Communities of Practice: How Sales Hacker Built a Community That Helps over 38,000 B2B Sales Pros
In the Sales Hacker community, aspiring and seasoned sales pros share their experience, ask questions, and get help directly from each other.
What’s the secret to crafting catchy subject lines? Is it right and fair to befriend the Gatekeeper? How do you close a deal when you’ve lost control? If you’re in B2B sales getting answers to these questions can be invaluable.
Sales Hacker started with events, then grew to add multimedia content. In 2018, Outreach.io, makers of sales execution software, acquired Sales Hacker. With this new support, Sales Hacker launched a community where aspiring and seasoned sales professionals can share their experience, ask questions, and get help directly from each other.
Since 2018, Sales Hacker has grown to become one of the top Communities of Practice for all things B2B sales with over 38,000 members.
Mary Green worked as a Community Strategist for Sales Hacker and helped lead the new community to 15,000 members in the first 10 months. She shares her experience and what she learned from her time building this community.
Going from one-to-many to many-to-many
Mary: Max started Sales Hacker to bring together people in the sales community who wanted to learn and stay on top of what was changing with sales modernizing and new technology being used. Sales Hacker started out with blogging and email. They had weekly webinars and events where our partners would share some of their strategies, expertise, and what they were working on. But for years, there was no discussion community.
The team decided to launch a community forum on the site and started building the community that way. They needed someone with community experience to come in and help. I came in about two months before we launched the forum on the site and helped get that strategy together.
I started by connecting with all of the people who had contributed content. I got to know them, their expertise, and what they were willing to do to help us start that community forum. When we launched the forum within two weeks, we had 1,000 people that signed up for the community to be members. It wasn't just the emails anymore or blogging, it was now a discussion forum where people could come and have conversations. They called it ‘Going from one-to-many to many-to-many’.”
Even the top salespeople want to keep learning, so they can stay on top
Mary: In the community, we had a lot of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and Business Development Representatives (BDRs) who were earlier in their sales careers join. Maybe they haven't fully figured out their strategy for being successful, or they're just really trying to see what else was out there.
We also had a lot of people who were account executives, and people in even more senior positions. There were many levels of networking, and everyone was just trying to learn more about the craft of sales and stay ahead of what's happening in the industry. We had people participate who were the top salespeople in their company. They wanted to make sure they stayed on top of learning so that they could continue being successful.
We had interesting conversations about cold email, about cold calling, and how you would start your conversation when you call someone. A lot of topics were focused on earlier sales careers, and we had people coming in that were later in their career answering those topics and sharing their experience.
We grew over time
Mary: Because Sales Hacker had already been around for a while, they, had a large list of email members that we could reach out to. So while we worked on social media promotions, and sharing what the community was doing on social media, we also had a newsletter that we would send out once a month. We’d share what's going on in the community to that list of people that hadn't joined yet, or they were just on the email list. So that was one of the ways we brought in new people.
We also tried to integrate the community more with the webinars that we were hosting or having more events so that the influencers that were participating in those events would share with their followers and encourage them to join the community.
Then we also had exclusive content, opportunities, events, and features on the site that they could only access by signing up. We already had a lot of organic traffic from the blog, that was another way that we drove new signups. It all added up. We grew over time.
Outreach was happy with having the Sales Hacker community discussion launched. They liked it because they got to see more ideas for the content, they got to hear more from SDRs and Account Executives and start building out those relationships. Eventually, they could share more about what Outreach was and how it could help them. And I think it was a branding effort as well. Even though Sales Hacker didn't constantly talk about being an Outreach company, people learned over time, as we talked about it in different ways, and started tying that brand and logo to what we were working on.
Start small, really build out the one-on-one relationships, and keep it interesting
Mary: There's so many communities out there right now that are launching around the exact same topics. As community professionals, we share a lot between ourselves, about what's working, what's not working. And that cross-pollination is great, but then we end up having communities that are very similar unless we look for, and build out those unique ideas. If I were starting a new community, that's where I would focus. Start small, stay interesting. And build those unique programs.
The thing is, any new programs you start are layered on top of your community. So you have the community itself, your discussions, and then you have blogging, and then you have your webinars, and it's all layered on, but the more that you can make those programs unique the better.
It’s difficult! You have to be creative, and you have to take the time to really sit and think about what your community experience is, and how that's changed over time. For example, one of the things we started, which wasn't super common at the time, was one-on-one calls. Another one was when we hired Katie Ray who came on and put together roundtables. And that was fairly new, but now it’s two years later, and everyone's kind of doing that. Those unique programs added a lot of value to the community.
Start building the things internally that will secure community in the future
Mary: It’s important to build those relationships with the community internally. You want to understand what the different teams are working on and continuously show the value of the community. One of the things I did when developing a community strategy was learning what the marketing team needed, learning what their goals were, talking to sales and sales enablement, and trying to find areas where there were low hanging fruit that I could easily share some value from the community without taking away any goodwill from the community.
For example, with education, it would be sharing ideas or content that people in the community kept saying, ‘I’d really like to learn more about this’. Then we can send that over to education. As you're doing that and helping them be successful, a little bit here, a little bit there, they will start making more time for you. Then you’ll be able to say, okay, we could really use your help, would you jump in the community 10 minutes a week. That back and forth assistance is important.
I wouldn't say we necessarily broke down silos, but we shared information in a way that the company was not set up to do it yet. So if I hear about something going on in sales. And then I talked to marketing, and here's something they were working on. Oh, you should reach out to so and so on sales because that's what they're working on. It just created more opportunities for crossover. One of my favorite things about community, one of the things I'm constantly hitting on is one to one relationships. Your relationship with the different roles and members in your community. Really getting to know people your partners, your stakeholders, and all of those internal support people that can be there, because over time, boards change companies change, people leave, a new leader comes in they change their budget, they want results from community in three weeks or three months instead of a year and a half. If you’ve built up those community connections internally, that gives you the support you need, in case the future changes.
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