The Surprising Rise of WFH Sales Productivity with Ryan Barretto, Sprout Social

Offices closing around the world forced B2B SaaS sales and marketing teams to alter course in selling their products. It also changed companies’ sales cultures and left leaders worrying: Would sales productivity take a dive? How can we hold our teams accountable with emotions at an all-time high?

In this episode of SaaS Half Full, host Lindsey Groepper chats with Ryan Barretto, SVP Global Sales at Sprout Social. When his sales team went remote, the traditional framework of 9-5 sales pivoted, and Ryan and his team contended with the new constructs of an at-home office life. He shares how his inbound-heavy sales team pivoted to meet customers’ needs through a tumultuous year (spoiler: education trumped empathy) and what SaaS CMOs should understand about the new demands of their social media managers.

SaaS Sales Productivity Rises While Remote

Sprout Social’s entire sales team left the office in March and still works from home — a seismic shift for salespeople used to operating in close proximity. But, rather than dwell on what was lost, Ryan says his team focused on their customers and what they needed.

“During this time where budgets are tight, customers can get distracted. But the need for digital, especially social, has never been higher,” he said. “Adding value really matters. And that’s something so many of our team really do — they focus on this idea of delivering more value than is expected of them.”

That drive quickly translated into something which, admittedly, surprised Ryan – higher productivity from team members working from home. Sprout Social generates about 95% of revenue from inbound traffic and trials, according to Ryan, which he says put the company in a fortunate position. Ryan’s team pivoted quickly to incorporating digital-only solutions into their nurture path while making each customer feel special. 

“We’ve really leaned into getting customers’ hands on the keyboard,” he said. “We’re big believers that in this modern environment, the right way to evaluate and buy software is actually to try before you buy. So for our team, we spend a lot of time with customers actually getting them into the product, working with them and showing them exactly how they can utilize it. We want them to feel fantastic about us as a team and about our technology before they ever sign a contract.”

From Empathy to Education

Based on gathered social data, Ryan says early on, companies wanted to demonstrate empathy, but over time, that transformed into education on how to thrive in the current market. “We moved a lot of our own content for our customers from that empathy, mental-health focus and community focus into focusing on things like education, and how to better utilize the tools they had and how to better utilize Sprout’s tools, given the market we’re in,” he said.

Education became paramount as social media was placed under a more scrutinizing microscope. Between the pandemic, a renewed focus on racial inequity and other serious issues, social media managers had a tremendous challenge in balancing empathy and education while staying on-brand. Given social media never slows down, they also had to do this “at the speed of social,” as Ryan puts it.

Ryan’s team stepped in and helped many of Sprout’s customers make those adjustments. “We absolutely saw a lot of inbound demand from our customers asking for feedback on content, what is working and what’s resonating for customers,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and effort creating content for our customers based on social listening data.”

It also demonstrated the kind of community that’s built around social media and its practitioners: “It’s an amazing community. The folks within social, as you might imagine, are very social, and they do a lot to help each other out,” Ryan said. “We’re very grateful for the customers we have.”

SaaS CMOs Have More to Offer Social

And social media managers will need all the help they can get from their companies. As Ryan notes, their value reaches far beyond posts: “They’re moving at the speed of social, and there’s so much pressure to get it right because of the microscope on that team,” he said. “They are a direct representation of your brand. And they’re connecting with your audience and your customer every day. They have the voice of the customer — the ones that you know and the customers that you want — and then manage some of the most valuable data and insights you have.”

Social media managers play a critical role in engaging audiences, and Ryan calls on SaaS CMOs to better equip them to accomplish their roles. “Find ways to give them a seat at the table, and find ways to take their insights to the rest of the company,” he said. “Because that social engagement, that voice of the customer, and that data can influence sales and product and customer service in such a material way.”

For more of Ryan’s insights, listen to Episode 303 of SaaS Half Full.