An Account Executive’s guide to community

What you can learn from listening to your community to become a better Account Executive

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16m 35s

To be a successful Account Executive you need to have empathy for your customers and the goals they’re trying to achieve.

But when you spend too much time qualifying leads or trying to close a sale, you end up looking past your customers and their needs.

By building a community team in Orbit, you can better understand your prospects’ pain points and what they want to accomplish. This enables you to speak to your customers using their language.

And once you start talking their language, you have happier customers, and happy customers mean more deals won.

We'll spend ~20 minutes covering the material.
We'll spend ~20 minutes covering the material.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the second webinar presentation in our series Take The Leap Into Community, where we'll be talking about the value of Orbit across customer facing teams so you can harness the power of community in your role. Today we'll be taking a look at how community can help you achieve your goals as an account executive.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Nick Johnson, and I'm the product marketing manager here at Orbit. I've spent the better part of the past two and a half years as a product marketer in many different size organizations at different points in the product life cycle. So I know a lot about the challenges many of you are facing, because I've worked closely with accounted executives, selling to small and medium sized businesses to large enterprises. It's my goal that you'll walk away from this presentation understanding how community complements sales and how you can use Orbit and the power of community to achieve or exceed your sales goals.

All right. Let's get started. Let's start by looking at the ever shifting landscape of XaaS products and business models. That includes infrastructure, platform, and software as a service business models. The first shift I want to discuss is the ever decreasing effectiveness of ad driven acquisition. With the new privacy standards like GDPR and privacy features like those released in Apple's iOS 14.5 release, ads have become less targeted and have forced companies to look at alternatives to ad driven acquisition.

The second observation is the shift in VC investment from explosive growth to sustainable growth. For much of the past decade, it's been so cheap to borrow, that companies like Uber and Netflix have actively lost money in order to gain market share. Now that's no longer sustainable. With rising interest rates and increasing borrowing costs, VCs are looking for guaranteed return on investment. If you can't show a path to profitability, they're not investing.

Zapier and Baremetrics have followed this model but prove to be resilient during periods of high inflation and rising borrowing costs. The first two shifts require that companies increase contact and reciprocal feedback loops between companies and their existing customers to help them define where, when, and what they want, pushing loyalty and reliability of relationships to the forefront. It's about opening up and building a stronger ecosystem in the process. This helps them spread the word about their solution via advocates and word of mouth, which means that when you do get in contact with a prospect, they're more likely to be well versed in your product and ready to buy.

That leads us to notice some other trends in the way B2B decision makers buy software today. According to McKinsey, about three quarters of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions over digital self-service. This corresponds with the increasing popularity of product led growth, where companies focus on easy onboarding for quick and low cost product adoption and retention.

This is exemplified by the amount of money B2B decision makers are willing to spend without ever meeting a salesperson face-to-face. 59% of business decision makers are willing to spend 50K or more via remote human interactions or digital self-service today. This is a strong indicator that companies should focus on self-service pricing and onboarding while focusing their efforts on high value enterprise deals.

So some of you may have heard about community, but there's a lot of confusion over what it is and what it isn't. For those of you that are new to community, let's get a quick crash course. So you might be wondering why community and how should we even define community? At Orbit we define community a little different than you may understand it colloquially. Oftentimes we talk about finding our communities to build a sense of belonging. While belonging is important to our sense of community, that isn't what we're trying to get at today. We're specifically talking about online communities, and while online communities often mimic in-person communities, they don't necessarily operate in the same way.

So how do we define community? We define it as a group of people working toward a common goal. The direction or goal is what unites the community and it brings people together. It can be anything from wanting to learn new language to learning how to code to becoming a better soccer player or learning more about a specific product.

Generally speaking, there are three types of communities: communities of product, practice, and play. Communities of product are those primarily focused on discussing and learning about a specific product. Communities of practice are comprised of folks who want to level up their craft and connect with other practitioners independent of any tools or platform. Communities of play come together around a specific interest independent of products, professional development, or tool. Think of your running group or birthday club. The majority of communities have elements of each community type sprinkled in, but most are comprised of one type. You're here because you think your product can help your community achieve its goals, so we'll only be focusing on product communities from here on out.

One thing that's important to keep in mind is that community is not intended to be a sales tool and exclusively serve sales. Community teams are focused on creating value for their communities, not capturing value by accelerating leads through a funnel. Now, that being said, if you engage with the community in a non-transactional manner, you may find it will greatly increase your sales. Here's how. Your community is the best way for you to learn. By listening and having empathy for your members, it will help you better understand the challenges they face and can help you find ways to help them solve these challenges using your product. Overall, engaging and listening to the community is a great way to have a more thoughtful sales approach. It will help you engage with your prospects in a more genuine human way. And as we know, sales is all about making strong connections.

Lastly, you can join your own community to hone your craft as an account executive. There are several you can find, like Salesforce's Trailblazer community or the HubSpot community.

As I alluded to earlier, I think it's important to frame the community sales dynamic in terms of value creation and then value capture. Value creation is a give first mentality that focuses on connecting, educating, equipping, and inspiring the audience. Value capture is essential to the success of the business, of course. It looks like sales, customer success, and lead generation. However, with a community mindset, this should be viewed as a second order impact of an effective value creation machine. When you focus on value creation, the more people will drift towards your product because you are helping them solve their problems. When it comes time to capture value, your community will be much bigger, so you'll have more value to capture.

So first ask yourself, what value can you create for your members? Is it education, connection, elevation in the community, and a platform for their message, a sense of belonging? Then you can start to map that to value capture. Here's what I mean. Every company has a go to market team and their efforts are usually described as a funnel. The funnel is a great way for optimizing these kinds of linear value capture processes. Community, on the other hand, isn't about pushing people toward a binary endpoint. It's about creating an environment so compelling that it naturally attracts people towards its center. We're all familiar with the sales funnel as a metaphor and a measurement device and it's been around forever. The classic metaphor of the funnel has defined most go to market strategies since 1898. It's focused on optimizing every step of the process, from awareness and discovery to evaluation, engagement, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy, pushing leads through linearly and extracting value at each stage. It's a great way to measure value captured.

Community, on the other hand, isn't about pushing people toward a binary endpoint, but about creating an environment so compelling that it naturally attracts people towards its center. In other words, healthy and active communities have gravity. A high gravity community is one that excels at attracting and retaining community members. Gravity is built in a community through value creation. Instead of the funnel, communities should use something like the Orbit model, which was created from the ground up to understand and measure community. And every company should have a go to community strategy that complements their go to market. And it's really important that these motions are aligned.

Just like with an ice cream cone, when you pile on scoops of ice cream, more will drip into the cone. As you create more value in your community, the business is sure to capture more value overall. By the way, you can visit to go deeper into these concepts.

Similarly, as you get better at attracting and retaining community members, it's more likely the next appropriate experience for more of them will be to engage in the sales process. And many times a chat with a great salesperson is exactly what your community members need. And that qualification is an outcome or a second order effect, not a direct goal of the community. The go to community strategy is what helps build and maintain this gravity while connecting the benefits to company objectives. But community is not just another top of funnel activity. It's a complementary solar system connected to your go to market activities.

Keeping this in mind, there are ways community teams can create value for sales and other teams. Our friend, Mary Thengvall, you can see her Twitter below, coined the term community qualified lead. She actually calls it a dev qualified lead, but that's because she works with developer communities.

Communities create value for the teams around them by making connections. For example, when they identify a member with a unique and powerful product experience, they can reach out to the marketing team and connect them so they can create a customer success story. If community teams notice a customer is struggling with using the product, they may reach out to customer success or support to increase product adoption. They can even identify product advocates who are so excited about the product they're willing to beta test new features for the product team. The same goes for sales. When the community team sees a member that could really benefit from your products or a paid version of your product, they can reach out to you, provide background information about their challenges, and they've already established a relationship with the potential customer. So it's really easy for them to just hand that off to you and introduce them to you, and then that member becomes a community qualified lead. It will be a good idea for you to connect with your community team so that you can determine the different data points and criteria that define a community qualified lead.

So how does Orbit fit into all of this? Well, you can think of Orbit as a CRM for community with a few distinctive differences. CRMs are optimized around the sales funnel, pushing customers through from awareness to purchase and upsell. They're intended to collect information on customer titles, what role they play in the customer organization, and touchpoints with sales so there's a seamless sales experience. However, CRMs are highly transactional and not optimized to nurture meaningful relationships between customers and your organization. And they're focused on value capture, not value creation.

If CRMs are built around the sales funnel, then community growth platforms like Orbit are built around the Orbit model. They're used to understand how members contribute to your community through their presence on community platforms and commitment to the community over time. Orbit shows how people interact within your network to bring in like-minded users by sharing or promoting content that adds value to the community as they work to achieve their common goal.

There are, of course, many similarities to CRMs. For one community growth platforms are the source of truth for information about relationships with community members who are already or could become members and prospects. They also create and receive value from integrations with other tools by ingesting comments and activities from your community's favorite platforms, things like Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn, Discord, you name it, and then they help you report on changes and key segments of customers.

So how can account execs like yourself find value using Orbit? Well, first you can use Orbit to identify the right prospects at the right time. Orbit levels are defined by the Orbit model and show how engaged members are in your community. So the more engaged they are, the more conversations they're having with other members and are likely using your product. Use Orbit to identify these members and ask your community which ones are ready for a sales discussion.

When you do have a meeting with a prospect, Orbit can help you prepare for your customer conversations. Member and organization profiles in Orbit give you context on the conversations going on within a company and help you understand common challenges and identify the right person to reach out to. Next, you can use Orbit to understand who in your network might have a connection with a prospect. You can use these folks to make warm introductions so it's not random when you reach out. Just look at a member's profile and see who they're connected with in your community and reach out to those people to see if they can make that warm connection.

Lastly, Orbit offers insight into what your prospects are going through and what challenges they might be facing. This will help you identify what parts of your product or service will add value and help them overcome their challenges and get them one step closer to achieving their goal.

So let's see how this can all work in Orbit. Okay. So let's say it's the beginning of Q4 and I'm a little bit behind on my sales goal and I want to make sure I hit my goal so I can secure my annual bonus and take my family on a vacation. Luckily, my company uses Orbit, so it's not difficult for me to find new leads by going directly into Orbit. So I log in and I go to the members tab and I start filtering. I want to make sure we get people who are highly active in the past 90 days. So I filter by the past 90 days and I filter by Orbit levels one and two. I then filter by our ideal customer profile, which is a developer, and I start exploring.

Risa looks interesting, so I look into her profile. I see there's tons of activity with Erin, our community advocate, and one of her top connections is with Tony Blank, who is also on the community team and a good friend of mine. I'll flag this as a prospect using the tags feature so I can find Risa later when I start my outreach. I'll make a note to myself to reach out to Tony so that he can provide a warm introduction and see if it is actually a good time to reach out to her and start a sales conversation. I also see that Risa is highly active in GitHub and Discord, so I'll make sure to make myself present in those communities, maybe even introduce myself to Risa so I can have an established rapport so it's not a random act of outreach.

Thank you for listening to this webinar. I hope you learned more about how community and sales can complement and drive value for each other. If you want to try Orbit for yourself, you can sign up and start using Orbit absolutely free of cost. To learn more about community and the Orbit model, check us out at and on GitHub. Lastly, feel free to join one of our community events to learn more about Orbit and how community can help drive product growth.

Key takeaways

  • Gauge purchase intent via community engagement
  • Identify key users and buyers within an organization
  • Provide value to prospects without high pressure tactics
  • Increase customer retention and identify opportunities for upsell
  • Use community connections for warm introductions to prospects