How Stack Overflow’s sales engineers stay in sync during complex deal cycles

With a dedicated knowledge hub used by both technical and business teams, Stack Overflow for Teams empowers an empathetic, high-touch sales process.

At Stack Overflow, we are fortunate to be users of our own platform, Stack Overflow for Teams. That means when someone in our customer or prospect orbit has a question for us, we’ve likely encountered that exact question ourselves. In fact, we probably answered it using Stack Overflow for Teams.

This experience gives us a clear view into how knowledge-sharing can drive revenue growth. This perspective is key to driving growth for companies. Over the past year, we’ve been meeting aggressive milestones: bringing in an average of 78 new enterprise and midsize customers each quarter plus implementing and supporting numerous proof of value environments. This steady, sustainable approach to growth requires high-touch, behind-the-scenes coordination to ensure that we are communicating with prospects efficiently.

Stack Overflow for Teams is what enables us to maintain a tight-knit operation across our fast-paced, geo-dispersed, remote-first culture. The faster we can answer our prospect’s questions or solve issues with the implementation of their pilot, the sooner they can realize the business outcomes that come from increased and accessible knowledge-sharing.

One key team responsible for this growth is sales engineering, a group of 16 people who work across time zones and around the world with a focus on creating successful conditions to bring in new business.

“We are responsible for working with the sales reps and the account executives, trying to bring in new business,” explains Derrek Young, Global Director of Sales Engineering. “We’re bringing in new logos, new accounts, new customers—things like that. Sometimes, we also get engaged in renewals and upsells.”

The challenge

At growth companies like Stack Overflow, sales teams face such a deluge of information that they run the risk of missing things because their attention spans become spread thin or scattered.

A high degree of focus, coupled with systems thinking, is necessary for making a positive impression with prospects who may be feeling uncertain about whether Stack Overflow for Teams is the right choice.

“We believe that Stack Overflow is a great fit for every company,” says Young. “The challenge is helping every company see that story for themselves.”

Every enterprise prospect is navigating their own unique evaluation criteria—different tech stacks, budgets, and pain points—which means that questions need answering with diligence and care. Being able to communicate the right information at the right time in the buyer journey is especially challenging for the knowledge management industry which competes for budget against other technology tools.

Successful sales outcomes require a high degree of collaboration between team members from the very first conversation with a prospective customer. At Stack Overflow, sales is a coordinated effort.

“From the moment we receive a demo request, our sales engineers and account executives operate as two peas in a pod, glued together throughout the entire sales cycle and customer journey,” says Young.

“Where the account executive is responsible for moving deals forward, ensuring availability of budget, and facilitating executive alignment, sales engineers are much more focused on articulating the solution, making sure potential customers know what they are getting into, and facilitating conversations.”

Demonstrating this fit requires an educational sales engineering approach to help prospective customers adopt a mindset around knowledge-sharing workflows — and become aware of collaboration challenges that may not be readily obvious.

When potential customers ask how a knowledge-sharing and collaboration platform is different from a wiki or how it helps organizations innovate faster, sales engineers need to be ready with thoughtful answers. Stack Overflow for Teams provides the context and knowledge to demonstrate specific use cases that differentiate it from those other tools.

The solution

Stack Overflow for Teams empowers sales engineers, and the sales operation as a whole, to operate as trusted advisors to potential customers. The idea is to build up knowledge content that empowers the sales engineering team to address concerns faster — and create more efficient sales processes as a result.

“Stack Overflow for Teams is integrated into our sales engineering team’s core workflows to serve as both a learning management system and source of truth for information,” says Young.

One example process is a wonder > search > ask > answer workflow, which is essential for productivity. People only need to chase down an answer once before posting it to Stack so that the next sales engineer can benefit from the information.

“Our team builds up content as we answer questions for potential customers. That means we’re investing in the long-term culture of our organization, within and outside of our sales engineering team. This content is a powerful investment for our organization and our customers.”

As a knowledge-sharing solution, Stack Overflow for Teams is much more fluid and straightforward to use than tools that Young has used at past companies.

“In my last role, I went through a whole project trying to bring in a knowledge management system and we landed on Confluence,” says Young. “I distinctly remember being frustrated with it and wishing we had something as easy to use as Stack Overflow.”

Then in 2021, Young came to Stack Overflow to lead the sales engineering team.

“I remember speaking to the recruiting team not realizing that Stack Overflow for Teams was commercially available on the market as a B2B technology product,” he says. “I asked, ‘why didn’t I have this thing three years ago?’ That’s what led me to the company, to help build it.”

Ultimately, Stack Overflow for Teams helps the Sales Engineering team free up both brainpower and time. The platform makes it easy for people to ask and answer questions about non-customer-related topics as well.

“It starts with onboarding,” says Young. “People on the Sales Engineering team can get answers to questions ranging from ‘what’s the difference between Business and Enterprise product plans?’ to ‘how do we do customer migrations?’ and ‘what are real-world examples of using our API to extend Stack Overflow for Teams integrations?’

“People on our team have all contributed to writing articles about different aspects of their role, so we can all get on the same page more quickly.”

With defined processes for information sharing, Stack Overflow is able to take distracting chatter off Slack.

“You have lots of different departments asking questions on different Slack channels. I always nudge my team over from Slack to Stack Overflow for Teams to make it more efficient to have these important conversations and capture the answers for future reuse,” says Young.

The outcome

From their work with customers, Stack Overflow’s sales engineering team can easily see how knowledge management, efficiency, and revenue connect to one another. This perspective motivates Young to continually seek ways to help his team uplevel in performance.

“We’re consistently looking to increase the speed at which we’re closing deals, bringing in new ARR, increasing demo activities, and demonstrating proofs of value,” says Young.

Knowing how activity translates into outcomes, time-strapped sales engineering team members can decide how to best invest their time and attention.

“Our team is all-in on Stack Overflow for Teams,” explains Young. “The platform helps us attract the best talent and keep them high-performing. Recently, Stack Overflow hosted a company-wide awards event, and the Sales Engineering team received quite a bit of recognition including the #1 most helpful person, the #1 most knowledgeable person, #2 most supportive, #2 most curious, and the #1 user group based on their contributions and cross-organizational collaboration in our internal Stack Overflow for Teams.”

Moreover, people on the sales engineering team can get the information they need instantaneously, no matter their location or time zone.

“There’s no bottleneck through me,” says Young. “That helps me streamline my time, which means I can devote more attention to doing things that will benefit the team in other ways. I’m always on the lookout for gaps in knowledge, process, and understanding—and trying to drive as much as possible through Stack Overflow Teams as a source of truth.”

The goal is to help everyone on the sales engineering team feel empowered to get their work done with a searchable, discoverable database of knowledge.

“It helps us become more nimble and responsive by avoiding the drudgery,” says Young. “There’s a ton of opportunity for us,” says Young. “If we can build the right foundation, then future growth becomes more streamlined.”