Dell finds happy marriage of customer experience and sales enablement


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“Customer Experience is no longer a program, it’s how we do things.”
— Bobbi Dangerfield, VP of Global Sales Operations, Dell

When you say “customer experience,” most people still think of it mainly as interactions after a customer buys something. That being the point they become, um, a customer.

But CX aficionados of course know that the complete experience includes what happens before customers buy. Marketing delivers an experience. So does sales. And the purchasing process is also part of the experience.

That’s why it’s been puzzling to me that B2B sales is often not included in the discussion of customer experience. Instead, the sales force is “enabled” to sell more effectively — typically approached as a technology or training initiative — without really understanding what experience will motivate the buyer to buy.

To be sure, some progressive B2B organizations are waking up to smell the customer-centric coffee. Forrester’s work in sales enablement led it to conclude that taking a customer first approach is key to ramping up overall revenue productivity.

And then there’s Dell, a company in transition after going private in 2013 to become what founder Michael Dell proclaimed to be “the world’s biggest startup.” After making its mark selling PCs direct to consumers, Dell has been transitioning to more commercial (B2B) sales supported by over 140K channel partners. And those sales increasingly include services, software and a private cloud.

Account Team Must Deliver a “Stellar” Experience

Bobbi Dangerfield, VP Global Sales Operations, Dell
Bobbi Dangerfield, VP Global Sales Operations, Dell
Now it’s more critical than ever that the account team provide a great experience, according to Bobbi Dangerfield, Dell VP of global sales operations. Her staff of 4,000 people serves 22,000 sales people globally, including go-to-market, territory assignments, and quota setting. In other words, a Big Job.

Who owns customer experience at Dell? Dangerfield told me emphatically that “we believe ownership of the customer experience belongs to sales team,” and that the account executive leading the team has the mission to deliver a “stellar” experience. Research backs this up, because Dell has found that the health of their account team relationship (measured by NPS) is a key loyalty driver.

Furthermore, Dell’s research also found that rep’s CX competency scores link to NPS. So there you have it, the dots are all connected from the rep’s behavior to buyer loyalty to revenue. Now for the hard part — execution.

To drive its sales transformation, Dell invested in a Sales Academy which included a CX competency assessment. For the 2/3 of reps able to make the shift to new “selling motions,” Dell has tried to simplify selling by creating solution bundles, developing sales “playbooks” to help reps respond to customer situations, and conducting joint strategy sessions. “Train the trainer” sessions were found to be more effective than traditional training, because most trainers “have not carried the bag,” says Dangerfield.

Does Dell uses sales enablement tools? Of course. is deployed as the core CRM system and repository of account planning information. For marketing lead management, Dell uses Lattice — one of the companies active in the hot predictive lead scoring space.

Taking CX Seriously

But in the final analysis, it’s not technology that is driving Dell’s transformation. It’s leadership by Bobbi Dangerfield, Michael Dell and other senior executives who must encourage everyone to take the customer experience seriously. Not because CX is trendy, but because they know that CX improvements drive the business outcomes they seek.

To succeed, Dangerfield says “the customer has to be integrated into everything we do.” That means including their customer experience plan into their business plan, not treating it a separate initiative. Sales leaders must walk the CX talk every day. Management must also focus on employee engagement, because that, too, has an impact on CX. Everyone from the CEO on down should have a personal stake (read: bonus on the line) based on the health of Dell’s customer relationships.

Add it all up, and I’m impressed by Dell’s holistic CX approach, grounded in business fundamentals, not hype. Under Dangerfield’s leadership, Dell has shown that “sales enablement” and “customer experience” belong in the same sentence after all.


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