Who do you think is the hardest group of people to sell to? And we’re not talking trying to sell laptops to Luddites. Picture the last person any sales person wants to get on the phone with. If you guessed other salespeople, you’d probably be right.

Marketing to sales people isn’t any easier — let alone marketing to their bosses. But that’s the kind of challenge that makes Kristy Sharrow tick. And it’s what has made LevelEleven so successful, in the midst of thousands of sales technologies hitting the market in the last 5 years.

LevelEleven is a simple-to-use sales activity management system for Salesforce that helps sales leaders see personalized scorecards for their sales people, and motivate their sales team with challenges to build a culture of performance. As the Director of Marketing, Sharrow is in charge of building pipeline and driving sales, and she proves that you don’t have to be a salesperson to have a big impact.

“I started at LevelEleven around three and a half years ago,” said Sharrow in our interview, “I was a reporter before I joined the team and I was looking for new assignments to take on. I saw an ad from LevelEleven looking for a freelance writer, so I figured I would talk to the CEO.” The offer turned out to be exactly what she was looking for, and Sharrow eventually moved from freelance to part-time, and from part-time to full-time Director of Marketing.

To help us understand what it takes to sell to salespeople (and market to their leadership) we sat down with Sharrow over Google Hangouts to hear how she succeeds in making LevelEleven stand out. Here’s what she had to say:

What are the challenges of marketing to sales leadership?

The greatest challenge now is that there are so many other sales technologies out there. There’s a stat from VentureBeat — and I hope I’m quoting this correctly — that 50% of the sales technologies that exist were launched in the last 5 years. So there’s a lot of noise out there for sales leaders, and it can be difficult to stand out. For us, we have a very clear ROI, and an instant ROI that comes with using LevelEleven and we focus on communicating that. That helps us stand out, prove that we’re a must-have, and separate ourselves from the noise.

How do you plan your episodic content?

We were thinking about how we could help our sales leadership audience separate some of the things they were looking at, because obviously they have a seemingly infinite number of sales technologies to choose from. So we had this idea that we would get profiles of sales stack technology vendors — either solutions or services — anything that would help the modern sales stack. We asked the same questions of every one of the companies we chose to feature, edited them down so that we made sure you could read each one in under two minutes, and then launched them right away so once per week.

Does LevelEleven sponsor all the events featured on your blog?

The short answer is, you’d read more posts than we sponsor! In general, our content strategy is to serve up content to our audience, customers and prospects in the VP of Sales persona, and sometimes the most relevant content is an event that happened recently. So we’ll take a journalistic approach, and cover events that we’re attending or if we’re not sponsoring them but it’s a critical event for the industry, then we’ll interview people who were there or people who planned the event. We feel it’s important to help our readers to stay in the loop with industry trends, news and things like that. But we do sponsor quite a few events. A handful of Salesforce events, including Dreamforce, one or two industry conferences, and our own events.

What do you look for in the events you sponsor?

First and foremost, if we’ve been to this event in the past, it would be any ROI we’ve seen. We’re very metric-oriented here, so that’s number one. Beyond that, we’re looking at audience, and that can be pretty challenging for us. We’re looking for sales leadership, but our product is embedded in Salesforce so we’re selling only to Salesforce users. Often times, unless it’s a Salesforce event, a lot of conference teams don’t have CRM data, so that can be a little challenging. But, we’re trying to get estimated data on that, the roles of the people there, and the size of the companies. Other than that, we’ll look at agenda and layout; you can have an awesome conference with a crowd that’s perfect for us, but if there’s no reason for anyone to go into the sponsorship area then it might not make sense.

What is your favorite campaign that you have run?

This is really difficult! Since we’ve been talking about video, the first one that comes to mind is our conference follow-up videos. The very first time we did this was the Salesforce world tour, and my first event with the company just over three years ago. I remember sitting there in the keynote looking around at everyone and thinking “how in the heck are we going to follow up with these people in a way that they actually pay attention to?” So I started to try and brainstorm as the keynote was about to start, and I got this idea that I got really excited about, which was to create a follow up video that we would email to them. The video was kind of cheesy, and really fun to make.

It was our team members that were at the show, acting like they were speaking to one person. So if we talked to you there, we were saying “thank you for stopping by, we miss you a lot already!” and then each person spoke about how much they missed you. It was just this goofy little thing, and the quality was crappy as we were just testing it out. But we sent it out, and the first indicator of success was that people were actually taking the time to write us from the email to say thank you, or tell us it was a cute video. Ultimately, we still do this today, and open rates are around 55%, which for a situation where you’re facing off against so many other emails at the same time, is pretty strong for us. And click rates are always above average compared to our other emails, which again, when you’re going against those other emails for first-touch prospects, it’s exciting to see those kind of metrics!

Any resources you can share with our audience that make you a better marketer?

The two biggest ones for me externally are HubSpot, and their Academy webinars in particular. The Inbound Certification especially. As soon as someone comes into this team, they’re taking the Inbound Certification test on the Marketing side. That is extremely valuable and has helped us build up a lot of our strategy at LevelEleven. I also love the KissMetrics blog for more of the scientific side of marketing. Those are the two main ones.

The other thing I think about constantly and I have to remind myself to spend more time with is our internal sales team. They are the absolute best resource. Sitting in on their meetings, meeting with customer success, even getting on the phone with customers, are critical, critical resources and it’s easy to forget about them when you’re in the day-to-day, marketing project mode.

Jon Spenceley