesforce and create a true, consistent and scalable lead gen engine.

Introducing channel partnerships can certainly bring complexity to sales cycles because partner organizations may operate with ‌different cultural values, SOPs, and end goals, which may conflict with with your own. Joint sales cycles and pursuits are admitedly complex. Still, overall, I believe that the better-together approach is available for those who want to take advantage of it. Strategic partnerships can help maximize relationships, increase the quality of the sales cycle and customer experience, and ultimately create a one-plus-one-equals-three approach that can drive more sustainable success.

Sam Yarborough: That’s really interesting because when I took over our Salesforce partnership, we were so reactive. There was no proactive strategy to create a pipeline or an actual forecast for revenue coming from partners. Do you have any motions or success stories you’d be willing to share on ‌how you’ve done this with Salesforce‌? Is it finding pockets of influence? Is it working with certain teams? What have you found to be really moving the needle for you?

Jill Dignan: When it comes to channel partnerships, people often see it as the softer side of sales. They view channel management as alliance relationship building and not as much of a strategic area of the business as they might acknowledge on the direct side. That’s why organizations can end up in a similar position to where our company was in earlier years. To make channel partnerships successful, it’s important to look at your approach with the channel no differently than you would with the direct side. You need a solid GTM strategy, and you must think about a compelling message, how to market within the channel, and how to get people excited. So, establishing the go-to-market with your channel, which may be similar, but slightly different than your go-to-market plan and messaging on the direct side, is critical to any channel partnerships efforts. We started by defining who we are, what our brand looks like from a direct perspective, and how we can translate that into a way that makes sense for the channel. We focused on defining our industry focus, the clouds, the types of projects and programs we can support, and repackaging that in ways that would be easy for Salesforce to understand. Salesforce has thousands of partners globally, so having a compelling message and packaging it in a way that they can understand is really important.

Another key to our success has been focusing on channel enablement. We recognize that we’re one of many partners that Salesforce can choose to work with, there is a lot of noise in the ecosystem and a lot of alternatives. We focus on giving back to Salesforce and adding value to our joint efforts. We’ve done a lot of industry-specific enablement, for example, executing sessions with different teams that sell into media where we focus on media industry fundamentals, the prospect-to-cash flow, the common pain points, where Salesforce’s solutions best align, etc. We also spend a lot of time focused on providing our consulting and advisory services back to Salesforce by bringing our expertise to reps who may not have deep industry or Cloud-specific experience.

Sam Yarborough: I love that, it’s pretty unique. So you‌ talked about this earlier, but I know that this is a pain felt across partnership people everywhere. I speak for us all right now that are creating complexities in the sales cycle, how do you align your field team to be partner-friendly?

Jill Dignan: There’s, you know, certain reps and teams that are easier to work with, others that are more challenging. So while we have a general approach, I think it is case by case. As a partner that’s trying to grow and also break into some new areas, flexibility is the name of the game–we are a smaller fish in a big pond, so we sometimes need to show a little bit more flexibility and adaptability. But we also need to continue to do work with integrity, so we will never sacrifice integrity for any deals that we’re running independently, and certainly any that we’re collaborating with Salesforce on. If we feel like the customer’s asking for something that we can’t deliver on or within the budget that they’re requiring, we may have to work with Salesforce to determine if we are really the right partner for the deal.

So I think it’s flexibility and adaptability, but within reason, and not abandoning your core values just to make the sale. I try to encourage our field team to think of ourselves as that extension of the Salesforce team, and conversely, they’re an extension of ours. And so how do we build that camaraderie? We employe several tactics. Slack has actually been a big part of our collaboration this year. We weren’t using it as much in 2021, but in 2022, and heading into 2023, we’ve been relying on that to create joint channels and share assets, and make sure that we’re staying up to speed on joint pursuits. So I think the collaboration and responsiveness, sometimes remembering we’re‌ all in this together, and not saying it’s us versus them. We have this opportunity to be better together and let’s take advantage of it.

Sam Yarborough: Yeah, thank God for slack. How can a partner manager collaborate with a Chief Growth Officer or Chief Sales Officer to grow revenue and expansion opportunities for the company?

Jill Dignan: Well, I think the first step would be to have a well-defined partnership strategy that includes collaboration points and proper cadences with other stakeholders, including the Chief Growth officer or Chief Sales Officer. We need to identify the right people that should have a seat at the table and ensure that there are proper channels to get them involved along the way.

Additionally, it’s important to think about what a successful partnership program would look like and how we could generate leads in a sustainable, innovative and natural way. A good exercise to achieve this could be to imagine “if our business had to rely 100% on partnerships to generate leads, then what that would look like.”

However, it’s important to be careful not to get stuck in trying to replicate what other partners are doing. Instead, understand your company’s DNA and what makes it unique. That way, you can determine your own way to stand out and not just copy what other partners are doing. Finally, think about your unique assets and capabilities and what your channel strategy looks like from that perspective.

Sam Yarborough: I think that’s great. Looking back at your career so far, what mistakes have you made? What advice would you share with women?

Jill Dignan: I’ve made a lot of mistakes; we always talk about learning from failure, and it’s real. Sometimes you don’t even fully realize what some of those mistakes or failures are until many years down the road.

In my twenties one of the biggest pieces of advice I got as a woman in business was to “Fake it till you make it”. And “Don’t don’t say no to a promotion;” and “Don’t say no to an opportunity because there’s a man right behind you that is going to say yes.” I think on the whole, that’s somewhat good advice ‌for many women, but I think it‌ creates some challenges along the way. When you are constantly thinking that you’re having to fake it, you’re not really recognizing the value that you’re bringing to the table. And you might end up in a situation where you don’t recognize your worth. I think women can‌ get caught in that trap of “I’m still faking it, I’m not quite there yet”.


So I think my biggest lesson learned, going from my twenties to my thirties, was really learning when to embrace that mantra to help boost my confidence, but also learning when to abandon it and recognize my worth. Not only understanding my value, but I also doing work that I feel commensurate ‌with that value.

Sam Yarborough: I love that, great advice. How about work and life balance? What does that look like in your life?

Jill Dignan: That’s a great question. There’s so much out there on this topic, and I’ve digested many podcasts, books and articles over the years. The way I see it, there are two general camps of thought. You have people who say you can’t have it all, and there’s no such thing as work/life balance. You also have people that are convinced that you can get to ‌this place in ‌your day-to day life and your career if you just maximize your productivity and life hack the right way.

I don’t really know if I have the answer. But one of the things that I’ve learned is the way you define work/life balance is very personal. It goes back to where you are in your career and where you are in your life. There are going to be times in your life where your career just demands more, and that may mean making sacrifices on the personal side. And there will be other times where you make sacrifices on the work front. I don’t think anyone ever really strikes this perfect balance, and it’s really looked different for me throughout my entire career.

The way that I define it now, is making sure that I do have a good division of where I’m spending my time, both workwise ‌and on the personal side. I make sure I don’t feel guilty about taking time off and likewise, don’t feel guilt for missing out on the personal side from time to time because of work demands. Each decision on priorities is deliberate. So if I need to wrap up work early, to grab dinner with a friend or go to my son’s swim lessons, it’s not just the act of taking the time off to do those things, but it’s also making sure that I don’t let myself feel guilty because I’ve had to decline a meeting. It’s less about balance and more about mental state.

Additional notes:

  • You are welcome to connect with Jill and Sam on LinkedIn  – mention Partnership Leaders in your connect invite
  • Get advice from and connect with hundreds of powerful women in partnerships from different backgrounds. Join Partnership Leaders’ Women in Partnerships group. Hundreds of industry professionals turn to Partnership Leaders for support with their latest projects, answers to burning questions and more. 
  • Dig deeper into the career journeys of impactful ladies in the industry when you download Powerful Women in Partnerships. Get inspiration on more powerful women in the industry in our Women in Partnerships spotlights.

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