Episode UnleashSummitSeries

How to Build a Virtual Sales Team

Guest: Britney Bartlett, Senior Director of Global Virtual Sales Specialists at Cisco

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About This Episode

Customers have changed their buying behaviors, and we need to meet them where they are now.

I recently interviewed Britney Bartlett, senior director of global virtual sales specialists at Cisco, about how to create a virtual sales specialist team with the people you already have.

Under her leadership, the team partnered with marketing, operations, and CX to deliver an industry-leading responsive customer experience. 

Most recently, Brittany has brought together teams across several Cisco organizations to create a new group called the Global Virtual Sales Specialists (GVSS).

Global virtual sales specialists

Cisco has been transitioning for a number of years. Software has become a larger component of the business. 

“As we do that, we want it to bring together both our digital sales motion, which is obviously our lead development and conversion,” Britney said, “but then actually combine that with our specialist organization.” 

Cisco blends account managers with sales specialists in order to go to market. The virtual sales specialist team builds that end-to-end motion by bringing together the inside sales team, inside sales specialists, and digital sales. It goes where customers need Cisco to go.

“Which is really exciting,” Britney said.

Why change things?

“We grew up in a very enterprise-centric company,” Britney said. “We had people that would go out and meet with our customers.”

That environment still exists. It isn’t going away. 

But for now, many customers want to engage, buy, or get information differently. Even with its globally recognized brand, Cisco needed an agile, nimble way to reach those customers.

The company had to match customers with experts in the products or solutions they were interested in. Next level? Inside sales specialist. Then, inside sales account managers who can take the opportunity forward.

“It’s all about understanding where our customers need to go and being there to reach them differently,” Britney said. 

How to implement change in a big organization

Cisco employs more than 20,000 sellers globally. So it’s a very large organization. To pilot something with 200 people offered a unique opportunity. 

“It’s been a great learning opportunity to look not only in the industry,” Britney said, “but also at what we’re seeing in other pockets of the company and bring those together.” 

You’ve got to test, learn, try things, and determine where the gaps are. To learn what works, you have to test your ideas in a safe way that doesn’t interrupt the rest of the business. That allows the team to express its ideas with confidence. 

“A huge piece of our success is the ability to do that,” Britney said.

Piloting to learn

Change is hard, and a lot of people are afraid of it.

That’s why it’s important to pilot, test, and learn first. Work out some of the kinks, especially when you’re taking on a go-to-market challenge of this magnitude and importance.

How to take the first step

Leaders often want to know how to take the first step when embarking on a huge initiative like this one. After all, you experience a range of emotions, from overwhelmed to excited. But what are the practical tools you need to make it through the transition?

“I would be nowhere if it wasn’t for my team,” Britney said. “I’m here to help guide the ship, but they are actually the people who make all of the magic happen.”

Success emerges from the team’s culture. At Cisco, that culture stretches across sales, marketing, and operations. So it’s not just one team that’s getting things done. It takes a village.

Because it takes so many people, you have to ask yourself how to create supportive partnerships across multi-disciplinary teams. That requires grit, determination, a solid roadmap, timeliness, key milestones, and a lot of operational discipline and executive support.

“Those were some of the things,” Britney noted, “but really, the secret sauce is always the people, right? Those are the people that make it happen.”

With the benefit of hindsight, what could I have done differently to change the outcome of that engagement? 

Know where your people are. Recognize that exhaustion and mental health concerns are real. Especially given everything going on right now. That’s always top of mind.

More broadly, these two issues drive transformation:

1. People

You cannot achieve success without your team and your partners. Treat each other with that in mind. 

2. Plan

Have a plan. Stick to it. Execute it ruthlessly. 

You could spend time powering a lot of priorities, but you’ve got to get efficient at looking at the things that actually move your needle. Make strategic investments. Put your team’s time and energy there to drive transformation. Otherwise people can get busy doing a lot of things, but you’re not actually reaching your goals. 

Be ruthless about your plan. Track it. And don’t forget to celebrate the milestones along the way.

You can get in touch with Britney about GVSS on LinkedIn.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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