Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with John Knight, Salesforce Practice Lead at Marketwake, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and John had a far-ranging conversation that touched on John’s non-accidental admin background, tips for building community on LinkedIn, and what makes a great partner to a Salesforce consulting firm. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Background on Marketwake
Zak: Can you start by sharing about your role at Marketwake?
John: Marketwake has a mid-market to enterprise focus for Salesforce consulting and projects.
Marketwake started out as a marketing agency—digital advertising, websites, email automation. It then expanded into CRM, realizing that marketing only goes so far if you don’t have a strong integrated sales process to follow through. Now we are closing the gap from marketing to sales to help bring the revenue across the finish line.
Zak: Sales and marketing alignment has long been one of my areas of interest.
John: It can be hard work, but there’s a big payoff. That expansion sales and CRM brought Marketwake into the Salesforce world, which aligns with my background.
Zak: Are there certain verticals that you specialize in?
John: We have a diverse client base across many industries. Some of the ones we see often are manufacturing, pharma, and SaaS companies.
Zak: Are you playing the role of Salesforce admin for your customers?
John: Our mid-market clients typically have a team of admins—in some cases, even six or seven on their internal team. We’re coming in to help deliver on a specific project with more resources. For some of our smaller clients, we also serve as their admin team.
Zak: Can you share an example of what one those projects typically looks like?
John: We just finished up a project that centered around the contract review process for our customer. They had multiple teams across their sales process working in isolation and passing documents back and forth by email.
All of the teams were actually in Salesforce, but they weren’t using Salesforce to collaborate. The first step was to map out the complete sales process from a business perspective before designing a technical solution. By the end of the project, we had built a cohesive flow in Salesforce that managed the sales process from the first time the opportunity was identified all the way through the quoting and contracting process.
This cohesive process not only helped with reporting and visibility, but also accelerated the sales process with seamless handoffs and communication among teams. Streamlining the sales process is one of the first projects many clients start with because it directly impacts revenue.
The Non-Accidental Admin
Zak: How did you get into the Salesforce world in the first place?
John: I’m a non-accidental admin.
Zak: It’s funny you start with that because that seems to be the first way admins identify themselves—either accidental or non-accidental. I’ve talked to a bunch of both as part of this Formstack partner series.
John: I worked in IT at United Technology Group. I knew people who worked in Salesforce and at Salesforce. It sounded like a fun, rewarding area to work in where you are impacting the business.
I liked the idea of integrating business process and tying that to business impact. So I started learning on Trailhead and was fortunate to be able to make an internal job transition and implement Salesforce.
Zak: I love that story because you were opportunistic and found an opportunity for yourself based on where you wanted to take your career.
John: That’s a common question I get now: “How do I become a Salesforce admin?” My answer is that you need to be willing to take on a related role to build relevant experience. That could be sales operations, analytics, or IT…or even sales development—anything to start learning it and getting closer to the groups that are managing it in your business. That’s just as important as any certification.
Zak: I think that’s great advice. You mentioned certifications. Fast forward to now, how many certifications are you up to?
John: I’m up to five. My first was October 2016. I like to keep learning and gaining experience. I now have Admin, Advanced Admin, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and App Builder.
Zak: What’s next?
John: I’m debating between Pardot Specialist and Platform Development.
Zak: And we need to get you officially Formstack for Salesforce and Formstack Documents certified soon as well.
John: Absolutely. I’ve been impressed with Formstack since the first demo I saw over a year ago, and I’m eager to learn more.
Leveraging LinkedIn for Community
Zak: I think you knew Formstack previously, but we recently became engaged through LinkedIn. We should tell that story.
John: I’m very active on LinkedIn. I had made a post showing the stickers on my laptop, and your SVP Beau Brooks commented.
Zak: Yes, he tagged me on that, and then we got you some Formstack swag.
John: Yep. I knew you from Dreamforce and Southeast Dreamin’, so I knew the name, and I had seen the software. I appreciated the engagement and the swag!
Zak: Since then, I’ve been connected to you on LinkedIn, and I can tell you’re building up a great Salesforce peer group there.
John: I’ve connected with great people there. We also love to bring the online relationships offline whenever we can. We have local meet-ups in Atlanta, the Atlanta World tour, Dreamforce.
Zak: How did you land on LinkedIn as a key part of your Salesforce community building and networking?
John: That first Salesforce admin role I took combined sales operations and sales development. I did a little bit of everything. Part of that was prospecting on LinkedIn.
I became very active with connecting with people and sharing content. And I haven’t stopped since.
Zak: I’m also a big fan. Really the whole partner team at Formstack is very active with our partners and the community on LinkedIn. And Beau is a LinkedIn power user, for sure.
So what’s the secret to a great LinkedIn post?
John: A great post is honest and one where you show a little bit of vulnerability. A slightly controversial or opinionated post can also start some great conversation.
Zak: Do you recall your top view or engaged post ever?
John: I think one of the top is a recent post I made on my Service Cloud certification. In the post, I talked about experience and training for the certification. I commented on how I got to that point, and what I didn’t study to do the certification. I got some great engagement on that one.
Zak: What tips would you give to someone getting started on LinkedIn?
John: Start posting and start engaging. There isn’t a right or wrong. It’s just about being present and engaging in the conversation. It becomes addictive. I spend more time on LinkedIn than on all other social media platforms combined.
Zak: What other—either online or local—communities are you part of?
Whenever I can make it out to Atlanta Salesforce Saturday events, I do that. It’s a great way to connect with people in the area. Being in Atlanta is a huge advantage. We have the Salesforce tower here, and some major events like World Tour and Southeast Dreamin’.
Partnering with Software Vendors
Zak: You’re so active in the Salesforce community. I’d love to get your take on partnership. We’re investing in partners in a big way. What do you look for in the software vendors in and around Salesforce that you may decide to partner with?
John: The first, must-have, is that it needs to offer value to our clients. What problems are you solving? What are the use cases?
Then we’re looking for collaborative relationships. Getting to know each other’s business. Things like these interviews. See how we can work together to make it mutual. We’re not just looking for a referral fee or commission and we’re done. Social media engagement. Thought leadership. That all matters.
Zak: We hear that a lot from our partners, and that kind of collaboration is the fun part in partnership.
John: Absolutely. And then we want a partner who will hop on the phone together with the client. Make sure we can solve client needs as they come up. We want the relationship to carry through to implementation and support.
It’s interesting, though, because it’s about striking a balance. Some vendors insist on doing all the work themselves, and that’s not ideal either, because our clients are typically looking to us to align the solution with their business needs.
Zak: Right, so it’s about providing the resources and support to be successful. That’s the balance you are looking for.
John: Yes, 100%. We want to guide the implementation, with the resources and support from the vendor to be successful and get help when it’s needed.
Zak: That’s great. It’s very much in line with our values in how we’ve set up our program and partner relationships.
Zak: Alright, great discussion. Let’s wrap up with a lightning round to learn a bit more about you.
What are some of your personal interests?
John: Bouldering. Chess. Hanging in downtown Duluth. There is a town green we go to every Friday night to get margaritas.
Zak: Bouldering and chess. At the same time?
John: The bouldering is like rock climbing, but you don’t go as high and you don’t have a harness. And no, not while playing chess. The chess I usually play a few games a week on Chess.com.
Zak: What’s your favorite productivity tip?
John: One of my recent ones is use tags in Gmail to help with inbox management.
Zak: Are you down to inbox zero?
John: I’m close. I’m down to 16, and about half of those came in since we started talking.
Zak: What’s your favorite TV show?
John: “Burn Notice”
Zak: What’s your go-to lunch during the workday?
John: Just a granola bar. That gets me through the day most of the time. Unless the office is buying pizza, then I’m all in on that.
Zak: Speaking of food, here’s the last question we ask all of our partners in this series: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
John: It depends on how the bun is sliced. When the bun is sliced sideways, then it’s a yes. The defining characteristics of a sandwich are having a piece of bread on the top and bottom with something in between, so a hotdog bun sliced from the top wouldn’t qualify.
Zak: That may be the best answer I’ve heard yet.