Interview of a Trailblazer – Michael Allen on how to get a high adoption in Salesforce leveraging listening, training and fun

Could you tell me how you got started in your Sales career and ended up on your current role?

I actually didn’t even start my career in sales. I started out working in the corporate trade industry, which is unfamiliar to a lot of people. In short, I worked on the media side of a company that traded assets for advertising. I was in that industry for 15 years, eventually switching to the sales side. Upon entering the sales side of the business years ago, I was introduced to Salesforce. I generally have a passion for technology and at the time we had a platform that nobody knew how to utilize properly, which was Salesforce. I eventually took the reins and became what is known today as an “accidental admin”. My love for technology and ability to control Salesforce from a sales user perspective had propelled me into a position where I was constantly helping people get set up, become more efficient, and even just work smarter. I generally found it very rewarding to be able to help people individually and collectively. Eventually, I became a skilled admin with a personable approach and a sales background. I find it comes naturally for me to be able to put people’s wants and needs of a platform into a user-friendly, easily understood format. Fast forward to today, I joined a great company by the name of Dynarex where we implemented Salesforce from scratch and have built a widely used and very user-friendly platform for our global sales team, Customer Care team, and Marketing team. 

What was your childhood dream career and why?

Just like most young boys, I had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Growing up there was just nothing more compelling or exciting than being part of a great team. I am extremely competitive with myself and always wanted to be the best I could for whatever team I was on. It took me well into my 30s to realize that it wasn’t the professional sport I was built for, it is the joy of being part of a successful team where your contributions matter and make changes in everyday lives for the better. A team is a team, no matter the situation, and being a part of a successful one is what it is all about.

What is the one habit which you tend to do on a regular basis which has made you successful in your career?

This seems really simple, but it is 100% true. Listening — Listening to the needs, concerns, and feelings of others and being able to implement strategies and processes accordingly. I find that when you listen to people and put the things you hear into action, people naturally begin to trust you and understand that I have their best interests in mind. I will always go above and beyond for my team if they are willing to make themselves heard. When people feel heard and see the changes based on their voice, trust is established and positivity ensues. 

Accomplishments

Can you talk about your most recent project which you completed recently, what business results did it achieve, 2 obstacles or challenges you faced, and how you overcame it?

To me, my greatest accomplishment is taking Dynarex from 0 to 100. Meaning, my role was created originally to set up, implement, and train all users on the Salesforce platform. Dynarex was in the common position most are familiar with where salespeople were relying mostly on Excel spreadsheets, Rolodexes, Outlook, etc… Dynarex is a rapidly growing medical supply company that serves the entire globe. In order to keep up with the growth rate, we needed to be more efficient, organized, and simply provide our customers an overall better experience. Not only did we implement Salesforce in general, but we also set up Pardot, CPQ, and a Sage/Salesforce integration.

The business results achieved by this overall project are invaluable. We are operating at a significantly higher level, we are more efficient, collaboration is through the roof between departments and we have transparency and accountability like never before. We have flipped processes around to become proactive as opposed to reactive, and people just generally find Salesforce to be user-friendly and almost fun to use.

Two major obstacles that we faced upon implementation were the obvious ones. One is the remote factor. Most of our sales team operate around the globe, so training and user adoption expectations were a concern. I believe my user-friendly attitude and ability to listen helped me develop that trust in my team that this is going to work and it is only going to help them be a better salesperson. Happy to say we had a 100% user adoption rate within the first 6 months of implementation. Being that Dynarex was all about modernizing, the obstacles were fairly easy to overcome. Dynarex is beyond determined to elevate its customer journey and ensure the brand is one the world can’t live without.

By deploying a train the trainer approach, I quickly rolled out training to all the users within a short time. I also leveraged teams to train the users and share the content through Dynarex university.

Another hurdle that comes to mind was getting all the users comfortable with how an activity is recorded because everyone works differently. My goal was to create that accountability and transparency based on how people naturally work. So, streamlining efforts such as email, calendars, tasks, etc can all be set up and used differently, but we wanted to do it in a way that made the users comfortable. Originally, it was an obstacle because it was hard to explain the route we were taking because it was so fresh, but when it all played out, everyone realized how easy it actually was. Utilizing proper reporting and dashboard tools makes it very simple to show efforts. By Integrating outlook with salesforce, all activities are integrated with salesforce, training to train the users to attach an email, meetings, calendar, events.

What is your leadership philosophy and how do you keep the team engaged and motivate them?

My philosophy is to enable the people that are eager to learn and put themselves out there. I believe in positivity is key and if you are negative, for me, it is a major red flag. Negativity has no place in my world. I make it a priority to stay positive and help motivate my team no matter the circumstances. I send out an email newsletter each week to each department that uses Salesforce with updates, suggestions, changes, ideas, and even motivational quotes. I encourage questions, concerns, suggestions from all the users. The more you get like-minded positive people communicating, magic happens. The more you get people talking, the more I get to listen.

With the current COVID 19 situation, what are 2 or 3 key challenges you faced and how are you managing them effectively?

COVID definitely had its challenges for everyone. Being a medical supply company, the challenges were definitely unique. From selling out of goods to having to adjust processes on the fly to expedite other goods, it was a broad spectrum of issues. One thing specifically was the fact that all of our reps were not able to go see their customers, as everyone was quarantined. Zoom and video conferencing really picked up steam and helped get our reps in front of our customers. At the same time, it enabled our reps to focus more on Salesforce as it was right in front of them more than usual. So, in a sense, I believe COVID helped our team become more comfortable in Salesforce, quicker. One of the negative impacts was that the rapid sale of tons of our items shined a light on some of our process shortcomings. But even then, I say it helped us highlight the things that need to be fixed, and that would probably apply to any business. 

 With the current COVID 19 situation, can you list 1 key project which was given more attention, the reason for it and what results did it achieve for your business?

As I had mentioned, COVID impacted us a little bit differently. Being a medical supply company during a global pandemic, we experienced dramatic surges in demand. Because everyone in the world was looking for PPE at the same time, we literally couldn’t process information fast enough. Things like this shine the light on issues that can be fixed or adjusted to make processes more efficient. A very easy example, but makes life significantly easier, was the digitizing of forms and applications. Like any business, there were some instances where things were still handled in an old-fashioned way. It fell by the wayside because it was one of those things where if it isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed. Things change and it all depends on how you adjust. When you overwhelm the system, problems create solutions. In this case, because we were now set up in Salesforce, we integrated all of our forms with Pardot and digitized almost everything. Just taking the manual input out of the equation alone propelled us to the next level.

With COVID 19 was there a project which was pushed on the back burner, given a low priority in your company and the reason for it?

Honestly, we didn’t find ourselves in this position. Most of what I was focused on has always been how to get Dynarex to the next level. As a growing company, something like COVID only helped set the wind in our sails. It almost forced us to become more efficient if we were going to keep up with the demand. So, yes, in a sense maybe some of the things we have been trying to do slowed down a bit while others took precedent, but we have been on the same path since I have joined the company. I truly feel that Dynarex is now embracing its growth and entering the next phase ready to help provide the world with what it needs and that is a brand that is widely available to everyone in the world but still has that personable touch. There is a reason why our motto is “We Care Like Family”. It’s because we treat all of our customers like they are our only customers and we want to make sure we can be there for them for as long as they will have us.

With teams working remotely now, what 1 or 2 key activities do you do more with your team to increase engagement with the teams?

Most of my team is working remotely, to begin with, because they are global salespeople. But at the same time, it was necessary to communicate properly given the current situation. I developed a weekly newsletter specifically based on the department using Salesforce. I mentioned this earlier, but I try to make it insightful, fun, and personable all at the same time. It has now been a year since I launched those Salesforce newsletters and I haven’t missed a week. Not only does it provide the things I mentioned, but it simply helps us keep in touch. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without user feedback. It is one of the more important things to consider when you are building from scratch. I make it a priority to know and understand how the tool is being used by everyone individually because, at the end of the day, it needs to help bring out the best in you and make for a stronger salesperson. 

With remote teams, what activity have you stopped doing or doing less which seems to be less effective in this situation?

For a little while, when everyone was quarantined and we were working from home, the interdepartmental communication became more difficult. Naturally, when you are right down the hall from everyone you need to speak to and can get an answer just by taking your 30 steps, you wouldn’t need to email, zoom, chat, etc… Transitioning everyone in a sense to encourage interdepartmental communication became an uphill battle because it had to be done in a completely different manner. Especially when you don’t necessarily have the appropriate tools in place to do so. However, we’ve been back in the office since June 1st, so for us that was a short hurdle that we were able to overcome.

What is the one trend you see in Manufacturing happening now and how do you think companies should adapt to this new trend based on your experience?

I think the short answer is the ever-changing world of technology. This is why I am almost obsessed with it…It is always changing, evolving, growing, updating, etc. You now see things like blockchain and cryptocurrency really picking up steam. Manufacturers are still in the window to prepare for these evolutionary changes, but soon, just like my 1-year-old turned into a 3.5-year-old right before my eyes, businesses will either be at the forefront of these changes, embracing them or they will get comfortable, negligent, and fall behind. By the time that happens, they will be taking your keys and driving your car right out of the driveway before you even had a chance. Now more than ever, we need to embrace the changes.

Contribution

If you contribute to a non-profit or a cause that is dear to you, can you talk about a few words on the activities they do and how people can donate or contribute to it?

I’d like to give a special shout-out to People to People Dynarex partners with them and they do a phenomenal job in feeding the hungry families in our area. They work so hard to get food donations, clothing, etc… and have recently provided over 2,000 families with monthly food packages. COVID has also pushed its difficulties on these charities and caused strains in their processes. Please consider contributing to the virtual food drive by clicking here VIRTUAL FOOD DRIVE

Career Guidance

If you want to advise students who are looking for a Salesforce career or people who want to shift their career to IT like sales, marketing folks on Salesforce products as an example, What would be the 2 or 3 things you would advise them to follow now to get a job quickly?

I would definitely advise any students to strongly consider a career in Salesforce. It is a way to pin yourself to a technological wave and ride it out. Salesforce enables you to standardize processes, manage communication, and most importantly, grow. Salesforce is a tremendous company that is happy to take all of its customers on the ride with them. If you are anything like me and you enjoy helping people, this is a very rewarding job. I would say if you are new to Salesforce, dive right into the trailhead and start learning the features. Salesforce provides you all the tools to gain some hands-on experience. Additionally, put yourself out there. If you currently work for a company that uses Salesforce, ask if someone can teach you more. Experience is invaluable with Salesforce and once you have that real-life experience, it becomes appealing to businesses looking for a Salesforce-related role. And if you are really eager, I would recommend trying to get an internship as an admin assistant. 

What are 1 or 2 key traits or skills you look for in choosing a candidate for the role apart from the technical skills in your interviews?

To be frank, emotional intelligence. Being able to relate to people and understand what their needs, concerns, and obstacles are. A lot of times, the users of platforms are just people and don’t have the same technological knowledge you might have. Being relatable and personable is a huge trait I look for in people. Avoid one-word answers and speak elaborately with passion.

Another trait I look for is forward-thinking or being able to take a step back and evaluate. If you don’t know the answer, or can’t figure out the issue, I want to see that you will do what it takes to solve the problem and prevent it from happening in the future. A lot of times, we find ourselves defaulting to patchwork where accidents happen over and over again, things then snowball into something worse over time. Being able to take that step back and have that 30,000-foot view helps you understand where you are going and how to prevent errors/mistakes/issues from repeating as you grow and move forward.

Is there a gotcha you would advise students or job seekers on not to do when they do an interview?

Don’t blame others. Straight up. Don’t bad-mouth individuals or the company you worked for previously or currently. No matter what, that is a bad look. I had mentioned it earlier, but negativity does not fly. It is a major red flag and you should avoid it at all costs. 

Can you list 1 or 2 tips that you have used in your career to differentiate yourself from your peers which have helped you to position yourself and move up the career ladder?

One of the ways I try to differentiate myself from others in my career is the “can do” attitude. There is nothing more fun than being a part of a successful team that grows together. The more you pitch in, the more ownership you take on and display. It is critical for any team to succeed to have people who always want to do more. Another tip would be to make sure you are doing what you WANT to do. I know the climate for work is tough right now, but it is very important for your sanity and your health. Make sure the career you want to pursue, is something you enjoy. Plain and simple.

For folks who are aspiring to become the next VP, directors, or CXOs, Can you list 1 or 2 challenges the current VP leaders face which prevent them from going up the ladder?

For those that are looking to grow within a company and manage people, you need to ensure that you can determine what it is other people need to do their jobs properly. One challenge I’ve come across is being able to provide sales teams the information they require to do their jobs better. If information and data aren’t stored properly and aren’t easily accessible, it can be a real challenge to sculpt and manage any team. We have made sure that we utilize Salesforce to its fullest potential because it makes the access to information a breeze. 

Can you list  1 or 2 skills that you highly recommend folks to develop or learn which will help them move up?

Eagerness and curiosity. The more you can learn about the business, the platforms, how they function and communicate with each other is the number one way to implant yourself into an organization. I am a hands-on person and once I physically see and do something once, it registers forever. I make sure that for me to evaluate any processes and determine where the issues lay and where efficiencies can be made, I need to learn exactly how it is being done today. I immerse myself in the roles that need to be played to make sure I understand them fully. Also, just be friendly and helpful. To me, helping people is a reward in itself.

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Michael Allen

Author: Michael Allen

As the Assistant Vice President of Sales and Service at Dynarex Corp, Michael is transforming the customer journey using digital transformation, process improvement strategies and classic sales techniques combined with a user friendly experience. His unique background of corporate trade consisting of media buying, solution sales, new business development and marketing strategy have enabled him to work as an interdepartmental leader with a vast understanding of how to bring internal business stakeholders to the table. Not only to transform processes and elevate the playing field for companies like Dynarex but helping change the culture and mentality of how we operate as a business today and into the future. Outside of the office, Michael has a beautiful family with a 3.5-year-old daughter named Annie and a wonderful wife named Heather who works for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).

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